Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

trump-with-evangelical-leaders

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

Rudy Giuliani shares a tweet from a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. Notice how Giuliani uses Jenna Ellis’s tweet of Psalm 27 to make a political statement. When he says “we all matter” I think we all know the message he is sending in the midst of our post-George Floyd moment. In a follow-up tweet, Ellis gives Giuliani an “Amen.”

As the coronavirus cases spike, Ellis retweets an anti-masker attacking California senator Kamala Harris:

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center does not understand history. It’s tweet today seems like a defense of Confederate monuments. I am guessing Russell Kirk is taken out of context here. As I argued in Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past, history is always created from a dialogue the between past and the present. Sometimes the past is useful in the present. Sometimes the past is a “foreign country.” Ironically, the Falkirk Center and the rest of the Christian Right activists who talk about the past, have mastered the kind of cherry-picking Kirk may be warning against here.

What is the relationship between the following tweet and Jenna Ellis’s anti-mask retweet above? It seems that “rights” are a form of self-fulfillment, while concern for others is a form of self-denial. John MacArthur’s lesson might be useful for evangelicals as they think about masks and the spread of COVID-19.

Florida is seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases. Paula White is opening her church:

Wow: This is an amazing tweet from Trump’s #1 court evangelical:

Tony Perkins is hosting a video conference called “Arise and Stand.” You can watch it here.

Here is Gary Bauer’s Facebook post:

Kudos to my good friend Vice President Mike Pence!

Vice President Pence stood firm in the face of the media mob this Sunday, as well as the mob in the streets, by refusing to repeat the divisive slogan, “Black Lives Matter.” He was pressed to do so during an appearance on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Of course Black Lives Matter, as do Asian lives, Hispanic lives and Caucasian lives. That’s the truth. And it’s also a central Christian principle that the color of our skin is the least unique thing about us. What makes us special is that we are made in the image of God, and the vice president strongly believes that. 

Read the rest here.

I’ve said this before, this pivot toward “all lives matter” is simply a way for those on the Christian Right to avoid tough conversations on race in America following the killing of George Floyd. When Pence refused to say “Black Lives Matter” on television he was sending a message to the Trump base.

all lives matter cartoon

It’s all about the Supreme Court justices for Ralph Reed.

Theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan Tran have a nice response to Reed’s way of political thinking:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resources families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of “adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare or creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marion icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

Read the entire piece here.

Ralph Reed, perhaps more than any other member of the Christian Right, is responsible for what Hauerwas and Tran call a “failure of political imagination” among evangelicals.

According to Robert Jeffress, the “eventual collapse of our country” is now certain:

And last but not least, David Barton is on the Eric Metaxas Show today. When activists indiscriminately topple and deface monuments, it just provides ammunition and fodder for Barton’s Christian Right view of the past.

Barton defends a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a white supremacist who helped found the KKK. He seems to think that such a statue is essential to his ability to teach history. This comment even makes Metaxas squirm: “I think we all would agree that lines can be drawn, we don’t have a statue to Adolph Hitler.” In this sense, Metaxas’s obsession with Godwin’s Law serves a useful purpose.

When Metaxas says that debate over monuments is “complicated,” he reminds me of something I wrote at the end of my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?:

In 2010 the political commentator Glenn Beck devoted an entire television program to a discussion of George Whitefield, the eighteenth-century evangelical revivalist and the precipitator of the event known as the First Great Awakening. Near the end of the show, Beck’s conversation with his guests–two early American religious historians–turned to the topic of slavery. Beck wondered how Whitefield could inspire anti-slavery advocates in England such as John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” while at the same time owning slaves. Befuddled by this paradox, and clearly at a loss for words, Beck turned to the camera and said, “Sometimes history is a little complex.”

Barton peddles an unbelievably dumb theory about the origins of slavery and race in America. He says “out of Jamestown” came “slavery and intolerance and classism and racism.” But out of Plymouth came “liberty and freedom and constitutional government, bills of rights, etc.” His source is an uncritical use of an 1888 wall map showing these “two strands of history, one bad and one good.”

Apparently, Barton has never studied New England’s Native American history or the intolerance the Puritans showed to the likes of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. But wait, it gets better. Barton says that “both of those groups were Christian, but Jamestown was not biblical. They [just] professed Christianity. That’s much of what we see in America today. 72% of the nation professes Christianity, only six percent have a biblical world view.” Slavery started in Jamestown, Barton argues, because the settlers didn’t “know the Bible.” This is interesting, since during the early 19th-century Virginians used the Bible to justify slavery. I guess they were more biblically literate by that time. 🙂

Barton seems to suggest that New England did not have slaves. Wrong again. Even Jonathan Edwards, one of Barton’s heroes, a man who Barton would probably say had a “Christian world view,” owned slaves. Granted, New England did not have a slave-based economy, but slavery was not illegal prior to the American Revolution. If you want to learn more, see Richard Bailey’s Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. and Joanne Pope Melishs’s Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860

Barton goes on to say that today “we look at past generations through today’s filter and today’s lens and you really can’t do that.” This is rich coming from a guy who has built his entire career around cherry-picking from the founding fathers and then applying such cherry-picked passages to contemporary Christian Right politics. (See my comments about the Falkirk Center’s tweet about Russell Kirk).

He then uses this argument to reject systemic and institutional racism. Here is Barton:

So all the notion that America is institutionally racist–you gotta see what the atmosphere was like in that day–we were leading the world in the right direction that day. Now we can look back where we are today and say we weren’t perfect…but we’re not the racist nation everyone is trying to make us out to be. When you know history, you see that all clearly.

Barton speaks as if the Civil War–a war over slavery in which 700,000 people died–never happened. Is this “leading the world in the right direction?” Heck, he sounds as if slavery never existed in the United States. He dismisses four hundred years of slavery and racism by saying, “yeah, we weren’t perfect.” Barton is not a historian. He only cares about the parts of the past that advance his political agenda. Read this recent post to see the depths of racism in the evangelical church or grab a copy of Believe Me.

And finally, Metaxas praises Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as a great moment of national unity. He says that Lincoln showed “graciousness” toward his enemy. He said that because of this graciousness, Lincoln and Grant allowed the Confederate monuments to stand. Barton says that Lincoln’s “zealous” Christian faith is why he tried to reconcile with the South after the war. He says that Lincoln took seriously Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5 about “reconciliation.”

There are so many problems with this part of the interview that it is hard to know where to start.

  1. Lincoln did want to the bring the Union back together and he tried to use his Second Inaugural Address to do it. But let’s remember that this address was delivered after victory in the war was all but secured. The Union won. Whatever reunion needed to take place, Lincoln believed, must happen on his terms. The idea that he would allow Confederates to continue to celebrate their slave-holding “heritage” with the erection of monuments does not make sense.
  2. Metaxas seems to think that these Confederate monuments were erected during the days of Lincoln. Most of them were built in the early 20th-century as a way of defending the Confederate’s “Lost Cause”–a commitment to white supremacy. Lincoln had nothing to do with them.
  3. Lincoln was not a Christian. Nearly all Lincoln scholarship is clear about this.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5 has nothing to do with the Civil War or nationalism.
  5. But most disturbing is the fact that Barton and Metaxas seem to be endorsing a white romanticized idea of reunion and reconciliation that left out African Americans. The best book on this subject continues to be David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.

