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

Stone saved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

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

 

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

Nothing specifically.

In case you missed it:

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

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

Listen here (Part 1):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

350 faith leaders will endorse Joe Biden

sider_horz

Ron Sider endorses Joe Biden

Here is Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service:

More than 350 faith and community leaders are planning to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris this week, adding their voices to the campaign as it ramps up its engagement with religious groups.

According to a list shared exclusively with Religion News Service by organizers, the mass endorsement will come from a diverse slate of religious leaders, many of whom are backing a candidate publicly for the first time.

The Rev. Fred Davie, a Presbyterian minister and executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, was the chief organizer of the endorsements. “Our country is at an historic inflection point and in desperate need of moral leadership,” he said in a statement to RNS. “This election presents a stark moral contrast between the common good values of the Biden-Harris agenda and the divisiveness of the current administration.”

Davie is also chair of the multi-religious advocacy group Faith 2020.

Other endorsers — most of whom organizers said are acting as individuals and not on behalf of their affiliated organizations — include a number of liberal-leaning voices, such as the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, an author and Lutheran pastor; David Gushee, an author and Christian ethicist; David Beckmann, president emeritus of the Christian organization Bread for the World; Diana Butler Bass, author and historian of religion; Rabbi Jack Moline, head of Interfaith Alliance; Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action; the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, pastor at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City; Rabbi Sharon Brous, head of IKAR Jewish community in California; Valarie Kaur, Sikh activist and head of the Revolutionary Love Project; Anju Bhargava, former member of Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and board member of the Hindu American Seva Communities; Imam Talib Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, also known as “The Nation’s Mosque”; Greg M. Epstein, Humanist chaplain at Harvard and MIT; and Brian McLaren, Christian author and activist.

Read the rest here.

Nothing new here. What I really want to see is a list of white evangelicals who will be endorsing Biden. As far as I know, Ron Sider is the only person mentioned in this article who identifies as an evangelical. Of course there could be others. I am eager to see the entire list.

Court evangelicals on night 3 of the GOP convention

Court evangelicals prayer

Here is what the Bible-believing, born-again Christians who support Donald Trump are saying today:

Let’s start with the Liberty University Falkirk Center crowd:

Charlie Kirk believes that the Democrat concern over racial unrest and racial justice is politically motivated:

He is still denying the existence of systemic racism. How many more incidents have to happen before he sees a pattern?:

The NBA players boycotting for racial justice are morons:

And this:

Can Jenna Ellis point to one “God-given right” enshrined in the Constitution? The Constitution never mentions God:

As I wrote earlier today, Pence actually “stands firm” on the heretical fusion of Christianity and American nationalism:

Here is Sebastian Gorka of the Falkirk Center:

And this:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody has a partial list of court evangelicals who will be at Trump’s acceptance speech tonight:

The list includes Johnnie Moore, Jenetzen Franklin,Paula White-Cain, Tim Clinton, Greg Laurie, Samuel Rodriguez, Eric Metaxas, Gary Bauer, Jack Graham, Harry Jackson, Cissie Graham Lynch, and Ralph Reed.

Trump hasn’t even given his speech yet and Robert Jeffress is already calling it “historic”:

As expected, Jeffress was pretty excited about Mike Pence’s speech last night:

Johnnie Moore, the court evangelical who describes himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” wrote a piece at Religion News Service in defense of Trump.

Mike Pence tried to quote the New Testament Book of Hebrews last night. He replaced “Jesus” with “Old Glory. Pastor Jack Graham loved the VP’s manipulation of the Bible for political gain:

Ironically, earlier in the day Graham tweeted this:

Yes, but is Franklin Graham proud of his niece Jerushah?

Night four of the RNC convention begins very soon.

GOP Convention: Night 3

pence and trump at ft mchenry

Yesterday was my first day of face-to-face teaching since March. I am not yet in “classroom shape,” so I was exhausted by the end of the day. Mentally, I was still reeling from multiple technology failures (mostly due to my ignorance) and the panic (and sweat) that ensues when half of the class is watching you desperately trying to get the other half of the class connected via ZOOM.

This morning my youngest daughter headed-off to Michigan for her sophomore year of college, so we spent most of last night packing the car and spending a few hours together before the empty nest syndrome returns later today.

Needless to say, I did not get much time to watch the third night of the 2020 GOP Convention, but I did manage to see a few speeches and catch-up with the rest via news and videos.

Let’s start with American history:

  • In her speech, Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law (Eric Trump’s spouse), tried to quote Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom,” she said, “it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” These are strong words. Lincoln never said them.
  • In his speech, Madison Cawthorn, a GOP congressional candidate from North Carolina’s 11th district, said that James Madison signed the Declaration of Independence. Here is the exact line: “James Madison was 25 years-old when he signed the Declaration of Independence.” Madison was indeed 25 in July of 1776, but he did not sign the Declaration of Independence. (He did serve in the Second Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779).
  • Clarence Henderson, who was part of the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins at the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworths, deserves the appreciation of every American. (Just to be clear, Henderson was not one of the famed “Greensboro Four“). He is free to vote for anyone he wants in November. But it is sad to see this civil rights activist buy into the idea that African-Americans should vote for Trump (or the GOP in general) because Lincoln freed the slaves and the Democrats (in the South) were the party of segregation. While this is true, it fails to acknowledge an important principle of historical thinking: change over time.
  • Finally,  Burgess Owens, a GOP congressional candidate from Utah (and former NFL player), talked about his father and World War II. He said, “mobs torch our cities, while popular members of Congress promote the same socialism that my father fought against in World War II.” Owens is confused. The socialists (communists) were actually on the side of the United States during World War II. The Nazi’s were opponents of Soviet-style socialism. This can get a little tricky because “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist.” Sort it all out here.

OK, let’s move on.

Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeated the popular mantra about liberals “removing God” from public schools and “erasing God from history.” A few quick thoughts on this:

  • From the perspective of Christian theology, I don’t think it is possible to remove God from public schools or anywhere else.
  • Ironically, McEnany’s statement about erasing God comes at a moment when American religious history is one of the hottest fields in the historical profession. We know more about Christianity’s role in America’s past today than at any other point in the history of the nation.

