My Visit to Calvin College Made the Student Newspaper!

calvin-sign2-s

Read all about it in the December 1, 2017 issue of Chimes.

Here is a taste of Hannah Butler’s article:

Concluding the history department colloquium for the fall semester, John Fea lectured on President Trump’s Christian advisers and the historical context of their position.

Fea, who identifies as an evangelical Christian, visited from Messiah College, where he is a professor of early colonial history. His latest book , entitled “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”covers evangelical Christians and Donald Trump The book was prompted by several blog posts as well as nearly thirty op-ed newspaper articles throughout the 2016 election cycle.

John Fea encouraged students to become active citizens through engaging the relationship between religion and politics in American life.

“I think any Calvin student, in order to be a responsible citizen, needs to understand how we’ve gotten to the particular political moment that we’re in,” stated Fea, whose own daughter is a sophomore at Calvin. “Christians who voted for Donald Trump or who didn’t vote for Donald Trump just didn’t fall from the sky. There’s a long trajectory of changes that have happened through the years that brought 81% of American Evangelical Christians to vote this man for president.”

In his lecture, Fea created a narrative to answer how history facilitates our understanding of the democratic government and our political community on campus. He stated that “political dimensions need to be understood in context.”

Read the entire piece here.

Today’s Court Evangelicals Once Believed That “Character is Destiny”

Gary Bauer

At the time Gary Bauer wrote this he was the president of American Renewal, a public policy organization that promotes family, faith and freedom.  He was also the president of the Family Research Council..  Today he is a prominent court evangelical.

A taste:

The highly educated people who daily hold forth at our nation’s universities, on the editorial pages of major newspapers, and in network television studios could learn a great deal if they would stop and listen to the wisdom of children. Take, for example, the children who recently gave the New York Times their reaction to the scandal swirling around President Clinton.

Eleven-year-old Keith Lynch of the Bronx said, “He’s lying to people who love him and trust him. That’s no President to me. He should be ashamed of himself for teaching kids bad things.” Tyrone Strother, 15, also of the Bronx, said, “He went to lie school, not law school.”

Cory Hinojosa, a Houston seven-year-old, knows that lying is wrong. When he lies, he says, he gets a “time-out.” Says Cory, “They should give a punishment like not to be President the rest of the year.”

The point here is that children inhabit a moral universe. There is a law, St. Paul says, “written on the hearts of men” that gives us a sense of right and wrong. These kids know right from wrong. Dare we reeducate them to believe that there is no truth, that there are no consequences for bad behavior?

On inauguration day 1993, Bill Clinton led a children’s parade across the Memorial Bridge into Washington. He sought to symbolize his leadership of this new generation. He would be the President to lead all of us into the 21 st Century.

Children, at least those who have already been born, have been at the center of countless Clinton pronouncements during the past six years. Now, however, his bridge to the 21st Century is crumbling, and the children are at grave risk.

These children cannot be set adrift into a culture that tells them that lying is okay, that fidelity is old-fashioned and that character doesn’t count. Every American parent’s job has been made more difficult by this debacle. The virtue deficit has grown.

Day after day, children hear adults saying that it doesn’t matter if the President lied. After all this is just about sex. Everyone lies about sex, they are told. These messages are abominable, and the messengers must be vigorously rebuked.

Our nation has reached a disturbing pass when the mass of allegations and evidence swirling around our President requires parents in every part of the country to clutch the TV remote for fear that some news about the highest official in the land will reach their children’s ears.

The seamy facts under public discussion are shameful enough. But fascination with this story should not be allowed to obscure the deeper lesson these incidents impart. That lesson is this: Character counts–in a people, in the institutions of our society, and in our national leadership.

In character is destiny. Our founders believed and set down in their own words that only a virtuous people could remain free.

Edmund Burke reminded us that people who are enslaved to their passions only “forge their own fetters”–they cannot be free. Those moral chains, in a world where self-government is eroded, swiftly become physical chains of iron.

There are those who say that we must recognize absolute boundaries between public and private behavior. If all that matters is the quality of the job an individual does, then it is the concern of no one that a corporate executive sexually harasses every woman in his vicinity. Or that a securities expert beats his wife. And the lawmaker with his hand out for a bribe is home free, too, so long as he brings back the pork or the local economy hums.

Whatever we believe about these things, we must recognize this: Our nation’s founders believed otherwise. They understood that the fate of the nation they established was mortally linked to the character of the people who inhabited it.

