The *Kansas City Star* publishes a scathing editorial on Sen. Josh Hawley’s vote to acquit Trump

Here is the stinger:

Hawley’s mind is permanently closed, open only in the service of his ambition. He will say or do anything to further his prospects, whether it’s the White House or a bottle of wine from the top shelfThe man who raised his fist in support of the mob that raided the Capitol on Jan. 6 was never going to vote against his coconspirator in the Capitol riot.

Read the entire editorial here. It condemns all four senators from the Kansas City region–Hawley (MO), Roy Blunt (MO), Jerry Moran (KS), and Roger Marshall (KS)

Former Missouri senator John Danforth says mentoring Josh Hawley was “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”

John Danforth served three terms as a United States Senator from Missouri. He is an Episcopal priest and the author of Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Danforth is also the founder of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University.

Danforth once called Josh Hawley a “once-in-a-generation” candidate who would one day be president. In 2018, when Hawley was running for a senate seat, Danforth praised him as an intellectual, someone who was “not just some glad-handing politician.” He also compared Hawley to former New York senator and Harvard professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

But things have changed. On Wednesday, Hawley’s objected to the Pennsylvania and Arizona Electoral College votes. Conservative columnist George Will called him a “domestic enemy.” Nebraska senator Ben Sasse said ambition was driving Hawley’s decision. Democrats want him expelled from the Senate.

Now Hawley’s mentor, John Danforth, is blaming Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Hawley.

Here is a taste of Bryan Lowry’s piece at The Kansas City Star:

“I thought he was special. And I did my best to encourage people to support him both for attorney general and later the U.S. Senate and it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life,” he said Thursday. “I don’t know if he was always like this and good at covering it up or if it happened. I just don’t know.”

Danforth said he first met Hawley at a dinner party during a visit to Yale Law School in the mid-2000s when Hawley was a third-year law student. Impressed with Hawley’s intellect, he became a mentor and led the effort to recruit him to run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

He said Hawley’s role in championing outgoing President Donald Trump’s effort to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory based on conspiracy theories, which helped turn Capitol Hill into a powder keg, should disqualify him from a future White House run.

“But for him it wouldn’t have happened,” said Danforth a day after the riot.

“But for him the approval of the Electoral College votes would have been simply a formality,” Danforth, a Republican who represented Missouri from 1976 to 1995, added. “He made it into something that it was a specific way to express the view that the election was stolen. He was responsible.”

Hawley’s office did not immediately respond to Danforth’s criticism or other questions about his role helping lay the groundwork for Wednesday’s chaos.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump Thought Kansas City Was in Kansas. Conservative Politico Matt Schlapp Backed Him Up

If you want to understand the state of Republican politics today, just read this tweet from Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union:

Schlapp is referring to Donald Trump’s post-Super Bowl tweet which said:

Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game, and a fantastic comeback, under immense pressure. You represented the Great State of Kansas and, in fact, the entire USA, so very well. Our Country is PROUD OF YOU!

The Kansas City Chiefs, of course, play in Kansas City, MISSOURI. Yes, there is a “Kansas City” in Kansas, but it is not where the Kansas City Chiefs play football.

Since then, Trump has changed the tweet:

Here is Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:

The substantive importance of the initial Trump error is extremely minor. It’s the sort of gaffe that, had a Democratic president committed it, would have supplied hundreds of hours of mocking Fox News programming about out-of-touch coastal elites. (George W. Bush’s reelection campaign was premised largely on John Kerry having mispronounced the name of Green Bay’s football stadium and ordering the wrong kind of cheese on his Philly cheesesteak sandwich.) But since Democrats have an overabundance of serious Trump vulnerabilities to exploit, nobody is going to spend much time on his confusion between the two different Kansas Cities.

The importance, rather, lies in the willingness of his supporters to defend Trump regardless. Trump has taken the long, deep tradition of anti-intellectualism running through the American right and elevated it to almost cultlike status. Trump has created a hierarchy in which loyalty is determined by willingness to defend even his most absurd lies. The dynamic has been on display throughout the Senate trial, where Republicans have vied for his favor by openly declaring their lack of interest in weighing factual evidence. The Trumpiest Republicans are those who will repeat even his most fantastical claims — that Trump never even asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, that Representative Adam Schiff “falsified” a transcript of Trump’s phone call when he paraphrased it, and so on.

For many of Trump’s policy actions, the cruelty is the point. But for some of his more trivial episodes, the stupidity is the point. The gleeful rejection of objective truth, throwing oneself fully into Trumpism, is a marker of tribal loyalty.

