What Are the Court Evangelicals Saying Today?

 

05059-trump

Not much.

Here is what the court evangelicals have and have not tweeted in the wake of Donald Trump’s statement on Tuesday .  In this statement he once again drew a moral equivalency between white supremacists and those protesting against them.

NOTE:  Many of these court evangelicals HAVE tweeted things about race and reconciliation since Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, but I am interested in their specific responses to Trump’s handling of this issue.  I want to see if they are willing to say anything negative about the POTUS and, in the process, speak truth to power.  I am curious about which one of them will make the hard choice of breaking with the POTUS in the way that the manufacturers did this week.  If they have not said anything about Trump’s comments on Tuesday I have chosen the world “silent” to describe their response.

Finally, I am only looking at Twitter feeds or links that are shared on Twitter.

Michelle Bachmann:  Silent.  (Although to be fair she has not tweeted since February)

A.R. Bernard: Nothing (Retweeted a general statement on hatred from New York Commission on religious leaders, but nothing on Trump)

Mark Burns: Argues for moral equivalency using MLK, mentions,”both sides” several times, and says it’s all the police’s fault:

Tim Clinton:  Silent

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland: Silent

James Dobson: Silent

Jerry Falwell Jr: Silent (I am getting this from others since I am blocked)

Ronnie Floyd: Tweets a link to a blog post in which he says  that “silence and passivity” is not the answer and the church should do something about racism.  Says nothing about the POTUS and his remarks.

Jentezen Franklin: Silent

Jack Graham: Silent

Harry Jackson: Silent

Robert Jeffress:  Links to this recent CBN video.  (Begins at about 6:00 mark).  He condemns racism and white supremacy and even acknowledges that Southern Baptists have been racist in the past.  He also says that “racism” comes “in all colors” and praises POTUS for condemning all kinds of racism.  He completely backs Trump’s statements on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and blames any criticism of POTUS on liberals.  “There is not a racist bone in his (POTUS) body. ”

David Jeremiah: Silent

Richard Land: Silent (To be fair, he has not tweeted since May)

James McDonald: Silent

Johnnie Moore: Will not resign from Advisory Council. He says that it is his job to “give advice” not “take advice.”  I do find it interesting that the members of Trump’s Manufacturing Council (I don’t know how many of them of were Christians) saw this differently.   They were also there to “give advice,” but when Trump made his remarks on Charlottesville at least eight of them resigned.  Moore also calls for “reasoning together” quoting Isaiah 1:18.  It is unclear who he wants to reason with.

Robert Morris: Silent.  Although he did tweet this:

Tom Mullins: Silent

Ralph Reed: Silent

James Robison: Condemns racism and calls for prayer.  Silent about Trump on Twitter. But Warren Throckmorton is reporting on this.

Tony Suarez: Silent

Paula White-Cain: Silent.  But this tweet is interesting.

Sealy Yates: Can’t seem to findTwitter account

OTHER COURT EVANGELICALS:

Franklin Graham: Silent

Eric Metaxas: No idea. I’m blocked

Greg Lurie: Silent

Tony Perkins: Silent  (Perkins is President of the Family Research Council.  Are Trump’s remarks not a family issue?  I know my kids are asking about it).

Cindy Jacobs: Silent

A Court Evangelical Explains Himself

jeffress

Recently court evangelical Robert Jeffress talked about his views of Trump, North Korea, and Charlottesville with Bobby Ross Jr. of Religion News Service.

Here is a taste:

The critics have overreacted, said Jeffress, lead pastor of First Baptist Dallas, whose public observances on current events have not for the first time made him a target. A public pastor with the president’s ear, Jeffress, 61, does not shy away from sharing his belief that Scripture should undergird politics and diplomacy.

“What I said was that the Bible has given government the authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong Un,” said Jeffress, elaborating on a Tuesday (Aug. 8) statement in which he said that God has giving Trump “authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

“That authority comes from Romans 13. Paul said that government has been established by God to be an avenger of those who practice evil,” Jeffress told RNS. “I made it very clear that Romans 12 says we are to forgive one another when people offend us — don’t repay evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.

“But in Romans 13, Paul isn’t talking about individual Christians. He’s talking about government. Government is an organization God uses to bring vengeance against those who practice evil.”

Jeffress said his statement wasn’t the same as saying that “God ordained President Trump to nuke North Korea.”

