The Court Evangelical Twitter Follies

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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

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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?

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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.

More Court Evangelicals Defend Trump in Light of the *Christianity Today* Editorial

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Court evangelical after court evangelical are rising-up to defend Donald Trump in the wake of Mark Galli’s Christianity Today editorial calling for his removal.  Franklin, Graham, Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins, Jenetzen Franklin, James Dobson, Samuel Rodriguez,  Johnnie Moore,and Jim Garlow, to name a few, have all turned to their favorite web pages and news outlets to make sure the evangelical base does not crack in light of this.  I would not be surprised if a White House memo has prompted this surge in commentary.  All of these responses share several things in common:

  1. A fundamental misunderstanding of the impeachment process.  The House of Representatives has a constitutional mandate to impeach a president when its members believe that the president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.  Such “high crimes and misdemeanors” are defined by the members of the House.  Yes, as Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 65, this will often be a partisan endeavor.  But let’s remember that the people of the United States gave Democrats control of the House in 2018 and these Democrats, after careful consideration, decided to impeach.  That’s how it works. It is now up to the Senate to decide if Trump should be removed from office.  I should also add that in at least one case it appears that a court evangelical does not realize that if a president is impeached the vice-president takes over until the next election.
  2. An attempt to paint all Democrats who support impeachment as radical leftists and socialists.  This is fear-mongering.  It is also not true.  (As I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, fear-mongering is usually built on the propagation of false information and half-truths).  Impeachment has been led by mainstream Democrats, not the progressive wing of the party. Actually, I have been surprised just how quiet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the so-called “Squad” have been during this entire process.
  3. A failure to reckon with exactly what Donald Trump did during his phone call with the Ukrainian minister.  It appears that most Trump evangelicals agree with the president when he says the phone call was “perfect.  Instead, court evangelicals echo GOP talking points about the unfair nature of the process.  One court evangelical said that there was nothing–NOTHING– in Mark Galli’s editorial that has any merit or truth.
  4. An attempt to paint Christianity Today as a progressive and left-wing magazine with little influence.  Anyone who reads Christianity Today knows that the magazine is not progressive or left wing.  Mark Galli has said that Christianity Today has never imagined itself to be a spokesperson for all evangelicals.  So I’ll say it again: if Christianity Today is so irrelevant, why are the court evangelicals taking to the airways and websites?  Why are they so afraid?
  5. An attempt distract ordinary evangelicals from thinking deeply about whether or not what Trump did on the Ukraine call (abuse of power), and his refusal to provide witness and documents (obstruction of Congress), is indeed an impeachable offense.  They do this by appealing to the fact that Trump has appointed conservative Supreme Court justices and is advancing a “biblical world view.” One court evangelical even praised Trump as a man of “character,” “integrity,” and “moral fiber.” Another said he is a “man who really wants to do what is right” and praises his “honesty.”  Thinking evangelicals need to cut through the distraction and realize that Trump’s Supreme Court appointments have nothing to do with whether or not he should be impeached.  Neither does his views on abortion, religious liberty, or Israel.  Let’s remember that over 500 legal scholars, 2000 historians, and editors at The National Review and American Conservative, among many others, have said that what Trump did is an impeachable offense.

Did Billy Graham Vote for Trump in 2016?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Franklin Graham Essentially Tells *Christianity Today* to Shut-Up and Stay Out of Politics

Here is his recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network:

Commentary

  1. Franklin Graham suggests that Christianity Today is moving to the Left.  I assume he thinks this because CT has not endorsed Donald Trump and disagrees with Trump’s policies on matters related to poverty relief, immigration, and the environment, to name a few.  CT also does not believe that political power is the best way to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Graham sounds a lot a like evangelical critics of social justice such as John MacArthur and Founders Ministries.  (It is worth noting that CT was critical of MacArthur’s critique of social justice). One might make an argument that the debate over the social implications of the Gospel, and not Donald Trump, is what is really dividing evangelicals right now.  Let’s remember that this was also part of what brought division to Protestantism during the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th-century.
  2. Franklin says that his father, Billy Graham, the founder of Christianity Today, “stopped reading the magazine a long time ago.”  It is fascinating to watch how both CT and Franklin are trying to claim Billy Graham.  (Franklin is doing this much more than CT–Galli just referenced Graham at the start of his editorial).  Graham’s life and ministry offers a usable past.  This is not unlike the way everyone in American politics today invokes the founding fathers or Abraham Lincoln to advance their agendas.
  3. Graham says “Christianity Today has changed, and that’s unfortunate.”  Graham raises an interesting historical problem here.  Who has really changed?  Has Christianity Today changed or has white evangelicalism changed since the time the magazine was founded?  I am guessing such a question would elicit fierce debate, even among historians.
  4. Graham condemns Christianity Today for taking sides in something that is “so obviously partisan.”  Wow, that’s rich coming from a court evangelical.
  5. The host asks, “Rev. Graham…do you think that this article [the CT editorial] has any kernel of truth or any merit of all?”  Graham answers: “No, I really don’t. None.”  Wow!  This speaks volumes.  Graham seems to suggest that everything Mark Galli wrote in his editorial is wrong.  This is fundamentalism.
  6. Graham criticizes CT and Mark Galli for offering a moral criticism of Donald Trump and calling for his removal from office.  Then he says, “They should have stayed out of this completely, in my opinion.” Again, wow!  Franklin Graham has used his pulpit and platform as a GOP and Donald Trump propaganda machine for years and now he has the nerve to tell Christianity Today shut-up and stay out of politics!

 

What the Court Evangelicals (and some others) are Saying About Mark Galli’s *Christianity Today* Editorial

Trump Beleive me

Out in paperback on January 7, 2020

Here is Robert Jeffress:

Franklin Graham here.

Ralph Reed:

Ralph Reed also really likes Franklin Graham’s comments:

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center‘s at Liberty University retweeted Trump.

A spokesperson for the Falkirk Center is upset at Jim Acosta of CNN:

Here is one of the so-called “Falkirk Fellows”:

A former leader of the Assemblies of God is not happy with Mark Galli:

Jack Graham thinks, Christianity Today is out of touch with American evangelicalism, as if public morality is some kind of popularity contest.  This makes me wonder who is on the narrow road and who is on the broad road.(Matthew 7:13-14).

It’s always good for the court evangelicals when alt-Right website Breitbart is on your side:

Laura Ingraham of Fox News:

Jerry Falwell Jr. blocked me a long time ago, but this morning he tweeted: “Less than 20% of evangelicals supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 but now CT Magazine has removed any doubt that they are part of the same 17% or so of liberal evangelcials who have preached social gospel for decades! CT unmasked!”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council trashes Christianity Today:

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network shows how crazy this is getting and how Trump is not driving the white conservative evangelical narrative.  He  thinks that Christianity Today is now somehow the magazine of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Eric Metaxas is apparently engaging on Twitter, but I can’t read his tweets because he blocked me.

 

Franklin Graham Offers Another Response to the *Christianity Today* Editorial. Says His Father Voted for Donald Trump.

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Franklin Graham has written a nice summary of the court evangelical position, the view of evangelicals and Trump that I address critically, as an evangelical Christian myself, in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Here is Graham on his Facebook page:

My Response to Christianity Today:

Christianity Today released an editorial stating that President Trump should be removed from office—and they invoked my father’s name (I suppose to try to bring legitimacy to their statements), so I feel it is important for me to respond. Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed. I have not previously shared who my father voted for in the past election, but because of this article, I feel it is necessary to share it now. My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.

For Christianity Today to side with the Democrat Party in a totally partisan attack on the President of the United States is unfathomable. Christianity Today failed to acknowledge that not one single Republican voted with the Democrats to impeach the President. I know a number of Republicans in Congress, and many of them are strong Christians. If the President were guilty of what the Democrats claimed, these Republicans would have joined with the Democrats to impeach him. But the Democrats were not even unanimous—two voted against impeachment and one voted present. This impeachment was politically motivated, 100% partisan. Why would Christianity Today choose to take the side of the Democrat left whose only goal is to discredit and smear the name of a sitting president? They want readers to believe the Democrat leadership rather than believe the President of the United States.

Look at all the President has accomplished in a very short time. The economy of our nation is the strongest it has been in 50 years, ISIS & the caliphate have been defeated, and the President has renegotiated trade deals to benefit all Americans. The list of accomplishments is long, but for me as a Christian, the fact that he is the most pro-life president in modern history is extremely important—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that, to say it doesn’t count? The President has been a staunch defender of religious freedom at home and around the world—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that? Also the President has appointed conservative judges in record number—and Christianity today wants us to ignore that? Christianity Today feels he should be removed from office because of false accusations that the President emphatically denies.