Until next time.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

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

Mike Pence’s nephew hosted a court evangelical conversation with Paula White, Johnnie Moore and Samuel Rodriguez. This is an event sponsored by the Trump campaign. Watch:

At the 5:30 mark, Moore starts out with a lie. Joe Biden does not want to prosecute people for going to church. Moore is outraged that St. John’s Church in Washington D.C. was burned during the protests earlier this month. Please spare us the sermon, Johnnie. If this was any other moment, Moore, who likes to fashion himself a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” would be attacking the rector of the church and its congregation for its liberal Protestant theology and commitment to social justice. (By the way, Bonhoeffer adhered to both liberal Protestantism and social justice. Moore’s Bonhoeffer comes directly out of the pages of Eric Metaxas’s popular, but debunked biography).

If you watch this video, you will see nothing but fear-mongering.

At one point in the conversation, Paula White says that Trump is fighting for the First Amendment and the Second Amendment. Since when was the right to bear arms a Christian concern? White claims that the Democratic Party platform says that it is a “party of the Godless.” Just to be clear, there is no such language in the platform. She also goes into what I call the “they are coming for our Bibles” mode. Here’s White: “We can basically kiss our churches goodbye, our houses of worship…we very well could be home churches at that.” As I wrote in Believe Me, this kind of fear-mongering reminds me of the Federalists during the election season of 1800 who thought Thomas Jefferson, if elected, would send his henchman into New York and New England to close churches and confiscate Bibles. (It didn’t happen. In fact, Jefferson was a champion of religious liberty). White believes that we are in a spiritual war for the soul of America. She mentions a conversation with Ben Carson in which the HUD Secretary told her that the forces of Satan are working to undermine Trump.

Moore defends Trump’s record on global religious freedom. Indeed, Trump seems to have made religious persecution abroad a priority. Only time will tell how successful this campaign has been or will be. But notice that Moore says nothing about the president’s approval of Muslim concentration camps in China. Why? Because Moore is not here to tell the whole truth about Trump as it relates to religious freedom. He is here to help Trump get re-elected. Or maybe talking about the religious persecution of Muslims in China won’t help Trump with white evangelical voters, many of whom still believe Obama was a Muslim. Most of Trump’s evangelical followers only talk about religious liberty when it relates to their own causes. Moore knows this.

Moore then attacks Democratic governors for trying to close churches during COVID-19. He has a lot of nerve. It was Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo (and GOP Ohio governor Mike DeWine, among others) who showed leadership during the coronavirus while Trump was tweeting “liberate Michigan.”

Samuel Rodriguez basically says that if you vote for Trump, you are voting against the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

OK, that was hard to stomach. Let’s move on.

Moore is also tweeting. He is upset about today’s Supreme Court decision on abortion, especially Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to join the liberal justices in blocking a Louisiana abortion law restricting abortion rights:

What does Moore mean when he says that this is the “Scalia-moment” of the 2020 campaign? Here is a passage from Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Already hitting his stride with his base, [GOP presidential candidate Ted] Cruz gained a new talking point in mid-February, with Super Tuesday only a couple of weeks away. When conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on a quail hunting trip in Texas, and it became clear that the Republican-controlled Senate would not provide a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s appointee to replace Scalia, the presidential election of 2016 became a referendum on the future of the high court. Scalia was a champion of the social values that conservative evangelicals hold dear, and it was now clear that the newly elected president of the United States would appoint his successor.

Cruz seized the day. Two days after Scalia died and five days before the 2016 South Carolina primary, Cruz released a political ad in the hopes of capitalizing on evangelical fears about the justice’s replacement. With a picture of the Supreme Court building as a backdrop, the narrator said, “Life, marriage, religious liberty, the Second Amendment. We’re just one Supreme Court justice away from losing them all.” In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Cruz said that a vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump could lead American citizens to lose some of their rights. “We are one justice away from the Second Amendment being written out of the constitution altogether,” he said. “And if you vote for Donald Trump in this next election, you are voting for undermining our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz pushed this appeal to evangelical fear even harder at a Republican Women’s Club meeting in Greenville, South Carolina. He told these Republican voters that the United States was “one justice away” from the “the Supreme Court mandating  unlimited abortion on demand,” and for good measure he added that it was only a matter of time before the federal government started using chisels to “remove the crosses and the Stars of David from the tombstones of our fallen soldiers.”

I wonder if the modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer has learned the right lesson from 2016? Some might say that the recent Bostock decision, and today’s Louisiana abortion decision, should teach evangelicals to stop relying on the Supreme Court to “reclaim” America, especially when such an approach to “Christian” politics requires them to get into bed with a president like Trump. But, alas, Moore would never even consider such a lesson because it does not conform to the Christian Right’s political playbook.

Meanwhile, Paula White is supernaturally praying for her Twitter followers:

I’m just curious. Is there  a way to “pray” for a non-“supernatural provision?” Sorry, I had to ask.

Jentezen is also upset about the SCOTUS decision:

Tony Perkins too:

I agree with the idea that every life is valuable, including unborn babies. But putting faith in SCOTUS and POTUS is not the answer.

Robert Jeffress is still basking in the idolatrous glow of yesterday’s Lord’s Day political rally at his church. Here is his retweet of Mike Pence:

A spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center retweets Princeton University scholar Robert George. As you read this retweet, please remember that The Falkirk Center supports Donald Trump and Trump is a pathological liar:

She is also upset with John Roberts:

And this:

Sadly,  in light of what we have seen thus far from the Trump presidency as it relates to race and Confederate monuments, this “idiot activist” seems to be asking a reasonable question.

Charlie Kirk is also mad at John Roberts:

It looks like the court evangelicals are very upset about an abortion case in the Supreme Court, but they have said nothing about Trump’s racist tweet over the weekend. I guess this falls under the “I don’t like some of his tweets, but…” category.

John Zmirak, who is an editor at court evangelical James Robison’s website The Stream, is back on the Eric Metaxas Show. He is comparing Black Lives Matter to Jim Jones and Jonestown. The entire conversation, ironically, is about people blindly putting their trust in a strongman. Metaxas wastes no time in connecting Jonestown to today’s Democratic Party. A Christian Right bromance may be forming between these two guys.  Metaxas tells Zmirak: “we are so glad you are on the program today, thank the Lord.”

They also condemn Black Lives Matter. Zmirak calls BLM a “slogan, a “trademark,” and a “brilliant piece of marketing” that is “raising money off of white guilt.” Sounds a lot like another slogan, trademark and brilliant piece of marketing. This one is raising money off of white supremacy.

In another part of their conversation, Metaxas and Zmirak say that Black Lives Matter is wrong from a Christian point of view because all men and women are created in the image of God. In other words, anyone who wants to say that only Black lives matter is actually racist (reverse racism, as they say) because in God’s eyes “all lives matter.” I’ve heard this argument before. Here is a quick response:

Indeed, Christians believe that we are all created in the image of God. As the civil rights movement taught us, Christian faith offers plenty of theological resources to combat racism. Moreover, the Black Lives Matter movement is very diverse. Author Jemar Tisby makes some important points in this regard in Episode 48 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podast.

I am sure Metaxas and Zmirak are correct about some of the abuses of the Black Lives Matter movement. But notice what is going on here. Metaxas and Zmirak are really only interested in attacking the Black Lives Matter movement. Since the killing of George Floyd, Metaxas has not offered any sustained empathy or acknowledgement of the pain and suffering faced by African-Americans, either now or in our nation’s history. Yes, he had some black guests on the program, but they were invited on the show for the purpose of undermining Black Lives Matter and rejecting systemic racism. At this moment, when white evangelicals have a wonderful opportunity to think more deeply about the problems of race in America, Metaxas has chosen to divert attention away from these issues by going after the extreme fringes of a generally anti-racist movement.