But many thought it came too close.

Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky questioned “how a man whose calling is supposed to be that of peace could so fervently proselytize in favor of war.”

In a National Review piece, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, criticized Jeffress’ “bellicosity.”

And Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli penned an editorial titled “The Use of Nuclear Weapons is Inherently Evil.” After naming Jeffress, Galli wrote: “One would hope that Christian supporters of the President’s views would at least qualify and nuance their statements.”

Read the entire piece here.

The Prophetic Witness of American Evangelicals

wheaton-il

Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, gets it right in his recent piece at Christianity Today.  According to Stetzer, “if you are unable to critique a president, you’ve lost your prophetic witness.”

Here is a taste:

This is key, and the point of my article today. These events don’t call people’s loyalty into question, they expose the loyalty they already have in their hearts. And that’s concerning when the Rorschach test exposes where their hope truly lies…

I don’t think everyone needs to speak up on everything, but I’m talking about those who defend that which Trump saw that he needed to correct—with him (finally) condemning racism in this instance.

Christians have a prophetic witness, but we can lose that witness when we are unable to see (or speak to) the errors or failings of leaders. And if Christians feel the need to defend even an obvious and divisive mistake (and my Twitter feed is filled with those people), they hurt the church’s witness and tie it too closely to a person, not the truth.

Now, if that’s your job in the White House, I get it. You sometimes have to defend even the errors. But if Christians do the same, it shows the world that our loyalty is to the person in the White House rather than the Person who said He is the Truth.

If you are a Christian, you should be able to speak out against error, injustice, and the depraved strategy of silence. Many did, some said nothing, but some went to the defense of something, ironically, the President two days later felt the need to correct.

If you’re a Christian who acts like President Trump can do no wrong, you’re giving the message that he’s the savior. He’s not. He is fallible, human, and makes mistakes that we, as responsible Christians and members of Christ’s household, should not be afraid to address.

So, rather than defending his error, which he himself felt the need to correct today, search your heart and ask, have I become too connected to a secular leader?

Read the rest here.

Five CEOs Resign from Trump’s Manufacturing Council. Zero Clergy Resign From Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council

Trump Jeffress

In light of Trump’s failure to directly address white supremacy in Charlottesville on Saturday, five CEOs have resigned from his “American Manufacturing Council.”  The latest, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, just tweeted: “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.”

Earlier, Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, resigned because he needed to “take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said yesterday:

…I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.

I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence. I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.

Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, tweeted: “We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing…However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”

So let’s summarize:

“Politics have sidelined the…mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”

“Innovation and sports, not politics.”

“The right thing for me to do.”

“Politics have sidelined the mission of the church and God’s witness in the world.”

“The Gospel and the Kingdom of God, not politics.”

“The Christian thing for me to do.”

Just to be clear, the last three lines were never uttered.  I made them up.  I had to make them up because these are things that the court evangelicals would never say in the context of the Trump presidency.

While America’s manufacturing giants take principled moral stands against white supremacy and Donald Trump’s failure on Saturday to renounce racists by name, none of the members of his “Evangelical Advisory Council“–the so-called court evangelicals–have resigned their posts.  Apparently in the United States it is the manufacturers, not the evangelical clergy who advise the POTUS, who now deliver moral messages to the White House.

Over at Christianity Today, Kate Shellnutt has covered the court evangelical response to Charlottesville.  To be fair, many of the court evangelicals condemned the white supremacist groups that came to Charlottesville last weekend.  (Jerry Falwell Jr. was silent).  But none of them criticized Donald Trump for not speaking out more forcefully on Saturday.  In fact, Franklin Graham and Mark Burns both defended Trump.  Here is Graham:

Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA. That’s absurd. What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions? How about the city politicians who issued the permit for the lawful demonstration to defend the statue? And why didn’t the mayor or the governor see that a powder keg was about to explode and stop it before it got started? Instead they want to blame President Donald J. Trump for everything. Really, this boils down to evil in people’s hearts. Satan is behind it all.

Could you imagine Billy Graham saying these things?

Burns made a video.

I don’t expect resignations coming any time soon.

Peter Wehner Calls Out The Court Evangelicals

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

Conservative evangelical public intellectual Peter Wehner has been anti-Trump from the start.  In his recent piece at Religion News Service he calls out the Christians I have called the court evangelicals and connects their rise with changes taking place in American Christianity.

