Evangelical pastor, author, and theologian Timothy Keller published a tweet on critical race theory. Look what happened:

On Friday, Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, wrote a post about critical race theory:

Critical race theory is not the Gospel, but it can certainly help Christians understand our current moment. It has been useful to many evangelical Christians involved in ministries of racial justice and reconciliation.

Critical race theory:

Keller’s post shook the hornet’s nest of critical race theory opponents. In the process it revealed a deep-seated anti-intellectualism in American evangelicalism.

Read the responses to Keller’s tweet below. Notice how many people simply dismiss this theory by claiming that they don’t need to read it or understand it. Notice the simplistic appeals to the Bible or common sense. Notice the fear. Notice the black and white thinking. Notice the intellectual laziness and the general disinterest in knowing more about what people of color have faced, and are facing, in American culture right now. Notice the attacks on Keller’s character and ministry.

Keller models Christian thinking here. His Twitter critics are not interested in Christian thinking. Their tweets ooze what Mark Noll once described as the “scandal of the evangelical mind.”

Keller is seeking unity and reconciliation with those–many of them fellow evangelical Christians–who find critical race theory helpful in their work and ministries. He is calling Christians to walk alongside men and women fighting racial injustice. Keller’s tweet is an example of empathy and intellectual hospitality–essential components of any thoughtful Christian engagement with the culture.

Here is Eric Metaxas:

None of this is surprising for Metaxas. It reminds me of these tweets from earlier this month:

John MacArthur’s reach extends to Canada

Some of you may be following the controversy surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta. Last Sunday, Alberta health officials arrived at the church and found that its leadership was ignoring public health restrictions related to Covid-19. The church was filled beyond the 15% capacity required by law. The congregation was not practicing social distancing or wearing masks. Pastor James Coates spent a night in jail. Read more here.

One of the things missing from this story is GraceLife Church’s connection with Los Angeles megachurch pastor John MacArthur. Christianity Today compared GraceLife’s stand to MacArthur’s decision to open his Grace Community Church last summer despite California state regulations, but did not mention that Coates is a MacArthur disciple. He attended MacArthur’s Masters Seminary and his church is part of the MacArthur network of “trusted churches.”

GraceLife has made its case here. A taste:

Given the attention our church has received in recent days, we want to address the broader public on our reasons for gathering as a local church. What follows is not a theological defence. We have already addressed that sufficiently hereherehere and here (and it is primarily and predominantly obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that has shaped our stance). Instead, what follows will shed light on our approach to what is being called a “pandemic.” The reason we put “pandemic” in quotes is because the definition of a pandemic was changed about 10 years ago. At one time, a pandemic was defined as an infectious disease that resulted in a certain percentage of excess deaths over and above normal annual averages. The definition was changed in connection with H1N1 to remove this threshold. Ten years ago, COVID-19 would not have qualified as a pandemic. In fact, not even close.

Coates’s attempt to define the meaning of the word “pandemic” sounds a lot like MacArthur in August 2020.

Some of you may recall that MacArthur suggested churches that remain closed during COVID-19 are not “true” churches. (Fellow California megachurch pastor Rick Warren took a different approach).

See some of our other posts on MacArthur here.

Christian Missionary Alliance strips Ravi Zacharias of his ordination

Most GOP senators believe that a former president cannot stand for an impeachment trial.

The Christian Missionary Alliance, an evangelical denomination, believes that a dead minister can be stripped of his ordination.

Here is Dan Silliman at Christianity Today:

Ravi Zacharias was best known for the apologetics ministry that bears his name, but he spent his 46-year career licensed as a national evangelist with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA). The denomination has now revoked the ordination of its highest-profile minister after its own limited investigation confirmed a “pattern of predatory behavior.”

Zacharias is believed to be the only person in the CMA’s 134-year history to be posthumously expelled from ministry.

The decision was announced to all CMA ministers in a February 12 email from vice president Terry Smith, sent the day after Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)—which is not affiliated with the denomination or any CMA church—released the findings of its independent investigation.

The CMA did its own investigation, but the results are not being made public. Two investigators hired by the CMA spoke to 15 to 20 people, but that total includes massage therapists who declined to be interviewed and the CT news editor. However, the limited findings corroborated RZIM’s report, Smith said.

Read the rest here.

Here is the official statement from the CMA:

It is with great sorrow that The Christian and Missionary Alliance (the C&MA) acknowledges that one of its licensed workers, Ravi Zacharias, now deceased, engaged in a pattern of sinful behavior that has caused enormous pain to many and undermined the witness of Christ’s Church.

Recent independent investigations commissioned by both the C&MA and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries confirmed the accusations made by massage therapists that he engaged in sexual misconduct. He then constructed elaborately deceptive schemes to conceal his activity. This evidence clearly establishes that Mr. Zacharias preyed on women, violating the trust of those who were particularly vulnerable, during the time he was credentialed by the C&MA. The evidence also confirms that this pattern of behavior was longstanding.

In 2018, in response to one initial accusation, the C&MA conducted an internal inquiry to seek to determine whether the evidence was strong enough to proceed with a formal investigation under the C&MA Uniform Policy on Discipline. At that time, hindered by a nondisclosure agreement signed by both parties, there was not clear and sufficient evidence to proceed. However, newly revealed information from the recent investigations has proven more than sufficient to confirm Mr. Zacharias’ pattern of predatory behavior.

We are deeply grieved over the pain suffered by Lori Anne Thompson, the massage therapists, and others who may have been victimized by Mr. Zacharias’ behavior, and support appropriate advocacy efforts on their behalf. Mr. Zacharias’ actions were in direct violation of his obligation to demonstrate his commitment to serve Christ and His people through his devotion, character, lifestyle, and values. In recognition of this gross violation and its painful consequences to the victims and others who were impacted, the C&MA posthumously expels Mr. Zacharias from licensed ministry in our denomination. This comes with the automatic revocation of his ordination.

A southern evangelical in New York City

Elizabeth Passarella is a southerner who has lived in New York City for twenty-one years. I am eager to take a look at her new collection of essays, Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York. On her website she has an interesting Q&A about the book. Here is a taste:

Q: I think of evangelicals as crazy, right-wing nuts. Are you a crazy, right-wing nut? 

A: I am not. In fact, after many years of voting Republican and one ill-advised summer internship with Ralph Reed—I tell a sort of embarrassing story about him, if it makes you feel better or more interested in buying the book—I am now a registered Democrat. I care about all kinds of liberal issues. I have lived in New York for 21 years and consider this city my spiritual home. I believe there are lots of evangelical Christians like me; you just never hear about us. Evangelical, in my opinion, is not a political term, even though it’s become one. It simply defines a set of theological beliefs. I cover this very early on, right in the introduction, and then I stop using the word for most of the book.

Read the rest here.

I discovered Passarella through her recent op-ed at the Daily News. Here is a taste of that piece:

Since Christianity is not the nucleus of everyday life in New York as it is in many communities in the country, separating it from politics is easy. Political identity stays in its rightful place, somewhere down the line behind Jesus, my family, my babysitters who allow me to get away from my family, and gin. I can have a foot in seemingly opposing worlds. I wish every Christian felt that freedom.