They called such character indispensable. They knew the human truth that private deeds spill over into public philosophy and public actions. And they also knew that the mixture of power with corrupt character was nothing short of deadly.

Samuel Adams, in a letter written in 1775, told a friend, “He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country.”

Source:  Gary Bauer, “Clinton Corrupts Our National Culture,” Human Events, September 25, 1998. (Cover story).

This article is not online, but you can look it up through Academic Search Complete if your institution subscribes.

Here is Bauer in the Oval Office earlier this year.  He is standing to Paula White’s right.  (White is in the red dress).

A Few Quick Thoughts on the Alabama Senate Race

Roy Moore,Patricia Jones

I contributed to this article at AL.com.  Also good to see Believe Me get its first plug.

Here is a taste:

At least two professors who are carefully watching the Senate race believe that let’s-just-win politics is taking a toll on evangelicals.

“I do think nationally, the Trump/Moore candidacies have hurt the reputation of evangelicals,” said Jason Roberts, a Falkville native who’s a political science professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “It is not so difficult to respect a differing viewpoint if it is ground in core values like religion. … But I do think the continued support for Moore/Trump among religious leaders have made people realize that this support is not clearly grounded in religious differences.”

John Fea, chairman and professor of history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, goes further. He’s written a book, “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” to be released in the spring.

Fea said the efforts among Christian conservatives to “win back the culture from the forces of secularization” have been ongoing since the late 1970s. He calls it the evangelical’s “political playbook.”

The strategy, in short: Elect a president and members of Congress who will pursue laws aligned with evangelical views, and who will approve like-minded Supreme Court justices.

“The 2016 election put this playbook to the ultimate test,” said Fea, who describes himself as evangelical. “The playbook survived its greatest challenge, but only by separating the political agenda of the playbook from the necessity of Christian character.”

He said, “The political playbook has taught conservative evangelicals that they must maintain power at all costs, even if it means looking the other way when multiple women accuse a candidate for the U.S. Senate of sexual molestation and harassment.”

“First, it tells the world that Christians are in the business of forcing their views on others through legislation and executive actions,” said Fea. “Second, it neglects to remember that Christians follow a savior who relinquished worldly power even to the point of giving his life. Yet, my fellow evangelicals do not seem to see Jesus’s example as a model, or at least a starting point, for thinking about their engagement in the world.”

Read the entire piece here.

We Have An Amazon Page!

Still too early to pre-order, but the book does appear to exist in the minds of the good folks at Eerdmans.  Here is a brief description of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

“Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting the Christian heritage, the refrain is constant. And to the surprise of many, about 80% percent of white evangelicals have believed Trump-at least enough to help propel him into the White House. Historian John Fea is not surprised-and in Believe Me he explains how we have arrived at this unprecedented moment in American politics. An evangelical Christian himself, Fea argues that the embrace of Donald Trump is the logical outcome of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life defined by the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and a nostalgic longing for an American past. In the process, Fea challenges his fellow believers to replace fear with hope, the pursuit of power with humility, and nostalgia with history.

“Rank Hypocrisy”

Roy Moore,Patricia Jones

Marc Fisher of The Washington Post recently asked me for some thoughts on Roy Moore.  Here is a taste of his piece “For some evangelicals, a choice between Moore and morality.”

Evangelicals are not alone in shifting their view of the role moral character should play in choosing political leaders. Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say that politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped from 44 percent to 61 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll.During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from 30 percent to 72 percent, the survey found.

“What you’re seeing here is rank hypocrisy,” said John Fea, an evangelical Christian who teaches history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “These are evangelicals who have decided that the way to win the culture is now uncoupled from character. Their goal is the same as it was 30 years ago, to restore America to its Christian roots, but the political playbook has changed.

“With Donald Trump, the playbook faced its greatest test because he was not a man of character that evangelicals could embrace, but many did anyway. In the Roy Moore situation, very much like Trump’s Access Hollywood situation, they’ve decided that the need to keep the Senate justifies embracing someone whose behavior they would universally condemn,” Fea said. “I wish I could tell you there was some interesting theological distinction here, but it’s all just politics. It is a form of moral relativism.”

Read the entire piece here.

We Have a Title!

trump-with-evangelical-leaders

Yesterday I was at Calvin College to try out some of the material from my forthcoming book on Donald Trump.  A lot of smart people at Calvin gave me a lot of things to think about as I wrap-up the manuscript.  Thanks to Kristin Kobes Du Mez of the Calvin College History Department and Kevin Den Dulk of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics for inviting me to speak.