I want to spend the rest of this post on Mike Pence’s speech last night. Watch it:

I did not recognize much of the America that Pence described in this speech. He began with an attack on Joe Biden: “Democrats spent four days attacking America. Joe Biden said we were living through a ‘season of darkness.'”

In January 2017, Donald Trump used the word “carnage” to describe the United States. Is America any better four years later? 180, 000 are dead from COVID-19. Colleges and schools are closed. There is racial unrest in the streets. We are a laughing stock in the global community. Millions are out work. Less than half of Americans have any confidence in the president. And Pence has the audacity to say “we made America great again.”

Pence continues to peddle the narrative that the coronavirus derailed the accomplishments of Trump’s first term. This is partly true. But when historians write about this presidency, the administration’s handling of COVID-19 will be at the center of the story.  COVID-19 is not just an unfortunate parenthesis in an otherwise successful presidency. COVID-19, and Trump’s failure to act swiftly, will be this president’s defining legacy.

Like Kayleigh McEnany earlier in the night, Pence also made reference to the current conversation about monuments and their relationship to our understanding of the American past. “If you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted,” Pence said, “then he’s [Trump’s] not your man.”

It is important to remember that “heritage” is not history. Those who sing the praises of “heritage” today are really talking more about the present the past. The purpose of heritage, writes the late historian David Lowenthal, is to “domesticate the past” so that it can be enlisted “for present causes.” History explores and explains the past in all its fullness, while heritage calls attention to the past to make a political point. Since the purpose of heritage is to cultivate a sense of collective national identity, it is rarely concerned with nuance, paradox, or complexity. As Lowenthal writes, devotion to heritage is a “spiritual calling”–it answers needs for ritual devotion.

When Trump and Pence talk about defending an American “heritage,” they are selectively invoking the past to serve their purposes. Such an approach, in this case, ignores the dark moments of our shared American experience. This administration is not interested in history.  They reject theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s call to “waken the dead and piece together what has been broken.”

Pence’s speech was filled with misleading statements, half-truths, and blatant lies. He claimed that Joe Biden wants to defund the police. He said that Biden “opposed the operation” that killed Osama bin Laden.” He said that Donald Trump has “achieved energy independence for the United States.” He said Joe Biden wants to “end school choice.” He said Joe Biden wants to scrap tariffs on Chinese goods. He said that “no one who required a ventilator was ever denied a ventilator in the United States.” He said that Trump suspended “all travel from China” before the coronavirus spread. He said that Biden did not condemn the violence in American cities. He said that Biden supports open borders. All of these statements are either false or misleading.

Trump is a liar. So is Pence. But Pence is an evangelical Christian. How can anyone reconcile the peddling of such deception with Christian faith? It doesn’t matter if the Bible-believing vice president lies about his political opponent, as long as his lies are effective in scaring Americans to vote for Trump. Pence claimed that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” Of course this kind of fear-mongering has a long history in American politics. But when people claim the mantle of Christian faith and engage in such political rhetoric, we must always call it out.

Finally, Pence has proven to be a master at fusing the Bible with American ideals. Again, this is not new. The patriotic ministers of the American Revolution did this all the time. It was heretical then. It is heretical now. Such a rhetorical strategy manipulates the Bible for political gain.

For example, Pence said, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and that means freedom always wins.” Pence is referencing 2 Corinthians 3:17: “now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This passage has NOTHING to do with the political or “American” freedom Pence was touting in his speech. St. Paul spoke these words to encourage the Corinthian church to live Spirit-filled lives that would free them from the bondage sin, death, and guilt. Pence has taken a deeply spiritual message and bastardized it to serve partisan politics and this corrupt president.

In the same paragraph, Pence says, “So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents, fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire. Let’s fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith and freedom.”
Here Pence is referencing Hebrews 12: 1-2. That passage says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Again, see what Pence is doing here. Instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus, we should fix our eyes on “Old Glory,” a symbol of American nationalism. The “heroes” he speaks of are not the men and women of faith discussed in the previous chapter of Hebrews (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets), they are the “heroes” (as he interprets them) of American history. Jesus is the “author and perfecter” of our faith and [American] freedom.”

The use of the Bible in this way is a form of idolatry. My friend and history teacher Matt Lakemacher gets it right:

On to day 4!

GOP Convention: Night 2

NBC News

NBC News graphic

I didn’t get to listen very carefully to many of the speeches on night 2 of the GOP convention. I was preparing for my return to the classroom today.  At least my nightmares were different last night. Instead of dreaming about what Trump is doing to the nation and the church, I dreamed of microphones, ZOOM, Canvas, student rotation, the Cloud, and sweating through my mask as I tried to lecture to 170 students in a 500-person recital hall with people staring down at me from the third floor balconies. (Yes, this will happen today).

So this post will just focus on the things that caught my attention enough to pull me away from creating Canvas modules.

Last night Cissie Graham, the daughter of court evangelical Franklin Graham and the granddaughter of Billy Graham, spoke at the Republican National Convention. Watch:

A few quick thoughts:

  1. I will take Cissie Graham and the rest of the court evangelicals more seriously when they start talking about religious liberty for all Americans.
  2.  As a fellow evangelical, I would hardly call prohibitions against indoor worship during a pandemic “religious persecution.”

Not all of Billy Graham’s grandchildren are in the Trump camp. Yesterday Jerushah Duford, who describes herself as “the proud granddaughter” of Billy Graham, published an op-ed in USA Today claiming that evangelical support for Donald Trump “spits” on the “legacy” of her grandfather. Read it here.

During the convention Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, an African-American man convicted of robbing a Nevada bank. Ponder now runs Hope for Prisoners, a Christian ministry the helps prisoners re-enter society after their period of incarceration. Ponder’s story brings positive attention to criminal justice reform. It is a story of God changing a man’s heart. I am glad Trump pardoned him.

What bothered me about the segment featuring Ponder was the way the Christian faith was manipulated for political purposes. At times during this segment I wondered if Ponder was there to talk about criminal justice reform or help Trump make his appeal to the evangelicals. Ponder’s faith plays an essential part in his story. This should be celebrated. But faith should never be politicized.

