How did the court evangelicals respond to last night’s debate?

They loved it, of course.

Let’s begin, one more time, with American religious historian Grant Wacker from his biography of Billy Graham:

The crucial point is that Graham continued to defend Nixon long after most Americans smelled a rat. When the first hint of something amiss came to light in 1972, Graham dismissed it as pettifogery.

As I noted in an earlier post today, Ralph Reed said he condemned Trump’s policy of separating children from parents. Tony Perkins, on the other hand, wants to talk about cages. Let me repeat that, there are 545 kids without parents and family values guy Tony Perkins want to talk about who built the cages.:

The oil industry pollutes. it is bad for the environment. Tony Perkins mocks alternative forms of energy:

You can tell Perkins is getting desperate. It’s late in the election and his guy is trailing. He is condemning Biden for not meeting with a North Korean murderer and dictator. This is really getting sad.

Perkins mocks mask-wearing and claims that Biden is the candidate who “covers things up.”

If Napp Nazworth’s reporting is correct, Johnnie Moore, the guy who claims to be a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is probably on the phone right now with The Christian Post asking them to do a piece on how Trump won the debate.

Like Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed tweets Biden’s view on fossil fuel and the oil industry as if reducing our reliance on these things is a bad thing:

The same goes for Charlie Kirk:

It seems like the court evangelicals are divided over the performance of moderator Kristen Welker:

I can no longer write about Robert Jeffress without thinking about his fellow court evangelical Richard Land’s line: “the most dangerous place in Texas to stand is between Jeffress and a television camera.” Expect Jeffress to repeat this tweet tonight on Fox News with Lou Dobbs:

And here is the Liberty University Falkirk Center crowd:

This weekend Charlie Kirk will be bringing this to an evangelical megachurch near you:

I am sure “Falkirk Fellow” Jenna Ellis will be pushing this narrative today on Fox News:

“No rational American believes this”:

No rational American believes this:

Again, these court evangelicals try to deflect from the fact that 545 kids are not with their parents by focusing on the construction of the cages. Where is the empathy and compassion among these evangelical Christians affiliated with Liberty University?:

I just wanted to get this on the record. It was tweeted at a moment when COVID-19 is surging again:

11 more days.

When the culture-war wing of your Christian university is named after a disgraced president and an internet troll…

How long will the administration of Liberty University allow its culture warrior wing, aka the Falkirk Center, to exist?

The Falkirk Center is named for two pro-Trump culture warriors: Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk.

We now know that Jerry Falwell Jr. has resigned from the presidency of Liberty in the midst of a sex scandal.

Charlie Kirk’s marketing firm was banned from Facebook after the social media site concluded that he is running a political “troll farm.” Twitter has locked his account for tweeting false political information about the election in Pennsylvania.

Samuel Avery-Quinn gets it right:

How long can Liberty claim to be a Christian university and still have a center named after these men?

Court evangelical Charlie Kirk is glad colleges are closed because “left-leaning students probably would not vote.”

An organization called the Council for National Policy held meetings in February and August to address issues related to the 2020 election. According to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, who obtained videos of these events, the following things happened:

  1. Court evangelical Charlie Kirk, the founder of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, was thrilled that college campuses are closed due to coronavirus since this means “left-leaning students probably would not vote.”
  2. Bill Walton (not the former NBA player), the president of this group, said in regard to the coming election: “This is a spiritual battle we are in. This is good versus evil. We have to do everything we can to win.” Indeed, everything and anything. After all, that’s what God would want.
  3. Tom Fitton, the president of an organization called Judicial Watch, claimed that Democrats were “war-gaming” a plan to delay the election results until January 20, 2021 so Nancy Pelosi could become acting president. More fearmongering.
  4. Fitton also tried to undermine the validity of mail-in ballots and it said this practice could lead to civil war.

Read the entire piece here.

Facebook bans court evangelical Charlie Kirk’s marketing firm for presiding over a “troll farm”

Readers of this blog will be familiar with Charlie Kirk, the Trump wonder boy who co-founded Liberty University’s Falkirk Center and is the president of an organization he co-founded called Turning Point USA.

