What White Evangelicals Can Learn About Politics From the Civil Rights Movement

 

MLK GRave

In June 2017, I spent ten days with my family and several colleagues from Messiah College traveling through the American South on a civil rights movement bus tour. Our trip took us to some of the most important sites and cities of the movement. We made stops in Greensboro, Atlanta, Albany, Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, Memphis, and Nashville

Along the way we spent time with some of the veterans of the movement. In Atlanta we heard from Juanita Jones Abernathy, the wife and co-laborer of Ralph Abernathy, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest associates. In Albany we sang civil rights songs with Rutha Mae Harris, one of the original Freedom Singers.

In Selma we met Joanne Bland, a local activist who, at the age of eleven, participated in all three Edmund Pettus Bridge marches. In Birmingham we talked with Carolyn Maul McKinstry and Denise McNair. McKinstry was fifteen years old when she survived the Ku Klux Klan bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963. That explosion took the life of McNair’s sister, whom she never had a chance to meet.

In Nashville, we listened to the inspirational stories of Ernest “Rip” Patton, one of the early freedom riders, and Kwame Leonard, one of the movement’s behind-the-scenes organizers.

As I processed everything that I learned on my colleague Todd Allen’s “Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights” bus tour, I kept returning to thoughts about the relationship between religion and politics. Donald Trump had been in office for under five months, but my anger and frustration upon learning that 81 percent of my fellow evangelicals had voted for him were still fresh.

As I listened to the voices of the movement veterans, walked the ground that they had walked, and saw the photographs, studied the exhibits, and watched the footage, it was clear that I was witnessing a Christian approach to politics that was very different from the one that catapulted Trump into the White House and continues to garner white evangelical support for his presidency. Hope and humility defined the political engagement and social activism of the civil rights movement. The movement served, and continues to serve, as an antidote to a politics of fear and power.

****

Those who participated in the civil rights movement has much to fear: bombs, burning crosses, billy clubs, death threats, water hoses, police dogs, and lynch mobs—to name a few. They feared for the lives of their families and spent every day wondering whether they would still be around to continue the fight the next day. For these reasons, many African Americans, understandably, did not participate in the movement and prevented their children from getting involved. The danger was very real.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew this. When we visited the old Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church where King was baptized and where he (and his father) served as pastor, his final sermon, the one he delivered in Memphis on April 3, 1968, was playing over the speakers.

King was in Memphis to encourage sanitation workers fighting for better pay and improved working conditions. I sat in the back pew and listened:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m no concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing anything. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

It was a message of hope. Because of his faith, God had given him—and the women and men of the movement he led—all the strength they would need to continue the struggle. King made himself available to do the Lord’s will. Now he was looking forward. Was he talking about his eternal life in what now seems like prophetic fashion, or was he talking about God working out his purposes on earth?

No matter: King was confident in God’s power to work out his will: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” An assassin’s bullet took King’s life the next day, April 4, 1968, but the movement went on.

Can evangelicals recover this confidence in God’s power—not just in his wrath against their enemies but in his ability to work out his purposes for good? Can they recover hope? The historian Christopher Lasch once wrote this: “Hope does not demand a belief in progress. It demands a belief in justice: a conviction that the wicked will suffer, that wrongs will be made right, that the underlying order of things is not flouted with impunity. Hope implies a deep-seated trust in life that appears absurd to most who lack it.”

I saw this kind of hope in every place we visited on our trip. It was not mere optimism that things would get better if only we could elect the right candidates. Rather, it was a view of this world, together with an understanding of the world to come, forged amid suffering and pain.

Not everyone would make it to the mountaintop on this side of eternity, but God’s purposes would be worked out, and eventually they would be able to understand those purposes—if not in this life, surely in the world to come. The people in the movement understood that laws, social programs, even local and voluntary action, would only get them so far. Something deeper was needed.

There was something kingdom-oriented going on in these Southern cities. I thought of the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I saw this kind of hope in the eyes of Rip Patton as he sat with us in the Nashville Public Library and explained why (and how) he had such a “good time” singing while incarcerated with other freedom riders in Parchman Prison in Jackson, Mississippi.

I heard this kind of hope in the voice of Rutha Mae Harris as she led us in “This Little Light of Mine” and “Ain’t Gonna Turn Me ‘Round” from the front of the sanctuary of the Old Mount Zion Baptist Church in Albany.

As I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, I wondered if I could ever muster the courage of John Lewis and Joanne Bland as they marched into the face of terror on Bloody Sunday. Such audacity requires hope.

But too often fear leads to hopelessness, a state of mind that political scientist Glenn Tinder had described as a “kind of death.” Hopelessness causes us to direct our gaze backward toward worlds we can never recover. It causes us to imagine a future filled with horror. Tyrants focus our attention on the desperate nature of our circumstances and the carnage of the social and cultural landscape that they claim to have the power to heal.

A kernel of truth, however, always informs such a dark view of life. Poverty is a problem. Rusted-out factories often do appear, as Trump once described them, like “tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” Crime is real

But demagogues want us to dwell on the carnage and, to quote Bruce Springsteen, “waste our summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets.” Hope, on the other hand, draws us into the future, and in this way it engages us in life.

*****

It is nonsensical to talk about the civil rights movement in terms of political power, because even at the height of the movement’s influence, African Americans did not possess much political power. Yes, the movement had its leaders, and they did have time in the national spotlight. But when the movement leaders entered the halls of power, they were usually there to speak truth with a prophetic voice. King, for example, was willing to break with Lyndon Johnson when he disagreed with him on the Vietnam War, even if it meant losing access to the most powerful man on earth.

Most of all, though, the civil rights movement was shaped by people of humble of means who lived ordinary lives in ordinary neighborhoods. Many of them never expected to step onto a national stage or receive credit for leading the great social movement in American history. These ordinary men and women fought injustice wherever God had placed them. They offer us a beautiful illustration of what scholar James Davison Hunter has called “faithful presence.”

For Hunter, a theology of faithful presence calls Christians to serve the people and places where they live. The call of faithful presence, Hunter writes in his book To Change the World, “gives priority to what is right in front of us—community, the neighborhood, and the city, and the people in which these are constituted. It is in these places, through “the joys, sufferings, hopes, disappointments, concerns, desires, and worries of people with whom we are in long-term and close relation—family, neighbors, co-workers, and community—where we find authenticity as a body of believers. It is here, Hunter adds, “where we learn forgiveness and humility, practice kindness, hospitality, and charity, grow in patience and wisdom, and become clothed in compassion, gentleness, and joy. This is the crucible with which Christian holiness is forged. This is the context in which shalom is enacted.”

