Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

Court evangelicals are getting massive checks from the federal government. The money comes from the Payback Protection Program, a program to help small business during the pandemic.  Peter Montgomery reports. Elana Schor is also on the case.

Robert Jeffress is on the Jim Bakker Show today. He is talking about how God “orchestrated every detail” related to the pandemic and the country’s racial unrest so that his book on prayer could come out precisely at this moment.

Each chapter of Jeffress’s book offers an “inspiring story demonstrating the power of faith in the life of our nation, a prayer, and a relevant passage of Scripture to inspire and encourage” people to pray for the United States. This all sounds well and good until Jeffress starts his “America is a Christian nation” rant. In other words, this book is just an extended version of his “America Was Founded as a Christian Nation” sermon–a devotion in Christian nationalism. The interview with Bakker’s wife includes some of Jeffress’s greatest hits, including the one about George Washington kneeling in the snow for a photo-op.

Johnnie Moore, who describes himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” wants to stand for truth.

I am still waiting for Moore to explain how he supports this.

Franklin Graham is retweeting the recently-deceased country singer Charlie Daniels:

Eric Metaxas is still hawking his book If You Can Keep It. He writes on Facebook: “It’s my mission to get this book and its message to every American. I felt that way when I wrote it and I feel that way much more urgently right now. Losing the republic cannot be an option. It is too precious. Future generations depend on what we do…” Before you buy a copy of this book, I encourage you to read some reviews. It is a deeply flawed book. Start here.

If you want to know how I differ with Metaxas on a lot of things related to Christianity, history, and American culture, check-out Emily McFarland Miller’s piece about our visits to Chicago in September 2018.

And now for some Liberty University Falkirk Center news:

In other words, slavery is wrong and it was always wrong regardless of whether people who indulged in it were just products of their age.

And here is Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk:

So if Nike is operating in slave labor camps in China, and they stopped, would you, Charlie Kirk, then support their efforts to change the name of Washington’s NFL team? Just checking.

Until next time.

Saturday night court evangelical roundup

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

Samuel Rodriguez is upset about the prohibition on singing in California churches.

Jim Garlow agrees with Rodriguez:

Here is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer would probably respond to Rodriguez and Garlow.

Meanwhile, court evangelical journalist David Brody loved Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech:

Here is Brody again:

I don’t think you need to be a “far left latte sipper” to be troubled by what happened last night at Mount Rushmore. It was a “big celebration” during a pandemic with no masks or social distancing on a weekend in which the CDC warned people about gathering in large crowds. We already know that Don Trump Jr.’s wife tested positive for COVID-19. And don’t even get me started on Trump’s use of the American past to divide the country on Independence Day. I wonder what Frederick Douglass would have thought about Trump’s speech. By the way, I am not “far left” and have probably had ten latte’s in my life. I prefer the $1.00 large McDonald’s coffee on my way to campus. 🙂

Charlie Kirk, an evangelical Christian, bids his followers to come and die:

Does anyone want to help Kirk, the co-director of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, reconcile the previous tweet (above) with the one below this paragraph? I am not sure he understands the meaning of “liberty requires responsibility.” As Christian moral philosopher Josef Pieper wrote, “It is the concern of the just man…to give others due rather than to obtain what is due him.” But what does Pieper, one of the great Christian intellectuals of the 20th century, know? He is not, after all, 26-year-old Trump wonder boy Charlie Kirk:

And then there is this:

Lance Wallnau is attacking another so-called “prophet” and, in the process, offers his own prophesy. He says the coronavirus, racial unrest, Christians “taking a knee,” and the tearing down of monuments are all judgments of God on America. If you have time, read the thousands of comments on the right of the video and then come back and let’s talk about my “fear” thesis.

Jenna Ellis, a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, is getting into the “America was founded as a Christian nation” business.

She also liked Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech:

I would like to hear how John Hagee uses the Bible to defend free speech, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, etc.:

Like patriotic ministers have been doing since the time of the American Revolution, Hagee takes New Testament passages about liberty and freedom and applies them to political freedom:

Tony Perkins is engaging in the same type of scriptural manipulation:

Gary Bauer throws thousands and thousands of hard-working American history teachers under the bus by telling them that they don’t love their country:

Robert Jeffress is back on Fox News defending his Lord’s Day morning political rally with a non-social-distanced choir. His defense if whataboutism:

The day before, Jeffress made his weekly visit with Lou Dobbs. Pretty much the same stuff:

Focus on the Family is running an interview with Eric Metaxas about his book If You Can Keep It. I point you to my review of this seriously flawed book. If you want to take a deeper dive into this, here is a link to my longer review. I assume that this was taped a while ago (the book appeared in 2016).  As I listen to Metaxas’s radio show today, and compare it with this interview, it is striking how far Trump and the aftermath of the George Floyd killing  has pushed him even further into a Christian Right brand of Trumpism.

