Joe Biden is president-elect. What are the court evangelicals saying?

Yesterday the Electoral College made it official. Joe Biden is President-Elect of the United States.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is still tweeting about election fraud:

So now that the election is in the books, what are the court evangelicals saying? (Let’s also remember that some of these court evangelicals are coming off a very “big” weekend in Washington D.C.)

We begin by checking-in on the Liberty University Falkirk Center gang. They are the subject of a new Politico investigation.

Saturday afternoon’s Jericho March looked like an extension of Eric Metaxas’s radio program. He may be angling for a late-night talk show gig on Newsmax.

Yesterday he did his radio show from a hotel room in Washington D.C. because he was going to Mike Pence’s Christmas party. The Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow jokingly called the party a “super-spreader” event. Not funny.

Metaxas spent close to twenty minutes talking about his “music video and his role in the Jericho March on Saturday. We learned that the video’s lyrics were written by John Smirak, a writer at court evangelical James Robison’s blog The Stream. Metaxas described the video as both “funny” and “speaking the truth.”

Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis joined her Center colleague Sebastian Gorka on his radio show. Ellis said that the Supreme Court was wrong in their 9-0 decision to throw out the Texas election fraud case. Yes, you read that correctly. Jenna Ellis told the United States Supreme Court that it does not know how to interpret the Constitution.

She also said Congress will be engaging in a “false certification” on January 6 when it meets to certify the results of yesterday’s Electoral College vote. Ellis told a group of people she describes as “Trump delegates” to storm Washington D.C. and demand that their votes be counted.

Ellis remains optimistic:

And she is “completely dedicated to God and Country”:

Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, still doesn’t believe Biden won:

Lance Wallnau, who spoke on Saturday at the Jericho March, is attacking Beth Moore. But hey, at least he still thinks she is an “evangelical.” 🙂

“WIDE OPEN”:

Wallnau also has opinions on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Texas case. Yesterday, while wandering around Washington D.C. with his daughter, he blamed the Court’s refusal to take the case on Catholic justices. If Trump had appointed evangelical justices who were “time-tested spiritual warriors” things would have been different. I knew it would only be a matter of time before evangelicals played the anti-Catholic card on Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Barrett.

Over 250,000 people watched Wallnau’s video.

Here is Jack Hibbs yesterday on his Facebook page: “Turn off Fox News and CNN people because they’re not telling you the whole truth regarding today’s electoral college.” He then embedded this tweet from a former New York City police commissioner and convicted felon:

After the Supreme Court threw out the Texas lawsuit on Friday, Allen West, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, wrote:

The Supreme Court, in tossing the Texas lawsuit that was joined by seventeen states and 106 US congressman, has decreed that a state can take unconstitutional actions and violate its own election law. Resulting in damaging effects on other states that abide by the law, while the guilty state suffers no consequences. This decision establishes a precedent that says states can violate the US constitution and not be held accountable. This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic. Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”

Court evangelical Tony Perkins agreed with West’s call for a secession movement:

What was Paula White praying for last night?

Franklin Graham seems resigned to a Biden victory:

I would love to know what Johnny would say to Franklin today:

Some court evangelicals are still keep pushing the voter fraud narrative. Others are angry with Obama.

It is Thanksgiving. Yesterday Donald Trump’s legal team was in Gettysburg for an election fraud hearing. GOP state legislators hosted the event. The day included testimonies from Pennsylvanians who claimed to have witnessed voter fraud on November 3 and in the days following. Donald Trump called-in to the event. He said the 2020 election was “rigged” and claimed that he “won easily.” During the phone call he repeated false claim after false claim and conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory. He also invited these legislators to drive down to Washington to hang out with him.

Trump also issued his 2020 Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Despite Center for Disease Control recommendations, Trump told Americans to “gather” on Thanksgiving: “I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.” The proclamation also thanks “first responders, medical professionals, essential workers, [and] neighbors.” In other words, Trump is telling Americans to gather together and spread COVID and let the health care workers deal with it.

Court evangelicals are still complaining about things.

Jenna Ellis, a member of Trump’s legal team and a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, reminds us that Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano quoted Galatians 6:9 at the end of today’s hearing. (Earlier in the day he quoted John 8:36):

Ellis and Giuliani may really believe they are winning:

Ellis is an evangelical Christian and former professor at Colorado Christian University:

Charlie Kirk is Jenna Ellis’s colleague at the Liberty University’s Falkirk Center and a regular weekend speaker at pro-Trump evangelical megachurches:

Eric Metaxas has a radio show, but he is also a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. Today he is pushing a providential view of American history and his book If You Can Keep It. (I wrote a multiple part review of this problematic book, but if you want the shorter version click here).

Metaxas is also claiming that “people are going to jail” for engaging in supposed election fraud. His online following is growing largely because he is one of the few evangelicals with a platform who is still pushing these election fraud conspiracy theories. Metaxas is still involved with the Jim Garlow “election integrity” prayer meetings where a guy with a red, white, and blue shofar plays “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.

Facebook barred Metaxas today for violating the site’s “community standards.” Apparently he thanked “My Pillow” guy Mike Lindell for bailing-out Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.

Lance Wallnau is ready for the fight:

Yesterday Barack Obama made a factual statement about why so many Hispanic evangelicals voted for Trump. Obama’s comments were more analysis than condemnation and what is he says here is most likely true. Listen (second tweet in the thread):

Here is how Fox News twisted this statement:

Court evangelical Jim Garlow is also spinning this as some kind of Obama attack on Hispanic evangelicals. Here is what Garlow wrote today at his Facebook page:

Obama slamming Latino evangelicals for their views of pro-life and gay (so called) “marriage.” In other words, they are clinging to “life” and “marriage,” in much the same way we were accused by him of “clinging to our God and guns.” Disgusting comments. Trashing Hispanic God-lovers!

I am confused by this. Wouldn’t court evangelicals be happy that Hispanics are supporting Trump because of his views on abortion? How does this Obama statement “trash” Hispanic evangelicals? Doesn’t Garlow’s criticism here imply that Trump’s treatment of Hispanics at the border is correct? This is how these court evangelicals fire-up their evangelical Christian followers. This is not about logic, it’s about attacking Obama. Here are just a few of the comments Garlow received in response to the aforementioned Facebook post:

–Clearly a racist statement on Obama’s part as well as a blatant lie attributing to Trump the cages for illegal immigrants. Those cages were put there by the Obama/Biden administration.

–Liberals can’t stand anyone who believes God has given us direction on true right and wrong. This gets in the way of their playing ‘god’ and determining their own relativistic morals.

–I have NO respect or honor for that filth. Sorry he deserves nothing.

–I pray for our country- Obama is a Muslim that is only about elevating his evil agenda.

–Obama is a piece of crap. There, I said it and I mean it.

–The most corrupt President in USA 🇺🇸 history / never a friend to us / most of us (Latinos vote for Trump)

I imagine that the people who wrote these comments are also some of the people who are tuning in each night to Garlow’s regular prayer meetings for “election integrity.”

By the way, Jack Graham is also mad about this:

Not sure if John Hagee is talking about election fraud or COVID restrictions here. Probably both:

Fox News and Trumpism

Yes, they are connected. 🙂

A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute defines a “Fox News Republican” as part of the “40% of Republicans who trust Fox News most among television news sources.”

Here are some of the findings that caught my eye:

Fox News Republicans are whiter, older, and more religious than all Americans.

98% of Fox News Republicans rate Donald Trump favorably.

96% of “Fox News Republicans rate Mike Pence favorably.

70% of Fox News Republicans rate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell favorably.

