James Dobson in September 1998 vs. James Dobson in September 2020

Court evangelical James Dobson just released his monthly newsletter. It is worth comparing what Dobson said about presidential character in 1998 with what he is saying today about presidential character.

Here is 1998 (italics mine):

As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no.

Read the entire statement here. The president at the time was Bill Clinton

Here is his most recent newsletter:

How will Americans, and how will you, decide who to vote for as our Chief Executive Officer? I have heard from dozens of friends and acquaintances in recent weeks who tell me they will base their decision solely on a candidate’s rhetoric, tone, style, or likeability. Does that describe your thinking process? … This vote has awesome implications for future generations and the nation we love. It is about our Constitution and the immutable, God-given rights it protects. It is about values, and truth, and greatness, and hope. That is why the notion of choosing a president based on frivolous personality characteristics is so unfortunate.

Read the entire letter here.

I think I will just leave it there.

What does Donald Trump really think about the court evangelicals?

Earlier this month we did a post about Trump allegedly calling evangelical beliefs “bulls–t.” Many court evangelicals rejected this story because it came from former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, a convicted criminal.

But now, thanks to the reporting of McKay Coppins at The Atlantic, we know that Cohen is not the only one who claims that Trump mocks evangelicals and their beliefs. Here is a taste of his recent piece:

The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounds himself with have always been more clear-eyed about his lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 meeting with about a dozen influential figures on the religious right—including the talk-radio host Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem—the then-candidate was blunt about his relationship to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible as well as some of the other people”) and joking about his inexperience with prayer (“The first time I met [Mike Pence], he said, ‘Will you bow your head and pray?’ and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I’m not used to it.”) At one point in the meeting, Trump interrupted a discussion about religious freedom to complain about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and brag about the taunting nickname he’d devised for him. “I call him Little Ben Sasse,” Trump said. “I have to do it, I’m sorry. That’s when my religion always deserts me.”

And yet, by the end of the meeting—much of which was spent discussing the urgency of preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms—the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”

The Faustian nature of the religious right’s bargain with Trump has not always been quite so apparent to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are more than twice as likely as the average American to say that the president is a religious man. Some conservative pastors have described him as a “baby Christian,” and insist that he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

To those who have known and worked with Trump closely, the notion that he might have a secret spiritual side is laughable. “I always assumed he was an atheist,” Barbara Res, a former executive at the Trump Organization, told me. “He’s not a religious guy,” A. J. Delgado, who worked on his 2016 campaign, told me. “Whenever I see a picture of him standing in a group of pastors, all of their hands on him, I see a thought bubble [with] the words ‘What suckers,’” Mary Trump, the president’s niece, told me.

Greg Thornbury, a former president of the evangelical King’s College, who was courted by the campaign in 2016, told me that even those who acknowledge Trump’s lack of personal piety are convinced that he holds their faith in high esteem. “I don’t think for a moment that they would believe he’s cynical about them,” Thornbury said.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelicals refuse to learn from history. As I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, this is not the first time evangelicals got played by politicians in this way. Richard Nixon used Billy Graham. Ronald Reagan used Jerry Falwell Sr., Cal Thomas, and Ed Dobson. George W. Bush (or more accurately, Karl Rove) used the late David Kuo.

Today, the court evangelicals are empowering a narcissist, pathological liar, power-hungry wanna-be-tyrant who has probably done more harm to this country than any other American president. Yes, they got their Supreme Court justices and their Jerusalem embassy, but history will hold them accountable for their complicity. By November 3 they may very well be the only ones still clinging to this corrupt leader.

What Matthew 4 REALLY says about Christians and power

Recently an evangelical pastor who was a college of classmate of mine wrote to me praising Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement on the Supreme Court. He seemed very excited about the nomination and was surprised when I was not as excited as he was.

As I have argued, I think what McConnell did was wrong in 2016 when he refused to give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing and a vote in the Senate. As many of you recall, McConnell claimed that since it was an election year the American people, through the ballot box, should decide who would replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench. Trump won in 2016 and he nominated Neil Gorsuch. The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed him.

2020 is an election year. In fact, the election will take place in about a month. McConnell now seems to have no problem with confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. He is hard at work pushing Barrett through the system.

This evangelical pastor friend did not see any problem with McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy. Actually, I don’t even think he understands what McConnell did as a form of hypocrisy. As my old college acquaintance put it in his note to me, we now have a Republican president and a Republican Senate and “elections have consequences.”

Based on other exchanges I have had with this pastor, I highly doubt he would have said “elections have consequences” if the same thing happened with a Democratic president’s nominee and a Democratic-controlled Senate. He would instead be making an appeal to the Constitution or perhaps the scriptures. But I digress.

The GOP is licking its chops to confirm Barrett. Its members thus need some kind of argument to save face and explain that they are not hypocrites. Most of these GOP Senators and pundits believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based upon the original intent of the framers. But they are not consistent in this belief. They only claim original intent when it meets their needs. There is nothing in the Constitution that says a Supreme Court nominee in an election year can only get a Senate hearing if the president making the nomination is of the same political party as the party controlling the Senate. The GOP just made this up.

And if the GOP really believes the original intent of the founders is important, they should be talking about how the founders would be appalled at the rank partisanship driving this whole nomination and confirmation process.

But perhaps most revealing is the way this pastor reconciles 2016 (Obama and Garland) and 2020 (Trump and Barrett) with an appeal to raw power. Again, notice that he did not appeal to the Constitution, the Bible, or some other moral code to defend McConnell’s decision. The exact words he used to justify Barrett’s nomination were “Republicans in power. Elections have consequences.” In a single sentence he confirmed a major part of my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Of course Jesus had a chance to obtain worldly power as well.

