The Court Evangelicals Take a Photo

Most of them were there on Friday night:

COurt Evangelicals

I don’t recognize everyone, but I see Alveda King, Jack Graham, Jenetzen Franklin, James Dobson, Shirley Dobson, James Robison, Michael Tait, Greg Laurie, Michelle Bachmann, Eric Metaxas, Tony Suarez, Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Johnnie Moore, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, Richard Land, Cissie Graham, Tim Clinton, Harry Jackson, and Jim Garlow, Paula White, and Guillermo Maldonado.

I wonder if Trump can identify them all.

Many of these people feature prominently in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Are Trump’s Evangelical Critics Elitist? The Pietist Schoolman Reflects on Evangelical Populism

2nd Great

After Mark Galli published a Christianity Today editorial calling for the removal of Donald Trump, several pundits accused Galli of betraying the populist roots of American evangelicalism.  Galli, in other words, is an out of touch elitist.

Read court evangelical Johnnie Moore’s recent piece at Religion News Service.

Read Carl Trueman’s recent piece at First Things. (I responded to it here).

Read Matthew Schmitz’s piece at The New York Post.  (I responded to it here).

It is worth noting that these articles have little to do with the merits of Trump’s impeachment.  Nor do they address any problems with Trump’s character that might lead evangelicals to reject the president.  Instead, these articles try to interpret the editorial, and Galli, through the lens of class.  Galli and Christianity Today do not represent ordinary evangelicals.  As a result, we can’t take the editorial seriously.

Chris Gehrz, the Bethel University history professor and author of the blog The Pietist Schoolman, has written a nice piece on evangelical populism that is worth your time. It engages with Moore and Schmitz.
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Here is a taste of “The Problems and Possibilities of Evangelical Populism“:

2. Which populace defines populism?

Donald Trump likes to present himself as a populist, but he has generally been one of the least popular first-term presidents in American history. Even after a recent bump, he’s still 10 points more unfavorable than favorable in Five Thirty Eight‘s composite poll. He’s particularly disliked by certain groups within American society, including women and persons of color.

If evangelical populism is meant to empower ordinary evangelicals, then it had better address the concerns of three of the most important, most often ignored groups within evangelicalism: women (55% of all evangelicals in America), persons of color (22% and growing fast), and non-American evangelicals (the lion’s share of the world total).

Rather than just reflecting the passions of the white men who compose Trump’s base of support, genuine evangelical populists would join CT president Tim Dalrymple in lamenting that evangelicals are “associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more.” They would stop waving aside Trump’s misogyny and ask how much it taps into the sexism too often found within evangelical communities.

Finally, truly evangelical populists would look beyond the American nation to recognize that most evangelicals live elsewhere — often in places already being affected by the climate crisis that the Trump administration and its Christian enablers casually deny. “If we shift our gaze from the U.S. political right,” writes David Fitzpatrick, to look at evangelicals of color in this country and beyond it, “we can see an alternative tradition of evangelicalism that embraces social, economic, environmental and racial justice.”

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.

What are the Court Evangelicals Saying About Yesterday’s Impeachment and Trump’s Responses?

Watch:

So far none of the court evangelicals have said that Trump is right about Dingell because the former Michigan congressman did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before he died. But I would not put it past any one of them to say this.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey has it covered at The Washington Post.  Read it here.

Here of some of the tweets in Bailey’s piece and a few more (with commentary):

Bailey quoted me in her piece:

Evangelical supporters of Trump have been talking about “forces” undermining Trump, framing the impeachment proceedings in “spiritual battle” language, said John Fea, a historian at Messiah College.

In November, Franklin Graham, president and chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, told Eric Metaxas on his radio show, “Well, I believe it’s almost a demonic power that is trying . . .” And Metaxas interrupted and said, “I would disagree. It’s not almost demonic. You know and I know, at the heart, it’s a spiritual battle.”

Last week, Trump hosted about 50 evangelical leaders in the White House to pray for him, especially drawing pastors from the Pentecostal tradition where teaching on “spiritual warfare” is prominent.

