Friday night court evangelical roundup

Court Evangelicals at Table

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

Jentezen is worried about the radical left controlling churches:

Jack Graham is asking people to wear their military uniforms to church on Sunday. Why do white evangelicals always appeal to the Armed Forces, and only the Armed Forces, on July 4th?

I am really confused by both Paula White’s retweet and Samuel Rodriguez’s original tweet:

I am also confused by this tweet. What has history told us, Paula?

James Robison makes it sound like “profanity, pornography, and exploitation” are new things in America:

Robert Jeffress tweets the Great Commission:

I’ve always wondered why so many Christian Right preachers stop after Matthew 28:19. Don’t they realize that the Great Commission continues into verse 20: “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

If the Great Commission means we should be observing all Jesus commanded us, Christians should rejoice when persecuted (Mt.5:11-12), be agents of reconciliation (Mt. 5:23-25), tell the truth (Mt. 5:37), turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:38-42), love their enemies (Mt. 5:44-46), stop practicing their righteousness before men (Mt. 6:1), judge not (Mt. 7:1-3), not cast their pearls before pigs (Mt. 7:6), practice the Golden Rule (Mt. 7:12), follow the 81% narrow way (Mt. 7:13-14), beware of false prophets (Mt. 7:15-16), pray for laborers (Mt. 9:37-38), fear not (Mt. 10:28), defend their rights deny themselves (Lk 9:23-25), celebrate the poor (Luke 14:12-14), and welcome strangers (Mt. 25:35).

Jeffress is also mad about the California prohibition against singing in church. It looks like he got the news from the alt-Right, white nationalist website Breitbart:

Eric Metaxas is devoting his entire show today to re-running this.

Richard Land explains why we should still celebrate July 4th “amid this mayhem.” He uses his Christian Post editorial to attack critical race theory. Not a good look coming from the guy who said this.

Pastor Mark Burns thanks Trump for protecting Confederate monuments:

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University is using Edmund Burke to defend Confederate monuments and the white supremacy they represent.

I have many questions about this tweet, but here are two:

  1. Would the Falkirk Center feel the same way about George III, Parliament and British tyranny? Would they tear down monuments?
  2. Would the Falkirk Center like this “good, bad, and ugly” approach to American history to be applied to public school American history textbooks?

It looks like Trump will be “telling the truth” tonight in South Dakota. Here is what Falkirk Center spokesperson Jenna Ellis retweeted earlier today:

I am watching the crowd assembling at this event right now. No social distancing. No masks. The president’s job is to protect the people. This rally is immoral.

Until next time.

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

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

It looks likes COVID-19 was present at Robert Jeffress’s Sunday morning political rally at First Baptist-Dallas.

Newt Gingrich is on the Eric Metaxas Show today talking about his new book Trump and the American Future. Gingrich says that 2020 will be the most consequential election since 1860. Gingrich has been using this line (or something similar) for a long time. He probably does not remember that he said the exact same thing about the 2016 election (go to the 1:55 mark of this video). And before that he said the exact same thing about the 2012 election. In 2008, he said the outcome of the election “will change the entire rest of our lives.” In 1994, he said that the midterm elections “were the most consequential nonpresidential election of the 20th century.” Every election is consequential. How long are we going to listen to Gingirch before we call this what it is: fear-mongering. Metaxas, an evangelical Christian, is facilitating this.

Midway through the interview, Metaxas’s binary thinking kicks-in. He continues to see everything through a culture-war rhetoric. In his Manichean world view, there are only two options: “Marxism” or something he calls “a Judeo-Christian American Western ethic.” Either Metaxas is incapable of nuance or else he is catering to the black-and-white thinking of his audience. I would put my money on the later.

Let’s remember that Western Civilization brought the idea of human rights and freedom to the world. Western Civilization birthed the ideals that ended slavery in much of the world. It also failed to provide human rights and liberty to people of color. We are still living with the results of these failures. It is called systemic racism. Two things can be true at the same time, but as Metaxas and the folks at Salem Radio know well, complexity does not lead to good ratings.

The discussion moves again to monuments. As I said yesterday, when people tear down monuments indiscriminately it only provides fodder for the paranoid style we see in this Metaxas-Gingrich interview. Metaxas once again says that the tearing down of statues is part of a spiritual assault against God. At one point, he applies this thinking to “all monuments.” Gingrich connects the tearing down of monuments to the decline of Western Civilization.  Gingrich has been saying the same thing for over thirty years.