I recall that passage in Matthew 4 when Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” if he would just bow down and worship him. When Jesus turned down Satan’s offer (“away from me Satan!”) God sent angels to attend to him. Jesus rejected worldly power and God was there to offer comfort and assurance in the form of the angels. The rest of the Gospel story, of course, is God showing how he would carry out his plan in another way–The Way–a way that did not require the kind of earthly power Satan was offering to Jesus.

But most people don’t know that in the 1980s Jerry Falwell Sr., while conducting a Moral Majority Holy Land tour, discovered early manuscripts of the Matthew 4 that show Jesus actually taking Satan’s deal. According to these ancient manuscripts, Jesus drove a hard bargain with Satan. In this manuscript Jesus specifically defined the “kingdoms of the world” as the future United States and demanded that Satan bring “splendor” to this kingdom by one day raising-up a morally bankrupt pagan leader (similar to King Cyrus of old) who would have the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices. Satan agreed to deal, but fitting with his cunning spirit, took over 2000 years to fulfill his promise to Jesus.

What? You’ve never heard this before? It’s all there in the Lynchburg scrolls. The reason people don’t know about these scrolls is because the fake media won’t report on them.

🙂

Franklin Graham will lead a prayer march through Washington D.C. today

Yonat Shimron has it covered at Religion News Service. Here is a taste:

Like his late father, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham is not a marcher.

The Graham family formula has always focused on stadium-sized evangelistic revivals.

But ahead of the presidential election, the evangelical preacher is borrowing a tactic used by civil rights leaders and Black Lives Matter protesters. He is organizing a mass prayer march Saturday (Sept. 26) from the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

“It’s important that men and women of God come to Washington, and let’s call on his name and ask for his help,” Graham told RNS. “We are so divided, politically, morally, spiritually. We’re just divided. We pray that God can help unite this nation to be truly the United States of America.”

Graham insists the march is not an effort to encourage voting or to rally evangelicals to the polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election. His only agenda is to get people to repent and pray, he said.

But when he speaks about the protests against police brutality, the Democratic party or President Trump’s impending Supreme Court nomination, he echoes talking points and slogans advanced by the president and the GOP.

“The Democratic Party as a whole has moved into socialism,” Graham said.

Read the rest here.

I am all for prayer, but this event has pro-Trump politics written all over it. Here is what I told Shimron:

“It’s going to be hard to miss this as a kind of counter-march, an anti Black Lives Matter or anti-violence (march),” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah University and an expert on evangelicalism. “His march is clearly defining itself over and against the protests against George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.”

All of these speakers are either court evangelicals or popular Trump supporters. The event is “hosted” by Mike Huckabee and Graham’s daughter, Cissie Graham.

Liberty University, who recently dumped president and court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr., has not changed one bit in its Trumpism. Acting president Jerry Prevo is sending 2200 students to the event. Prevo says that this is “strictly a prayer march.” I wonder if Prevo would send Liberty University students to a prayer march sponsored by an anti-Trump evangelical?

Other speakers include court evangelicals Alveda King and Bishop Harry Jackson.

In another event this weekend, Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic Jewish pastor who writes apocalyptic novels comparing the attacks on September 11 to the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, is holding an event in Washington D.C. called “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance.”

Speakers include court evangelical Tony Perkins, court evangelical Jim Garlow, former Rep. Michelle Bachman, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert, “MyPillow guy” Mike Lindell, singer Pat Boone, actor Kevin Sorbo, former gang member of The Cross and the Switchblade fame Nicky Cruz, American Idol star Danny Gokey, and Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz.

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem believes that Trump does not tell lies. Also, anyone who believes Trump is trying to “divide us” is bearing false witness”

Last December I wrote a post titled, “Wayne Grudem lives in a different moral universe than I do.” Grudem’s recent interview with World magazine has not changed my mind one bit.

Here is Grudem:

President Trump has made wise decisions regarding the coronavirus pandemic in the midst of misleading, lying information from China and conflicting advice from scientific and economic experts.

“Wise decisions”?

Trump knew the coronavirus was “deadly and airborne” and he refused to tell the American people about it. He held five rallies after he received word of the virus’s deadly nature and did little to address it in the early months. He says he banned travel from China, but this is misleading.

By downplaying the virus, Trump put lives in jeopardy and people died. He empowered anti-maskers and continues to hold mass rallies with no social distancing or masks. He has thousands, if not millions, of followers who think COVID-19 is a “fake.” Thoughtful evangelicals are calling him out for his anti-science views. He has taken medical advice from the My Pillow guy, pushed unproven drugs, and even said that bleach and household disinfectants might help stop the virus. While people die, Trump hawks beans, undermines the country’s chief immunologist, wants to discuss flavored vaping, and retweets game show hosts. Trump has placed his own political ambitions over science. And all the time he claims that he has “total authority.”

Wise decisions?

Grudem goes on:

On racial issues, his leadership led to an economy with the lowest black unemployment since we’ve been keeping records, with great gains among lower-income workers. He pushed for greater school choices in minority neighborhoods and stronger law enforcement to bring more safety to inner cities.

Seriously?

Was Grudem on another planet all summer? Trump is doing everything possible to ignore the cries of the African-American community in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Instead he denies the existence of systemic racism, rallies his white base by attacking critical race theory, connects violent protests to Black churches, says he wants to save the suburbs from rioters (most of whom are black), inspires white supremacists at national parks, retweets people yelling “white power,” and uses the Bible as a political prop to enforce “law and order” and stop a peaceful anti-racism protest. And this is just in the last six months. Let’s not forget Charlottesville, the NBA, and the NFL.