“If Trump is indeed God’s anointed, impeachment and his potential removal is of utmost concern to those with this worldview,” Fea said.

Why doesn’t Graham go all the way and say that he is the most “pro life pro faith president in American history? 🙂

Once again, a Trump supporter refuses to argue based on the facts of the case.  If you want to say impeachment is a “sham” then you need to make a solid constitutional case for why Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his failure to cooperate with Congress are not impeachable offenses.  Impeachment has nothing to do with whether a president is pro life, pro faith, a defender of religious freedom, or presiding over a strong economy.  (On the latter point, it find it interesting that so many court evangelicals are now economic determinists.  I thought they didn’t like Karl Marx).  Jack Graham, like the rest of the court evangelicals, are in Trump’s pocket. How else can we explain the fact that he will not say anything negative about this president and simply ignore his indiscretions.  Either shut-up about politics, or apply biblical truth to public life (and this POTUS) in an even-handed way.

See my comment above.  Ralph, please make an argument based on the facts of the case.

This document is absurd.  A quick response:

  1. The House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump and no one else.
  2.  Stop trying to politicize what it means to be a God-fearing, family loving and patriotic!  This “family values” rhetoric has been around since the late 1970s and  Trump’s behavior and policies in office have made it virtually meaningless.  I wonder what Moore and Rodriguez think about the moral quality of the rhetoric coming from this White House? Do they really want evangelical children to listen to Donald Trump or read his tweets? Should we all tell our children to be like Trump and publish children’s books extolling his character? And don’t even get me started with “family values” after what Trump did to migrant families at the border.
  3. This document makes vague references to “due process” and “rule of law.”  It does not say ANYTHING about the facts of the case.  (See my response to the Jack Graham tweet above).  Rather than approaching impeachment and Trump’s behavior with deep historical and theological reflection, this statement just echoes the talking points of the GOP members of the House Judicial and Intelligence committees.  Christian leaders should do much, much better than this.  I’m not holding my breath.
  4. This document assumes that those who impeached Trump do not believe in “free elections” to determine political leadership.  Actually, if it wasn’t for “free elections” the Democrats would not have won the House in 2018.  The people spoke.  The 2018 election was a referendum on the first two years of the Trump presidency.  THIS is democracy at work.  But I assume Moore and Rodriguez mean that Trump’s impeachment somehow undermines the results of the presidential election of 2106.  First, the undermining of the elections was done BY THE RUSSIANS well before impeachment.  Second, impeachment is meant to discipline a POTUS during the time in-between elections.  Based on the logic of Moore and Rodriguez’s statement, the impeachment of Bill Clinton also undermined the people’s voice in the election of 1996.  The near-impeachment of Richard Nixon undermined the people’s voice in the election 1972.
  5.  The statement reads: “They impeached millions of Americans…who believe that it’s precisely the job of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the United States government to intensely obstruct one another in order to check and balance our freewheeling democracy….” I have no idea what this means.
  6. The statement assumes that one cannot believe “every life is sacred in and out of the womb” and still support impeachment.  That’s nonsense.  Trump’s impeachment has nothing to do with abortion or any other kind of life issue. He was impeached for abusing power and obstructing Congress.

Gary Bauer has a unique ability to nicely summarize the court evangelical position in 560 characters.

A Former White House Staffer Reflects on the Court Evangelicals

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Cliff Sims was an “obscure” White House staffer who has written what The Atlantic calls a “jaw-dropping Trump tell all.”  There is a lot to unpack in Sims’s new book Team of Vipers, but I was particularly interested in this passage on the court evangelicals from Elaina Pott’s review of the book:

Sims told me his aim in writing the book was not to scorch or, alternatively, deify the president. In large part, Sims said, it was a way for him to gain clarity and closure on how the experience changed him personally—and how he became, at many points, a person he didn’t like. Throughout the book, he calls himself “nakedly ambitious,” “selfish,” and “a coward.” He writes about his struggle to reconcile his Christian faith with working for a president who, for example, “totally lacked nuance” in his attitude toward refugees—particularly “persecuted Christians,” whom Trump “promise[d]” to help but “[never] did.” Sims writes that he took this concern at one point to Stephen Miller, who, he writes, told him, “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”

Meanwhile, he writes, he “never heard any of the faith leaders who actually had access to Trump” press him on the issue. He describes Trump’s evangelical advisory board as a collection largely of televangelist adherents to the prosperity gospel, people he “doubted” were “positive moral and spiritual influence[s] on the president.” “When the president occasionally struggled … to unify the country on divisive cultural issues, the silence of his ‘spiritual advisers’ was deafening,” Sims writes. “What is the point of having moral authority, as all these advisers claimed to, if you don’t stand up for morality?

“But as is so often the case, when I point my accusatory finger at someone, I have three more pointing back at me,” he continues, writing that his “greatest regret” from his time in the White House was “that I wasn’t a better picture of my faith.”

Read the entire piece here.

Court evangelical Johnnie Moore, a man who promotes himself as one of the “world’s most influential young leaders” and a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” responds here.

Conservative Evangelicals Defend Steve King and Want Kevin McCarthy to Apologize

King and trump

Perhaps some of you missed it.  Iowa congressman Steve King, in an interview with the New York Times, said this: “White nationalists, white supremacist, Western Civilization–how did that language become offensive?”

King later tried to back away from the statement, but it was too little, too late.  House minority leader Kevin McCarthy removed King from the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees earlier this week and he was almost censured.  King’s remarks were the latest in a long career defined by racist and nativist comments.

Not everyone is happy with what McCarthy, the House Republicans, and Congress have done to King.  Right Wing Watch has brought to my attention news of a group of Christian Right leaders who are supporting King.  The group is led by Janet Porter, a Christian Right activist who served as the spokesperson for Roy Moore’s 2017 Alabama  Senate race.  Porter is asking Christian Right leaders to sign a letter to Kevin McCarthy.  Here is the text of that letter:
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Dear Leader McCarthy,

We are appalled that Republican leadership would choose to believe a liberal news organization famous for their bias over an outstanding member of Congress who has served the people of Iowa and the United States honorably and faithfully for 16 years.

If Congressman Steve King believed and stood by the outrageous misquote of the New York Times, then the actions taken against him would have been warranted, but the opposite is true.

Unlike North Korea, we in the United States are “innocent until proven guilty” and hold to the principles of Western Civilization, as Rep. King so admirably does. The foundational principle begins with the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the principles to which Rep. King was referring and which he has championed for more than two decades of public service.

Don’t make the fatal mistake of turning the reins of the U.S. Congress over to the liberal media, allowing them to target, misquote, and falsely brand any member of Congress they wish to remove. 

We call on you to do the right thing as Minority Leader: issue a public apology and reinstate Rep. King to his committee assignments.  If we don’t stand with this good man against the media-manufactured assault today, none of us will be safe from it tomorrow.

The Christian Right leaders who signed this letter include:

  • The scandal-ridden former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
  • Court evangelical and family values radio host James Dobson
  • Court evangelical and charismatic media mogul Steven Strang
  • Paul Blair, president of an organization called Reclaiming America for Christ
  • Rick Scarborough, a conservative Southern Baptist political activist
  • Lance Wallnau, a court evangelical who claims to have prophesied Donald Trump’s election.
  • Rena Lindevaldsen, a law professor at Liberty University
  • Jim Garlow, a pastor and prominent court evangelical who recently co-authored a book with David Barton.
  • Cythnia Dunbar, a member of the Republican National Committee who is probably best known for trying to bring Christian nationalist ideas into American history books in Texas.  (She also claimed that Barack Obama, if elected POTUS, would work with terrorists to attack the United States within his first 6 months in office).
  • William Federer, a Christian nationalist known for collecting quotes about the founding fathers

I discuss Dobson, Strang, and Wallnau in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

This letter may be more revealing for the people who DID NOT sign it, including Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, Franklin Graham, Paula White, Johnnie Moore,  Eric Metaxas, and other court evangelicals.