In his second hour, Metaxas hosts a writer named Nick Adams, the author of a book titled Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization. He runs an organization called The Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness. Adams makes it sound like Trump has some kind of agenda to save Western Civilization. This strikes me as very far-fetched since I don’t think Trump even knows what Western Civilization is. Metaxas, of course, loves his guest’s ideas, going as far to say, in reference to World War II (Churchill) and COVID-19 (Trump) that both men carried their respective nations through their “darkest hours.”

Until next time.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Trump court evangelicals

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

Eric Metaxas and his guest entertain the idea that there is a relationship between a COVID-19 vaccine and the “mark of the beast” in the book of Revelation. His guest is this guy.

Today Donald Trump tried to protect Confederate monuments. Gary Bauer loves it:

Johnnie Moore, the guy who calls himself a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is doing his part for the Trump campaign. Ivanka will be pleased:

Robert Jeffress is on Lou Dobbs denying the fact that Trump’s numbers among evangelicals are dipping and Biden’s numbers are rising. He continues to repeat the false claim that Virginia governor Ralph Northam wants to kill babies after they are born.

But Jeffress can’t argue with the facts. He says that the dip in evangelical support for Trump is only temporary. Eventually white evangelicals will embrace the playbook and come back to their political savior. You can always tell when Jeffress is worried–he raises his voice, yells, and points at the camera. For Jeffress, the November election is between “anarchy” and “law and order.” Yes, Joe Biden, the “anarchy” candidate. 🙂

Watch:

It’s a big weekend at Jeffress’s church. This is the Sunday his congregation waves American flags and shoots off indoor fireworks as they sing praises to Baal the American god.

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is worried about Black liberation theology. Today on its Facebook page:

Intersectionality, liberation theology, white fragility, white privilege. We hear these terms a lot, but where do they come from? A lot of the Christians supporting movements like Black Lives Matter, the idea of white privilege, and identity politics, whether they know it or not, are paying homage to a heretical teaching known as Black Liberation Theology. Virgil Walker and Darrell Harrison offer some insight into this fundamentally corrupt theology and how it’s influencing and corroding the Christian analysis and response on the leftist lies being perpetuated today.

This is a classic white evangelical move. Instead of coming to grips with problems of race and the plight of African Americans, past and present, evangelicals try divert attention by warning their constituencies about false doctrine. This reminds me of my years at an evangelical college in the 1980s when my white classmates said that we should not take Martin Luther King Jr. seriously because he was theologically “liberal.” (I write this as an evangelical Christian who does not subscribe to liberation theology).

Charlie Kirk is defending his Liberty University colleague Jerry Falwell by sharing a pro-Falwell article published in the alt-Right Breitbart News:

Trump’s court evangelical journalist:

Until now.

The fallout of Liberty University’s failure on race

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Elana Schor and Sarah Rankin of the Associated Press get us to up to speed on the fallout from Liberty University president Jerry Falwell’s recent racist tweet. Here is a taste of their piece, “Evangelical Liberty U rattled by its own racial reckoning“:

Football players Tayvion Land and Kei’Trel Clark, who are also Black, shared their transfer plans in social media posts with a Black Lives Matter hashtag. Land was among the school’s highest-rated football recruits. Another player, Waylen Cozad, announced his decision without explanation.

Liberty’s provost told local news station WSET that the school had terminated a professor whose behavior contributed to Land and Clark’s transfer decisions.

The athletes aren’t alone among the disappointed.

“It’s a personal regret of mine, getting my degree from here now,” said Liberty senior Janea Berkley, a leader at the school’s Black Christian Student Association. “I would never want to give my money to a place that didn’t support me, that felt like my life mattered.”

Thomas Starchia, who resigned as an associate director in the school’s office of spiritual development, said Liberty students and staff made good-faith efforts to promote diversity but its president’s tweet was a “tipping point.”

Acknowledgment of Liberty’s difficulties engaging on race isn’t limited to staffers and alumni of color. Recent graduate Calum Best said that “there is no serious conversation about it.”

“Many Christians are plenty happy to have hard conversations about issues they care about, like abortion, like homosexuality,” said Best, who is white. “For whatever reason, racism is a thing they don’t want to talk about. It’s a personal heart issue to them, something to be prayed over.”

Read the entire piece here.

Let’s also remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

Thursday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelical dinner

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

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Although somehow I don’t think I am reading this tweet in the way White intended it.

I found this today. Here is James Robison in April. He says Donald Trump is the most “teachable man I’ve ever met.” He adds that Trump loves his neighbor more than himself.

Ralph Reed is retweeting retired NFL and USFL running-back Herschel Walker:

Reed is also sticking with the playbook. We shouldn’t expect anything more from the guy who helped write it. What is the Christian Right playbook? Read about it here. Hint: The Supreme Court will save us.

Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition tweeted this today. They can’t be serious about moral character:

A spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is going after the Dixie Chicks:

And she is claiming that Biden is mentally incompetent:

Meanwhile, the organization Jenna Ellis works for, Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, shared this article about civility and civil discourse:

Charlie Kirk, the Trump wonder-boy, is writing about “shaky science,” among other things:

Again, Charlie seems incapable of empathy. Has he ever wondered why Bubba Wallace’s team got scared when they saw that rope hanging in the garage at Talladega? That might require him to pick-up a good history book or learn something about the African-American experience:

Glad to see court evangelical journalist David Brody has a problem with this:

Until next time.

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

Court

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

Andy Rowell (a never-Trump evangelical) has a useful Twitter thread on Donald Trump’s visit yesterday to the “Students for Trump” rally at an Arizona megachurch.

Court evangelical journalist David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network says “God works in mysterious ways”:

Al Mohler admits systemic racism is real. Maybe this group forced his hand. The attacks from the right wing of the Southern Baptist convention should be arriving very soon.

Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk is not interested in why Bubba Wallace’s team was worried about nooses in the first place:

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is tweeting about using Bible verses out of context and endorsing movements that support evil. Yes, you read that correctly:

Did John Hagee read Believe Me?

During an event in Colorado Springs called the “Truth & Liberty Coalition, “James Robison calls the last three-and-half years a “miracle of Almighty God.” He says a bunch of other court evangelical stuff, including that the media is working for the devil. If you want to get a good sense of the court evangelical way of thinking, watch this video.

Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham execute the Christian Right playbook to perfection. If you want to reclaim America as a Christian nation, you’ve got to get the judges. “Our hope is built on nothing less, than judges who pass the abortion test. We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Kavanaugh’s name. On the Trump the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand”:

Eric Metaxas shows why I continue to support the so-called “fear thesis.” Fear-mongerers take the most radical and extreme manifestation of a movement and try to convince people that it is mainstream. All undocumented immigrants are murderers and rapists. All Democrats are extreme Leftists who don’t care about America. The goal is to scare people. Very few people concerned about systemic racism want to defund the police, tear down monuments of George Washington, or engage in violence. Yet Metaxas has devoted most of his shows in the last week to talking about these extremists. Trump and the Christian Right do this all the time.

One of Metaxas’s guests today, a writer for the aforementioned James Robison’s website, denies the existence of systemic racism. He describes “anti-racism” as “communism in blackface” and a “new fanatical religion.” The Hitler comparisons abound. Yes, Metaxas and his guest think that the protesters and the Democrats are behaving like the Nazis. The Eric Metaxas Show may have replaced the Glenn Beck Show as the new face of Godwin’s Law.

Until next time.

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

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

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

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

And Twitter:

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

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

A few observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University:

And Lance Wallnau brings the fearmongering:

Until next time.