Grudem claims that anyone who says Trump is dividing the country is lying:

It’s bearing false witness against President Trump to say he seeks to divide us. He isn’t responsible for the rioting, the burning of cars, the blocking of public roads and sidewalks that began on day one of his presidency. No Americans legitimately have a fear of physical violence … for putting a Biden sticker on their car or wearing a Joe Biden campaign shirt or hat. But I know many evangelicals, including myself, who fear being physically attacked or shouted at if I were to put a Trump bumper sticker on my car or wear a MAGA or Trump-supporter hat in public.

Does Grudem really believe that Trump is not a divider? Trump has made almost no attempt to bring the country together. His entire presidency is about appealing to his base and hoping that they will give him another four years. To claim that Trump is not a divider, and then go as far to say that anyone who says he is a divider is “bearing false witness,” sounds like comical propaganda.

More Grudem:

I looked at The Washington Post’s list of what it calls 16,000-some “lies” Trump has spoken and examined 20 or 30 of them. They’re what I’d call conclusions drawn by a hostile interpreter of words that a sympathetic listener would understand in a positive way. President Trump is often not careful in some of the things he says. He is given to exaggeration. Sometimes he’s made a statement after being given inaccurate information. I’m not sure he’s ever intentionally affirmed something he knows to be false, which is how I define a lie. As you know, I have written an ethics textbook. I believe it’s never right to affirm X when you believe X is false. If someone wants to point out to me some actual Trump lies that fit that definition, I’d be happy to look at them. 

You can look at The Washington Post list of Trump lies and misleading statements and decide for yourself. Here a a list of just his coronavirus lies and misleading statements. Watch this:

Grudem’s claim about lying is interesting. He says that Trump has never “intentionally affirmed something he knows to be false.” Grudem may be right. Maybe Trump believes all the untruthful things he says are actually true. This may be worse than outright lying because it reveals his incompetence. But Wayne Grudem knows best: “you know, I have written an ethics textbook.” Or maybe he just received a prophetic word.

Here is more:

The Trump presidency has resulted in a stronger economy, stronger national defense, positive steps toward achieving border security, standing up to China and Russia, negotiating new trade agreements, advocating educational freedom, standing with Israel, strengthening our military, and reforming our judicial system. Those are all what seem to me to be evidence of God’s blessing on the nation with President Trump. If he wins again, I expect there will be more blessing on our nation. If Biden is elected, he’ll support abortion, cripple the economy, weaken our military, largely abandon Israel, select more judges who legislate from the bench, weaken religious freedom. We’ll have more crime, a complete federal takeover of our healthcare system, and much more that looks like the withdrawal of God’s blessing.

Not sure where to begin here. The economy is a mess. People are out of work. Russia is trying to undermine our elections. There is no wall.

The rest of Grudem’s statements here are Christian Right talking points that I have addressed over and over again at this blog and in Believe Me. Grudem has no proof that the things he mentions here will take place in a Biden presidency. Abortion, as I have said many times here, is actually declining in America and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to decline during a Biden presidency. Notice how Grudem invokes the idea that the United States is in a covenant relationship with God. This “New Israel” language goes all the way back to the 17th century Puritans in Massachusetts Bay. It is also fits well with Mike Pence’s 2 Chronicles 7:14 rhetoric.

Read the entire interview here.

The court evangelicals get another chance to execute their political playbook

For many American evangelicals, Christian witness in the political sphere comes down to overturning Roe v. Wade. This is why the court evangelicals are so gleeful about Trump getting another Supreme Court nomination. This is also why they say virtually nothing about the president’s mishandling of COVID-19 (nearly 200,000 dead), his separation of families at the Mexican border, his environmental policies that will one day make the planet incapable of sustaining life, and his racism. Look for yourself. The silence is deafening. Start your research with these names:

Franklin Graham, James Robison, James Dobson, Jenetzen Franklin, Jack Graham, Paula White, Greg Laurie, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Johnnie Moore, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Jim Garlow, Jack Hibbs, Harry Jackson Jr., Luke Barnett, Richard Land, Jim Bakker, David Barton, Steve Strang, Samuel Rodriguez, Charlie Kirk, Lance Wallnau, and Jenna Ellis.

I imagine (again, I only imagine) that some of these people were on a conference call the moment Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. They no doubt started the session with prayer for the Ginsburg’s family and perhaps even threw-out a prayer or two for those suffering through COVID-19. And then, when the pleasantries were done, they got down to strategizing about how to best support the president’s forthcoming Supreme Court nomination and the most effective ways of spinning their 2016 claims that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee–Merrick Garland–did not deserve a hearing in the Senate because it was an election year.

As I wrote yesterday, Robert Jeffress said that COVID-19 is mere “background noise” now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead and Trump can appoint another conservative justice. Background noise? Tell that to the families who lost lives from COVID. What kind of world do we live in where a Christian pastor can say that the loss of 200,000 lives is unimportant and get virtually no push-back from his followers, all men and women who name the name of Jesus Christ?

Here is what the court evangelicals have been saying about the Supreme Court story:

Let’s start with Franklin Graham. Let’s remember that Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland about eight months before the 2016 election:

And now Graham says the country is at a “boiling point” and needs prayer. He has no clue that he is partly responsible for the divisions in the nation and the church.