The Court Evangelicals are Out in Full-Force Tonight

In case you have not heard, Donald Trump is having a big dinner right now for evangelical leaders.  It looks like a court evangelical extravaganza.

Click here to see what court evangelical Robert Jeffress is saying about it at the Christian Broadcasting Network.  Jeffress makes it all sound like a political calculation.  We need Trump and Trump needs us.

Court evangelical Johnnie Moore is there:

Court evangelical Gary Bauer is there:

Court evangelical Jack Graham is there:

Court evangelical Greg Laurie is there:

So are James Dobson, Jentezen Franklin, Samuel Rodriguez, and Ronnie Floyd:

Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas is yucking-it-up with fellow court evangelical Mike Pence (more on Metaxas in my next post.  Stay tuned)

Metaxas at Party

It also looks like court evangelical Tony Perkins got an invitation:

Trump finally said something nice about John McCain. I guess he did not want to come across as an unforgiving man with court evangelicals in the room:

Court evangelical Darryl Scott is there:

It wasn’t very hard to learn which evangelicals came to the White House tonight.  Many of them proudly tweeted to their followers and congregation as they relished in the power of the court and solidified their celebrity.

Some of you may be wondering what I mean by the term “court evangelical.”  I wrote a an entire chapter about these Christians in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpThat chapter builds off of several shorter pieces, including:

Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity,” Washington Post, July 17, 2017

The term “court evangelical” has even made it into the Urban Dictionary.

Perhaps the court evangelicals should go back to their hotel rooms tonight and read 2 Samuel 12. (There is a Gideon Bible in the drawer).  Nathan was one of King David’s court prophets.  In other words, he had a “seat at the table.”  When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband, Uriah, to be killed on the battlefield to cover up David’s sins, Nathan rebuked his king.  He told David the story of a poor man whose beloved “little ewe lamb” was stolen by a self-centered rich man who had plenty of lambs but wanted the poor man’s only lamb to serve his guests.  When David’s anger “was greatly kindled” against the rich man in the story, Nathan said to the king, “You are the man!”

Will there be a Nathan in the room tonight?  Somehow I doubt it.

Some Court Evangelicals are Downplaying a Possible Roe v. Wade Reversal

Trump fans

Court evangelicals Jerry Falwell Jr., Johnnie Moore, and Tony Perkins are all downplaying the idea that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by a conservative court.  Here is a taste of Steve People’s reporting for the Associated Press:

Like many religious conservatives in a position to know, the Liberty University president with close ties to the White House suspects that the Supreme Court vacancy President Donald Trump fills in the coming months will ultimately lead to the reversal of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade. But instead of celebrating publicly, some evangelical leaders are downplaying their fortune on an issue that has defined their movement for decades.

“What people don’t understand is that if you overturn Roe v. Wade, all that does is give the states the right to decide whether abortion is legal or illegal,” Falwell told The Associated Press in an interview. “My guess is that there’d probably be less than 20 states that would make abortion illegal if given that right.”

 

Falwell added: “In the ’70s, I don’t know how many states had abortion illegal before Roe v. Wade, but it won’t be near as many this time.”

The sentiment, echoed by evangelical leaders across the country this past week, underscores the delicate politics that surround a moment many religious conservatives have longed for. With the retirement of swing vote Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate plan to install a conservative justice who could re-define the law of the land on some of the nation’s most explosive policy debates – none bigger than abortion.

And while these are the very best of times for the religious right, social conservatives risk a powerful backlash from their opponents if they cheer too loudly. Women’s groups have already raised the alarm for their constituents, particularly suburban women, who are poised to play an outsized role in the fight for the House majority this November.

Two-thirds of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, according to a poll released Friday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Among women of reproductive age, three out of four want the high court ruling left alone. The poll was conducted before Kennedy’s retirement was announced.

