Trump Will Speak at the Value Voters Summit on Saturday

Trump evangelical

Christian Broadcasting Network has the scoop.  Trump will join the following speakers at the Omni Shoreham Hotel: Gary Bauer, Bill Bennett, Sam Brownback, Sebastian Gorka, Dana Loesch, Mark Meadows, Eric Metaxas, Oliver North, Tony “Mulligan” Perkins, Dennis Prager, Steve Scalise, and Todd Starnes.

I was also interested to see that David Muselman, a student at evangelical Taylor University, will speak.  He defended Mike Pence’s visit to Taylor last May.

There are also a host of breakout sessions and breakfasts:

  • Columbia International University, an evangelical Bible school (formerly Columbia Bible College), will host a breakfast on Friday morning.  Speakers at this event will include CIU president Mark Smith and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.  You may recall that Smith was recently accused of covering-up his son’s sexual harassment when he was president of Ohio Christian University.  I have never known Columbia International University to be a such a politicized institution.  Smith appears to have taken it in this direction.
  • Todd Starnes will sign copies of his recent book in the wake of his firing from Fox News.
  • Other sessions include: “Speech, Sex, and Silenced Parents: The Darkening Landscape of American Education;” “Two Paths to Becoming a Young Conservative Influencer;” “Why Christians Should Support Israel;” “The Progressive Assault on Christian Freedom of Conscience;” “How Conservatives Can Win in 2020.”  If future historians want to see how evangelical Christians have influenced the Republican Party and vice-versa, they should read the proceedings of these sessions.

2 final comments:

  1. This will be a court evangelical-fest
  2. The evangelicals who attend this will return home very afraid.

Where are the Court Evangelical Defenders of “Family Values” Today?

families

Getty Images

The Trump Administration separated 1000s of immigrant children from their parents.  If I am reading this article correctly, the administration does not know where these kids are located. They simply failed to write down where they sent them.  It will take up to two years to find them.

And where are the court evangelicals today?  They brag about unprecedented access to Trump.  Now is the time to use such access.  These men and women built their political careers around defending “family values.”  Why aren’t they lined-up at the White House door to demand that these families are reunited sooner?

Here is Tony Perkins, president of an organization called the FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:

Apparently Perkins’s “religiously informed values” do not bear on “public policy decisions” about reuniting families separated by Trump immigration policy.  It seems like this might be something an organization called the FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL may want to take up.

I wonder how Perkins would respond if these were white middle class families?

First Baptist-Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress spent his Sunday interviewing a guy from Duck Dynasty:

I am sure this interview focused on family separation. 😉

Gary Bauer, a former president of the Family Research Council, is using his Twitter feed to spew anti-immigrant rhetoric:

Former “Focus on the Family” host James Dobson is wondering what “love” looks like:

Eric Metaxas was on NPR earlier today wondering if the American Republic has “lost its way’:

These court evangelicals, if they really believe in family values, should be screaming from the rooftops today.  Sadly, it’s not going to happen.

Some Thoughts on James Dobson

Dad

My grandparents’ house in Montville (Taylortown), New Jersey, 1972.  My Dad is on the left.  I am standing by the car in the back.  The woman is my mother’s cousin.

I have been a critic of James Dobson for a long time.  I hit him pretty hard in my book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  I am no fan of his Christian nationalism, his culture-warrior approach to public life, or his court evangelicalism. My wife and I raised two strong and independent daughters who both describe themselves as feminists in the best sense of the word.  Unlike millions of our fellow evangelicals, we did not turn to Dobson for advice on how to raise them.  On marriage, we are not complementarians, as Dobson suggests we should be.

You can read my posts about James Dobson here.  Almost all of them are critical.

But history is complicated.  And Dobson’s influence is much more complex than the story that those of us who want to demonize him often tell.

Back in the early 1980s my father, a general contractor, son of Italian immigrants, and former Marine, converted to evangelical Christianity.   My entire family–myself included–soon followed him out of our white ethnic Catholicism and into a non-denominational Bible church.  My family’s conversion experience changed the direction of my family’s life.  My parents, my brothers, and my sister would be quick to agree with this statement.  Those who knew and continue to know our family would say the same thing.  I am sure extended family members would also agree.  My conversion changed the direction of my life.  As I have written elsewhere, I became an academic historian and a better and more thoughtful person because of, not in spite of, my born-again experience.

I think it’s fair to say that my father raised his children, especially his boys (my sister came later), with an iron fist.  He was tough on us.  He was a stern disciplinarian who could get angry easily.  He used corporal punishment on us, but I never thought he was abusive.  When he spanked us, we usually deserved it.  My Dad is now 77-years-old and I am sure he would agree with everything I just wrote.  He was a good Dad, but we also feared him.

