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?

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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.

Let’s Remember That Young Evangelicals Have Never Been a Moral Majority

183a7-wheatonThe Economist “Lexington” columnist visited Wheaton College and this is what he/she found:

...One of America’s foremost Christian institutions, it was founded by abolitionists in 1860 and doubled as a stop on the Underground Railway. These days its leafy campus also houses a museum dedicated to a famous alumnus, Billy Graham, “America’s pastor”, in the admiring phrase of George H.W. Bush. And in the political-science class to which Lexington was welcomed, the students, 14 evangelical sophomores from across America, seemed mindful of that dual legacy.

They were contemptuous of the acquiescence, or worse, of their co-religionists to Mr Trump’s racial divisiveness. “Evangelical Christianity is supposed to be about love thy neighbour,” said Tim, a uniformed soldier from Ohio. “It gave me a sense of betrayal,” said Jessica, a Mexican-American from San Diego. “It was like our own community turned against my family.” Like Mr Graham, the students also worried that the church had become too political and too partisan. “We’ve become over-identified with a political party,” said Drew, from Pittsburgh. Only two of the students had voted for Mr Trump (though most of their parents had). Nine said they were now uneasy about being identified as evangelical.

Read the entire piece here.

Sarah Huckabee’s World

Sarah_Huckabee_Sanders_screenshot_2I was struck by this part of Michelle Boorstein’s Washington Post article “How Sarah Huckabee Sanders sees the world“:

As a girl, she watched her father, Southern Baptist pastor-turned-GOP-governor Mike Huckabee, sidelined when he entered politics. Arkansas Democrats literally nailed his office door shut.

In the years after, she saw conservative Christians — like her family, like most everyone she knew — ridiculed in American pop culture.

As a young woman, she moved to Washington for a government job, and noticed right away, she says, that people in the nation’s capital care more about your job than who you are. “Certainly not like where I’m from,” she says.

Sanders described this perpetual interloper experience from her other world: an elegant, well-appointed office at the White House, where reporters from places such as the New York Times and CNN metaphorically prostrate themselves at her door day in and out, and from where she can receive guidance on the phone every day from her father, long a political darling of conservative Christians, a TV celebrity now worth millions.

Despite my never-Trumpism, I find myself in sympathy with this.  I need to think more about why that is the case.

Read the entire piece here.  See our previous post on Jennifer Rubin’s take on Boorstein’s article.  I resonate with it as well.

Two Evangelicals Talking Trump

Julie Roys of Moody Radio and Vince Bacote of Wheaton College discuss Trump with Chicago-area evangelical television host Jerry Rose.  I am very disappointed with Vince.  He is an old friend of mine (groomsman in my weeding) but will not use my “court evangelical” term when talking about evangelicals like Jeffress and Falwell getting too close to power.  🙂

Having said that, Bacote is in rare form here:

 

 

Newsweek’s Cover Story on Trump and the Evangelicals

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Nina Burleigh‘s piece, “Does God Believe in Trump?” is worth reading.  There is not much new here, but Burleigh brings together several threads from the short history of Trump-inspired court evangelicalism.  Unlike other journalists, Burleigh places a lot of emphasis on a 2011 meeting between Trump and several evangelical leaders gathered together by court evangelical Paula White.  She also examines the faceba.se study that shows Trump is the most stressed when he is talking about God and the least stressed when he is talking about The New York Times.

Here is a taste of Burleigh’s cover story:

Now comes the most presumptuous—perhaps even heretical—question a journalist could pose: What does God think of Trump, who, according to The Washington Post, has already told over 1,000 lies since he moved into the Oval Office and is on a trajectory to hit 2,000 by the end of the year?

The same digital voice analysis that measured Trump’s comfort level when talking about God and the allegedly godless New York Times shows that when the president tells an obvious lie (a statement PolitiFact has determined is false) he is more relaxed than he is at most other times during his speeches and interviews.