Read the rest here.

Some Court Evangelicals Break Ranks on Trump’s Immigration Policy

immigrants

The Trump administration is separating children from parents at the Mexican border.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that Romans 13 justifies the policy, but court evangelical Franklin Graham calls the policy “disgraceful.”  Another court evangelical, Samuel Rodriguez, also opposes the policy.  Learn more from this piece at CBN news.

I am now waiting for the following evangelical leaders to stand-up to Donald Trump’s immigration policy:

Robert Jeffress has said nothing.  Yet he has wished Trump a Happy Birthday and thanked him for being such a great POTUS:

Jerry Falwell Jr. has said nothing.  If he tweeted something today I can’t see it.  He blocked me a long time ago.

Paula White has said nothing.  But she is tweeting:

Eric Metaxas:  I don’t know what he is saying on this issue.  I am blocked.

Johnnie Moore:  He seems more focused on Trump’s meeting with North Korea”

Mark Burns is being a good court evangelical:

James Dobson, the champion of “family values” has an interesting tweet today:

Ronnie Floyd seems to be running a prayer sweepstakes:

Richard Land: Silent

Greg Laurie is focused on a big rally in Dallas and Trump’s meeting with the North Koreans:

Tony Perkins, another champion of family values, has said nothing about the fact that Trump is ripping families apart at the border. Do “family values” only apply to white families? Middle-class families?

But he does love Trump:

 

More on Conservatives Talking Trump at Georgetown

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Yesterday we told you about this public conversation at Georgetown.  Today we are learning a bit more about what was said at the event.  Here is a taste of Rhina Guidos’s piece at The Catholic Spirit:

 

 

Rev. Moore said Trump’s appeal was in his authenticity and because he says exactly what he’s thinking.

“I just think that’s false,” responded Ponnuru. “He doesn’t speak his mind, he lies all the time. … He speaks authentically if we define authentic as not being restrained by norms of decency, manners. Let’s be accurate about the actual phenomenon going on here. The fact of the matter is, it is a minority of Americans who will say that they think of the president as a good role model for children, that they think of him as honest, that they think of his as decent, that they think of him as sharing their values.”

Many have rationalized Trump’s behavior and minimized his flaws, Ponnuru said, and “it’s coming across in a way that is very bad for the future of the social life of Catholics and evangelicals” and widening an already large generation gap.

“What is the long-term trajectory that this puts us on as conservatives?” Ponnuru asked. “That’s an open question. There is reason for worry.”

Gerson said religious leaders, such as evangelicals, are not just another interest group, but are leaders supporting the reputation of the Christian Gospel. He said he feared the decisions some are making have alienated the young, minorities and are “doing some serious long-term damage” to the causes they embrace.

Read the entire piece here.

Ramesh Ponnuru, an editor at the conservative National Review, is absolutely right about court evangelical Johnnie Moore’s appeal to “authenticity.”

Two Court Evangelicals Will Establish the “Congress of Christian Leaders.”

Moore

Johnne Moore is the organizational force behind the court evangelicals

The Christian Post reports that court evangelicals Johnnie Moore and Samuel Rodriguez have announced the founding of something called the “Congress of Christian Leaders.”  Here is a taste of Samuel Smith’s reporting:

American evangelical leaders Samuel Rodriguez and Johnnie Moore have announced the founding of a new interdenominational body called the Congress of Christian Leaders, which they say will seek to foster unity and serve growing Christian movements across the globe.

Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Moore, a well-connected evangelical public relations executive who regularly travels overseas to visit international Christian communities, founded the new body as a nonpartisan avenue to help independent global Christian leaders and their churches.

Moore, who is CCL’s founding president, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the organization seeks to bridge a “gap between evangelicalism in the United States and around the world.”

Members of the organization will include Christian organizations, pastors, denominational heads, business leaders, thought leaders and other notable Christian figures.

Read the rest here.