The self-proclaimed evangelical Christian is known for tweets like this:

It now seems like Kirk and his gang have created fake pro-Trump accounts on Facebook.

Here is The Washington Post:

Facebook said Thursday that it will permanently ban from its platform an Arizona-based marketing firm running what experts described as a domestic “troll farm” following an investigation of the deceptive behavior prompted by a Washington Post article last month.

The firm, Rally Forge, was “working on behalf” of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, Facebook concluded. The inquiry led to the removal of 200 accounts and 55 pages on Facebook, as well as 76 Instagram accounts — many of them operated by teenagers in the Phoenix area.

The fake accounts, some with either cartoonlike Bitmoji profiles or images generated by artificial intelligence, complemented the real accounts of users involved in the effort, which largely entailed leaving comments sympathetic to President Trump and other conservative causes across social media.

Facebook stopped short of penalizing Turning Point USA or its president, Charlie Kirk, 26, saying it could not determine the extent to which the group’s leaders were aware of the specific violations carried out on their behalf, such as the use of fake accounts. Twitter also acted against the operation on Thursday, suspending 262 accounts involved in “platform manipulation and spam” — in addition to the several hundred accounts already removed last month following questions from The Post — but similarly did not boot Turning Point USA, a tax-exempt nonprofit group founded in 2012, or its affiliates from the online platform.

The decision not to punish the group financing the activity drew criticism from experts in disinformation, who said the limited action would signal to well-heeled organizations that they can get away with social media manipulation so long as they farm the operation out to vendors.

Read the rest here.

Kirk’s religion is essentially Trumpism. Yet he regularly speaks at evangelical megachurches on the weekends. For example, a Chattanooga church turned all of their weekend services over to Kirk. The same church is running a multi-week course on “Christian civics” A good place to start: don’t invite Charlie Kirk to your church.

More court evangelical responses to the first presidential debate

See my earlier post here. Here is the latest:

For reasons that are unclear to me, James Robison felt moved to tweet the First Amendment during the debate:

James Dobson on his Facebook page: “Consider this as you watch tonight’s debate.” The “this” is this.

Jack Graham spoke at an event sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Does this mean that last night Trump was fighting a battle for the Lord?

Graham said these words at a Faith and Freedom event that included Mike Pence:

“Whether America remains America.” What does this mean?:

On the day after the debate, Pence is standing alongside Trump. Of course he is:

Biden does not want to defund the police. But if the lie works, why not keep suggested that he will:

Actually, I think you can work for criminal justice reform and still be a racist. Last night is a perfect example.

Yes Jentezen, it just may be the most important election of our lifetime:

John Hagee is ready for the fight:

Gary “Character is Destiny” Bauer had a long statement on his Facebook page. Here it is:

I’m not at all surprised that the president was a little “hot” last night. I suspect that any of us would be eager to defend ourselves and set the record straight if we had been subjected to similar treatment. We would also be furious over what had been done to us.

My friends, don’t forget what President Trump has had to endure the last four years.

Many leftists refused to accept the results of the 2016 election.

The “resistance” rioted during his inauguration.

The Deep State spied on his campaign and undermined his presidency.

His friends and supporters have suffered all kinds of harassment, investigations and prosecutions.

Democrats impeached him over a phone call, and they are threatening to impeach him again.

The left has viciously smeared him time and again. (More on that below.)

Anyone so upset about the president’s style that they are thinking about not voting or voting third party needs to seriously think about whether their frustration with Trump outweighs their love for our country and our values.

Joe Biden is no moderate. And you don’t have to take my word for it. He is running on a platform written by Bernie Sanders and well to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Quick response:

  1. Whatever Trump has had to “endure” was of his own making.
  2. Bauer seems to be supporting Trump’s claim that he will not accept the election results if he loses.
  3. The Deep State is a useful conspiracy theory for people like Bauer.
  4. Trump did nothing wrong with his “perfect call” to the Ukraine
  5. Joe Biden is not a socialist or a man of the left and he made that clear multiple times last night in the debate.
  6. Nothing here about Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy.