94% of Fox News Republicans rate Barack Obama unfavorably.

97% of Fox News Republicans rate Joe Biden unfavorably

97% of Fox News Republicans rate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unfavorably.

93% of Fox News Republicans believes Trump is doing a good job handling racial unrest in the country and 94% think he is doing a good job handling the coronavirus pandemic.

32% of Fox News Republicans believe that the coronavirus pandemic is a “critical issue” in the United States.

Fox News Republicans are “nearly all opposed to the goals of racial justice protests.”

92% of Fox News Republicans believe that “Confederate flags” are symbols of Southern pride (and not racist). 94% believe the same thing about Confederate monuments.

73% of Fox News Republicans believe that there is “a lot” of discrimination against American Christians. Only 36% say the same thing about Black people.

27% of Fox News Republicans “say they wish President Trump’s speech and behavior were mot consistent with previous presidents.”

81% of Fox News Republicans believe that coronavirus was “developed intentionally in a lab.”

58% of Fox News Republics believe Donald Trump provides them with “accurate information and advice about the pandemic.”

15% of Fox News Republicans trust state and local health organizations to provide them with accurate information about the coronavirus.

66% of Fox News Republicans believe that America “has become too soft and feminine.” 70% of Fox News Republicans believe that “society seems to punish men just for acting like men.”

60% of Fox News Republicans believe that “it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.”

28% of Fox News Republicans believe that immigrants “make an effort to learn English.”

75% of Fox News Republicans believe that immigrants “increase crime in local communities.”

96% of Fox News Republicans support the building of a border wall.

53% of Fox News Republicans support Trump’s child separation policy.

Read the entire study here.

When false allegations from court evangelical Charlie Kirk resulted in death threats to a Harvard professor

Danielle Allen is a politics professor at Harvard. In a recent article at The Washington Post she writes about the death threats she received after Charlie Kirk, a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, made a false allegation about her teaching. The allegation occurred on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox.

Here is Allen:

Let me share a 2017 email exchange between myself and Fox News host Tucker Carlson after he broadcast my face on his television show and permitted his guest, conservative activist Charlie Kirk, to falsely allege that, in my classroom at Harvard, I taught that the rise of Trump was similar to the rise of Hitler. Immediately following that broadcast, I received death threats called into my office phone. I wrote to both Fox News and Carlson requesting a correction. I received none. Here is the exchange that resulted:

Danielle Allen: You failed to vet your interviewee for factual accuracy or to take responsibility for the falsehoods articulated on your show.

Tucker Carlson: How would I have vetted that claim? You compared Trump’s election to the rise of Hitler in the Washington Post. It didn’t seem outlandish to suggest that you might teach similar things in class. And, in fact, I still have no evidence that you haven’t taught that in class. How can I verify that?

Allen: Before accepting the interview, you should have asked him for his sources. Journalism should be based on facts, not your gut instinct for what is or is not outlandish. You were broadcasting a national story that directly affects people’s professional reputations. Also, even here, in this email, you are inaccurate. I wrote my piece in [February] 2016. Trump was not yet even the party nominee. I did not ever compare his election to the rise of Hitler. Not in print, not orally, ever. I compared his fast rise within a fractured Republican party during the primary to Hitler’s rise in a similarly fractured Germany.

Carlson: I’m committed to accuracy. You say you’ve never compared Trump’s rise to Hitler’s rise in class. How can we prove that?

Allen: Basic journalistic protocol would suggest that you should have begun by asking Mr. Kirk that sort of question.

Carlson: I had no idea he was going to say you’d made that comparison in class. I’d be happy to correct the record. Just send me conclusive evidence you’ve never made that comparison while teaching. Thanks.

Allen: You have my word and until Mr. Kirk provides you with any evidence to support his claim or any sources for his claim, the burden is not on me.

Carlson: I hear that a lot, unfortunately.

Read the entire piece here.

Here is your Thursday morning court evangelical update

More and more Republicans are implying that it is time to move on from this election and admit defeat. I wish more would step up and proclaim Biden president-elect so that the country can move forward, but most of them seem more concerned about party loyalty than what is good for the nation right now. Many are probably afraid that Trump will somehow exact some kind of revenge if they dare speak out against his claims of widespread voter fraud. Others are worried that if they criticize Trump it will hurt the Republican cause in the two Georgia Senate run-offs on January 5. If Trump voters don’t show-up for that run-off election, and the the Democratic candidates (Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock) win, the Democrats will gain control of the U.S. Senate.

Let’s check-in if anything has changed among the court evangelicals. Remember, I have used this term to describe the pro-Trump evangelical leaders who regularly visit the White House for photo-ops with the president and to supposedly advise him on policy matters. Based on this definition, I am not a Biden court evangelical. I have never been to the White House. Nor do I expect to be part of some kind of Biden faith-advisory council! 🙂 )

The folks at the Falkirk Center at Liberty University is still pushing voting fraud. Today they interviewed Rudy Guiliani:

Today in my Pennsylvania History class we continued our conversation about the Whiskey Rebellion. We talked about how George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Federalists believed that the followers of Jefferson and the members of the Democratic-Republican societies they established in the west were a threat to American ideals. But many of these societies were articulating their grievances against Hamilton’s excise tax on whiskey in very American ways. In other words, they were appealing to the principles of the American Revolution, particularly the resistance to the 1765 Stamp Act.

Washington condemned the whiskey rebels and their societies as threats to national unity, but despite all Washington’s well-rehearsed concerns about partisanship he was not above the fray. He wanted national unity on his terms. He failed to understand that in the 1790s there were two visions of American identity among the people and these visions were at odds with one other.

I thought of this again as I read a Falkirk Center tweet from Ryan Helfenbein. He wants to “proclaim Christ and defend America.” Whose America?

At one point in this video, David Barton, a self-proclaimed historian, suggests that Donald Trump’s tweets about election fraud should be taken seriously as a legitimate primary source. One of the first things we teach history students at Messiah University is how to evaluate sources. Barton is treating the Trump claim of election fraud in the same way he treats the American past. He collects stories about supposed fraud, adds them up without any larger context, and claims something happened. When he engages with the past he collects quotes from the founding fathers, adds them up without any larger context, and claims America is a Christian nation.

Eric Metaxas is encouraging people who are “losing hope that Trump can pull this off” to stay the course. He continues to speak with a sense of certainty that Trump will win this election. He also says that “Fox News has gone over to the dark side” and even implies that Fox is now working with George Soros. Then he tells his audience that he, Eric Metaxas, is now one of the only sources of honest news out there right now.

Metaxas says the Democrats are trying to steal the election and “there is nothing more disgusting” than this. Apparently at Metaxas’s prayer meeting on voter fraud the other night some guy blew a red, white, and blue shofar.

Robert Jeffress wants to make sure he is not misunderstood. He is still a court evangelical:

Gary Bauer is fighting the good fight as he sees it. He apparently has some disagreements with Twitter about Trump’s recent tweet.

Tony Perkins is still sowing seeds of doubt among his followers:

I am not sure Trump is doing much “leading” right now.

The right-wing media smears don’t make sense. That’s OK, you’re not supposed to understand them.