Christianity Today said it’s time to call a spade a spade. The spade is this—Christianity Today has been used by the left for their political agenda. It’s obvious that Christianity Today has moved to the left and is representing the elitist liberal wing of evangelicalism.

Is President Trump guilty of sin? Of course he is, as were all past presidents and as each one of us are, including myself. Therefore, let’s pray for the President as he continues to lead the affairs of our nation.

Christianity Today can defend itself, but here are my thoughts on this:

  1. Christianity Today did not just invoke Billy Graham to “bring legitimacy to their statements.”  They invoked Graham because he founded the magazine.  Like many important people, Billy Graham’s legacy is now a deeply contested one.  There are multiple evangelical institutions that are connected to his work.
  2. I am sorry to hear that the 98-year-old Billy Graham voted for Donald Trump and thought that, in Franklin’s words, he was the man for this hour in the history for our nation.”  This does not sound like the post-1974 Billy Graham.  After the Nixon debacle, he realized that these kinds of political endorsements hurt the witness of the Gospel and he stopped making them.
  3. Christianity Today is not a political outlet, but Franklin Graham is incapable of understanding Mark Galli’s editorial apart from politics.  GOP politics and evangelical Christianity are so welded in his mind that he cannot “fathom” the fact that good Christians might, on some issues, be closer to Democrats than Republicans.
  4. Franklin Graham does not believe that the POTUS is a liar. When Trump speaks to him, he believes every word he says.  This sounds SO MUCH like his father during the Nixon impeachment.
  5. I am guessing that Trump’s tweet this morning was informed by this statement.

Franklin Graham on the *Christianity Today* Editorial: “My father would have been embarrassed.”

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Check out Elisabeth Dias’s piece at The New York Times. She got an interview with court evangelical Franklin Graham about today’s Christianity Today’s editorial.

A taste:

“My father would be embarrassed,” Franklin Graham said in an interview, referring to his father, Billy Graham, who founded the magazine.

“It is not going to change anybody’s mind about Trump,” Mr. Graham said. “There’s a liberal element within the evangelical movement. Christianity Today represents that.”

 “A liberal element.”

Read the entire piece here.

It’s the Eve of Impeachment and the Demons are Back

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Some of you may remember when Fox News fired conservative radio personality Todd Starnes for saying that Democrats worship a god who supports child sacrifice.  Today, court evangelical Franklin Graham came on his new show to talk about the impeachment of Donald Trump.  Listen here.

A few highlights:

  • Graham starts out with some American “history.”  He says about Trump: “there has never been a president in history that has been attacked like he has from day 1.”  Really?  What about this.  Or this?
  • He once again says that the opposition to Trump, specifically the women’s march on the day after the election, is “almost like it’s demonic.”  Starnes agrees with him: “I have never seen such hate and such anger…there is something unnatural about all of this.”  Graham then asks Americans to pray in order stop these demonic attacks.  I would have to go back and look more closely, but I can’t recall this kind of spiritual warfare language ever used by any mainstream evangelical figure in American history.
  • Graham has a short memory.  He said that when Barack Obama was elected president,  Americans all “hoped he did well.”  We could spend a lot of time contesting this, but I just want to point out that Donald Trump, the man who will be impeached tomorrow, did not hope Obama “did well.”  In fact, he questioned his citizenship.
  • Graham openly admits that Trump committed a quid pro quo.  He thinks what Trump did was right.  Graham goes so far as to say that Trump was withholding aid from Ukraine to stop the Ukrainian government from giving the aid to the Bidens.
  • Graham believes that all the blame for our divided country rests with the Democrats.  How is this man of God incapable of seeing Trump’s role in such division?  It is like he is brainwashed.
  • Graham says that God’s judgement is coming upon the United States because of abortion and LGBTQ (he compares this to Sodom and Gomorrah).  These are longtime Christian Right talking points.  His father used to say similar things about communism.

Court Evangelical Franklin Graham Weighs-In on Impeachment

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Here you go:

It always amazes me how these court evangelicals use prayer as a political tool. If we want to play Graham’s game we could also say that the Democrats need our prayers because they continue to face an “onslaught of lies, slander, and innuendos” from the President of the United States.  And we could add: “It’s just shameful” what the President of the United States “is putting this country through.”