This is a perfect example of how the Christian Right uses Twitter to spread misleading information without any larger context. This is why contextual thinking is absolutely essential if we want to restore democracy. Social media is destroying us and Charlie Kirk is contributing to this.

Jenna Ellis loves Rudy:

Unlike other conservatives, Jenna just can’t admit Trump blew it. Nope, this evangelical Christian and fellow at the Liberty University Falkirk Center is defending Trump:

She also retweeted Trump’s racist tweet about blacks coming into the suburbs:

33 more days

The court evangelicals get another chance to execute their political playbook

For many American evangelicals, Christian witness in the political sphere comes down to overturning Roe v. Wade. This is why the court evangelicals are so gleeful about Trump getting another Supreme Court nomination. This is also why they say virtually nothing about the president’s mishandling of COVID-19 (nearly 200,000 dead), his separation of families at the Mexican border, his environmental policies that will one day make the planet incapable of sustaining life, and his racism. Look for yourself. The silence is deafening. Start your research with these names:

Franklin Graham, James Robison, James Dobson, Jenetzen Franklin, Jack Graham, Paula White, Greg Laurie, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Johnnie Moore, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Jim Garlow, Jack Hibbs, Harry Jackson Jr., Luke Barnett, Richard Land, Jim Bakker, David Barton, Steve Strang, Samuel Rodriguez, Charlie Kirk, Lance Wallnau, and Jenna Ellis.

I imagine (again, I only imagine) that some of these people were on a conference call the moment Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. They no doubt started the session with prayer for the Ginsburg’s family and perhaps even threw-out a prayer or two for those suffering through COVID-19. And then, when the pleasantries were done, they got down to strategizing about how to best support the president’s forthcoming Supreme Court nomination and the most effective ways of spinning their 2016 claims that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee–Merrick Garland–did not deserve a hearing in the Senate because it was an election year.

As I wrote yesterday, Robert Jeffress said that COVID-19 is mere “background noise” now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead and Trump can appoint another conservative justice. Background noise? Tell that to the families who lost lives from COVID. What kind of world do we live in where a Christian pastor can say that the loss of 200,000 lives is unimportant and get virtually no push-back from his followers, all men and women who name the name of Jesus Christ?

Here is what the court evangelicals have been saying about the Supreme Court story:

Let’s start with Franklin Graham. Let’s remember that Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland about eight months before the 2016 election:

And now Graham says the country is at a “boiling point” and needs prayer. He has no clue that he is partly responsible for the divisions in the nation and the church.

Southern Baptist seminary president Al Mohler tries to defend Mitch McConnell’s decision to reject Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016. There is no reference to the Constitution or its interpretation. Mohler’s argument is weak, especially coming from a self-professed Constitutional originalist. I would like to see him defend this argument through a close reading of the Constitution as opposed to the weak reference to 1880 that he offers here. Mohler, who prides himself as an intellectual driven by logic, begins with the assumption that we need another conservative justice and then searches for an argument–any argument–to justify his political desires.

There is no doubt that President Trump will make a nomination to fill the vacancy, and there is now no doubt, thanks to a statement released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that the Senate will move forward on a confirmation process once the nomination is announced. Indeed, Senator McConnell stated, “In the last midterm election, before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018, because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Ecclesiastes 10:1. Interesting choice of verse by Tony Perkins:

Here is Gary Bauer. It’s all about the Christian Right playbook. He actually believes that overturning Roe v. Wade will end abortion in the United States. As long as he keeps sticking to this playbook, the lives of unborn babies will remain a political football.

Hey Ralph Reed, why weren’t you making this argument in 2016?