Watch the segment and let me know if any of this belongs at a political convention:

Later in the evening, Abby Johnson spoke about Planned Parenthood and abortion:

I was nodding my head as Johnson spoke until she used the words “Trump” and “two Supreme Court justices” in the same sentence. We can reduce abortions in America without getting into bed with this president, but it will require breaking from the 40-year-old Christian Right playbook.

Then came Georgetown Law School graduate Tiffany Trump. I wasn’t really listening to Tiffany until she said “God has blessed us with an unstoppable spirit, His spirit, the American spirit.” The worst part about this is that most evangelicals didn’t blink an eye when Trump’s daughter conflated the Holy Spirit and the American Dream.

I perked-up again when Tiffany started lamenting–yes lamenting–the fact that the promotion of “division and controversy breeds profit.”

There was a small kernel of truth in some of Tiffany Trump’s words last night. She called for open discourse and the free exchange of ideas in the public sphere. I am on board with this, but I think the real issue at stake here is where one draws the boundary line between open discourse and anti-intellectualism. I am thinking here about both the Left and the Right. The far Right is prone to making public arguments that are not based on truth, science, or evidence. The far Left does better with truth, science, and evidence, but its defenders draw the boundaries of acceptable discourse so narrowly that they often sound like intolerant fundamentalists. And both sides need to stop the ad hominem attacks.

I am not going to say much about the speeches by Eric Trump, Mike Pompeo, or Melania Trump. Pompeo, of course, spoke from Jerusalem to keep the evangelical base happy. Melania’s speech is getting good reviews. I guess it was OK, but I tuned-out when she described her husband as an honest man.

As noted above, there was a lot of faith talk last night. The Democrats were portrayed as godless threats to true religion. This suggests that the millions of American Christians, and especially African-American Christians, who vote Democrat are not real Christians.

This tweet sums-up how I felt last night:

How did the court evangelicals respond to the first night of the Republican National Convention?

Short answer: They loved it.

Jack Graham retweeted several speeches. In the end, he summed it up this way:

I don’t think I was watching the same convention as Tony Perkins. (I will, however, say that much of Maximo Alvarez’s speech was moving):

Gary Bauer thought it was “powerful”:

Many of the court evangelicals really liked Natalie Harp’s speech:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody has some interesting things to say:

This tweet seems to suggest that the Democrats need to be fact-checked to the same degree as Trump. The only reason “fact-checking” during political convention has become popular is because Trump lies so much. There is no moral equivalence here.

Brody is also pushing this piece from The Spectator:

Brody is right about this:

But let’s admit that both Haley and Scott are among the few pro-Trump speakers who hold the president at arms length. They both have political ambitions.

Brody also seemed to like this line from Matt Gaetz:

I am not sure what to make of the following tweet. One could argue that Fox’s decision to keep Tucker on air during the convention may have been MORE helpful to the Trump cause:

Charlie Kirk spoke last night. He also had some time to tweet this:

Kirk’s colleague at the Liberty University Falkirk Center was in usual form:

Here Ellis tries to dance around the Falkirk Center’s connection to Jerry Falwell Jr.:

And here, the Christian spokesperson for Liberty’s Falkirk Center, calls AOC an ass:

Another Falkirk Center fellow is attacking CNN and Chris Cuomo:

It’s a big week for the court evangelicals!

Emma Long: “Why Donald Trump still appeals to so many evangelicals”

Trump St. Johns

Here is Emma Long of the University of East Anglia on the anti-Trump evangelicals:

recent Pew Research Center poll indicated that although Trump’s approval ratings among white evangelicals have slipped slightly to 72%, eight out of ten still say they would vote for him again in November.

Yet given the focus on evangelical Trump supporters, it’s easy to overlook the 19% of white evangelicals, and those evangelicals of colour, who did not support Trump in 2016. Among the most prolific and high profile are John Fea, Messiah College professor of history, and Randall Balmer, professor of religion at Dartmouth College.

But there are others, such as the Red Letter Christians, a group who seek to “live out Jesus’ counter-cultural teachings” and whose focus on social justice tends to see them allied more often with the political left. In December 2019, even the leading evangelical publication Christianity Today published a widely reported editorial supporting Trump’s impeachment.

Although these divisions run deep within the evangelical community, they have scarcely caused a ripple in American culture more generally. So why has the political impact of these anti-Trump evangelicals been relatively small?

First, the “evangelical left” has always struggled to achieve political impact, often attracting enthusiastic support but not huge numbers. Second, the anti-Trump category is so large and diverse, and based on so many different issues, that it’s easy for any one group to be submerged into the larger howl of protest.

And third, evangelicals are a diverse group who disagree on many issues. Significant as it is within the evangelical community, the evangelical left is probably neither big enough nor sufficiently cohesive to have much of an electoral impact in November.

Read Long’s entire piece titled “Why Donald Trump still appeals to so many evangelicals.”

Falwell was not invited to speak at 2020 GOP convention well before the pool boy story broke

Here is Jerry Falwell Jr. delivering his “Osama, Obama, and Your Mama” speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention:

The New York Times is reporting that Falwell was not back for the 2020 convention. Here is Glenn Thrush:

A return speaking role seemed inevitable after Mr. Falwell hosted the president for the university’s commencement in 2017, and the earliest discussions of the 2020 convention lineup did, indeed, include him, according to a Trump campaign official.

But convention planners quietly ruled him out late last year, amid concerns about Mr. Falwell’s private life — long before Monday’s blockbuster report by Reuters alleging a long-term romantic entanglement between himself, his wife and pool attendant, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Read the rest here.  I guess I don’t understand what Falwell did before he was placed on indefinite leave that would make him an embarrassment to Trump or his administration. 🙂

Sunday in Trumpland

 

Trump Barry

Things seem to be business as usual in Trumpland.

Last night we learned that Donald Trump’s sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, had some choice things to say about her brother. Let’s be clear. She didn’t say anything that we didn’t already know about this president.

Readers of this blog might be interested in Maryanne Barry’s comments about the president’s political base: “All he wants to do is appeal to his base. He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.”

The White House released a statement regarding the comments made by the president’s sister. It read: “Every day it’s something else, who cares. I miss my brother, and I’ll continue to work hard for the American people. Not everyone agrees, but the results are obvious. Our country will soon be stronger than ever before.”

It is the eve of the Republican National Convention and the convention website has very little information about what is going to happen. We do, however, finally have a list of speakers. The Trump family will be filling a significant number of speaking slots.