Saturday night court evangelical roundup

Trump court evangelicals

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

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

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

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

Yale

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

Brown

Columbia

People are transferring from Liberty University:

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

Apparently Chif-fil-A is now woke:

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

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

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

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

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

And he follows-up with this:

Being black at Liberty University

Liberty_University_LaHaye_Student_Union_IMG_4121 (1)

Over at Slate, Ruth Graham has a sobering piece on LeeQuan McLaurin, the Liberty University alum and employee who resigned in the wake of president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s racist blackface tweet. Since leaving Liberty, McLaurin has started the Liberty University Underground Railroad.

Here is a taste:

LeeQuan McLaurin thought it would be “the simplest of actions” for his department at Liberty University, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, to post something on social media in response to the ongoing nationwide protests against police brutality. But in this case, Liberty’s director of diversity retention says he encountered nothing but delays and confusion from colleagues when he tried to get approval for a post. According to McLaurin, his boss—the office’s director, Greg Dowell, who is also black—said a post was unnecessary. Then the topic came up at a larger meeting, still with no action. On June 1, McLaurin finally went ahead and posted something himself to the office’s account: a simple image reading “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and a caption citing six Bible verses backing up the slogan. Within an hour, McLaurin said, an administrator had removed the post. (McLaurin shared a screengrab of the post with Slate, but the administrator did not respond to a request for comment.)

McLaurin, who had worked at Liberty since he graduated from the school in 2015, resigned in early June, an act he described as the culmination of accumulated years of frustration at a school he loved. For him, the current moment is a time for both optimism and regret. He recalled feeling sick sitting as a chaperone to a mostly white student group at a “Blexit” event that black conservative activist Candace Owens held in Richmond, Virginia, last year—a rally intended to convince black voters to leave the Democratic Party. Liberty had offered the outing as a “cultural excursion.” McLaurin said that someone outside his department sent out an all-campus email about it from McLaurin’s Liberty email account without his permission. Backstage after the event, watching Owens surrounded by adoring white people, “it felt like I was in a horror movie.” “I cannot encourage students of color to go to that university the way that it is,” McLaurin said. “Our students deserve better. Our faculty deserve better. Our staff deserves better.” (A Liberty spokesman declined my request for interviews with Dowell and Jerry Falwell Jr. and did not respond to a detailed list of questions.)

Read the rest here.

What is happening to Liberty University? In the past year:

  • The school lost a star basketball player over Falwell Jr.’s racist tweet.
  • Prominent African-American alumni say that they cannot endorse the school.
  • The university dumped its philosophy department.
  • A vice-president wrote an op-ed in the alt-Right Breitbart News.
  • Falwell Jr. threatened a New York Times reporters with a late night phone message.
  • A former university executive says Falwell Jr. “doesn’t think anyone should be able to tell him what to do, and he’s going to do whatever he wants….”
  • At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, an English professor pleaded, “Please stop Jerry Falwell Jr. before it’s too late.”
  • When a parent questioned the president’s decision to keep the university open during the coronavirus, Falwell Jr. called him a “dummy.”
  • A new Liberty University think tank, created to promote Christian nationalism and Donald Trump, suggested that the biblical command to “turn the other cheek” is no longer sufficient in today’s political climate.
  • Perhaps the most well-known member of the Liberty faculty left.
  • When Politico published a piece critical of Falwell Jr. and his running of the university, he called it an “attempted coup” and “criminal conspiracy” against him.
  • Falwell Jr. admitted that he is not involved in the spiritual or Christian dimensions of Liberty University. The Liberty chaplain defended him.

Let’s remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

Asia Todd, a Liberty University Basketball Player and Member of the Atlantic-Sun All Freshman Team, Transfers After Falwell Jr.’s Racist Tweet

Asia Todd announced that she is leaving Liberty University’s women’s basketball team because of the university administration’s “racial insensitivities.” She is most likely referring to this tweet from Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.:

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Falwell Jr. has since apologized for the tweet, but it appears to have been too little too late for Todd.

Here is her tweet:

Here is a transcript of her video tweet:

Hello everyone, my name is Asia Todd and I am here to inform you guys that I have decided to enter my into the transfer portal and that I will no longer be attending Liberty University. Please know that this decision was not taken lightly. This decision had nothing to do with basketball or the program. This decision was simply bigger than basketball. Now the basketball program, the coaching staff, and my teammates at Liberty was amazing. I developed lifelong relationships that I will cherish forever. However, due to the racial insensitivities shown within the leadership and culture, it simply does not align with my moral compass or personal convictions. Therefore, I had to do what I felt was best within my heart and stand up for what is right. I pray that you guys respect my decision and that you guys also pray for me as I am seeking for a new home and a great fit. Thank you.

In her freshman year at Liberty, Todd averaged 8.6 points and shot over 41% from the three point line. She scored 24 points in a March 2, 2020 victory over Kennesaw State. She was a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team (the first Liberty player to receive this honor), the MVP of the Roo Holiday Classic, Atlantic Sun Newcomer and Freshman of the Week for March 3, 2020, and the first Liberty freshman with back-to-back 20-point games since the 2009-2010 season.

 

Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

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

Jentezen Franklin’s church made breakfast for the police:

In our current context, this tweet from Paula White takes on new meaning:

Here is Eric Metaxas today on his Facebook page:

Murder has always been illegal in America. What’s new is the demonization of all cops because of the vile crimes of men like Chauvin. It’s preciesely like when Americans spat on returning Vietnam vets & called them “baby killers.” It was DEEPLY shameful and wrong then & this is deeply shameful and wrong NOW. So let’s have the courage THIS time to denounce it while it’s happening — NOW — and not two decades later.

The facts are not the issue. The issue is Metaxas’s defensiveness and his unwillingness to use his platform to address larger issues of systemic and institutional racism in our society.

Here is Charlie Kirk:

Let’s also remember that Hattie McDaniel was not permitted to attend the premiere of Gone With the Wind, had her face removed from all advertising for the film, and sat at a segregated table for two in the back of the room during the 1940 Academy Awards ceremony. She was only permitted to attend the ceremony because someone owed someone a favor.

Liberty University’ Falkirk Center, whose co-founder Jerry Falwell has his own problems related to racism, is turning to Diamond & Silk:

So far we have heard no condemnation or comment from the court evangelicals about this tweet:

The Liberty University Underground Railroad

Quan

LeeQuan McLaurin

After Jerry Falwell Jr. posted a racist tweet, LeeQuan McLaurin, a director of diversity retention at Liberty, resigned in protest. Now, according to a piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education, McLaurin has created an “LUnderground Railroad” to “raise money for Liberty University employees who want to leave but can’t afford to.” Here is a taste of The Chronicle piece:

In an interview Tuesday, McLaurin, a 2015 graduate of Liberty, said he’s worked in three offices there and that microaggressions are common. He said a supervisor in a student-advising office advised one of McLaurin’s colleagues not to get his hair styled in dreadlocks “because it doesn’t look professional.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the “LUnderground Railroad” GoFundMe page had raised more than $5,300 toward its $30,000 goal. McLaurin said he’s heard from many employees who want to leave but are afraid they won’t be able to support their families, given Lynchburg’s shortage of available housing and high poverty rates.

Liberty, a private evangelical college, is a major employer in Lynchburg. It has around 46,000 undergraduates and an enrollment of more than 100,000 when online students are included.

“What weighs most heavily on me is not that I don’t have a job — I know God will provide for me — but hearing colleagues tear up because they want to leave, but they can’t afford to,” McLaurin said.

As director of diversity retention, he was a staff member in Liberty’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, and oversaw efforts to keep minority and other underrepresented students enrolled. He said that between 2007 and 2018, Liberty’s residential undergraduate African American population dropped from 10 percent to 4 percent. A Liberty spokesman declined to confirm or refute those figures.

Among the employees who have left recently is Keyvon Scott, a 2019 Liberty graduate who had been working as an admissions counselor for the university’s sprawling online program.