Franklin is correct when he says that this nation “needs our prayers,” but I doubt God wants to hear his partisan petitions.  As Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address: “The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Eric Metaxas Doubles-Down on His Belief That Those Who Oppose Trump are “Demonic”

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Last week on the Eric Metaxas Show, Franklin Graham said that the efforts to impeach Donald Trump were “almost a demonic power.”  Metaxas, the conservative pundit and court evangelical, responded with these words: ” I would disagree, it’s not almost demonic.  You know and I know that at the heart it’s a spiritual battle.”  When conservative writer Peter Wehner challenged Metaxas in a piece at The Atlantic, Metaxas said that Wehner’s piece was “PREPOSTEROUS.”  Get up to speed here.

If you have the time, listen to Metaxas yesterday on his radio show.  In an interview with conservative writer John Zmirak, Metaxas complained that Wehner and others misunderstood him.  He says:  “[Franklin Graham] did not say that everyone who opposes this president is demonic, he didn’t say anyone who opposed this president is demon-possessed–he said the opposition to this president is almost demonic.  In other words, there is a spirit that is so angry, it’s like people have given themselves permission to hate….”

I am not sure how Metaxas is saying anything different here. How can opposition to the president take place without people?  If the opposition is demonic, then the people promoting the opposition must also be under demonic influences. I am not sure what kind of semantic word-game Metaxas is trying to play here.  Perhaps I am one of the people Metaxas describes in this interview as “theologically ignorant.”  Maybe those two theological degrees from an evangelical seminary, including a course on spiritual warfare called “Power Encounters,” were all for naught.

In fact, by the end of the interview Metaxas doubles down on his previous comments and affirms again that those who strongly oppose this president and want him impeached are under the influence of “demonic forces.”

Here are some other highlights from the episode:

  • Metaxas suggests that liberal philanthropist George Soros may have been behind the negative tweets he received from his affirmation of Graham’s “demonic forces” comment.
  • Metaxas complains that no one defended him on twitter after the conversation with Graham.  Hmm…. I wonder why?
  • Metaxas says Wehner’s article and all the other negative articles about him on this issue are “fake news.”
  • In a particular’y rich exchange, Metaxas and Zmirak, diehard Trump supporters, claim that they are the defenders of “honesty” and “truth.”
  • Metaxas is upset that Wehner called his Dietrich Bonhoeffer book “slipshod” in its accuracy and scholarship.  Wehner is right.  The book has been strongly criticized by nearly every major Bonhoeffer scholar.
  • Metaxas cries about political partisanship, implying that he is somehow above the fray.  This is coming from the man who referred to Hillary Clinton as “Hitlery Clinton” and said in Wall Street Journal article that if evangelicals didn’t vote for Trump “God will not hold us guiltless.”
  • Finally, Metaxas says when you allow lies to spread “you are part of the problem.”  Again, this is rich. At last check, The Washington Post has counted over 13,000 lies and false claims made by Metaxas’s man in the White House.  Who is part of the problem here, Eric?

Metaxas: Peter Wehner’s Article in *The Atlantic* is PREPOSTEROUS

Metaxas

Many of you have seen Peter Wehner‘s piece at The Atlantic titled “Are Trump’s Critics Demonically Possessed.”  Wehner is responding specifically to Franklin Graham’s appearance on the Eric Metaxas radio program.  Watch (or if you can’t see the tweet, click here.)

Just for the record, here is the pertinent part of the video:

Metaxas: “It’s a very bizarre situation to be living in a country where some people seem to exist to undermine the President of the United States.  It’s just a bizarre time for most Americans.

Graham: “It’s almost a demonic power.”

Metaxas: “I would disagree, it’s not almost demonic.  You know and I know that at the heart it’s a spiritual battle.”

Graham: “It’s a spiritual battle.” 

Here is a taste of Wehner’s piece:

There are several things to say in response to the Graham-Metaxas conversation, starting with the theologically distorted and confused charges that were leveled by Graham and amplified by Metaxas. They didn’t make the case that Trump critics are sincere but wrong, or even that they are insincere and unpatriotic. Instead, they felt compelled to portray those with whom they disagree politically as under demonic influences, which for a Christian is about as serious an accusation as there is. It means their opponents are the embodiment of evil, the “enemy,” anti-God, a kind of anti-Christ.