Southern Baptist seminary president Al Mohler tries to defend Mitch McConnell’s decision to reject Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016. There is no reference to the Constitution or its interpretation. Mohler’s argument is weak, especially coming from a self-professed Constitutional originalist. I would like to see him defend this argument through a close reading of the Constitution as opposed to the weak reference to 1880 that he offers here. Mohler, who prides himself as an intellectual driven by logic, begins with the assumption that we need another conservative justice and then searches for an argument–any argument–to justify his political desires.

There is no doubt that President Trump will make a nomination to fill the vacancy, and there is now no doubt, thanks to a statement released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that the Senate will move forward on a confirmation process once the nomination is announced. Indeed, Senator McConnell stated, “In the last midterm election, before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018, because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Ecclesiastes 10:1. Interesting choice of verse by Tony Perkins:

Here is Gary Bauer. It’s all about the Christian Right playbook. He actually believes that overturning Roe v. Wade will end abortion in the United States. As long as he keeps sticking to this playbook, the lives of unborn babies will remain a political football.

Hey Ralph Reed, why weren’t you making this argument in 2016?

Charlie Kirk of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University does not even want hearings for Trump’s new justice:

Kirk criticizes Ilhan Omar for being a “starter of fires” fueled by religion and skin color. Hmm…

For many evangelicals the 2020 election represents a simple choice: Trump will defend the pro-life movement, Joe Biden is pro-choice; Trump promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who will challenge–perhaps even overturn —Roe v. Wade, and Joe Biden will not. When it comes to dealing with the problem of abortion, the court evangelicals have been reading from the same political playbook for more than four decades. It teaches them that the best way to bring an end to abortion in America is to elect the right president, who, in turn, will support the right justices. Thus far, things seem to be going well: not only has Trump appointed pro-life justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanuagh, but he has appointed dozens of conservative judges to federal district courts across the country. Now, he will most likely get to appoint another conservative justice.

Still, it is not exactly clear how this strategy will bring an end to abortion in America. Chief Justice John Roberts, himself a devout Catholic, has called Roe v. Wade “settled as the law of the land.” Amy Coney Barrett, who appears to be Trump’s top pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said publicly that it is likely Roe v. Wade will not be overturned.

And even if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, the issue will be sent back to the states. Abortion is very likely to remain legal in the so-called blue states, including California and New York, and illegal in many of the so-called red states, especially in the deep South.

State legislatures will need to decide how they will handle the abortion issue in the remaining states, but a significant number of them will probably allow abortion in some form. To put it simply, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America. It may curtail the number of abortions, but it will bring our culture no closer to welcoming the children who are born and supporting their mothers.

The taking of a human life in the womb via the practice of abortion is a horrific practice. Modern technology shows us that a baby in the womb, especially in the last trimester, is alive. Christians should be working hard to reduce the number of abortions that take place in the United States–even working to eliminate the practice entirely.

But we have been under Roe v. Wade for long enough that several generations of Americans now believe that they have a right to an abortion. Such a belief is not going to change anytime soon. Conservative evangelicals and other pro-life advocates spend billions of dollars to get the right candidates elected because they believe that the Supreme Court is the only way to solve the problem of abortion in our society. Yet, most of these conservatives oppose “big government” and want to address social concerns through churches and other institutions of civil society. Imagine if all the money spent to support pro-life candidates was poured into these institutions.

How did we get to this place. Learn more here:

Court evangelical Franklin Graham: America has reached a “boiling point”

A friend recently sent the following article with the words, “I wish we could say his actions and words had mitigated this problem…”

Here is a taste of a piece on Graham’s upcoming prayer march:

Rev Franklin Graham has said current events this year such as the coronavirus pandemic and injustice has caused the US to reach a boiling point.

He told The Christian Post: “I think there’s kind of a boiling point here with many people,” he said. “We have seen injustice on our streets and some of our communities. The frustration that people aren’t heard, that people are marginalized. It seems that all of this is boiling at the same time. 

“Republicans cannot fix it; Democrats cannot fix it. Only God can.”

The US evangelist was speaking in an interview ahead of his national prayer march taking place on 26th September in Washington DC.

Thousands of people will walk on the National Mall from Lincoln Memorial to the US Captiol building, pausing to pray and different landmarks.

He said in a video on the event website: “America is in trouble, it’s in distress, but we do have hope and that hope is in almighty God.

“We need to pray now more than ever, more than we’ve ever done in our life. Our communities are hurting, our people are divided and there’s fear and uncertainty all around us.”

Rev Graham told The Christian Post it’s hard to say whether there can be a Great Awakening in the nation because many pastors won’t be vocal and give the Biblical view on controversial subjects. 

“For many in the Church today, they’re comfortable and a lot of our pastors don’t want to rock the boat,” he said.

Read the rest here. Graham assumes he is on the side of the angels and his divisive rhetoric over the past decade has had nothing to do with our current moment.

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress says the debate over a new Supreme Court justice makes COVID-19 “background noise”

It’s all about the Supreme Court for Donald Trump’s court evangelicals. Everything else, including nearly 200,000 dead from a pandemic, is just “background noise.” Here is NBC News reporter Peter Alexander.

So much for being pro-life. For Jeffress, COVID-19 is simply a political inconvenience. Of course Jeffress’s political savior, Donald Trump, believes the same thing.

UPDATE: I misses this tweet:

The Trump campaign sends Eric out to win the evangelical vote

Earlier this year the Trump campaign launched “Evangelicals for Trump.” I wrote about the January launch in a piece at USA Today. Since “Evangelicals for Trump” launched in Miami we have not heard much about this initiative. But if you look closely enough you can find “Evangelicals for Trump” rallies throughout the United States. And the president’s youngest son Eric Trump is usually the keynote speaker.