Franklin Graham is quoting the Declaration of Independence. Here is a question: Was Thomas Jefferson right? I think the Christian tradition certainly values life. It certain values spiritual liberty in Christ. But what about political liberty? What about the pursuit of happiness? Perhaps this is something to discuss with your friends and family over the holiday weekend.

Until next time.

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Franklin Graham is on the stump for Trump. This is from his Facebook page :

In the last presidential election in 2016, I reminded people across the country that the election was not about Donald Trump’s previous lifestyle or Hillary Clinton’s lost emails, but it was about the courts—Who do you trust to appoint conservative judges to the courts? Donald J. Trump won the election, and in the next few days he will be making his 200th judicial appointment. That’s more than any president in the last four decades during the same time frame. Thank you Mr. President! This will be a legacy that truly will keep on giving—in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

And Twitter:

Al Mohler is questioning science and COVID-19 experts and promoting a Trumpian populism:

Charlie Kirk is running a “Students for Trump” convention in Arizona featuring Donald Trump.

A few observations:

  • In the opening prayer of this convention, the minister thanked God that “All Lives Matter.” The prayer was filled with Christian nationalism, law and order, and Trump talking points. The crowd cheered during the prayer at the appropriate points.
  • Ryan Fournier, the founder of Students for Trump, calls the event “the most aggressive political outreach movement in political presidential campaign history.” Wow!  That’s specific.
  • Florida Matt Gaetz spoke. So did Donald Trump Jr.
  • Trump said nothing new to the 2000 students who showed-up. It was just another campaign rally.

Eric Metaxas interviews one of his “mentors in terms of thinking of race in America,” conservative talk show host Larry Elder. Elder talks about his new documentary film “Uncle Tom.” Elder makes the common claim that the Democrats opposed the 13th Amendment (ending slavery), 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law for African.Americans), and 15th Amendment (African American right to vote). This is largely true, but he fails to consider that the Democratic Party of the 1860s and 1870s is not the Democratic Party of today. See Princeton historian Kevin Kruse’s debate (if you can all it that) with conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. This entire argument ignores a fundamental element of historical thinking: change over time. Metaxas totally endorses Elder’s approach, claiming that Americans “don’t know the facts.” Elder and Metaxas are peddling some really bad history here.

Elder claims that racism “is no longer a problem” in American life. This reminds me of a family member who recently told me that I was “living in the past” by suggesting that the history of racial discrimination in America might have something to do with race in America today.

In his second hour, Metaxas and his crew argue that the division in the country is the work of Satan, “the accuser.” Metaxas has the audacity to say that Satan “takes things that are true and twists them into a lie.” Wait, I thought Metaxas supported Trump! 🙂

Metaxas wants a view of history that celebrates all that is good in America. He extols all the Bible-believing Christians who were abolitionists. Yes, this is true. There were many good Christians who fought against slavery. But the present always shapes how we think about the past. As the country is trying to come to grips with racism–both individual acts of racism and the deeper problem of systemic racism–now is the time to take a deep, hard look at how we got here. That will mean taking a hard look at the dark moments of the white evangelical past. This is not the time to get defensive and engage in whataboutism. (Hey, what about Harriet Beecher Stowe!).

Metaxas then interviews Jenna Ellis of the Liberty University Falkirk Center.  In this interview, Metaxas says that “the only reason we abolished slavery is because of the Bible.” This is not entirely true, as I argued in Believe Me.  Slaveholding southerners actually used the Bible to justify slavery and accused northern abolitionists of not being biblical enough. As multiple historians have shown, the Bible was used to fortify racial discrimination to a much greater extent than the Bible was used to end slavery or advance racial justice in America. But Metaxas doesn’t care about that. He needs a usable past. Everything else can be conveniently ignored.

Speaking of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University:

And Lance Wallnau brings the fearmongering:

Until next time.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

A spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center thinks someone is trying to cancel Christianity. Not sure how that is possible. It’s kind of like “removing God” from public schools.

Al Mohler will vote for Trump“because the alternative is increasingly unthinkable.”

Eric Metaxas had English conservative journalist Peter Hitchens on the show to condemn England’s response to the coronavirus, but Metaxas just wanted to talk about Black Lives Matter. He tried to put words in Hitchens’s mouth, but Hitchens wouldn’t let him do it. Hitchens said he is opposed to Brexit and rejects the populism of Trump’s friend Boris Johnson. Metaxas got on his hobby-horse about how the American Left is influenced by “cultural Marxism,” but Hitchens, a true conservative, rebuked him for his use of this phrase and essentially told Metaxas that  he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Metaxas squirmed. Finally, Hitchens said that Trump is “ludicrous” and mentioned how John Bolton’s book will expose Trump’s incompetence. At one point, Metaxas compared Trump to Winston Churchill and Hitchens came just short of laughing at the suggestion. Metaxas didn’t seem to know what to do with all of this and was probably wondering why he booked Hitchens, a writer who does not fit very well with the pro-Trump propaganda machine that is the Eric Metaxas Show.

