Mike Pence Invites a Messianic Jew to Pray at His Rally

Pence and Jacobs

Mike Pence invited a Messianic Jew to pray at a recent campaign rally.  Here is Matthew Haag’s piece at The New York Times:

As he began his prayer, it became immediately clear that the rabbi, Loren Jacobs of Congregation Shema Yisrael in suburban Detroit, would not be considered a Jew by any of the four major denominations of Judaism. In his prayer, he mentioned the “saving power” of the Lord and concluded, “In the name of Jesus, amen.”

Rabbi Jacobs believes that Jesus is the Messiah, a conviction that is theologically incompatible with Judaism. Some Jews believe that the movement the rabbi represents, Messianic Judaism, is not only antithetical to Judaism but also hostile to their religion because its goal is to persuade Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah, and by doing so convert Jewish people to Christianity.

Rabbi Jacobs, a leading figure in the denomination colloquially known as Jews for Jesus, quickly came under criticism on Monday for appearing to represent Jews at the rally and for leading the only prayer by a religious figure at the event for the 11 people and six others injured in the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday.

Read the rest here.

There are two ways to interpret this:

  1. Pence really believes that Messianic Jews are real Jews and by inviting Loren Jacobs to pray he thought he was making some kind of gesture of compassion to those killed in Pittsburgh.  If this is the case, he is completely clueless.  The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on this in 1989.
  2. Pence knows that Messianic Jews are actually Christian dispensationalists and the invitation to Jacobs was an attempt to appeal to his Christian Right base.

Whatever the case, it shows that Pence is using the Pittsburgh tragedy for political purposes.

It should also be noted that Jacobs specifically prayed that members of the Republican should win in 2018.  (Although he also prayed that if they lose they would accept God’s will).

Would Pence Be Worse?

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Historian Neil Young does not think so.

Here is a taste of his Huffington Post piece, “No, President Mike Pence Would Not Be Worse Than Trump“:

…But pretending this would amount to a greater danger than Trump poses to American democracy and global stability is foolish alarmism disguised as rational diagnosis. Unfortunately, it’s perfectly in line with the sort of nihilistic cynicism that has taken over American politics and not dissimilar to the pessimistic fatalism that Trump stokes and enjoys.

An outlook that can’t distinguish the political challenge of a possible Pence presidency from the very real existential threat to the republic that Trump poses is useless for guarding against the disaster taking place in Washington right now.

The American presidency has never been inhabited by the likes of Donald Trump. He constantly and increasingly imperils our system of democracy. His flouting of the Constitution sets hazardous precedents that weaken the rule of law. His volatile and irrational temperament, combined with his disregard for international alliances and friendliness with autocrats and dictators, jeopardizes the safety of all of us.

Pence’s politics, while thoroughly conservative, fall in line with the basic Republican orthodoxy of the last 40 years. That’s an agenda worth resisting, for sure, but it’s one that Democrats will be well equipped — even emboldened — to block, especially if they claim a majority in the House this fall, as appears likely.

Read the entire piece here.  I am mostly with Young here, although I do think Pence is more conservative than Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.  All of these presidents, to varying degrees, held some views that were compatible with the Christian Right and they appealed to this wing of the party.  But none of them were products of the Christian Right.  On the other hand, Pence’s entire political agenda seems driven and informed by the Christian Right.  He is one of them.

Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas Continues to Play Fast and Loose With American History

Eric Metaxas is one of the court evangelicals in attendance tonight at the White House.  Here he is with Mike Pence:

Metaxas at Party

Earlier tonight, Metaxas tweeted this:

Metaxas Tweet

I am thankful to several folks who sent this tweet to me.  Eric Metaxas blocked me from seeing his Twitter feed after I wrote a multi-part series criticizing his fast-and-loose (and mostly erroneous) use of American history in his book If You Can Keep It.  You can read that series, and Metaxas’s dismissal of it, here.

Just a few quick responses to this tweet

1. There were some founding fathers who might be described as “evangelical.”  They included John Witherspoon, John Jay, Roger Sherman and Samuel Adams.  But just because a given founder was an evangelical does not mean that he was indispensable to the American Revolution or that his evangelical faith informed the quest for independence from Great Britain.  I have written extensively about the myth of an evangelical founding in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction.  But perhaps Eric Metaxas is suggesting, as he did in If You Can Keep It, that there was a direct correlation between the First Great Awakening (an evangelical revival in the 1740s) and the American Revolution.  I critiqued that view here.  The bottom line is this:  The American Revolution would have happened with or without American evangelicals.