I thought about Hunter’s words as I stood in the hot Selma sun and listened to Joanne Bland explain to us the significance of a small and crumbling patch of pavement in a playground behind Brown Chapel AME church. This was the exact spot, she told us, where the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches began. For Bland, who was raised in a housing complex across the street from the church, this was a sacred space.

The humility on display during the civil rights movement was just as countercultural then as it is now. This is usually the case with nonviolent protests. Those who participated thought of themselves not as individuals but as part of a movement larger than themselves.

Rip Patton was a twenty-one-year old music major at Tennessee State University when he met Jim Lawson in 1959. Lawson trained Patton (and others) in nonviolent protest. Soon Patton found himself seated at a lunch counter in downtown Nashville, where he would be spit on, punched, covered with ketchup, mustard, salt, and water.

Patton did not retaliate because he had been educated in the spiritual discipline necessary for a situation like this. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading a political and social movement, but he was also the high priest of a spiritual movement, something akin to a religious revival.

The civil rights movement never spoke the language of hate or resentment. In fact, its Christian leaders saw that all human beings were made in the image of God and sinners in need of God’s redemptive love. Many in the movement practiced what theologian Reinhold Niebuhr described as “the spiritual discipline against resentment.” They saw that those who retaliated violently or with anger against injustice were only propagating injustices of their own.

Instead, the spiritual discipline against resentment unleashed a different kind of power—the power of the cross and the resurrection. This kind of power could provide comfort amid suffering and a faithful gospel witness to the world.

The Mississippi voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer said it best: “The white man’s afraid he’ll be treated like he’s been treating the Negroes, but I couldn’t carry that much hate. It wouldn’t have solved any problems for me to hate whites because they hate me. Oh, there’s so much hate! Only God has kept the Negro sane.”

****

Where does all this reflection leave us? Where did it leave me as I got off the bus and headed back to my working-class, central Pennsylvania neighborhood. How might hope and humility inform the way we white American evangelicals think about politics and other forms of public engagement?

It is time to take a long hard look at what we have become. We have a lot of work to do.

This essay draws heavily from Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, which was recently released in paperback by Eerdmans Publishing

Evangelical-Jewish Relations

NetanyahiRalph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.

A session on Evangelical-Jewish relations brought new light to the harmonies and tensions between American Jews and pro-Israel Evangelicals. Amy Weiss (College of St. Elizabeth) presented Billy Graham and Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum of the American Jewish Committee as partners, not without differences, in the forging of an alliance regarding Israel and the promotion of inter-religious dialogue before 1979 when Baptist claims of Evangelical exclusiveness made it harder for Jews to work with the SBC. Daniel Hummel (UW-Madison) discussed the construction of a Judeo-Christian identity in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War, arguing that that war prompted a clearer definition of the term by the religious right, one that asserted that freedom of religious practice (specifically that of Christians in Islamic regions) is a human right. Hummel described Jerry Falwell’s trip to Lebanon as a point in the development of American support of Israel. Third, Ian Van Dyke (Notre Dame) unpacked the difficult questions regarding the religious identity of Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians, particularly as they arose during the 1989 International Congress of World Evangelization in Manila. Tensions between these two groups triggered questions about who could be considered Christian (as well as whether Messianic Jews were still Jews), in particular given their stances toward Israel. As Heath Carter stated in his comment after these papers, it was evident that there was more conflict within Evangelicalism concerning Judaism and Israel than there was between Evangelicals and Jews.

Who is Leith Anderson?

Leith

He is the most influential evangelical in America that no one has ever heard of.  Check out Emma Green’s interview at The Atlantic with the retiring president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

A taste:

Emma Green: I think people like you have ceded the ground to people like Robert Jeffress. Evangelicalism, in the mind of the public, is very much tilted toward people who are quite politically conservative. Especially in the past few years, more moderate or nonpolitical perspectives like your own have receded into the background. Does that trouble you at all?

Leith Anderson: It does—in the sense that, to me, evangelicalism is about faith. It’s not about politics. It’s a historic religious movement. And that’s not a popular message, in the midst of polarized politics.

I distinguish between politics and government. I was on President Obama’s advisory council. That was a government function, not a political one. If I were asked to pray at a government event, like a White House Easter breakfast, I would say yes to that. But when I was asked to pray at political conventions, I declined.

Green: Let me push you on that. The NAE is not necessarily a political organization, but politics has certainly been part of its history. George W. Bush spoke to the NAE during his 2004 reelection campaign and said the organization was “doing God’s work.” Ronald Reagan gave his famous 1983 “Evil Empire” speech to the NAE.

Anderson: I was six feet away from him.

Green: Did it not seem clear then that evangelicalism was becoming more of a political movement, or at least that it was being perceived that way?

Anderson: To my knowledge, I’ve never preached a sermon that most people would consider to be political. Actually, I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a sermon talk much about politics.

I feel a pressure to portray evangelicals in terms of faith and beliefs. There’s something like 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about the poor and the widow and the orphan and the homeless and the hungry. To me, that transcends politics. That’s what we believe, and that’s what we’ve got to do.

Or immigrants. With all the teachings in the Bible about the way you treat the stranger and the immigrant, have we taken strong positions on immigration reform and Dreamers? Yeah, we have. But I don’t see it driven primarily by current political issues. I see it driven primarily by what the Bible says.

Read the entire piece here.

Are Trump’s Evangelical Critics Elitist? The Pietist Schoolman Reflects on Evangelical Populism

2nd Great

After Mark Galli published a Christianity Today editorial calling for the removal of Donald Trump, several pundits accused Galli of betraying the populist roots of American evangelicalism.  Galli, in other words, is an out of touch elitist.

Read court evangelical Johnnie Moore’s recent piece at Religion News Service.

Read Carl Trueman’s recent piece at First Things. (I responded to it here).

Read Matthew Schmitz’s piece at The New York Post.  (I responded to it here).

It is worth noting that these articles have little to do with the merits of Trump’s impeachment.  Nor do they address any problems with Trump’s character that might lead evangelicals to reject the president.  Instead, these articles try to interpret the editorial, and Galli, through the lens of class.  Galli and Christianity Today do not represent ordinary evangelicals.  As a result, we can’t take the editorial seriously.

Chris Gehrz, the Bethel University history professor and author of the blog The Pietist Schoolman, has written a nice piece on evangelical populism that is worth your time. It engages with Moore and Schmitz.
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Here is a taste of “The Problems and Possibilities of Evangelical Populism“:

2. Which populace defines populism?

Donald Trump likes to present himself as a populist, but he has generally been one of the least popular first-term presidents in American history. Even after a recent bump, he’s still 10 points more unfavorable than favorable in Five Thirty Eight‘s composite poll. He’s particularly disliked by certain groups within American society, including women and persons of color.