Here is Trump wonder-boy, evangelical Charlie Kirk:

Wait, now I’m confused. I thought Trump WANTED us to talk more about his rally:

Gary Bauer had some things to say about Trump’s Tulsa rally on Saturday night:

Here is Bauer at his Facebook page:

The left tried everything it could to prevent Americans from gathering together to hear a speech from our president. The protesters pulling down statues and marching in four-lane highways say they are protected by the Constitution. Yet those same people tried to prevent the president from giving a speech.

We were told that Trump walking to a church represented a threat to the Constitution because protesters were blocking the way. Those same people went into the courts to block the president’s speech. They also blocked entrances to the stadium where he spoke. They harassed attendees when they left.

The Constitution is under siege, my friends, but from the radical left, not President Trump.

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network interviewed Trump. It will air tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:00am. Here is a taste:

David Brody: I want to ask you, on the evangelical front. I’ve asked Sarah Sanders, Mike Pompeo, they all give me the same answer I say, was President Trump put in office for such a time as this. Did God put President Trump in office for such a time as this? I never asked you that question. What do you think?

President Trump: Well, I don’t know what they said. 

David Brody: They said yes. 

President Trump: Okay. Because I have, Ben Carson said the same thing. You know, Ben Carson came to me because he ran a very effective campaign. And he did a good job. He really did. You know, he came in one of the top people. And he said to me, you know, you’re gonna win. I said, Ben, I’m running against you. What are you telling me? He said you’re going to win because God put you here for this occasion. I said, What a lovely thing to say. That was the first one that I heard from Ben Carson. And it was during the campaign, I was running against him, and he was saying, I’m gonna win. He’s a very high-quality guy. He’s done a great job in the administration.

David Brody: Do you buy that?

President Trump: I almost don’t even want to think about it. Because you know what, all I’m gonna do is, I hope it’s true. All I’m going to do is I’m going to do my best. And part of what I’m doing my best one is for the religious community beyond evangelical, evangelicals a very big part is very important to me. You know, we have great support. I was so honored when Franklin Graham said that his father voted for me. And that was something that Billy Graham has never announced, who he was voting for. But Franklin Graham said his father voted for me. He went public with it. As you know, to me that was a big moment because I have such respect for Franklin and for the family and Billy Graham is really great. Like when he said that his father, his last vote was for me and his father never announced who was voting for, would never talk about it. Now I think I have great I think I have great support. There’s a lot of hidden support. People in our country that don’t riot, don’t protest, that don’t you know, they work hard. They never had a voice into like, meaning over the last long period of time. We call them the Forgotten men and women, they would have forgotten. They were very successful. They were, they do a great job. They’re smart, they have everything, but they were forgotten by the politicians. They showed up in 16. I think they’re going to show up in larger numbers in 20. 

Is this true for First Baptist-Dallas?:

Or in other words, vote for Trump:

Until next time.

Saturday night court evangelical roundup

Trump court evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Liberty University’s pro-Trump Falkirk Center doesn’t see the irony of today’s tweet:

Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk needs another lesson in historical thinking.

He assumes that when these colleges were founded they were “on the Left.” It is also worth noting that all of them have been addressing their slave pasts.

Yale

Georgetown (founded by a bunch of lefty 18th-century Catholics)

Brown

Columbia

People are transferring from Liberty University:

“What has Trump done that you disagree with?” When Newsweek asked this question to Jerry Falwell Jr., he said “I can’t think of anything. He’s been the best president ever, except for George Washington…”

Apparently Chif-fil-A is now woke:

Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece and the My Pillow guy are in Tulsa for tonight’s Trump rally:

Greg Laurie writes, “When I first was getting to know Billy Graham, he invited me to his home in Montreat, North Carolina, outside of Asheville. Going to the home of Billy Graham was better, in my estimation, than going to the Oval Office…”

Pence will head to Dallas after tonight’s rally in Tulsa:

Most of Eric Metaxas Facebook wall is now devoted to sharing stories from a writer at The Stream named John Zmirak.

Disease expert Anthony Fauci is concerned about an “anti-science” bias in America. Franklin Graham tries to discredit him:

And he follows-up with this:

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Trump Beleive me

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

They are not technically “court” evangelicals, but they are definitely Trump evangelicals. The Harris family is back and they are now a Trump worship band:

Some of you may remember them from 2012:

The Harris’s are an evangelical homeschool family from Tulsa.

Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., seems to like the Harris family. She retweeted this today:

Glad to see Jentezen Franklin acknowledging Juneteenth:

Franklin Graham too:

Tony Perkins is beating the “law and order” drum:

He is also retweeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

Al Mohler has not abandoned the Christian Right playbook in the wake of Gorsuch’s opinion in the recent LCBTQ Civil Rights decision:

Jim Garlow is writing about “biblical principles of economics.” I assume he means the part of the Bible written by Adam Smith:

Charlie Kirk forgot to mention the coronavirus mask designed by his friend and partner, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University. But I guess that’s not technically blackface:

Kirk know something about the past, but his historical thinking skills need a lot of work:

Here we go again:

Thomas Kidd, Mark David Hall, Brooke Allen, and Steve Green will participate in a Falkirk Center forum. At least David Barton is not involved.

Robert Jeffress is back on Fox Business. Channel. Apparently Chick-fil-A is taking some heat.

Jeffress thinks that racism will “evaporate overnight” if people just turned to God. Again, he fails to see that the sin of racism is structural–it is deeply embedded in our all of our institutions.  I recall the argument of  James Davison’s Hunter‘s book To Change the World”: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. In that book, Hunter argues that individual transformation is not the best way to change the world. True change does not happen through some kind of Protestant populism, but rather by the “work of elites: gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life.” Such change takes generations and it can only “be described in retrospect.” Individual spiritual transformation can bring about good ends, but it does not change the “moral fabric” or “DNA of a civilization.” I think Hunter’s words are an important reminder that the eradication of systemic racism is going to take a long time and a lot of work.

Jeffress also defends the phrase “all lives matter.”

Until next time.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Metaxas

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Eric Metaxas is still attacking systemic racism. Today one his guests said, “systemic racism does not exist. It is a conspiracy theory that the radical Left has been using to try to destroy the whole American system of justice, of equity, of individual rights, and of the Christian mission of the human being as morally responsible for his own actions and for no one else’s.” (For what people mean when they say “systemic racism,” I point you to Chris Cuomo’s show last night).

Metaxas says that people are now talking so about systemic racism right now because Donald Trump “has been such a monkey-wrench in the deep state.” (No reference here to the idea that people may be talking about systemic racism because of the death of George Floyd and the peaceful protest in every U.S. city”). His guest also compares what is happening right now in America to the Salem Witch Trials. Metaxas compares the woke mob to “Hitler and the Nazis” and also suggests that Black Lives Matter and anyone else who is sympathetic to the movement is the Antichrist. Metaxas knows where his ratings bread is buttered.

OK.

In other court evangelical news:

Robert Jeffress believes that churches should lead the way in solving the problem of racism. He writes, “Every major social and political movement in American–from abolition to the Civil Rights Movement–has been led by pastors and churches. Too many attempts have been made in recent years to scrub our public square clean of religious language and devotion.”

Leave it to Jeffress to somehow connect the church’s role in social justice to the victimization of white evangelical churches.

I wish Jeffress was correct. I wish white churches would step-up and work to end racism in America. But first let’s stop and think more deeply about the history of American reform movements. Yes, Christians were active in the abolition movement and civil rights movement. This activity has been well documented. But let’s also remember that abolitionism was necessary because white churches in the South–including Jeffress’s own Southern Baptist Convention–endorsed slavery. In fact, the Southern Baptist Church was born out of its defense of slavery.

And how about the civil rights movement? Let’s remember that Martin Luther King Jr. and the other leaders of the Black church had to fight for civil rights because white churches and pastors did nothing to end it. King wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the white clergymen in Birmingham who did not not want him in town because he was an “outside agitator.” And let’s not forget that Jeffress’s own First Baptist Church in Dallas was a bastion of segregationist theology. So before Jeffress starts pontificating about churches leading the way, he should look at the history of his own people.

Jeffress says that “reform is always local.” I wish this were true when it comes to the history race relations in America. The racist localism of white cities, and the fear of “outside agitators” like King, meant that change had to come from the outside, including the federal government. History teaches that when we leave white evangelical churches, especially those in the South, to solve the problem of racism, very little happens. I pray that things might be different this time around.

Below is a video of Jeffress’s appearance tonight on Fox News Business with Lou Dobbs. I was waiting for Jeffress to bring up Romans 13 to defend the police. It happened tonight, just after Jeffress asserted that Trump does not have a racist bone in his body. And he concludes by saying that if Biden wins in 2020 he will bring out the guillotines and kill everyone who has a thought that the Left does not like. What is it lately with all of these references to the French Revolution? Jeffress sounds like the Federalists in New England who feared that if Thomas Jefferson were elected president in 1800 the Democratic-Republicans–fueled by the spirit of the French Revolution– would start closing churches and confiscating Bibles. And there are still smart people out there who reject my fear thesis.