Of particular interest is how this organization relates to the coalition of court evangelicals.  Here is another taste of Smith’s article:

 

Moore was asked if he expects any pushback to the congress given that he and Rodriguez have ties to the Trump administration and he is largely viewed as the spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

“I hope there won’t be. In my personal opinion, that would not be justified,” Moore said. “While there is kind of a media obsession with our relationship with the Trump administration, our relationship with the Trump administration represents, in the big picture, an extremely small piece of what we focus on and what we do around the world.”

“Sam and I both have the same point of view, which is that any time a political leader asks you for advice, you have an obligation to give that advice whether or not it is received,” Moore continued, adding that they would have advised Hillary Clinton had she won and asked for their advice.

“People who would try to be divisive around this announcement for that reason are either uninformed or they have other intentions. It doesn’t affect the reality of our actual reputation and work and our intentions.”

I appreciate Moore’s attempt to stress unity over division, but there is a real naivety in some of his remarks above.  Both Moore and Rodriguez seem to think that their support for Trump has done no damage to their witness or their ability to cast a large tent with this proposed organization.  Frankly, I don’t see how ANY organization associated with Moore (and perhaps less so with Rodriguez) can be understood apart from their decision to support the presidency of Donald Trump.  Moore and Rodriguez may have big dreams about creating a global coalition of evangelicals, but they seem pretty clueless about just how divided evangelicalism is at the moment and what role they have played in that division.

Court Evangelicals: How Dare These Other Evangelical Leaders “Steal the Microphone” From Us!

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Wheaton College

CBN News is reporting that some of the court evangelicals are not particularly happy that evangelicals leaders who do not frequent the court of Donald Trump met at Wheaton College this week.

Here is a taste of Jenna Browder’s piece:

Those at the meeting held at Wheaton College indicated they wanted to make sure political allegiances to Trump don’t get in the way of the gospel message but it didn’t sit well with some evangelicals who support Trump’s policy initiatives.

Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for the Faith Advisory Council, was among the many pro-Trump evangelicals not invited.

“We don’t take it personally; we just pray for them,” Moore said in a statement to CBN News. “I’ve said it many, many times, but I’ll say it again: we have been honored to fight to protect religious liberty that even extends to protecting the rights of those who disagree with us on religious grounds, even when they are unkind.”

Robert Jeffress is another advisor not included.  

Richard Land also questioned the weight of the meeting given the absence of some well-known names. 

“Any definition of ‘thought leaders’ and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation – anemic and incomplete,” said Land. 

Other members of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council spoke to CBN News off the record, one voicing his concern over what he sees as this group of evangelicals trying to steal the microphone from those who support Trump. He pointed to the fact that many invited to participate are part of the anti-Trump movement and hold more progressive views on public policy than traditional evangelical Christian voters who supported Trump in 2016.

“It’s a meeting that will have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole,” Jeffress told CBN News. “Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism.”

Read the entire piece here.  The response of the court evangelicals speaks volumes.  They seem legitimately bothered that this other meeting has taken place.

As I wrote in The Washington Post on July 17, 2017: “The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments.”

White Evangelical Leaders Talk Trump

d2ad3-liberty-university

Sarah McCammon, our favorite National Public Radio employee (see Episode 13), talks to court evangelical Johnnie Moore, Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior, and evangelical social activist Shane Claiborne.

Here is a taste of their conversation:

MCCAMMON: Karen Swallow Prior, you’re at Liberty University, of course, a place where the president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is a supporter of Trump. You know, I’m curious. You spend time around millennial and even younger evangelicals. What are their priorities when it comes to interaction with politics and culture?

PRIOR: Sure. I think the students at Liberty University really reflect what’s happening with the millennial generation and in general, and that is simply that there is sort of a disillusionment and disengagement from the political process. I think some of that is born of disappointment and from the past election and just distrust of the political process in general. And I see that as probably a healthy counterbalance to the generation that I came up in. I was part of the religious right and part of the culture wars, ethos from a few decades ago where we probably did place too much faith in politics, and we’re bearing the fruit of that now. And this is just a counterbalance that I see, and it’s healthy and corrective and good.