In other court evangelical news, Richard Land needs to stop pontificating about early American history. This “New England writ-large” way of thinking about colonial America not only fails to recognize the intolerance and racism of Puritan society, but it also reads Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech through the lens of Ronald Reagan’s 1989 farewell address to the nation. Here is Land:

By the way, if you want some good history about New England as a “city on a hill,” I recommend:

Fox’s Laura Ingraham is quoting from Tom Paine’s The Crisis. I am not sure Paine, who was a revolutionary who championed women’s rights, anti-slavery and the working class, would appreciate being invoked by a Fox News host. Let’s remember that John Adams thought Paine’s Common Sense was so radical that he called it “a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.” In an 1805 letter, Adams wrote:

I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants of affairs than Thomas Paine. There can be no severer satire on the age. For such a mongrel between pig and puppy, begot by a wild boar on a bitch wolf, never before in any age of the world was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind to run through a career of mischief. Call it then the Age of Paine….

Court evangelical Ralph Reed retweeted Ingraham today:

Paula White is talking about idolatry (she doesn’t mention nationalism as an idol) and some pretty strange theology:

James Robison somehow managed to turn an encouraging word to his followers suffering from COVID-19 into a screed in defense of Confederate monuments, Donald Trump, and Christian nationalism. Satan, in the form of “the Left,” needs to be removed from the United States! Watch it here.

The CDC and Tony Fauci are warning against July 4 gatherings. But Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is not:

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when court evangelicals talk about “truth.” This is from the Falkirk Center’s Facebook page:

Much of the modern day church has fallen victim to the woke mob’s revised Christianity- where “compassion” has replaced truth as the more important moral aim. While we are called to speak the truth in love, we are not called to entertain lies simply because it may make someone feel better. Too many Christians have compromised on this in order to be culturally relevant and to be seen as favorable and kind. We must weed out this self-glorifying corruption in the Church and speak boldly for what we know to be true.

Here is the Falkirk Center’s Jenna Ellis:

Hi Jenna: Let me encourage you to pick-up a copy of this book.  🙂

Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk thinks four centuries of systemic racism can be fixed in eight years.

Until next time…

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

trump-with-evangelical-leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Gary Bauer’s Facebook post:

Kudos to my good friend Vice President Mike Pence!

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

all lives matter cartoon

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jentezen is also upset about the SCOTUS decision:

Tony Perkins too:

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

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

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

She is also upset with John Roberts:

And this:

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

Charlie Kirk is also mad at John Roberts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Thursday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelical dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she is claiming that Biden is mentally incompetent:

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

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

Jentezen Franklin’s church made breakfast for the police:

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

Here is Eric Metaxas today on his Facebook page:

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

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

Here is Charlie Kirk:

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

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

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

A Late Saturday Night Check-In on the Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelicals

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

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas is talking about “reverse racism” and claims that the protesters are not “thinking rationally.” He interviews Bob Woodson, an African-American conservative critic of the 1619 Project. Metaxas is so furious about reverse racism at The New York Times that he has canceled his subscription. He then makes the case that the spirit behind the George Floyd protests are “unChristian” because Christians believe in forgiveness. If I understand him correctly, he thinks we should forgive the police for killing Charles Floyd and forgive people for being racist, and then we can all “celebrate.” He then refers to “systemic” and “institutional” racism as an invented term straight out of Orwell’s 1984.

Watch:

Jenetzen Franklin is at a candlelight vigil in Gainesville for racist injustice.

Paula White-Cain is not saying much about what is happening in the world right now. Instead, she is rejecting the historic Christian belief that we are born sinful:

Gary Bauer wants churches to open. He tags Donald Trump and Federalist writer Mollie Hemingway:

Johnnie Moore,the guy who calls himself a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,is letting everyone know that he is listening to a Black pastors and a lot of them are his friends:

As the protest rages in the city of Louisville, here is what Al Mohler is tweeting:

Earlier today, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network retweeted the president:

Here is Robert Jeffress:

In principle, I agree with Jeffress. But this is really hard to take coming from a guy who supports a president who foments hate, division, and racial strife. A changed heart should lead one to speak on behalf of justice for the oppressed–and not just the unborn.

George Floyd, T.J. Klausutis, Masks are for Wimps, and Twitter Lies: Where are the Court Evangelicals?

Trump iN DallasLet’s think about what has happened in the last 24-48 hours.

The President of the United States continues to push a conspiracy claiming that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old women who died in his former congressional office in 2001. The widower of this woman, T.J. Klausutis, wrote a letter to Twitter asking the social media outlet to remove these tweets. In that letter he wrote: “the president of the United States has taken something that doesn’t belong to him–the memory of my dead wife–and perverted it for perceived political gain….My wife deserves better.”

One hour ago, Trump tweeted:

Despite its refusal to remove Trump’s Scarborough tweets, Twitter may be waking-up to the president’s lies. The social media outlet recently fact-checked a Trump tweet on mail-in ballots. Trump says that he will punish Twitter for this. (I still don’t understand why Twitter fact-checked this tweet and not the Scarborough tweets).