“The mask was just the tipping point,” he said on Tuesday. “As an admissions officer, I’m supposed to be promoting Liberty, especially when an African American calls and asks about diversity.” Scott, who said he was often the only African American person in his classes, said he could no longer do that.

Scott said some people lashed out at him for leaving and not sticking around and fighting back. “The thing is, I had to leave,” he said. “That’s how I take a stand.”

Read the entire piece here.

Here is the official statement from the LUnderground website:

Help staff and faculty at LU suffering from racial trauma and unable to leave due to financial restraints. 

No one should be subject to racial and workplace trauma (https://bit.ly/RacialTrauma  ) in order to earn a living. Liberty University, while for many is a beacon for believers, for others, it may be just a source of stable income within the Lynchburg area. Lynchburg is a city that is well known for its struggle with poverty. Economic issues include a lack of affordable housing, lack of significant economic growth, and a poverty rate that is nearly 7 percentage points higher than other Virginia cities (with the poverty rate of Black people being nearly double that of white people in the city) (https://bit.ly/LYHPoverty  ). 

With Liberty University as one of the major employers of the city, it naturally has attracted many employees, a fair portion of whom are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). While there is a lot to be said and debated about Liberty’s ‘economic impact’ on Lynchburg, and the surrounding areas, that is a discussion for another time. And trust me, there will be another time. While at the university many employees have experienced incidents of discrimination, prejudice, and general racial trauma. This institution has yet to grapple with its long-standing issues relating to racism and has consistently placed the burden of coping with the effects stemming from such on their BIPOC employees. 

The institution will often trust in, and has ultimately abused, their financial influence on the Lynchburg area in order to ignore their responsibility for racial and workplace trauma that is inflicted on BIPOC employees. A common statement that is heard around the university is “If you don’t like it here, then leave.” Most people in Lynchburg know that with the city’s economic state, the solution is not always as simple as leaving. Rather than work to make the university a healthier and safer work environment for its employees, the institution would rather ask people to either endure the racial and workplace trauma or leave.

Due to a strong culture of fear that exists within the university, many employees are afraid to speak out and share their experiences (https://bit.ly/FearCulture  ). Even more are afraid to leave due to fear that they would be unable to financially support their families. Several employees have attempted to file reports, but since the university often refuses to acknowledge the existence of very real things such as systemic racism, they have either been ignored or faced retaliatory consequences. 

As I explained when I turned in my letter of resignation, no one at LU understands what it is like to be a Black man working at a conservative evangelical predominantly white institution, and to then be faced with constant instances of racism (big and small alike), as you’re also fighting to change campus culture, while simultaneously hearing of yet another one of our brothers or sisters who have been murdered, and will not see justice, AND on top of all of that to deal with our own institutional issues only to have my hands completely tied. *breathe, I know that was a lot* 

Since announcing my resignation, so many colleagues, peers, students, alumni, and strangers have reached out to me. Most of these interactions have been pretty positive. However, the ones that haven’t been, have made the biggest impact on me. Several Black colleagues have shared that they wished they could leave as well, but they have families and/or financial responsibilities that force them to remain at LU. A few with tears in their eyes. Hurting. They know that they just have to swallow this hurt and pain, while also grieving with the rest of their community because their livelihoods rely on it. Some have already left, and have shared they have no idea how they are going to pay their rent come July, let alone other basic life necessities. Let’s not even talk about how the reputation of the university has hindered their prospects with future employers. 

This isn’t right. Since I left, so many people have chosen to graciously donate their hard-earned dollars (in the midst of a pandemic and economic recession, mind you) to me. This overwhelming display of the good to be found in humanity has confirmed for me that God is in the midst of this. He is tired of his children being oppressed. Furthermore, He is tired of people using His name to accomplish this. 

This fund is being set up for all the LU employees that would like to leave, but are afraid of how it will affect them financially. Those conflicted with their identity as BIPOC, but also need to make a living through a tough economic situation. Not a penny of this money will go to me. God has already been more than gracious to me. It will be divided amongst the BIPOC employees who have already left, or need to leave, but are unable to leave due to financial issues. The goal is to assist at least 15 former LU employees (although there are many more) with $2,000 each ($30,000) which can help many through at least a month of basic expenses–a month where they can focus their efforts on searching for a workplace that will provide a safe, supportive environment where they can thrive as BIPOC, and leave behind a toxic, unhealthy workplace that never did. Any amount that you give will be greatly appreciated.

To be eligible for the emergency relief funds, employees must have experienced racial trauma at the hands of the university and resigned from their positions due to it. Those wishing to apply for the funds should email lundergroundrailroad@gmail.com. I will be posting updates about employees able to be helped and served by these funds.

*The New York Times* Covers Falwell’s Apology for His Racist Tweet

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Elizabeth Williamson of The New York Times, the same reporter who got into a kerfluffle with Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. over her supposed “trespassing” on the university campus during the height of the coronavirus, is now covering the story behind Falwell’s recent apology for a racist tweet.

Not familiar with this story? Get up to speed here and here and here and here.

Here is the tweet that started this mess:

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What do we learn from Williamson’s reporting that we did not already know?

  1. Here is a quote from Keyvon Scott, an online admissions counselor who resigned after Falwell’s blackface tweet: “Your actions have shown you really don’t care about the black community, and that’s sad…You can’t say this is a Christian university, but then everything that comes out your mouth is about Trump?”
  2. While Falwell was defending his original tweet, members of the Liberty football and basketball teams were having “fraught meetings with coaches and staff to discuss George Floyd….” But basketball coach Ritchie McKay said, “I feel really good about what he’s [Falwell’s] done on our campus. Leadership styles are different. This is a great place to work, and our guys are having I think a life-shaping experience.”
  3. Keyvon Scott wonders if he will ever be employed again in his field because he has “Liberty University” on his vita. He said, “people take one look at Liberty University on my resume, and I always get asked the same question: Why would you go there?”
  4. After Falwell issued published the tweet and defended it, a regional broadcaster refused to run Liberty University advertising or content.
  5. The owner of a Lynchburg restaurant praised Falwell’s idea for a blackface coronavirus mask, saying “We would offer them to our staff as a mask option.” Protesters vandalized his restaurant and the man issued an apology.
  6. Prior to Monday, Falwell showed no remorse for the tweet and even promoted his blackface mask on a conservative television program. On the same program, Falwell’s wife Becki said that she did not approve of the mask or the tweet. Falwell laughed.
  7. One African-American pastor and Liberty graduate defended Falwell’s apology. He believes Falwell did not succumb to the pressure, but rather “his heart got right.”
  8. The African-American authors of a Change.Org petition want a face-to-face meeting with Falwell.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. Apologizes for His Racist Tweet

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It looks like the pressure finally got to Jerry Falwell Jr.  But if Liberty alumni did not complain, and if two employees did not resign, would he still see the need to apologize?

Here is the background.

Here is Sarah Pulliam Bailey at The Washington Post:

Faced with outrage from black alumni and the resignation of at least three African American staffers, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has deleted and apologized for a two-week-old tweet that showed a face mask decorated with a photo of a person in Ku Klux Klan robes and another in blackface.

The images were intended to mock the mask requirement implemented by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who nearly resigned from his office last year amid revelations that the racist photo had been featured on his medical school yearbook page.

But it upset many of the African American students, staff and alumni at Liberty, which was founded in Lynchburg, Va., in 1971 by Falwell’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., and is one of the largest Christian universities in the world.