Trump obviously has no reason to credit Kansas rather than Missouri with hosting the Super Bowl champions. The point of defending it is to demonstrate that the Trump cult can create its own reality and needn’t make any concession to external truth.

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with Lucas Volkman

9780190248321Lucas Volkman is Assistant Professor of History at Moberly Area Community College. This interview is based on his new book, Houses Divided: Evangelical Schisms and the Crisis of the Union in Missouri (Oxford University Press, 2018).

JF: What led you to write Houses Divided?

LV: For some time, religious history had always interested me. During recent years historians have been improving their understanding of the role of religion in the larger Civil War era. In many ways it made sense for me further this exploration by examining the denominational schisms over slavery within the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

While earlier historians had done fine work on the topic, the more I researched the more I realized that there was further work that was needed on this important series of events in American history. What really stood out to me was how there were a variety of facets that had not been written about extensively.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Houses Divided?

LV: This work argues that congregational and local denominational schisms among Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians in the border state of Missouri before, during, and after the Civil War were central to the crisis of the Union, Civil War, and Reconstruction. The book maintains that the schisms were interlinked religious, sociocultural, legal, and political developments rife with implications for the transformation of evangelicalism and the United States in that period and to the end of Reconstruction.

JF: Why do we need to read Houses Divided?

LV: The schisms within the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches were important events within the sectional crisis during the years leading to the Civil War. But, Houses Divided moves beyond the antebellum period, and tells how the schisms played a major role during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

Readers will see how competing theologies over the morality of slavery helped drive antebellum events as southern evangelicals used their power to push their proslavery theology only to have northern evangelicals turn the tables during the war and Reconstruction, as they sought to construct pro-northern civil religion.

In Houses Divided I discuss how the schisms were important for their legal ramifications. As congregations divided over slavery, congregations were forced to go to the courts to adjudicate their property disputes. Combined with wartime/Reconstruction oaths, these property battles demonstrate how the schisms played a major role in the interactions between church and state.

Finally, by focusing on Missouri, readers will see a state which was uniquely torn apart by the conflict over slavery – making it an excellent laboratory to examine the schisms. Moreover, by focusing on a single border state, Houses Divided can truly examine these ruptures as local events, rather than solely through the eyes of elite national ministers. By bringing in local congregations, women and African Americans, to add to the narrative of ministers and other elites, Houses Divided truly surveys the religious landscape.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

LV: Since I was younger I had always been interested in history. While I majored in history during my undergrad, I began to be drawn more so to American history. I thought that I would have the most to contribute on the nineteenth century. Hopefully the readers of Houses Divided will think so as well after finishing the book.

JF: What is your next project?

LV: Sticking with the theme of religious history, currently I am researching a project on American Catholicism in the mid to late nineteenth century. I am particularly interested in how Catholicism interacted with the forces of Americanization on the church.

JF: Thanks, Lucas!


Did the Supreme Court “Strike Down a Major Church-State Barrier” Yesterday?

Trinity LutheranThe title of Atlantic writer Emma Green’s article on the Supreme Court’s recent Trinity Lutheran v. Comer is titled “The Supreme Court Strikes Down a Major Church-State Barrier.”

In case you are new to the case, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Missouri cannot deny funds to a church because it is a religious institution.  Green writes:

Seven justices affirmed the judgment in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, albeit with some disagreement about the reasoning behind it. The major church-state case could potentially expand the legal understanding of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship, which could have implications for future policy fights—including funding for private, religious charter schools.  

Trinity Lutheran is a big case that hinges on mundane facts. In 2012, when Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri applied for a state grant to resurface its playground, it was ranked as a strong potential candidate for the program. Ultimately, though, Missouri denied the funding under a state constitutional provision that prohibits public money from going to religious organizations and houses of worship. “There is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision for the majority. “A church.”

The case focused on whether this decision conflicts with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and specifically whether Missouri was violating the free-exercise clause by preventing Trinity Lutheran from participating in a secular, neutral aid program. On Monday, the court overwhelmingly agreed that the answer was “yes.”

Read Green’s entire piece here.

Over at his blog Snakes and Ladders, Baylor English professor Alan Jacobs takes issue with the title of Green’s piece.