Meanwhile:

Ralph Reed is trying to convince people that he has compassion for Stacey Abrams

Franklin Graham wants you to vote for law and order:

Until next time.

Tuesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

We already mentioned what Robert Jeffress said today about the “weak” evangelicals who are questioning their support of Donald Trump.

He also did an interview with the alt-Right website Breitbart.

Breitbart · Breitbart News Sunday – Robert Jeffress – June 7, 2020

Here is Jeffress: “First of all, let me just point out the obvious truth that Dr. Martin Luther King was a pastor who got involved in politics. We hear today all the time, ‘Well, pastors shouldn’t get involved in politics. Christians shouldn’t get involved in politics.’”

I am not going to respond to this here, but I wrote about it in the final chapter of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. The bottom-line is this: King spoke truth to power. Jeffress bows to it.

Jeffress goes on: “Were it not for pastors, there would have been no civil rights movement…If it were not for pastors getting involved in politics, there would have been no abolition of slavery. If it were not for pastors getting involved in politics, there wouldn’t have been any American Revolution.”

We are all political. No argument here. Ministers of all kinds are involved in political work. I like Glenn Tinder’s definition: “Politics is the activity through which men and women survey the historical conditions they inhabit.” Politics requires attentiveness and availability. Attentiveness requires us to know what people are doing, suffering, and saying. Availability asks, “is there anything I can do about it?” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, Christians are always engaged in political activity.  This then raises an important question: Are we engaging politically according to the ethics of the Kingdom to which we belong and hold citizenship?

Jeffress goes on: “It was the Black-Robed Regiment, a group of pastors, who led the way in the American Revolution. These did so by peaceful protesting, and there’s everything right with peaceful protesting. Many times, peaceful protests are the antecedents to needed reform like the abolition of slavery, like the civil rights movement.”

This is completely wrong. Read this post.

Eric Metaxas is re-running the last five minutes of an interview with his Liberty University Falkirk Center colleague Charlie Kirk in which they trash the idea of white privilege.

Then he and Victor Davis Hansen spin a crazy theory about the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Metaxas says that these two competing visions of revolution could lead to a civil war. He is essentially making the same argument Os Guinness made a few weeks ago. Hanson should stick to writing about ancient military history. Metaxas should stop doing American history. Here is what happened the last time he tried.

(I should also add that the idea of “decolonizing” one’s personal library seems just as crazy).

Ralph Reed is praising an op-ed piece by Trump’s campaign manager:

Lance Wallnau believes right-wing commentator Candace Owens is an “Oracle”:

I think the use of the words “defund the police” is a terrible slogan. First, it does not truly represent what is really meant by this kind of reform. Second, it plays right into Trump’s politics of fear. Here is Franklin Graham playing to the fears of white evangelical voters:

Johnnie Moore, the guy who wants everyone to know he is a “modern Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is getting-out the vote for Trump along with Samuel Rodriguez, and Jenetzen Franklin. Mike Huckabee is also involved.

Until next time.

Franklin Graham on Trump Waving the Bible: “I was encouraged”

Trump Graham

I missed this in my previous roundups of court evangelical responses:

From his Facebook page:

Our country has erupted in chaos. Everyone agrees that what happened to George Floyd was a terrible tragedy that should not have happened and should never happen again. But what has taken place with these riots is also a heartbreaking disaster for so many and for our nation.

I was asked if I was offended by the President walking out of the White House, which is his back yard, and walking over to St. John’s Church. Offended? Not at all. This made an important statement that what took place the night before in the burning, looting, and vandalism of the nation’s capital—including this historic house of worship—mattered, and that the lawlessness had to end.

And I’m not offended that he held up the Bible—as a matter of fact, I was encouraged! I appreciate it. I believe that God’s Word is the only hope for each individual and for our nation. The problem we are facing in this country is a spiritual and moral problem. New laws and more government give-away programs are not the answer. It’s a heart problem, and only God can change the human heart.

I’m disappointed that some of the President’s harshest critics about going to the church were clergy. They have publicly (to the media) criticized the President for walking to the church and for holding up the Bible. That’s unbelievable. They should be thanking him rather than criticizing him! They are nitpicking his gesture, also saying he should have prayed while he was there. So critical. Well, maybe they should invite him back and pray for him as he leads this country through a very difficult time in our history.

I call on all pastors, regardless of denomination, race, or political persuasion, to join hands and join hearts in praying for our nation, that God would give wisdom to our leaders—our mayors, our governors, our President Donald J. Trump, and also our law enforcement. The God of the Bible is our only hope.

What Are the Court Evangelicals Saying Today?