U.S. Senators speaking include Tim Scott, Rand Paul, Marsha Blackburn, Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, and Tom Cotton. Some GOP Senators with national reputations will not be speaking. This list includes Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Chuck Grassley, Josh Hawley, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Mike Lee, John Kennedy, Kelly Loeffler, Martha McSally, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, and Rick Scott.

Speakers from the House of Representatives include Steve Scalise, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Dan Crenshaw, Elise Stefanik, Lee Zeldin, Kevin McCarthy, and Jeff Van Drew.

Others noteworthy speakers include former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend (and former Fox News pundit) Kimberly Guilfoyle, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Trump staffer Kellyanne Conway, Eric Trump’s wife Lana Trump, and Rudy Giuliani.

There are also several speakers who represent our nation’s ongoing culture wars. They include court evangelical Franklin Graham, Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandman, court evangelical Charlie Kirk, and the St. Louis’s gun wielding couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey.

Trump is still tweeting about God.

He is still obsessed with the pledge of allegiance:

For a full treatment of what happened read this post from yesterday.

Trump had another tweet today about God:

This tweet, of course, is a blatant attempt to win the votes of evangelicals in November. But it also tells us what Trump really thinks about evangelicals. He believes that we will gravitate to any political candidate who mentions the name of God. We will blindly follow the sound of the “We want God” mantra–like zombies–into the voting booth. Sadly, this may actually be the case for many of my fellow evangelicals.

The court evangelicals seem to welcome Trump’s appeal to his base. This morning a megachurch pastor in California turned his pulpit over to Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center:

I wonder what Kirk will say. Perhaps some of his most recent tweets (last 24 hours) will make it into his Lord’s Day sermon:

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis loves Trump’s tweet about God:

Self-pointed prophet Lance Wallnau is still talking about Kamala Harris as a “Jezebel” (and hawking a book).

 

Court evangelical journalist David Brody believes Trump is the only biblical candidate:

I am curious about what Brody means by “traditional biblical policy positions.” Most evangelicals didn’t really see abortion as a political issue until the mid-1970s.

Robert Jeffress was on Fox News this morning.

First, he seems to believe that one can “remove God” from public life. It this theological possible? I think most evangelicals, myself included, believe God is bigger that this.

Second, Jeffress also ignores the fact that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited every night at the DNC convention with the phrase “under God” included. But why would the pastor bring this up when he can twist the truth for political advantage?

Third, Jeffress implies that people of faith in the Democratic Party are not true Christians.

Fourth, Jeffress continues to promote this idea that abortion is the only political issue evangelicals should be concerned about. Perhaps he should read conservative evangelical David French’s column today in which he challenges this idea.

Watch:

Stay tuned. Classes start this week at Messiah University, but I still hope there is time to watch the GOP convention and write a few words.

This interview tells us a lot about John MacArthur and the movement he represents

MacArthur

Chris Hutchison, the pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Blacksburg, VA, brought this to my attention today via Twitter.

Watch John MacArthur speaking to Ryan Helfenbein of the Liberty University Falkirk Center about his battle with the state of California and why no Christian could ever vote for Joe Biden:

Notice what MacArthur does here. He equates biblical teaching with abortion, homosexual marriage, and transgenderism. That’s it. For MacArthur, biblical thinking about politics essentially comes down to these three things. As a result, he believes Christians cannot vote for Joe Biden or any member of the Democratic Party.

Instead, MacArthur wants his church to vote for a Republican candidate whose policies will hurt the poor, who uses racist dog whistles, who has brought pornography into the news, and who lies to the American people multiple times a day. Last time I checked, the Bible says a lot about human dignity, truth, lust, and the poor.

What are the historical forces that have led MacArthur to believe that abortion, homosexual marriage, and transgenderism are the only issues Christian voters should be concerned about? We need to keep asking this question because MacArthur thinks that his view of politics is shaped by a reading of the Bible untainted by social and cultural forces.

About midway through the clip, Helfenbein asks MacArthur about critics who say the members of the Christian Right are single-issue voters. MacArthur responds:

That sounds like 25 or 30 years ago when the differences were sociological or economic between you know ownership and labor. That is long gone.

I have no idea what MacArthur is talking about here. But it sounds like he is trying to say that economic inequality is no longer an issue in the United States in the way that it was “25 or 30 years ago.” (Does he really think that the Christian Right did not push single-issue voting in 1995 or 1990?).

MacArthur seems unaware of the success of democratic socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders who have called attention to economic inequality. Sanders attracted millions of American voters–including many young evangelicals–in 2016 and 2020. MacArthur may not like Bernie’s ideas, but the Vermont senator’s views on income inequality have resonated with Americans. It sounds as if MacArthur has had his head in the sand.

MacArthur says that the Democrats are assaulting American and Christian values, namely the conscience, the family, government, and the church. If a biblical view of the conscience, family, government, and church is indeed eroding as MacArthur says it is, then what does this tell us about the influence of Christians in American life over the last 50-75 years? MacArthur’s diagnosis seems to suggest that Christians have failed miserably in their efforts at sustaining a moral culture. Christians like MacArthur should look into the mirror instead of blaming the Democrats. The church is on the hook here.

Why has the church failed? Have the forces of secularism been too strong? Perhaps.

Or maybe evangelicals have placed too much trust in politics to preserve a moral culture. If you need evidence of this, just consider evangelical support for Donald Trump.

MacArthur believes that the best way to protect the conscience is to vote for a man with no conscience.

MacArthur believes that the best way to save the family is to vote for a man who cheated on all his wives, has been divorced twice, sleeps with porn stars, and has been heard on tape saying he wants to sexually assault women.

MacArthur believes that Trump, with his endless lies and incompetent leadership, is the best man to lead a just and moral government.

MacArthur believes that Christians getting into bed with Trump is good for the church and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Something doesn’t seem right here.

Finally, MacArthur says:

Joe Biden said the other day he’s going to fill his cabinet with Muslims. That is as anti-Christian a statement as you could possibly make. That is a blasphemy of the true and living God.

