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.

Johnnie Moore Explains His Role As A Court Evangelical

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I had never heard of Johnnie Moore before he became a court evangelical, but according to his own website he is “a modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer” and one of “the world’s most influential young leaders.” Yesterday he defended his court evangelicalism in a piece at Religion News Service (RNS).  Read it here.

I appreciate Moore’s desire to pray for the POTUS and provide spiritual counsel.  In fact, most of his RNS piece makes him sound like he is some kind of White House pastor.  Let’s assume for a moment that this is true. If Moore is serving as one of Trump’s spiritual guides, what is he doing to address Trump’s endless lies, his constant failures of character, his destructive tweets, and his willingness to make a moral equivocation between white supremacists and the people protesting white supremacy?  I imagine that many of his followers may want to know this.  What kind of counsel is Johnnie Moore and the rest of the court evangelicals giving Donald Trump? Either their supposed “access” is little more than what former court evangelical A.R. Bernard described as a mere “photo-op,” or they are giving moral instruction to Trump and he is just ignoring it. This POTUS is not growing morally.  Instead, his moral compass is getting more skewed by the day.  Did you see him in Arizona on Wednesday night?

Trump has a track record of using people to get what he wants–usually power and adulation–and then discarding them.  If history is any indication, he is using the court evangelicals in the same way.  Trump is playing them, just like Richard Nixon played Billy Graham. Why do these court evangelicals, who I presume have a robust view of human sin, suddenly become optimistic about human nature when it comes to this particular POTUS?

Moore writes:

Yet, rather than discussing Charlottesville’s tragedy sensibly, we lapsed into vicious and judgmental rhetoric with no room for discussion. The president’s press conference was insensitive and some in the press editorialized their coverage of it. Most Americans didn’t watch the whole thing from beginning to end. Yet, everyone had an opinion. It was an important discussion begun at an inappropriate time in an inappropriate venue.

Then, America invested all her energy into fighting herself rather than healing herself, and as spiritual advisers to the White House we were numbered among those especially targeted.

It all reminded me of a few phrases I used to teach my students to prod them to think more deeply, discover the reasons for belief, and to not allow themselves to get too comfortable in their own preconceived notions. I provoked them to seek understanding and not simply to form opinions. I told them “not every reason has merit but everyone believes what they believe for a reason” and “everything is always more complicated than it seems.”

First, what would it mean to discuss the “Charlottesville tragedy sensibly?” What is the “discussion” that Moore want to have when a bunch of white supremacists march into town with lit torches chanting Nazi rhetoric?

Second, Moore engages in his own version of moral equivalency.  He suggests that there is a moral equivalence between the president’s “insensitive” press conference and those in the media who called the POTUS out for suggesting there were many “fine people” on “both sides” in Charlottesville.

And why does Moore only criticize the media?  Why not talk about the business leaders who took a moral stand by resigning from the POTUS’s manufacturing council?  Why not bring up the growing number of GOP leaders like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, who condemned the President’s remarks. What about conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer and Michael Gerson? It wasn’t just the so-called “liberal” press who “editorialized.”

It is time for the court evangelicals to get a moral backbone.

Remember when Nathan said to King David “thou are the man?”

Or think about the Old Testament judge Samuel.  When God was angry with King Saul for his disobedience, He sent Samuel to rebuke the King.  Samuel “cried to the Lord all night,” presumably because he did not want to upset the King, but the next morning he obeyed God and confronted Saul.

It is not until the next to last paragraph of his RNS piece that Moore explains what he actually does with his “seat at the table.”  Apparently he is there for more than just prayer.

You only make a difference if you have a seat at the table. There is a long list of progress we have made with this administration because we took our seat at the table. We’ve provided consequential feedback on policy and personnel decisions particularly affecting religious liberty, judges, the right to life and foreign policy. We are also actively at work on issues like criminal justice reform, and when we’ve disagreed, we’ve had every opportunity to express our point of view.

So is Moore in the King’s court as a pastoral counselor or a policy adviser?

If the latter is true, what does a Liberty University graduate who served as a travel assistant to Jerry Falwell, worked for television producer Mark Burnett (also the producer of The Apprentice, I might add), and now runs a Christian PR firm, have to say on matters of federal judges, criminal justice reform, and foreign policy?  What kind of credentials do any of the court evangelicals have in these policy matters? What kind of advice are they giving the President in these areas?  What is their agenda? How does their agenda relate to building the Kingdom of God and their role as ministers and people concerned about the advancement of the Gospel?  Why do they feel like they need to accomplish their agenda through the pursuit of political power?

The Latest From the Court Evangelicals:

Here’s a late night update for those who are interested:

Pastor Mark Burns sounds more like Ben Franklin than Jesus as he spins his appearance this morning on AM Joy.