On Wednesday, Eric will speak at an event titled “Evangelicals for Trump: Praise, Power, Prayer, and Patriotism” at Dream City Church in Glendale, Arizona. Court evangelical Luke Barnett is the pastor of this church.

On September 15, Eric was in Cumming, Georgia with Governor Eric Kemp, Alveda King, Paula White, Jenetzen Franklin, and other court evangelicals. There is video of this event: Watch:

Notice very few of the evangelicals in the crowd are wearing masks and their is no social distancing. Eric claims that his father was chosen by God in 2016 and now God is protecting him from the Democrats and the socialists. He also suggests that Biden is mentally unstable. Listen to the evangelicals cheer this character attack.

On September 3rd , Eric was at City Church in Huntersville, North Carolina with Paula White and her husband, former Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain.

Expect to see Eric doing more of these events. The fact that the campaign is sending him to connect with evangelicals tells us a lot about the Trump-evangelical alliance. Eric stands before these evangelical crowds and utters pro-Trump political talking points and the evangelicals cheer as if he is somehow articulating the tenets of biblical faith.

John Brown University students protest visit from court evangelical Eric Metaxas

John Brown University is an evangelical college in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Back in October 2018, I visited the university on the Believe Me book tour and was greatly impressed by the quality of the students and faculty.

On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, John Brown hosted an event titled “Should Christians Vote for Trump?” The evening featured a debate between conservative writer David French and court evangelical extraordinaire Eric Metaxas. This was a repeat performance of a debate that took place in April at the “Q” conference.

Here is Maria Aguilar at The Threefold Advocate, the John Brown University student newspaper:

In response to Metaxas’ involvement in the event, a group of students decided to form “Love Activates Action,” a university movement which advocates for marginalized students on campus, according to its Instagram profile, @love_activates_action.

Before the event began, students gathered with signs outside the BPAC that expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQIA+ pride. Attendees who arrived at the recital hall could read their signs laid on the grass next to the sidewalk.

According to a statement released by Love Activates Action, student protesters aimed to “create awareness surrounding the harmful, toxic effects Eric Metaxas can have on our student body.” At the scene, students—some of whom expressed support for Metaxas—also gathered to share their views and engage in discussion with the group.

A few minutes after the event wrapped up, student protesters held their signs high for Metaxas to see as he walked out of the building. A couple of students even requested answers from Metaxas, but he did not comment.

On Sept. 1, a week prior to the event, the Center for Faith and Flourishing addressed students’ concerns with Metaxas’ invitation to campus. “JBU knows how to respectfully and reasonably engage with those with whom we disagree. We also trust that no one in our community will use the past statements or behavior of an invited speaker as an excuse to harass or act offensively toward any other member of our community,” the emailed statement read. “Verbally aggressive or violent approaches are not in keeping with principles of civil dialogue or engagement, nor are they consistent with JBU’s core guiding principles to support and care for individual uniqueness.”

Read the rest here.

Catherine Nolte’s reporting on the the event includes a reference to Metaxas’s defense of a punch he recently threw at an anti-Trump protester.

“There’s no COVID. It’s a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America”

Last night in Freeland, Michigan:

Kirsten Powers nails it when she says:

It’s interesting listening to that man who said ‘The good Lord is going to protect me and I have to go on with my life. I’ve heard some version of this from various Trump supporters. And yet when the caravan is coming, allegedly, the ‘good Lord” is not going to protect them. When Antifia is coming, the “good Lord’s not going to protect them. None of it makes sense. The things that they choose to be scared of and that Donald Trump scares them about aren’t even the real things they need to be worried about and yet they’re in this panic. And then you have the president saying [to Bob Woodward on tape) that “I don’t want to cause a panic” when that is essentially all he does as president is try to incite panics in the country and among the people who support him.

I also found it interesting that the man who said COVID is not real was wearing a shirt that said “Grace Adventures.” This appears to be an evangelical Christian camp and retreat ministry located in Spring Lake, Michigan. I write this not to disparage Grace Adventures, but to note that it is likely that this man who denies the existence of COVID is an evangelical who represents the feeling of a lot of Trump-loving evangelicals, including California megachurch pastor John MacArthur.

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center meets all expectations at its “Get Louder” event

Yesterday, Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, the culture war wing of the largest Christian university in the world, held a 1-day conference titled “Get Louder: Faith Summit 2020.” Evangelical Trump supporters were encouraged to yell and scream more, fight more, and make sure that they were active on every social media platform. This is how the Kingdom of God will advance and Christian America will be saved because in the minds of the speakers, and probably most of those in attendance, there is little difference between the two. There was virtually nothing said about civility, humility, empathy, peace, compassion, the common good, or justice for people of color or the poor.

If there is any doubt that the Falkirk Center, with its angry and bitter political rhetoric and unswerving support of Donald Trump, represents Liberty University, those doubts were put to rest in the first fifteen minutes of the event. The day began with a video from the late Jerry Falwell Sr.:

This was followed by a welcome from Liberty University Provost Scott Hicks. Scott Lamb, Liberty’s Vice President for Communications, also welcomed the audience and praised the work of the Falkirk Center.

Falkirk Center director Ryan Helfenbein introduced the day’s festivities:

The first plenary speaker was former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He started-off with a real “historical” whopper:

Much of Huckabee’s speech confused identity politics with “collectivism.” It was an ideological mess. The real socialist collectivists in America are no fan of identity politics.