Here is a taste:

We’re at a hinge moment in the public witness of American Christianity.

The evangelical Christian movement in America is being compromised and discredited by the way prominent leaders have associated themselves with, first, the Donald J. Trump campaign and now, the Trump presidency. If this is allowed to define evangelical attitudes toward political power, the public witness of Christianity will be undermined in durable ways.

I say this recognizing that the last election involved difficult choices upon which reasonable and well-intentioned people disagreed. I understand the argument of those who believed that Mr. Trump was the better of two bad options, whose policies would do less damage to the country than Hillary Clinton’s.

But the worry is that now that the election is over and there is no binary Trump-Clinton choice, many evangelical Christians have lost the capacity to hold the president accountable when he transgresses norms, violates principles and acts in malicious ways. In fact, they have become among his most prominent and reliable public defenders.

Either by their public defense of Trump or their self-indicting silence, certain prominent evangelicals — including Franklin Graham, Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed and James Dobson — are effectively blessing a leader who has acted in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with a Christian ethic.

Read the rest here.

“White evangelicals don’t all sit in the same pew”

19Susan Campbell, a reporter at the Hartford Courant and a professor at the University of New Haven who has written about American fundamentalism, reminds us that not all evangelicals are the same.

The #19percent-ers are still out there.

Here is a taste of her piece:

If you are a white evangelical Christian who doesn’t support Donald Trump, expect to explain yourself — a lot.

Evangelicals — roughly defined as people who believe in conversion experiences, have a personal relationship with Jesus, and stress the importance of the Bible as their foundational document – have been a political force at least since the bicentennial, when Newsweek declared 1976 “The Year of the Evangelical.” That year, half of evangelicals voted for one of their own, Jimmy Carter, a real, live Baptist Sunday school teacher.

That’s a hefty margin, but last November, some 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, who is evangelical neither in word nor deed.

The theories as to what attracted white evangelicals to the most flawed president in history are many, but understand this: White evangelicals don’t all sit in the same pew, and those who didn’t flock to Trump are left with a feeling that the brand has been sullied by their fellows’ support for the most flawed president in history.

“Even to this day, I struggle with whether I should still identify as an evangelical, but I think it’s a term worth fighting for,” says Ben Dubow, executive chef, director of culinary education and nutritional services at MACC Charities (MACC stands for Manchester Area Conference of Churches) and co-lead pastor at Hartford’s Riverfront Family Church. “It’s a movement worth fighting for,” particularly considering the social justice issues that engage evangelicals — including one of Dubow’s missions, feeding the hungry.

Read the entire piece here.

Mark Silk on Trump’s “Evangelical Prophets”

micaiah-before-ahab

I love Trinity College professor and journalist Mark Silk‘s short pieces on religion and politics at Religion News Service.  Now if we can only get him to buy into the phrase “court evangelical!”

Here is a taste of Silk’s latest.  It is a reflection on 1 Kings 22.  

If I were one of Trump’s’s house prophets, I’d be pondering whether all the encouragement they’re giving him isn’t actually the work of a deceiving spirit from the Lord, intended to destroy his presidency. Such as, for example, their enticement to ban transgender people from the military, a policy that is opposed by Republican senators, the Pentagon, military families, and the American people generally.

Of course, if one of those prophets stands up like Micaiah, odds are the President won’t listen to him. Which, as in the case of Micaiah and Ahab, would be all to the good.

Read the entire post here.  (HT: Barton Price on FB)

The POTUS Shield and the Court Evangelicals

frank-amedia-potus-shield-just-potus12

As one of my friends on FB wrote, “shouldn’t it be the White House, and not the Capitol, in the logo?

Yesterday I wrote about INC–Independent Network Charismatic Christianity.  These charismatic preachers with large followings make up a significant part of what I have been calling the court evangelicals.

I have been learning more about INC by the hour.  Thanks for everyone who has been e-mailing with leads.  Last night I read Peter Montgomery‘s extensive report on POTUS Shield, a group of charismatics preachers who believe that Donald Trump will “bring about the reign of God in America and the world.”

He writes:

In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, God told Frank Amedia that with Donald Trump having been elected president, Amedia and his fellow Trump-supporting “apostles” and “prophets” had a new mission. Thus was born POTUS Shield, a network of Pentecostal leaders devoted to helping Trump bring about the reign of God in America and the world.