Read the rest here.  It would have been nice to see these folks talk to each other.  For example, Shane Claiborne is planning a “Red Letter Revival” this weekend in Lynchburg, the home of Liberty University.  Swallow teaches at Liberty.  Moore used to work for fellow court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr.

“Incomprehensible and we can’t let it pass by”

This is what court evangelical Johnnie Moore said on Fox News yesterday.  And no, he wasn’t referring to the shooting in Parkland.  He was referring to Joy Behar’s remarks about Mike Pence.  While the nation’s attention is riveted on this shooting and we are trying to figure out what to do next to curb gun violence, court evangelical Moore, who describes himself as a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is on Fox News talking about the words of a B-list comedian on a daytime talk show.  Is this how Moore and Fox News distract attention from the real moral issue facing the country this weekend?

Why doesn’t Moore come out and say that the Florida shooting was “incomprehensible and we can’t let it pass by”?

Why have the court evangelicals been so silent beyond “thoughts and prayers?”

A Few Court Evangelicals Meet With Nancy Pelosi on Immigration

SamuelRodriguez-a

Christianity Today has it covered.  A taste:

Many evangelicals won’t let partisan divides keep them from rallying for immigration reform, particularly the urgent push for congressional action to allow Dreamers—who entered the US as kids—to remain in America.

Several pastors and members of Trump’s evangelical advisory board met Thursday with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who they cheered for her defense of young immigrants fighting for legal status.

A prominent Democrat in Congress, Pelosi also happens to rank among evangelicals most-disliked politicians; more than half (55%) of self-identified evangelicals had an unfavorable view of her in a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll.

Yet Trump adviser and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) president Samuel Rodriguez (also a CT board member) told Pelosi today that “America is a better place because of your prophetic leadership” on immigration.

Two more evangelical advisers—Maryland pastor Harry Jackson and Southern Baptist minister Jay Strack—as well as two other NHCLC leaders also participated in the meeting in Washington with Pelosi, fellow religious leaders, and Dreamers themselves.

“We’re joined together in the spirit of bipartisanship, compelled by our faith, to protect our Dreamers,” the minority leader said in a press conference streamed on Facebook Live.

Read the entire piece here.   The meeting was organized by court evangelical Johnnie Moore.

Glad to see this happening.

Court Evangelical (and Self-Proclaimed Modern-Day Dietrich Bonhoeffer): “Everyone Who Knows Us Knows This.”

Moore

I was struck by one of the quotes in Jack Jenkins’s recent piece at Religion News Service on the evangelical response to the Trump s***hole remark.

Jenkins quotes Johnnie Moore, the court evangelical who basks in the fact that he has been described as one of the “world’s most influential young leaders” and “a  modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Here is the quote:

Johnnie Moore, a former vice president of Liberty University and the de facto spokesman for the unofficial advisory board, responded to RNS in an email about Trump’s alleged remark: “Obviously, those words aren’t words we would use, and everyone who knows us knows this.”

  1. What “words” are Moore referring to in this quote: The vulgar word Trump used or the president’s words about immigration?
  2. If he is talking about the latter, is it really true that “everyone” knows that “those words aren’t words we would use?”  Frankly, after a year of court evangelicalism, I don’t think this is as “obvious” as Moore suggests it is.  It is certainly not “obvious” to me.

Court Evangelical Johnnie Moore “Walks the Line”

Check out Michelle Boorstein’s and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s Washington Post piece on court evangelical Johnnie Moore.  The thirty-four-year-old political operative says on his webpage that people think he is “one of the world’s more influential young leaders” and a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Boorstein and Bailey describe him as the “gatekeeper” for the court evangelicals.  He has to “walk the line” between his Trump-love and his Christian integrity.