2. Evangelicals were very active in the abolitionist movement, but so were non-evangelicals.  The question of whether abolitionism would have happened without evangelicals is a debatable point.  For a nuanced picture–one that treats religion fairly–I suggest you read Manisha Sinha’s excellent book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.  We also interviewed her on Episode 16 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

3.  The idea that the Civil Rights Movement would not have occurred without evangelicals is absurd.  While there were certainly black preachers involved who might be labeled “evangelical,” most of the clergy who led the movement were deeply shaped by the Black social gospel.  White evangelicals in the South defended segregation.  White evangelicals in the North did not have a uniform position on civil rights for African-Americans.  The white evangelicals associated with magazines like Christianity Today did little to advance the movement.  Some good stuff on this front comes David Chappel in A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Chappel’s student, Michael Hammond, has also done some excellent work on this front.  Mark Noll’s God and Race in American Politics: A Short History also provides a nice introduction.

4. If you are a fan of the Reagan Revolution, I suppose you could make the argument that conservative evangelicals had a lot do with it.  The 1980s was the decade in which evangelicals made an unholy alliance with the Republican Party.  There are a lot of good books on this subject.  I would start with Daniel K. Williams, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right.  I also write about this story in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

Don’t get me wrong–evangelicals have played an important role in the shaping of our nation.  I recently wrote about this in a piece at The Atlantic.  You can read it here.

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.

Pence’s Space Theology

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Buzz Aldrin’s notes from Apollo 11

Marina Koren has a really interesting piece at The Atlantic on Mike Pence’s use of religious language in describing space exploration.  Here is a taste:

 

And when Pence speaks of space exploration, he speaks not only of the frontier, but of faith. His speeches sometimes sound more like sermons.

Here Pence was at the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council, in October of last year:

As President Trump has said, in his words, “It is America’s destiny to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown.” And today we begin the latest chapter of that adventure. But as we embark, let us have faith. Faith that, as the Old Book teaches us that if we rise to the heavens, He will be there.

And then, in April of this year, at a gathering of space-industry professionals:

And as we renew our commitment to lead, let’s go with confidence and let’s go with faith—the faith that we do not go alone. For as millions of Americans have believed throughout the long and storied history of this nation of pioneers, I believe, as well, there is nowhere we can go from His spirit; that if we rise on the wings of the dawn, settle on the far side of the sea, even if we go up to the heavens, even there His hand will guide us, and His right hand will hold us fast.

And earlier this month, at a press conference about Trump’s proposed Space Force:

Just as generations of Americans have carried those who have taken to the skies in the defense of freedom borne upon their prayers, I want to assure all of you, who will be called to this enterprise, that you can be confident. You can be confident that you will go with the prayers of millions of Americans who will claim on your behalf, as generations have claimed before, those ancient words, that if you “rise on the wings of the dawn, if [you] settle on the far side of the sea,” even if you go up to the heavens, “even there His hand will guide [you], His right hand will hold [you] fast.” And He will hold fast this great nation in the great beyond.

Read the entire piece here.  I am always struck by the way Pence incorporates evangelical language into virtually every policy announcement he makes or social issue on which he comments.  Yesterday I was talking to a reporter who is writing a biography  of Pence. We discussed how the Vice President’s faith became central to his political career after he embraced the narrative of the Christian Right sometime in the 1980s.  (As a college student, Pence had an evangelical conversion experience at a Christian rock festival in 1978).

Koren starts-off her piece by comparing the way JFK, LBJ, Bush 1, and Bush 2 talked about space exploration with Pence’s language on the subject.  JFK talked about space exploration in terms of the liberal progress.  LBJ compared space exploration to the settlement of the American colonies.  George H.W. Bush compared astronauts to Columbus and the travelers on the Oregon Trial.

The language of Manifest Destiny–whether applied to the American West, the globe, or space– has always been saturated with Christian, religious, spiritual and providential themes.  As Koren shows, when Pence talks about “rising to the heavens” he is tapping into the language of evangelical astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, Jeffrey Williams, and Jim Irwin.

And speaking of space exploration and evangelicals, there were also fundamentalists who were fascinated with UFOs.

McIntire UFOS

What Mike Pence Said Twenty Years Ago About Character and the Presidency

Pence Show

CNN found several Mike Pence columns written in the 1990s.  Get the context here.