Yes, it would be blasphemous to fill a cabinet with Muslims if we were living in a Christian theocracy. But we don’t live in a theocracy. We live in a democratic society that celebrates pluralism. As Hutchinson notes in his tweet, we have no religious test for federal office in this country. The United States Constitution, as originally written and ratified by the states, makes one reference to religion. Article 6 affirms that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States.” So Biden is perfectly within his constitutional rights to fill his cabinet with Muslims.

But MacArthur goes on about this:

No thinking person, no person who wanted any kind of life for anyone in the future could possible affirm that kind of behavior.

Last time I checked, the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution were “thinking people” who cared about the “future” of the republic.

Hutchinson wonders if MacArthur’s claim about Biden filling his cabinet with Muslims is true.

Of course Ryan Helfenbein nods his head in agreement with everything MacArthur says. In this interview we get one of our best views into what is really going-on with both the Grace Community Church controversy and the Liberty University Falkirk Center.

Thanks again to Chris Hutchinson for bringing all of this to my attention. Things are getting really strange.

What happened to Liberty University’s original “Falkirk fellows”?

Liberty Mountain

When Jerry Falwell and Charlie Kirk founded Liberty University’s Falkirk Center they appointed several “fellows” to speak on behalf of the Center’s mission and purpose. According to the Center’s website, the Falkirk Center was created to:

…go on the offense in the name of Christian principles and in the name of exceptional, God-given American liberties.

Accomplishing this end requires more than adding noise to the echo chamber. It requires an army of bold ambassadors equipped with Biblical and Constitutional knowledge to speak truth to believers and unbelievers alike in every professional field and public forum. This includes Christian leaders and influencers—of all ages and backgrounds—defending, explaining, and sharing their beliefs on all platforms and sectors of society.

Thankfully, we don’t have to render ourselves powerless as the left misguides our young people. Much like Wallace’s struggle for freedom, we need brave, tenacious, passionate fighters to prevail in our war to save the greatest nation on earth. The Falkirk Center will remain on the front lines of this war. And we believe, like the passionate freedom fighters that courageously charged into the breach before us, we will eventually see victory.

The first group of fellows were:

Erika Lane Frantzve: She was Miss Arizona USA.  I am not sure what qualifies her as a “fellow” at a think tank.

Josh Allen Murray: He apparently was a winner on the ABC reality show “The Bachelorette.”

Antonia Okafor Cover: She runs a non-profit organization that teaches women how to use guns and advocate for their Second Amendment rights.

David Harris Jr.: He is the author of a book titled Why I Couldn’t Stay Silent: One Man’s Battle as a Black Conservative

Jaco Boovens: Runs a film company

As of today, Murray, Cover, and Booyens are no longer associated with the Falkirk Center. Does anyone know what happened? Why did they leave? Perhaps a religion journalist might want to follow-up.

Harris Jr. continues to tweet on behalf of the Falkirk Center. So does Frantzve.

The list of fellows now includes Eric Metaxas, Jenna Ellis, Darrel B. Harrison, Sebastian Gorka, and David Brat. I don’t know much about Harrison, but the other four are more high-profile culture warriors with bigger platforms.

My sources tell me that the Liberty University Board of Trustees is meeting today. Will its members address the Falkirk Center and its brand of gutter politics? What they decide to do with the Falkirk Center will speak volumes about how the board understands Liberty’s future. Here are just a few tweets from the last 48 hours. All of them come from current Falkirk Center fellows:

Retweeted by Sebastian Gorka:

Eric Metaxas recently said that Kamala Harris is an “evil protean figure” and agreed with a guest who said that she has a “Jezebel spirit.”

All of these people speak on behalf of a Center run by Liberty University, a self-identified Christian college.

What are the court evangelicals saying about day 3 of the DNC convention?

Trump Court Evangelicals 2

Last night we heard from Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, and Kamala Harris. So what are the court evangelicals saying?

Johnnie Moore, the man who describes himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer“:

Moore tweeted the above Bible verse while Barack Obama was speaking last night.

On Monday night, as the DNC was talking about “rising up” for social, economic, environmental, and racial justice, Moore tweeted this:

It is worth noting that Psalm 20 also says “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

This is unrelated to the convention, but one court evangelical will no longer have a TBN television show.

Charlie Kirk continues to represent the Falkirk Center at Liberty University:

How long will Liberty University allow this to go on? Charlie Kirk will continue to spew this kind of stuff as long as evangelical churches, schools, and Christians give him a platform.

Here is Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Sebastian Gorka:

Court evangelical Lance Wallnau is on the Eric Metaxas Show. Wallnau claims that he prophesied the idea of “Trump derangement syndrome” He continues with his “Hillary 2.0″ theory about Kamala Harris. He once again claims that Harris is a “chameleon” with a “Jezebel spirit” who has been “vetted” not by Biden, but by the devil. Metaxas calls her an “evil protean figure.” He adds that if Biden wins in November it will be “the end of America.”

At the end of the interview, Wallnau and Metaxas engage in some serious “America as a New Israel” language. Metaxas says that we have abandoned God’s “covenant” with America established by the Pilgrims. in 1620 and the patriots in 1776. This is all very bad American history and theology, but it’s the kind of message Metaxas (along with David Barton) has been pitching for a long time now. Take a look at my review of his book If You Can Keep It.

What are the court evangelicals saying about the DNC convention?

We have now had two nights of the DNC convention. Let’s check-in on the court evangelicals:

I think this must have been taped before the convention, but watch Eric Metaxas and John Smirak mock Kamala Harris’s first name. And then they compare Harris to Jim Jones and Jonestown. Finally, they take more shots at Biden’s faith and the Catholic church.

Metaxas continues to cash-in on the Trump presidency. Today on Facebook he is promoting his new book in the “Donald the Caveman” series. It is titled Donald and the Fake News.

Fake news metaxas

But I digress. This post is supposed to be about the convention.

Robert Jeffress is countering the DNC convention with something called “Faith Week.”

“Faith Week” includes:

Pastor Jack Hibbs:

Let’s end tonight’s roundup with the Liberty University gang at the Falkirk Center:

Charlie Kirk does not seem to have recovered from Monday night’s meltdown:

And here is Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis:

This Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow is getting excited about the Republican National Convention:

And these:

Christian politics at its best (worst).