Why do I bother using the term evangelical if it’s so radioactive in this city? Well, I certainly don’t lead with it. None of my Christian friends in the city do. But evangelicalism is a belief that the Bible is true and Jesus is the son of God, raised from the dead, plus an understanding that one comes to belief through a life-changing encounter with that God. I still agree with all of that. Unlike many former evangelicals who have left the church or at least sought out more progressive congregations, I still cherish what I was taught as a child. I don’t need a specific word, however, to know that Jesus is who he says he is, that the message of the Bible should change how I treat people. I’m happy to give it a Viking funeral on the Hudson River if it gets in the way of my witness. In New York, that only happens because the word is currently in bed with the administration that just left office. So, fine, good riddance to both.

Read the rest here.

As someone who grew-up in the New York metropolitan area, and spent my last three or four years before leaving home as an evangelical (my family converted from Catholicism), I always felt like an outsider. I had to think and pray a lot about how to live as an evangelical Christian in such a pluralistic region. I grew up with Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, adherents to Orthodoxy, and people with no religious faith. The kind of cultural hegemony experienced by evangelical Baptists in the South or Dutch Reformed Christians in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Lutherans in the upper Midwest, or Mormons in the Utah was foreign to me. If there were other evangelical Christians in my New Jersey high school I did not know about them.

It thus took me a long time to adjust to school at a Christian college. I wasn’t used to being around so many evangelicals. I found that my Christian faith was much more vibrant in the secular setting of my north Jersey hometown. In some ways I don’t think I ever fully adjusted. I know this might seem surprising coming from someone who teaches at Messiah University, has three degrees from evangelical institutions, and continues to identify as an evangelical in an age when most cradle evangelicals are running away from the label, but it’s true.

I think I have strayed a bit from Passarella’s piece, but I am grateful that her op-ed triggered some of these thoughts.

Melvin Banks, RIP

Here is a taste of Daniel Silliman’s obituary of a major player in twentieth-century evangelicalism. I am guessing most white evangelicals have never heard of him:

Melvin E. Banks, founder of the largest black Christian publishing house in the United States, died on February 13 at age 86.

Banks started Urban Ministries Inc. in the basement of his home in Chicago in 1970, focusing on Sunday school curriculum and Bible study materials for African American Christians. The ministry grew to serve more than 50,000 black churches.

Banks contextualized Scripture to show its relevance to contemporary African American life and shocked many Christians, black and white, with depictions of Bible characters as people of color. Banks insisted the images were accurate, since the world of the biblical narrative included Middle Easterners as well as many North Africans, and also argued it was important. Black people needed to know they were part of Bible history.

“When I grew up, all the Sunday school literature was produced by white people and all the writing was done from a white perspective,” he said. “All the biblical characters were portrayed as white people. It dawned on me that the material as published did not connect.”

White evangelicals sometimes accused Banks of being a black separatist or even supporting segregation and racism by focusing his ministry on black Christians and black churches. Banks, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, rejected the idea, saying it was just clear that black Christians couldn’t count on white Christians to help them understand the Bible.

Read the rest here.

Sean Penn is confused

Some might say Sean Penn has been confused for a long time. There are indeed times when I can’t distinguish Penn from Jeff Spicoli. But in this post I am specifically referencing his recent tweet:

First, the passive voice!

Second, evangelical leaders are not under the authority of the Vatican. In fact, most of them are not under kind any religious authority. At this point, it might be worth referencing Molly Worthen’s book Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism.

No one is taking away Eric Metaxas’s freedom of speech. People just don’t want to give their platforms to conspiracy theorists.

If you are a Trump evangelical looking to promote your book, your platform, or the latest conspiracy theory about the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19, or the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, then Calvary Church-Chino Hills (CA) is the place for you. Jack Hibbs’s church is becoming an important part of Trump’s lost cause evangelical infrastructure.

Back in January, Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University (another important institution in the lost cause evangelical infrastructure), appeared at Calvary-Chino Hills. You may remember his visit. In the span of about an hour, Kirk canceled rapper Lecrae, called the congregation to engage in “battleship Christianity,” and, of course, invoked Godwin’s Law. Hibbs sat back in his chair and tossed provocative softball questions for Kirk to hit out of the park. The crowd cheered as these two evangelicals stoked a politics of fear and victimization. It was all quite pathetic. And Jesus wept.

Now it is Eric Metaxas’s turn to make a stop at Hibbs’s church. His speech today was a combination of sermon, self-promotion, and culture war harangue. But at least the worship music was good. No, really, it was! 🙂

Watch:

Metaxas’s appearance at this church begs for analysis. So here goes:

The church was packed for Metaxas’s talk. No masks. No social distancing.

Hibbs said that Metaxas is “shaking so much of the Christian world and beyond.”

The pastor noted that Metaxas is one of the writers of Veggie Tales. This is true. Here is Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer:

Metaxas starts with a joke about Mike “MyPillow Guy” Lindell. He tells the church to use the “code word Eric.” He says the “woke” culture does not have a sense of humor. (Metaxas obviously thinks hawking pillows on a Sunday morning is a problem). Metaxas adds that when he tells such jokes like this the Left thinks he is being serious.

Actually, I think a lot of people are offended by jokes about “Hitlery Clinton.” Some people find it blasphemous when Metaxas describes Trump with the phrase, “Is there anyone like unto him.” There are also people who think jokes about Black vernacular are not funny. But Metaxas doesn’t care. He is an American with free speech.

Metaxas’s use of Kuyperianism to explain the goodness of his upbringing is worth considering. As the grandchildren of immigrants, I could relate to this part of his talk.

But then he uses his mother’s experience in East Germany to explain the current state of American culture. (His mother fled communism and taught him to fear this ideology). Metaxas believes that the greatest threat to America is the socialism and communism that he believes to be manifested most clearly on the political Left. He is incapable of seeing that the greatest threat to American democracy is actually Trumpism, anti-intellectual populism, and the kind of blind partisanship that voted to acquit a man who incited a riot on the United States Capitol.

This leads Metaxas into his spiel on American exceptionalism. He accepts Ronald Reagan’s view of John Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity,” even adding, like Reagan did, the word “shining” to the phrase “city on a hill.” (The word “shining” was not in the original sermon). There is so much good scholarship right now that rejects Reagan’s and Metaxas’s view of Winthrop’s lay sermon. I would encourage Metaxas to listen to my interviews with historian Daniel Rodgers and literary scholar Abram Van Engen. But I am guessing that he won’t listen to these interviews because if he does it might mean he will have to revise his thinking on this issue, and that might hurt his platform. Instead, Metaxas will just announce that all the scholars who have spent years and decades studying Winthrop, Puritanism, and American exceptionalism don’t know what they are talking about. (He does the same thing with the Bonhoeffer scholars who trashed his biography). In the end, virtually everything Metaxas says about the “city upon a hill” is wrong. Yet he uses this faulty understanding of the past to promote his evangelical Trumpism to the members of the Calvary-Chino Hills congregation and the people who will watch and share this speech on his YouTube and Rumble channels.

Metaxas then moves to his experience at Yale University. He says he is not proud he went to Yale. This sounds disingenuous. Metaxas is an evangelical celebrity today partly because he attended this prestigious institution. Evangelical gatekeepers fast-track the careers of Ivy-League graduates who have born-again experiences in the same way that they give book deals and speaking engagements to athletes like Tim Tebow or artists like Justin Bieber.