One of these columns, published at the website of Pence’s old radio show, was titled “Two Schools of Thought on Clinton.”  Here is a taste of that piece:

With the news on August 17th that the President of the United States lied to the American people (and very likely under oath) about an illicit relationship with a college student, readers are no doubt wondering “where to from here?” The two schools of thought can be summed up in the choices presented through various and diverse sources, namely, move on or move out.

The “move on” crowd’s argument goes something like this; ‘the President admitted he made a mistake, you have your pound of flesh, now let’s move on with the serious issues facing the country’. While this approach is appealing even to some of us who have little regard for the policies of this Administration, it’s just not as simple as all that. The ‘Move On Crowd’s argument is predicated on the notion that presidents, just like the rest of us, ought to be entitled to a little privacy. This argument fails on two grounds; (A) President Clinton made this issue public when he denied it eight months ago and (B) President Clinton is not, by definition, ‘like the rest of us’.

On the first count, the President has admitted to having taken advantage of a college intern working at the White House (that’s a public building) who was on the White House Staff (that’s public employment) on many occasion in and around the Oval Office (again a public building). Also, the President lied about the affair in public and (very likely) under oath in Jones vs Clinton. He also may have used the power of his PUBLIC office to cover up the whole sordid matter. This was not a private matter and cannot legitimately be argued as such. A truly private matter in this realm might be an affair between the President and a friend not working in the White House for whom no favors were granted and no cover-up attempted. That, it seems to me, could be argued as part of one’s (immoral) private life. Ms. Lewinski is a part of the President’s public life not his private life.

On the second count, that the President is ‘just like the rest of us’, he is the most powerful man in the world. If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous. Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms.

So we get to the other, and in my view, only school of thought remaining. For America to move on, and we must, the Clintons must move out of the White House. Either the President should resign or be removed from office. Nothing short of this sad conclusion will suffice to restore the institution of the presidency to its former and necessary glory.”

Pence, of course, is not the first pro-Trumper who wanted Bill Clinton removed on the grounds that his character was not befitting of the office.  I chronicle a few more of them in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Trump Beleive me

My Latest Piece at *Sojourners*: Pence’s Visit to the Southern Baptist Convention

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Here is a taste:

In the last several months, the #MeToo movement has found its way to one of the largest Protestant denominations in America — the Southern Baptist Convention. While this year’s annual meeting did address issues related to Paige Patterson, the former SBC Theological Seminary president, and how women are treated in the church, the SBC leadership also decided to welcome Mike Pence, who represents a presidential administration with a long track record of degrading women in public, to their meeting. 

In May, over 3000 SBC women sent an open letter to the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demanding the firing of Paige Patterson.

As one of the primary architects of the denomination’s “conservative resurgence” in the 1980s, Patterson is a living legend in the SBC. But over the course of the last few months, the world that Paige Patterson created collapsed around him. 

Patterson’s indiscretions are now widely known. He made inappropriate comments about teenage girls, he told a female victim of sexual assault not to report the incident to the police, and in 2015, when a Southwestern student told Patterson that she had been raped, he said he would meet with the student alone, so he could “break her down.”

The Board of Trustees at Southwestern eventually removed Patterson from his post. He is now gone, but the problem of authoritarian and misogynistic Southern Baptist leaders remains. The Patterson case exposed the dark side of the SBC and its conservative resurgence, prompting one seminary president to declare that the “wrath of God” is now being poured out on the convention. 

Read the rest here.

Tony Perkins Praises Pence Speech at the Southern Baptist Convention and Confuses God and Country…Again

Perkins

We have already weighed-in on Wednesday’s Pence speech.

Here is court evangelical Tony Perkins on the speech:

As [Pence] touched on the country’s divided times, several in the room probably thought about the division right there in that room. Just yesterday, one SBC messenger made a motion to disinvite the vice president, insisting that, “By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members, suggesting that to be faithful to the gospel, we ought to align with a particular administration.”

Fortunately, wisdom prevailed, soundly defeating the ill-conceived resolution. But it is a clear indication that there are some within the church that are either too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced, or – as Jesus described in John 17 – being in the world but not of it. We can’t influence if we retreat. We don’t have to agree with everything this president has said or done, and we don’t, but it is foolish and even detrimental to persecuted believers around the world to fail to acknowledge that this administration is being used to set the table for the church to do its work unhindered. The vice president, Mike Pence, is an unabashed believer who’s championing their cause in the White House. Look at the doors this administration is opening for religious liberty and free speech. Now is not the time for shutting doors – now’s the time to rush through and seize this moment of opportunity.