At the start of my lecture I announced the book’s title:

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

Let me know what you think.  The book will be out with Eerdmans in the Spring.

Here is how I closed my lecture at Calvin:

When Donald Trump speaks to his followers in the mass rallies that have now become a fixture of his populist brand, he loves to use the phrase “believe me.”  The internet is filled with video montages of Trump using this signature catch phrase.  (He says it even more than “Make America great again!”):

            “Believe me folks, we’re building the wall, believe me, believe, me, we’re building the wall.”

“I love women.  Believe me, I love women.  I love women. And you know what else, I have great respect for women, believe me.”

“I am the least, the least racist person that you’ve ever met, believe me.”

“The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out, OK.  That’s what I do. I fix things.  We’re going to straighten it out, believe me.”

And, perhaps most importantly:

“So let me state this right up front, [in] a Trump administration our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you’ve never seen before. Believe me.”

Why do the the court evangelicals and their followers believe in Donald Trump?  They believe in this man because fear paralyzes them, power seduces them, and nostalgia blinds them.  Donald Trump will be gone in 2021 or 2025.  Let’s pray that he does not take the evangelical church with him.

“Court Evangelicals” Lecture at Calvin College

Calvin

If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area stop by on Wednesday and say hello:

“The Court Evangelicals: Who Are Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisers and Where Did They Come From?”


Since the election of Donald Trump, a group of leaders from a variety of evangelical traditions have served as advisers to the President on matters of faith and public life. John Fea has called these advisers Trump’s “court evangelicals.” Like the religious members of the king’s court during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Trump’s court evangelicals seek power and worldly approval by flattering the “king” rather than speaking truth to power. Who are these court evangelicals? Do they have a political theology? What are the historical forces behind their “unprecedented access” to the Trump White House? This lecture will situate these religious leaders in a longer history of evangelical political engagement.

About the speaker

John Fea is Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002.

His first book, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), was chosen as the Book of the Year by the New Jersey Academic Alliance and an Honor Book by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. His book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011) was one of three finalists for the George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary prizes in the United States. It was also selected as the Foreword Reviews/INDIEFAB religion book of the year.

John is also co-editor (with Jay Green and Eric Miller) of  Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), a finalist for the Lilly Fellows Program in Arts and Humanities Book Award.  His book Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past was published in 2013 with Baker Academic. John’s book The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society appeared in March 2016 with Oxford University Press.

John’s essays and reviews on the history of American culture have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, The William and Mary QuarterlyThe Journal of the Early RepublicSojourners, Explorations in Early American CulturePennsylvania HeritageEducation Week, The Cresset, Books and CultureChristianity Today, Christian Century, and Common Place.  He has also written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fox NewsUSA Today, Al-Jazeera, Washington Post, CBS News, New York Daily News, AOL News, Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Harrisburg Patriot News, Salt Lake City TribuneChicago Sun-TimesReligion News Service, and other newspapers.  He blogs daily at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, a blog devoted to American history, religion, politics, and academic life.

Co-sponsored by the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics. This talk is part of monthly history colloquia series. These lectures are open to the Calvin community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – and all are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Come early to enjoy refreshments and conversation, and feel free to ask questions or join the discussion at the end.

 

The Roy Moore Case Offers a Glimpse into How Jerry Falwell Jr. Sees the World

In a piece at The Washington Post published back in July, I wrote:

Historians will write about this moment in terms of both continuity and change. On one hand, court evangelicals are part of a familiar story. For nearly half a century, evangelicals have sought to influence the direction of the country and its laws through politics. But Trump has forced them to embrace a pragmatism that could damage the gospel around the world, and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.

I think this Roy Moore mess is another example of the way that evangelical Christians are going to have to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.  I don’t recognize the evangelicalism of the so-called “Christian leaders” who are defending Moore right now.

For example, here is a taste of Emily McFarland’s Religion News Service piece on court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr.’s response to the news that Judge Roy Moore allegedly molested teenage girls:

“It comes down to a question who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty University who has endorsed Trump and Moore, both Republicans.

“The same thing happened to President Trump a few weeks before his election last year except it was several women making allegations,” Falwell told RNS in an email. “He denied that any of them were true and the American people believed him and elected him the 45th president of the United States.”