LeeQuan McLaurin, who began as a student at Liberty in 2012 and has worked there since, resigned from his position as director of diversity retention last week. He said in an email that Falwell’s tweet on May 27 was a tipping point of larger racially related problems that he has experienced at the school, which he said have contributed to a drop in Liberty’s residential undergraduate African American population from 10 percent to 4 percent between 2007 and 2018.

“Some draw a direct line between the start of President Falwell’s divisive, insensitive, and unapologetic approach to politics and that drop,” he wrote in the email. Since President Trump’s campaign, Falwell has been one of his most prominent evangelical supporters.

On Monday, Falwell apologized for his tweet after meeting with African American board members and some alumni, including former NFL athlete Rashad Jennings, who played college football at Liberty. Falwell tweeted that he wanted to remind people of the 2019 scandal in which Northam denied that the photo was his but admitted to wearing blackface.

“I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point. Based on our long relationships, they uniformly understood this was not my intent, but because it was the result,” Falwell wrote on Twitter. “I have deleted the tweet and apologize for any hurt my effort caused, especially within the African American community.”

Following his apology, Falwell said in an interview that he was unaware of McLaurin’s resignation, as well as the resignation of another black staff member, Keyvon Scott, who was an online admissions counselor.

Read the rest here. I find it  hard to believe that Falwell did not know about these resignations.

Liberty University’s Director of Diversity Retention Has Resigned

Quan

Quan McLaurin

His name is Quan McLaurin.

I am assuming he is resigning because of this:

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Here is his tweet:

Here is what he wrote on his LinkedIn page:

Yesterday I tendered my letter of resignation. As of July 2, 2020, I will no longer serve as the Director of Diversity Retention at Liberty University.

In other news, if you know of any good student affairs or diversity, equity, and inclusion positions that are available feel free to shoot them my way.

McLaurin has a bachelor’s degree in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology (2015) and a master’s degree in communication (2020). Both are from Liberty University.

As I wrote in a previous post today, the co-founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center does not believe in white privilege or systemic racism.

Let’s remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

African-American Alumni of Liberty University: “Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships”

Last week Jerry Falwell Jr. designed his own blackface COVID-19 mask. Read about it here. One African-American professor has resigned.

Here was his tweet:

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Falwell defended himself and refused to apologize. Last night he tweeted:

People have asked why I won’t apologize for reminding people of @vagovernor racist past in a recent tweet. It’s because that same Gov just ended tuition assistance grants for the 27% of @LibertyU online students who are African-American! Put your $ where your mouth is Gov. Sad.

And now, 35 African-American pastors, ministry leaders, and former athletes who graduated from Liberty University (I’ve linked to as many as possible below) have rebuked Falwell Jr. for his racism. Liberty University students, alumni, staff, and parents are encouraged to endorse the letter by adding their signatures.

Here is the letter:

Dear President Jerry Falwell Jr, 

We are all African-American Evangelical pastors, ministry leaders, and former athletes who are alumni of Liberty University, and we are grateful for our college experiences. These experiences have shaped us in deep and profound ways and have equipped us to engage our local context with the Gospel of Jesus, both thoughtfully and unashamedly. The school’s mission is to educate and train champions for Christ to impact the culture, and we believe the objective has been achieved for many years. While we rejoice in God’s grace in advancing this mission, we, however,  have been disappointed and deeply grieved by your incendiary rhetoric over the past several years. 

The latest example is your May 27 tweet of a face mask with an image of two people, one in a KKK robe and hood and one appearing in blackface. While your tweet may have been in-jest about Virginia’s Governor, it made light of our nation’s painful history of slavery and racism. It is what we’re called to reject as followers of Christ – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…” (Ephesians 5:4, ESV). The reckless nature of this tweet is a microcosm of the past several years of divisive rhetoric that does not display the kind of Christian witness that the Gospel demands of us, nor does it represent the Christlike leadership that Liberty University deserves. It has brought further disgrace to Jesus Christ and Liberty University.

For several years, you have said and defended inappropriate statements that represent Liberty and our faith very poorly. You have belittled staff, students and parents, you have defended inappropriate behaviors of politicians, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths. We were all taught at Liberty about the sanctity of life (Jeremiah 1:5) and the dignity of every human – made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and yet, you have repeatedly violated and misrepresented core Christian principles (Romans 12:9-21) through brash tweets and statements that harm our Christian witness. 

While students, professors, and alumni have urged you to alter your rhetoric and repent, sadly nothing has changed. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Liberty University is a family-owned organization and you are the sole authority. The Board of Trustees has no power to influence your behavior or hold you accountable. So, the objective of this letter is to appeal to you and your spiritual conviction. 

We are writing to urge you to stop this infantile behavior and lead our alma mater with dignity as your father did. Jerry Falwell Sr was more focused on preparing the next generation to courageously engage the culture as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). He wasn’t perfect, but he was humble enough to confess ungracious and unbiblical comments, and apologize when he was wrong. The KKK robe and hood and blackface face mask tweet may seem funny to you, but this tweet is the action of a political commentator or activist and is not fitting nor acceptable for the leader of one of the largest Evangelical Christian schools in the world. A review of your social media and statements during your presidency would lead many to believe that you care much more about politics than Jesus Christ, Evangelism, and the discipleship of students. It has become obvious to many that your heart is in politics more than Christian academia or ministry, so we would encourage you to leave the position of school president and pursue politics full-time. 

Your statements hurt the ability of Liberty alumni to obtain jobs and have a voice in the culture. Having the school’s name on a resume can be a liability to many of our graduates. As much as you say that your statements and activism do not reflect the mission, values, faculty, staff, students and alumni of the Liberty University as a whole, this is a misguided position because everything you do and say is a reflection of Liberty University, whether you want it to be or not. You are the president of a Christian university with a platform of great influence and you have the unique responsibility to steward that role in a way that honors God first and foremost. 

Lastly, we leave you with this. Because of your callous rhetoric, we can no longer in good faith encourage students to attend our alma mater or accept athletic scholarships. There are many Christians of color who worship in our churches and communities; we will not recommend their attendance at L.U. as long as you continue the unChristlike rhetoric. We will no longer donate funds to the university. We will also actively encourage Christian leaders to decline the invitation to speak at Liberty if you continue to insist on making unChristlike and inappropriate statements that are misrepresentative of Biblical Christianity. 

In closing, we ask you to withdraw your racist tweet immediately and make a public apology. If you decide to stay at Liberty, this coalition stands ready to meet with you in order to provide counsel on ways for L.U. to best move forward in these racially-charged and divisive times. Liberty University deeply impacted us as students and we hope that you can return to a focus of training “young champions for Christ” with Biblical conviction and Christlike character and humility. Our ultimate goal is for Jesus to be glorified in all that we say and do. We pray that is your desire as well.