Court evangelical: Kamala Harris has a “Jezebel spirit” and is a satanic “chameleon” secretly working as an “Obama surrogate”

Lance-Wallnau

Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, Lance Wallnau, a leading figure in the Independent Network Charismatic (INC) movement, received a word from God: “Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.”

When Wallnau’s prophecy caught the attention of Trump’s evangelical supporters, he was invited to attend a meeting with the candidate and other evangelical leaders in Trump Tower. As Wallnau listened to Trump talk about his desire to give evangelicals a more prominent voice in government, he sensed that God was giving him an “assignment”–a “calling related to this guy.”

One day, while Wallnau was reading his Facebook page, he saw a meme predicting that Trump would be the “45th president of the United States.” God told Wallnau to pick up his Bible and turn to Isaiah 45. On reading the passage, Wallnau realized that, not only would Trump be a “wrecking ball” to political correctness, but he would be elected president of the United States in the spirit of the ancient Persian king Cyrus. In the Old Testament, Cyrus was the secular political leader whom God used to send the exiled kingdom of Judah back to the Promised Land so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its holy Temple. Wallnau was shocked by this discovery. “God was messing with my head,” he told Steven Strang, the editor of Charisma, a magazine that covers INC and other Pentecostal and charismatic movement (and claims a circulation of over 275,000).

From this point forward, Wallnau would become an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.  He has made appearances on Christian Right radio and television programs to tell his story about he prophesied Trump’s election. Some of you remember when he  hawked $45.00 King Cyrus prayer coins on the Jim Bakker Show.

Here is he is on the Eric Metaxas Show talking about “a guy from Messiah College.”

In his most recent Facebook video, Wallnau had some choice things to say about Joe Biden’s running mate. Here is Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch:

Wallnau asserted that Harris is “not intelligent” but simply possesses an ability to deceive people, which is why she was chosen to serve as Joe Biden’s running mate by the “deep state” and “do what [Barack] Obama wants her to do, which is to undo Trump’s legacy.” He added that Harris is driven by a “Jezebel spirit,” which some evangelicals believe is an evil and cunning demonic female spirit intent on attacking God and those who worship him.

Watch the video:

You can watch the entire thing here. If you can’t watch it, here is what you missed:

  • Kamala Harris is a “chameleon.”
  • The “devil” is going to try to use Harris to “take Trump out.”
  • The “Wuhan China” is connected to a vision Wallnau saw of “President Harris.”
  • Satan released the virus to take down Trump.
  • The spirit of the “false prophet” is working with the media to make Harris look more moderate, but she is really an “Obama’s surrogate.”
  • “God never really intended that Donald Trump would not be there for this next term.”
  • Wallnau admits a version of the “fear thesis” when he says the voted “out of anxiety” and elected Trump, but then the church went back to “business as usual” without realizing the “apocalyptic cliff-hanger” it is in.
  • Evangelical Christian pastors and leaders who say that they will merely hold their noses and vote for Trump in 2020 are weak. They should be openly campaigning for him.
  • If we pray hard enought, God will intervene on behalf of Trump between now and November.

More than 260,000 people have watched this video. Some have even responded to it with comments like these:

–I just seen you tonight and what a Blessing, telling it like it was and is and is to come! I will be following you cause I like what I’m hearing and your my new brother in the Lord and Family of God! Thanks for sharing.

–Kamala Harris I read about her religious faith it is not Christian it is an ancient Egyptian faith just remember that when the Pharaoh put his dead son on Satan’s arm trying to bring him back to life it did not happen God will win the devil will not.

We must fight with prayer. God have mercy on our land and President Trump. Grant us mercy one more time Lord, heal our land. In Jesus name.

–I think she is a witch

–I can’t stand to hear all of this!! We must vote so these things will not happen. The enemy is not on the throne. God still reigns.

–Chameleon Harris….she’s slippery, scaly and has horns 🦎 changes colors according to her agenda.

–I have never listened to you before so I find amazing that what you said about Kamala is exactly what I said to my husband last night. Binding together in prayer and praise through Jesus name.

–Thank you. I appreciate your bold truth and not trying to protect a tax exempt status in a time as this.We need voices bold as a lion like you.God bless you in Jesus name.

–“Extraordinary surprises and interventions! Spiritually radioactive Christians around all the people engaged in this political contest!” Show us how to do the work you have called us to do!

–They will want to take your guns

–Mental manipulation to wear mask, take vaccine ….

–Amen!! Pray and vote like Jesus would! Trump 2020

–The dems have stocks in the mask companies. They want there money.

Those ensconced in their cosmopolitan enclaves need to take this stuff seriously. Wallnau and the INC influence, as scholars Brad Christerson and Richard Flory have shown, runs deep in conservative political circles in the United States and around the world.

An evangelical reader grieves for the church in the age of Trump

person-feeling-griefSeveral readers have messaged or e-mailed me concerning my recent post titled “When old friends disagree about politics.” Thanks again to Randy Blacketer for writing the post that prompted me to call attention to this topic. Several readers commented on the piece at my Facebook page, but none more forcefully than Troy Castle, Associate Professor of Music and Coordinator of Vocal Studies at Milikin University. Troy gave me permission to republish the post below. I think he speaks for a lot of us.–JF

Thanks for sharing this post, John, and thanks for your own transparency. I honestly don’t know how Dr. Blacketer could add anything to his blogpost that would make it resonate with me any more than it already does. So many “amens” all the way through–every paragraph, every sentence.

I have long used the hashtag #since2016 to try to encapsulate the significance of Trump’s election for me. I already knew who he was, but on November 8, 2016 (and in the days leading up to it), I found out who *they* really are. As Russell Moore said, “It turns out the religious right is who the religious right always warned us about.”

1. “Stand for truth no matter what,” they told me. Unless of course it’s their error I’m standing against.

2. “The end never justifies the means,” they said. Until they demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that consequentialism is the most important principle of political involvement as far as they are concerned.

3. “Situation ethics are the antithesis of Christian ethics,” they said. Meanwhile, their about-face on the importance of personal morality in elected public officials couldn’t possibly be starker.

4. “Careful of the slippery slope, sin will take you farther than you ever thought you’d go,” they said as–in the span of seemingly hours–they went from “nose-holding” voters to worshiping the most blatantly and overtly corrupt, self-serving sociopath ever to occupy the public political space in my lifetime.