And it wouldn’t be a Huckabee speech without some fearmongering:

Huckabee is disappointed with students on “evangelical campuses”:

Next came Ralph Reed, one of the primary architects of the Christian Right playbook. Reed sings one note:

The “Great Awakening” was ubiquitous at this event:

We’ve written about the “Black-Robed Brigade here.

Falkirk Center’s co-founder Charlie Kirk’s pastor spoke:

A general observation about the day:

And then Eric Metaxas showed-up:

I compared this session on the “Christian mind” to Bruce Springsteen’s convocation address last night at another Christian college–Jesuit-run Boston College:

Next-up, court evangelical Greg Locke:

Next-up, the anti-social justice crowd:

At the end of a long day Eric Metaxas came back for a solo speech:

Please read my recent Religion News Service piece in this context of these texts.

Trump is having a rough week. What are the court evangelicals saying?

If you are following the news (or this blog), you know that:

  1. Multiple outlets, including Fox News, have confirmed that Trump disparaged American veterans. He called them “losers” and “suckers.”
  2. Trump knew about the “deadly” nature of the coronavirus as early as February 7, 2020 and did nothing about it. (And I am sure there will be more revelations in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book).
  3. According to Michael Cohen, Trump disparaged evangelicals, calling their beliefs “bulls–t.”

So what are Trump’s evangelical supporters–the men and women I call the “court evangelicals”–saying?

Some of the court evangelicals will be gathering at a Liberty University Falkirk Center event today. I will try to keep an eye on this.

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis is not going to read Woodward’s book. But I don’t think Woodward’s reporting will be something she can ignore. If I were her, I would jump off the Trump train right now:

Ms. Ellis will not be able to change the subject much longer:

When Donald Trump candidate is in trouble, court evangelicals start talking about abortion and the Supreme Court:

If abortion and the Supreme Court don’t work, court evangelicals can always retweet stuff about truth and ethics:

But let’s not pick-on Jenna Ellis too much. Let’s see what Liberty University’s Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk is up to.

Again, pivot to abortion:

If abortion doesn’t work, say something about Nancy Pelosi:

Or this:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody is always ready to tweet favorable things about Trump, but all he has for us today is a story about Biden and a Washington football team hat. Maybe he is on vacation. 🙂

There is a reason Trump released his Supreme Court list today. Ralph Reed is more than willing to help the president in his attempt at misirection:

The same goes for Johnnie Moore, the guy who touts himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Gary Bauer refuses to believe the reporting:

Tony Perkins, as expected, focuses on the Supreme Court:

Jack Graham too:

Graham also seems to reject the reporting on Trump’s disparaging marks about the military. He retweeted this:

This is what court evangelicals do. When every major news outlet (including Fox News) confirms a story that they don’t like about Donald Trump, they desperately search for a source from a Trump loyalist to prove them wrong.

Jentezen Franklin is distracting his followers with a different story:

I think it is fair to say that the court evangelicals, with a few notable exceptions, have been relatively silent this week. They don’t have much to say about Trump’s remarks on military veterans, Cohen’s allegations, and the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus.

Theologian Miroslav Volf on Christian Trumpism

Here is the Yale theologian yesterday on Twitter:

Michael Cohen alleges that Trump called evangelical beliefs “bulls–t”

As most of you know, Michael Cohen was Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer.” The press is now starting to get access to his forthcoming memoir, Disloyal: A Memoir.

Here is a taste of Ashley Parker and Rosalind S. Helderman’s piece at The Washington Post:

Cohen describes Trump’s obsessive hatred of Obama, including claiming that the only reason the former president got into Columbia University and Harvard Law School was because of “f—ing affirmative action.” He also recounts Trump’s “low opinion of all black folks.” claiming that Trump once said while ranting about Obama, “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a s—hole. They are all complete f—ing toilets.”

After South African President Nelson Mandela died in 2013, Trump said he did not think Mandela “was a real leader — not the kind he respected,” Cohen writes.

Instead, Cohen writes that Trump praised the country’s apartheid-era White rule, saying: “Mandela f—ed the whole country up. Now it’s a s—hole. F— Mandela. He was no leader.”

Cohen writes that before winning the presidency, Trump held a meeting at Trump Tower with prominent evangelical leaders, where they laid their hands on him in prayer. Afterward, Trump allegedly said: “Can you believe that bulls–t? Can you believe people believe that bulls–t?”

“The cosmic joke was that Trump convinced a vast swathe of working-class white folks in the Midwest that he cared about their well-being,” Cohen writes. “The truth was that he couldn’t care less.”

“Can you believe people believe that bulls–t?”

Read the entire article here.

We will see if anyone corroborates Cohen’s story in the same way people are corroborating Trump’s words about American military personnel.

This all reminds me of the late David Kuo, an evangelical speechwriter for Jack Kemp, Bill Bennett, John Ashcroft, court evangelical Ralph Reed, Dan Quayle, and George H.W. Bush. He also worked in Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In his book Tempting Faith, Kuo wrote:

For…the White House staff, evangelical leaders were people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed. No group was more eye-rolling about Christians than the political affairs shop. They knew “the nuts” were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness. Sadly, the political affairs folks complained most often and most loudly about how boorish many political involved Christians were. They didn’t see much of the love of Jesus in their lives…There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t hear someone in the middle-to-senior levels making some comment or another about how annoying the Christians were or how tiresome they were, or how “handling” them took so much time. National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as “ridiculous,” “out of control,” and just plain “goofy.”