Trump at St. Johns

Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church yesterday was an attempt to shore-up his white evangelical base. He probably lost some evangelical supporters as a result of his mishandling of the coronavirus. He needs them back. (He is heading to the John Paul II National Shrine today to shore-up the Catholic vote and apparently sign an executive order about international religious freedom).

Here is what the court evangelicals are saying about Trump’s speech yesterday and his visit to St. John’s Church. (I mentioned a few of these tweets in yesterday’s post):

Robert Jeffress went on Fox News to praise Trump for standing with historic St. John’s Church. For him, it was all about religious liberty and the protection of churches from violence. (The Episcopal bishop and the rector of the church have a very different view).  He did not mention Trump’s use of the Bible. Jeffress also revealed that his church, First Baptist–Dallas, was vandalized during the demonstrations over the weekend.

Franklin Graham, as expected:

Jack Graham won’t go there. But the day is still young:

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center, a “Christian” think tank that was essentially designed to strengthen the white evangelical support for the hate-inducing and divisive Trump administration, tweeted:

It is hard to reconcile the Falkirk’s Center’s tweet with this. And Liberty University alumni know it.

Trump evangelical wonder-boy Charlie Kirk is having a meltdown:

Ralph Reed is trying to come-up with something positive to say about Trump:

ADDENDUM: If you have more court evangelical statements send them along and I will add them to the list here. One reader just sent me this tweet from Johnnie Moore:

 
Here is David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Samaritan Purse Field Hospital in Central Park Has Found an “Unlikely Champion”

Samaritan Purse

I took some heat for this post.  I still stand by it.

I am guessing that my post might get the support of Whitney Tilson.  He is a 53-year-old retired hedge fund manager who lives in New York City.  His wife is Jewish and they have raised both of their kids in the faith. He is liberal on most social issues.  He has also been one of the most committed and dedicated volunteers at the Samaritan Purse field hospital in Central Park.

Here is a taste of Yonat Shimron’s piece on Tilson at Religion News Service:

In the course of the past four weeks, Tilson, who is not religious and had never heard of Franklin Graham, the conservative Christian leader of Samaritan’s Purse, has become one of the field hospital’s most dedicated volunteers and champions.

He’s befriended many of the staff, donated shovels and sleds to help spread 2 tons of mulch across the muddy lawn in between the tents, and gifted thousands of dollars worth of bananas, apples, Starbucks Frappuccinos, soda, potato chips and other snacks to those looking after the sick.

“It’s an incredibly impressive organization,” said Tilson, 53, a retired hedge fund manager who writes an investment newsletter. “I have no doubt they are delivering world-class critical care to my fellow New Yorkers stricken with COVID-19. Every single person I’ve met has been a genuinely nice person and very competent and good at their job.”

And this:

In this time of growing polarization and identity politics, Tilson has stood his ground, even as it has cost him some friendships.

He and his wife, who is Jewish, have been members of Central Synagogue, one of the city’s oldest Jewish congregations, for 20 years — rearing their three daughters in the faith.

But Tilson, who said his views about same-sex marriage (as well as his views on Muslims and abortion) are “polar opposite” those of Graham, has continued to defend his volunteer work.

“I’m supporting a hospital that is saving people’s lives,” he said. “I’m not endorsing the ideology of the founder of the organization.”

In recent weeks, Tilson has offered the use of his address for any of the field hospital crew who would like to receive mail while they’re working at the hospital. He’s also made available four bicycles for their use and emailed them some trails they might like to use around the park.

Last week he took a call from Graham, who wanted to thank him for his volunteer efforts.

“He’s a great human being,” Graham said of Tilson. “He might disagree with me, and I might disagree with him, but that’s not going to stop us from working together to help people.”

Graham even invited Tilson to come down to North Carolina to tour the organization’s headquarters.

Tilson said he plans to take him up on the offer. He’s a businessman and he likes to study what he called “high-performing organizations.”

Read the entire piece here.

Ideals are Important. So is Life

Samaritan Purse

Some folks on the Left do not want Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical organization that only uses Christian health care workers and volunteers, to have a coronavirus field hospital in Central Park. They say that Samaritan’s Purse discriminates against the LGBTQ community. Since Central Park is a public park, open to all people, Franklin Graham’s ministry should not be allowed to be there. This, it seems to me, would be a legitimate argument if we were not in the midst of a pandemic. When several folks on Twitter called-out the problem of Samaritan Purse working on public property, I asked them to politely explain these concerns to a coronavirus patient who can’t breathe and needs immediate medical attention in order to survive. Ideals are important. So is life.

Some folks on the Right do not want the government telling them that they have to close their churches in the midst of this pandemic. They claim that they have a First Amendment right to worship and assemble. One church has even turned to the former Dean of the Liberty University Law School to defend their right to physically assemble during the pandemic. But at what point do we lay aside this First Amendment right when all the science tells us that coronavirus spreads in crowds? Ideals are important. So is life.