In Minneapolis, four police officers were fired for their involvement in the death of a black man named George Floyd. An officer held down Floyd with his knee as Floyd said that he could not breathe. He died shortly after this took place.

Trump mocked his Democratic 2020 rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask. He told a reporter wearing a mask that he was trying to be “politically correct.” Conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh said that masks have become a “required symbol on the left to promote fear, to promote indecision, to promote the notion that we’re nowhere out of this.” Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that it is “peculiar” that Biden doesn’t wear a mask at home.

These all seem like moral issues that Christians should be concerned about. The T.J. Klausutis story falls into the realm of “family values” and “marriage.” The Twitter fact-check story is about the difference between truth and lies. The George Floyd case is about human dignity and racism. The mask story is about life.

But too many conservative evangelical leaders, especially the court evangelicals, are silent. Trump has paralyzed them. Their consciences are held captive by GOP politics, the Christian Right political playbook, and the president. Their heads are in the sand. They are mostly silent. While all of these stories rage, they tweet things like this:

 

Court evangelical Jack Graham should be commended for calling attention to the Floyd case:

Reed agrees with Graham:

Now if only Graham and Reed would develop a deeper political theology to address the history of systemic racism that led to this moment. They condemn what happened to Floyd. This is right and good. Yet they remain blind to the racism and racist policies of Donald Trump.

*Mother Jones* Profiles Court Evangelical Paula White

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

Here is a taste of Stephanie Mencimer’s piece “How Do You Get from the Trailer Park to a White House Job?”:

At the Supernatural Ministry School, White deftly offered the audience the secret of her success. “How did I get to the White House from the trailer?” she asked. The answer, of course, was by giving money to God by way of the church—and she’s not talking about tossing the weekly pin money in the offering plate. Securing Paula White, White House-caliber blessings would require students of the supernatural to give a “First Fruits” offering, one that is significant—the first week’s pay, say, or even the first month’s pay—to signify putting God first in everything. White claimed during the sermon that God once told her that in 2009, a particularly bad year, she needed to give her entire annual salary to God—$8 million.

She broke it all down for her congregants, making it simple: If they prioritize their paychecks for more earthly needs, like keeping the lights on, they were treating Florida Power and Light (FPL) like God himself. “Instead of writing [that check] to the house of God as I’m instructed to, then what I’m saying spiritually is, ‘FPL, I have now established a spiritual law that put you first. So, FPL, save my family, FPL, deliver my drug addicted son. FPL, kill this cancer that doctors say is in my body.’”

Over the next half hour, White built to a crescendo, shed many tears, spoke in tongues, and implored people to give. Hundreds of people streamed down the aisles to throw envelopes of money at her feet. “The First Fruits sets the pattern and establishes the destiny for what is left,” she cried. “Many of you need to bring a First Fruit offering right now!” Mostly Latino apostles and prophets from the church brought baskets to the front to collect the offerings. No one from King Jesus responded to questions from Mother Jones about where the donations went.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Paula White Prays for the Miscarriage of “Satanic Pregnancies”

Here is Trump’s closest spiritual adviser, court evangelical Paula White:

If you can’t see the video in the tweet, watch it here.

There’s some stuff in this video I haven’t seen before.  I don’t think I have ever heard an evangelical preacher call for the end of “demonic pregnancies.”  I am not sure how White reconciles this with her pro-life position.  Apparently abortion is bad, except if it is a demon baby.  It just seems really odd to hear a pro-life preacher pray for a baby to die in the womb.

This sounds like something Massachusetts Bay colony governor John Winthrop may have said in the 17th-century.

Of course the prayers to stop the demons trying to undermine Donald Trump’s opponents is pretty common by this point.

The Court Evangelicals Take a Photo

Most of them were there on Friday night:

COurt Evangelicals

I don’t recognize everyone, but I see Alveda King, Jack Graham, Jenetzen Franklin, James Dobson, Shirley Dobson, James Robison, Michael Tait, Greg Laurie, Michelle Bachmann, Eric Metaxas, Tony Suarez, Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Johnnie Moore, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, Richard Land, Cissie Graham, Tim Clinton, Harry Jackson, and Jim Garlow, Paula White, and Guillermo Maldonado.

I wonder if Trump can identify them all.

Many of these people feature prominently in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Thoughts on the “Evangelicals for Trump” Rally

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

Earlier this evening Donald Trump launched his “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign with a speech at a Miami megachurch.