Amedia described the divine origins of POTUS Shield during a gathering that spread over three days in March 2017 at the northeastern Ohio church he pastors. Interspersed with Pentecostal worship, liturgical dancing, speaking in tongues, shofar blowing, and Israeli flag waving, Amedia and other POTUS Shield leaders put forth their vision for a Christian America and their plans to bring it to fruition through prayer, political engagement and organizing in all 50 states. Among the many decrees made at the event was that Islam must be “completely broken down.”

POTUS Shield’s leaders view politics as spiritual warfare, part of a great struggle between good and evil that is taking place continuously in “the heavenlies” and here on earth, where the righteous contend with demonic spirits that control people, institutions and geographic regions. They believe that Trump’s election has given the church in America an opportunity to spark a spiritual Great Awakening that will engulf the nation and world. And they believe that a triumphant church establishing the kingdom of God on earth will set the stage for Christ’s return. Amedia says that the “POTUS” in the group’s name does not refer only to the president of the United States, but also to a new “prophetic order of the United States” that God is establishing.

Read the entire report here.

Montgomery also did an interview with Sunnivie Brydum at Religion Dispatches.

The ties between POTUS Shield and the court evangelicals are becoming clear:

Frank Amedia, the co-founder of Touch Heaven Ministries, is a “Christian policy liason” for Trump.  Amedia claims to have had a vision of a giant broom sweeping all the liberal judges from the Supreme Court.  He also believes he can control natural events like tsunamis and tornadoes.

Dutch Sheets, another leader of the POTUS Shield movement, was apparently part of a group of evangelical leaders who prayed with Donald Trump in the White House.

Rick Joyner, founder and director of MorningStar Ministries, also visited Trump in the White House.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, has been a longtime court evangelical.  Here he is talking about 7 Mountain Dominionism.

Herman Martir, a Filipino-American pastor in Texas and a representative of this wing of evangelicalism, serves on Trump’s National Diversity Coalition.

Cindy Jacobs, a self-proclaimed prophet and a leader in the POTUS Shield movement, was on the White House lawn when Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty.

More to come.

Court Evangelical: We Have “Unprecedented Access” to the Trump White House

Land

Richard Land

Southern Baptist Richard Land, the president of a conservative evangelical seminary and the guy who held Russell Moore‘s position at the head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Liberty Commission until he made racist remarks on his radio program, is the latest court evangelical to praise King Donald.

In an interview with fellow Southern Baptist leader Ronnie Floyd, Land calls Trump a “pleasant surprise.”  He says that Trump has given him and the other court evangelicals “unprecedented access” to his administration.  Land adds that Trump is “fascinated by evangelicals.” He even discusses what it is like to walk around the White House and schmooze with the other evangelicals who make up Trump’s court.

Listen:

I have always been skeptical of the critics who believe that all conservative evangelicals want to create a theocracy.  I am still skeptical, but getting less so.  Trump and the court evangelicals are pushing me in this direction.

For example, what does Land mean when he says that the court evangelicals have “unprecedented access” to the POTUS?  What do they want to do with this “unprecedented access?”  Are they using such access to speak truth to power?  Are they using this access to call out Donald Trump for his sins?

Are they modeling themselves after the Old Testament court prophet Nathan? Remember Nathan? He was the one who called out King David for adultery and murder using a parable that ended with the phrase “thou art the man!”  Somehow I doubt that this is how the court evangelicals are using their “unprecedented access.”  And if they are using their access this way, it does not appear to be going well.  The “baby Christian” does not appear to be growing.

I think it’s pretty obvious what Land and the other court evangelicals want to do with their access to the White House.  They want to make sure everyone who does not agree with them will either be thrown out of the country or subordinated to the status of second-class citizen. Their approach to public life is driven by the erroneous view that the founding fathers wanted to establish a Christian nation. It is not motivated by the Judeo-Christian idea that all human beings are created in God’s image and thus deserve dignity, worth, and a place in democratic life regardless of their religious beliefs, sexual identity, or views on marriage.

Court Evangelical: An “Axis of Evil” is Destroying the Trump Presidency

As many of you know, President George W. Bush used the phrase “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union Address to describe foreign governments sponsoring terrorism and seeking to build nuclear arsenals.  Bush applied the phrase to North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.

Jeffress uses “axis of evil” to describe the Democrats and Republicans of the “establishment” who are trying to destroy Donald Trump.  “We cannot allow that to happen,” he says.