If evangelical populism is meant to empower ordinary evangelicals, then it had better address the concerns of three of the most important, most often ignored groups within evangelicalism: women (55% of all evangelicals in America), persons of color (22% and growing fast), and non-American evangelicals (the lion’s share of the world total).

Rather than just reflecting the passions of the white men who compose Trump’s base of support, genuine evangelical populists would join CT president Tim Dalrymple in lamenting that evangelicals are “associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more.” They would stop waving aside Trump’s misogyny and ask how much it taps into the sexism too often found within evangelical communities.

Finally, truly evangelical populists would look beyond the American nation to recognize that most evangelicals live elsewhere — often in places already being affected by the climate crisis that the Trump administration and its Christian enablers casually deny. “If we shift our gaze from the U.S. political right,” writes David Fitzpatrick, to look at evangelicals of color in this country and beyond it, “we can see an alternative tradition of evangelicalism that embraces social, economic, environmental and racial justice.”

Read the entire piece here.

Christianity Today CEO Tim Dalrymple Responds to Critics

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Christianity Today plants the flag:

We nevertheless believe the evangelical alliance with this presidency has done damage to our witness here and abroad. The cost has been too high. American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC. We are a diverse movement that should collaborate with political parties when prudent but always standing apart, at a prophetic distance, to be what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the conscience of the state.” That is what we believe. This is where we plant our flag. We know we are not alone.

Read it all here.

Nearly 200 Pro-Trump Evangelicals Respond to *Christianity Today* After Editorial Calling for Trump’s Removal

Believe Me 3d

I already have a new postscript to the January 7, 2020 paperback release.  Maybe I need another one.

The letter is directed to Tim Dalrymple, CEO of Christianity Today.  All the usual suspects have signed it and a lot folks of which I am unfamiliar.  This is a court evangelical manifesto.  It captures much I what I posted about here and a other posts at this blog over the past several days.

Here it is, compliments of the Christian Post:

Dr. Dalrymple,

We write collectively to express our dissatisfaction with the editorial Christianity Today published on Thursday, December 19, 2019 calling for the removal of our duly elected President, who was put into office at the behest of over sixty million voters.  

It was astonishing to us that your editor-in-chief, Mark Galli, further offensively dismissed our point of view on CNN by saying, “Christianity Today is not read by the people – Christians on the far right, by evangelicals on the far right – so they’re going to be as dismissive of the magazine as President Trump has shown to be.” It also came to our attention, that Mr. Galli has written other statements about Americans who chose Donald Trump over Secretary Clinton in 2016, referring to them as “These other evangelicals [who] often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs, and apparently most of them don’t, they are blue-collar jobs or entry level work” as he describes himself with pride as an “elite evangelical.”

Of course, it’s up to your publication to decide whether or not your magazine intends to be a voice of evangelicals like those represented by the signatories below, and it is up to us and those Evangelicals like us to decide if we should subscribe to, advertise in and read your publication online and in print, but historically, we have been your readers. 

We are, in fact, not “far-right” evangelicals as characterized by the author. 

Rather, we are Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel. We are not theocrats, and we recognize that our imperfect political system is a reflection of the fallen world within which we live, reliant upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is freely given to sinner and saint, alike. 

We are proud to be numbered among those in history who, like Jesus, have been pretentiously accused of having too much grace for tax collectors and sinners, and we take deeply our personal responsibility to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s — our public service. 

The editorial you published, without any meaningful and immediate regard for dissenting points of view, not only supported the entirely-partisan, legally-dubious, and politically-motivated impeachment but went even further, calling for Donald Trump not to be elected again in 2020 when he certainly survives impeachment. 

As one of our signatories said to the press, “I hope Christianity Today will now tell us who they will support for president among the 2020 Democrat field?” 

Your editorial offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens-of-millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations. 

It not only targeted our President; it also targeted those of us who support him, and have supported you. 

Sincerely,

Lourdes Aguirre 
President 
United Marketing Solutions

Stephen Alessi
Pastor
Metro Life Church

Chuck Allen 
Pastor
Sugar Hill Church

Rev. Rick Amato
Dream Believe Institute 
Wellington , FL

Doug Anderson
Pastor
Rose Heights Church

Michele Bachmann
US House of Representatives 
Fmr. Member, Minnesota 

Marty Baker
Pastor 
Steven’s Creek Church

Rev. Wesley Baldwin, PhD
Lead Pastor 
Aloma Church

Luke Barnett
Pastor
Dream City Church 

Tommy Barnett 
Pastor
Dream City Church

Gary Bauer
President
American Values

Henry Becarra 
Pastor
City Church International

Steve Berger 
Pastor
Grace Chapel – Nashville

Gary W. Blackard
President & CEO
Adult & Teen Challenge USA

Paul Blair
Fairview Baptist Church
Liberty Pastors Network

John Blanchard 
Pastor
Rock Church International 

Bill Bolin
Pastor
Floodgate Church

Ryan Bomberger
Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer
The Radiance Foundation

Mario Bramnick
President 
Latino Coalition for Israel 

Josh Brown
Founder & CEO
SoulHeart.co

Dr. Daniel Caamaño
President 
Alma Vision Radio and Television 

Paula White Cain
Paula White Ministries
Pastor, City of Destiny

Chris Cambas
CEO Relationscape 
Founder / Chairman of Board Full Circle

Anita Christopher 
President
West Michigan Prayer Center 

Barry Clardy
Pastor
Princeton Pike Church of God

Dr. Tim Clinton
President
American Association of Christian Counselors

Bishop Kelvin L. Cobaris
Cobaris Ministries International

Paul Cole
Christian Men’s Network 

Cynthia Collins 
Founder, SpeakHope.net
Global Advisor, OperationOutcry 

Jack Countryman
Vice President & Publisher Emeritus
Ministry Development
Harper Collins

David Aaron Crabb
Pastor
Restoring Hope Church

Brad Dacus
Pacific Justice Institute 

Dr.Jimmy L. De La O DDiv. 
Founding Senior Pastor 
Iglesia Cristiana Nuevo Pacto

Apostle Alberto Delgado
Senior Pastor
Alpha and Omega

Rachel Dennis
Awaken The Dawn

Dr. James Dobson
President
James Dobson Family Institute

Dave Donaldson 
Co-founder and Chairman
CityServe International 

Greg Dumas 
Pastor
The Crossing Church

Dr. Kirk Elliott
Founder
Veribella Foundation 

Jenna Ellis
Constitutional Law Attorney

Al Elmore
Senior Pastor
Lima Baptist Temple

Jerry Falwell Jr. 
President
Liberty University 

Joey Fine
Pastor
Seasons Church 

Dan Fisher
Pastor
Fairview Baptist Church

Jentezen Franklin
Senior Pastor
Free Chapel 

Jim Franklin
Pastor 
Cornerstone Church

Dr. Gary D. Frazier, 
President
Discovery Missions International 

Dr. Day Gardner
President
National Black Pro-Life Union

Brian Gallardo
Pastor
LifeGate Church

Jim Garlow
Founder
Well Versed

Rosemary Schindler Garlow
Schindlers Ark

Dr. Nick Garza
NHCLC Board member 
Sacramento, CA

James Gildwell
Pastor
Amazing Grace Baptist Fellowship 

Bishop Anne Gimenez 
Rock Ministerial Fellowship

Jack Graham
Senior Pastor
Prestonwood Baptist Church

Brad Graves
Senior Pastor
Ada First Baptist Church 

Danny Gokey 
Contemporary Christian Artist

Paul Marc Goulet 
Pastor
International Church of Las Vegas 

Rev. Mark Gurley 
Director 
Michigan Oak Initiative

Ken Gurley
Vice President/Director of Operations
National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference.