Read the entire piece here.

Wow! There is a lot to unpack in Perkins’s post.

  1. Perkins criticizes pastor Garrett Kell’s resolution to replace Pence’s speech with a time of prayer.  But notice how he does it.  He blames Kell (“one SBC messenger”) for promoting disunity.  Actually, if you read Kell’s resolution, it was steeped in unity–not for the nation, but for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Perkins seems confused.  The SBC meeting in Dallas was not a political event or a God and country rally.  It was a religious event.  It seems to me that “unity” at a religious event should revolve around spiritual things, not politics or nationalism.
  2. Perkins suggests that anyone who opposed Pence’s speech is “too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced.”  In other words, those who opposed Pence’s speech are not smart enough to realize that they are being played by the Left, the media, or (add your favorite bogeyman here).  But let’s remember that the Trump White House asked the SBC if Pence could come and speak.  Is it possible to view this as anything but an attempt to shore-up votes among the evangelical base?  Who got played here?
  3. Perkins has the audacity to quote John 17, a passage in which Jesus prays for unity in his church.  Again, he confuses Jesus’s prayer for unity among fellow Christians with national unity.  Jesus was not praying for national unity.  He was not praying for unity in the United States.
  4. Perkins’s piece would make a great primary source for students to read in an American religious history course.  It provides an amazing example of the way that the Christian Right conflates the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of America.  Politics don’t “set the table” for the church.  God sets the table.  Perkins sees everything in political terms.  He also talks about “seizing opportunities,” a clear reference to the 2018 election.

Will Someone Please Explain to Donald Trump That He Did Not Denuclearize North Korea

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Here is Uri Friedman at The Atlantic:

Donald Trump got little of substance out of his summit with Kim Jong Un. But that didn’t stop him from making a triumphant, demonstrably false claim about how things went. Trump declared in an early-morning tweet that North Korea’s threat to America has been somehow neutralized altogether: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

In reality, Trump returned to America from the Singapore meeting having secured only a vague promise, not unlike others the North Koreans have broken in the past, about working toward the goal of denuclearization. Yet North Korea has just as many nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and nuclear facilities and personnel, and precisely as much fissile material, as before Trump and Kim shook hands and signed a document in which North Korea vowed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

 

Not only that, but the North Koreans have come away from the summit with a much more immediate pledge from the president to suspend U.S.-South Korea military exercises that the North has long viewed as a threat. The North Koreans may view their denuclearization commitment as a pie-in-the-sky pledge to give up their nuclear weapons once the nuclear-armed United States withdraws its protection for South Korea and ceases all hostile behavior toward North Korea. The statement they endorsed includes no details on how denuclearization will be implemented, how long it will take, or even what first moves the North will make toward that objective.

Read the entire piece here.

Mike Pence also believes that North Korea is now denuclearized.  Here is what he told the Southern Baptist Convention earlier today:

We certainly saw that in high relief over the last several days, didn’t we? Just this morning, the President returned from a historic summit with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. The President went to this meeting as, in his words, “on a mission of peace,” but with eyes wide open. And I can report, the meeting that took place was direct and honest, provocative, and productive. It resulted in a bold first step where North Korea’s leader committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. (Applause.)

This is what authoritarian populists do.  Trump and Pence spread false information and propaganda to rally their base in the hopes that their followers will not do the hard and difficult work of fact-checking.  It is the height of anti-intellectualism and evangelicals are especially susceptible to it.  And when people do fact-check, Trump and Pence demonize the fact-checkers as enemies of the state.

Mike Pence Delivers a Trump Stump Speech at the Southern Baptist Convention

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This, of course, is why Donald Trump picked him in the first place–to shore-up the evangelical base.

I think it is safe to say that the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, might agree with the title of this post:

I wonder if Greear will elaborate on this tweet at some point.

Here are some more tweets from the Pence speech:

Virginia Southern Baptist Pastor: Replace Pence Speech With a Time of Prayer

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Pastor Kell in action

Here is Pastor Garrett Kell of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia:

I want to be clear, this has nothing to do with Mr. Pence personally.  From my understanding he is a born-again Christian man and attends one of the churches in our convention.  I think we should pray for him in his all-important service of our country.