Is this a call to a holy war of some type?  Is Jeffress pitting the forces of God against the forces of anti-Trump evil?  Is Jeffress comparing the opponents of Donald Trump to what Bush describes here?:

Seconds before Jeffress came on the air, in the same segment, Lou Dobbs was talking about Pope Francis’s criticism of the Trump administration.  This was the context in which Jeffress used the phrase “axis of evil.”  Is Francis part of this axis of evil? If so, this would not be the first time Jeffress has spewed forth anti-Catholic rhetoric.  Whatever the case, this Dallas court evangelical believes that Trump is God’s anointed one and anyone who opposes God’s anointed one is evil.

And you wonder why I have suggested that the course of American Christianity is changing?

Sportianity on Ralph Drollinger’s Bible Study With Trump’s Cabinet

Drollinger

Drollinger was #35 on the 1975 UCLA team (via thetallestman.com)

On Monday we called your attention to the Bible study taking place among members of Donald Trump’s cabinet.  The study is led by former UCLA basketball player Ralph Drollinger.  Read our take here.

Over at Sportianity, Paul Putz tells us a bit more about Drollinger and his ministry.

Here is a taste:

Drollinger has applied this sports ministry approach to politicians and government leaders since 1996, when he created Capitol Ministries. That said, it should be noted that sports ministry organizations did not create the methods of ministry that Drollinger uses. In my dissertation I discuss some of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century sources that inspired and shaped the FCA’s approach to sports-specific ministry. And historians such as Kevin Kruse have written about the ways in which ministers beginning in the 1930s targeted their efforts towards reaching and influencing businessmen and politicians. But in Drollinger’s mind and experience, at least, his ministry among government leaders is simply an extension of his work among athletes and coaches, a chance to apply those methods to a new field ripe for harvest.

“Whereas a sports ministry movement is certain to have a positive impact on many,” Drollinger writes in Rebuilding America, “helping to generate a movement for Christ amongst governing authorities holds promise to change the direction of a whole country!”

As for the direction in which Drollinger believes the country should change, one can get a good idea by reading the endorsements for his book, which include statements from Christian Right luminaries like David Barton and conservative politicians like Michelle Bachmann. I hope to say more about the connections between sports ministry organizations and the Christian Right in a future post, but a word of caution before one assumes that Drollinger speaks for all involved in Sportianity: according to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s latest book, Drollinger’s old UCLA coach, John Wooden—prominently involved in evangelical sports ministries and prominently featured in Drollinger’s Rebuilding America book—voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Read the entire post here.

The Trump Cover-Up and the Fate of the Court Evangelicals

SekulowIf the Washington Post‘s reporting is true, Donald Trump tried to cover-up his son’s meeting with a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign.  We still don’t know what the POTUS was trying to cover-up, but it now appears that the Russians were involved.

Another Post writer, Paul Waldman, reflects on this news:

This latest story is clearly one of the most significant developments in this scandal to date, for two reasons. First, it describes an organized effort to mislead the public — not to spin, or minimize the story, or distract from it, or throw out wild accusations about someone else, but to intentionally fool everyone into believing something false. Second, it implicates the president himself. Indeed, the most extraordinary part of the picture this story paints is that while other people involved were recommending some measure of transparency on the assumption that the truth would come out eventually, they were overruled by the president, who personally dictated the misleading statement.

And it gets worse. Once the story broke, Trump’s own lawyer went to the media and denied that the president was involved in the drafting of the misleading statement. In two televised interviews, Jay Sekulow said “the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement,” “The president didn’t sign off on anything,” and “The president wasn’t involved in that.” While it’s theoretically possible that Sekulow would make emphatic statements of fact like those about what his client did or didn’t do without actually asking Trump, that seems almost impossible to believe. Sekulow is a prominent attorney who knows exactly what kind of trouble that could bring, both to himself and his client. So the only reasonable conclusion is that he was repeating what Trump told him.

Read the entire piece here.

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lawyer, is an evangelical Christian.  He may now be experiencing some of the blow-back that comes when court evangelicals turn a blind eye to the moral character of the politicians who they hope (and pray) will give them access to power.

When Sekulow went on television and denied that Donald Trump had nothing to do with his son’s “misleading statement” about the Russian meeting he was either:

1).  Lying on behalf of the President

or

2). Unaware that the President was involved in the crafting of the statement. If this is true, Trump used Sekulow as part of his cover-up.