Anne Applebaum nails it at The Atlantic. Here is a taste:

Those who live outside the Fox News bubble and intend to remain there do not, of course, need to learn any of this stuff. Judging by what has been published, the very worst thing that Tyrmand’s email cache could reveal (if it is authentic) is that some unattractive people sought to use Hunter Biden’s surname and connections to get business deals or score a visit to the White House for their clients. But we already know about Hunter Biden’s involvement with unattractive people, and his struggles with addiction; we also know that, under normal circumstances, dozens of people visit the White House every day. On the grand scale of misdeeds committed by politicians and their relatives, this kind of thing barely registers. Compare that with, say, the Trump family’s well-documented hotel deal with an Azerbaijani business family linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Or the Trump family’s blatant use of its status to funnel money to its own companies. Or the Trumps’ illegal abuse of their charitable foundation. Or the president’s secret Chinese business bank account. The Trump family is a living, breathing, walking conflict of interest—so much so that much of Donald Trump’s foreign policy is most easily explained through the lens of his personal greed and his hotel investments, not as the emanation of any kind of American national interest.

Read the entire piece here.

Fox News is discipling many white evangelicals

In January, Donald Trump launched “Evangelicals for Trump” at a Miami megachurch. After that event I wrote in USA Today:

At one point in his speech, Trump rattled off the names of the Fox News personalities who carry his water on cable television. The crowd roared as the president read this laundry list of conservative media pundits. 

This rhetorical flourish was all very appropriate on such an occasion because Fox News, more than anything else, including the Bible and the spiritual disciplines, has formed and shaped the values of so many people in the sanctuary. Trump’s staff knows this. Why else would they put such a roll call in the speech?

At times, it seemed like Trump was putting a new spin on the heroes of the faith described in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Instead of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, David and Samuel, we got Sean (Hannity), Laura (Ingraham), Tucker (Carlson) and the hosts of “Fox and Friends.”

Read the entire piece here.

In April 2019, I wrote in The Washington Post:

Many white evangelical churchgoers now see the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade as equivalent to their call to share the Gospel with unbelievers. They subscribe to the message that the only way to live out evangelical faith in public is to vote for the candidates who will most effectively execute the 40-year-old Christian right playbook.

The movement’s message is so strong that even when pastors oppose the politicization of their religion, the message is not likely to persuade congregants. Indeed, many white evangelical pastors do not preach politics from their pulpit. Some speak boldly against the idolatrous propensity of their congregations to seek political saviors.

But these pastors cannot control the messaging their flocks imbibe after they leave church on Sunday. And a massive Christian right messaging machine targets these Americans with precision. Ministries and nonprofit organizations, driven by conservative political agendas, bombard the mailboxes, inboxes and social media feeds of ordinary evangelicals. Many of these organizations appeal to long-standing evangelical fears about cultural decline or provide selective historical evidence that the United States was founded as, and continues to be, a “Christian nation,” even though this never was true.

Evangelicals filter what they hear during weekly sermons through Fox News and conservative talk radio, producing an approach to political engagement that looks more like the Republican Party than the Kingdom of God.

Read the entire piece here.

In both of these pieces, I tried to suggest that Fox News is shaping the religious lives of many white evangelicals today. Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College makes a similar case at Christianity Today. Here is a taste:

In an interview on immigration with Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition, I concluded by talking about discipleship. It was a bit tricky because I was a little unsure about mentioning the idea of “discipling” in that context.

Inskeep specifically asked me whether evangelicals were hitching their wagon to the wrong horses. I explained, cautiously using the term “discipleship” on NPR’s flagship program:

“Well, it’s a fair question. The challenge is a lot of people are being discipled—or spiritually shaped—by their cable news choices. I think ultimately evangelicals need to be known for what they are for rather than what they’re against; and, showing and sharing the love of Jesus seems like a better thing to hitch ourselves to over the long term as evangelical Christians.”

I may have been unsure at first, but I am glad that I could use the word “disciple” in that context. Discipleship highlights a fundamental issue for followers of Jesus right now: there are certain things that are in us and need to be discipled out of us and other things that need to be discipled in us and aren’t there currently.

Some things need to be discipled out of believers.

The first is fear. In John 20:19, we read how the disciples were hiding behind closed doors because of fear. Two thousand years later, a lot of people are hiding behind closed doors because of fear. We not only fear the coronavirus; we are also fearful of the future.

Today, people hiding behind closed doors because of fear have something that humanity didn’t always have: The Internet. We’re hiding behind closed doors, fearful for ourselves and others, and spreading that fear to other people online. Fear needs to be discipled out of all of us.

Read the entire piece here.

Court evangelical: “There is a war going on in America right now…between “good and evil, between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of righteousness”

First of all, the quote in the title is correct. I always thought the “kingdom of light” and the “kingdom of righteousness” were the same thing, but perhaps Jeffress, in all his fervor, misspoke.

I wrote this yesterday, but it is certainly fitting here.

I recall Grant Wacker’s great line in 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.” 

Early court evangelical reaction to last night’s debate

There was nothing in last night’s debate about abortion, religious liberty, or Israel. One might think that this was a perfect opportunity, with Christian Right issues off the table for the evening, for evangelical Christians to decry Trump’s inability to abide by the rules, his constant lies, his refusal to say he would accept election results, and his failure to condemn racism and white supremacy. One might think evangelicals would be disgusted by all of this and, as those who supposedly care about ethical leadership and the moral fabric of country, condemn what they saw.

That, of course, did not happen.

Much of this is from last night:

But Tony Perkins, do YOU believe that both candidates are “fatally flawed?”

Tony is also peddling the voter fraud conspiracy:

I thought Biden missed an opportunity to talk about his support of the police. Perkins is right to point this out:

Now even a Fox News moderator is unacceptable to the court evangelicals. When you’re in trouble, blame the moderator:

Blaming the refs:

I thought Wallace was weak, but for a different reason. He didn’t tell Trump to shut up enough when he was speaking out of turn.

Ralph Reed tweeted once during debate. He chose to focus on the Biden family:

I think Charlie Kirk was watching a different debate last night:

More to come, if I have the stomach for it! 🙂

We deserved last night’s debate. We didn’t deserve last night’s debate.

Last night the nation got the debate it deserved.

Last night a nation suffering through coronavirus deserved better.

I think both of these things can be true at the same time.

The first 2020 presidential debate was a disaster. It was a perfect representation of the current state of our political culture. I think theologian Keith Plummer got it right when he tweeted:

Biden’s performance wasn’t great, but he hung in there. Historian Amy Bass nailed it:

Biden didn’t need to kill it last night. He is leading in all the polls. Trump did nothing to widen his base. The debate changed very little.

At one point in the debate Biden told Trump: “You’re the worst president America has ever had.” We will let future historians decide this, but right now it is hard to argue with Biden’s assessment. Here is presidential historian Jon Meacham:

As most of you know by now, Trump refused to condemn “white supremacy” and “racists”:

Here is Christian writer and editor Katelyn Beaty:

And then Trump empowered a neo-Fascist group by telling them to “stand back and stand by.” It is worth noting that the Proud Boys immediately made “Stand Back. Stand By” part of their new logo. Yes the President of the United States told a white supremacist militia group to “stand by.” This implies they he may need them at some point in the immediate future.

Actually, this whole Proud Boys thing sets me up nicely for my Pennsylvania history class today:

This may have been the first presidential debate in American history in which one candidate called another candidate a “racist.”

Trump did nothing to win women voters tonight. Here is historian Heather Cox Richardson:

A few odds and ends:

  1. Trump refused to say that he would concede the election if he loses.
  2. Trump interrupted Biden to attack his son Hunter at the precise moment Biden was talking about his dead son Beau.
  3. In the middle of a discussion on COVID-19, Trump attacked Biden’s intelligence. He also mocked Biden for attending “Delaware State” university. Actually, Biden attended the University of Delaware. Delaware State is a historical black university. One would think Trump would know this since he likes to brag how much he has done for HBCUs.
  4. I don’t want to see another debate. This was a waste of time. Let’s just vote in November and move on as a nation.