Jon & Jolene Hamill 
President
Lamplighter Ministries 

Dr. Frank Harber, Ph.D., J.D.
President
The Institute for Christian Defense

Len Harper
Pastor
Overflow Church

Mike Hayes
Founder/President 
Center for National Renewal

Skip Heitzig 
Pastor
Calvary Church of Albuquerque

Randall Hekman
Director 
Grand Awakening Prayer

Jim Henry 
Pastor Emeritus FBC Orlando 
Former SBC President 

Robert Herber
Pastor
All Peoples Church

Jack Hibbs
Pastor
Calvary Chapel Chino Hills

Rev. Tim Hill 
General Overseer
Church of God

Mark Hoover 
Lead Pastor 
NewSpring Church

Walter B. Hoye II
CEO
Issues4Life Foundation 

Lori Hoye 
CFO
Issues4Life Foundation 

Mike Huckabee
Honorary National Chairman
My Faith Votes

Shane Idleman 
Pastor
Westside Christian Fellowship

Bishop Harry Jackson
Pastor
Hope Christian Church 

Brian Jacobs
Pastor
Metroplex Family Church 

Dr. Mike & Cindy Jacobs
Founders 
Generals International

Phillip Jauregui 
Judicial Action Group

Dr. Thomas Jamieson 
Senior Pastor 
First Baptist Church of Mount Dora, FL

Obed Jauregui
Pastor, Betania Church 
President of MBCS 

Robert Jeffress
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Dallas

Brian & Jenn Johnson
Bethel Music 

Travis Johnson
Church of God Executive Council Member

Dr. Brad Jurkovich
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church Bossier City, LA

Troy Keaton
Pastor
EastLake Community Church

Becky Keenan
Pastor
President of One With Israel

Alveda King
Pastoral Associate, Priests for Life
Director, Civil Rights for the Unborn

Gary Kirouac
Tent America 

David Kubal 
CEO/President 
Intercessors for America 

Kelly Monroe Kullberg
Veritas Forum

Hank & Brenda Kunneman
Pastors
Lord of Hosts Church and One Voice Ministries

Greg Laurie
Senior Pastor
Harvest Christian Fellowship

Jerry Lawson
Pastor
Daystar Church

Todd Lamphere 
Pastor of Global Outreach
City of Destiny 

Chris Leader
Ignite Outreach

Greg Locke
Pastor 
Global Vision Bible Church

Frank López
Senior Pastor, Doral Church
VP of Hispanic Association of Pastors

Cissie Graham Lynch
Samaritans Purse

Apostle Guillermo Maldonado
President and Senior Pastor
King JESUS Ministries

Tim Martin
Pastor 
New Life Christian 

Victor Marx
President & CEO 
All Things Possible Ministries

Gregg Matte
Senior Pastor
Houston’s First Baptist Church

Bishop Joseph Mattera
Christ Covenant Coalition

Pastor Jurgen Matthesius
C3 Church San Diego
Overseer C3 Churches in the Americas

Bob McEwen
US House of Representatives 
Fmr. Member, Ohio

Dr. David H. McKinley
Pastor-Teacher
Warren Baptist Church 
Augusta GA 

Dr. Yolanda McCune
Director 
HAPN Kingdom Culture 

Rev. Dusty McLemore
Senior Pastor
Lindsay Lane Baptist Church

Barry Meguiar
President Meguiar’s, Inc, 
Founder, Revival Outside the Walls

Eric Metaxas
Author, Host 
Eric Metaxas Radio Show

Jonathan Miller
Pastor
New Beginnings Church

Morgan Mitchell
Director 
Grand Traverse House of Prayer 

Pastor Sergio De La Mora
Cornerstone Church

Kent Morgan
President 
Randall Bearings, Inc. 

Robert Morris 
Senior Pastor
Gateway Church 

Pastor Tom Mullins 
Senior Pastor
Christ Fellowship Florida 

Penny Nance
CEO and President 
Concerned Women for America

Rev. Dean Nelson 
Chairman of the Board
Frederick Douglass Foundation

Dr. Malachi O’Brien 
Former 2nd Vice President
Southern Baptist Convention 

Tim Oldfield
Pastor
Potters House Church 

Dr. Rod Parsley
Founder and Lead Pastor
World Harvest Church 
Founder and Chancellor Valor Christian College

Ramiro A. Peña
Pastor
Christ the King Church

Tony Perkins
President
Family Research Council 

Paul Pickern 
Executive Director
All Pro Pastors 

Chonda Pierce
Comedian 

Dr. Everett Piper 
Best Selling Author
Former University President

Dr. Anthony Ponceti
Director, South & Central America
All Pro Pastors International

Rob Price 
Associate Professor, Communication Arts
Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Ralph Reed 
President 
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Steve Riggle 
Pastor
Grace Church International

Rev. Dennis Rivera
Assemblies of God 
NHCLC executive committee

Ernie Rivera 
President 
Las Americas Evangelistic Association 

Marilyn Rivera
Pastor
President of Hispanic Association of Pastors

Juan Rivera
Executive Director
Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition 

Jeremy Roberts
Pastor
Thomasville Road Baptist Church

Wayne Roberts 
Pastor
Bethel Baptist Church

Gerald Rohn
Pastor
First Renaissance Community Church of Sterling Michigan

Dudley Rutherford 
Pastor
Shepherd of the Hills Church

Myles & Delana Rutherford 
Pastors 
Worship with Wonders Church

Dexter Sanders
Founder/President 
Back 2 God Movement 

Rick Scarborough 
Recover America Now

Tom Schlueter 
Texas Apostolic Prayer Network

Darrell & Belinda Scott 
Pastor
New Spirit Revival Center 

Tony Scott
Pastor
theChurch, Maumee

Mark Seppo 
Pastor
Vassar Victory Center

Scott Sheppard 
Pastor
Cornerstone Church

Danny Silk
President
Loving on Purpose

David Smith
Pastor
Oak Park Church

Ron Smith
Pastor 
FBC At The Villages

Ted Squires
CEO Squires Global

Dr. Jay Strack
Founder
Student Leadership University 

Mat Staver
Liberty Counsel

Darryl & Tracy Strawberry
Strawberry Ministries 

Pastor Tom Sterbens
New Hope Church

Tony Stewart
Pastor
Citylife Church 

Rev. Tony Suarez
Executive Vice President 
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference 

Lanny Swaim
Worship Artist

Michael Tait
Christian Music Artist

Zach Terry
Senior Pastor 
Fernandina Beach, First Baptist Church

Claude Thomas
Former Executive Director
GP3

David Tipton
Vice President
National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference.