The letter is signed by:

Dr. Chris Williamson (Strong Tower Bible Church, TN), Class of ‘90 & ‘92

Pastor Eric Carroll (The Ascension Church RVA, VA), Class of ‘91

Eric Green (former NFL player, Liberty University Hall of Fame), Class of ’90

Pastor Eric Saunders (McLean Bible Church, VA), Class of ‘07

Walt Aikens (NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’14

Latasha Morrison (Founder, Be The Bridge), Class of ‘13

Minister Myles “Mac” Lawhorn (Epiphany Fellowship Church, PA), Class of ‘00

Obehi Idiake (Christian speaker, podcaster), Class of ‘14

Minister Maina Mwaura (author, speaker), Class of ‘97

Pastor Marcell Howard (Woodhaven Bible Church, MI) Class of ‘03 & ‘10

Lezlyn Parker (author, speaker), Class of ‘89

Richard Shelton (former NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’89

Khambrel “Kham” Rembert (Christian musician), Class of ‘17

Pastor Gavin Davis (McLean Bible Church, VA), Class of ‘06

Dorena McFarland Williamson (author, speaker), Class of ’91

Rev. Dr. Johnny Parker (author, speaker), graduate student ‘05

Dr. Joy Hervey (author, speaker), Class of ‘18

Johnny T. White (H.S. Coach, football student-athlete),Class of ‘93

Shomari Dixon (ministry leader), Class of ‘19

Wayne Haddix (former NFL player, football student-athlete), Class of ’88

Rev. Brian D. Woolfolk (First Mt. Zion Baptist Church, VA), Class of ‘92

Minister Tiffany Croom, Class of ‘13

Patrick Nelson (former NFL player), Class of ‘92

Shelton Lewis, (football student-athlete) Class of ’93

Carroll L. Ward (football student-athlete), Class of 90

Pastor James Hobson Jr.(Hill City Community Church, VA), Class of ‘11 & ‘17

Curtis Artis (Christian nonprofit leader), Class of ‘91

Keith Vinson (football student-athlete), Class of ’91

LaTasha Washington (Christian counselor), Class of ‘16

Allan Louder (Basketball Student-Athlete), Class of ’91

Dr. Andre Sims (Christ the King Bible Fellowship, WA), Class of ’88 & ’91

Pastor Jua Robinson (Charles River Baptist Church, MA), Class of ’04 & ’05

Joshua McMillion (Christian musician), Class of ‘17

Pastor Marion Mason (former LU Assistant Track Coach), Class of ‘06

Corey Rice (football student-athlete), Class of ‘93

 

YOU CAN SIGN IT HERE

Here is the Associated Press story.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Just Designed His Own Blackface COVID-19 Mask; Faculty Member Resigns Immediately

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When I started this blog 12 years ago, I never imagined that one day I would be writing about the intersection of white evangelicalism, Donald Trump, a major pandemic, and blackface.

Earlier today, I published a piece at Religion News Service on court evangelical Eric Metaxas’s use of blackface. Now Jerry Falwell Jr, the president of Liberty University and the guy who recently appointed Metaxas as a fellow at his Christian Right “think tank” the Falkirk Center, is tweeting about blackface.

Yesterday, Falwell Jr. tweeted:

I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!#VEXIT#EndLockdownNow pic.twitter.com/twu7r4rWhd

— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 27, 2020

Here is Zack Linly at The Root:

First of all: Can we just acknowledge that the conservative resistance to wearing face masks makes no sense? This isn’t like the push to reopen the economy because, for all of that campaign’s faults, it’s at least about getting people back to work. The anti-face mask thing, on the other hand, just seems like arbitrary defiance for the sake of defiance. It’s just odd that all of these Republican officials, including y’all’s president, seem so hellbent on dying on that particular hill. (Editor’s note: Perhaps literally. COVID-19 is not a game.)

Falwell—the man who once had arrest warrants issued for journalists because they were covering his widely criticized decision to reopen Liberty U’s campus despite the dangers of the COVID-19 outbreak—took things a step further by randomly invoking racism to make his point.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Northam caught black people’s collective side-eye last year when a photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook was unearthed, showing him in blackface next to someone in KKK attire. Northam initially apologized for the photo then later denied it was him in the photo at all. This was certainly a drag-worthy offense, but Falwell is still way out of his lane here.

On its face (pun intended), Falwell’s tweet just makes it seem like he’s planning to wear a mask with a Klan member and a white guy in blackface on it. It just looks like him being racist as hell, which is probably why he needed to clarify things in a separate tweet.

“Just so folks outside Virginia unfamiliar with the pic on the mask understand: it is from the personal page of the medical school yearbook of @GovernorVA,” he tweeted. “Just a way to shine a spotlight on the fact that Democrats are and always have been the real racists in this country.”

Read the entire piece here. You can read a local news report here.

Yes, this is another example of the fact that not all Christian colleges are the same.

And now at least one African-American Liberty University professor has resigned.

Christopher House is a tenured communications professor at Ithaca College and the pastor of Christian Community Church in Ithaca, New York. He also teaches in Liberty University’s online program.

Here is his letter of resignation, published on his Facebook page:

I’m a Black tenured associate professor at Ithaca College and a pastor. My research expertise and scholarship in rhetoric, race and religion and also rhetorical theology have opened up other opportunities for me to speak/teach at other institutions where critical conversations about race, racism and white supremacy are needed the most.

In late 2018, I was presented with a unique opportunity to do so at the graduate level as an instructor for an Intercultural Communication class at Liberty University online.

A bit uneasy, yet feeling compelled to do so, I agreed to bring my expertise to bear in an online environment in fall 2019.

I did so not that I align myself politically with this institution or its leadership (because I don’t), but because I know that there are individuals who attend Liberty who need to hear diverse voices like mine and the message I carry. I was surprised to find graduate students open to new ideas and ways of understanding about such critical issues.

However, yesterday after a friend (who is a LU alumnus) forwarded me photos of two racists tweets from LU President Jerry Falwell, I resigned immediately!!!!!

My moral compass and integrity would not allow me have any further relationship with that institution for any reason!

I was brought into LU to generate the kind of dialogue that challenges the ideas, narratives and ideologies that underlie the very images Falwell intentionally used to make a political statement to the Governor of Virginia. Falwell did so at the expense of Black people and Black pain. This is abhorrent, evil and sickening! This does not reflect the God of the Bible!

I have come to meet some really bright students at Liberty (and who are there for many different reasons) who have to endure this type of environment. My heart goes out to them.

This is another reminder to me that some folks really don’t want to change. And although I was able to impact a few, the price to continue to do so is too high! My resignation letter is below!

Yet another chapter in the history of the world’s second largest Christian university.

Yet another chapter in the story of white conservative American evangelicalism in the age of Trump.

If There is Such a Thing as Twitter Blackface, Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas Just Engaged in It

Here is court evangelical and newly appointed Falkirk Fellow at Liberty University:

metaxas Blackface

Karen Swallow Prior, as some of you know, is an English professor at Liberty University, at least until she leaves for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary this summer.

Metaxas’s tweet is a reference to Joe Biden’s awful gaffe today in which he joked that black Trump voters “ain’t black.” He apologized for the statement.

The condemnation on Twitter has been fast and furious:

Bailey’s tweet above is true. But as I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, this kind of racism has a long history in American evangelicalism.

I think it is time, once again, to learn more about Blackface. Here is a good article from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. A taste:

Historian Dale Cockrell once noted that poor and working-class whites who felt “squeezed politically, economically, and socially from the top, but also from the bottom, invented minstrelsy” as a way of expressing the oppression that marked being members of the majority, but outside of the white norm. Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core.  By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.

The most striking parts of this definition are the references to “comedic performances” and “language.” In his tweet, Metaxas was trying to be funny and mocked African-American speech patterns. He has also built much of his recent career around playing the victim–a white evangelical man who feels “squeezed.” This is a textbook case.

Metaxas’s tweet and his recent appointment as Senior Fellow at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center speaks volumes about the current state of white evangelical support for Donald Trump.

Metaxas will take some heat this weekend on social media, try to defend himself on Monday, and then continue with his Salem Radio program as if nothing has happened. There will be no consequences for this racist tweet because it will garner ratings. The Trump base will love it. Actually, it will probably do much to strengthen Metaxas’s brand. This is the current state of Christian radio. As Wehner notes above, it is time for Christian leaders with a platform to step-up. Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jack Graham, Greg Laurie, Ralph Reed, Paula White, David Barton, and Tony Perkins won’t do it. Neither will Al Mohler or Wayne Grudem. Who will it be?

I think it was GOP operative Rick Wilson who said “everything Trump touches dies.”