In short, calling it “disagreement about politics” doesn’t come close to adequately describing it. The people who were responsible for my formation (spiritual and otherwise)–family members, close friends, former pastors, teachers and mentors–showed me en masse who they really were. And, as Maya Angelou said–I believed them.

What has been seen cannot be unseen, and there are not adequate words to describe the grief, anger, and sense of loss I have when I realize those relationships will never be the same because I’m only doing what they taught me to do–when they apparently never really meant it to begin with. As Dr. Blacketer said, “It makes me wonder if we know the same God, or worship the same Christ, or read the same Bible. […]It is terribly discouraging for me as a Christian.”

I have met and corresponded with hundreds of people like Troy over the last four years. What are evangelical churches doing to minister to them? Do they even know they exist? Or are the leaders of evangelical churches–pastors, elders, and others–more concerned about pontificating in defense of Trump and spewing-forth Christian Right talking points. When was the last time the elder board or leadership team of a church sat down and talked at length about the Troy Castles in their congregations? –JF

The “Deep State” of the 1790s?

Morse

Jedidiah Morse

Is there a “deep state” seeking to undermine the Trump presidency? Yes, if you define the “deep state” as men and women working to stop Donald Trump from undermining American democracy and institutions.

But for many Trump supporters, the “deep state” is a secret, shadowy, and sinister group of leftist politicians, government bureaucrats, Chinese officials and scientists, journalists, academics, and intellectuals seeking to destroy American values. Some even believe that Anthony Fauci is a “deep state doctor.” In this sense, the “deep state” hates America.  It has been created to invoke fear.

These conspiracy theories are not new.  In the late 1790s, Jedidiah Morse, the congregational minister in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and a well-known author of geography textbooks, drew national attention by suggesting that a secret organization called the Bavarian Illuminati was at work “to root out and abolish Christianity, and overturn all civil government.” He was convinced that this group of atheists and infidels were behind the secular Jacobin movement in France that sought to purge the nation of organized religion. Morse believed that the Illuminati group was pursuing the same clandestine agenda in America and was working closely with Thomas Jefferson-led Democratic Republicans, the Federalists’ political rivals, to pull it off.

Morse learned about the Bavarian Illuminati from books published in Europe describing a network of secret lodges scattered across the continent. In a 1798 fast day sermon, he appealed to the worst fears of those evangelicals who remained concerned with the moral character of the republic. He described the Illuminati’s ominous attempts to “abjure Christianity, justify suicide (by declaring death an eternal sleep), advocate sensual pleasures agreeable to Epicurean philosophy…decry marriage, and advocate a promiscuous intercourse among the sexes.” The presence of the Illuminati in America should cause Christians to “tremble for the safety of our political, as well as our religious ark.” In another sermon on the subject, Morse printed a list of secret societies and Illuminati members currently working their sinister schemes in his Christian nation.

Soon Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards and the president of Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut, expressed similar fears about the Illuminati and used his pen to sound the alarm. In a Fourth of July discourse entitled The Duty of Americans, at the Present Crisis, Dwight quoted from Revelation 16 to caution his listeners and eventual readers about “unclean teachers” who were educating innocent people in “unclean doctrines.” Such teachers were spreading throughout the world to “unite mankind against God.” As they performed their malicious work, the Bavarian Illuminati took cues from previous opponents of Protestant America–the Jesuits, Voltaire, and the Masons, to name a few.

Dwight called Americans back to God . This, he believed, was the only effective way of resisting such subversive threats to social virtue. “Where religion prevails,” he wrote, “Illuminatism cannot make disciples, a French directory cannot govern, a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts.” Dwight reminded his readers that if this dangerous society succeeded in its plans, the children of evangelicals would be forced to read the work of deists or become “concubines” of a society that treated “chastity” as a “prejudice,” adultery as virtue, and marriage as a “farce.”

By the turn of the nineteenth century, news of the Illuminati had traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard and as far as the Caribbean islands. Elias Boudinot, a former president of the Continental Congress, and John Jay, a Federalist statesman, also bought into this conspiracy theory.

Critics of these evangelical Federalists argued that Morse and Dwight, both clergymen, spent too much time dabbling in politics instead of tending to the souls of the Christians under their spiritual care. Others accused these conspiracy theorists of having “overheated imaginations.” Eventually, Morse’s accusations against Democratic-Republican societies were unable to withstand the weight of evidence. As historian Jonathan Den Hartog has written, evangelical Federalists concerned about the preservation of a Christian nation “overplayed their hand” by propagating the Illuminati scare. In the process, they “called their standing a societal authorities into question, and ultimately weakened their position” as shapers of American culture.

The comparison between the “Deep State” and the “Illuminati” is not perfect. No historical analogies are. But sometimes, as we like to say, history rhymes.

When old friends disagree about politics

woodcrest-christian-school-system-Z5vHMH

Woodcrest Christian School, Riverside, California

In the next several decades, a social historian will write a book about how the presidency of Donald Trump has influenced families and friendships. If I am still alive, I would be happy to be interviewed for such a book. Since I began criticizing Donald Trump and the  evangelicals who support him, I have lost some old friends, had people who I haven’t spoken with in decades e-mail and Facebook me with messages that start with “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?,” and have struggled to maintain some degree of civility with family members who support Trump. The work of reconciliation will be difficult.

With all this in mind, I have found myself gravitating to people writing about similar struggles with their own friends and family. One of those people is Randy Blacketer, a historical theologian and former pastor. Here is a taste of his recent blog post, “On an ‘Election Year’ Definition”:

Jeff is an old classmate of mine, a very good guy, an evangelical pastor, great sense of humor. He posted this on his Facebook timeline:

election year [ih-LEK-shun yir] noun
1. A time when decent people throw off their personal responsibility of how they speak about people in authority, in order to promote someone else. Anyone else.
2. A period every four years when otherwise balanced thinkers abandon core values (Example: sanctity of life, etc.,) in order to rationalize supporting someone else. Anyone else.
3. A moment when many citizens celebrate a right paid for by someone else. Anyone else.

