GOP Convention: Night 2

NBC News

NBC News graphic

I didn’t get to listen very carefully to many of the speeches on night 2 of the GOP convention. I was preparing for my return to the classroom today.  At least my nightmares were different last night. Instead of dreaming about what Trump is doing to the nation and the church, I dreamed of microphones, ZOOM, Canvas, student rotation, the Cloud, and sweating through my mask as I tried to lecture to 170 students in a 500-person recital hall with people staring down at me from the third floor balconies. (Yes, this will happen today).

So this post will just focus on the things that caught my attention enough to pull me away from creating Canvas modules.

Last night Cissie Graham, the daughter of court evangelical Franklin Graham and the granddaughter of Billy Graham, spoke at the Republican National Convention. Watch:

A few quick thoughts:

  1. I will take Cissie Graham and the rest of the court evangelicals more seriously when they start talking about religious liberty for all Americans.
  2.  As a fellow evangelical, I would hardly call prohibitions against indoor worship during a pandemic “religious persecution.”

Not all of Billy Graham’s grandchildren are in the Trump camp. Yesterday Jerushah Duford, who describes herself as “the proud granddaughter” of Billy Graham, published an op-ed in USA Today claiming that evangelical support for Donald Trump “spits” on the “legacy” of her grandfather. Read it here.

During the convention Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, an African-American man convicted of robbing a Nevada bank. Ponder now runs Hope for Prisoners, a Christian ministry the helps prisoners re-enter society after their period of incarceration. Ponder’s story brings positive attention to criminal justice reform. It is a story of God changing a man’s heart. I am glad Trump pardoned him.

What bothered me about the segment featuring Ponder was the way the Christian faith was manipulated for political purposes. At times during this segment I wondered if Ponder was there to talk about criminal justice reform or help Trump make his appeal to the evangelicals. Ponder’s faith plays an essential part in his story. This should be celebrated. But faith should never be politicized.

Watch the segment and let me know if any of this belongs at a political convention:

Later in the evening, Abby Johnson spoke about Planned Parenthood and abortion:

I was nodding my head as Johnson spoke until she used the words “Trump” and “two Supreme Court justices” in the same sentence. We can reduce abortions in America without getting into bed with this president, but it will require breaking from the 40-year-old Christian Right playbook.

Then came Georgetown Law School graduate Tiffany Trump. I wasn’t really listening to Tiffany until she said “God has blessed us with an unstoppable spirit, His spirit, the American spirit.” The worst part about this is that most evangelicals didn’t blink an eye when Trump’s daughter conflated the Holy Spirit and the American Dream.

I perked-up again when Tiffany started lamenting–yes lamenting–the fact that the promotion of “division and controversy breeds profit.”

There was a small kernel of truth in some of Tiffany Trump’s words last night. She called for open discourse and the free exchange of ideas in the public sphere. I am on board with this, but I think the real issue at stake here is where one draws the boundary line between open discourse and anti-intellectualism. I am thinking here about both the Left and the Right. The far Right is prone to making public arguments that are not based on truth, science, or evidence. The far Left does better with truth, science, and evidence, but its defenders draw the boundaries of acceptable discourse so narrowly that they often sound like intolerant fundamentalists. And both sides need to stop the ad hominem attacks.

I am not going to say much about the speeches by Eric Trump, Mike Pompeo, or Melania Trump. Pompeo, of course, spoke from Jerusalem to keep the evangelical base happy. Melania’s speech is getting good reviews. I guess it was OK, but I tuned-out when she described her husband as an honest man.

As noted above, there was a lot of faith talk last night. The Democrats were portrayed as godless threats to true religion. This suggests that the millions of American Christians, and especially African-American Christians, who vote Democrat are not real Christians.

This tweet sums-up how I felt last night:

Sunday in Trumpland

 

Trump Barry

Things seem to be business as usual in Trumpland.

Last night we learned that Donald Trump’s sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, had some choice things to say about her brother. Let’s be clear. She didn’t say anything that we didn’t already know about this president.

Readers of this blog might be interested in Maryanne Barry’s comments about the president’s political base: “All he wants to do is appeal to his base. He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.”

The White House released a statement regarding the comments made by the president’s sister. It read: “Every day it’s something else, who cares. I miss my brother, and I’ll continue to work hard for the American people. Not everyone agrees, but the results are obvious. Our country will soon be stronger than ever before.”

It is the eve of the Republican National Convention and the convention website has very little information about what is going to happen. We do, however, finally have a list of speakers. The Trump family will be filling a significant number of speaking slots.

U.S. Senators speaking include Tim Scott, Rand Paul, Marsha Blackburn, Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, and Tom Cotton. Some GOP Senators with national reputations will not be speaking. This list includes Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Chuck Grassley, Josh Hawley, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Mike Lee, John Kennedy, Kelly Loeffler, Martha McSally, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, and Rick Scott.

Speakers from the House of Representatives include Steve Scalise, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Dan Crenshaw, Elise Stefanik, Lee Zeldin, Kevin McCarthy, and Jeff Van Drew.

Others noteworthy speakers include former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend (and former Fox News pundit) Kimberly Guilfoyle, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Trump staffer Kellyanne Conway, Eric Trump’s wife Lana Trump, and Rudy Giuliani.

There are also several speakers who represent our nation’s ongoing culture wars. They include court evangelical Franklin Graham, Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandman, court evangelical Charlie Kirk, and the St. Louis’s gun wielding couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey.