LaNell Babbage-Torres
National Diversity Coalition

CT Townsend
Pastor
Victory Baptist Church

Pasqual Urrabazo
Pastor
International Church of Las Vegas 

Andre Van Mol, MD
Elder
Bethel Church

Kris Vallotton
Senior Associate Leader
Bethel Church

Dr. Gilberto Velez
Founder and Senior Pastor for Iglesia Cristiana Misericordia
Chairman of the Board for National Hispanic leadership Conference.

Anthony Verdugo, 
Founder and Executive Director
Christian Family Coalition (CFC) 

Wendell Vinson
Pastor
Canyon Hills Church

Judy Wade
Uniting Our Hearts

Kevin Wallace 
Pastor
Redemption to the Nations Church

Lance Wallnau
Lance Learning Group

Rick Warzywak 
Director 
Michigan Capitol House of Prayer

Wendy Waterson
Pastor
Sanctuary Ministries 

Edward Watts
Pastor
Gateway Hope Center 

Tom Winters 
Winters & King Associates

Ken Whitten
Pastor
Idlewild Baptist Church

George Wood
Chairman: World Assemblies of God Fellowship

Did Billy Graham Vote for Trump in 2016?

bf4b0-billy2band2bfranklin

After Mark Galli published his anti-Trump editorial at Christianity Today, Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, took to Facebook claiming that his father voted for Trump in 2016. Billy Graham founded Christianity Today in the 1950s.

John Schmalzbauer, the Blanche Gorman Strong Chair in Protestant Studies at Missouri State University, did some digging at the website of The North Carolina State Board of Elections. He recorded what he found on Twitter:

William “Billy” Franklin Graham Jr., the famous evangelist, father of Franklin Graham, and founder of Christianity Today, was born on November 7, 1918.  He was a registered Democrat.  This definitely looks like him.

 

So it looks like both a “William Franklin Graham” and a “Ruth Bell Graham” registered in 1968.  Ruth Bell Graham was the wife of the evangelist Billy Graham.  Montreat is the small North Carolina town where the Graham’s lived. It is in Buncombe County.

Schmalzbauer corrects the previous tweets that said “William Frank Graham”:

This information, of course, does not prove whether Billy Graham voted for Trump, but it does present some interesting context for Franklin’s statement about his father’s vote in 2016.

Is *First Things* a Populist Magazine?

FirstThingsCoverI check the First Things website every day and often link to pieces I find interesting.  But I stopped reading First Things regularly after Richard John Neahaus passed away. (I used to subscribe and read each issue cover-to-cover).

On Friday,  I responded to Carl Trueman’s piece at First Things suggesting that Mark Galli, the editor of Christianity Today, was an “elite” and “out of touch.” Read it here.

Last night I read a piece at The New York Post by First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz.  It is titled: “Elite Evangelicals once again belittle their pro-Trump co-religionists.”  Here is a taste:

Evangelicalism has always been a populist movement, and its piety has always been closely tied to suspicion of religious and political elites. Movements as various as circuit-riding Methodism, Bible-thumping Baptists and black churches all encouraged the very American idea that the common man knows best.

This populist energy helps explain evangelicalism’s broad appeal, but it causes problems for the evangelical leadership class. It makes the phrase “evangelical elite” almost a contradiction in terms, like “Bilderberg proletarian” or “blue-collar Aspen attendee.” Those evangelical leaders who are recognized as leaders by the evangelical base possess a populist streak. They tend to have gained prominence through electoral politics, mass media or entrepreneurial forms of evangelism — all activities that require a sense of the crowd and a common touch.

By contrast, evangelical leaders who have come up through established institutions tend to acquire the training and tastes of the wider American elite. They often disdain the religious and political populism of the base. Whatever their theological convictions may be, these elites have ceased to be evangelical in a sociological sense. And evangelicalism is more exactly defined sociologically than theologically.

Christianity Today is a case in point. Ask an editor there what she thinks about Israel, Trump, feminism or Fox News, and you will get a very different answer than you would from most American evangelicals. The magazine’s young contributors more ardently desire to freelance for The New Yorker than to appear on Tucker Carlson, despite the fact that their parents would be more impressed by the latter.

These people hold less sway among evangelicals than the editors of liberal publications do among their constituencies.

They also have functionally ceased to be evangelical. There is no dishonor in that. As a former evangelical-turned-Catholic, I am well aware of the drawbacks of the evangelical movement. But writers who trade on an evangelical identity that they no longer really share ought to do the decent thing and admit it.

Read the rest here.

It’s late, and I still have grading to do, but I got some time last night to write a few tweets about this trend at First Things:

Again, I don’t read First Things regularly.  I have heard things about new editorial directions at the magazine and its new commitment to Christian nationalism.  If the magazine’s move toward populism is well-known among the conservative intellectual world, please forgive my ignorance.  I am just noticing this for the first time.

Maybe I am reading this the wrong way, but it seems like Schmitz is saying that once the people at Christianity Today (or some other evangelical institution) start thinking, they cease being evangelical.

Noll was a longtime contributing editor of Christianity Today. 

 

What Did Theologians and Ethicists Say About Bill Clinton’s Impeachment in 1998?

Impeachment trial

Today I was talking to a reporter about impeachment and recalled a statement issued in 1998 by prominent American theologians and ethicists.  A really interesting mix of evangelical and non-evangelical moral philosophers signed this statement.  I have copied it below.

Could we bring such a coalition of thinkers together today as we watch another POTUS  impeached?