But as a pastor that strives to grow in unity, gospel faithfulness, and mission efforts in our local churches, I have three brief concerns regarding this decision and the way it effects our churches.

The first is the unity of our church.  For many years we have been talking about loving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters.  This invitation [to Pence] does nothing to suggest that we actually listening.  Not only are many of us in this room hurt and bothered by this invitation, but also many of our minority brothers and sisters will especially be hurt by this invitation and I fear it will communicate to many of them that our political associations are more important than our associations with them.

Secondly, in regards to the clarity of the Gospel.  What binds this Convention together is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because of that, this Convention ought to be marked by the things we share in common, not things that faithful Christians can disagree with.  By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members suggesting that to be faithful to the Gospel we ought to align with a political administration.  We must do all that we can to preserve the purity of the Gospel, and this invitation [to Mike Pence] works against it.  I even had a perspective member this week ask me if they needed to vote Republican in order to join our church….

Thirdly, and finally, the safety of our overseas workers.  Whether rightly or wrongly, this current administration provokes strong reactions and in some cases great hostility in many regions of the world.  I’m not here to debate those policies at all. But publicly aligning our workers with this or any administration puts our workers in unnecessary risk because of the decisions of an administration.  What is said in Washington echoes around the world and having Mr. Pence come [to the SBC meeting] further hinders our work I think.

In conclusion, I would like us to consider Romans 14:19: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  Which is the reason I would like us to reconsider this invitation because brothers and sisters right now there is a world filled with people who are going to hell and what we need to be about is the Gospel, and anything that can distort that I think is a step backward and not a step forward.  Thank you.

At this point, Grant Ethridge, the “chairman of the committee on order of business,” took the microphone.  Here is what he said:

Thank you Mr. President.  First of all dear brother I want you to know I love and respect you.  I hear what you are saying in your concern.  And I am personally very sensitive to the issue that you have raised.

I pastor in a city that is 53% African American.  Praise God–to his Glory–our church has moved from being an all-white, Republican church to a church that is multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-site.  So again, I hear your concerns and I am very sensitive to it.

I want the messengers to hear the heart of our committee.  Our program recognizes and honors local, state, and national leaders.  Let me be clear: the Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party.  Our loyalty is to King Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  You need to know that the White House reached out to us.  Our president, Dr. Steve Gaines, asked me to follow-up on the opportunity. Our interim president of the EC Agi Boto asked me to handle this specific matter.

So in keeping with our SBC history, we have had many government official to address our convention.  We have many other government officials who will be addressing the convention today and tomorrow.  So as in keeping with what the precedent has been in the past, I have sought to carry out my duties in a Christ-honoring way.  Since we’re Baptists the Bible is our final authority for faith and practice, I will let the word of God speak for and to us.

1 Timothy 2:1: “First of all I urge that petition, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for Kings and all those who are in authority.” Verse three says “this is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.

Romans 13:1 says “let everyone submit to the governing authorities.  Titus 3:1 says “Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.”

I Peter 2:17 for me really sums it up. Honor everyone.  Love the brethren.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor, or some of your translations will say honor the King.  In Act 25:11, Paul even said I appeal to Caesar. So as a committee, we feel to not show hospitality to those in authority would be a bad testimony for Southern Baptists.

On a personal note, if President Obama’s White House had contact us and I was chairman of this committee, we would have exercised the same judgement and welcomed them to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The word of God is clear about our response to all governments, from Rome to the U.S., from Caesar to the President and I believe we respect the position regardless of whether or not you supported or voted for the person.

Therefore we strongly urge the messengers to extend a biblical Christ-like welcome to the Vice President of the United States.  Thank you.

You can judge for yourself what to make of these statements, but I have two very quick thoughts:

  1.  Rev. Ethridge made a pretty compelling biblical case for opposition to the American Revolution and the philosophy that the American Revolution rests upon.
  2. When he says that he would extend the same welcome to Barack Obama, I don’t believe him.  Sorry.  I cannot see that happening.  The same goes for Hillary Clinton.
  3. Why don’t red flags go up when the Trump administration asks to send a surrogate to the Southern Baptist Convention.  Didn’t anyone thing that the administration was using and manipulating them for political gain?  Was this even raised among the committee Ethridge leads?

Watch the entire thing go down here.

Can the Southern Baptist Convention Think of Any More Ways to Shoot Itself in the Foot?

SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has announced that Vice President Mike Pence will be speaking tomorrow at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas as part of the denomination’s annual meeting.