Here is a taste of Jacobs’s post:

Emma Green, the fine reporter who wrote the story (though not the headline), asked me to clarify, so here goes:

  1. That the story lede (the first sentence) is accurate will be seen from what follows.
  2. I called the dek (the description below the headline) “misleading,” but that is generous: it’s simply wrong. And Emma Green — who, again, is a superb reporter and rarely makes errors like this — gets it wrong in her story when she writes the source of the dek: “It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship.” No: it is not true government “must” provide money to a house of worship or to any other organization. The ruling, rather, is that if a state or local government says that it will provide money to organizations in return for providing certain services — in this case, the maintaining of a playground available to children throughout the community — then it cannot withhold that money from churches simply because they are churches. (The New York Times get it wrong in its headline too, and in the same way: “States Must Aid Some Church Programs, Justices Rule.”) I understand that you can’t squeeze everything into a headline, but the distinction between “governments must give money to churches” and “governments cannot exclude churches qua churches from projects for civic improvement” is not an especially subtle one.
  3. The idea expressed in the hed that this decision “Strikes Down a Major Church-State Barrier” is simply absurd. What is the “barrier” that existed before this ruling and if now gone? What does this ruling do to establish a state church? After all, the ruling applies equally to churches, mosques, synagogues, and atheist community centers: by what torturing of logic could such a ruling be said to establish a state religion? Just as the Civil Rights Act helped to enfranchise people of color without disenfranchising white people, so this ruling excludes prejudice against churches qua churches (in this one minor matter) without infringing on anyone else’s rights.

Read the entire post here.

Thoughts? Jacobs makes sense to me.

“Evangelicals Are Welcome Here”

springs-churchAt first I thought this was a story from The Onion, but it is actually from the Springfield (MO) News-Leader.  It turns out that the First Evangelical Free Church of Springfield has changed its name to “The Springs Church” because people in town though the church was “free from evangelicals.”

Here is a taste of this humorous article. (HT: John Hawthorne on FB):

A south Springfield church has a new name after its previous one caused a bit of a misunderstanding.

The former First Evangelical Free Church of Springfield held a “name reveal ceremony” Sunday to highlight the fact that it is now known as The Springs Church.

A news release announcing the change stated that “the old name would cause some confusion because people would think that the church was free from evangelicals, which is not the case at all.”

“Since the Church is a member of the Evangelical Free Church of America, the name made sense,” the release read. “However, many believe the new name will make a big difference in the community and will give a better understanding about the church.”

The Evangelical Free Church of America is an evangelical Christian denomination formed in 1950. The Springs Church is located at 5500 S. Southwood Rd., and is visible to drivers on nearby Highway 65.

“We have known for some time that our name was confusing to many people,” Pastor Jerry Carlin said in the release. “So we chose a name that finds its meaning from many Bible passages including John 4:7-14, which ends, ‘Indeed, the water I (Jesus) give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”

“We’re the same people, with the same beliefs but a more understandable name,” Carlin said. “As a congregation, we wanted our name to remind the community that times of refreshing come when we become followers of Jesus Christ. We think ‘The Springs’ communicates that really well.”

Americans Demonizing Religious Minorities

The title of this post does not apply to Donald Trump or Muslims in America.  It applies to this 1915 Missouri newspaper:

The Menace

Matthew Pearce explains it all at The Los Angeles Times.  Here is a taste:

The year was 1915, and the strange new newspaper in Aurora, Mo., had grown so quickly in its first four years that rail officials had to build extra tracks for all the paper and printing materials suddenly rolling into town.
The Aurora post office, according to one account, more than tripled its staff to handle mail to and from the publication’s astonishing 1.5 million weekly subscribers — a circulation that dwarfed the largest daily newspapers in New York and Chicago.
Hatred had become big business in southwestern Missouri, and its name was the Menace, a weekly anti-Catholic newspaper whose headlines screamed to readers around the nation about predatory priests, women enslaved in convents and a dangerous Roman Catholic plot to take over America.
“The cowardice of a Roman thug has no parallel in either the human or animal kingdom,” the newspaper frothed in one 1914 edition, calling for “men with red blood in their veins” to defend women and children from Catholics. “If we are compelled to live in this county with Romanists, as our weak-kneed Protestant critics say we are, the Romanists will have to be taught their place in society.”

America’s deep and widespread skepticism of Catholics is a faint memory in today’s post-Sept. 11 world. But as some conservative politicians call for limits on Muslim immigration and raise questions about whether Muslims are more loyal to Islamic law than American law, the story of Aurora’s long-ago newspaper is a reminder of a long history of American religious intolerance.

Read the entire piece here.