Jack Graham:

Robert Jeffress:

James McDonald wants us to remember that he is an ex-court evangelical. He resigned after Access Hollywood:

The modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer tweets:

Ralph Reed is mixing-it up with a progressive journalist:

Sarah Pulliam Bailey Reports on A.R. Bernard Resignation

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

I am glad that Sarah Pulliam Bailey is on the story!  Over at the Washington Post she reports on A.R. Bernard,  the first court evangelical to leave Trump.  I learned several new things from Bailey’s piece:

  • James McDonald, a Chicago-era megachurch pastor, is no longer a member of the Trump evangelical advising team.  He resigned about the Access Hollywood tape.
  • Johnnie Moore, the apparent leader of this evangelical advisory group and the man who does not shy away from the label “modern day Dietrich Bonheoffer,” says that he will still invite Bernard to meet with the group “on various issues.”
  • Jonathan Falwell, the brother of Jerry Falwell Jr. and the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, condemned racism from the pulpit last Sunday morning.  Meanwhile his brother tweeted this.  Bailey writes: “The brothers’ responses to Charlottesville reflect the largest divide in evangelicalism right now over how to respond and politically charged issues.”

Read the entire piece here.

A Court Evangelical Speaks

Court evangelical dinner

Many of the court evangelicals gather for dinner in the White House on May 4, 2017 (whitehouse.gov)

Below is a statement from Johnnie Moore, one of Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisers. It was written for ABC News and tweeted by Mariam Khan, a reporter and producer with ABC.

From what I understand, Moore speaks for many of the court evangelicals, but it is not clear which ones.  You may recall that recently Moore spoke for the court evangelicals in their attempt to get a meeting with Pope Francis.  So while there may not be an official evangelical advisory council, there is certainly a group of evangelical advisers that seem to have some level of organization and pay Moore, who embraces the title “a modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” to speak for them.

Here is the statement:

Many of us have done too little for too long when it comes to racial unity in this country.  So, in terrible and dark moments like the one this weekend, there are not bonds of trust to rest upon.  Building those bonds of trust is increasingly the focus of many of us.  This is especially important given American history on these issues.  I can tell you that politics has been the last thing on the mind of most Christian leaders these days, including myself. We have been almost exclusively focused on the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’

But, make no mistake, Evangelicals unquestionably abhor racism, anti-semitism, white nationalism, and white supremacism.  We believe racism is evil, and we oppose it in every form and every incidence.  Theologically, it is a direct offense to God himself for it opposes the Imago Dei (“image of God”) in every human being.  God hates racism, and we hate racism.  Countless ones of us have made that clear once again in recent days and we stand by those statements.  I do not know a single evangelical leader who is a racist.  I do know evangelicals who struggle to build bridges of understanding for various reasons.

I also believe the way that some in the media and in the administration as well as other politicians and also activists–republican and democrat, liberals and conservatives–have handled the Charlottesville incident has at times been unhelpful, too emotional and insenstive.  We all must condemn bigotry and hatred in pursuit of national healing and unity without exacerbating further conflict.

Because of this, we now face a moment of national reckoning where every American needs to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what they are going to do [to] help bring our nation together while addressing the persistent blight of racism.

It’s on all of us.

Evangelicals consider the Gospel responsibility we have been given by God to serve our fellow man to be our most sacred one.  That remains our primary focus.  As part of that we appreciated the deep relationship we have with the administration and the listening ear they have given to us and continue to give to us.  We take this seriously, and we feel our responsibility to fulfill our spiritual and national duty.”

A few thoughts:

  • As an evangelical Christian, I applaud Moore’s stand against racism.  All of the court evangelicals, with the exception of Jerry Falwell Jr., have made similar statements. There is nothing new here.
  • Who does Moore represent?  Why does he feel a need to make this statement? Has he become some kind of spokesperson for evangelicalism?  If so, nobody informed me about it. He used to work for Jerry Falwell Jr.  Does he continue to speak for the Liberty University president?  According to reporting from Time‘s Elizabeth Dias, Moore represents Paula White, Jack Graham, Samuel Rodriguez, Tim Clinton, and Ronnie Floyd, among others.
  • I am not sure what Moore is trying to say in the third (and fourth) paragraph of this statement.  Yes, technically it is “on all of us.”  But such a statement has no moral teeth.  Why not call out the POTUS directly? Name his name.  GOP politicians are doing it.  Manufacturing leaders are doing it.  Why be so vague?
  • In the last paragraph, Moore seems to imply that Trump has given an ear to him and the court evangelicals (or at least the mysterious group of court evangelicals that he represents).  Should we assume from this veiled statement that Moore and the court evangelicals ARE telling Trump that his statements after Charlottesville were inappropriate and lacking in moral clarity? As Mark Silk wrote today: “no one is actually asking the evangelical advisers to reveal what they are pouring into the administration’s listening ear.  They are asking the evangelical advisers to respond publicly to presidential behavior that has cause shock and dismay throughout the country and around the world.” Silk continues:

This suggests that what the evangelical advisers have actually been telling the administration and maybe even the president is, like, keep up the good work. Which makes you ask what Donald Trump would have to do to get the likes of Moore and Falwell to react the way the business advisers reacted. (Italics are mine).

The answer, I think, is that he would have to stop inviting them to the White House to discharge their spiritual and national duty by sharing their thoughts with, and laying their hands upon him. As long as that deep relationship persists, they’ll be standing by their dear leader.

If Moore thinks this statement somehow takes Trump’s evangelical advisers off the moral hook he is sorely mistaken.  The bottom line remains:  Corporate America has broken with Trump for moral reasons and Trump’s evangelical advisers–the court evangelicals–have not.