I think Metaxas could learn a lesson here from writer Richard Rodriguez’s Kenyon College commencement address in which Rodriguez tells the story of meeting one of his literary heroes. Rodriguez thanks this writer (he does not name him) for publishing a book that had a profound influence on him (Rodriguez) during an earlier part of his life. The literary hero responds by saying that there is not a day that goes by that he does not regret writing that book. Rodriguez is angered and saddened by his hero’s comment. Why? Because this literary hero so easily rejects his past. He fails to see that “life is a whole.”

Earlier in his sermon, Metaxas quotes Abraham Kuyper’s famous line: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Yet he talks about what he learned at Yale as if the knowledge he imbibed there was somehow not part of the world God created. Here Metaxas reveals the Manicheanism and fundamentalism of the Christian Right movement he represents. Yes, there are a lot of things Christians can criticize about what is taught at Yale, but if all truth is God’s truth, then certainly Metaxas learned something while a student there in the 1980s. I am sure Metaxas would agree with me here, but he could never say this publicly because it does not fit with his politics of fear. This approach to politics does not see nuance. It only sees black and white. Metaxas does not see Yale as a place of learning about the world God created. He instead sees it as a place that should invoke fear in every true believer. Don’t send your kids to New Haven for college, Metaxas seems to suggest, unless they are going to Yale as missionaries with the goal of challenging their unbelieving professors like in the popular evangelical movie God is Not Dead.

When he talks about his experience at Yale, I get the sense that Metaxas is echoing William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale.

Metaxas says a bit about slavery. He argues that William Wilberforce (the subject of one of his books) knew that slavery was wrong because he was a Christian. This is true. Metaxas says something similar about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Metaxas affirms that Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer knew that there is no morality apart from the God of the Bible. But it is hard to reconcile these statements with Metaxas’s failure to speak out against the immorality of the Trump administration. Does he really believe Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer would sit on their hands during the Trump era or, as Metaxas did, support this president and some of his policies? As I argued yesterday, House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin sounded far more Christian and biblical than Metaxas and the evangelicals in the Senate yesterday.

Metaxas insists that the evangelical embrace of Trump has not hurt the witness of evangelical Christianity in the world. I think there are millions and millions of Americans–Christian or otherwise–who would beg to differ. I hear from them on a regular basis. Many of them filled-out my survey. (Which is still open, by the way).

Then Metaxas, who hosts a nationally-syndicated daily radio show and is on a national book tour (including an interview at The Atlantic today), starts complaining that he is being canceled for his views and not allowed to speak freely. Granted, there are a lot of people who do not care for what Metaxas has to say, especially when it comes to his claims that the 2020 president election was stolen. These people do not want conspiracies theories on their platforms. They do not want to publish Metaxas’s books or have him speak at their events. They have the right to do this.

What seems to really bother Metaxas is that his views are not accepted by the very cultural elite that he spends so much time attacking. He desperately wants the educated classes–both within and outside of evangelicalism– to accept him. But all he’s got is Calvary Chino-Hills. So he shows up on a Sunday morning, complains that he is a victim, references Camus and Woody Allen, and basks in the applause of the maskless evangelical Trumpers who fill the room. His ideas only resonate with the faithful. This fact appears to drive him crazy.

In this talk, Metaxas repeats his claim that he will “fight until the last drop of blood because there are people that have died for freedom.” Metaxas mentions nothing about the people who died to defend the United States Capitol from the insurrectionists incited by the president who Metaxas helped get elected. Did Brian Sicknick die for his country?

Metaxas also repeats his belief that the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol were not Trump supporters. I think Kevin McCarthy and Jamie Herrara Beutler might have something to say about that. So might Mitch McConnell.

Near the end of the sermon Metaxas praises the people of Calvary-Chino Hills for not wearing masks. The crowd goes wild. Metaxas says “praise the Lord.”

By this point Metaxas is on a roll. He tells the church to “speak-up against Black Lives Matter.” He scares the congregation into believing that there are Marxists around every corner looking to destroy America. The applause lines are closer together.

Metaxas defines “courage” as “faith in a crisis.” And then he applies this definition to himself. He says, “I’m going to do what I think is right because I know people are looking at me and they get strength from my courage and it helps them to be courageous. And if I am cowardly it leads to a spiral of silence that shuts up even more people.” Interesting. Remember that earlier in this talk Metaxas said that he would shed his blood in the fight against those on the Left who want to destroy America. Did people “get strength” from this statement? Yes, people are watching you Eric. Maybe even some of the people watching you (or listening to your radio show) are the same people at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the people who think the election was stolen, or the people who enabled the most corrupt president in the United States to run roughshod over American democracy. I am glad you finally admitted that you have some influence over the way evangelicals and others think about the world.

When he finished his speech, the people of Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills gave Metaxas a standing ovation. Then Hibbs blessed it all with a closing prayer. The praise band followed with a song exhorting the congregation to go forth in the name of Jesus. I am guessing this evangelical megachurch is used to this kind of God and country rhetoric. They get weekly doses of it from their pastor and his guest preachers.

And from what I have heard, this church is growing.

ADDENDUM (8:24pm): I just checked Amazon to see how Metaxas’s new book Fish Out of Water is doing. It is ranked #65. Not bad for someone who is getting cancelled.

Three cheers for Jamie Herrera Beutler, an evangelical Christian and a GOP congresswoman who is doing the right thing

Beutler represents Washington’s 3rd district in the House of Representatives. She has served this district for six terms. Most of the citizens in her district live in the Washington side of the Portland metropolitan area. She was one of ten Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

Several hours ago the Senate voted to hear witnesses in the Donald Trump impeachment trial. Beutler will be the first witness. She is ready to testify that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told her that Trump supported the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. We reported on this last night.

Here is The New York Times:

In a statement on Friday night, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, recounted a phone call relayed to her by Mr. McCarthy of California, the minority leader, in which Mr. Trump was said to have sided with the rioters, telling the top House Republican that members of the mob who had stormed the Capitol were “more upset about the election than you are.”

She pleaded with witnesses to step forward and share what they knew about Mr. Trump’s actions and statements as the attack was underway.

“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” Ms. Herrera Beutler said in the statement.

Her account of the call between Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Trump, first reported by CNN, addressed a crucial question in the impeachment trial: what Mr. Trump was doing and saying privately while the Capitol was being overrun.

Ms. Herrera Beutler said that Mr. McCarthy had relayed details of his phone call with Mr. Trump to her. She has been speaking publicly about it for weeks, including during a virtual town hall on Monday with constituents, and she recounted their conversation again in the statement on Friday.

By Ms. Herrera Beutler’s account, Mr. McCarthy called Mr. Trump frantically on Jan. 6 as the Capitol was being besieged by thousands of pro-Trump supporters trying to stop Congress from counting Electoral College votes that would confirm his loss.

She said Mr. McCarthy asked him “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot.”

Mr. Trump replied by saying that antifa, not his supporters, was responsible. When Mr. McCarthy said that was not true, the former president was curt.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” he said, according Ms. Herrera Beutler’s account of what Mr. McCarthy told her.

Read the entire piece here. It is clear that other members of the GOP know about this Trump-McCarthy phone call. Only Beutler has the courage to testify.