When my Dad converted (I was in high school), his life changed.  Someone in our new church suggested that he read books by James Dobson.  My Dad was never much of a reader, but I remember Dobson’s books sitting next to his chair in our family room.  Since my Dad spent a lot of time during the day in his pick-up truck, he would listen to Dobson’s Focus on the Family programs as he drove between jobs.   James Dobson helped my Dad become a better father. Though I have never talked about this with my mother, I think she would say that he became a much better husband as well.  Our home became more loving, more peaceful, and more God-honoring.  We had a long way to go, but we were on the right track.

The point is this:  My Dad did not need James Dobson to teach him how to be a  masculine, authoritarian, patriarch.  He already knew how to do this and he was pretty good at it.  Dobson softened him.  He raised my younger sister very differently, partly as a result of Dobson’s advice.  He learned to love my Mom better because James Dobson spoke into his life through his books and his radio show.

I am sure there are thousands of stories like my Dad’s. Who will tell these stories?  Some might say Dobson taught evangelicals how to be patriarchal jerks who represent everything that is wrong with American evangelicalism.  And perhaps there is some truth to such a diagnosis.  But my mother, my sister, my brothers, and I have never seen it that way.

History is complex.

When Did Evangelicals Start Talking About Family Values?

QuakersOver at The Anxious Bench, David Swartz of Asbury University argues that “family values” is a relatively knew idea in American evangelicalism.   Here is a taste:

“Turning hearts toward home”—a phrase Dr. James Dobson has repeated so often over the last four decades that it sounds like scripture. It’s hard to believe now, but his unrelenting focus on the family would have been viewed as heretical by evangelicals a century and a half ago.

Indeed, revivalistic religion in the eighteenth century often tore families apart. As Christine Heyrman writes, “For those to whom Canaan’s language long remained an unintelligible tongue, the conversion of beloved relatives could lead to enduring emotional estrangement. Transformed by their newfound zeal, dutiful sons and daughters, affectionate siblings and spouses . . . [could become] remorseless, relentless, seemingly heartless in dealing with loved ones.”

The instinct to de-emphasize family continued in the nineteenth century. Methodist evangelist Phoebe Palmer suffered the death of two young children, and she interpreted these tragedies as divine discipline. “After my loved ones were snatched away,” she wrote in her journal in 1831, “I saw that I had concentrated my time and attentions far too exclusively, to the neglect of the religious activities demanded. Though painfully, learned, yet I trust the lesson has been fully apprehended. From henceforth, Jesus must and shall have the uppermost seat in my heart.” Palmer’s heart was sanctified at the moment it turned away from home.

Ironically, the nurture of family was first a mainline value. As historian Margaret Bendroth shows in her terrific book, Growing Up Protestant: Parents, Children and Mainline Churches (2002), white middle-class Protestants in the 1860s advocated for regular family devotions, recitations of the catechism, Bible memory, and careful attention to children’s dress and diet. Congregationalist minister Horace Bushnell wrote, “Dress your child for Christ if you will have him a Christian; bring everything, in the training, even of his body, to this one final aim, and it will be strange, if the Christian body you give him does not contain a Christian soul.”

Read the entire piece here.

I am not sure how Swartz is defining “evangelical” or “family values,” but certainly the seventeenth-century Puritans were quite concerned with family.  The nuclear family was part of their “values” system.  Or at least that is what Edmund Morgan taught us decades ago.

I would also argue, along with Barry Levy, that the modern middle-class family as we know it today had its roots in the Quakers of Pennsylvania.  As far as I know, Levy’s interpretation has not been challenged since he first published Quakers and the American Family in 1988.

And if a whole generation of women historians is correct, the Second Great Awakening had something to do with women’s role in preserving the family, preparing citizens of the republic, and the cultivating the domestic hearth.

As I argued in The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment, the real threat to eighteenth-century “family values” was mobility, ambition, and education.

We’re Right There With You Barack!

Barack,_Malia,_and_Sasha_Obama_at_the_2012_Democratic_Convention

Many of us know what this is like.  From The New York Times:

After Malia Obama went off to Harvard University last month, her father couldn’t hold back the tears.

Barack Obama described that moment on Monday in a speech for the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which was named for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s older son, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

The former president said some kind words about Beau and his parents, Joe and Jill Biden, before talking about the joys and sorrows of watching children grow up.

“For those of us who have daughters, it just happens fast,” Mr. Obama said in a video published by WDEL, a news outlet based in Wilmington, Del.

“I dropped off Malia at college, and I was saying to Joe and Jill that it was a little bit like open-heart surgery, and I was proud that I did not cry in front of her. But on the way back, the Secret Service was all looking straight ahead pretending they weren’t hearing me as I sniffled and blew my nose. It was rough.”

Read the entire piece here.

The Kelly Family Speaks!

I love this:

A professor was Skyping with the BBC and his kids unexpectedly entered the room. Academics and others went nuts trying to deconstruct this.  Some said this was an example of patriarchy.  Others thought Professor Kelly’s wife was the nanny.  Still others implied that Kelly was a bad father because he nudged his daughter away from the computer.