Charlie Kirk of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University does not even want hearings for Trump’s new justice:

Kirk criticizes Ilhan Omar for being a “starter of fires” fueled by religion and skin color. Hmm…

For many evangelicals the 2020 election represents a simple choice: Trump will defend the pro-life movement, Joe Biden is pro-choice; Trump promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who will challenge–perhaps even overturn —Roe v. Wade, and Joe Biden will not. When it comes to dealing with the problem of abortion, the court evangelicals have been reading from the same political playbook for more than four decades. It teaches them that the best way to bring an end to abortion in America is to elect the right president, who, in turn, will support the right justices. Thus far, things seem to be going well: not only has Trump appointed pro-life justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanuagh, but he has appointed dozens of conservative judges to federal district courts across the country. Now, he will most likely get to appoint another conservative justice.

Still, it is not exactly clear how this strategy will bring an end to abortion in America. Chief Justice John Roberts, himself a devout Catholic, has called Roe v. Wade “settled as the law of the land.” Amy Coney Barrett, who appears to be Trump’s top pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said publicly that it is likely Roe v. Wade will not be overturned.

And even if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, the issue will be sent back to the states. Abortion is very likely to remain legal in the so-called blue states, including California and New York, and illegal in many of the so-called red states, especially in the deep South.

State legislatures will need to decide how they will handle the abortion issue in the remaining states, but a significant number of them will probably allow abortion in some form. To put it simply, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America. It may curtail the number of abortions, but it will bring our culture no closer to welcoming the children who are born and supporting their mothers.

The taking of a human life in the womb via the practice of abortion is a horrific practice. Modern technology shows us that a baby in the womb, especially in the last trimester, is alive. Christians should be working hard to reduce the number of abortions that take place in the United States–even working to eliminate the practice entirely.

But we have been under Roe v. Wade for long enough that several generations of Americans now believe that they have a right to an abortion. Such a belief is not going to change anytime soon. Conservative evangelicals and other pro-life advocates spend billions of dollars to get the right candidates elected because they believe that the Supreme Court is the only way to solve the problem of abortion in our society. Yet, most of these conservatives oppose “big government” and want to address social concerns through churches and other institutions of civil society. Imagine if all the money spent to support pro-life candidates was poured into these institutions.

How did we get to this place. Learn more here:

Jeh Johnson speaks at Liberty University

Jeh Johnson was Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. Today he spoke to Liberty students about character and leadership. Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump, much of this speech was about Donald Trump (and perhaps Jerry Falwell Jr.) During the Q&A he tells campus pastor David Nasser that he believes racism is a systemic problem.

Watch:

Good leaders, Johnson argued:

  1. Tell people the truth
  2. Build consensus (and do not merely find consensus).
  3. Surround themselves with people willing to offer hard truths
  4. Never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. (Like separating immigrant children from their parents).
  5. Live by the Golden Rule

Click here for Politico‘s story on Johnson’s visit.

Two days earlier, campus pastor David Nasser spoke about race in America and on the Liberty campus. He still seems skeptical about systemic racism and believes that a religious revival will solve everything, but before you say he doesn’t go far enough, please try to understand his speech in context. Nasser is trying to address important issues and understands his audience. These are worthwhile steps. Nasser says he is getting some blow-back on campus for his efforts.

People on the Christian Right are noticing what Nasser is doing at Liberty and they are not happy about it. The right-wing Christian website Capstone Report is upset about a recent event on Liberty’s campus:

Here is a taste of the Capstone Report’s post:

According to the source, a Liberty University dean promoted a Christian study of the book The Heart of Racial Justice. The book study is an attempt to radicalize young nursing students in the Social Justice rhetoric, we were told by worried conservatives at Liberty.

The book promotes what are now common tropes among the Critical Race Theory-Intersectionality and Social Justice Wokevangelical movement. Namely, that American Evangelical Christianity is defective, individualistic and promoted evil power structures.

On page 209, the authors assert that the Christian West has used its power to preach an “individualistic gospel” over true forms of Christianity. Instead some type of communitarian form of Christianity is promoted and preferred.

And on pp. 88-89, the authors preach an anti-corporate message claiming that White Americans “must face what people of their ethnicity have done to others” and that “Western government and corporations are the world champions of spin doctoring and spin control” and that the West pursues economic and military conquest of others around the globe.

If this book were written in 1979 instead of 2009, everyone would recognize the Marxist roots of that critique.