Beutler is an evangelical Christian. A 2017 story in a local Oregon news source describes the Beutler family as “devout Christians who attend City Harvest Church in Vancouver.” In March 2017, Beutler’s pastor, Bob MacGregor, offered the opening prayer in the House of Representatives. Beutler introduced her:

Ms. HERRERA BEUTLER. Mr. Speaker, it is my great honor to introduce my pastor and dear friend, Bob MacGregor, as our guest chaplain this morning.

Pastor Bob is the lead pastor of City Harvest Church in Vancouver, Washington, my home church. City Harvest is a thriving church that greatly impacts our community by caring for the needy and supporting mission work.

Pastor Bob and his wife, Sue, have four daughters and eight grandchildren. They have been married for 38 years and share a burden to help build marriages and families of ministers who face the demands of ministry life.

It is my great pleasure to welcome Pastor Bob and thank him as he has blessed us this morning with his prayer.

Beutler attended evangelical Seattle Pacific University from 1996-1998 and completed her studies at Bellevue Community College and the University of Washington.

Here is Beutler’s recent appearance on Firing Line with Margaret Hoover.

Beutler voted in line with Trump nearly 80% of the time. She did not vote for the former president in 2016, choosing to write in Paul Ryan. In 2020, she voted for Trump.

White evangelicals love QAnon

Here is Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service:

A new survey reports more than a quarter of white evangelical Protestants believe a QAnon conspiracy theory that purports former President Donald Trump is secretly battling a cabal of pedophile Democrats, and roughly half express support for the debunked claim that antifa was responsible for the recent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Experts say the data point to a widening ideological divide not only between white evangelicals and other religious groups in the country, but also between white evangelical Republicans and other members of their own party.

The survey, which was conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, reported 29% of Republicans and 27% of white evangelicals — the most of any religious group — believe the widely debunked QAnon conspiracy theory is completely or mostly accurate. QAnon has infiltrated other faiths as well, with 15% of white mainline Protestants, 18% of white Catholics, 12% of non-Christians, 11% of Hispanic Catholics and 7% of Black Protestants saying they believe it.

In addition, large subsets of each group — ranging from 37% of non-Christians to 50% of Hispanic Catholics — said they “weren’t sure” whether the theory was true.

Read the rest here.

There are clear links between QAnon calls for a “great awakening” and evangelical calls for a post-COVID “great awakening.” I’ve done preliminary research on this, but I still haven’t untangled the mess.

Graphic report accuses Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias of sexual abuse

Last September, Christianity Today‘s Daniel Silliman published a piece citing allegations by three anonymous sources who said that the late evangelist Ravi Zacharias sexually harassed them at two spas he co-owned. (I must admit that I was less surprised by the allegations than the news Zacharias was in the day spa business). Ravi Zacharias International Ministries hired a law firm–Miller & Martin–to investigate the allegation. The firm released an initial report in December 2020.

Today Miller & Martin released its final report in the Zacharias investigation. If you are interested in the graphic details you can read it here.

Ruth Graham summarizes things in her piece at The New York Times. Here is a taste:

The full report paints a stark portrait of that misconduct. The law firm interviewed more than a dozen massage therapists who treated Mr. Zacharias. Five of them reported that he had touched or rubbed them inappropriately, and four said he would touch his own genitals or ask them to touch him. Eight said he would either start the massage completely nude or remove the draping sheets during the treatment.

One massage therapist “reported details of many encounters over a period of years that she described as rape,” the report says. She said Mr. Zacharias talked with her about topics including her faith and her finances, and she came to think of him as a “father figure.” After he arranged for his ministry to provide her with financial support, however, he demanded sex, according to the report. Mr. Zacharias, it says, “warned her not ever to speak out against him or she would be responsible for the ‘millions of souls’ whose salvation would be lost if his reputation was damaged.”

The law firm also found a pattern of intimate text and email-based relationships with women. In reviewing his electronic devices, they found the phone numbers of more than 200 massage therapists and more than 200 selfies, some of them nudes, from much younger women. Mr. Zacharias also used the nonprofit ministry to financially support some of his long-term therapists. The report also reveals that he owned two apartments in Bangkok, where he spent 256 days between 2010 and 2014. One of his massage therapists stayed in the other apartment.

Mr. Zacharias said in 2017 that in 45 years of marriage, “I have never engaged in any inappropriate behavior of any kind.”

Read the rest here.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries released this statement:

It is with shattered hearts that we issue this statement about the allegations against RZIM’s Founder, Ravi Zacharias.

Following allegations made in late August of 2020 that Ravi had engaged in sexual misconduct and abuse in connection with two day spas, we commissioned Miller & Martin PLLC, a law firm with experience in corporate and sex crimes investigations, to conduct an independent investigation. We gave Miller & Martin a broad scope to pursue any avenues that they judged to be relevant to the accusations, and we emphasized that our only purpose for the investigation was to ascertain the full truth.

Having received the results of the investigation, we are publicly releasing the investigation report in the exact form that we received it. We have been waiting to make an extended statement in the hope that the full findings of the investigation would allow us to speak more accurately and meaningfully. We also wanted to ensure Miller & Martin’s independence in their investigation, assessments, and reporting of the findings.

To be victimized by unwanted sexual contact, advances, and behavior is horrendous. It is diametrically opposed to everything we believe about the value and dignity of every single person. We believe not only the women who made their allegations public but also additional women who had not previously made public allegations against Ravi but whose identities and stories were uncovered during the investigation. Tragically, witnesses described encounters including sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape. We are devastated by what the investigation has shown and are filled with sorrow for the women who were hurt by this terrible abuse.

These women told their stories on conditions of confidentiality and anonymity, and we fully intend to respect their wishes by not disclosing their names or any other identifying information. We are deeply grateful to all of the courageous women and other witnesses who came forward in this investigation.

We would like to thank each journalist, advocate, and concerned member of the public who brought accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse to our attention. Their efforts paved the way for us to recognize the truth and to have the opportunity to respond to the truth. For that we will always be thankful. We would also like to thank all of those, including our own staff, who raised questions and concerns. Input from all of these sources was of great help, especially in enabling us to identify and begin to take responsibility for our failures.

The investigation’s conclusions have caused us to think very differently about the allegations Mrs. Lori Anne Thompson made against Ravi in 2017. We were wrong. Our trust in Ravi’s denial of moral wrongdoing and in his deceptive explanations of emails and other records that became public was severely misplaced, and our failures in 2017, including our failure to commission an independent investigation at that time, allowed tremendous pain to continue to be caused in the Thompsons’ lives.

We believe Lori Anne Thompson has told the truth about the nature of her relationship with Ravi Zacharias. It is with profound grief that we recognize that because we did not believe the Thompsons and both privately and publicly perpetuated a false narrative, they were slandered for years and their suffering was greatly prolonged and intensified. This leaves us heartbroken and ashamed. We are deeply grateful for their longstanding commitment to making the truth known and admire their strength to carry on even when they were not believed. It is our hope to seek a redemptive way forward with Mrs. and Mr. Thompson and seek their forgiveness, while recognizing that we have no right to this and wanting to be led by them in terms of what might be most helpful.

It must have been deeply painful for the victims of Ravi’s abuse and misconduct to tell their stories and to relive their terrible experiences as they participated in this investigation. To you we say directly: Words cannot come close to expressing the sorrow that we feel for what you have been through or the gratitude we feel for the bravery with which you have responded. We are so thankful to you, and we are so sorry.