All of these interpretations assume way more about Kelly and his family than the context or evidence allowed.  Dare I say that this kind of deconstruction is part of the reason why so many people are growing tired of academics and other political pundits? Race, class, and gender are often helpful interpretive categories, but when every event is interpreted through these categories we academics can look silly.

Whatever the case, the Kelly family has weighed in, both in the video above and in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Here is a taste of that article:

Problematic live interviews can also have potential negative career consequences for those involved. Mr. Kelly and his wife immediately feared the worst, assuming that he wouldn’t be contacted again to appear on TV.

“We said to each other, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ ” Mr. Kelly, said, adding the blame was entirely on him for not locking the door.

He immediately wrote to the BBC to apologize, but within 15 minutes the broadcaster asked if it could put a clip of the interview on the internet. The couple initially declined, feeling uncomfortable that people might laugh at their children. But they were eventually persuaded that the video would show they were just a regular family.

Within a couple of hours, it became clear to them that the video would disrupt their lives. Mr. Kelly said his Twitter and Facebook notifications began going haywire as people shared the video online. The next day he put his phone in airplane mode as the number of emails and calls, many from journalists, became overwhelming.

The couple spent most of Saturday trying to decide how to handle the attention. Offers from major U.S. TV networks and media came flooding in. Some journalists tracked down Mr. Kelly’s parents in the east side of Cleveland to ask them about it.

“We stonewalled because we didn’t know what to do,” Mr. Kelly said.

In a video interview from home, Mr. Kelly’s son sat on his lap banging on his desk and computer keyboard while his 4-year-old daughter played rock, paper, scissors with her mother.

“He usually locks the door,” Ms. Kim said. “Most of the time they come back to me after they find the locked door. But they didn’t. And then I saw the door was open. It was chaos for me.”

Mr. Kelly describes his reaction as a mixture of surprise, embarrassment and amusement but also love and affection. The couple says they weren’t mad and didn’t scold the children. “I mean it was terribly cute,” Mr. Kelly said. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could… It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Kelly and his family plan to hold a press conference at his university to answer questions from the Korean media, which have a strong interest in the video. Most important to them is that people can laugh at the video as unvarnished but normal family life.

“Yes I was mortified, but I also want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me,” Mr. Kelly said.

“I made this minor mistake that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Read the entire article here.

The Author’s Corner with Seth Dowland

FamilyValuesSeth Dowland is Assistant Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University. This interview is based on his new book, Family Values and the Rise of the Christian Right: Politics and Culture in Modern America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

JF: What led you to write Family Values?

SD: Like many other scholars, I am fascinated by late-twentieth century political conservatism, and in particular by the role of evangelical Christians in the conservative movement. As I spent more and more time researching the history of the Christian right, I came to believe that the growing body of scholarship on evangelical conservatism (which includes many great books) was missing part of the story. In particular, I thought there was more to say about how “family values” politics spoke to evangelicals’ beliefs about gender roles and authority structures. 

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Family Values?

SD: During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Republican politicians and evangelical leaders developed a “pro-family” political agenda advocating for Christian schools, homeschooling, and masculine leadership, while opposing abortion rights, feminism, and gay rights. This agenda succeeded in national politics because it spoke to evangelicals’ belief that men and women were created to fulfill distinct gender roles, and that authority structures ought to govern a society that seemed on the brink of moral collapse at the end of the 1960s. 

JF: Why do we need to read Family Values?

SD: Each of the book’s eight chapters focuses on different stories in the history of pro-family politics: I wrote three chapters on education, a chapter each on feminism and abortion, and three chapters on the development of evangelical ideas about masculinity. Though the book generally follows a chronological trajectory, these chapters overlap in time, demonstrating the multiple origins of the late-twentieth century Christian right. Historians have tried to pinpoint the issue that caused the Christian right to coalesce, arguing that the movement started in response to Roe v. Wade, or as a result of threats to segregated Christian schools, or as an outgrowth of culture wars politics that reach back decades. Family Values shows that there’s no single origin story for the Christian right; the movement drew from several streams of American evangelicalism and emerged in response to a variety of issues, in a variety of places.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

SD: In a sense, I began the research for this book during my undergraduate years at the University of Virginia. My history thesis looked at the political career of Jerry Falwell, and I spent several happy days doing research for that thesis in the archives at Liberty University — days that helped convince me to get into the field of religious history. I am fascinated by the people I come across in archives, and I relish the challenge of making sense of their worlds. I’m also convinced that history’s emphasis on critical empathy is a desperately needed emphasis in contemporary American culture. We need to work on seeing the world through other people’s eyes, and on understanding the complexity of worlds unfamiliar to us. History helps in that pursuit.

JF: What is your next project?

SD: I am working on a history of Christian manhood from the 1880s to the present. Studies of “muscular Christianity” typically focus on the Progressive Era and then stop in 1920. I’d like to trace the ideas, institutions, and people who promoted muscular Christianity through the twentieth century. I’ve made several trips to YMCA archives in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Chicago, and I have a couple of essays from that research in various stages of completion. 

JF: Thanks, Seth!