A few random tweets from the night:

Before the debate court evangelical Robert Jeffress was praying for unity:

I support national unity. I even support praying for national unity. One of the best speeches on national unity was Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

Here’s Sean Hannity being Sean Hannity:

CNN commentators saw things differently:

Is this King George or Vladimir Putin?:

Even the Fox News moderator Chris Wallace was having problems making sense of Trump’s words:

I am hearing all kinds of stories about parents letting their kids watch this debacle. Here is Yahoo News writer Jon Ward:

Here is Amy Bass:

Hey, but at least Donald Trump did this:

34 more days.

Trump and critical race theory: What is really going on?

In case you missed it, Donald Trump discovered critical race theory over the weekend. Here is Friday’s memo from Russell Vought, the director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget:

September 4, 2020

M-20-34

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

FROM: Russell Vought
Director

SUBJECT: Training in the Federal Government

It has come to the President’s attention that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date “training” government workers to believe divisive, antiAmerican propaganda.

For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” According to press reports, in some cases these training have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.

These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We can be proud that as an employer, the Federal government has employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We can be proud that Americans from all over
the country seek to join our workforce and dedicate themselves to public service. We can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow Americans as Federal employees. However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training
that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.

The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions. Accordingly, to that end, the Office of Management and Budget will shortly issue more detailed guidance on implementing the President’s directive. In the meantime, all agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these unAmerican propaganda training sessions.

The President, and his Administration, are fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States. The President has a proven track record of standing for those whose voice has long been ignored and who have failed to benefit from all our country has to offer, and he intends to continue to support all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or creed. The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.

Trump has been tweeting about this:

And here are a few of Trump’s retweets this weekend:

So what is happening here?

What is critical race theory? You can learn all about it here.

Critical race theorists believe that racism is a systemic problem in the United States. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice executed by a “few bad apples,” but a system of injustice woven deeply into American culture.

I have read several stories on Trump’s attempt to ban critical race theory and it is still not clear to me exactly which federal training programs Trump is talking about here or how critical race theory is being taught in these programs. I think it is fair to say that Trump knows absolutely nothing about critical race theory apart from the fact that his political base is against it.

And what should we make of the fact that a memo from the Office of the President condemning a federal government training program cites “press reports” as its primary evidence? Trump’s seems to have learned about critical race theory from this segment of the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News:

Chris Rufo, the guy who appears in this video, works for the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank. You can read his other writings here. You can learn more about others connected to the Discovery Institute here.

So what should we make of critical race theory? Like all academic theories, we should engage it thoughtfully. Critical race theory is one way of helping us come to grips with the fact that some groups in society oppress other groups. In the United States, there has been a long history of White people oppressing Black people. As a result, White people have had advantages–privileges even–that Black people and other people of color have not.

It is hard to study American history and not see this oppression. It is also difficult to study American history and not see continuity between the past and present. The legacies of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and white supremacy are still with us just like the founding fathers’ ideas of liberty and freedom and individual rights are still with us.

This past week I was teaching the students in my U.S. history survey course about seventeenth-century Virginia. This colonial society passed laws that made Black men and women slaves in an attempt to quell disgruntled poor whites who had shown a propensity for political rebellion. The codification of race-based slavery in Virginia law resulted in the social, economic, and political advance of the former white indentured servant population in Virginia.

Were there individual acts of racism in colonial Virginia? Of course. But what the Virginia government did was systemic–its leaders embedded racism in the culture of the settlement. While this is an early example of systemic racism, we can point to many other examples in American history where White people were able to achieve something called the “American Dream” on the backs of slavery and other oppressed and marginalized people.

I have a hunch that Rufo is a Christian. And I have no doubt that Trump’s decision to root out critical race theory will win him points with his evangelical base. So what should a Christian think about critical race theory?

Christians should expect injustice and oppression in this world. The world is fallen. We learn this from reading Genesis 3. Sin pervades this world and manifests itself in both individual transgression and cultural systems. We place our hope in Jesus Christ, a suffering savior whose death for our sins initiated a new kingdom–the Kingdom of God– that will one day reach its fulfillment in a new heavens and a new earth. God redeems our individual lives and will one day redeem His creation, which Romans 8 tells us is “groaning” with “labor pains” as it awaits redemption. Until Jesus returns, citizens of God’s Kingdom are called to live justice-filled lives. And those who care about justice will privilege standing with the poor and oppressed.

So if theologians like James Cone, critical race theorists, or American historians can help me better understand oppression, the ways I have benefited from such oppression (even if I don’t commit overt acts of racism), and teach me how to have greater solidarity with my black brothers and sisters, why wouldn’t I want to learn more about it?

As a Christian, I prefer to see the world through the eyes of my faith. In other words, I want my “theory” to be the teachings of the scriptures and the Christian tradition. This may mean that I embrace parts of critical race theory and reject other parts. This might also mean that I reject the way critical race theory is applied, especially when it leads to violence. But Christian’s shouldn’t be afraid of it.

If we want to use jargon that is common in today’s political climate, I think it is fair to say that Trump is “canceling” critical race theory. Trump and his followers want open discourse, debate, and the free exchange of ideas, but only with those ideas that they find agreeable. Critical race theory appears to have become a new kind of McCarthyism. How else should we interpret Trump’s call to “please report any sightings.”

Finally, let’s acknowledge what is really going on here.

First, Trump is trying to distract us from the fact that he called American soldiers “losers” and “suckers.”

Second, Trump is trying to scare Americans, especially his white evangelical base, into voting for him in November.

Third, by attacking a theory he knows nothing about, Trump continues to engage in the subtle (but premeditated) racism that has defined his entire presidency. We saw it in Charlottesville. We saw it in Kenosha. We saw it following the Floyd murder. And we see it whenever he talks about the suburbs.

Fourth, this whole incident shows us, once again, that we have an incompetent president who watches Fox News and then impulsively tweets policy proposals based on what he has seen.

A “progressive evangelical thinker” responds to the Eric Metaxas punch

Apparently, I am now a “progressive evangelical thinker.” Perhaps this may restore my reputation among some in the academic profession. 🙂

Here is Samuel Smith at The Christian Post:

While some on social media, including at least one progressive evangelical thinker, have been critical of Metaxas in the wake of the video, evangelical author Rod Dreher appears to defend Metaxas in a blog post published by The American Conservative. 

Read the entire piece here. For our coverage of the Metaxas punch, click here, here, and here.

Metaxas made an appearance on Tucker Carlson last night and joined the Fox News host in some standard court evangelical fearmongering:

I doubt Carlson or Metaxas watched the entire mass. Here it is:

Michelle Obama’s DNC convention speech was deeply Christian

After the first night of the Democratic National Convention I tuned into Fox News. Laura Ingraham was on the air and, as might be expected, she was trashing the convention. I stopped watching after about forty minutes of analysis from Eric Trump, Ted Cruz, and other conservative pundits.

Cruz actually said that the reason the Democrats are pushing for mail-in-ballots and the funding of the United States Postal Service is because they know it leads to voter fraud.  Cruz has no evidence for this claim. Nor is there any evidence to suggest mail-in-voting leads to voter fraud. But I digress.

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was also on Ingraham’s show. He is a very patient man.

I was struck by the fact that none of the conservative, pro-Trump pundits mentioned Michelle Obama’s speech. They just couldn’t touch it.

Watch it:

Though Obama only mentioned “faith” and “God” a couple of times, this was a deeply Christian speech.