There is no biblical or theological case to support the claim that critics of Donald Trump are under the spell of Satan. It is invented out of thin air, a shallow, wild, and reckless charge meant to be a conversation stopper.

Just ask yourself where this game ends. Do demonic powers explain opposition to all politicians supported by Graham and Metaxas, or to Trump alone? Would they argue that all Christians (and non-Christians) who oppose Trump are under the influence of Satan? What about when it comes to specific issues? Should we ascribe to Beelzebub the fact that many Americans differ with Graham and Metaxas on issues such as gun control, tax cuts, charter schools, federal judges, climate change, the budget for the National Institutes of Health, foreign aid, criminal justice and incarceration, a wall on the southern border, and Medicaid reform? Are we supposed to believe that Adam Schiff’s words during the impeachment inquiry are not his own but those of demons in disguise? Were the testimonies of Ambassador Bill Taylor, Fiona Hill, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman truthful accounts offered by admirable public servants that badly hurt the president’s credibility—or the result of demonic powers?

Eric Metaxas has responded to Wehner’s piece on Twitter.  Since Metaxas blocked me a long time ago I cannot embed the tweet here, but others have shared it with me.  It reads:

This article is PREPOSTEROUS. It claims I’ve said opponents of Trump “are under the spell of Satan  ” and other truly zany things.  I’ve written lots on this president & why I support him, but Mr. Wehner doesn’t seem overly interested in nuance. #slipshod

Metaxas should listen to his own radio program.  I am guessing that he will say there is some kind of difference between claiming Trump’s opponents are guided by a “demonic power” (as he said to Graham on his show) and claiming that Trump’s opponents are “under the spell of Satan” (which he said in the above tweet).  But I see no difference.  Neither does the average Trump-supporting evangelical. And neither does any right-minded person.  Metaxas can’t take a huge sum of money from Salem Radio (one source says he is worth $7 million) to pander to the Trump evangelical base and then claim, when intellectuals call him out on his use of words, that he is being misunderstood.  I might add that he has tried this before.  This is a man who knows that the Trump base butters his bread and yet still craves to be accepted as a New York intellectual–a man of “nuance.”

Ever since Trump has been impeached there has been an uptick in spiritual warfare language coming from the Christian Right.  If Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is correct, and Trump is indeed “the chosen one,” then opposition to the “chosen one” must mean opposition to God.  By claiming that Trump’s opponents are influenced by demonic forces, Metaxas and Graham are implying that Trump is on the Lord’s side.  And why do they believe that Trump is on the Lord’s side?  Because he is president of the United States.  And why is the POTUS always on the Lord’s side?  Because Romans 13 tells us that we must submit to government authority because such authority comes from God. (See more of our Romans 13 posts here). Moreover, America was founded on Christian principles and Trump, through his Supreme Court appointments and defense of religious liberty for evangelicals, is restoring America’s Christian heritage.

If you believe all these things, as Metaxas and Graham obviously do, then of course you will see American politics today in terms of spiritual warfare.  Ephesians 6:12 has now founds its way to the center of American political discourse.

Court Evangelicals Weigh-In on Today’s First Day of Impeachment Hearings

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Court evangelicals in the court

Several of the court evangelicals had things to say today (and in the last day or two) about impeachment.

Here is Franklin Graham:

This Paula White quote tells it all.  It is, in many ways, the essence of court evangelicalism and Trump evangelicalism generally.

Here is Ralph Reed:

What is Franklin Graham’s “Decision America” Tour All About?

In 1950, Billy Graham started a radio show called “Hour of Decision.” Cliff Barrows, Graham’s musical director, hosted the show.  It featured Graham sermons and usually ended with a call to make a “decision” to accept Jesus Christ as savior and be born-again.

Billy Graham’s sermons often included political commentary (usually something about the evils of communism), but when the evangelist talked about a “decision,” it was always meant in a spiritual context.

Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, is current on the road on a tour he is calling “Decision America.”  When a reporter asked Franklin “what is the question being decided?” by his tour,  he gave an answer that would have made his father proud:

If you can’t see the video in the tweet, here is a summary of what Graham says:

[By “decision” I mean] where do you stand before God.  Are you ready to meet Him…Life is coming to an end for all of us one day and are we ready to stand before God at that point.  I believe there is God.  He sent His son to die for our sins….The problems in this world is because of our sin of the human heart. So I hope many people will come.  I hope many people will put their faith and trust in Christ and they’ll have their lives changed forever.

But is this really what “Decision America” is really all about?  Is this tour just about the preaching of the Gospel?  We will have to see how the tour unfolds.

In the meantime, check out Alana Schorr’s Associated Press piece on Decision America’s Greenville, North Carolina stop.  The piece does not say that Graham used his platform to preach politics explicitly, but I think Schorr’s is right when she suggests that when Graham makes reference to the “trouble” our country is facing, he is probably referring to the Democratic attempts to impeach Trump.  It is hard to understand this in any other way in light of Graham’s court evangelicalism.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Rev. Franklin Graham did not utter the word “impeachment” as he spoke to thousands of Christians here this week, the latest stop on a long-running tour he has dubbed Decision America — a title with political and religious undertones.

But evangelicals who turned out to see Graham didn’t necessarily need his warning that “our country is in trouble” in order to tap into their deep-rooted support for President Donald Trump during an intensifying political crisis hundreds of miles north in Washington.

“I do feel like we are, as Christians, the first line of defense for the president,” Christina Jones, 44, said before Graham took the stage. Trump is “supporting our Christian principles and trying to do his best,” she added, even as “everybody’s against him.”

The impeachment furor is the latest test of Trump’s seemingly unbreakable bond with conservative evangelical Christians. Trump suggested this week that the peril of impeachment would only cement his ties to that voting bloc, which helped propel him into office, and supporters who have stood by him through accusations of sexual assault and infidelity see no reason to back away from a president they view as unfairly beleaguered.

Frances Lassiter, 65, dismissed Democrats’ pursuit of a case against Trump as “all a bunch of crap” designed to push him from office.

Read the entire piece here.

My Piece Today at Religion News Service: “Trump’s evangelicals bewail a ‘civil war’ while still profiting from the last one”

Trump Jeffress

Here is a taste:

But Jeffress also seemed to forget another important point about American civic life in his civil war comment. The United States, after all, had a real Civil War, in which over 600,000 lives were lost.

Did the country heal after this war?

The United States still exists, implying that some healing certainly took place. But the war also left us with some open wounds. The war brought an end to slavery, but it did not bring an end to the racism upon which slavery was built.

These wounds are still open and Jeffress’ own First Baptist Dallas, with its long history of segregation, has contributed to keeping them open. His congregation was built upon a Civil War fracture that has not yet healed. Under his leadership, it has failed to confront its long-standing commitment to racial injustice in any meaningful way.

We don’t need to fear a new civil war. Instead, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, we still need to bind the wounds of the old one. The impeachment and removal of Trump will be a step toward the ongoing work Lincoln called us to do.

Read the entire piece here.

Religious News Service Talks to Franklin Graham About Impeachment

Trump Graham

The court evangelical Franklin Graham remains loyal to Trump amid the House of Representative impeachment inquiry.  Today Yonat Shimron of Religion News Service spoke with Graham.  Rather than addressing the fact that the President of the United States called a foreign power to tell him to dig up dirt on the president’s political rival, Graham did what most court evangelicals do when Donald Trump is trouble. First, he changed the subject.  Second, he engaged in fear-mongering.

Instead of addressing the problems with Trump’s phone call, Graham described it as a “distraction” and called for the investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden.  Actually, it is Graham who is doing the distracting here.

Graham also told Shimron that he is concerned that Hunter Biden is using cocaine.  See what the court evangelical is doing here. The mention of cocaine is a dog whistle. Graham is betting that no conservative evangelical would ever vote for a candidate whose son uses cocaine. Shame on Graham!  No pastor or true evangelical leader would relish in the fact that Hunter Biden has struggled with drug addiction.  Graham is sacrificing Christian charity and compassion for political gain.

Here is a taste of Shimron’s piece:

Graham’s defense of the president echoed that of fellow evangelical Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, who has warned of a potential civil war if the House votes on impeachment and who has accused Democrats of worshipping the pagan god Moloch.