Why are we not getting the same kind of ecumenical statements of moral clarity today?  Legal scholars have commented on the legality of the entire Trump impeachment affair.  Historians have weighed-in as well.  Where are the ethicists?  Here you go:

Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency

The following declaration can be found at moral-crisis.org, November 16, 1998

The following declaration can be found at moral-crisis.org

To be released on 13 November 1998

As scholars interested in religion and public life, we protest the manipulation of religion and the debasing of moral language in the discussion about presidential responsibility. We believe that serious misunderstandings of repentance and forgiveness are being exploited for political advantage. The resulting moral confusion is a threat to the integrity of American religion and to the foundations of a civil society. In the conviction that politics and morality cannot be separated, we consider the current crisis to be a critical moment in the life of our country and, therefore, offer the following points for consideration:

1. Many of us worry about the political misuse of religion and religious symbols even as we endorse the public mission of our churches, synagogues, and mosques. In particular we are concerned about the distortion that can come by association with presidential power in events like the Presidential Prayer Breakfast on September 11. We fear the religious community is in danger of being called upon to provide authentication for a politically motivated and incomplete repentance that seeks to avert serious consequences for wrongful acts. While we affirm that pastoral counseling sessions are an appropriate, confidential arena to address these issues, we fear that announcing such meetings to convince the public of the President’s sincerity compromises the integrity of religion.

2. We challenge the widespread assumption that forgiveness relieves a person of further responsibility and serious consequences. We are convinced that forgiveness is a relational term that does not function easily within the sphere of constitutional accountability. A wronged party chooses forgiveness instead of revenge and antagonism, but this does not relieve the wrong-doer of consequences. When the President continues to deny any liability for the sins he has confessed, this suggests that the public display of repentance was intended to avoid political disfavor.

3. We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

4. We are concerned about the impact of this crisis on our children and on our students. Some of them feel betrayed by a President in whom they set their hopes while others are troubled by his misuse of others, by which many in the administration, the political system, and the media were implicated in patterns of deceit and abuse. Neither our students nor we demand perfection. Many of us believe that extreme dangers sometimes require a political leader to engage in morally problematic actions. But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. The widespread desire to “get this behind us” does not take seriously enough the nature of transgressions and their social effects.

5. We urge the society as a whole to take account of the ethical commitments necessary for a civil society and to seek the integrity of both public and private morality. While partisan conflicts have usually dominated past debates over public morality, we now confront a much deeper crisis, whether the moral basis of the constitutional system itself will be lost. In the present impeachment discussions, we call for national courage in deliberation that avoids ideological division and engages the process as a constitutional and ethical imperative. We ask Congress to discharge its current duty in a manner mindful of its solemn constitutional and political responsibilities. Only in this way can the process serve the good of the nation as a whole and avoid further sensationalism.

6. While some of us think that a presidential resignation or impeachment would be appropriate and others envision less drastic consequences, we are all convinced that extended discussion about constitutional, ethical, and religious issues will be required to clarify the situation and to enable a wise decision to be made. We hope to provide an arena in which such discussion can occur in an atmosphere of scholarly integrity and civility without partisan bias.

The following scholars subscribe to the Declaration:

1. Paul J. Achtemeier (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

2. P. Mark Achtemeier (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

3. LeRoy Aden (Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia)

4. Diogenes Allen (Princeton Theological Seminary)

5. Joseph Alulis (North Park University)

6. Charles L. Bartow (Princeton Theological Seminary)

7. Donald G. Bloesch (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

8. Carl Braaten (Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology)

9. Manfred Brauch (Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary)

10. William P. Brown (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

11. Don S. Browning (University of Chicago)

12. Frederick S. Carney (Southern Methodist University)

13. Ellen T. Charry (Princeton Theological Seminary)

14. Karl Paul Donfried (Smith College)

15. Richard Drummond (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

16. Jean Bethke Elshtain (University of Chicago)

17. Edward E. Ericson, Jr. (Calvin College)

18. Gabriel Fackre (Andover Newton Theological School)

19. Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

20. Joel B. Green (Asbury Theological Seminary)

21. Robert H. Gundry (Westmont College)

22. Scott J. Hafemann (Wheaton College)

23. Roy A. Harrisville (Luther Theological Seminary)

24. Stanley M. Hauerwas (Duke University)

25. Gerald F. Hawthorne (Wheaton College)

26. S. Mark Heim (Andover Newton Theological School)

27. Frank Witt Hughes (Codrington College)

28. Robert Imbelli (Boston College)

29. Robert Jenson (Center for Theological Inquiry)

30. Robert Jewett (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

31. Jack Dean Kingsbury (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

32. Paul Koptak (North Park Theological Seminary)

33. John S. Lawrence (Morningside College)

34. Walter Liefeld (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

35. Troy Martin (Saint Xavier University)

36. James L. Mays (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

37. S. Dean McBride (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

38. Sheila E. McGinn (John Carroll University)

39. John R. McRay (Wheaton College)

40. Robert Meye (Fuller Theological Seminary)

41. David Moessner (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

42. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

43. Carroll D. Osburn (Abilene Christian University)

44. William A. Pannell (Fuller Theological Seminary)

45. Jon Paulien (Andrews University)

46. John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist Church)

47. Stephen Pope (Boston College)

48. J. E. Powers (Hope College

49. Mark Reasoner (Bethel College),

50. John Reumann (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia)

51. David Rhoads (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago)

52. W. Larry Richards (Andrews University)

53. Daniel E. Ritchie (Bethel College)

54. Joel Samuels (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

55. David Scholer (Fuller Theological Seminary)

56. Keith Norman Schoville (University of Wisconsin)

57. J. Julius Scott (Wheaton College)

58. Mark Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

59. Christopher R. Seitz (St. Andrews University)

60. Klyne Snodgrass (North Park Theological Seminary)

61. Max Stackhouse (Princeton Theological Seminary)

62. W. Richard Stegner (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

63. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

64. R. Franklin Terry (Morningside College)

65. David Tiede (Luther Theological Seminary)

66. Reinder Van Til (Eerdmans Publishing Company)

67. Warren Wade (North Park University)

68. J. Ross Wagner (Princeton Theological Seminary)

69. David H. Wallace (American Baptist Seminary of the West)

70. Timothy P. Weber (Northern Baptist Theological Seminary)

71. Merold Westphal (Fordham University)

72. Jonathan R. Wilson (Westmont College)

73. Edward and Anne Wimberly (Interdenominational Theological Center)

74. Harry Yeide (George Washington University)

A Former Evangelical on Evangelicalism

 

Adam Kotsko is a 39-year-old theologian, a graduate of an evangelical college (Olivet Nazarene College in Illinois), and a former evangelical.   Check out his N+1 magazine piece on growing-up evangelical.  It’s a great piece.  Here is the paragraph that resonated with me the most:

 

FROM A CERTAIN PERSPECTIVE, you could say that my experience in the evangelical movement was damaging. I have spent a lot of time wishing things had gone differently—that my parents had never been “called” to our church, that I had found the courage to quit youth group earlier, that I hadn’t chosen an evangelical college. But at this point, asking to undo all that damage would mean asking to become a different person. I have always had and will always have an evangelical mind, even if I have found a new and unanticipated use for it. Evangelicalism gave me my desire for integrity and authenticity, my sense that my life should be filled with mission and purpose, even my intellectual curiosity. It gave me all the desires that continue to shape my life, even if the movement itself systematically refused to fulfill any of them.