  • She talked about the inherent dignity of human beings.
  • She talked about truth.
  • She talked about the character of a leader.
  • She talked about health care.
  • She talked about care for the environment
  • She talked about racial justice
  • She talked about the evil of racism and white supremacy
  • She talked about empathy
  • She talked about caring for others
  • She talked about raising children with a strong moral foundation
  • She talked about the coarseness of our culture under Trump
  • She talked about selfishness
  • She talked about greed
  • She talked military violence
  • She talked about using the Bible for a photo-op
  • She talked about being a mother.
  • She talked about being a neighbor
  • She talked about meekness
  • She talked about confronting “viciousness” and “cruelty”
  • She talked about finding common ground based on the value of all human beings
  • She talked about the need to speak truth to power
  • She talked about family
  • She talked about compassion
  • She talked about grief

After covering Trump’s court evangelicals for the last four years, it was nice to hear such a Christian speech in this kind of public venue. I left the speech encouraged in my faith and hopeful for America’s future. Thank you Michelle Obama.

Today in Trumpland

Mankato

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight. Even if we just considered what happened today, the speakers at the DNC will have a lot to work with. So what did happen in Trumpland today?

Miles Taylor, who was a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Trump, endorsed Joe Biden. According to Taylor, Trump used the DHS “for his political benefit.” Taylor says that “years of DHS planning” for something like the coronavirus “have been largely wasted. Meanwhile, “more than 165,000 have died.” He adds: “It is more than a little ironic that Trump is campaigning for a second term as a law-and-order president. His first term has been dangerously chaotic. Four more years of this are unthinkable.”

In North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to move all undergraduate classes online after 130 students tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of classes. Meanwhile, a Kansas teacher has created a national database of school closings, quarantines, cases and deaths.

As more people die everyday from Covid-19, Trump is getting medical advice from the My Pillow guy. Yes, you read that correctly. In the midst of a pandemic that most experts say is going to get worse in the next several months, Trump is spending his time entertaining a miracle cure promoted by a pillow salesman.

Trump continued his assault on a nearly 250-year-old institution. As Paul Krugman wrote today, the United States Postal Service (USPS) brings “Americans into better contact with one another and the world at larger….it has a universal service obligation,” “binding the nation together” and “facilitating citizen inclusion.” He calls Trump’s attempts to defund the Post Office as “the unbinding of America.”

Nancy Pelosi has asked the members of the House of Representatives to return from recess to consider a Postal Service bill that will prevent Trump from using the USPS to manipulate the November presidential election. Initial reports suggest that the bill will provide billions of dollars in funding to the Postal Service in an attempt to strengthen it in preparation for November.

Earlier today, after repeating five times that he signed an emergency declaration to help Iowa after the state got hit by a massive storm last week (and adding that he is doing well politically in Iowa), Trump again blamed Amazon for the post office losing money. It is a dubious claim.

By the way, Fox News is countering all this with reports that Barack Obama removed mailboxes during his presidency.

Christianity is more than the mere embrace of a Christian Right view on abortion politics

Listen to court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s recent commentary on Fox News:

Jeffress addresses Trump’s recent claim that if Joe Biden is elected in November there will be “no religion.” He added that Biden would “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God.” As any good court evangelical must do, Jeffress defends Trump’s remarks.

Jeffress comes just short of suggesting that Biden is not a Christian. (I realize I may be too generous to Jeffress here). Why? Because Biden is “pro-choice” on abortion.

Jeffress knows that the Christian faith is more than merely the embrace of a Christian Right view on abortion, but if he can use abortion to demonize Biden by questioning the legitimacy of his faith, he will gladly do it. Let’s face it, Jeffress is not interested in developing a public theology informed by the entire message of the Bible. Neither is the Christian Right movement that he represents.

Those who read this blog know my position. I am pro-life. But I do not believe that overturning Roe v. Wade is the best way of reducing abortions. Just search “abortion” or read Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump for my views on this.

Abortions are on the decline in America. Let’s keep this downward trajectory going by electing candidates who care about poverty, systemic racism, the economic plight of families, and the health of women.

GOP: Let’s stop using “pro-life” as a political litmus test for the purpose of fundraising.

Democrats: let’s start talking again about abortion as a serious moral problem facing our society. And yes, I am referring to the Biden-Harris ticket here.

Thinking historically about Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

Trump Rushmore 3

A lot of conservatives liked Trump’s speech on Friday night. I am told that The Wall Street Journal gave it a positive review.

I commented on the speech here, but I thought I would say a few more things about Trump’s use of history. My comments are in bold.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  And Governor Noem, Secretary Bernhardt — very much appreciate it — members of Congress, distinguished guests, and a very special hello to South Dakota.  (Applause.)

As we begin this Fourth of July weekend, the First Lady and I wish each and every one of you a very, very Happy Independence Day.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Let us show our appreciation to the South Dakota Army and Air National Guard, and the U.S. Air Force for inspiring us with that magnificent display of American air power — (applause) –and of course, our gratitude, as always, to the legendary and very talented Blue Angels.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Let us also send our deepest thanks to our wonderful veterans, law enforcement, first responders, and the doctors, nurses, and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus.  They’re working hard.  (Applause.)  I want to thank them very, very much.

COMMENT: Over the weekend Trump claimed that 99% of the nation’s COVID-19 cases were “totally harmless.” This claim was even debunked on Fox News. What does this say about his real view of the “scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus.”

We’re grateful as well to your state’s Congressional delegation: Senators John Thune — John, thank you very much — (applause) — Senator Mike Rounds — (applause) — thank you, Mike — and Dusty Johnson, Congressman.  Hi, Dusty.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  And all others with us tonight from Congress, thank you very much for coming.  We appreciate it.

There could be no better place to celebrate America’s independence than beneath this magnificent, incredible, majestic mountain and monument to the greatest Americans who have ever lived.

COMMENT: Mount Rushmore is a majestic place. I would like to see it one day. It was also built on Lakota land. Earlier in my career I had a student who did a summer internship at Mount Rushmore. As someone who wanted to tell the truth about the nation’s past, she would often mention the Lakota connection during her tours. Needless to say, she took a lot of criticism from visitors who did not want to be confronted with such history. But this must be part of any conversation about this monument. It is part of what it means to live in a democratic society.

Today, we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.  (Applause.)  I am here as your President to proclaim before the country and before the world: This monument will never be desecrated — (applause) — these heroes will never be defaced, their legacy will never, ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Anyone who teaches American history will always talk about the legacies of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. They are not under threat. They will be taught based on what they did with their lives–what they said, how they behaved, and how they led. Trump will be judged the same way.

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

COMMENT: This transcript comes from the White House. This is why the chants are included.

THE PRESIDENT:  We gather tonight to herald the most important day in the history of nations: July 4th, 1776.  At those words, every American heart should swell with pride.  Every American family should cheer with delight.  And every American patriot should be filled with joy, because each of you lives in the most magnificent country in the history of the world, and it will soon be greater than ever before.  (Applause.)

Our Founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty, and prosperity.  No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America.  And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Trump is right. July 4, 1776 is important and should be commemorated. Some of the ideals that drove the Revolution were the same ideals that led to the abolition of slavery.  On the other hand, these ideals were not consistently applied to all people. Morally, July 4, 1776 has a mixed legacy. Any history teacher who does not embrace this kind of complexity is not doing her or his job. Watch:

It was all made possible by the courage of 56 patriots who gathered in Philadelphia 244 years ago and signed the Declaration of Independence.  (Applause.) They enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said: “…all men are created equal.”

COMMENT: Again, what does “all men are created equal” mean in 1776 and in the larger context of the American story? This is a wonderful way of exploring American history with students. This is a conversation we are having in our history classrooms and one that needs to be taking place more regularly in American life.

These immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom.  Our Founders boldly declared that we are all endowed with the same divine rights — given [to] us by our Creator in Heaven.  And that which God has given us, we will allow no one, ever, to take away — ever.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Americans have always been good Whigs. We have always put faith in the kind of progress Trump describes here. (I am reminded of Paul Tillich’s definition of faith as one’s “ultimate concern”). But this “march of freedom” has not been “unstoppable” for all Americans.

And let’s talk about rights and God. Jefferson and many of the founders believed that our rights come from God. But they rarely connected this general statement with specific rights. This leads to questions that are more theological than historical. For example, does the right to bear arms come from God? Was Jefferson right when he said that rights–all rights–are “endowed by our Creator?” Again, let’s have this conversation–perhaps in our churches.

Seventeen seventy-six represented the culmination of thousands of years of western civilization and the triumph not only of spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy, and reason.

COMMENT: I have no idea what this means.

And yet, as we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure.

COMMENT: Not really. Many of Trump’s political opponents also root their arguments in America’s founding ideals. American socialists often grounded their arguments in such ideals.

Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.

COMMENT: How widespread is this “merciless campaign?” Has Trump magnified it because he needs an issue to run-on in November? It sure seems like it. Who is “wiping out our history?” Has Trump ever visited a history classroom? The idea that our children are indoctrinated should be offensive to classroom teachers who train students to think critically about their textbooks and the world.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.  Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing.  They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive.  But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: The fact that Trump does not talk about the tearing-down and defacing of Confederate monuments is revealing. He never mentions them during this speech. It leaves us to wonder if Trump believes that it is time for these monuments to go. But today, without a script in front of him, we saw the real Trump. He tweeted: “Has [NASCAR driver] Bubba Wallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest rating EVER!” This seems like a defense of the Confederate flag. This tweet is much more fitting with the Trump administration’s pronouncements on race than anything he said in this speech.

According to his evangelical Christian press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump is neutral on the Confederate flag.  Watch:

And as long as we are talking about Bubba Wallace, perhaps Trump should try to understand why an African American NASCAR driver, or any African American for that matter, might be alarmed when they see a rope tied into a noose. This tweet not only illustrates Trump’s utter failure to empathize with others, but it also shows that he knows nothing about the history of the nation he was elected to lead.

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

COMMENT: And the crowd goes wild!

THE PRESIDENT:   One of their political weapons is “Cancel Culture” — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.  This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and our values, and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped, and it will be stopped very quickly.  We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children, end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life.  (Applause.)

In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.  If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished.  It’s not going to happen to us.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Is cancel culture a problem? Perhaps. But here Trump is just playing to the base for the purpose of stoking their fears.

Make no mistake: this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.  In so doing, they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress.

COMMENT: Again, many of the protesters are drawing from American ideals. Some are not, but many are.

To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Not on my watch!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  True.  That’s very true, actually.  (Laughter.)  That is why I am deploying federal law enforcement to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  I am pleased to report that yesterday, federal agents arrested the suspected ringleader of the attack on the statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C. — (applause) — and, in addition, hundreds more have been arrested.  (Applause.)

Under the executive order I signed last week — pertaining to the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act and other laws — people who damage or deface federal statues or monuments will get a minimum of 10 years in prison.  (Applause.)  And obviously, that includes our beautiful Mount Rushmore.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: What is often missing in this debate over the tearing-down of monuments is the fact that it is illegal. It is destruction of property. This was wrong during the American Revolution and it is wrong today. I understand the anger and the violence–it is an American tradition. But conversations about which monuments should stay and which ones should go need to take place with the help of historians and public officials.

Our people have a great memory.  They will never forget the destruction of statues and monuments to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionists, and many others.

COMMENT: I hope they won’t forget this. It is the responsibility of historians to make sure that this does not happen. It is also our responsibility to contextualize this moment in our history.

The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets of cities that are run by liberal Democrats, in every case, is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism, and other cultural institutions.

Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that were villains.  The radical view of American history is a web of lies — all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.

COMMENT: “Extreme indoctrination?” “Hate their own country?” Again, he needs to get a better sense of what is happening in public school history classrooms around the country. I doubt he will get such a perspective from his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a woman who has never attended a public school and endorses policies that undermine them.

This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore.  They defile the memory of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.  Today, we will set history and history’s record straight.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Trump could have made this point with an appeal to complexity. But he doesn’t understand complexity. Historical complexity does not win him votes.

Before these figures were immortalized in stone, they were American giants in full flesh and blood, gallant men whose intrepid deeds unleashed the greatest leap of human advancement the world has ever known.  Tonight, I will tell you and, most importantly, the youth of our nation, the true stories of these great, great men.

COMMENT: Again, complexity.

From head to toe, George Washington represented the strength, grace, and dignity of the American people.  From a small volunteer force of citizen farmers, he created the Continental Army out of nothing and rallied them to stand against the most powerful military on Earth.

COMMENT: Generally true, although I’m not sure the Continental Army wins without France.

Through eight long years, through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, through setback after setback on the field of battle, he led those patriots to ultimate triumph.  When the Army had dwindled to a few thousand men at Christmas of 1776, when defeat seemed absolutely certain, he took what remained of his forces on a daring nighttime crossing of the Delaware River.

They marched through nine miles of frigid darkness, many without boots on their feet, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.  In the morning, they seized victory at Trenton.  After forcing the surrender of the most powerful empire on the planet at Yorktown, General Washington did not claim power, but simply returned to Mount Vernon as a private citizen.

COMMENT: Perhaps Trump could learn from Washington’s humility.

When called upon again, he presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and was unanimously elected our first President.  (Applause.)  When he stepped down after two terms, his former adversary King George called him “the greatest man of the age.”  He remains first in our hearts to this day.  For as long as Americans love this land, we will honor and cherish the father of our country, George Washington.  (Applause.)  He will never be removed, abolished, and most of all, he will never be forgotten.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: The good folks at Mount Vernon interpret Washington in all his complexity.

Thomas Jefferson — the great Thomas Jefferson — was 33 years old when he traveled north to Pennsylvania and brilliantly authored one of the greatest treasures of human history, the Declaration of Independence.  He also drafted Virginia’s constitution, and conceived and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a model for our cherished First Amendment.

COMMENT: True.

After serving as the first Secretary of State, and then Vice President, he was elected to the Presidency.  He ordered American warriors to crush the Barbary pirates, he doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana Purchase, and he sent the famous explorers Lewis and Clark into the west on a daring expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

He was an architect, an inventor, a diplomat, a scholar, the founder of one of the world’s great universities, and an ardent defender of liberty.  Americans will forever admire the author of American freedom, Thomas Jefferson.  (Applause.)  And he, too, will never, ever be abandoned by us.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: All true about Jefferson. He was also a slaveholder and probably raped his slave Sally Hemings.

Abraham Lincoln, the savior of our union, was a self-taught country lawyer who grew up in a log cabin on the American frontier.

The first Republican President, he rose to high office from obscurity, based on a force and clarity of his anti-slavery convictions.  Very, very strong convictions.

He signed the law that built the Transcontinental Railroad; he signed the Homestead Act, given to some incredible scholars — as simply defined, ordinary citizens free land to settle anywhere in the American West; and he led the country through the darkest hours of American history, giving every ounce of strength that he had to ensure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from this Earth.  (Applause.)