Trump is still tweeting about God.

He is still obsessed with the pledge of allegiance:

For a full treatment of what happened read this post from yesterday.

Trump had another tweet today about God:

This tweet, of course, is a blatant attempt to win the votes of evangelicals in November. But it also tells us what Trump really thinks about evangelicals. He believes that we will gravitate to any political candidate who mentions the name of God. We will blindly follow the sound of the “We want God” mantra–like zombies–into the voting booth. Sadly, this may actually be the case for many of my fellow evangelicals.

The court evangelicals seem to welcome Trump’s appeal to his base. This morning a megachurch pastor in California turned his pulpit over to Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center:

I wonder what Kirk will say. Perhaps some of his most recent tweets (last 24 hours) will make it into his Lord’s Day sermon:

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis loves Trump’s tweet about God:

Self-pointed prophet Lance Wallnau is still talking about Kamala Harris as a “Jezebel” (and hawking a book).

 

Court evangelical journalist David Brody believes Trump is the only biblical candidate:

I am curious about what Brody means by “traditional biblical policy positions.” Most evangelicals didn’t really see abortion as a political issue until the mid-1970s.

Robert Jeffress was on Fox News this morning.

First, he seems to believe that one can “remove God” from public life. It this theological possible? I think most evangelicals, myself included, believe God is bigger that this.

Second, Jeffress also ignores the fact that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited every night at the DNC convention with the phrase “under God” included. But why would the pastor bring this up when he can twist the truth for political advantage?

Third, Jeffress implies that people of faith in the Democratic Party are not true Christians.

Fourth, Jeffress continues to promote this idea that abortion is the only political issue evangelicals should be concerned about. Perhaps he should read conservative evangelical David French’s column today in which he challenges this idea.

Watch:

Stay tuned. Classes start this week at Messiah University, but I still hope there is time to watch the GOP convention and write a few words.

The Complicit Court Evangelicals

COurt Evangelicals

I just finished “Collaborators,” Anne Applebaum‘s brilliant essay in the July/August 2020 issue of The Atlantic. It is subtitled: “What causes people to abandon their principles in support of a corrupt regime? And how do they find their way back?”

Applebaum writes about Trump supporters and members of the administration who have abandoned longstanding principles in order to support the corrupt presidency of Donald Trump. Throughout the essay she compares and contrasts people like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and others with similar “collaborators” drawn from her experience covering Eastern Europe under communism.

She writes

Czeslaw Milosz, a Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, wrote about collaboration from personal experience. An active member of the anti-Nazi resistance during the war, he nevertheless wound up after the war as a cultural attache at the Polish embassy in Washington, serving his country’s Communist government. Only in 1951 did he defect, denounce the regime, and dissect his experience. In a famous essay, The Captive Mind, he sketched several lightly disguised portraits of real people, all writers and intellectuals, each of whom had come up with different ways of justifying collaboration with the party. Many were careerists, but Milosz understood that careerism could not provide a complete explanation. To be part of a mass movement was for many a chance to end their alienation, to feel close to the “masses,” to be united in a single community with workers and shopkeepers. For tormented intellectuals, collaboration also offered a kind of relief, almost a sense of peace: It meant that they were no longer constantly at war with the state, no longer in turmoil. Once the intellectual has accepted that there is no other way, Milosz wrote, ‘he eats with relish, his movement take on vigor, his color returns. He sits down and writes a ‘positive’ article, marveling at the ease with which he writes it.’ Milosz is one of the few writers to acknowledge the pleasure of conformity, the lightness of heart that it grants, the way that is solves so many perceived and professional dilemmas.

And this:

20 months into the Trump administration, senators and other serious-minded Republicans in public life who should have known better began to tell themselves stories that sound very much like those in Milosz’s The Captive Mind. Some of these stories overlap with one another; some of them are just thin cloaks to cover self-interest. But all of them are familiar justifications of collaboration, recognizable from the past. 

Applebaum then lists the “most popular” forms of collaboration or complicity:

  1. “We can use this moment to achieve great things.”
  2. “We can protect the country from the president.”
  3. “I personally, will benefit.”
  4. “I remain close to power.”
  5. “LOL nothing matters.”
  6. “My side might be flawed, but the political opposition is much worse.”
  7. “I am afraid to speak out.”

I could not help but think about Applebaums’s seven forms of collaboration in light of my own work on Trump’s court evangelicals. (She does mention a few of them in the essay).  It seems like most of these forms of complicity, to one degree or another, explain why so many conservative evangelicals stand with this immoral president.

1. “We can use this moment to achieve great things.” When most conservative evangelicals talk about “great things” they have abortion, traditional marriage, and religious liberty in mind. They are thus willing to collaborate with Trump in order to accomplish these things. Applebaum tells the story of a man named Mark, a Trump administration official. Mark works for the administration, he claims, because he believes Trump is going to help the Uighurs.

She writes:

I thought I had misheard. The Uighurs? Why the Uighurs? I was unaware of anything that the administration had done to aid the oppressed Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China. Mark assured me that letters had been written, statements had been made, the president himself had been persuaded to say something at the United Nations. I doubted very much that the Uiguhrs had benefited from these empty words: China hadn’t altered its behavior, and the concentration camps built for the Uighurs were still standing. Nevertheless, Mark’s conscience was clear. Yes, Trump was destroying America’s reputation in the world, and yes, Trump was ruining America’s alliances, but Mark was so important to the cause of the Uiguhrs that people like him, in good conscience, keep working for the administration.