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. Falwell Jr., the president of the largest evangelical university in the world, does not seem capable of addressing this issue from a moral perspective informed by his Christian faith.  No Jerry, what Roy Moore allegedly did to these young girls does not “come down to a question of who is more credible to the voters.”

I can’t believe a Christian college president would imply that the rightness or wrongness of Moore’s supposed actions comes down to what the majority of people in Alabama think.  Is Falwell implying that if Moore is elected to the Senate, and it turns out he did molest those girls, that his actions are somehow washed clean because the people of Alabama believed his denials and voted him into office?  This may be how right and wrong is defined in a democracy, but it is not how right and wrong is defined by people committed to Christian faith.

I seem to recall that in the first half of the 19th-century the people of Alabama believed that slavery was a “more credible” position “in the eyes of the voters” of the state.  By Falwell’s logic in the Moore case, this would make slavery a morally acceptable institution.

Why the Allegations Against Roy Moore May HELP His Political Career

Roy_Moore_2017_logo40% of Alabama evangelicals are now more likely to support Roy Moore after allegations that he sexually molested young girls.  Here is a taste of Carlos Ballesteros’s piece at Newsweek:

Talk about loving the sinner!

Nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they’re now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children, even as voters across the historically red state now seem to be punishing Moore for his past actions, a new poll shows.

A plurality of evangelicals — 37 percent — described themselves as more likely to support Moore because of recent sexual assault allegations levied against him, while only 28 percent were less likely to do so. Thirty-four percent of the supposedly devout Christians said that the allegations reported last week in the Washington Post made no difference in their support for Moore.

Read the entire piece here.

“No outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this”

america-at-the-crossroadsCheck out Terry Mattingly‘s column on Sean Hannity’s visit to court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Mattingly secured a few nice quotes from Baylor University theologian Francis Beckwith.

Here is a taste:

While there were Trumpian overtones, this Sunday service demonstrated how many evangelicals have fused talk-show media, faith and politics to create a unique American niche culture, said a conservative church-state scholar at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

“It struck me how different this kind of evangelicalism is, compared with what we’ve known in the past,” said Francis Beckwith, after watching the “America at the Crossroads” event online.

“Evangelicals have always tried to reach out to unbelievers, trying to win them over. … But no outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this. The whole purpose was to rally their base, the people they already have. … Maybe they realize that there’s no persuading going on in America right now. People are just preaching to their choirs.”

This high-energy service blended music by a giant choir — backed by an orchestra, an organ and a rock ensemble — with the preaching of the Rev. Robert Jeffress and the promotion of Christian media products, in this case a new faith-based movie, “Let There Be Light,” with Hannity serving as executive producer. Visitors received a free Jeffress book, “America at the Crossroads: Christianity and America, Volume 1.”

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Defends Trump Amidst Criticism from Flake, Corker

KuoThe latest court evangelical defense of Donald Trump comes from Johnnie Moore, the founder and CEO of The Kairos Company public relations firm.  Moore is a self-proclaimed “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”  He also claims to be responsible for a “comprehensive rebranding of Liberty University in the more secularly-minded press.”  Hmm.  I wonder how that is going.

Recently Moore told CBN News that the United States is in good hands with Mr. Trump at the helm:

“Any of us that have interacted with Pres. Trump knows [he is] someone who’s competent, who’s kind, who’s credible, who has the best of intentions,” Moore said the same week the president has come under a barrage of blistering criticism from members of his own party.

“These leaders are playing politics,” Moore said of Senators Bob Corker, of Tennessee, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who earlier this week offered public rebukes of the commander-in-chief – one in a testy exchange captured on Twitter; the other in an emotional speech announcing his retirement in 2018 on the Senate floor.

Read the entire piece here.

Competency, kindness, and credibility is in the eye of the beholder.

Moore can’t be this naive.  Of course Trump comes across as competent, kind, and credible when the court evangelicals come to the White House.  Who acts like a jerk when a clergyman is in the room? How does Moore reconcile such competence, kindness, and credibility with the incompetence, meanness, and lack of truth-telling that Trump displays on a daily basis?

Moore and the court evangelicals should read the late David Kuo’s book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.  Here is a description:

David Kuo came to Washington wanting to use his Christian faith to end abortion, strengthen marriage, and help the poor. He reached the heights of political power, ultimately serving in the White House under George W. Bush. It was a dream come true: the chance to fuse his politics and his faith, and an opportunity for Christians not just to gain a seat at the proverbial table but also to plan the entire meal. 