The core of the book teaches white people enjoy white privilege and have exploited other people groups historically. There is no nuance in this view showing the historical reality that every people group in history has done something like the authors allege—it is what the pages of history continue to show—whether the Islamic invasion of Europe reversed only by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours or the vast invasion of the West by the Great Khans of the Steppes.

On the day (Thursday) between Nasser’s remarks and Johnson’s visit, the Falkirk Center, Liberty’s culture war wing and public voice, held a conference on campus. The folks at the Capstone Report sound just like what I heard yesterday at the Falkirk event. Liberty University is trying to address racism on campus, but their public image, as represented the Falkirk Center, remains the same. As might be expected, the university is in the midst of a post-Falwell identity crisis and we are seeing it all play out on YouTube and online.

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center meets all expectations at its “Get Louder” event

Yesterday, Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, the culture war wing of the largest Christian university in the world, held a 1-day conference titled “Get Louder: Faith Summit 2020.” Evangelical Trump supporters were encouraged to yell and scream more, fight more, and make sure that they were active on every social media platform. This is how the Kingdom of God will advance and Christian America will be saved because in the minds of the speakers, and probably most of those in attendance, there is little difference between the two. There was virtually nothing said about civility, humility, empathy, peace, compassion, the common good, or justice for people of color or the poor.

If there is any doubt that the Falkirk Center, with its angry and bitter political rhetoric and unswerving support of Donald Trump, represents Liberty University, those doubts were put to rest in the first fifteen minutes of the event. The day began with a video from the late Jerry Falwell Sr.:

This was followed by a welcome from Liberty University Provost Scott Hicks. Scott Lamb, Liberty’s Vice President for Communications, also welcomed the audience and praised the work of the Falkirk Center.

Falkirk Center director Ryan Helfenbein introduced the day’s festivities:

The first plenary speaker was former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He started-off with a real “historical” whopper:

Much of Huckabee’s speech confused identity politics with “collectivism.” It was an ideological mess. The real socialist collectivists in America are no fan of identity politics.

And it wouldn’t be a Huckabee speech without some fearmongering:

Huckabee is disappointed with students on “evangelical campuses”:

Next came Ralph Reed, one of the primary architects of the Christian Right playbook. Reed sings one note:

The “Great Awakening” was ubiquitous at this event:

We’ve written about the “Black-Robed Brigade here.

Falkirk Center’s co-founder Charlie Kirk’s pastor spoke:

A general observation about the day:

And then Eric Metaxas showed-up:

I compared this session on the “Christian mind” to Bruce Springsteen’s convocation address last night at another Christian college–Jesuit-run Boston College:

Next-up, court evangelical Greg Locke:

Next-up, the anti-social justice crowd:

At the end of a long day Eric Metaxas came back for a solo speech:

Please read my recent Religion News Service piece in this context of these texts.

Trump is having a rough week. What are the court evangelicals saying?

If you are following the news (or this blog), you know that:

  1. Multiple outlets, including Fox News, have confirmed that Trump disparaged American veterans. He called them “losers” and “suckers.”
  2. Trump knew about the “deadly” nature of the coronavirus as early as February 7, 2020 and did nothing about it. (And I am sure there will be more revelations in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book).
  3. According to Michael Cohen, Trump disparaged evangelicals, calling their beliefs “bulls–t.”

So what are Trump’s evangelical supporters–the men and women I call the “court evangelicals”–saying?

Some of the court evangelicals will be gathering at a Liberty University Falkirk Center event today. I will try to keep an eye on this.

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis is not going to read Woodward’s book. But I don’t think Woodward’s reporting will be something she can ignore. If I were her, I would jump off the Trump train right now:

Ms. Ellis will not be able to change the subject much longer:

When Donald Trump candidate is in trouble, court evangelicals start talking about abortion and the Supreme Court:

If abortion and the Supreme Court don’t work, court evangelicals can always retweet stuff about truth and ethics:

But let’s not pick-on Jenna Ellis too much. Let’s see what Liberty University’s Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk is up to.