The findings of this investigation and their public release will be devastating to Ravi’s wife, son, and daughters, and to his entire family. Our hearts are broken for them, and we grieve with the weight of being part of this unimaginable pain. We pray for the Zacharias family and mourn with them in this time of severe loss. It is our hope that they will receive the healing and restoration that God alone can provide.

Read the rest here.

Evangelicals need to learn how to corporately confess their sins

I mentioned Skye Jethani‘s thoughts on corporate confession and repentance in one of my posts on Justo Gonzalez’s Teach Us To Pray: The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church and Today. Yesterday at Religion News Service, Jethani developed a few of those points. Here is a taste:

Having spent 15 years traveling and speaking to groups across the landscape of American religion, I’ve realized the Christian discipline of confession — while common among Catholics, Anglicans, mainline Protestants and Orthodox believers — is largely absent in my own evangelical tradition.

Attend an evangelical church in the United States and you are more likely to find cushioned theater seats than a liturgy of confession or hear a prayer of repentance. And while other churches use Lent to reflect on their sinfulness in preparation for Easter, few evangelical churches acknowledge Lent at all, preferring to bypass the solemn season in favor of weekly “celebrations” more appealing to religious consumers. 

The 40 days of Lent have historically been a season for Christians to engage in confession and repentance. Lenten fasting (which has turned into giving up an indulgence like sweets or Netflix) was merely a way to facilitate self-examination by eliminating distractions and focusing on one’s inner life rather than outward comforts.

Read the rest here.

Trumpism and U.K. evangelicalism

On Monday I did a post on Morgan Lee’s interview with Brazilian evangelical (currently pastoring an evangelical church in Rome) René Breuel. Breuel told Lee that he believes the American evangelical church has “lost part of its moral authority and spiritual leadership” because of its affiliation with Donald Trump and Trumpism.

Today I call your attention to Lee’s interview with Gavin Calver, the leader of the United Kingdom’s Evangelical Alliance. According to its website, the Evangelical Alliance “is made up of hundreds of organisations, thousands of churches and tends of thousands of individuals, joined together for the sake of the gospel. Representing our members since 1846, the Evangelical Alliance is the oldest and largest evangelical unity movement in the UK.”

Here is a taste of the interview at Christianity Today:

How did American evangelical support of Trump affect evangelicals’ reputation in the UK?

The problem was this word evangelical was connected to something that we had very little influence over and no control upon. In the media, they would talk about evangelical Christians doing X, Y, and Z as in the US. That by association made it look like we were the same people with the same ideology and the same everything.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re brothers and sisters. That’s important that we hold to that, but we’re a million miles away politically at times. It was a struggle to lead something here in the UK that was seen in the light of Trump. What Trump stood for by association the media caricatured us as standing for and, with the greatest respect, that often was not the case.

Would you say Trump’s presence and the American evangelical support for Trump tested this historically strong relationship between the two communities?

It created that awkward moment at a family dinner party where there’s something you can’t talk about because it’s just going to lead to a complete disagreement. I know that from my own experiences of visiting the US and having family there that it causes a tension in families that we don’t really understand here. Politics are important, but they’re not at any point some kind of demigods in our society here in the United Kingdom. The absolute wedding of politics and faith was not helpful when trying to have rational conversations.

Back in 2019, Franklin Graham planned a number of crusades in the UK. Multiple entertainment arenas canceled them after LGBT activists organized against his coming. How have you made sense of this situation?

The issue for us in the United Kingdom is the religious liberty issue of the “cancel culture,” that you’re not allowed to hold that kind of event in a venue. But the church was very much divided as to whether it supported or didn’t support Franklin coming. The pandemic led to an outcome in which he couldn’t come. But now it will be interesting to see what happens in some of the legal cases around freedom of religion that are going to be taking place with those venues that wouldn’t have them.

Franklin Graham’s relentless support of Trump certainly didn’t help in the UK lens. But once the venues were canceled and COVID stopped it from happening, the issue now is: What are the religious liberty consequences, if any, going forward here? That’s significant to every evangelist that wants to speak about Jesus in any public setting in the UK.

Read the entire interview here.

Episode 81: God’s Law and Order

On June 1, 2020, Donald Trump declared himself a “law and order” president and marched to historic St. John’s Church for a photo-op with a Bible. Our guest in this episode, historian Aaron Griffith, helps us understand why evangelicals cheered this moment. Join us for a conversation on evangelicalism, crime, and mass incarceration with the author of the fascinating new book, God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America.

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If you like what you hear, or perhaps you are new to the work of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog, please consider supporting our work.

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What do evangelicals around the world think about American evangelicals?

René Breuel is a native of Brazil who currently pastors an evangelical church Rome. He has led evangelical student movements in Brazil, Germany, Canada, and Italy and is the author of The Paradox of Happiness: Finding True Joy in a World of Counterfeits. Over at Christianity Today, Morgan Lee (have I mentioned she is a former student?) talks to Breuel about how evangelicals outside the United States view American evangelicals’ embrace of Donald Trump. Here is a taste of their conversation:

Do you remember any moments from his presidency when leaders outside the US expected white evangelical leaders to say something to rebuke him, and they did not?

Rene Breuel: Yes, I did. In all honesty, there are so many moments where you wish they did. Maybe this time, maybe this crisis, maybe this tweet, but often it did not come close to the moment which I think struck me the most, which was before his election in 2016 when the Access Hollywood tape came out. It was heartbreaking to see someone boasting joyfully of adultery, sexual assault, and grabbing women.

How can someone justify that? But people found a way, saying it’s locker room talk. I was very appreciative of people who spoke out, like Beth Moore. I think John Piper wrote an article about that. I remember, on the other hand, many who kept on, saying “Oh, the other side is worse. We cannot support it.” I remember specifically, I taught theological seminary for the first semester back then. One of the books I had assigned for people came from Grudem. Then he came out very strongly even after the Access Hollywood tape, suggesting Christians should vote for Trump.

There were a number of leaders, some who spoke out against, but I sense that many either didn’t or those who did, were lost in the course of those who supported the deceit vert strongly….

Do you remember hearing a different tone or a way of relating to things from American evangelical leaders who lived overseas or who were a bigger part of international communities?

Rene Breuel: Yes, I have. Certainly, I think it helps a lot when one lives outside the country and especially outside the media ecosystem, in being able to listen to a number of views and receive news in different languages. My experience is seeing people who retained their convictions and maybe aren’t as vocal because it’s a different society. At the same time, many who come to get a greater sense of perspective are able to see things more critically. Normally it becomes a matter of soul searching and pain.

There is division within families. For example, a missionary couple of mine here in Rome who do wonderful work was sharing with me how he was interacting with their parents who live in the Midwest and who have supported Trump throughout.

It was some delicate conversations right between children and parents of those who live outside the country and those who live within it. I had my own conversations with cousins who have moved to the US and are strong supporters. We have some good conversations, respectful conversations, but one gets the sense that it matters a lot where you live and the kinds of news you receive.

Do you think that the last four years has hurt the credibility of the American evangelical church? And if so, in what ways?

Rene Breuel: Yes, I’m sorry to say, but I think in part it has, though of course, it’s not a blanket statement. We can see nuances and they may be people who did not support Trump or voted for him reluctantly, the tough spot people of faith find themselves in a two-party system. But people being vocal, like Black Christians being vocal, was very helpful.