Kuo, who died of a brain tumor in 2013, realized that the White House is “one of the most seductive places imaginable. Not just because of the perks…but because of the raw power of the place hidden in true desire to save the world.”

How John MacArthur politicizes science

Last Sunday John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, told his congregation that “there is no [COVID-19] pandemic.” The congregation cheered. Watch:

Notice that MacArthur says that he is not giving a “political speech.” I beg to differ. MacArthur claims that he just preaches the word of God. He does not get involved in politics or “social justice” issues. But as Yonat Shimron’s reporting shows, MacArthur’s interpretation of a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention report is deeply political.

Here is a taste of her piece at Religion News Service:

This past Sunday (Aug. 30) John MacArthur, the senior pastor of Los Angeles’ Grace Community Church, made a startling statement.

“There is no pandemic,” he said.

His proof? A recent Centers for Disease Control report that only 6% of U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 listed the virus as the only cause of death; the remaining 94% listed additional underlying health conditions known as “co-morbidities.”

But according to health experts, MacArthur made quite a jump to conclude that, of the estimated 160,000 U.S. deaths examined in the CDC’s report, only 9,210 were due to COVID-19, and all the rest died of something else.

In fact, it’s wrong.

As of Monday, 6 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 — including 700,000 Californians — and an estimated 184,000 Americans have died from it. When recording the reasons for a patient’s death, doctors list all factors leading to the person’s demise — but the virus remains the main reason they died.

MacArthur’s non-denominational church has been defying California’s ban on large indoor meetings without masks or social distancing. In doing so, the church appears to be wading into a highly politicized campaign to minimize or outright deny the existence of the coronavirus. Recently, MacArthur told President Trump in a phone conversation that “any real, true believer” of Christianity will be forced to vote for him over Biden in November.

Shimron’s sources have led her to three conclusions:

  1. “Most people with underlying heath issues would still be alive but for COVID-19
  2. “Death is only one outcome from COVID-19.”
  3. “The science is being politicized ahead of the presidential election”

Read the entire piece here.

Here is Anthony Fauci: “Let there not be any confusion…It’s not 9,000 deaths from COVID-19. It’s 180,000-plus deaths.”  He adds, “The point that the CDC was trying to make was that a certain percentage of [deaths] had nothing else but COVID. That does not mean that someone who has hypertension, or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19. They did.”

Another Monday in Trumpland

Trump press conference 2

Monday, August 31, 2022, in Trumpland began with news that House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and Trump supporter, doctored a video to make it appear that Biden wants to defund the police. I am expecting Scalise’s GOP colleagues, including the court evangelicals, to mount a full-fledged assault on him for misleading the American people and promoting “fake news.” 🙂

Today Trump will be in Kenosha, Wisconsin despite the fact that governor Tony Evers has asked him not to come. Evers believes that a visit from Trump will only bring more division to a city experiencing racial unrest in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting and the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting incident that left two people dead.

Trump will not visit with the Blake family today. He claimed that the reason they will not meet is because the Blake family wanted to bring lawyers. Other reports suggest that Blake’s father has no interest in meeting with the president. And who is this “pastor” that Trump spoke with?

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, refused to say that the president condemns the shooting of Jacob Blake or the the Rittenhouse shootings. How hard is it to condemn this? And if he won’t condemn these shootings, why is he going to Kenosha today? What message can he possibly deliver to the people of Kenosha that will bring any sense of healing? Oh, I almost forgot, we are talking about Trump. He doesn’t understand the idea of communal and social healing.

Joe Biden was in Pittsburgh yesterday and he also had a few things to say about the racial conflict in America:

Biden sounds like a “law and order” candidate here. But wait, I thought Biden was a radical socialist who supported violence and thuggery in the streets?  🙂 My favorite line from the speech: “Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft-spot for rioters? Really?”

After listening to Biden speak, Trump called a press conference to respond. He called Biden’s speech “strange” and then described a speech that sounded virtually nothing like the one Biden delivered:

Trump then decided to use his press conference riff on American history in schools. He claimed that our nation’s schools were engaging in “left-wing indoctrination.” Of course we have been hearing about this for a long time. But Trump offered some specifics. He said that students were learning that “America is a wicked nation plagued by racism.” Two quick thoughts on this. First, history teachers are not doing their jobs correctly if they are using morally-charged words such as “wicked” to describe the United States.  Second, history teachers are doing their jobs well if they are calling attention to the “racism” that has “plagued” our country.

Trump wants to restore “patriotic education” to our nation’s schools. This may not be a bad idea. A patriot–someone who loves their country–will acknowledge its successes and its flaws.

Trump defended his supporters shooting paint balls and pepper spray at protesters in Portland. He described them as engaged in a “peaceful protest.” In case you missed what happened:

He also refused to condemn the Rittenhouse shootings.

As has been the case since 2016, it is virtually impossible to distinguish the voice of the court evangelicals from the voice of Trump. If aliens landed on this planet and knew nothing about American politics or American religion, they would assume that there was no difference between the Christianity promoted by the court evangelicals and the rhetoric of Donald Trump:

Roger Stone visits a Tennessee church to talk about his conversion, but spends most of the time talking about pro-Trump politics

Stone saved

Roger Stone has found Jesus. The Trump supporter convicted for witness tampering and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison apparently came to the Lord in prison. Trump commuted his sentence in June.

Last month, after Stone appeared on the Eric Metaxas show, I wrote: “Stone makes no apology for anything. He is the same arrogant Roger Stone, but now he works for the Christian Right. Stone says that he no longer has to plot revenge against his political enemies because now God will punish them.”