Here is a taste of the piece:

That Moore said this sitting in the luxurious Trump International Hotel lobby, which serves as an unofficial office for him during his frequent trips to the District, while being served hot popovers by the constantly present waitstaff, is exactly the kind of irony his critics note. Moore presents himself as an advocate for religious freedom, they note, even as he serves Trump, who hesitated to criticize Nazis after the violent rally in Charlottesville in August and called for a ban on Muslims coming to America.

This contrast is at the heart of the controversy around Trump’s evangelical advisory group. While informal and ad hoc, it is the president’s only known religious advisory body, and is homogenous in its makeup — no other faith groups are represented. While there was a specific evangelical advisory board of around 25 people during the campaign, since the election its membership has been fluid, and Moore says hundreds of evangelicals have been brought into the White House for group meetings on topics from Israel to mental health.

It’s difficult to gauge the group’s real power, but there is no question that the members have regular access and that their political opinions and friendship are sought by the White House. The leaders are understood to be Moore, Florida megachurch pastor Paula White and Tim Clinton, head of the world’s largest association of Christian mental health counselors.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Defends Trump Amidst Criticism from Flake, Corker

KuoThe latest court evangelical defense of Donald Trump comes from Johnnie Moore, the founder and CEO of The Kairos Company public relations firm.  Moore is a self-proclaimed “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”  He also claims to be responsible for a “comprehensive rebranding of Liberty University in the more secularly-minded press.”  Hmm.  I wonder how that is going.

Recently Moore told CBN News that the United States is in good hands with Mr. Trump at the helm:

“Any of us that have interacted with Pres. Trump knows [he is] someone who’s competent, who’s kind, who’s credible, who has the best of intentions,” Moore said the same week the president has come under a barrage of blistering criticism from members of his own party.

“These leaders are playing politics,” Moore said of Senators Bob Corker, of Tennessee, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who earlier this week offered public rebukes of the commander-in-chief – one in a testy exchange captured on Twitter; the other in an emotional speech announcing his retirement in 2018 on the Senate floor.

Read the entire piece here.

Competency, kindness, and credibility is in the eye of the beholder.

Moore can’t be this naive.  Of course Trump comes across as competent, kind, and credible when the court evangelicals come to the White House.  Who acts like a jerk when a clergyman is in the room? How does Moore reconcile such competence, kindness, and credibility with the incompetence, meanness, and lack of truth-telling that Trump displays on a daily basis?

Moore and the court evangelicals should read the late David Kuo’s book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.  Here is a description:

David Kuo came to Washington wanting to use his Christian faith to end abortion, strengthen marriage, and help the poor. He reached the heights of political power, ultimately serving in the White House under George W. Bush. It was a dream come true: the chance to fuse his politics and his faith, and an opportunity for Christians not just to gain a seat at the proverbial table but also to plan the entire meal. 

Yet his experience was deeply troubling. He had been seduced, just as so many evangelical conservatives had been seduced by politics. Tempting Faith is a wrenching personal journey and a heartfelt plea for a Christian reexamination of political and spiritual priorities.

 

 

Court Evangelical: Trump “100 percent is a Christian who understands repentance.

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

One of the court evangelicals appeared over the weekend at the Religion News Association conference in Nashville.  She had a lot to say about the POTUS.  Here is a taste of Emily McFarlan Miller’s reporting at Religion News Service:

White also said that Trump “100 percent is a Christian who understands … repentance,” though, as his pastor, she said she wouldn’t divulge what he has repented for.

And in response to a question from freelance religion reporter Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, she said there “absolutely” is a line Trump could cross that would cause her to criticize him publicly, though she also would not say what that line might be.

“Yes, there is a line with the president, or any line that if I felt was in extreme violation, I would publicly criticize,” she said. “We tend to privately criticize and publicly stay together because I believe that’s how within a family, within church, within leadership, that is how things should be handled.”

Read the entire piece here.

I also see from the photo at the RNS site that Johnnie Moore, the fellow court evangelical, self-proclaimed Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and public relations guy, is standing by White’s side as she gets grilled by reporters.