(Since Applebaum published this essay, John Bolton has written that Trump endorsed the mass detention of Uighur Muslims).

Many court evangelicals justify their support of Trump because they believe he will act on the policy issues they care about. They can use Trump to accomplish “great’ things and make the world a better place.

2. “We can protect the country from the president.” I am not sure many court evangelicals are making this argument. Why would they want to protect the country from a president who derives his power from almighty God?

3. “I, personally, will benefit.” On this one Applebaum writes:

These, of course, are words that few people every say out loud. Perhaps some do quietly acknowledge to themselves that they have not resigned or protested because it would cost them money or status. But no one wants a reputation as a careerist or a turncoat.

Of course no court evangelical will ever say that she or he supports Trump to gain a greater following or to become a Christian “leader” or to get rich. But we would be kidding ourselves if we think that this has nothing to do with it. Much of the court evangelical phenomenon can be explained by ambition and money and branding. They know where their bread is buttered. Just listen to Greg Thornbury talk about Eric Metaxas. Or head to Google and type in your favorite court evangelical’s name followed by the words “net worth.”

4. “I must remain close to power.”  I wrote extensively about the court evangelical pursuit of power in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Virtually every Christian Right operative who has left the movement or criticized it has said something similar to former Moral Majority leaders Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson. Here is what I wrote in Believe Me:

…in 1999, Dobson and Thomas reflected soberly on their experience with Falwell and the Moral Majority in their book Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? They concluded that the answer to the subtitle’s question was a definitive “no.” Neither Dobson nor Thomas left evangelicalism or ceased their commitment to conservative causes; but they were forced to admit that the political strategy they helped to forge in the 1980s had failed. Despite their efforts, Roe v. Wade had not been overturned. The Internet had made pornography more accessible than ever. Drug use had not subsided and crime had not dissipated in any significant way. In the process, the prophetic witness of the evangelical church was subordinated to political power and all its trappings. As Cal Thomas put it, in a reference to Palm Sunday, “Who wanted to ride into the capital on the back of an ass when one could go first class in a private jet and be picked up and driven around in a chauffeured limousine?

Thomas, who parlayed his Moral Majority fame into a nationally syndicated newspaper column, did not mince words when he disparaged the evangelical pursuit of political power. “Christian faith is about truth,” he tells his readers, and “wherever you try to mix power and truth, power usually wins.” Through his years with Falwell, Thomas learned how power is the “ultimate aphrodisiac.” It is not only seductive, but all affects the judgment of the one who “takes it.” Thomas warned his evangelical readers who the case for political power threatens the spread of the gospel. He quoted the late Catholic priest Henri Nouwen: “The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the gospel is the greatest temptation of all.” Thomas pointed to the myriad ways in which the Moral Majority–and the Christian Right agenda that it spawned–played to the fears of white evangelicals. 

5. “LOL nothing matters.” I don’t think any court evangelical would embrace the kind of nihilism Applebaum writes about under this category, but I wonder if the rapture beliefs of some conservative evangelical Trump supporters might be relevant here. If the world will end at any moment, and true believers will be lifted from this earth to be with Jesus in heaven, then why not take a risk on a chaos candidate? If he defends the rights of churches, there will be more opportunities to preach the Gospel and get people to heaven.

6. “My side might be flawed, but the political opposition is much worse.” On this point, Applebaum addresses court evangelicalism. She writes:

The Republican senators who are willing to express their disgust with Trump off the record but voted in February for him to remain in office all indulge a variation of this sentiment. (Trump enables them to get the judges they want, and those judges will help create the America they want.) So do the evangelical pastors who ought to be disgusted by Trump’s personal behavior but argue, instead, that the current situation has scriptural precedents. Like King David in the Bible, the president is a sinner, a flawed vessel, but he nevertheless offers a path to salvation for a fallen nation.

The three most important members of Trump’s Cabinet–Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General Willial Barr–are all profoundly shaped by Vichyite apocalyptic thinking. All three are clever enough to understand what Trumpism really means, that is has nothing to do with God or faith, that it is self-serving, greedy, and unpatriotic. Nevertheless, a former member of the administration (one of the few who did decide to resign) told me that Pence and Pompeo “have convinced themselves that they are in a biblical moment.” All of the things they care about–outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage, and (though this is never said out loud) maintaining a white majority in America–are under threat. Time is growing short. They believe that “we are approaching the rapture, and this is a moment of deep religious significance.”

If one’s political philosophy is shaped by this sense of apocalyptic urgency, it makes sense the Hillary Clinton (and now Joe Biden) may be the Antichrist. It would also make perfect sense to instill fear in followers about what might happen if Trump is defeated in 2020.

7. “I am afraid to speak out.”  Applebaum writes:

In the United Sates of America, it is hard to imagine how fear could be a motivation for anybody. There are no mass murders of the regime’s political enemies, and there never have been. Political opposition is legal, free press and free speech are guaranteed in the Constitution. And yet even in one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies, fear is a motive. The same former administration official who observed the importance of apocalyptic Christianity in Trump’s Washington told me, with grim disgust, that “they are all scared.”