At a time when the SBC needs to get its house in order, heal wounds, and discuss how it can move forward together, convention leadership has decided to welcome the chief surrogate of one of the most divisive presidential administrations in recent memory.  What are they thinking?

Anyone following religious news in the last several months knows that the #metoo movement has found its way to the largest Protestant denomination in America.  In May, over 3000 SBC women sent an open letter to the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demanding the firing of Paige Patterson, the seminary president.

As one of the primary architects of the denomination’s “conservative resurgence” in the 1980s, Patterson is a living legend in the SBC. He and his supporters managed to purge the SBC of those who did not believe in biblical inerrancy, a view of the Bible that teaches that the Old and New Testaments, as they were originally written, contain no errors in matters of faith and science.  The conservative resurgence also championed “complementarianism,” a reading of the Bible that teaches male “headship” in marriage, the family, business, and the church.

Patterson was a master political operator.  Along with Paul Pressler, a Houston judge who shared Patterson’s views, inerrancy and complementarianism became official SBC doctrines.

Once the conservatives gained power, Patterson ruled with an iron hand.  Those who disagreed with his views lost leadership positions in churches and seminaries.

But over the course of the last few months, the world that Paige Patterson created has collapsed around him.

Earlier this year, a recording surfaced of Patterson saying that he advised female victims of domestic abuse to stay with their husbands.  Then a video emerged showing Patterson, while preaching a sermon, describing the physical appearance of a teenage girl in an inappropriate manner.

These accounts led other Southern Baptist women to come forward with their own their stories.  When Megan Lively, a former student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary during the Patterson’s time as president, was sexually assaulted on campus, Patterson told her not to report the incident to the police.  In describing her meeting with Patterson and his self-proclaimed “proteges,” Lively said the men “shamed the crap out of me.”

In 2015, when a Southwestern student told Patterson that she had been raped, he said he would meet with the student alone, so he could “break her down.”

The Board of Trustees at Southwestern eventually removed Patterson from his post and stripped him of his retirement fringe benefits, including a large home on the Fort Worth campus

Patterson is now gone, but the problem of authoritarian and misogynistic Southern Baptist leaders remains.  The Patterson case exposed the dark side of the SBC and its conservative resurgence.  Albert Mohler, the authoritarian president of Southern Seminary in Louisville and another architect of the conservative resurgence, declared that the “wrath of God” is now being poured out on the convention.

On June 6, Former SBC president Ronnie Floyd, fearful that his beloved denomination was falling apart over the Patterson affair, pleaded with his people via Twitter: “Southern Baptists: Refuse disunity within our ranks!  There is nothing biblical or godly relating to creating disunity.”

Apparently, few are listening to Floyd, one of Donald Trump’s court evangelicals.  If they were listening, they would not have invited Mike Pence to their convention this week.

By welcoming Mike Pence to Dallas, the convention is sending a message to its members and the rest of the world that it does not really care about healing its wounds.  The opportunity to entertain the Vice President of the United States was obviously just too good for the SBC to pass up.  Healing and repentance will need to wait for another time.

Politics divides Christians.  It always has.  Southern Baptists should know this better than most. The convention was founded in 1845 when Baptists in the South split with Northern Baptists over the most contentious political issue of the age:  slavery.

Anyone who watched SBC leaders bickering and fighting in 2016 over whether to support Donald Trump can testify to the divisive power of politics.  Just ask Russell Moore, the president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.  He almost lost his job for opposing Donald Trump.

Rather than directly confronting the way it has treated women in the past, the SBC has chosen to welcome the chief surrogate of a presidential administration with a long track record of degrading women in public.

Instead of Pence, the SBC should have invited Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly or Heidi Cruz—all victims of Donald Trump’s misogyny.  But that would never happen.   If they were given a major platform at the SBC meeting it would undermine the doctrine of complementarianism.

In a statement on Monday, outgoing SBC president Steve Gaines said that Pence’s speech on Wednesday will “express appreciation to Southern Baptists for the contributions we make to the moral fabric of our nation.”

Oh the irony!

Mike Pence Will Visit the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention

e9584-pence

This morning I was talking to a reporter about this week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The reporter asked me if I thought the Southern Baptists will make some kind of resolution about Donald Trump or any of his policies.