There is a feeling that the American evangelical church, at least in the past four years, lost part of its moral authority and spiritual leadership. Too many leaders, unfortunately, supported Trump noncritically, too many churchgoers supported Trump joyfully, and then too many prophets in the charismatic movement predicted a second term, which did not come to pass.

I sense that people are clear on the gospel of Christ, the cross and repentance, and faith in the new birth, but when it comes to the church’s relation to society, I think there’s something which will be helpful to think a little bit more about, like to what extent should we get involved in politics? How can we conceive of a public sphere in ways that are not political, trying to seek the common good without falling into partisanship? I think these are some key questions which of course I’ve been asked in the United States and people around the world as well.

As we can see, movements like that can happen and are happening in other countries. How we can be more nuanced and more thoughtful when it comes to supporting parties and candidates? Even with sharing some policy platforms, we can try to be a little bit more thoughtful about that.

Listen to the entire podcast interview here.

Breuel is correct, but the people who need to hear his words will either not listen to them or dismiss them. When your faith tells that you that the United States is exceptional because God has blessed it more than other nation, why would you listen to Christians from other countries?

Veteran Christian journalist reflects on the evangelical embrace of Donald Trump

Here is a taste of Martin Griffith piece The Sacramento Bee, “Trump-supporting evangelicals must repent after turning blind eye to his evil”:

My conservative parents and Sunday school teachers at the Methodist church in my hometown of Turlock taught me that, in the long run, nothing good comes from associating with an evil man like Trump.

It’s high time for Trump evangelicals to come to their senses about the faith’s central truths and to read what the Bible says matters most to God: love, character and honesty. They must see that Trump clearly fits both the definition of a “fool” in the book of Proverbs, as well as the seven “things” that God finds “detestable.”

According to Proverbs 6: 16-19, the latter are “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

And what does Proverbs 16: 12-15 say will happen to people guilty of these sins?

“A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth … who plots evil with deceit in his heart … he always stirs up dissension. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed … without remedy.”

The passages make clear that the Almighty cares deeply about honesty and character, and suggest it was God’s will for Trump to lose the election.

The truth is that evangelical leaders made a pact with the devil, winning hundreds of judges who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage in exchange for ignoring Trump’s constant lies and moral failings. As a result, they hastened the national descent from strict, fact-based truth and helped Trump warp the political system to the point that many of his supporters are calling the Capitol mob “patriots” and claiming the election was stolen from him.

Read the entire piece here.

It’s time for another look into what is happening in the world of evangelical Trumpism

It seems like some of the election fraud and insurrection talk has died down a bit. Trump’s evangelicals are starting to settle-in to the reality that Joe Biden is president. This means that they are returning to more traditional talking points such as abortion, religious liberty, and free speech. They are also hunkering down in their culture war bunkers to protect themselves from persecution and loft bombs at the Left. This is what I mean when I write about a politics of fear overcoming a politics of hope.

Let’s check-in on them:

Anyone who has followed James Robison’s social media feeds over the last few years knows that he is referring here to the Democratic Party:

Lance Wallnau is talking about “sheep nations” and “goat nations.” It’s almost like he is making this stuff up on the fly:

Here he is lecturing on “beast systems” that are somehow related to a global elite and the rise of Marxism and socialism:

In the following video, Wallnau plays the Charlie Kirk-Jack Hibbs conversation at Calvary Chapel–Chino-Hills. (See our post on this event here). Wallnau is concerned about young evangelicals losing their faith and is glad that Kirk and his organization Turning Point USA are working with churches to help these young people defend their beliefs against the forces of secularism. But what kind of “faith” does Wallnau want these kids to defend? He seems more interested in Trump apologetics than Christian apologetics.

Then he says that the 2020 election gave Joe Biden a “mandate” from the American people. Really? I would say a 306-232 victory in the Electoral College and a 7 million vote victory in the popular vote is a mandate.

Watch:

Tony Perkins thinks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should resign. Perhaps he will also call for the resignation of conspiracy theorist and QAnon follower Marjorie Greene:

Johnnie Moore is clinging to Trumpian populism. Last time I checked Ben Sasse (NE), Mitt Romey (UT), Liz Cheney (WY), and Adam Kinzinger (IL) were not “coastal elites”:

Robert Jeffress was all over Fox News this week. In this interview he says the “GOP needs to stop playing footsie with conspiracy theorists” and “unapologetically embrace Donald Trump and his agenda.” Jeffress talks as if rejecting conspiracy theories and supporting Donald Trump are two different things.

He also made his regular stop on the Lou Dobbs show. Apparently Jeffress is not aware that the Mexico City Policy has led to an increase in abortions.

Eric Metaxas is “declaring war” on the “enemies of the United States of America” including Kohl’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Mayfair. Why? Because they have stopped carrying the products of pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Mike “My Pillow Guy” Lindell. Some of you may know that Lindell is the “main sponsor” of Metaxas’s radio show.

Evangelical Trumpers are coming to a church near you

Last week we called your attention to an event at Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills featuring pastor Jack Hibbs and Trump wonder boy Charlie Kirk. Today, I want you to see a video from The River, a Southern Baptist church in Hamilton, Montana.

The video captures a special Saturday night service devoted to “education,” “learning,” and “unity.” The topic is the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The speaker is Dr. Kevin Horton, the director of the Institute for Biblical Authority, “a Biblically based nonprofit organization dedicated to upholding and strengthening the principle that the Bible is the life-changing authority for human lives.” The Institute promotes creationism and recently hosted a conference featuring David Barton. The website includes an “American History Quiz” that repeats the widely debunked, and frankly absurd, claim that 29 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were “pastors.”

Watch the video of Horton’s appearance at The River Church on the Facebook page of Montana state senator Theresa Manzella or on the church Facebook page.

The video begins with the congregation milling around the sanctuary while a song called “Potter’s Hand” by Hillsong plays over the speakers. Here are the lyrics to that song:

Beautiful Lord, wonderful Savior
I know for sure all of my days are held in Your hand
And crafted into Your perfect plan

You gently called me into Your presence
Guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord, to live all of my life
Through Your eyes

And I’m captured by Your Holy calling
Set me apart, I know You’re drawing me to Yourself
Lead me Lord, I pray

Take me and mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, You guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand

You gently call me into Your presence
Guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord, to live all of my life
Through Your eyes

I’m captured by Your Holy calling
Set me apart, I know You’re drawing me to Yourself
Lead me Lord, I pray

Take me and mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to my Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand

Take me and mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand

The display screen at the front of the sanctuary says “Inciting the Riot?”

Horton takes the stage at about the 5:45 mark after pastor Allen James offers a “prayer for the United States of America” in which he asks the Lord to make us “truly be one nation under God again.” (Italics mine). Horton begins by telling the audience how the Lord prompted him to go to Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 to protest the election results. He laments the fact that social media companies removed Trump from its platforms, closed Parler, and even suspended his own accounts for merely “witnessing to the truth” about what happened in Washington D.C. After taking a few required shots at Congress for impeaching Trump, Horton describes what he saw at the U.S. Capitol.

The central argument of Horton’s presentation is that Trump did not incite the riot on the U.S. Capitol. Horton bases his argument on pictures and videos he took at the insurrection. He tells this evangelical congregation that the rioters were not “true Trumpers” and then attempts to distinguish between the “peaceful” evangelical Trumpers and the evil insurrectionists. (Along the way he takes a shot mask-wearing).