They are scared not of prison, the official said, but of being attacked by Trump on Twitter. They are scared he will make up a nickname for them. They are scared that they will be mocked, or embarrassed, like Mitt Romney has been. They are scared of losing their social circles, of being disinvited to parties. They are scared that their friends and supporters, and especially their donors, will desert them…They are scared, and yet they don’t seem to know that this fear has precedents, or that it could have consequences. They don’t know that similar waves of fear have helped transform other democracies into dictatorships….

To what extent are court evangelical leaders and pastors scared to stand-up to Trump’s immorality because they might lose their congregations or donations for their evangelical media empires? Sometimes this kind of fear is covered-up by pious rhetoric about “civility” and “unity in the body of Christ.” Christian leaders of all stripes don’t want to rock the boat because they might offend Trump supporters.

You can read Applebaum’s entire piece here.

World Relief report criticizes Trump’s efforts to aid refugees facing religious persecution

Syrianrefugees_0

If you read my court evangelical roundups, you know about Johnnie Moore, the Trump evangelical who likes to tout himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Moore champions the cause of global religious liberty. Here are some of his latest tweets:

Moore loves Secretary of State’s Mike Pompeo’s emphasis on religious liberty around the world. He recently retweeted Pompeo:

On Friday, Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reported that World Relief, an evangelical Christian relief agency, released a report on persecuted Christians and U.S. refugee settlement. Here is a taste of Jenkins’s piece:

Entitled “Closed Doors: Persecuted Christians and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Processes,” the report was prepared by World Relief and Open Doors USA — both organizations that work on issues of immigration and religious persecution.

Their findings focus on the Trump administration’s drastic cuts to the refugee resettlement program, which has long been run in partnership with several religious organizations — including World Relief, an evangelical Christian group. According to the report, there has been a 90% reduction since 2015 in the number of persecuted Christians resettled in the United States.

And this:

The report calls for the U.S. government to return to “at least a historically normal ceiling” for refugee resettlement, such as 95,000 refugees per year as recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2019. In addition, the authors urge the Trump administration to reject proposed changes to existing immigration systems that would make it more difficult to attain asylum in the U.S.

The document implicitly calls into question Trump’s 2017 promise to assist persecuted Christians. When asked about the issue by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said his administration would make responding to Christians fleeing persecution in Syria a priority.

“They’ve been horribly treated,” Trump said. He later added: “We are going to help them.”

Curry and Breene were careful not to criticize Trump directly during the call and pointed to instances where the Trump administration has taken some steps to assist persecuted religious minorities.

For example, Curry noted when Vice President Mike Pence personally intervened to dedicate U.S. Agency for International Development funds to better living conditions for religious minorities in northern Iraq. That move is part of a larger strategy aimed at improving the situation of persecuted Christians where they live instead of prioritizing refugee resettlement.

But when pressed about whether the Trump administration’s strategy tangibly benefited the lives of persecuted Christians in their countries of origin, Breene acknowledged that despite the government’s “good” intentions, “it’s very rare to see material progress.”

And even if conditions improve overseas, said Curry, Christians who have been displaced from their homes because of religious persecution still need help.

“This is a significant gaping hole in their strategy: that there are some people that are still in danger for their faith,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to move back home. If they could, they would.”

Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called the data in the report “shocking.” Kim also expressed disappointment in the Trump administration’s refugee settlement policy. 

The United States, he said, has “long (been) a beacon of hope for those fleeing religious persecution … We must change this policy and remain a leader for religious freedom.”

Read the entire piece here.

A few closing thoughts:

  1. So far, Moore has been silent about this report.
  2. Moore and other court evangelicals will need to figure out how they can support Trump’s immigration policies and still claim the president is a champion of religious freedom around the world.
  3. It is also worth noting that Moore has been silent on this.
  4. Walter Kim is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Johnnie Moore is a member of the NAE board.

The court evangelicals do not appear in the John Bolton book

Room Where I happend

I skimmed through John Bolton’s The Room Where it Happened this weekend. I also read every word in the index. I thought Bolton might have something to say about Trump’s evangelical advisers, the folks I call the court evangelicals.

What did I find?

Nothing.

What does this mean? Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. Based on the book, one could argue that Bolton just doesn’t care about Trump’s relationship with evangelicals. He does not talk about them when he writes about Israel. Nor does he mention anything about how Mike Pompeo’s Christian faith informs his foreign policy decisions. He says nothing about the faith of Mike Pence. The court evangelical narrative is not even on his radar screen.
  2. Bolton may have left evangelicals, and evangelicalism generally, out of the book because they really do not have much of an impact on foreign policy and other matters.
  3. Bolton’s book is extremely detailed. If evangelicals played a role on Israel, global religious liberty, or anything else, one would think Bolton might mention them.

I gave the book a good skim. But if closer readers find something on evangelicals, please let me know.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Trump Beleive me

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

They are not technically “court” evangelicals, but they are definitely Trump evangelicals. The Harris family is back and they are now a Trump worship band:

Some of you may remember them from 2012:

The Harris’s are an evangelical homeschool family from Tulsa.

Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., seems to like the Harris family. She retweeted this today:

Glad to see Jentezen Franklin acknowledging Juneteenth:

Franklin Graham too:

Tony Perkins is beating the “law and order” drum:

He is also retweeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

Al Mohler has not abandoned the Christian Right playbook in the wake of Gorsuch’s opinion in the recent LCBTQ Civil Rights decision:

Jim Garlow is writing about “biblical principles of economics.” I assume he means the part of the Bible written by Adam Smith:

Charlie Kirk forgot to mention the coronavirus mask designed by his friend and partner, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University. But I guess that’s not technically blackface:

Kirk know something about the past, but his historical thinking skills need a lot of work:

Here we go again:

Thomas Kidd, Mark David Hall, Brooke Allen, and Steve Green will participate in a Falkirk Center forum. At least David Barton is not involved.

Robert Jeffress is back on Fox Business. Channel. Apparently Chick-fil-A is taking some heat.

Jeffress thinks that racism will “evaporate overnight” if people just turned to God. Again, he fails to see that the sin of racism is structural–it is deeply embedded in our all of our institutions.  I recall the argument of  James Davison’s Hunter‘s book To Change the World”: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. In that book, Hunter argues that individual transformation is not the best way to change the world. True change does not happen through some kind of Protestant populism, but rather by the “work of elites: gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life.” Such change takes generations and it can only “be described in retrospect.” Individual spiritual transformation can bring about good ends, but it does not change the “moral fabric” or “DNA of a civilization.” I think Hunter’s words are an important reminder that the eradication of systemic racism is going to take a long time and a lot of work.

Jeffress also defends the phrase “all lives matter.”

Until next time.

The World Tells the United States to Stop Using the Phrase “Wuhan Virus”

Pompeo 2

Here is The Washington Post:

Foreign ministers representing seven major industrialized nations failed to agree on a joint statement Wednesday after the Trump administration insisted on referring to the coronavirus outbreak as the “Wuhan virus,” three officials from G-7 countries told The Washington Post.

Other nations in the group of world powers rejected the term because they viewed it as needlessly divisive at a time when international cooperation is required to slow the global pandemic and deal with the scarcity of medical supplies, officials said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has brushed off criticism of his use of the term, saying it’s important to point out that the virus came from the Chinese city of Wuhan and that China’s government had a special responsibility to warn the world about its dangers.

When asked about a report that his insistence on including the term caused a rift at the Group of Seven meeting, Pompeo did not deny the charge but said that any disagreements among the group were tactical and not sweeping in nature.

Read the rest here.

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly Responds to Mike Pompeo

Mike-Pompeo-Angry

Get up to speed here and here and here.

Here is a taste of Kelly’s New York Times op-ed, “Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me“:

There is a reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution. There is a reason it matters that people in positions of power — people charged with steering the foreign policy of entire nations — be held to account. The stakes are too high for their impulses and decisions not to be examined in as thoughtful and rigorous an interview as is possible.

Journalists don’t sit down with senior government officials in the service of scoring political points. We do it in the service of asking tough questions, on behalf of our fellow citizens. And then sharing the answers — or lack thereof — with the world.

Read the entire piece here.

Watch Alan Dershowitz and Robert Jeffress Revel in Trump’s Support for Mike Pompeo’s Treatment of an NPR Reporter

Here is the video from today’s roll-out of Trump’s Middle East peace plan:

If you are unfamiliar with Pompeo’s treatment of NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly get up to speed here and here.

At about the 0:25 mark of the video Trump says to Pompeo, “that reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday, right?”  After the crowd laughs in approval, Trump says, “I think you did a good job on her actually.”

At the moment Trump praises Pompeo for his treatment of the reporter, a man pats Pompeo on the back in obvious support.  The man is Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who gave a speech last night on behalf of the president’s impeachment defense.

Seated two chairs to Dershowitz’s right is court evangelical Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. You can see him in the top right-hand corner of the screen.  He did not pat Pompeo on the back, but he joins the rest of those present who are laughing about Trump’s support of Pompeo’s treatment of the reporter.  (This evening CNN showed a similar video with a better of view of Jeffress).

This is what happens when you spend too much time at the court.  You lose your moral focus.

ADDENDUM (January 29, 2020 at 8:41am)

Liberty University’s Choice of Commencement Speaker Should Not Surprise Us

Pompeo 2

Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo berated a female reporter, cursed at her, and belittled her intelligence.  Then he issued a press-release calling her a liar and belittling her intelligence again.  And then he tweeted a scripture verse calling her a liar and suggesting that she is a fool.

One might expect that a Christian college would condemn Pompeo’s behavior in the same way I did in this post.

But at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, this kind of behavior qualifies Pompeo as the university’s 2020 commencement speaker.

Here is the press release:

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell announced Monday, Jan. 27, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the Class of 2020 during May 9’s Commencement ceremony. 

Pompeo joined the Trump Administration April 6, 2018, when he was sworn in as Secretary of State. He previously served as the Director of the CIA, CEO of Thayer Aerospace, and President of Sentry International. 

Pompeo, a former U.S. Army officer, patrolled the Iron Curtain as a cavalry officer before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The West Point and Harvard Law graduate served four terms as a congressman for Kansas’ 4th District and has one son with his wife, Susan, according to whitehouse.gov.

Falwell said Pompeo defends foundational American freedoms and understands and supports the faith community and mission of Liberty University. 

“Secretary Pompeo is a man who leads our nation with excellence and with a passion for protecting our citizens at home and abroad,” Falwell said to Liberty News. “We have been privileged to welcome many of our nation’s greatest leaders to Liberty’s stage, and we are looking forward to hearing from another as Secretary Pompeo inspires our graduates to make their own marks on the world as Champions for Christ.”