Jerry Falwell Jr. and Eric Metaxas Unite

Metaxas FalkirkAs the November 2020 election nears, Donald Trump’s court evangelicals are beginning to consolidate their forces under the banner of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty. (See our posts on the Falkirk Center here). Today, Liberty University appointed Eric Metaxas Senior Fellow at the center.

Here is the press release:

No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and nationally syndicated radio host Eric Metaxas has joined Liberty University’s Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty as a senior fellow, contributing his breadth of intellect and passion for traditional freedoms to combat the surge of progressive worldviews affecting American society.

Metaxas joins forces with co-fellows Dr. David Brat, a former U.S. Congressman and dean of Liberty’s School of Business; Jenna Ellis, a constitutional expert and senior legal advisor for President Donald Trump; David Harris Jr., a political activist, author, and conservative podcast host; and many other public influencers.

“Having Eric Metaxas join the Falkirk Center is very significant,” said Ryan Helfenbein, executive director of the Falkirk Center. “He is one of the wisest Christian men I know, and his passion for Jesus and the conservative cause will surely aid our mission.”

The Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty is a conservative think tank formed by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. to provide a biblical, measured response to questions about the intersection of faith and politics in the public sphere.

The center, which launched last fall, equips convicted Christians with educational resources to preserve traditional American freedoms like religious liberty, limited government, free market principles, personal and national defense, and protection of life in all developmental stages.

“It’s an honor for me to serve the Falkirk Center,” said Metaxas, who was Liberty’s 2014 baccalaureate speaker. “I’m thrilled at the work the center is doing to shed light on many important issues.”

The Falkirk Center’s growing ambassadorship program allows Christians of all ages — from Liberty students to members of the public nationwide — an opportunity to advocate for these values using their social media accounts.

What does it all mean? It’s not clear. Metaxas already has a pretty high profile among the Trump-loving evangelical base. So far the Falkirk Center seems little more than a group of conservative evangelicals who use their platform to defend the president and the idea that the United States is a Christian nation. (Oh yes, I almost forgot, it also wants central Virginia to secede from the state and join West Virginia). The “fellows” write things at outlets like Breitbart, appear on conservative media shows, and tweet.

Metaxas’s appointment comes in the wake of Liberty University’s decision to eliminate its philosophy department.

It also comes following Falwell Jr’s battle with The New York Times over a reporter who apparently trespassed on Liberty University property during the COVID-19 lockdown.

I am sure Metaxas wants an even bigger platform than the one he already has. I am sure Falwell Jr. wants Metaxas’s help in the fight to defend Liberty from the “liberal media,” “fake news,” and other forces of evil. 🙂

Trump’s evangelical supporters can breathe a sigh of relief today. Metaxas and Falwell Jr. are on the job! Fears will now subside, at least for the moment. Metaxas, Falwell Jr., and the rest of the Falkirk Center team will be everywhere on conservative media in the coming months trying to convince the white evangelical faithful to once again vote for Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the rest of the evangelical faithful–those who do not like Trump (but may have voted for him in 2016) or “don’t do politics,” will remain quiet.

Jerry Falwell Jr: *The Chronicle of Higher Education* Interview

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

Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, just gave an interview to Jack Stripling of The Chronicle of Higher Education. The first part of the interview covers ground we have already covered here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. The second part of the interview is pretty revealing. Stripling annotates some of Falwell Jr.’s answers in brackets.

Here is a taste:

Are you going in to your office?

I don’t have as many meetings as I used to, but whenever I do need to have one, yes, I’ll go in and have one.

Do you wear a mask?

No.

Do you ever wear one?

No.

Why not?

I don’t get close enough to anybody to need one. I got the antibody test, and I have not had Covid-19.

[The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”]

You got the antibody test because you felt you had symptoms, or you were just wondering if you’d won the Covid lottery and might be immune?

I was just curious. I kept hearing so much hype about it; I just wanted to see how real the threat was.

The fact that you didn’t have the antibodies, does that make you think that the threat is exaggerated?

No, I’m just glad to see it wasn’t bad enough around here that I’d caught it.

[Of 31,140 reported coronavirus cases in Virginia, 74 are in Lynchburg, where Liberty’s main campus is.]…

When do you think you will have to make a decision about the fall?

Whenever I want to. Whenever I decide that the powers-that-be have concluded that it’s safe to open, then I’ll make the call. But not until then; I don’t have to. There’s no pressure.

We’re giving faculty their contracts, but we are making them contingent on enrollment levels. And there’s a chance a lot of kids won’t come back because parents are scared to send them back. So we’re going to keep our options open.

[Liberty professors do not have tenure, except in the law school, where accreditation requires it. The university has a $1.6 billion endowment, and it boasts an enrollment of 100,000 online students.]…

Have you had any direct conversations with President Trump since this pandemic began?

Yeah, he called yesterday. I was sitting in the car, and the phone number popped up and I didn’t recognize it and I answered it: “Jerry,” the president said.

I can’t tell you what he said, but it was just a friendly conversation.

I told him about what we were planning to do with The New York Times about the trespassing charges, and he said, “I hear that people are dying at Liberty. Now I hear there’s zero cases. He said, “Why don’t they correct it?” I said, “Good question.”

What did he think of how you were handling The New York Times?

I never say what the president says to me.

You just did!

Not really.

Fair enough. In your Fox interview, you were floating the idea that North Korea and China might have created the virus. There’s been criticism that there’s just no evidence for this, that this is conspiratorial thinking. Was it appropriate to voice that out loud?

Afterward, everybody else started saying the same thing. I was ahead of the game on that one.

It’s funny: A lot of Ivy League schools have connections to that Wuhan lab. I don’t know if you’ve heard that. I don’t know if they’re working over there. I just read last week there’s some connection between Ivy League schools and that Wuhan lab. I don’t know if that means anything.

If I didn’t know better, I would think you were planting a seed that Ivy League universities are part of some conspiracy to release the coronavirus. Is that what you’re saying?

No, no, no. I was just surprised to read that they were involved with that lab.

This is the exact kind of stuff that people complain about with you: Just floating the ‘isn’t this curious?’ type of thing. Now you’ve added Ivy League universities to the list, as if they’re part of some problem.

That was published in the mainstream media. They did it to raise suspicion. I didn’t. I was just telling you what they said.

[Scientists have said they doubt the new coronavirus emerged from a lab in Wuhan. But the theory remains resonant in political circles. In response to follow-up questions about Ivy League connections to the Wuhan lab, Falwell provided an article from Bloomberg about a Harvard University chemistry professor who had been arrested in a crackdown on intellectual-property theft sponsored by China. There is no evidence that Charles M. Leiber, the professor, had anything to do with the novel coronavirus, despite social-media posts suggesting otherwise, FactCheck.org reported in FebruaryThe Chronicle provided Falwell with a link to FactCheck.org’s reporting on Leiber. “Interesting,” Falwell replied].

How would you feel if you opened Liberty and you had a student or faculty member who got really sick, or even died? Would you feel tremendous guilt?

That’s why I said I’m going to exercise extreme caution before making decisions. You weigh all the factors, and you make the risk known, and it’s their choice whether to come. I don’t see how that’s any different than going on a ski slope in the state of Virginia.

But I wouldn’t open school and say we recommend you come if this thing’s still going like it is now. You’re welcome to come, but please realize that we can’t control what we can’t control.

I wouldn’t care how many showed up and how many didn’t. A lot of schools would.

Because you have so much money.

If you want to put it that way [laughing]. I didn’t say that; you did.

You’ve kind of been saying it.

We don’t have the financial pressures that a lot of schools have.

Read the entire interview here. It may be behind a paywall.