At about the 47:00 mark Horton tells the audience that he is boycotting Amazon, Walmart, and Google until they “repent” for their support of Senators who refuse to investigate who was really behind the insurrection. Then he complains about how CNN is trying to “close down” Newsmax and One America News. Horton speaks in a friendly, easy-going style as he defends these conspiracy theories before an evangelical congregation led by a pastor who provided him with the platform to do this.

At the 52:00 mark he describes the election fraud protests as a “fun time” until the “cloud of evil” emerged in the form of the rioters. (If his pictures are any indication, Horton appears to have spent most of the riot only feet away from the doors of the U.S. Capitol).

Horton ends by telling his pro-Trump evangelical audience that we are now “all targets” and are no longer “safe” as Americans. (The assumption is that the insurrections were a demonic force working against the God-honoring supporters of Donald Trump. He stops just short of saying that the Democrats were somehow behind the insurrection. Or at least that is how I understood him). The only way to find peace and safety, he says, is by accepting Jesus Christ as savior. He then moves into a brief Gospel presentation.

As a fellow evangelical, I am disgusted by the way this man stoked fear, lied about voter fraud, and used his presence at the Capitol insurrection as a platform for preaching the Gospel. Apparently the audience at The River Church disagrees. They gave him a standing ovation. Pastor Allen James endorsed everything Horton said, going so far to tell his congregation that the election was rigged. James then calls his congregation to separate the Gospel from politics. This is admirable. But everything about this event sent the exact opposite message.


A critique of “Jesus and John Wayne”

If social media is any indication, everyone loves Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s book Jesus and John Wayne. The praise is merited. It’s a strong book that says things about the recent history of American evangelicalism that should have been said a long time ago. I sung the book’s praises in my interview with Du Mez in Episode 73 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and I stand by those words. Every evangelical needs to wrestle with this book.

But I also think Jamie Carlson‘s largely critical, often courageous, and honest review of the book at Mere Orthodoxy raises some great points. Here is a taste of her piece:

However, despite the good I see in Du Mez’ work, I have to admit my mixed feelings about it. Perhaps I’m a particularly needy reader, but if Du Mez hopes to persuade skeptical readers, you wouldn’t guess it from the book. Due to frequent sarcasm as well as a lack of charity toward its critics and, at times, a lack of evidence to back up its claims, I fear this book will be rejected by many of the people who would most benefit from reading it

One of the first things I noticed about the book was that by parroting evangelical voices without using direct quotations or citations, Du Mez’ tone unfortunately often reads as sarcastic. This makes it difficult to see her as a friendly critic. As a woman, I cringe at this oft-misused critique, but the problem was prevalent throughout the book so it seems important to mention. It’s difficult to convey in its subtlety, but one example is in the chapter titled, “A New High Priest.” This section, which includes no citations or direct quotes, offers a biting, sarcastic version of evangelical thinking about gender and masculinity in particular: “What makes for a strong leader? A virile (white) man. And what of his vulgarity?…Even sexual assault? Well, boys will be boys…If you wanted a tamer man, castrate him.” Again, this is difficult to demonstrate in a short quote, but because it carries throughout the book it is hard to miss as you read. It will not win Du Mez charitable readings from skeptical evangelicals.

A more substantial problem was that Du Mez often wrote as if the beliefs of evangelical leaders are self-evidently immoral. In some cases (abuse, for example) their actions are easy to condemn. Sometimes she seems to think that the correct side in a controversial debate is self-evident, such that those on the ‘wrong’ side need not be proven wrong, but merely dismissed. This problem appears most clearly when she attacks elements of 20th and 21st century American evangelicalism that are, in fact, common American elements of even traditional Christian beliefs. Without this sort of nuance in her analysis, it becomes too easy for some to put her words in the same wastebasket as those who accuse them of being on the “wrong side of history.”

One example occurs in her first chapter. Du Mez notes that Billy Graham used “athletic and military metaphors to make perfectly clear that his faith did not conflict with his masculinity,” and similar metaphors to describe Jesus (23). She shares this without demonstrating that this language is unique to evangelicalism. For example, the apostle Paul uses military metaphors to describe the Christian life. Christ himself is pictured as a commander of an army in the book of Revelation.[1] Additionally, Just War theory goes back as far as the fourth century, so military support has, in some sense, long been a part of Christian culture. It’s possible that American evangelicals use these images more often than others or in ways that are out of step with the biblical usage. But Du Mez uses this language to paint a picture of evangelical extremes without accounting for its broader use in Scripture and the Christian tradition more generally. What’s more, she acknowledges at times that trends in evangelicalism corresponded to similar trends in broader American culture, yet she does not show how evangelicals set themselves apart as being uniquely bad in their embrace of these trends.[2] Her citations, then, seem to work against her argument. This places disproportional blame on evangelicals for ills that plague American culture more broadly.

Read the entire review here.

Addendum (12:59):

Today Mere Orthodoxy has published Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary professor Kirsten Sanders’s review of Jesus and John Wayne. Sanders echoes some of Carlson’s concerns and adds some of her own. Here is a taste:

I really hate to dip my toe into this argument, but I must say a bit about KDM’s easy definition of “evangelical”. The stories she tells from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches and Jake Schaap’s horrifying sermons ring true with her thesis but not with the experience of many evangelicals. To raise such a concern is more than the “evangelical gerrymandering” she warns about. I’ve often wondered if the best definition of an evangelical is a person who likes to try and define what is an evangelical. This is one of the most tired and well-trod conversations of the last twenty years at least, and we need to start taking notice of our interest in the question.

You see, evangelicalism is hard to define because it is not a theological movement or historical epoch, marked by defined changes in power. Rather, it is a symbiotic relationship between theology, ideology, and markets. The best way to understand evangelicalism is to ask what it promotes and what it restrains, what it sells and encourages others to buy. (A study of the rise of “conferences” in identifying and encouraging evangelical identity is long overdue. It would need to examine the ways ex-vangelicals have borrowed wholesale this model for identifying and promoting their own brand.).

Bebbington’s quadrilateral works because many like the vision of themselves it offers. The four principles he identifies (conversion, crucicentrism, biblicism, and activism) appeal to evangelicals. They like the picture of themselves as reasonable, focused, disciplined, faithful. But what KDM explains is that evangelicalism is other things too. These other things do not describe all of us, surely. So what should we make of her decision to include these kind of outliers? KDM repeatedly tells us that we must consider them: “it is the relationship between the centers and the margins that demands scrutiny” (293). I remain unconvinced.

Jesus and John Wayne is a trade book, written for popular appeal and a broad readership. It is eminently readable, but there have been scholarly virtues traded for popular appeal. Careful statements about correlation and sociological and anthropological secondary literature are often missing. What, after all, is “culture”? Is it more than what individuals entertain themselves with and what they buy? This is not a simple concept to throw around carelessly, and the literature on the interplay between culture, markets and religion is vast and would be useful here.

Read the entire review here.

The evangelical lost cause is alive and well in Chino Hills, California

Evangelical pro-Trumpers were roundly defeated in November. They hitched their hope–both politically and ethically–to one of the most corrupt and immoral presidents in American history. Most of Trump’s diehard evangelical supporters believe that evil forces stole the election. preventing four more years of a God-appointed president who was born to restore America to Christian greatness. Trump lost the election, but his cause was just. Over the next months and years, such a belief will be disseminated through what I have called a lost cause evangelical infrastructure.