In June 2017, we wrote a post on a report that Sekulow was urging poor people to give money to his Christian non-profit while he lived a lavish lifestyle and paid millions of dollars to family members.  His current defense of Trump is not going to help him rebuild his integrity.

Court evangelicalism is not illegal, but it damages the witness of the church in the world.

The “Court Evangelicals” at “Washington Monthly”

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

The phrase “court evangelicals” is catching on.   Nancy LeTourneau devotes a column to it today at Washington Monthly.

Here is a taste:

If your head is spinning trying to reconcile a “spiritual awakening” to what is actually emanating from this White House, join the club. John Fea, who chairs the History Department at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA, recently shared a different perspective in an article titled, “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.” He refers to people like Drollinger as “court evangelicals,” who “like the attendants and advisers who frequented the courts of monarchs, seeks influence…

Fea is right. Trump is changing the course of American Christianity. I personally know people who are looking deep into their souls to question what the behavior of these court evangelicals says about their faith and church leaders. There are also those who accept the idea that Trump is a leader sent from God to inspire a spiritual awakening. One has to wonder if anything he says or does will ever convince them that he is in the process of destroying any claim they make to be followers of Jesus.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelicals Stand By Their Man

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C.

According to Sam Smith’s reporting at the Christian Post, nearly 100 evangelical leaders met with members of the White House staff last week.  This meeting, Smith reports, is different from the recent meeting when thirty or so court evangelicals prayed for Trump in the oval office.  Read about it here.

Those who observe American religion and conservative politics are rightly confused. Here is a taste of Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post piece: “As Trump debases the presidency, the religious right looks away.”

A taste:

No group has been as blindly loyal to President Trump as Christian conservatives. They have not let religion or values get in the way of their support. Consider the “Access Hollywood” tape, the attack on a Gold Star family, a mass of inexplicable ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials (and the president’s open invitation to Russia to continue hacking), the firing of the FBI director, the humiliation of evangelical-favorite Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the politicization of the Boy Scouts, the threats to the special counsel and now an interview with Trump’s out-of-control, potty-mouthed communications director. What about Trump, exactly, reflects their values? (Taking Medicaid away from millions and separating families to deport law-abiding immigrants?) The Trump administration is a clown show — but it’s the evangelicals who supplied the tent, the red noses and the floppy shoes. Each day presents a new insult to the office of the presidency and a repudiation of civilized behavior.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelicals Were Behind Trump’s Decision To Ban Transgender People From The Military

Trump Jeffress

Emily McFarlan Miller reports at Religion News Service:

President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military seemed spontaneous and reportedly caught some administration officials and congressional leaders by surprise.

But evangelical Christian leaders who informally advise the president discussed reversing the year-old policy at the White House two weeks ago, according to a tweet by David Brody of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News.

Read the rest here.

Public History and the Church (or why I do what I do)

Why Study History CoverIn the last few days, several folks have asked me why I get so “bent out of shape” about the likes of David Barton and the “court evangelicals.”  One noted American religious historian regularly implies on Twitter and in blog comments that I am “obsessed” with Trump.

I get so “bent out of shape” because I believe that part of my vocation as a historian is to bring good United States history to the church–both to the local church and the larger American church.  (And especially to evangelicalism, since that is my tribe).  I wrote about this extensively in the Epilogue of Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.  When I speak at churches–and I do this often–I see it as a form of public history.

My critique of the court evangelicals is a natural extension of my ongoing criticism of conservative activist Barton and other Christian nationalist purveyors of the past.  It is not a coincidence that First Baptist-Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress often preaches a sermon titled “America is a Christian Nation.”  In this sermon he says. among other things:

We don’t restrict people’s right to worship [they can] worship however they choose to worship.  But that doesn’t mean we treat all religions equally.  This is a Christian nation. Every other religion is an impostor, it is an infidelity.  That is what the United States Supreme Court said.

Someone can correct me, but I think First Baptist–Dallas is the largest Southern Baptist church in the world.  Jeffress is an influential figure.  He goes on Fox News and claims to represent American evangelicals.  His profile has risen immensely since he announced his support of Trump.

It’s important to remember that Jeffress’s political theology (if you can call it that) is based on a false view of American history.  And it is not very difficult to trace it to the teachings of Barton.