That would seem to be a vexing problem for the faithful, since the Bible repeatedly associates lying with the devil. To cite just one of many examples in Scripture, John 8:44 (NIV) refers to Satan thusly: “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Now recall that millions of white conservative fundamentalists who take the Bible literally are awaiting the fulfillment of its prophesy about the apocalypse—the end of days—which will feature the rise of an evil force that will briefly rule the world. He goes by many names, among them the Prince of Lies.

Read the entire piece here.

Once Again, the Court Evangelical Silence is Deafening

PuertoWhere were the court evangelicals this weekend? Why aren’t they responding to THIS.  Donald Trump disparaged the mayor and the people of Puerto Rico and the court evangelicals have suddenly forgotten how to speak and tweet.  We, of course, have seen this many times before.  This is what court evangelicals do.  Or perhaps this is another one of those times where they play the role of Trump-whisperer by going to the Oval Office and telling Trump that he shouldn’t say such things and then announce to the American people how much influence they have over the POTUS.

I can think of several reasons why the court evangelicals have been silent.

  1. They believe what Trump tweeted.  In other words, they believe that the people of Puerto Rico are lazy.  If you really think about it, this interpretation of their silence is not that far-fetched.  Most of the court evangelicals believe in the free market and oppose welfare programs.  Jesus helps those who help themselves.
  2. They believe that Puerto Ricans are not really Americans and, like Trump, they believe in an “America First” mentality.
  3. They will not speak truth to power publicly because they care more about tending to the court and winning POTUS approval than cultivating a prophetic voice.  As much as they say they have an influence on the POTUS, most of their public gatherings with Trump look like this.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress on Evangelicals Who Oppose the Alt-Right

jeffress

In case you missed it, a group of evangelicals wrote a letter to Donald Trump asking him to condemn the alt-Right.  They claim that they are “American Religious Leaders,” but anyone who read the names of signers will quickly conclude that most of them are Southern Baptists.  You can read it here.

As far as I can tell, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was the only court evangelical who signed the statement.  (How much longer can this guy remain a court evangelical?)  Read the list of signers.  You will not find the signatures of Franklin Graham, Johnnie Moore, Paula White, or Jerry Falwell Jr.

A story at the conservative website Newsmax quotes court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s comments in a Wall Street Journal article on the statement. Here is a taste:

A lot of these people who signed are friends of mine,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s advisory board, told the Journal. Jeffress was not asked to sign the letter, the Journal reported.

“I also know some of them who absolutely despise the president, and cannot get over the fact that a majority of evangelicals voted for him. It shows how little influence these leaders have in the election and over evangelicals.”

Jeffress seems to believe that a Christian leader’s “influence” is measured by how well his or her political beliefs mesh with “the majority.”  I seem to remember Jesus saying something about a narrow road (Mt 7:14).  Since when is 51% the standard by which Christians develop their political theology?  The theological and biblical contortions Jeffress must make in order to remain a court evangelical never cease to amaze me.

When Evangelicals Were Not Political Enough

Houghton

Richard Mouw attended Houghton College (NY)

Over at Religion News Service, Richard Mouw remembers a time when Protestant liberals criticized American evangelicals because they were not political enough.  Oh how times have changed.

Here is a taste of Mouw’s piece:

For an evangelical of my generation — born during World War II — there is some irony in the frequent complaints these days about how evangelicals have become too “politicized.” When I started thinking seriously about political matters in the early 1960s, a major complaint about evangelicalism — especially from more liberal theological types — was that we were not political enough. American soldiers were fighting a controversial and undeclared war in Southeast Asia, and the civil rights movement was struggling for justice. Yet evangelicals were espousing patriotism and calling for “law and order.”

The evangelicalism that nurtured me in my early years wasn’t, strictly speaking—“apolitical.” Rather, the pattern was a political “quietism.” Support the basic patterns of the political status quo. Be good citizens. Be proud of what your country has traditionally stood for. And vote for candidates — usually the Republican ones — who espouse these other values.

At the evangelical college that I attended, a professor put a Kennedy sign on his front lawn during the 1960 general election. The school administration quickly ordered him to take the sign down if he wanted to keep his job. (He accepted a position elsewhere for the next academic year.)