Pompeo joins the ranks of the national leaders who addressed graduates at previous Liberty Commencement ceremonies, including Vice President Mike Pence (2019), former President Jimmy Carter (2018) and President Donald Trump (2017).

Mike Pompeo’s Tweet Today is a Perversion of Christianity

Mike-Pompeo-Angry

Here is the tweet:

It would be very difficult to understand this tweet apart from Pompeo’s response yesterday to the NPR reporter who claimed that the Secretary of State screamed at her, cursed at her, and belittled her expertise following an interview.  You can get up to speed here.

Pompeo accused NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly of lying to him.  Here is his full statement:

“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.

This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.

It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

Kelly, a respected reporter, claims that she did not lie to Pompeo about anything.  She told the Secretary’s staff  in advance that she would be asking questions about Ukraine.  She also claims that Pompeo did not say that the post-interview discussion was off the record.  National Public Radio CEO Michael Martin stands by Kelly.

Notice that Pompeo says nothing in this statement about his own behavior. He does not deny that Kelly’s account of his behavior is true.  And he does not apologize for the way he treated Kelly.  Pompeo’s statement suggests that if someone (allegedly) lies to you, you have the right to respond any way you want toward that person.  What kind of Christian example is this?  Again, here is my satirical addendum from last night’s post:

Hey Christian kids, when someone (allegedly) lies to you, you have every right to scream at them, mistreat them, degrade their expertise, and curse at them.  Just follow the example of evangelical role model and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his boss Donald Trump.  Don’t listen to all the evangelical anti-Trump losers who tell you to turn the other cheek.  Just fire-back in a press release or get your public relations people to book you on Fox News.  After all, we are in the middle of the culture war.  We can’t let little things like Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount get in the way when we have so much work to do in our righteous quest to restore Christian values.

Pompeo ends his statement by saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.” Here Pompeo feels the need to take one more parting shot at Kelly.  As you may recall, Pompeo pulled out a blank map and asked Kelly to identify Ukraine on it. (Who has a blank map sitting around in his “living room” just in case he needs to quiz a guest?).  Kelly claims that after she accurately identified Ukraine on the blank map, Pompeo put it away.

On this map, Ukraine is in orange and Bangledesh is in green:

Bangladesh_Ukraine_Locator

Do we really believe that Kelly, who has a masters degree in European Studies from Cambridge University in England, confused Ukraine and Bangladesh? Pompeo’s parting shot was an attempt to belittle Kelly.  This is quite fitting of the Trump administration and their GOP enablers.  When they don’t like certain questions–usually questions by women–they try to attack the intelligence of the individual asking the question.  Remember this:

And this:

And this (fast forward to the “short sentences” line at the 0:40 mark):

(Thanks to Chris Cuomo of CNN for reminding me about these videos. He ran them on his show last night).

And now we come to Pompeo’s tweet this morning.  He quotes Proverbs 10:18: “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Pompeo uses this verse as a weapon against Kelly.  He is saying that Kelly not only lied to him, but in doing so she showed her hatred for the Trump administration (a common GOP mantra against all critics of the president) and she is a fool.

I don’t know if Kelly lied to Pompeo.  But if I had to choose between a widely respected journalist and the representative of a presidential administration that lies endlessly to the American people, I will go with the journalist.  It is also worth noting that Pompeo’s decision to tweet a verse about lying lips is especially rich coming from Donald Trump’s Secretary of State.

Pompeo’s use of Proverbs 10:18 to attack an NPR journalist is a perversion of Christianity.  Historian Robert Caro once said, “power doesn’t corrupt, it reveals.”  Pompeo’s weaponizing of scripture here reveals what evangelical Christianity has become over the last forty years of political captivity.

 

Mike Pompeo Reveals His Dark(er) Side

Pompeo

Mike Pompeo is Secretary of State.  He is a defender of global religious freedom. He thinks Donald Trump is the new Queen Esther. He is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  He is a Sunday School teacher.  He believes that “Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”  He spoke at a God and country rally.

He also berates female reporters with vulgar language and map quizzes.

Here is The New York Times:

Soon after that, Ms. Kelly said, an aide to Mr. Pompeo ended the roughly nine-minute interview, and Mr. Pompeo glared at her and left the room — hardly an unusual reaction in hurly-burly Washington.

But in a broadcast later on NPR, Ms. Kelly described what happened next.

She said the aide who had stopped the interview reappeared and asked her to come with her, with no recorder. Ms. Kelly said she was taken to Mr. Pompeo’s private living room, where he was waiting, and “where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted.”

“He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine,” Ms. Kelly, a co-host of “All Things Considered,” said on NPR. “He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the f-word in that sentence, and many others.”

Mr. Pompeo asked Ms. Kelly if she could find Ukraine on a map, and Ms. Kelly, whose reporting has taken her around the world — to Russia, North Korea and other countries — said, “Yes.”

“He called out for his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked,” Ms. Kelly said. “I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’”

Read the entire piece here.

Christian writer and priest Fleming Rutledge puts it well.  I can’t do any better:

ADDENDUM (1-25-2020 at 5:40pm)

It looks like Mike Pompeo has responded to this story on Secretary of State letterhead:

“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.

This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.