Again, pivot to abortion:

If abortion doesn’t work, say something about Nancy Pelosi:

Or this:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody is always ready to tweet favorable things about Trump, but all he has for us today is a story about Biden and a Washington football team hat. Maybe he is on vacation. 🙂

There is a reason Trump released his Supreme Court list today. Ralph Reed is more than willing to help the president in his attempt at misirection:

The same goes for Johnnie Moore, the guy who touts himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Gary Bauer refuses to believe the reporting:

Tony Perkins, as expected, focuses on the Supreme Court:

Jack Graham too:

Graham also seems to reject the reporting on Trump’s disparaging marks about the military. He retweeted this:

This is what court evangelicals do. When every major news outlet (including Fox News) confirms a story that they don’t like about Donald Trump, they desperately search for a source from a Trump loyalist to prove them wrong.

Jentezen Franklin is distracting his followers with a different story:

I think it is fair to say that the court evangelicals, with a few notable exceptions, have been relatively silent this week. They don’t have much to say about Trump’s remarks on military veterans, Cohen’s allegations, and the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus.

Reforming Liberty University in the post-Falwell era should begin with the Falkirk Center

Here is a taste of my piece today at Religion News Service:

On Aug. 26, hundreds of students, wearing masks and properly distanced, gathered in Liberty University’s Williams Stadium for Campus Community, a weekly event that campus pastor David Nasser calls “one of the largest Bible studies in the world.”

It was the first Campus Community of the new academic year and Nasser did not avoid the elephant in the room (or, in this case, on the field). He directly addressed the resignation of former Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. after allegations that Falwell and his wife, Becki, had initiated a multiyear sexual affair with a Miami pool boy named Giancarlo Granda.

This moment that we’re in is a mess,” Nasser said, and “I am sorry.” He added, “Liberty is more than a college. … We are God’s college and as our founder (Jerry Falwell Sr.) always said, ‘If it’s Christian it ought to be better,’ certainly better than this.”

These were powerful, heartfelt words. It’s obvious that Nasser is a good man who wants to bring healing to the university he loves. Such healing starts with acknowledging Falwell Jr.’s sin and affirming a commitment to make Liberty, in Nasser’s words, a more “God-glorifying place.”

But for many onlookers, the problems at Liberty run much deeper than a sex scandal. If the university is serious about cleaning up the mess, it will need to take a hard look at the approach to Christianity and public life that the university’s leadership has championed for more than four decades. With Falwell Jr. gone, Liberty does indeed have a chance to be a “better,” more “God-glorifying place,” but it will require serious reforms. The first step should be to close its culture war “think tank,” the Falkirk Center.

Read the rest here.

I should also add that the Falkirk Center is having a big “Faith Summit” tomorrow called “Get Louder: Fighting for the Soul of America.” Speakers include Mike Huckabee, Eric Metaxas, Charlie Kirk, John MacArthur, and Jenna Ellis.

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.

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!

Monday in Trumpland

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It was a rough start to the week for the president. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, a Trump loyalist who is one of the few staff members who has not left the administration, announced that she is leaving her position. The resignation comes after Conway’s teenage daughter blasted her mother on Twitter and claimed that she was seeking emancipation from Kelly and her husband, GOP anti-Trumper George Conway. This is yet another tragic story of how Trumpism has negatively affected an American family. I wish the Conways well.

While the Conway story unfolded, we learned that Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Trump’s most loyal evangelical defenders, was involved in a sexual tryst that included his wife Becki and a Miami pool boy. Falwell Jr. resigned late last night, but this story is not going away. I am guessing we will know more when former Trump fixer Michael Cohen releases his tell-all book.

Trump continues his efforts to stop the use of mail-in ballots for the November elections. Watch Trump yesterday at the GOP convention in Charlotte as he accepts his party’s nomination. My “favorite” part of this off-script rant in the video below is when Trump claims that this is the “greatest scam in the history of politics, I think, and I’m talking beyond our nation.” Well, I am sure Hitler, Stalin, and others, wherever they are right now, are glad that they are off the hook as the worst political scammers in world history.