Yet his experience was deeply troubling. He had been seduced, just as so many evangelical conservatives had been seduced by politics. Tempting Faith is a wrenching personal journey and a heartfelt plea for a Christian reexamination of political and spiritual priorities.

 

 

Court Evangelcal Jerry Falwell Jr. Backs Steven Bannon Effort to Oust “Fake Republicans”

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

On Sunday, Robert Jeffress invited Sean Hannity to talk politics in his Sunday morning worship service.  Not to be outdone, fellow court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. is now backing Steve Bannon’s attempt to oust “fake Republicans” from office. Breitbart has published an article based on an “exclusive interview” with the Liberty University president.  I am assuming this is not fake news.

Here is a taste:

“I’ve coined the term ‘Fake Republicans,’” Falwell, a key early endorser of President Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries, told Breitbart News. “There are four or five ‘Fake Republicans’ in the Senate and many in the House. If they can be replaced in 2018—the political class needs to go. If the people can go out and find candidates like Donald Trump who have been successful in the private sector and go out and primary those people—I’m talking about, I know it’s not going to happen in Maine, but I’m talking about people like Susan Collins, [Lindsey] Graham, [Jeff] Flake, [John] McCain, [Mitch] McConnell. Even the ones that don’t—I heard somebody on the radio this morning, one of Mitch McConnell’s friends, bragging about how the Republicans have gone 95 percent with Trump’s agenda. Well, the five percent is always the one—the issues that matter. It’s always the issues that matter. They don’t always, the group of ‘Fake Republicans,’ they don’t always vote against it. They just make sure enough of their buddies vote against it to kill it. It’s all done behind closed doors. They got to go. And I think if they go, Trump is going to be the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

When asked specifically about Bannon’s season of war, Falwell says: “I love it.” Falwell also praised nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, who’s another leader in the movement to oust “Fake Republicans.”

“I knew when he left the administration, he was doing it for a reason,” Falwell said. “A good reason. And now we all know what it was. He sees that for Trump to be successful, those guys got to go. I’m so proud of him for going after them and leading the effort and Laura Ingraham is out there helping the effort too. She spoke here last week. Actually, she did her radio show live from Liberty.”

 

Read the rest here.

A Tale of Two Evangelical Churches

Yesterday, at the evangelical church I attend, my pastor preached a sermon on Isaiah 12:1-6:

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

 

This passage speaks of God’s grace and power in our lives.  It tells us not to be afraid because we find our strength and our song in the salvation that the Lord provides.  It challenges us to proclaim God’s love for others with joy.  It encourages us to tell the world about God’s transforming love for His creation.

After the sermon, my pastor gave an old fashioned altar call.  He invited people in the congregation who wanted to experience God’s love in a deeper way to come to the front of the sanctuary where they would find members of the pastoral staff available to pray with them and for them.  It was a moving and powerful moment.  My heart was encouraged as I watched dozens of Christians come forward.  This is the kind of thing that should happen in a Christian church.  Sunday morning should be a time for Christians to rededicate their lives to God.

At roughly the same time Sunday morning, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, pastor Robert Jeffress was leading his own service.  After the choir led the congregation in some beautiful singing, Jeffress sat down for an interview with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity.  (You can read my post on that interview here).

After the interview, Jeffress preached a sermon titled “America at the Crossroads.”  You can watch it here.

I am not sure if this is the kind of sermon Jeffress preaches every Sunday morning, or if he was just trying to impress Hannity, but it sounded more like a political speech than a sermon.  While my pastor in Pennsylvania was reading Isaiah’s exhortation to not be afraid, Jeffress was playing to the fears of his congregation.  He said that the United States was “imploding.”  He said that the “atheists, infidels, and secular humanists” were perverting the Constitution.  He said that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but we have lost our way.  He even blamed Harvey Weinstein’s behavior on the removal of prayer from public schools.

He concluded the sermon by asking his congregation to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  I appreciated this exhortation, until I realized that Jeffress’s understanding of Christians being “salt and light” was just another way of saying that they should have voted for Donald Trump in 2016.  Jeffress said that American culture has become a battleground between the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Satan” (the main issue is abortion) and then connected Trump with the former and Hillary Clinton with the latter.