He served as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces during our bloodiest war, the struggle that saved our union and extinguished the evil of slavery.  Over 600,000 died in that war; more than 20,000 were killed or wounded in a single day at Antietam.  At Gettysburg, 157 years ago, the Union bravely withstood an assault of nearly 15,000 men and threw back Pickett’s charge.

Lincoln won the Civil War; he issued the Emancipation Proclamation; he led the passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery for all time — (applause) — and ultimately, his determination to preserve our nation and our union cost him his life.  For as long as we live, Americans will uphold and revere the immortal memory of President Abraham Lincoln.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Again, mostly accurate. Of course Lincoln was also a white supremacist, a war-mongerer, and a believer in government solutions to American problems.

Theodore Roosevelt exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity.  He saw the towering grandeur of America’s mission in the world and he pursued it with overwhelming energy and zeal.

As a Lieutenant Colonel during the Spanish-American War, he led the famous Rough Riders to defeat the enemy at San Juan Hill.  He cleaned up corruption as Police Commissioner of New York City, then served as the Governor of New York, Vice President, and at 42 years old, became the youngest-ever President of the United States.  (Applause.)

He sent our great new naval fleet around the globe to announce America’s arrival as a world power.  He gave us many of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon; he oversaw the construction of the awe-inspiring Panama Canal; and he is the only person ever awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He was — (applause) — American freedom personified in full.  The American people will never relinquish the bold, beautiful, and untamed spirit of Theodore Roosevelt.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: True. Roosevelt was also an imperialist, nativist, and white supremacist.

No movement that seeks to dismantle these treasured American legacies can possibly have a love of America at its heart.  Can’t have it.  No person who remains quiet at the destruction of this resplendent heritage can possibly lead us to a better future.

COMMENT: Very few people want to “dismantle” the legacy of these men. But we can point out their flaws and still “love America.” There is a difference between “history” and “heritage.”

The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice.  But in truth, it would demolish both justice and society.  It would transform justice into an instrument of division and vengeance, and it would turn our free and inclusive society into a place of repression, domination, and exclusion.

They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: This is rich coming from such a divisive president. Also, who is “us” here.

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.

We will state the truth in full, without apology:  We declare that the United States of America is the most just and exceptional nation ever to exist on Earth.

COMMENT: Is America exceptional? Yes. It is exceptional for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that right now it is the only country (with perhaps the exception of Brazil) that still does not have COVID-19 under control. Is it the most “just” nation “ever to exist on earth?” Maybe. But the bar is pretty low. Again, let’s have this conversation outside of the culture war framework.

We are proud of the fact — (applause) — that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and we understand — (applause) — that these values have dramatically advanced the cause of peace and justice throughout the world.

COMMENT: Was the United States founded on Judeo-Christian principles? This is a contested idea. I wrote a book about it. Has the United States advanced peace and justice throughout the world? Yes and no. But these kinds of answers are not useful in a political rally.

We know that the American family is the bedrock of American life.  (Applause.)

COMMENT:  I agree. But it is hard to hear this from the guy who separated families at the border and put kids in cages.

We recognize the solemn right and moral duty of every nation to secure its borders.  (Applause.)  And we are building the wall.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Are we building the wall?

We remember that governments exist to protect the safety and happiness of their own people.  A nation must care for its own citizens first.  We must take care of America first.  It’s time.  (Applause.)

We believe in equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed.  Every child, of every color — born and unborn — is made in the holy image of God.  (Applause.)

COMMENTS: This is true. But it is also code for “All Lives Matter.”All Lives Matter Cartoon 2

We want free and open debate, not speech codes and cancel culture.

We embrace tolerance, not prejudice.

We support the courageous men and women of law enforcement.  (Applause.)  We will never abolish our police or our great Second Amendment, which gives us the right to keep and bear arms.  (Applause.)

We believe that our children should be taught to love their country, honor our history, and respect our great American flag.  (Applause.)

We stand tall, we stand proud, and we only kneel to Almighty God.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Actually, this last couple of statements contradict the earlier remarks about free speech, tolerance, and rights.

This is who we are.  This is what we believe.  And these are the values that will guide us as we strive to build an even better and greater future.

COMMENT: Again, who is “we”?

Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny.  In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country, and that we feel for each other.  Their goal is not a better America, their goal is the end of America.

COMMENT: We have seen these references to American destiny before. When acted upon, the pursuit of American destiny has never gone well for people of color or the poor.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  In its place, they want power for themselves.  But just as patriots did in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way — and we will win, and win quickly and with great dignity.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: We will see if Trump’s people stand in the way of anything in November. I wonder what “winning” looks like here.

We will never let them rip America’s heroes from our monuments, or from our hearts.  By tearing down Washington and Jefferson, these radicals would tear down the very heritage for which men gave their lives to win the Civil War; they would erase the memory that inspired those soldiers to go to their deaths, singing these words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: “As He died to make men Holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on.”  (Applause.)

They would tear down the principles that propelled the abolition of slavery in America and, ultimately, around the world, ending an evil institution that had plagued humanity for thousands and thousands of years.  Our opponents would tear apart the very documents that Martin Luther King used to express his dream, and the ideas that were the foundation of the righteous movement for Civil Rights.  They would tear down the beliefs, culture, and identity that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the Earth.

COMMENT: Trump is right. Many of the founding principles eventually contributed  to the end of slavery and did inform the Civil Rights movement, but I am not sure what Trump means by “tear apart documents.”

My fellow Americans, it is time to speak up loudly and strongly and powerfully and defend the integrity of our country.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is time for our politicians to summon the bravery and determination of our American ancestors.  It is time.  (Applause.)  It is time to plant our flag and protect the greatest of this nation, for citizens of every race, in every city, and every part of this glorious land.  For the sake of our honor, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our union, we must protect and preserve our history, our heritage, and our great heroes.  (Applause.)

Here tonight, before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago: that we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people.  It will not happen.  (Applause).

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  We will proclaim the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and we will never surrender the spirit and the courage and the cause of July 4th, 1776.

Upon this ground, we will stand firm and unwavering.  In the face of lies meant to divide us, demoralize us, and diminish us, we will show that the story of America unites us, inspires us, includes us all, and makes everyone free.

We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King, when he said that the Founders had signed “a promissory note” to every future generation.  Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals.  Those ideals are so important to us — the founding ideals.  He called on his fellow citizens not to rip down their heritage, but to live up to their heritage.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Totally agree. Now let’s see Trump lead us in this direction. Until then, this is empty rhetoric. At this stage of his presidency these words have no meaning. Again, this speech must be considered in the context of the entire Trump administration. It is going to take more than a speech to win back public trust.

Above all, our children, from every community, must be taught that to be American is to inherit the spirit of the most adventurous and confident people ever to walk the face of the Earth.

Americans are the people who pursued our Manifest Destiny across the ocean, into the uncharted wilderness, over the tallest mountains, and then into the skies and even into the stars.

COMMENT: Let’s remember (again) that “Manifest Destiny” was an attempt to drive native Americans from their land in the name of God and progress.

We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass.  We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody.  (Applause.)  We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen — (applause) — Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton — General George Patton — the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali.  (Applause.)  And only America could have produced them all.  (Applause.)  No other place.

We are the culture that put up the Hoover Dam, laid down the highways, and sculpted the skyline of Manhattan.  We are the people who dreamed a spectacular dream — it was called: Las Vegas, in the Nevada desert; who built up Miami from the Florida marsh; and who carved our heroes into the face of Mount Rushmore.  (Applause.)

Americans harnessed electricity, split the atom, and gave the world the telephone and the Internet.  We settled the Wild West, won two World Wars, landed American astronauts on the Moon — and one day very soon, we will plant our flag on Mars.