It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

Hey Christian kids, when someone (allegedly) lies to you, you have every right to scream at them, mistreat them, degrade their expertise, and curse at them.  Just follow the example of evangelical role model and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his boss Donald Trump.  Don’t listen to all the evangelical anti-Trump losers who tell you to turn the other cheek.  Just fire-back in a press release or get your public relations people to book you on Fox News.  After all, we are in the middle of the culture war.  We can’t let little things like Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount get in the way when we have so much work to do in our righteous quest to restore Christian values.

The New King Cyrus Wants to Bomb the Old King Cyrus’s Tomb

Cyrus tomb

The tomb of Cyrus the Great is located in Iran

Back in March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo compared Donald Trump to Queen Esther, the Queen who persuaded the king of Persia not to destroy the Jews.  Watch this:

It now looks like the new Queen Esther may want to obliterate the tomb of the original Queen Esther.

Some of you may remember that Donald Trump recently threatened to destroy Iranian cultural sites.  Here is his tweet:

Today at Religion News Service, Yonat Shimron reports on the cultural sites in Iran that may some interest to American evangelicals.  One of those sites just happens to be the tomb of Esther.  Here is Shimron:

Located in Hamadan, the tomb is believed by some to house the remains of the biblical Queen Esther and her cousin (or by some accounts, uncle) Mordechai. It is the most important pilgrimage site for Jews in the country.

Esther, as described in the Bible, was the Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus. In the Book of Esther, Mordechai informs her of a plot to kill the Jews, and together they work to save Jews throughout the Persian Empire from annihilation.

The exact date of the 50-foot-tall brick dome’s origin is disputed. An outer chamber holds tombs of famous rabbis. The interior chamber features Hebrew writing along the walls and holds two carved sarcophagi, with the two burial plots for Esther and Mordechai.

Back in November, a court evangelical by the name of Jim Garlow, seemed to claim that Trump was another Daniel, the prophet who refused to compromise his Jewish faith during the Babylonian captivity.

Well, it looks the new Daniel wants to bomb the tomb of the old Daniel.  Here is Shimron:

There are many places that claim to be the traditional burial place of the biblical prophet Daniel, but this one, in Susa, Iran, is the most widely accepted. According to the biblical book by the same name, Daniel was taken to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem. There, he was rescued from lions with the aid of the prophet Jeremiah. The apocalyptic genre of the Book of Daniel is important to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Above the mausoleum of Daniel is a conical-shaped building.

But wait!  This gets better.  Many evangelicals believe that Donald Trump is the new King Cyrus.  Some of them even sell Cyrus prayer coins.

Well, it looks like Trump wants to bomb the tomb of the old King Cyrus.  Here, again, is Shimron:

Many evangelicals have compared Trump to King Cyrus, who became the first emperor of Persia. Cyrus is celebrated multiple times in the Bible for freeing a population of Jews who were held captive in Babylon — an act some consider to have made him anointed by God. Cyrus died in 530 B.C. and is buried in Pasargadae, an archaeological site about 56 miles from the modern city of Shiraz. According to literary sources, more than two centuries later, Alexander the Great ordered his tomb to be restored.

 

The Links Between Mike Pompeo’s Foreign Policy and Christian Zionism

Pompeo

Mike Pompeo has not specifically connected the assassination of Qasem Soleimani with his pro-Israel Christian world view, but, as Nancy LeTourenau notes at The Washington Monthly, there is certainly enough evidence to consider such a connection.

Here is a taste of her piece “Pompeo Aligns U.S Foreign Policy With Christian Zionists“:

As Kathryn Joyce pointed out last March, “even amid an administration stacked with evangelical staffers and advisors, Pompeo stands out.” At about that time, the secretary of state was in Jerusalem and sat down for an interview with reporters from the Christian Broadcast Network.

Chris Mitchell asked Pompeo, “could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?”…

“As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo said.

On that occasion, Pompeo was reacting to a question from a reporter. But a few months later, he gave a speech titled “The U.S. and Israel: a Friendship for Freedom.” He used the occasion to bring up the Biblical story of Esther himself.

A lot of people get spun up with the wrong ideas that American evangelicals want to impose a theocracy on America.  I wish they would be concerned about the real theocratic takeover that has been happening in Iran for the last four decades.  The ayatollahs have grievously deprived the Iranian people of that most basic, simple, fundamental right, their right to worship.

That same twisted, intolerant doctrine that fuels persecution inside Iran has also led the ayatollah and his cronies to cry out, quote, “death to Israel” for four decades now.  This is similar to a cry that came out of Iran—then called Persia—many, many years ago.

It was in the 5th century B.C.  There was a wicked advisor named King Xerxes.  A fellow named Haman hatched a plot to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire.  He secretly wrote letters with the king’s seal to all the provincial governors, ordering the people to rise up and attack the Jews.  This edict, once issued, could not be revoked.  But thanks to the courageous intervention of Queen Esther, who begged the king to show mercy to her people, Haman’s plot was exposed and the Jews were ultimately spared.

I wanted to tell this story today for a couple of reasons, because similar threats to the Jewish people have marked other eras as well… Thank God we have a leader in President Trump—an immovable friend of Israel.

Pompeo went on to articulate the Trump administration’s pressure campaign on Iran as a demonstration of its support for Israel.

Read the entire piece here.

Will the Court Evangelicals Break With Trump Over the Plight of Syrian Christians?

Syrian Christians

It is interesting to see how the court evangelicals have responded to the United States withdrawal and recent Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region. Many of Trump’s evangelical supporters are horrified that the president has now abandoned the Christian minority in the Kurdish region.