In the aforementioned sermon, Jeffress comments on a recent Barton visit to First Baptist–Dallas.  He then says, referencing the prince of Aledo, Texas, that “52 of the 55 signers of the Constitution” were “evangelical believers.” This is problematic on so many levels.  First, only 39 people signed the Constitution.  Actually, I think Jeffress might be referring here to the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Second, to suggest that most of them were “evangelicalRevised believers” is a blatant misrepresentation of history.  In fact, Jeffress doesn’t even get Barton right here.  Barton says (wrongly) that nearly all of the signers of the Declaration had Bible school and seminary degrees.  Jeffress is confused about his fake history. 🙂  But that doesn’t matter.  People in his massive congregation applaud and cheer when he preaches this stuff.

Jeffress and the court evangelicals support Trump because they want to “make America great again.”  Jeffress’s congregation even sings a song about it.  Let’s remember that “Make America Great Again” is a historical claim.  The nation is “great,” Christian nationalists like Jeffress argue, when it upholds the Christian beliefs on which it was founded.  Christian Right politics, the same politics that carry a great deal of weight in today’s GOP, thus starts with this dubious claim about the American founding. From there it can go in all sorts of directions related to immigration, race, church and state, marriage, abortion, religious liberty, etc….

My approach to critiquing Jeffress, the Christian Right, and the court evangelicals is structural in nature. It is fitting with my vocation as a historian.  Theologians and pastors are probably better equipped to make a direct biblical case for why Jeffress’s Christian nationalism is idolatry and harmful to the witness of the Gospel. Greg Boyd, Richard, Hughes, John Wilsey, and others have already made such a case. I encourage you to read their books.  But early American historians are best equipped at taking a sledgehammer to the foundation of Christian nationalist politics.

So yes, I do get “bent out of shape.”  Maybe I am obsessed.  Somebody has to be.  We need good American history more than ever. Christian historians have a public role to play in such a time as this.

 

Trump Evangelicals and Pickett’s Charge

Pickett

Here’s a theory.  Again, just a theory.

Yesterday I was chatting with a pastor about evangelicals who support Donald Trump. This pastor affirmed a lot of my thoughts about the generational make-up of this group. Most (not all, but most) pro-Trump evangelicals (or evangelicals who voted for Trump) who I encounter are older than I am.  This group looks back on the last fifty years and they see increased religious and ethnic diversity, changes in sexual ethics, and an ever- growing number of legal cases related to the separation of church state (think 10 Commandment monuments, “Merry Christmas” and manger scenes, prayers at football games, etc.).  They are afraid.  They are uncomfortable.  They believe America was once “great” and now it needs to be made “great again.”  They have dug in for one last stand in the culture wars. Trump can help them win.

If this generational argument is true, then the pro-Trump evangelicals, and others who live with this fear, will soon fade off the scene.  If my pastor friend is correct, and I think he just might be, younger evangelicals are less fearful, more open to diversity and immigration, and at least willing to treat those with whom they disagree on sexual ethics and marriage with dignity, respect, and civility.  They remain orthodox in their theology,  but they are not culture warriors.

With all of this in mind, the pro-Trump evangelical movement may represent a kind of last-ditch effort by the Moral Majority generation to reclaim the country in the way that they were trained to do by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others back in the 1980s.

Military history teaches us that final assaults are often carried out on a grand scale. Think about Pickett’s Charge–the final engagement of the Battle of Gettysburg.    The Confederate Army attempted to make one last thrust into the Union line before it was turned back once and for all.  Many historians have argued that the loss at Gettysburg sent the Confederate army on a downward spiral that eventually led to its defeat at Appomattox in April 1865.

The Trump evangelicals have found a strongman to lead them.  With control of the White House they are poised, at least for the moment, to initiate a final forward movement  for the purpose of preserving their “way of life” against the social and cultural changes that they have been fighting against for a couple of generations.

Just a theory.  What do you think?

If I am correct here, it seems like the challenge for pastors and Christian leaders is to figure out how to meet the spiritual needs of the Trump evangelicals in their churches. They need to find a way to walk beside them in their place of fear and anxiety and remind them of the “God of all comfort” and the “perfect love” that “casts out fear.”  It would be easy to just dismiss the Trump generation of evangelicals or simply tolerate them until they pass off the scene, but such a demographics-based approach would be a dereliction of pastoral duty.