I found the post rather interesting in its assumptions. And it recalled to me the variety of Christianity that was the centerpiece of my Evangelical / Fundamentalist high school: Woodcrest Christian School, in Riverside, California. I liked my high school. I’m still in contact with a number of my classmates. My graduating class numbered 24. We studied New Testament Greek in the 9th and 10th grades. We had courses in biblical hermeneutics and systematic theology. But at the same time, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jerry Falwell was promoting his Moral Majority movement. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family was making its way into every evangelical household through books and radio programs. Many of us kids had seen the terrifying film “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” narrated by pioneer culture warrior Francis Shaeffer with his creepy, weird knickers. There we learned that true Christians are about being against abortion, and that abortion is the most wicked injustice ever. It was in the beginning days of the fusion of Christ and the GOP.

The rest of the post is a response to his friend. Read it here.

Does any Christian want their son to turn out like Don Jr.? (And other thoughts on a recent Charlie Kirk and Jack Hibbs conversation).

Several Trump evangelicals have sent me this video this week. So let me respond to Charlie Kirk and megachurch pastor Jack Hibbs. First, watch the video:

Some thoughts:

At the 0:18 mark, Kirk says that United States presidency is electing a “world view.” I am not comfortable with this kind of “world view” language, but for the sake of argument, I’ll accept it here. So what kind of “world view” should the President of the United States possess? Well, on one level, the answer is pretty obvious. He should uphold the Constitution and not threaten our democratic institutions. Of course Trump has done this at every turn. He disparages the press, refused to cooperate with the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, tried to work with Ukraine to undermine the 2020 election, openly discredited military and intelligence advisers, used his bully pulpit to attack Supreme Court justices, claimed that there was voter fraud when no such fraud existed, promoted QAnon and other “deep state “conspiracy theories, refuses to show his tax returns to the American people, contradicts his own science and public health officials, and now wants to undermine the Post Office to make it more difficult for people to vote in November.

Kirk also seems to equate “world view” with “civil society.” We can define “civil society” in many different ways. At the most basic level, the phrase is used to describe institutions–the family, churches, non-profit organizations, clubs and associations–that are not sponsored by the state. Such institutions promote community, the common good, and sense of collective activity. The idea, of course, is that when such institutions flourish, our democracy will be more “civil” in the way we treat one another.

Kirk misunderstands the meaning of “civil society” on two levels. First, he implies that “civil society” in a democracy is somehow connected to a presidential election. Granted, a president who ignores checks and balances and behaves like a tyrant might have the power to crush the institutions of a civil society, but as long as the executive is held in check by the other two branches of government, the press, and the American people, civil society will continue to thrive. (And, as Robert Putnam famously put it in Bowling Alone, we also must help civil society to thrive by exercising our social duties).

Second, Kirk seems to suggest that because Trump encourages civility, he is worthy of American votes in November.  Anyone who reads Trump’s Twitter feed or watches his press conferences and speeches knows that Trump has no interest whatsoever in working toward the common good. He demonizes his enemies, calls them names, stokes division, and lies virtually every time he speaks in public. So forgive me if I disagree with Charlie Kirk’s claim that Trump is a “representation” of “civil society.” Moreover, there is very little that is “civil” about this entire Kirk-Hibbs conversation. This event, held in an evangelical church, is defined by anger, bitterness, and rage.

At the 0:30 mark, Kirk claims that Trump is a “placeholder” for “what is moral and what is good.” Can any thinking Christian really affirm this?

At the 0:58 mark, Kirk says that he wishes he could one day “be as good” as Donald Trump. This kind of moral thinking, if we can even call it that, is delusional when compared to how the Bible defines what is “good.”

At the 1:15 mark, Jack Hibbs says that Trump might have a “checkered past,” but he is “not the guy that he used to be.” Really? Have I spent the last four years watching the same president as Hibbs? It seems like most of Trump’s past character (OK, granted, he is not sleeping with porn stars in the oval office) has been on display virtually every day of his presidency. But Hibbs goes on, “We’re America, we’re supposed to be so forgiving and so kind and so prone to give people a second chance.” What an odd thing for a pastor to say. Instead of talking about forgiveness, kindness, and redemption as biblical values, Hibbs connects them to “America.” But let’s also remember that in Hibbs’s way of seeing the world, there is little difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of America.

At the 1:30 mark, Hibbs implies that Trump is a moral and righteous man because he has a good relationship with his kids and the kids speak highly of their Dad. (Michael Corleone also spoke highly of his father and I am sure Vito checked-in with him every day :-))

Is Hibbs familiar with the Twitter accounts and public pronouncements of Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr., and Eric? (Sadly, I think he probably is). All four of these “kids,” especially Don Jr. and Eric, use their platforms to spew hate and enable their father’s immorality. Does any Christian want their son to turn out like Don Jr.?

At the 3:00 mark, Kirk plays the abortion card. Notice what is happening here. Kirk never puts forth any positive plan to reduce abortions in America apart from re-electing Trump. Even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, it will not end abortion in the United States. The decisions will be turned back to the states.  Kirk knows this, but he also knows that if he brings up abortion he can fire-up the crowd.

Sadly, Kirk’s efforts to throw red meat to Trump’s base is not going to get us anywhere in curbing abortions in America. But it might keep Republicans in power and continue to provide him with a political platform. As I have said before, Black women and women in poverty have a disproportionate number of abortions in America today. But the policies of Donald Trump and his wonder-boy Charlie Kirk will do nothing to address this problem. In fact, Trump and Kirk do not even believe that systemic racism exists. Kirk’s remarks about avoiding the judgment of God reflect the arrogance and “cockiness” that he derides among those on the left.

Well, you asked me for my “take” on this video. I hope this helps.

What are the court evangelicals saying about Kamala Harris?

COurt Evangelicals

Let’s start with the folks associated with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s and Charlie Kirk’s Falkirk Center. Yes, these are the Christians who represent Liberty University in the public sphere:

Eric Metaxas says Harris has “no core values” and is only driven by ambition and power. What an ironic thing for a Trump supporter to say.

OK. Now that we are done with the Liberty University crowd, let’s move on to some other court evangelicals. The Christian Right warriors are out in force.

Ralph Reed:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody:

Pastor Darryl Scott:

Pastor Scott on the previous tweet:

I think the Christian pastor just “went there.”

Gary Bauer:

Tony Perkins is getting nervous:

Franklin Graham:

Onward Christian soldiers!