Almost all of what Trump says in this clip is either misleading or untrue. Meanwhile, Trump’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Postal Service should have no problem handling mail-in ballots.

And then came the evening session of the Republican National Convention. Over and over again we heard Trump’s supporters say that he cares about America and all Americans. Unfortunately, this entire first night seemed more like a Trump rally–a direct appeal to the president’s political base. There was very little effort to expand the Trump coalition. And anyone who suggests that Trump is for “all Americans” has had their head in the sand the last four years. He has demonized all his enemies–even dissenters within the Republican Party.

Court evangelical Charlie Kirk started off the night by claiming that Trump is the “bodyguard of Western Civilization” who will protect our families and neighborhoods from the “vengeful mob.” We should all be afraid. He also praised Trump for cultivating a “civil society” in the United States. But if the young court evangelical’s bombastic rhetoric is any indication, I am not sure if he understands the meaning of the phrase “civil society.”

At the beginning of his speech, Kirk identified himself as the leader of Turning Point USA. Why didn’t he mention his role as the founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center? Can there be a Falkirk Center now that Jerry Falwell Jr. is gone?

At one point, Kirk surprisingly acknowledged “the complexities of the past.” But there was nothing complex about his speech, nor do we see complexity in anything Kirk writes every day on his Twitter feed.

Here is Kirk’s idea of “complexity”:

 

And then there was this piece of COVID-19 revisionism. Pick it up at the 56:18 mark:

This video looks like something that might have run on state television in the Soviet bloc. There was a lot propaganda last night. This was the worst.

And let’s not forget the former Fox News host and Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. I haven’t seen anything like her speech since Howard Dean in 2004. Actually, Guilfoyle’s speech made Dean sound like an academic historian reading a paper at a professional conference.

Watch:

I doubt many people noticed, but former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker praised Donald Trump’s ownership of the New Jersey Generals, a team that was part of the short-lived United States Football League (USFL):

Walker said that when Trump became owner of the Generals in 1984 he “learned about the history of the team.” I am not sure what to make of this claim since the USFL and the  Generals were founded in 1983. But it is good to know that Donald Trump is such a sports historian.

There were really only a few speeches that could have been delivered at a non-Trump GOP convention. Two of them came from former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina governor Tim Scott.

The show continues tomorrow.

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.

Is encouraging “spiritual revival” the task of a university president? Thoughts on today’s Liberty University press release

Liberty_University_LaHaye_Student_Union_IMG_4121 (1)

Here is the press release:

On Friday, Aug. 21, the Board of Trustees held a special meeting and affirmed both the terms of Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s indefinite leave of absence and Acting President Jerry Prevo’s terms of employment.

The full Board unanimously ratified the directives previously issued by its Executive Committee for Falwell during his paid leave, including the directives that Falwell may not act as President, use any powers of the University president, and may not communicate with employees to manage, direct, or interfere with the operations of the University.  Falwell may be called upon by Prevo for consultation and background information.

The decision to vest all the powers of the University president in Prevo during Falwell’s indefinite leave of absence and approved the Acting President’s salary and benefits. Board members asked Prevo to use his time of Christian leadership to reset the spiritual focus and emphasis at the University and expressed support for the spiritual revival plans Prevo announced.

The decision whether or not to retain Falwell as President has not yet been made, and the Board requested prayer and patience as they seek the Lord’s will and also seek additional information for assessment.  The University and its Board members have decided to not publicly comment on the various rumors and claims about Falwell at this time.  Instead, the Board intends to use this time of leave to look into them as part of the process of determining what is in the best interest of Liberty University.  The Board and its Executive Committee contemplate this being a careful and deliberative process, but one that will yield a result that honors God and is befitting one of the largest Christian universities in the world.

The Executive Committee asked Falwell to go on an indefinite leave of absence on Aug. 7, to which he agreed.  While the full Board had previously been briefed by the Executive Committee on its actions, Friday was the first opportunity for a formal Board meeting to be held where business could be conducted.   The next scheduled Board meeting is Oct. 30.