Christianity Today is covering it this way:

One Syrian Christian leader issued a plea to President Trump.

“Please, seek God, ask God before you make your decision, so that Christianity is not eradicated from Syria, and from historical Mesopotamia,” Bassam Ishak, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council Representation in the USA, told CBN News, following Trump’s February threat to withdraw US forces. “We don’t want a country where citizenship and rights are based on ethnic identities or religious identity. We want all Syrians to be equal.”

Ishak and his colleagues across faiths have received the support of the Family Research Council in the US. Tony Perkins, though an evangelical advisor to the White House, tweeted his opposition to Trump’s decision, warning it would “endanger the prospects of true religious freedom in the Middle East.”

His colleague Travis Weber, vice president for policy and government affairs, told the Christian Post that the region can serve as a safe haven, preventing the flight of the persecuted to Europe and the United States.“Not only will our withdrawal destabilize the region,” he said, “but it … signals to the world that we don’t care about the religious freedom they have built.”

Other American evangelical critics include Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson, who warned Trump risks losing “the mandate of heaven.” Senate Republicans Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham joined Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in condemning Trump’s move.

And the bipartisan US Commission for International Religious Freedom tweeted its “deep concern.” Trump responded to criticism by citing his “great and unmatched wisdom,” warning that if Turkey does anything off limits, he will once again destroy its economy.

US economic sanctions were part of his high-profile efforts to secure the release of pastor Andrew Brunson, held two years in Turkey on terrorism-related charges.

In Defense of Christians, a nonpartisan organization committed to the preservation and protection of Christians in the Middle East, expressed great concern about the future of Christians and Yazidis, but was encouraged by Trump’s threat.

Read the entire piece here.

Here is court evangelical Franklin Graham:

 

And then there is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Trump cabinet member who has invested a lot of his energies in the promotion of religious freedom.  Pompeo is defending Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria.  I wonder how Pompeo squares this with the following:

  • His October 3, 2019 meeting with Pope Francis to discuss the protection of Christian communities in the Middle East.
  • His October 2, 2019 participation in a Vatican symposium on religious freedom.
  • His creation of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.
  • His July 2019 speech on religious liberty to a meeting of the Christians United for Israel.
  • And we could go on.

Thoughts on Mike Pompeo and Queen Esther

Here is Mike Pompeo talking with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Sarah Pulliam Bailey gets us up to speed at The Washington Post.  Read here piece here.

Here are some really random thoughts about Pompeo’s remarks:

The fact that CBN asked Pompeo to compare Trump to Queen Esther in interesting in and of itself.  Let’s be clear:  Pompeo was responding to a question, not offering-up his religious views on Middle East foreign policy in an unsolicited fashion.

CBN has a long history of trying to connect biblical prophecy to developments in the Middle East.  The people at CBN believe, along with millions of other evangelicals, that God still has a special place in His plan for the nation of Israel.  The establishment of the state of Israel will be a sign that Jesus Christ’s return is coming.  This theology is often described as dispensationalism.  Those at CBN understand their mission in terms of 1 Chronicles 12:32.  In this Old Testament passage, David builds an army at Hebron to overthrow King Saul.  It says that “the men from Issachar” were men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do….”  Today CBN wants to “understand the times” so that it can help evangelicals win the culture war and shape foreign policy.

Pompeo’s answer reveals that he also believes God still has a plan for Israel.  His answer makes it clear that he favors a pro-Israel foreign policy partially for dispensational or “end times” reasons.  It does not surprise me that he would see Iran as Haman and Esther as Trump.  What is most telling is that Pompeo is not running for office (like Trump) and thus does not have to appeal to evangelicals to shore-up an electoral base for 2020.   Unlike Trump, he seems to really believe this stuff.

One illustration of the evangelical love of Israel comes from Peter Lillback, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary, an evangelical Reformed seminary in the Philadelphia area. In 2011, Lillback wrote an entire book arguing that George Washington was a supporter of Israel.  Here is one of his arguments: “If there had been no George Washington, there would have been no American Independence.  If there had been no American Independence there would have been no United States.  If there had been no United States, there would have no super-power to support the existence of Israel.  If there has been no super-power to support Israel, there would be no Israel.”  He then concludes that George Washington was part of God’s plan for “the destiny of Israel.”

Trump has also been compared to King Cyrus. Some evangelicals make this comparison metaphorically—Trump is a pagan ruler who set the evangelical church free from the captivity of the Obama administration much in the same way that Cyrus, a pagan ruler, set the Israelites free from Babylonian bondage.  Others apply the Cyrus example to Israel.  Mike Evans, a Christian Zionist, has said that God used Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem much in the same way God used Cyrus to advance biblical prophecy as related to a future for Israel.  I wrote extensively about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

It is worth noting that Harry Truman was also hailed as a King Cyrus after the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Back in 2012, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave Barack Obama a copy of the Book of Esther.  It was a clear message that Obama, according to Netanyahu, was NOT acting as an Esther in his support of Iran over Israel.

Many evangelicals compared Sarah Palin to Queen Esther when she was John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.  (She would save Christian America from the threat of an Obama administration and secularism.

Abraham Lincoln was compared to Queen Esther for freeing the slaves.  (He was also compared to Moses).

And that brings my random thought to an end.  🙂