And then, somewhere in the middle of this rant, Jeffress blurted out: “And let me say…how grateful I am for a courageous man like Sean Hannity who is out in the public square pushing back against evil and taking every kind of attack you can imagine. God bless you Sean Hannity.”  The congregation then gave Hannity a standing ovation.  Hannity stood up and thanked everyone as he soaked in the praise.

Jeffress is preaching a holy war.  He is training his congregation to fight in this war.  He is propagating fear.  He has defiled his Sunday morning service with politics.  He is using the Lord’s Day to bring praise and honor to a Fox News political commentator (and in the process no doubt securing his own place as commentator on the cable network).  Is this Christianity?

Court evangelicalism at its worst.

Trump Led Among GOP Evangelicals From the Moment He Came Down the Escalator

Republican U.S. presidential candidates Carson and Trump talk during a break at the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

According to CNN polling and this excellent chart in Philip Bump’s recent piece at The Washington Postwhite evangelicals flocked to Trump from the moment he entered the race in June 2015.  With the exception of two months during Fall 2015, he led all GOP candidates among self-proclaimed white evangelical voters.

When Trump entered the race, evangelicals were leaning heavily toward Ben Carson and Scott Walker, but by July 2015 Trump had taken the lead among these values voters.  As Bump points out, this was precisely the time when Trump was scaring voters by talking about Mexican immigrants crossing the border and raping and killing American citizens.

Trump held his ground with white evangelicals through the summer before he was passed in September and October by Carson.  It is hard to fully understand why Carson surged among evangelicals during these months, but it is worth mentioning that during these two months the former brain surgeon:

The surge did not last. By the end of October 2015, Trump has recaptured his lead among evangelicals.  On October 28, he trashed Carson’s 7th Day Adventist faith.  By December, media outlets were questioning details of Carson’s life story and his ability to handle foreign-policy issues in the wake of the Paris shootings.  Carson was done.  By the second week of December, Ted Cruz had passed him among evangelical GOP voters.

Read Bump’s piece here.  It would have been nice if Bump included Marco Rubio’s support among white evangelicals in his analysis.

More Court Evangelicals

Trump evangelical

Check out Jon Ward’s piece at Yahoo News: “Laying on hands: When Trump needs support, he calls on pastors, and they call on him.”

A taste:

But there are dissenters among evangelicals, even conservative ones.

“It is hard to see these meetings apart from a lust for power,” said John Fea, history department chairman at Messiah College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania. He has written extensively about the roots of American Christianity and the debate over whether America is a “Christian nation,” and he has referredto religious conservatives around Trump as “court evangelicals.”

“They are like the religious members of the King’s Court during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance who sought power and worldly approval by flattering the king rather than speaking truth to power,” Fea said in an email.

Pete Wehner, a former White House adviser to George W. Bush who is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, also homed in on the blind allegiance many religious conservatives have given to Trump.

“If evangelicals were not courtiers of Trump, they would call him out, at least now and then, on his malicious comments and actions, on his pathological lies, on his dehumanizing tactics, and on his indifference to objective truth,” Wehner said. “But many prominent evangelical leaders simply refuse to do so.”

Read the entire piece here.

By the way, if all goes as planned my Trump book will have a chapter titled “The Court Evangelicals.”

What Does Donald Trump REALLY Think About Evangelicals?

pence-and-trump

Here is a taste of Jane Mayer’s very revealing long-form New Yorker essay on Vice-President Mike Pence:

“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

Read the entire piece here.

This reminds me of the late David Kuo‘s 2007 book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction in which he suggested that George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove manipulated evangelicals to support Republican candidates.

Gerson: “For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News…”

Bannon Voters Valye

Michael Gerson continues to bring the fire.  He starts his October 16, 2017 Washington Post column with this line: “At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.”

He continues:

The president was received as a hero. Stephen K. Bannon and Sebastian Gorka — both fired from the White House, in part, for their extremism — set the tone and agenda. “There is a time and season for everything,” said Bannon. “And right now, it’s a season for war against a GOP establishment.”

A time to live and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to mourn and a time to embrace angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery. Yes, a time to mourn.

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, “economic nationalism” is the “centerpiece of value voters.” I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear? Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees. A movement that has cultivated ties to alt-right leaders and flirted with white identity politics. A movement that will eventually soil and discredit all who are associated with it.

Read the entire column here.

I took the weekend off, so I did not get a chance to see much of the display of court evangelicalism known as the “Voters Value Summit,” but I hope to get caught up soon.