Sounding the alarm about a nation in peril is a tried-and-true evangelical strategy, said John Fea, professor of American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

“I’ve argued this has been a typical part of evangelical political engagement for centuries — fear mongering,” said Fea. “You can’t make an argument to support what the president did on his phone call with the Ukrainian president. So what do you do? You play the traditional game of instilling fear in the electorate so they will see us falling off the cliff as a nation and this apocalyptic language will convince them they have to vote for Trump again in 2020.”

Read the entire piece here.

Sometimes I wonder if this kind of loyalty to corrupt presidents is part of the Graham family DNA.  As Shimron notes in her piece, Billy Graham (Franklin’s father) also stood behind Richard Nixon to the very end.  Here is Billy Graham biographer Grant Wacker:

Graham possessed boundless admiration for Nixon.  In the 1968 contest between Nixon and Senator Hubert Humphrey, as in the 1960 race between Nixon and Kennedy, Graham did not issue a formal or explicit endorsement of Nixon, but he made no attempt to camouflage his views either.  One week before the election the press reported that Nixon’s name was on Graham’s absentee ballot…

The relationship continued to thicken….Honor Billy Graham Day in Charlotte on October 15, 1971, won another visit from the president.  Some felt that Nixon’s remarks about Graham that day crossed the line from honor to adulation.  Less than a month before the 1972 presidential election, Graham declared on the Merv Griffin Show: “Nixon is the most able and the best trained man for the job probably in American history.  In an election year that divides people…I [have] to be honest.

These events form the context in which Graham’s reaction to Nixon’s role in the Watergate controversy should be framed.  The details of the low-level crime and high-level mendacity that led to Nixon’s impeachment and forced his resignation in August 1974 have been rehearsed many times and need not detain us.  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.  He pointed out that illicit undercover behavior was no stranger to the White House.  Through 1972 Graham allowed that the Watergate events themselves were troubling but insisted that Nixon had nothing to do with them.  As late as December he privately assured Nixon of his personal affection and “complete confidence in your personal integrity./”  Graham maintained that posture through January 1974.

Finally, on April 29, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee received 1,200 pages of transcripts of Oval Office conversations.  They showed that Nixon had participated in the cover-up virtually from the outset.  The transcripts also showed Nixon’s capacity for vulgarity and profanity.  Graham finally muscled up the courage to start reading New York Times excerpts in the middle of May. “The think that surprised me and shook me most was the vulgar language he used…I felt physically sick.”   Elsewhere Graham admitted to weeping and throwing up.  Graham biographer Marshall Frady said Graham attributed Nixon’s fall to “sleeping pills and demons.”  Graham insisted he was misquoted. But he was prepared to say that “all of Watergate was demonic because…it caused the American people to lose confidence in its institutions….almost as though some supernatural power of evil was trying to destroy this country.

Graham’s reference to Nixon’s language left many journalists and historians appalled. They felt Graham had proved incapable of distinguishing between the minor issue of cussing and the major one of undermining the government.  On the face of it they were right….

Graham’s entanglement with Nixon marked a turning point.  Until 1974 Graham had tumbled more and more rapidly into the vortex of partisan politics.  When Nixon crashed, his muddy reputation soiled Graham’s.  The Nixon years represented the bottom of Graham’s slide.  Graham acknowledged that Nixon’s magnetism had clouded his judgment.  In 1993 he would say, simply, that his friendship with Nixon had “muffled those inner monitors that had warned me for years to stay out of partisan politics.  He urged young evangelists to avoid his mistake…

What Franklin Graham’s Recent Tweet Really Means

Believe Me 3d

Court evangelical Franklin Graham recently tweeted the following:

 

Here is the way Trump-supporting evangelicals read Graham’s tweet:

“Our nation seems to be unraveling in hatred.”  Democrats hate America and their actions toward Trump are precipitating the collapse of the United States as a Christian nation.

“There are forces….” The Democrats behind impeachment are working for Satan, seeking to undermine America’s Christian identity.  (“Forces is very often linked to demonic activity in evangelical-speak).

“pray for this country…”: Pray that Donald Trump will not be impeached and God will intervene to protect His anointed one.

What is a “court evangelical?”  See Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

Franklin Graham Responds to Trump’s Racist Tweet

At least not directly:

At least Graham gets credit for staying on message. As long as Trump keeps delivering on this front, the court evangelicals will look the other way on just about everything else.