The Attacks on Samaritan’s Purse Reveal a Fundamental Misunderstanding of Evangelical Relief Work

Samaritan Purse

As I wrote about yesterday, Franklin Graham’s organization Samaritan’s Purse has built a field hospital in Central Park to service coronavirus patients. Not everyone is happy about it.

For example, Brad Hoylman, a New York state senator representing Manhattan, wants to make sure that Graham’s views on traditional marriage do not get in the way of helping all New Yorkers.  In this NBC News piece, Hoylman says that it “is a shame that the federal government has left us in the position of having to accept charity from such bigots.” He added, “this health crisis is too delicate to leave it to televangelists, purveyors of the faith, to handle our medical needs.” New York Council Speaker Corey Johnson issued a statement describing Graham’s efforts in New York City as “extremely disturbing.”

The Gothamist is also up-in-arms about Samaritan Purse’s presence in Central Park.

As anyone who reads my work knows, I am no fan of Franklin Graham’s culture-war language and diehard support of Donald Trump. I do not support his Christian nationalism. He should not be surprised when some New Yorkers don’t want him there. Sadly, his support of Trump and his caustic attacks on the LGBTQ and Muslim communities have damaged his Christian witness. I wrote about him and other court evangelicals in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

But I defend Graham’s right to practice his faith and preside over a relief mission that reflects the beliefs of that faith. Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian organization. Millions of American evangelicals believe that sex is something reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. This is a deeply-held religious conviction. Samaritan’s Purse, in order to uphold the integrity of its ministry, should have the freedom to employ volunteers willing to embrace this belief.

The attacks on Samaritan’s Purse’s presence in New York City reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of evangelical relief work. I know of no evangelical relief organization that discriminates in the area of care. To suggest that the doctors, nurses, and volunteers working in the Central Park field hospital would refuse to treat LGBTQ coronavirus patients says more about Graham’s critics than it does about the mission of Samaritan’s Purse and the work of evangelical social concern generally.  Watch Franklin Graham here.

Two final thoughts:

  1. We live in a pluralistic society. I have argued that those on the Christian Right, Franklin Graham included, need to understand this. Today it is time for those on the Left to come to grips with this reality.
  2. The preservation of life is paramount right now. It is more important than church attendance. It is more important than the culture wars. The extreme ends of both the Left and the Right need to learn this lesson.

Who is Tending to Trump’s Soul?

Trump rain

When Bill Clinton was going through his impeachment ordeal in the late 1990s, he turned to several spiritual advisers to help him get through it. In September 2019, I wrote a piece at The Washington Post on how Tony Campolo, Gordon McDonald, and Philip Wogaman tended to the president’s soul during his time of crisis.

I thought about Clinton, his ministers, and my Post piece when I heard Donald Trump answer a question during yesterday’s coronavirus press conference.

The reporter asked:

I’ve got a follow up on the mask, sir. But first you mentioned Franklin Graham, talking to him. As you know, his father, Billy Graham, was a trusted spiritual advisor and friend of many presidents, a lot of your predecessors in times of national emergency reached out to pastors and other spiritual counselors. Have you done that during this national [crisis].

This reporter wanted to know if Trump was drawing upon his religious faith in these troubling times.

Here was Trump’s response:

I never say that, but Franklin Graham is somebody that’s very special. I have many very special people and a very many special in the evangelical, evangelical Christian community. You could talk rabbis, you can talk a lot of … I have tremendous support from religious leaders and Franklin Graham, I just spoke to him today for an extended period of time. I told him what a fantastic job you’re doing, and he does this. He loves doing it. He loves helping people, and he loves Jesus. Then I can tell you. He loves Jesus. He’s a great gentleman. Go ahead.

Trump obviously did not understand the question. Frankly, I am not sure how capable he is of understanding it. His response was the same kind of response he would give at a rally when he talks about his evangelical supporters and how much they support him.

I hope I am reading this wrong. I hope that Trump is getting serious and regular soul care during these troubling days.

Samaritan’s Purse is Doing God’s Work in Central Park

I have been a strong critic of court evangelical Franklin Graham. But today I am going to put my disagreements with him aside.

Graham’s relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has set up a field hospital in Central Park in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital. This is the evangelical community at work in times of crisis.