I said I thought that it was highly unlikely that the convention would dabble in politics since it is so divided on whether or not Trump is good for America.  I told the reporter that the convention has enough problems to deal with in the wake of the #metoo and #sbctoo movements and, if they are wise, they would steer clear of politics.   I thought they might take the advice of former Southern Baptist president Ronnie Floyd:

I was apparently wrong.  The convention just announced that Mike Pence will be attending the meeting.

Here is a taste of a report from the Baptist Press:

DALLAS (BP) — Vice President Mike Pence will address the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday (June 13).

The announcement of Pence’s 11 a.m. address to messengers and invited guests at the June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas was made by SBC President Steve Gaines and Grant Ethridge, chairman of the convention’s Committee on Order of Business, in a joint press release today (June 11).

“We are excited to announce Vice President Mike Pence will be attending this year’s SBC annual meeting to express appreciation to Southern Baptists for the contributions we make to the moral fabric of our nation,” Gaines said.

Southern Baptist leaders estimate the number of messengers from the convention’s cooperating churches may approach 11,000 with an additional 4,000 invited guests on the final day of the two-day convention.

“It’s an honor to welcome Vice President Pence,” Ethridge said. “While the Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party, our program recognizes and honors local, state and national leaders in keeping with 1 Timothy 2:1–2

Read the entire piece here.  The Southern Baptist Convention continues to shoot itself in the foot.

Mike Pence Tells Pastors to “Share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Pence

Yesterday Mike Pence appeared before a group of court evangelicals and Christian nationalists and exhorted them to “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”  Here is a taste of a Christian Broadcasting Network piece on Pence’s appearance at the Watchman on the Wall Conference:

In a last second surprise appearance before a pastors conference in Washington DC, Vice President Mike Pence outlined how the Trump administration has championed causes important to the evangelical community and implored them to continue to, “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

“Other than the service of those who wear the uniform of the United States especially our cherished fallen, the ministries that you lead and the prayers that you pray are the greatest consequence in the life of the nation,” the vice-president told those attending the 2018 Watchman on the Wall conference sponsored by the Family Research Council.

“Keep preaching the good news. Keep preaching in season and out of season as the Bible says. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have,” he continued.

So just what did Pence mean by “the good news of Jesus Christ?”  Here are some possible options:

  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim Donald Trump as God’s anointed messenger sent to restore America to its Christian roots.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that America was founded as a Christian nation.
  • Go ye into all the world and continue to teach people to live in fear rather than hope.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and peddle nostalgia for some of the darkest moments in American life.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the right not to bake cakes for people you don’t like.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to fight for your rights.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to elect the right candidates in the next election.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need for victory in the culture wars.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that the man in the oval office is a serial liar.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to call immigrants rapists and murderers.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and defend that guy who said that there were “good people” on both sides in Charlottesville.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim support for a politician who has committed adultery with a porn star and Playboy playmate.

Unfortunately, the real message of the Gospel–the “good news”–has been corrupted in the minds of so many Americans because of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and the kind of people who gathered at the “Watchman on the Wall” event.  These men and women have exchanged the Gospel for political power and at the very least have funneled the “good news” through the lens of partisan politics.  Their gospel is Christian nationalism and it is best preached with a healthy dose of fear, power, and nostalgia.

And as long as we are at it, let’s name some of the names of the people who spoke at this event:

Kay Arthur

Michelle Bachmann

David Barton

Lt. Gen. William Boykin

Jim Garlow

Bishop Harry Jackson

Josh McDowell

Tony “Mulligan” Perkins

Todd Starnes

George Will: Mike Pence is “Horrifying”

pence-and-trump

Hey George Will, why don’t you tell us what you REALLY think about Vice President Mike Pence?

Will pulls no punches in his recent column at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

Last June, a Trump Cabinet meeting featured testimonials offered to Dear Leader by his forelock-tugging colleagues. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, caught the spirit of the worship service by thanking Trump for the “blessing” of being allowed to serve him. The hosannas poured forth from around the table, unredeemed by even a scintilla of insincerity. Priebus was soon deprived of his blessing, as was Tom Price. Before Price’s ecstasy of public service was truncated because of his incontinent enthusiasm for charter flights, he was the secretary of health and human services who at the Cabinet meeting said, “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me.” The vice president chimed in but saved his best riff for a December Cabinet meeting when, as The Post’s Aaron Blake calculated, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes: “I’m deeply humbled. . . . ” Judging by the number of times Pence announces himself “humbled,” he might seem proud of his humility, but that is impossible because he is conspicuously devout and pride is a sin.