As a graduate student in the 1960s, I became active in civil rights and anti-war causes.  My extended family was convinced that this meant that I was no longer an evangelical, and for about five years I tried hard to prove them right. Eventually, though, I realized that, given my basic convictions about matters of faith, I had nowhere else to go.

Read the entire piece here.

Quote of the Day

Whatever happens in the practicalities of American political development, however, evangelicals will almost certainly continue to exhibit, in one form or the other, the activism, biblicism, intuition, and populism that had defined evangelicals for more than two centuries.  If they repeat the imbalances of their history, evangelical political action may be destructive and their political reflection nonexistent.

–Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), p. 173.

Here Comes Mike Huckabee

Huck

In case you have not heard, Mike Huckabee will be hosting a show this October at the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  According to Emma Green at The Atlantic, the show will feature “music, faith, and some good old-fashioned politics.” His first guest will be Donald Trump.

The Atlantic is running Green’s recent (and long) interview with Huckabee.  Below is a taste of the part of the interview where Huckabee actually defends Trump’s character. For many Trump evangelicals, “character” has now become something akin to being “the same in public as you are in private.”  He even defends Trump’s tweets along these lines.

Green: You once wrote a book called Character Makes a Difference, and you’ve observed that “character is that which causes you to make the same decision in public as you would make in private.” We’ve seen evidence not just that the president isn’t acquainted with the Bible, or perhaps isn’t a Sunday school teacher, but that he’s made comments or taken actions in private that don’t necessarily show strong character. Are you troubled by this at all?

Huckabee: Many of the things that have been attributed to him, that he even in fact admitted saying, were things that were 12, 15 years ago—20 years and beyond. Would I like for him to speak every day with the most extraordinary sense of faith? Sure.

But I’ll tell you what I’d rather have. To me, character is if you’re the same in public as you are in private, and I think that in many ways, that’s what’s appealing about him. It’s also what gives a lot of his critics their ammunition. Even his tweets, for example, are very transparent about what he’s thinking, what he’s feeling. But some of the more harsh things that have been attributed to him were things that were said many years ago, and there’s been no indication that during his campaign and during his presidency has he said things that would cause people to just be aghast at what he had said. We’ve had presidents that have done things while they were in the Oval Office that frankly were very destructive and embarrassing. And I don’t think anybody has made those allegations about this president.

Evangelicals Have Suddenly Become More Forgiving of the Sins of Elected Officials

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First Baptist Church–Dallas

Hmm….  I wonder what explains this?

Back in 2011, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) asked voters if “an elected official who commits and immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”

In 2011, evangelical Christians were the least forgiving.

In October 2016, when PRRI asked the same question, evangelical Christians were the most forgiving.  In other words “white evangelicals went from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his performance in public office.”

PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones calls this “a head-spinning reversal.”

I’m not sure how “head-spinning” this is.  Seems pretty par for the course.  Just ask Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Wayne Grudem.

Read all about it in this piece at The New York Times.

Court Evangelical: “God is not necessarily an open borders guy”

jeffress

Robert Jeffress says that Christians who support DACA (including the signers of this letter and Pope Francis) err on the side of compassion.  The court evangelical who is often found standing at the immediate right hand of the POTUS claims that God is not an “open borders” guy.

In this Fox News interview, Jeffress says that Christians are “confused about the difference between the church and government.”  For Jeffress, “government’s real responsibility is to protect its citizens.”

The interviewer, Ainsley Earhardt, concludes the interview by saying, “It’s tough because the Bible does tell us to honor our authorities, to follow the rule of law, to follow all of the laws–and the laws are clear in this situation–but also have compassion for others. So it is a tough topic.”  Jeffress responds with a hearty “yes” to this statement.

Though Jeffress does not mention it in this interview, his idea of government seems to arise from his interpretation of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapter 13.  Here is the pertinent part of that chapter:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Does anyone know where I can find a book or article or sermon where Jeffress develops his theory of government or interprets Romans 13?  Every time he mentions this text he sounds like he is an 18th-century Loyalist invoking Romans 13 in opposition to the American Revolution.  I wonder if Jeffress would go so far to say that the American Revolution–a rebellion against the God-ordained governing authorities of England–would have been carried out in violation of this biblical principle.  I wonder if he would agree, for example, with evangelical pastor John MacArthur‘s conclusion that “the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers.”  Somehow I don’t think he does.