We gave the world the poetry of Walt Whitman, the stories of Mark Twain, the songs of Irving Berlin, the voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the style of Frank Sinatra — (applause) — the comedy of Bob Hope, the power of the Saturn V rocket, the toughness of the Ford F-150 — (applause) — and the awesome might of the American aircraft carriers.

COMMENT: I don’t see how people can praise such a speech. It is full of contradictions. First off, many of the people Trump mentions here would no doubt be outspoken critics of the Trump presidency. (Although we will never know for sure, of course). Second, these men and women all applied American ideals in different ways. After spending the entire speech articulating a very narrow view of the Revolution’s legacy, Trump makes an empty appeal to diversity here.

Americans must never lose sight of this miraculous story.  You should never lose sight of it, because nobody has ever done it like we have done it.  So today, under the authority vested in me as President of the United States — (applause) — I am announcing the creation of a new monument to the giants of our past.  I am signing an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: My thoughts on this.

From this night and from this magnificent place, let us go forward united in our purpose and re-dedicated in our resolve.  We will raise the next generation of American patriots.  We will write the next thrilling chapter of the American adventure.  And we will teach our children to know that they live in a land of legends, that nothing can stop them, and that no one can hold them down.  (Applause.)  They will know that in America, you can do anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.  (Applause.)

Uplifted by the titans of Mount Rushmore, we will find unity that no one expected; we will make strides that no one thought possible.  This country will be everything that our citizens have hoped for, for so many years, and that our enemies fear — because we will never forget that American freedom exists for American greatness.  And that’s what we have:  American greatness.  (Applause.)

Centuries from now, our legacy will be the cities we built, the champions we forged, the good we did, and the monuments we created to inspire us all.

My fellow citizens: America’s destiny is in our sights.  America’s heroes are embedded in our hearts.  America’s future is in our hands.  And ladies and gentlemen: the best is yet to come.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  This has been a great honor for the First Lady and myself to be with you.  I love your state.  I love this country.  I’d like to wish everybody a very happy Fourth of July.  To all, God bless you, God bless your families, God bless our great military, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

 

Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

Trump Mount Rush

In case you missed it, Trump gave a speech at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota on the night of July 3, 2020.

Read the text here.

Watch the entire event here:

Thoughts:

1. Mary Hart

2. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem introduced Trump by appealing to America’s founding ideals. She said, “Let’s not destroy history.” This is in interesting exhortation from the governor of South Dakota. What is Noem doing to fund the teaching of history in South Dakota schools? In 2015, the state dumped early American history. I am not sure if things have changed since 2015, but back then I wrote this piece.

3. Noem said that her state prides itself “on the close-knit nature of our community.” She praised all the South Dakotans for showing-up and then said that the crowd included people “from across the nation.” The crowd was packed like sardines into what looked like a small space. I saw very few masks.

4. Noem and Trump did not mention anything about the tearing-down, removal, and defacing of Confederate monuments. The focus was entirely on the monuments to the “founding fathers.” Does anyone know how many non-Confederate monuments were defaced or torn down in the last month?

5. If we want to talk about American history, let’s remember that this entire event occurred on Lakota land. And yes, Trump talked about “manifest destiny” in his speech.

6. Historian Seth Cotlar tweeted this: “I can’t stress enough how angry and reactionary this speech is, on a day that celebrates the violent, statue-destroying revolution that birthed America.” Is Cotlar right? Let’s start here. You may also want to read this book.

7. Trump tried to make the case that Democrats and protesters are trying to “erase American history.” Meanwhile, millions of Americans were ignoring his speech because they were watching a movie about the American founding on Disney+.

8. At one point Trump said, “George Washington will never be removed, abolished, or forgotten.” I am sure the good folks at Mount Vernon are on it.

9. At another point of the speech, Trump threw thousands of history teachers under the bus when he said, “Our children are taught in school to hate their own country.” The only people who would believe this are Fox News viewers or people who have never set foot in a real history classroom.

10. As I watched the speech, I could not help but wonder what Frederick Douglass would have thought about Trump invoking his name. The same goes for Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, not to mention Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt.

11. It sounds like white supremacist Steven Miller wrote this speech. There is a reason why he is one of the few people who have been with the administration since the beginning.

Here is Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic:

It sounds like Trump was at it again earlier this evening:

When it comes to American history, Trump is the one who has “absolutely no clue.” He doesn’t even read the teleprompter in an inspiring way.  And then he has the nerve to attack history teachers.

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

…the problem with Donald Trump’s use of American history goes well beyond his desire to make America great again or his regular references to some of the darker moments in our past–moments that have tended to divide Americans rather than uniting them. His approach to history also reveals his narcissism. When Trump says that he doesn’t care how “America first” was used in the 1940s, or claims to be ignorant of Nixon’s use of “law and order,” he shows his inability to understand himself as part of a larger American story. As Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote in the wake of Trump’s pre-inauguration Twitter attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, a veteran of nonviolent marches who was severely beaten at Selma: “Trump seems to have no feel for, no interest in, the American history he is about to enter.” Gerson describes Trump’s behavior in this regard as the “essence of narcissism.” The columnist is right: Trump is incapable of seeing himself as part of a presidential history that is larger than himself. Not all presidents have been perfect, and others have certainly shown narcissistic tendencies; but most of them have been humbled by the office. Our best presidents thought about their four or eight  years in power with historical continuity in mind. This required them to respect the integrity of the office and the unofficial moral qualifications that come with it. Trump, however, spits in the face of this kind of historical continuity. This isn’t conservatism; it is progressive thinking at its worst. Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “Not only does democracy make men forget their ancestors, but also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is a danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.”

 

The Christian Right faith of Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Kayleigh

Here is a taste of Emma Green’s piece at The Atlantic: “The Temptation of Kayleigh McEnany“:

McEnany’s role in the Trump administration played differently on the Facebook page of her alma mater, the Academy of the Holy Names. When the school announced her promotion to press secretary, a debate broke out in the comments over whether the academy should be congratulating her at all. Some classmates expressed confusion about how their Christian education aligns with the vision of politics she promotes. While several of her peers defended her achievement in becoming press secretary, even one of McEnany’s former teachers conveyed disappointment in how she has done so: “We taught that truth was not expediency but was the touchstone of relationships,” the teacher wrote. “Much of the rhetoric I have read and interviews I have seen when she was a commentator on television show how far from [the academy’s] values she now espouses. This saddens me.”

Of all the criticism McEnany has received, accusations that she has betrayed Christian teachings seem to be the only ones that bother her, perhaps because her faith is so personal. She and her husband, the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Sean Gilmartin, had a baby girl, Blake, just a few months before McEnany took the press-secretary job. Between bringing Blake to visit the White House and posing her in a bright-red “KEEP NH GREAT” Trump cap, McEnany is intent on raising her daughter as a Christian: “If I give Blake the same faith upbringing and relationship with Jesus Christ that my parents gave me, she will be an unstoppable woman of faith in whatever she decides to do,” she recently told CBN. McEnany wrote in her book that she was upset when a CNN viewer suggested she should tuck in her cross necklace “when showing support for someone who goes against so many things that the Bible teaches.” She knows that no one is perfect, including politicians, she wrote. She bears her cross because she believes that it represents how “humanity might have a chance at a salvation that we do not deserve.”

Read the entire piece here.

As I read Green’s piece, I am struck at just how much McEnany’s understanding of Christian faith is shaped by a Christian Right confluence of GOP politics, Fox News conservatism, and a collection of cherry-picked Bible verses. There are millions of Americans like her and nearly all of them voted for Trump in 2016.