Read the entire piece here.

The Number of Court Evangelicals is Growing

Worship Leaders

Last week the number of court evangelicals increased dramatically as the White House invited evangelical worship leaders to meet Donald Trump.  Thanks to Dr. Andy Rowell, a professor at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, for identifying some of the worship leaders who appear with Trump in the above photo:

  1. Paula White-Cain (and husband Jonathan Cain met the night before Dec 5, 2019 at the White House with Trump supporters Jentezen FranklinMarcus LambJoni LambHarry Jackson)
  2. Brian Houston (Hillsong Church pastor) Instagram video and instagram of seanfeucht
  3. Kari Jobe (Carnes) (traveling worship leader, was at Gateway Church, Southlake TX, with Trump supporter, Pastor Robert Morris)
  4. Cody Carnes (traveling worship leader, was at Gateway Church, Southlake TX, with Trump supporter, Pastor Robert Morris) Instagram video
  5. Brian Johnson (President of Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram of seanfeucht (His father, Bethel Church pastor, Bill Johnson voted for Trump).
  6. Jenn Johnson (co-founder Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  7. Britt Nicole (traveling singer)
  8. Sean Feucht (Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram group photo and another photo and video
  9. Stephen James Hart (Visual Worship Leader, Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram group shot.
  10. Luke Hendrickson (Mixing engineer, Bethel Church, Redding, CA) Instagram group shot.
  11. Heather Armstrong (photography, Redding, CA)
  12. Kiley Goodpasture (Project Manager, Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  13. Dominic Shahbon (Director of Events, Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  14. Allison & Antonio Marin (Strings players, Northern CA)
  15. Jeremy Edwardson (Music producer, Redding CA)
  16. David Funk (Worship leader – Gable Price and Friends, Redding, CA)
  17. Chris Quilala (Jesus Culture, Sacramento, CA)
  18. Joseph Zwanziger (The Father’s House, Vacaville, CA) Instagram group shot.
  19. Tosha Zwanziger 
  20. Terry Crist (Lead Pastor, Hillsong Phoenix) (Not 100% sure he was there)
  21. Michael Stampley (Worship leader, GA)
  22. Heidi Stampley
  23. Micah Stampley
  24. Trent Cory (Hope City United Church, Albany, GA)
  25. Keisha Cory 
  26. Myles Rutherford (co-pastors, Worship with Wonders, Marietta, GA) and group shot
  27. DeLana Rutherford 
  28. David Brinson (Senior Pastor, Eighth Day Church, Warner Robins, GA who worked with Paula White)
  29. & son Rafael Brinson 
  30. Tim Brinson (Worship Leader, SC and GA)
  31. (Jonathan) Ernstly Etienne, Worship Director, Free Chapel, Gainesville, GA (associated with Trump supporter, Pastor Jentezen Franklin)
  32. Hillary Harper Etienne
  33. Eddie James (traveling worship leaders, Ocoee, TN) Instagram group shot.
  34. David Binion (Dwell Church, Fairview, TX)
  35. Nicole Binion (not 100% sure if she was there – photo)
  36. Nayomi Thomas (worship leaders, Raymore, MO)
  37. & Jaye Thomas 
  38. Bryn Waddell, Charlotte, NC.
  39. Two women from New Wine Music. selfie. (associated with Trump supporter, Pastor Guillermo Maldonado of El Rey Jesús, in Miami, FL). 
  40. Jonathan Williams, photographer

These Nashville worship leaders loved it:

I think former Christianity Today managing editor and evangelical writer Katelyn Beaty sums it up pretty well:

Here is what I wrote about power in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

The court evangelicals have been shown “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matt 4:8-10); but, unlike Jesus in his encounter with the Tempter, they have gladly embraced them.  Evangelicals claim to follow a Savior who relinquished worldly power–even to the point of giving his life. Yet they continue to place their hope in political candidates as a means of advancing an agenda that confuses the kingdom of God with the United States of America.  Evangelicals often decry the idea of “separation of church and state” (although as we will see in chapter 2, they have not always thought this way), but this constitutional principle has always served as a safeguard to protect the church from the temptations that come with worldly power.  Political scientist Glenn Tinder says that power is a “morally problematic” idea because it almost always induces “others to serve one’s own purposes.”  In the sense that political power objectifies other human beings, it is a “degraded relationship if judged by the standards of love.”  Political power does not have to result in immoral ends, but it nearly always does due to the fallenness of human beings and brokenness of a world stained by sin.  Humility, on the other hand, is always centered on the cross of Jesus Christ, a political act that ushered in a new kind of political entity–the kingdom of God.  Humility thus requires listening, debate, conversation, and dialogue that respects the dignity of all God’s human creation.  What would it take to replace the pursuit of power with humility?

Here is Rowell:

It is entirely appropriate to pray for a president. The problem is if the powerful person “receiving prayer” is primarily using the pray-er to reach their constituency on his behalf. In other words, there likely was not an opportunity to speak truth to power to President Trump. But rather, the strategy is to sell these worship leaders (who have big Instagram followings) with a one-sided “Look at what Trump is doing for evangelicals!” so that they then turn and communicate to their fans: “President Trump and his administration are people passionate about worship and prayer, just like you! And therefore, you should defend President Trump and try to see the good in what he does. And you should vote for him!”

It is of course initially exciting to get an offer to visit the White House and pray for President Trump and disappointing when people criticize you for leading worship (!), but it should be sobering to realize that you are being used to boost President Trump’s popularity. President Trump is in the midst of an impeachment proceeding because of his own misbehavior—because he ignored all advice about Ukraine from his foreign policy advisers. Moreover, on Dec 4, he slashed access to food assistance to 700,000 Americans. And his work on human trafficking is exaggerated. Yes, evangelicals vote Republican for “pro-life” but the abortion rate has been falling fast especially in Democratic administrations due to more access to contraceptives. It is fine to worry about the excesses of a Democratic administration with regard to religious freedom or other issues, but it is another thing to be part of an operation that is focused on promoting President Trump. Moreover, Paula White-Cain, who organized the gathering, is not a model of financial and moral integrity

Read his entire post here.

“Who is an Evangelical?”: Thomas Kidd on NPR

Kidd who isI was listening to National Public Radio on my drive to Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday and somewhere around Ann Arbor I heard Baylor historian Thomas Kidd talking about the definition of the word “evangelical.”  Kidd, of course, was discussing his new book Who Is an Evangelical: The History of a Movement in Crisis.

Here is a taste of what I heard:

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We’ve reached the point in the media where the word evangelical has lost a lot of its original meaning. Author Thomas Kidd points this out in his new book “Who Is An Evangelical?”