Have Conservative Protestants Abandoned the Label “Evangelical”

Saddleback

Saddleback Church

On Saturday, we directed your attention to Thomas Kidd’s post calling for the end of the term “evangelical” to describe Protestants who believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the centrality of conversion, and the need to share their faith with others.  Kidd thinks that the word “evangelical” in America “has become inextricably tied to Republican politics,” making it more of a political term than a religious one.

When my post went to Facebook, an evangelical pastor responded this way:

For most east coast pastors who have adopted a seeker approach the term has been avoided for two decades or more. It’s turned into a political term that works against our efforts to reach the unchurched.

This is one pastor’s opinion, but I think it may be correct.  Fifteen years ago, when I started attending an Evangelical Free church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, it was called “West Shore Evangelical Free Church.”  But today, if you go to the church website, you will notice that the church is now called “West Shore Free Church.”  What happened to the term “evangelical?”  Perhaps I missed the meeting when this was changed.  The church remains part of the Evangelical Free Church denomination, but it no longer uses the term “evangelical” to describe itself.

I got really curious about this, so we checked out the websites of some of the largest evangelical churches in the country using a list from Sermon Central.  The list includes Lakewood Church (Joel Osteen), Willow Creek Community Church (Bill Hybels), Saddleback Church (Rick Warren), The Potter’s House (T.D. Jakes), and Thomas Road Baptist Church (Jonathan Falwell).

After an extensive examination of the websites of the 40 largest churches on the Sermon Central list, we found two churches that used the term “evangelical” as a descriptive term.  Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois describes itself as an “evangelical fellowship.”  Saint Matthews Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American congregation in Williamstown, New Jersey, describes its doctrinal position as “historically that of conservative, evangelical Christianity.”  (It also describes itself as at the “forefront of the non-charismatic, dispensational, pre-millennial movement.”

This little study is far from perfect, but perhaps my pastor friend is correct.  It seems that most of the largest churches in the country, churches that scholars and the media would describe as “evangelical,” don’t use the term to identity themselves.

Thomas Kidd: “it is probably time to put ‘evangelical’ on the shelf”

81ec1-kiddIt looks like Baylor University historian Thomas Kidd is no longer comfortable using the label “evangelical” to describe his religious identity.  I don’t blame him.

Here is a taste of his Gospel Coalition post, “Is the Term ‘Evangelical’ Redeemable?“:

Before the 2016 election, I was comfortable with using the term “evangelical” for people like me, in spite of the problems with it. Now I am not so sure. The reason is that, whatever its historic value, the word “evangelical” in America has become inextricably tied to Republican politics. This is because the dominant media is far more interested in the political expressions of religion than in religion itself.

But it is also because strong majorities of white evangelicals support Republican candidates, including Donald Trump. Because it has become inextricably politicized, “evangelical” has become an essentially divisive term among Bible-believing Christians, as many African Americans, Hispanics, and others cannot identify with the political ramifications of being an “evangelical,” especially after the election of President Trump.

And this:

Historians (including me) will keep on using the term “evangelical” and examining what it has meant in the past. But in public references to ourselves, it is probably time to put “evangelical” on the shelf…

Read the entire post here.

Kidd is making me wonder if I need to revisit this tweet from November 8, 2016:

 

Baylor University Surveys Trump Voters

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Read the entire report here.

Trump voters:

  • say they are very religious
  • see Muslims as threats to America
  • view the United States as a Christian nation
  • believe in an “Authoritative God” (a deity who is highly engaged and highly judgmental)
  • value gender traditionalism

The report notes:

This collection of values and attitudes form the core ethos of what we might call Trumpism. It is a new form of nationalism which merges pro-Christian rhetoric with anti-Islam, anti-feminist, anti-globalist, and anti-government attitudes.