Between those two Cabinet meetings, Pence and his retinue flew to Indiana for the purpose of walking out of an Indianapolis Colts football game, thereby demonstrating that football players kneeling during the national anthem are intolerable to someone of Pence’s refined sense of right and wrong. Which brings us to his Arizona salute last week to Joe Arpaio, who was sheriff of Maricopa County until in 2016 voters wearied of his act.

Noting that Arpaio was in his Tempe audience, Pence, oozing unctuousness from every pore, called Arpaio “another favorite,” professed himself “honored” by Arpaio’s presence, and praised him as “a tireless champion of . . . the rule of law.” Arpaio, a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices. Pence’s performance occurred eight miles from the home of Sen. John McCain, who could teach Pence — or perhaps not — something about honor.

Henry Adams said that “practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” but what was the practicality in Pence’s disregard of the facts about Arpaio? His pandering had no purpose beyond serving Pence’s vocation, which is to ingratiate himself with his audience of the moment. The audience for his praise of Arpaio was given to chanting “Build that wall!” and applauded Arpaio, who wears Trump’s pardon like a boutonniere.

Read the entire piece here.  Ouch! We could probably write a similar piece about Pence as a spokesperson for evangelicalism.

The BBC on the White House Bible Study

Drollinger

Ralph Drollinger is #35

We have written about the Bible study in the White House here and here.  Now the BBC has a piece on it and its leader, former UCLA basketball player Ralph Drollinger.

Here is a taste:

Every Wednesday, some of the world’s most powerful people meet in a conference room in Washington DC to learn about God.

The location can’t be revealed – the Secret Service won’t allow it – but the members can.

Vice-President Mike Pence. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The list goes on.

In total, 10 cabinet members are “sponsors” of the group. Not everyone attends every meeting – they are busy people – but they go if they can.

Meetings last between 60 and 90 minutes, and members are free to contact the teacher after-hours. So who is the man leading the United States’ most-influential bible study?

Step forward Ralph Drollinger, a seven-foot tall basketball pro turned pastor. Or, as the 63-year-old describes himself: “Just a jock with some bad knees.”

Read the rest here.

Who Do Evangelicals Trust on Politics?

Trump Beleive me

A recent poll has found that almost fifty percent of evangelicals say a Donald Trump recommendation would make them more likely to vote for a candidate.  Meanwhile, fifty-four percent of evangelicals said a Hillary Clinton endorsement would make them less likely to vote for a candidates.

Here is the list of evangelicals’ most-trusted celebrity endorsers:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Mike Pence
  3. George W. Bush
  4. Paul Ryan
  5. Barack Obama
  6. Michelle Obama
  7. Oprah
  8. Joel Osteen
  9. Bernie Sanders
  10. Jerry Falwell Jr.

Here is the list of evangelical’s least-trusted celebrity endorsers:

  1. Hillary Clinton
  2. Kim Kardashian
  3. Nancy Pelosi
  4. Bill Clinton
  5. Kanye West
  6. Barack Obama
  7. Michelle Obama
  8. Beyonce
  9. Ellen DeGeneres
  10. Bernie Sanders

Kate Shellnut has a story on this survey at Christianity Today.  Read it here.

A few quick observations:

  • Joel Osteen is the only minister who made the top ten.
  • Evangelicals trust Oprah more than ministers to offer them political advice.
  • The Obamas and Bernie Sanders are on both lists.
  • Evangelicals do not take political advice from Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Beyonce, and Ellen, but the fact they they made the “least-trusted” list shows that they are clearly obsessed with these celebrities.

Mike Pence’s Failure

Kim Yong Nam, Kim Yo Jong, Mike Pence

AP photo

Mike Pence’s behavior last night at the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics raises a few questions.

In case you missed it, Pence was sitting in the same diplomatic box with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.  Pence did not acknowledge the North Korean diplomat and refused to stand when the unified Korean team marched into the stadium.

I guess there might be good political reasons to avoid shaking hands and greeting the North Korean delegation.  Frankly, I don’t know how these diplomatic things are supposed to work.  But Pence is also a Christian–and likes to make a big deal about that fact.  I would think that an evangelical Christian would make every effort to make a real human connection with his enemy, especially if she was seated only a few feet away.

Pence dehumanized Kim Yo Jong and the North Korean delegation.  He placed his global politics over an acknowledgement of basic human dignity.