After listening to this interview, I found it hard to separate Stone’s Jesus language from the court evangelical language I hear every day from Trump’s born-again Christian followers.

Over at the Austin Statesman-American, Jonathan Tilove reports on Stone’s recent visit to Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Here is a taste of his piece:

“I stand before you as living proof that prayer works, and that God will deliver his people,” Stone said Sunday.

“I am a 40-year friend of President Donald Trump,” Stone said, establishing his bona fides for any skeptics in his audience. “I wanted him to run for president in 1988. I wanted him to run again in 2000. I wanted him to run in 2012. And I thank the Lord that finally, he decided to run, with God’s guidance, in 2016.”

“For my support of Donald Trump. I endured a three-year nightmare,” Stone said, recalling his pre-dawn SWAT-style arrest, which, he said, didn’t even give him time to dress appropriately.

“But I did emerge from my home in handcuffs wearing a Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong t-shirt. You can get yours at fightback.store,” Stone said Sunday, pitching his tent revival. “Get yours now, because you’ll be able to sell it to the Smithsonian later.”

And then there is this:

Stone recalled the late pastor, Kim Clement, who prophesied the Trump presidency: “Trump shall become a trumpet, says the Lord.”

“He had a number of extraordinary prophecies, which have come true,” Stone said. “He prophesized that a man would rise from the North to save the American nation, and his name was Donald, and he would be elected president. He predicted, almost to the number, the surge in our stock market and the recovery of our economy. He predicted the failed impeachment against our president.

“And then he spoke about another effort, by the New World Order, in this case Goliath, to take down America.”

At this point Stone loses me a little but, apparently the Lord was asked, ”`What is your plan for this giant?′ And He said, `I shall take a simple s(S)tone. Remember that name. And he will hold that s(S)tone up and they will laugh at him. But the plan is so brilliant,′ said the Lord, ` that it could only have come from me.’”

“I do not claim to be the Stone mentioned in that prophecy,” Stone said. “I may be. Maybe I’m not. But I do know this. God spared my life for a purpose. He will reveal to me what it is he wants to do.

“And I am ready to do battle for the Lord,” said Stone, who by this point had long since removed his double-breasted coat, appearing, with his white hair and suspenders, for all the world like the protagonist in a summer stock production of Inherit the Wind, based on events the occurred a couple of hours southeast of here.

Pastor Locke, who three days earlier had been among the invited guests on the South Lawn of the White House for President Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for a second term, declared himself impressed by Stone’s preaching.

“You know, it says something about the church landscape in America, when Roger Stone has more gospel and more courage than the average pastor in the United States of America to stand up and risk his life for the truth of Jesus Christ.”

Read the entire piece here.

How many new converts to Christ talk about politics more than spirituality. This is what much of evangelical Christianity has become. Watch the speech and decide for yourself. It starts around the 34:00 mark.

 

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas threw a punch at an anti-Trump protester on Thursday night. What did he say about it today?

Nothing specifically.

In case you missed it:

But if you listen carefully to his radio show today, you will pick-up several veiled references to the incident amid the obsessive fear-mongering that is a daily staple of the show.

In hour one, Metaxas has a conversation with his regular guest, right-wing commentary John Zmirak.

Listen here (Part 1):

At the 9:35 mark, Metaxas facetiously introduces Zmirak this way: “…the dude is sawed-off, so I am just telling you, get ready, you gotta go into your protective stance, he’s going to try to run you over with a bicycle, he’s very threatening, he has a rap-sheet a mile long, he’s a scary dude, I just want you to be poised. John Zmirak is coming-up.”

I’m not sure what this means, but it certainly seems like a reference to what happened last Thursday night, especially the part about the bike.

At the 13:15 mark, Metaxas talks about the streets of Washington D.C. following the last night of the GOP convention. He complains about “vileness directed at women…from the mouths of what they like to call ‘protesters’.” Sounds like a chivalry defense.

At the 25:50 mark, Metaxas talks about rage: “When we give into rage, we don’t know what it is we’re giving into.” Indeed.

At the 31:20 mark, Metaxas starts using the Bible, Christianity, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to defend violence. “There is a place for self-defense,” he says. Zmirak says that the non-violence/pacifist reading of the Bible is a “primitive and childish reading of the Gospels.” This discussion makes me wonder if Metaxas and Zmirak are talking about 1930s Germany or last Thursday night in Washington.

During this part of the conversation Metaxas comes very close to making a direct connection between today’s Democratic Party and the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust. Smirak tries to make a biblical and Christian defense of Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent actions in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

At the 38:41 mark, Metaxas identifies court evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson as the man he and his wife Susanne were walking with on Thursday night when he took a swing at the protester. He says that he and his wife were just trying to “shepherd” Jackson to his Uber amid “threats of violence and danger.” Again, nothing about the punch.

Metaxas also says that Christians should pray for their enemies, but at the same time fight for what is “true.” This is ironic coming from a guy who threw a punch at his enemy on Thursday night and supports a president who is a serial liar. Please Eric, don’t start talking about truth until you devote an entire episode of your Christian radio show to the endless falsehoods propagated by this president. You are propping-up a man who is misleading millions of people. One might think a Christian radio show that deals with contemporary issues might be concerned about this.

In Part 2 of the show, the discussion continues with Zmirak. At the 2:00 mark, Metaxas once again starts talking about his night in Washington D.C.: “Our lives were threatened…but we don’t want to talk about that.” Later in the hour, Metaxas interviews Jackson about his new book, but they do not talk about what happened on Thursday evening.