What Some Non-Court Evangelicals are Saying About the Court Evangelicals

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Should Christians be advising Donald Trump?  Over at Christianity Today, Kate Shellnut has collected responses to this question from court evangelicals and evangelicals who do not have access to the court.

Here are some of the non-court evangelical responses:

Gary Burge, visiting professor at Calvin Theological Seminary:

Pastors need to weigh the difference between beneficial access to a troublesome leader and endorsement by association. On the one hand, such access—if it is making a difference—may be important and valuable. This is when a prophetic voice could be heard or where truth-to-power is present. But such associations are also seductive. Our motive for them may not be clear even to us.

In addition, troubling leaders can cross a line where rejecting any association is itself a prophetic act. And pastors need to ready for that as well. Some pastors might revisit the context of the Barmen Declaration in 1930s Germany. Not because 2017 is paralleled by 1934, but because those pastors’ discernment and courage is parallel. In that case the pastoral voice needed to be heard in public outside the halls of power.

Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

There’s no off-the-shelf answer when it comes to knowing exactly what counsel Christians should give wayward political leaders. It depends on facts and circumstances, so they have to rely on wisdom, good judgment, and spiritual maturity. It’s helpful to keep in mind the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said the church should be the conscience of the state and never its tool. That’s especially the case when it comes to associating with a political leader who acts in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with a Christian ethic.

The perennial danger facing Christians is seduction and self-delusion. That’s what’s happening in the Trump era. The president is using evangelical leaders to shield himself from criticism; and they, in turn, are dressing up their manipulation in spiritual garb. Evangelicals with moral wisdom and spiritual discernment should disassociate themselves from a man who is using them in ways that discredits the public witness of Christianity.

Ben Witherington, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary:

The sinners and tax collectors were not political officials so there is no analogy there. Besides, Jesus was not giving the sinners and tax collectors political advice—he was telling them to repent! If that’s what evangelical leaders are doing with our President, and telling him when his policies are un-Christian, and explaining to him that racism is an enormous sin and there is no moral equivalency between the two sides in Charlottesville, then well and good. Otherwise, they are complicit with the sins of our leaders.

Dwight McKissic, Southern Baptist leader and pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, specifically on what advisers should say regarding Charlottesville:

Mr. President, we respect and support your commitment to place conservative judges on the Supreme Court; but we disagree with your Charlottesville commentary regarding there being “fine people” among the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” march. We disagree with your position that those protesting people are just as evil as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. … Please repudiate your Charlottesville comments or we will be forced to repudiate you. We respect you and the Office of the President, but we do not respect your Charlottesville comments.

Read Shellnut’s entire piece here.

“All the President’s Clergymen”

Trump_Prayer_090117_HD1080_img_408081The reporters at Religion News Service–Adelle M. Banks, Emily McFarlan Miller, Yonat Shimron, and Jerome Socolovsky–have produced the best piece on the court evangelicals to date.  The article is based on interviews with many of the prominent court evangelicals, as well as scholars and pundits who have been monitoring the comings and goings of Trump’s evangelical advisers.

And I am happy to have contributed to it.

Here are some things I learned from reading “All the president’s clergymen: A close look at Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ ties with evangelicals“:

  • Court evangelicals “fumbled with their iPhones go get them selfie-ready as they made their way to the oval office.”
  • Court evangelicals claimed to be “overwhelmed” by their encounter with the POTUS, although it is not clear if they were overwhelmed by the POTUS himself or the “Holy Spirit.”
  • There is no formal “Evangelical Advisory Council.”  Some court evangelicals are not sure if they are part of the group or not.  Others claim they have had up to a dozen meetings with Trump since he took office.
  • The court evangelicals do not want to be part of something formal.  A formal council would come with “certain legal ramifications.”
  • Despite what the court evangelicals say in their public statements, they have had very little impact on policy decisions.
  • The churches associated with the National Council of Churches (mainline Protestants, Orthodox, and historically black denominations) have been “frozen out” of the Trump administration.  The same is true of Muslim and Sikh religious groups.
  • The court evangelicals are divided over the degree to which they influenced the transgender ban on soldiers in the military.