The Board has “asked Prevo to use his time of Christian leadership to reset the spiritual focus and emphasis at the University and expressed support for the spiritual revival plans Prevo announced.” What does this mean? Is it possible to “announce” a spiritual revival?

The spiritual climate of a Christian college campus is always important. Jerry Falwell Jr. once said he plays no role in this dimension of Liberty campus life. But is encouraging “spiritual revival” the task of a university president?

Falwell Jr. was most concerned about building the sports program and using his platform to promote Donald Trump. Prevo wants to foster a “spiritual revival.” Neither of these Liberty University presidents seem to be concerned about building a strong and thriving academic institution.

Can Liberty University really be a place of spiritual revival when their most vocal spokespersons engage in gutter politics from their seats as Falkirk Center “fellows?”

If a spiritual revival leads to more Christian Trumpism, is it really a spiritual revival? Or is it something else?

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).

Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center has a Twitter meltdown while watching the DNC convention

Falkirk band

It got pretty ugly.

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is partially named after Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk:

Let me just re-iterate. There is a center at Liberty University named after the guy who wrote the above tweets. The Falkirk Center has a mission to “go on the offensive” against anyone who does not see the world in the same way it does. It looks like Charlie Kirk is fulfilling that mission. But is it Christian? Liberty University claims to be the largest Christian university in the world.

Let’s also remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

And as long as we are covering the Falkirk Center, I am curious about what happened to some of the original Falkirk Center fellows: Jaco Booyens, Antonia Okafor, and Josh Allan Murray. None of these people identify with the Falkirk Center any more. Does anyone know why?

 

The conservative evangelical defense of Jerry Falwell Jr. has begun

Strang and Falwell

Steve Strang (center) at Liberty Universit

Conservative evangelicals are coming to the defense of Jerry Falwell Jr. after the Liberty University Board of Trustees placed him on “indefinite leave.”

Eric Metaxas, a Christian radio talk show host and author who works for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, recently shared a pro-Falwell Jr. article on his Facebook page.

Now court evangelical Steven Strang, the editor of Charisma, a magazine and website with a huge following in the Pentecostal and charismatic world, has devoted a podcast episode to the Falwell Jr’s removal.

Listen here to the August 14, 2020  episode of The Strang Report.


Strang’s guest is John Wesley Reid, a former Liberty University employee and “writer and strategist” at the Falkirk Center. Reid is the author of a recent Christian Post piece titled “Dear Christians: They world saw Falwell’s sin, will they see your mercy?” In this piece, Reid asks Christians to treat Falwell Jr. fairly and stop reveling in his “sin.” Reid agrees with the Board’s decision to remove Falwell. He also believes that the Instagram photo of Falwell with his pants unzipped, holding a glass of wine, and with his arm around a young women’s waist, was “blown out of proportion.”

But Reid is a bit more nuanced in his conversation with Strang. He says that Falwell was asked to take an indefinite leave of absence “because of the picture and previous things.” Reid does not mention these previous things. He then says, “there’s really been nothing Jerry has done that in itself is super bad…nothing that was terrible, but just a bunch of things here or there….” According to Reid, none of the behavior on this list is “super bad” or “terrible” for the president of a Christian university. I think a lot of Christians would disagree with this claim.

Reid thinks that Falwell Jr. did not post the picture. He thinks it was posted by a member of Falwell Jr.’s staff. He also wants Falwell Jr. to run for Congress.

Strang manages to bring a defense of Trump’s behavior of Stormy Daniels into the conversation. “I believe he [Trump] didn’t do anything [with Daniels],” Strang says.

I like what Reid says about forgiveness and kindness. He is absolutely correct about how the things we do on social media hurt our Christian witness.  Yes, Mr. Reid, the “world is watching.” But it is very difficult to listen to a representative of the Falkirk Center lecturing us on these matters. Perhaps next Reid can write an article about the Twitter feeds and public pronunciations of Falkirk fellows Eric Metaxas, Sebastian Gorka, Charlie Kirk, and Jenna Ellis. Or maybe he can do a piece on how the evangelical embrace of Donald Trump has hurt the witness of evangelical Christianity.