As it is now shaping up, Eric Metaxas and Charlie Kirk will use their platforms as the most prominent evangelical defenders of the lost cause. Former Minnesota congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann will educate young men and women in the evangelical lost cause from her new position as dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. The Falkirk Center at Liberty University will be an institutional home for this movement as it continues to provide a platform for pro-Trump evangelicals Metaxas, Kirk, Jenna Ellis, Sebastian Gorka, and others. On the Independent Network Charismatic front, “prophets” such as Lance Wallnau will continue to use their large social media presence to rally the faithful in a Trump-inspired Christian populism.

And dozens and dozens of evangelical churches will continue to host lost cause events like the one we saw earlier this week at Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills with Jack Hibbs and Kirk. Watch:

Let’s remember that this event took place in an evangelical megachurch. Listen to the cheering evangelicals in the audience as Kirk spins the election results and thanks the congregation for “doing the right thing” at the ballot box. If you want to get a picture of what Trump’s presidency has unveiled, it is all on display here. Hibbs has an open Bible on his lap as he and Kirk talk about Christians winning back the culture for Christ. Trump is gone, but the conversation is still all about the pursuit of political power.

Both Kirk and Hibbs continue to suggest, through Kirk’s “funny” joke about hand-gestures, that Democrats stole the election from Trump. Like other lost cause movements, these evangelicals believe that Trump’s agenda for America was righteous and just.

Kirk claims that every one of “the left’s” policies “run contrary to God’s laws and God’s nature.” Hibbs agrees. The crowd cheers. Those in attendance are obviously happy that their pastor has allowed a political rally to break-out in the Calvary Chapel sanctuary. Both Kirk and Hibbs sit back and grin with satisfaction.

Hibbs, trying and failing to show he is some kind of historian or political philosopher, claims that “the Bible is the birthplace of the Constitution, one feeds the other and one defends the other.” I wrote about these kinds of Christian nationalist claims extensively in chapters 9 and 10 of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

At around the 18:00 mark, Hibbs implies that those churches that have not stayed open during COVID-19 or failed to “stand” with Trump during the election will “not get a chance to stand again” in 2021. Notice how Hibbs connects the ability of the church to “stand” with those in political power. He then moves into evangelical fearmongering mode by suggesting that the “powers-that-be” want to shut down churches and are “sharpening their swords as we speak. He adds:

If you [are a church] that didn’t make the cross over into the new year standing, I don’t know if you are going to get a chance to stand again…I want to put a cry out to churches: you really need to open-up now because there is a high probability that you may never be granted the freedom to do that from the government again, and if you are waiting for permission from the government to open-up again I don’t think it is going to come from this administration.

Kirk then attacks my new friend, Christian rapper Lecrae. He says that Lecrae “should never be allowed to perform at another church after he supported Rafael Warnock” in the January 5, 2021 Georgia Senate runoff. He adds: “Lecrae wanted to be loved and accepted by the Democrat power establishment instead of standing-up for truth.” Again, Hibbs’s white middle class audience cheers.

Kirk then calls for a “battleship Christianity” that will fight to save American culture. A twenty-something loudmouth with no pastoral experience or formal education has the audacity to lecture pastors about how to run their churches, read their Bibles, and engage in public life. Kirk says that if a church does not preach politics, its congregants cannot trust it’s pastor’s teachings on other matters. This reminds me of the early 1740s when Presbyterian evangelical Gilbert Tennent barnstormed around the colonies preaching a sermon titled “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” Tennent told Christians to leave their churches if their pastors had not experienced the new birth. A few years later, he wrote a series of pamphlets apologizing for his role in dividing the Christian churches in the colonies. One of them was titled The Danger of Spiritual Pride Represented.

At this point, the event is the equivalent of a full-blown Trump rally as Kirk makes a direct connection between Hibbs’s willingness to preach pro-Trump politics and the numerical growth of Calvary Chapel-Chino Hill. For the record, I have no doubt that Calvary Chapel-Chino Hill is growing because Hibbs uses his platform to preach politics. I also can’t think of a better window into the current state of American evangelicalism.

And it was only a matter of time before Godwin’s Law kicked-in. Like the New England Federalists of the early 19th-century who believed Thomas Jefferson was coming to close their churches and confiscate their Bibles, Kirk says that Biden’s government will soon be coming to do the same thing. Hibbs responds to Kirk’s claim: “He’s just speaking history. It’s exactly what Hitler…did.” The level of fear-mongering and conspiratorial rhetoric reaches its height as Hibbs starts comparing the Biden administration to the Nazis and Soviets.

At the end of the talk, Hibbs says that he expects the Holy Spirit to bring a revival to America like it has never seen before. After listening to his conversation with Kirk, it is unclear whether this will be a revival that will transform people spiritually or a “revival” that will drive the Democratic Party from power and restore America to its supposed Christian roots. As I asked this summer, “if a spiritual revival leads to more Christian Trumpism, it is really a spiritual revival? Or is it something else?”

Finally, Kirk announces a new program he is starting at Turning Point USA to help rally churches to become more like Jack Hibbs and Calvary Chapel-Chino.

Hibbs ends the night in prayer, sending a message to his congregation that God was pleased with everything that was said at this event.

David French wonders where “the South ends and Christianity begins.” Some history will help those wondering the same thing

Here is French at The Dispatch:

There’s an enormous amount of literature describing shame/honor culture in the South and shame/honor culture generally, but I like this succinct description from David Brooks:

In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad.

Shame/honor cultures are very focused on group reputation and group identity. Again, here’s Brooks:

People are extremely anxious that their group might be condemned or denigrated. They demand instant respect and recognition for their group. They feel some moral wrong has been perpetrated when their group has been disrespected, and react with the most violent intensity.

Brooks was writing about the general growth of shame culture in America, including in left-wing circles on campus. But doesn’t this sound familiar on the right? Have you noticed how much of the GOP, the party of white Evangelicals, is often positively obsessed with grievance, how it marinates in anger at the insults of the “elite” or the “ruling class”?

We experience this reality constantly. It sometimes appears as if the bulk of the conservative media economy is built around finding and highlighting leftist insults, leftist disrespect, and leftist contempt. And yes, it exists, but there is a difference between highlighting a problem and marinating in grievance over the rejection of the left.

This has old, old roots. In his book Desire, Violence, and Divinity in Modern Southern Fiction, Kent State professor Gary Ciuba writes that “honor meant that southerners beheld themselves as others beheld them,” and that meant that “their self-worth lived in the look of the other.”

French asks an important question. Where does the South end and Christianity begin? Historians have wrestled with this question for decades. If you want to dig deeper, I encourage these books:

Christine Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt. (I haven’t taught this book in a while, but it used to be a staple of my course on the early American republic).

Bertram Wyatt Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South

Craig Thompson, ed., Southern Manhood: Perspectives on Masculinity in the Old South

Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in the Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause

Paul Harvey, Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities Among Southern Baptists

Paul Harvey, Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era

Ted Ownby, Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation and Manhood in the Rural South

Daniel Stowell, Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South

James Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans

Robert Elder, The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South

I am sure I missed others. Feel free to add more at Facebook and on Twitter and I will try to add them to this list.