THOMAS KIDD: I think it is a sign of the politicization of evangelicalism that people who, say, don’t go to church would still be willing to say that they’re an evangelical. I think that signals that somehow, evangelical now is a fundamentally political term.

CORNISH: Thomas Kidd says prior to the mid-’70s, there wasn’t a box to check. But it was shortly after pollsters started actually asking voters about their religious affiliation that we saw the coalescing of a powerful political voting bloc.

KIDD: The transition moment has to be 1976…

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: My name is Jimmy Carter, and I’m running for president.

(APPLAUSE)

KIDD: …When one of the major parties nominates an outspoken evangelical, Jimmy Carter, for the Democrats…

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: All of us – our individual fates are linked.

KIDD: …As the presidential candidate and obviously eventually became president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: In that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

KIDD: And one of the most important developments that comes associated with that is that 1976 is the first year that the Gallup organization begins polling about whether people are evangelicals or born again. And it’s often not being asked about whether you’re an evangelical to see what your spiritual beliefs and practices are but to determine what your political behavior is.

Read or listen here.

H.L. Mencken and Michael Gerson?

mencken (1)

I never thought of putting these two writers together, and I am not sure they belong together, but Martin Longman tries to make some connections between Mencken’s response to William Jennings Bryan and Gerson’s response to Trump.  Here is a taste of his piece at Washington Monthly:

The main difference between Gerson and Mencken’s takes is that Gerson blames the evangelicals for following Trump while Mencken emphasized Bryan’s efforts to lead them. But, in both cases, the evangelicals were easy to lead.

Mencken remarked of Dayton’s citizenry that “this is a strictly Christian community, and such is its notion of fairness, justice and due process of law” and “what Bryan says [against the theory of evolution] doesn’t seem to these congenial Baptists and Methodists to be argument; it seems to be a mere graceful statement to the obvious….”  It’s hard not to hear the echo in Gerson’s words: “American evangelicals are significantly crueler…than the national norm…they have become involved in a political throuple with Trump and Fox News, in which each feeds the grievances and conspiracy thinking of the others. The result has properly been called cultlike. For many followers, Trump has defined an alternative, insular universe of facts and values that only marginally resembles our own.”

Mencken believed that the leading citizens of Dayton hoped that the trial would revitalize their town which had been losing population over the preceding couple of decades; “It is believed that settlers will be attracted to the town as to some refuge from the atheism of the great urban Sodoms and Gomorrah.” But what is Fox News but this exact kind of refuge?

Nearly a century has passed since the Scopes Trial and most things have changed in dramatic ways. For one, towns like Dayton, Tennessee are less likely to be as idyllic as Mencken described:

It would be hard to imagine a more moral town than Dayton. If it has any bootleggers, no visitor has heard of them. Ten minutes after I arrived a leading citizen offered me a drink made up half of white mule and half of coca cola, but he seems to have been simply indulging himself in a naughty gesture. No fancy woman has been seen in the town since the end of the McKinley administration. There is no gambling. There is no place to dance. The relatively wicked, when they would indulge themselves, go to Robinson’s drug store and debate theology….

Today, these towns are shells of their former selves, with opioid addiction more the norm than debates about theology.  In this limited sense, Gerson may be onto something when he argues that there has been a lowering of standards and moral leadership within the evangelical community. But the grievances and conspiracy thinking remain largely the same. The contempt for “fairness, justice and due process of law” is the same. The desire to be free of “the atheism of the great urban Sodoms and Gomorrah” is unchanged. The  “alternative, insular universe of facts and values that only marginally resembles our own” is only enhanced and weaponized by conservative media and a Republican Party that feed and rely upon it.

Read the entire piece here.

Please, Let’s Stop the “Trump’s Evangelical Base is Fracturing” Articles. It’s Not Going to Happen

Trump Beleive me

A few evangelical leaders were not happy when Trump pulled out of Syria.  Most of them, however, have made peace with the decision.  Court evangelical Franklin Graham, who originally opposed the move, now says that he respects Trump’s decision and won’t “second-guess” him on Syria. Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr. have been silent.  Tony “Mulligan” Perkins spoke out against the remove of American troops from Syria, but he has been pretty quiet since Trump went to the Values Voter Summit and promised $50 million in aid to Syrian Christians.

Would Trump evangelicals like to see the president to do more for the Kurds? Of course.  But Trump’s policy in Syria will have very little bearing on white evangelical support for the president.  Why?

  1. Most evangelicals do not see foreign policy as a primary issue informing how they will vote.  Many rank and file evangelicals are not closely following developments in Syria.
  2. Most evangelicals will stick with Trump as long as he remains strong on conservative Supreme Court nominations, opposition to abortion, and religious liberty for American evangelicals.  As I told NPR’s The Takeaway last week, religious liberty for Christians in the Middle East is a tertiary issue at best.
  3. There is no Democratic candidate right now who will attract 2016 Trump voters in large numbers.

Yesterday, I told all of this to Politico reporter Gabby Orr.  Here is her piece.  None of what I said made the cut.  I am guessing that my thoughts did not fit well with her focus on the potential break-up of Trump’s evangelical base.

The issue here is not whether the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals will vote for Trump in 2020.  They will.  (Assuming, of course,  that he survives impeachment in the Senate). The issue is whether impeachment, Trump’s behavior over the last four years, and, to a much lesser extent, Syria will prompt just enough (maybe 5-10%?) white evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 to vote for a Democrat, a third candidate, or not vote at all in 2020.  Orr’s reporting seems to suggest that the Trump campaign is aware of this.  She writes:

“If he’s going to win in 2020,” said the longtime Trump friend, “he has to be north of the 81 percent [of white evangelicals] he won in 2016. I’m not suggesting that the polling is all of a sudden going to show that his support is plummeting because of Syria. But if it stays stagnant, he’s a one-term president.”

Just like in 2016, Trump’s opponent will make all the difference.  If it is Joe Biden, evangelicals may feel more comfortable voting third party or not voting at all.  Perhaps some will even vote for Biden.  But if it is Warren or Sanders, expect most white evangelical 2016 Trump voters to reject the progressivism of these New England candidates and vote for Trump.

David French: “These Evangelicals are just Trumpists now”

I agree with David French here:

I think French is referring to this recent PRRI survey.

Emma Green provides some context at The Atlantic.

Episode 56: Evangelicals and Oil

PodcastWho knew that evangelical Christianity and the emergence of the American oil industry were so intimately linked? In this episode, host John Fea explores what it means to be an evangelical and whether scholarly debates over the term help us to better understand the role played by evangelicals throughout American history. He is joined by Notre Dame historian Darren Dochuk, who discusses his new book, Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America.