Last week I quoted theologian N.T. Wright.  His words are worth repeating today:

…when God wants to change the world he doesn’t send in the tanks…he sends in the meek, the mourners, the merciful, the hungry-for-justice people, the peacemakers, the incoruptibly pure in heart. That was never a list of qualities you  need to try to work at in order to get to heaven. It was always a list of human characteristics though which God would bring his kingdom on earth as in heaven. That is how God works. And by the time the bullies and the arrogant have woken up to what’s happening, the meek and the mourners and the merciful have built hospitals and schools; they are looking after the sick and the wounded; they are feeding the hungry and rescuing the helpless; and they are telling the powerful and the vested-interest people that this is what a genuinely human society looks like…

ADDENDUM (March 30, 2020 at 8:48pm): Over on Twitter, people are calling my attention to this piece at The GothamistAll I have to say is that the people behind Gothamist, like Franklin Graham and the court evangelicals, need to learn how to live in a pluralistic society.

The Court Evangelical Twitter Follies

Trump court evangelicals

The court evangelicals have been dropping some real doozies of late:

Jack Graham recently retweeted this:

No, Jack, the “difference” is back in the day Christians used to call the president our for lying.

Here is a tweet from Ralph Reed‘s pro-Trump operation:

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see Christian leaders talking about “majorities” I am reminded of Jesus’s words: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,and many enter through it.” Mt. 7:13

Here is Reed again. This time he is responding to a tweet from Roland Martin:

Actually, Ralph, I am not sure history bears this out. As I argued in Believe Me and here, the Christian Right has been afraid for a long, long time.

And here is a tweet proving my point that this picture was taken for political purposes in the hopes that court evangelicals would share it with their constituencies.

 

*Christianity Today* Editor Mark Galli Says His Critics are Ethically Naive

Galli

Mark Galli, the outgoing editor of Christianity Today and the author of an editorial calling for Donald Trump’s removal, recently spoke with Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs of The New York Times.

Here are some highlights of the interview:

  • On the day after the editorial appeared Galli’s landline at Christianity Today “literally rang–this is not hyperbole–all day.” He took media inquires via cell phone and e-mail.
  • When asked about the criticisms of the article from Franklin Graham and Donald Trump, Galli said:  “And it did strike me as a bit ironic that they both said that it wasn’t significant or going to make any difference. It makes you immediately think that they do think it’s significant, or they wouldn’t comment on it.”
  • On other critics of his piece:  “I’ve been surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial. There does seem to be widespread ignorance — that is the best word I can come up with — of the gravity of Trump’s moral failings. Some evangelicals will acknowledge he had a problem with adultery, but now they consider that a thing of the past. They bring up King David, but the difference is King David repented! Donald Trump has not done that. Some evangelicals say he is prideful, abrasive and arrogant — which are all the qualities that Christians decry — but they don’t seem to grasp how serious it is for a head of state to talk like that and it does make me wonder what’s going on there.”
  • Galli suggests that some of Trump’s closest followers are “in a sense, being discipled by him.”
  • In retirement, Galli will write on evangelicalism for the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian.

Read the entire interview here.  It is also worth noting that Galli’s critics are logically naive.

Have You Visited the Billy Graham Center Archives?

Graham Center archives

Last year evangelist Franklin Graham moved the papers of his father, Billy Graham, from the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  We commented here and here and here.

Despite the transfer of the Billy Graham papers, the Billy Graham Center Archives continue to be the country’s most important repository for the study of American evangelicalism.  Here is a taste of archivist Katherine Graber‘s recent piece at Christianity Today:

What makes the BGC Archives unique is its focus on collecting records that have traditionally been overlooked by other research libraries.

While church denominations collect their own records, many nondenominational and parachurch organizations simply do not have the resources to preserve their history, let alone make it available to outside researchers.

Often, these records are lost or destroyed, and with them invaluable pieces of American evangelical history. The BGC Archives exists to preserve those materials that might otherwise fall through the documentary cracks. After more than40 years of collecting, the BGC Archives now holds records documenting a broad range of missions and evangelism efforts.

Organizations like the Lausanne Movement and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are perennially popular. More recently, we have witnessed renewed interest in role of American evangelicals in 20th-century global missions.

Records from organizations like Africa Inland Mission, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, or Latin America Mission are frequently requested by both scholars and laypeople. While documenting evangelical missions and evangelism is the core of the BGC Archives’ collecting focus, we also hold records that chronicle American evangelicalism more broadly, such as the records of Moody Memorial Church, the Fellowship Foundation, and Evangelicals for Social Action, as well as papers from figures like missiologist Donald McGavran, theologian Harold Lindsell, and even hymn-writer Fanny Crosby.

In addition to making our current collections available to researchers, the BGC Archives is continually receiving new materials, usually faster than we can open them for research. Some new and noteworthy collections donated in 2019 include a treasure trove of Elisabeth Elliot materials, such as recordings from her Gateway to Joy radio program, lecture notes from her many speaking engagements, and years of correspondence between her and Jim Elliot written during their courtship.

We also gathered new materials from a longtime missionary to Kenya that document the growth of evangelical missions efforts in East Africa and supplement our extensive Africa Inland Mission records.

Read the entire piece here.