The King Jesus International Ministry Church, a Hispanic megachurch, was filled with court evangelicals.  Prior to Trump’s speech, some of them laid their hands on the president and prayed for him.  This group included Paula White, Jack Graham, Michael Tait (of the Christian rap group DC Talk), Jentezen Franklin, Cissie Graham (Franklin’s daughter), and Alveda King.  “Apostle” Guillermo Maldonado, the pastor of King Jesus Church, prayed that Trump would fulfill his role as a new King Cyrus.  Paula White prayed against the demonic forces trying to undermine Trump’s presidency.  Later Trump acknowledged James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Charlie Kirk, and other court “eeeeevangelicals” in attendance.

As Trump took the lectern, the evangelicals in attendance, many wearing pro-Trump clothing and MAGA hats, began chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.”  It was clear from the outset that this event would be no different than any other Trump rally.  The applause lines were the same.  Trump degraded his opponents by name.  Nothing new here.  “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Trump’s theme song, blared over the church loudspeaker when he was done with his speech.

Once the crowd stopped their patriotic chanting, Trump started bragging about the crowd size, adding that there were “1000s of people” outside “trying to get in.”  He called the “Evangelicals for Trump” movement the “greatest grass roots movement in American history.”  He reminded everyone how he killed Qassem Soleimani.

Trump generally stuck to the teleprompter, but he did go off script every now and then.  He painted himself as a president who was protecting American evangelicals from the those on the “Left” who want to “punish” people of faith and “destroy religion in America.” During this part of the speech one of the evangelical Christians in the audience screamed “Pocohontas,” a reference to Massachusetts Senator and Democratic president candidate Elizabeth Warren.  Trump was visibly pleased.  Indeed, Trump the strongman was on display.  Like autocratic leaders before him, he stirred fear among his people and offered them safety under his regime.  (This, I should add, is why evangelicals prefer Trump to Mike Pence, the Vice President who sees eye-to-eye with conservative evangelicals on every social and moral issue they care about.  Trump is a fighter and protector. Pence is not.)

Trump spent the entire speech reiterating the talking points that have defined his rhetoric when speaking to evangelicals.  He falsely claimed, once again, that he ended the Johnson Amendment.  He continued to claim, falsely, that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam wants to kill babies after they are born.  He said that he was going to return prayer to public schools when, in reality, prayer never left. He bragged about his commitment to global religious freedom, but failed to mention how he threw Syrian Christians under the bus.  He compared the crowd size of his Lincoln Memorial July 4, 2019 speech to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

At one point in his speech, Trump rattled off the names of the Fox News personalities who carry his water on cable television.  The crowd cheered as Trump read this laundry list of conservative media pundits.  It was all very appropriate for such an occasion because Fox News, more than anything else, including the Bible and the spiritual disciplines, has formed and shaped the values of most of the people in the room.  Trump’s staff knows this.  Why else would they put such a roll call in the speech? It was like Trump was reading the court evangelical heroes of the faith (Heb. 11), but instead of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, David, and Samuel, we got Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, and the hosts of Fox and Friends.  (It is also worth noting that Trump never quoted from or referenced the Bible in his speech).

At one point Trump had to rebuke one of the evangelicals in the crowd.  As the president praised himself for appointing conservative federal court justices, someone apparently yelled something about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent health problems. The implication was that Ginsburg would soon die (was this guy praying for it?) and then Trump could appoint another conservative Supreme Court justice. Trump had to tell this person that he did not wish any harm on Ginsburg.  Think about this for a moment.  Trump was in a room full of evangelicals and he, at least in this case, took the moral high road.

In one of the most human moments of the rally, Trump introduced two members of the Fresno State University pro-life club.  These women told a story about a professor who tried to stop them from sharing pro-life messages on campus.  They sued the professor and won in court.  Good for them. What was this professor thinking? He denied these young women free speech, but he also gave the court evangelicals more fodder for their victimization campaign–a campaign that was on full display in Miami tonight.

Trump also focused on non-religious issues.  He took credit for the strong economy.  He said he would make sure the evangelicals in attendance would not lose their Second Amendment rights.  And, despite the fact that there were probably undocumented evangelical immigrants in the room, extolled the virtues of his border wall.

By now I am used to this kind of thing from Trump.  But tonight I witnessed evangelical Christians–those who identify with the “good news” of Jesus Christ–raising their hands in a posture of worship as Trump talked about socialism and gun rights. I watched them rising to their feet and fist-pumping when Trump said he would win in 2020.

I usually get angry about evangelicals worshiping at the feet of Trump.   But tonight I just felt sad.

What are the Court Evangelicals Saying About Yesterday’s Impeachment and Trump’s Responses?

Watch:

So far none of the court evangelicals have said that Trump is right about Dingell because the former Michigan congressman did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before he died. But I would not put it past any one of them to say this.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey has it covered at The Washington Post.  Read it here.

Here of some of the tweets in Bailey’s piece and a few more (with commentary):

Bailey quoted me in her piece:

Evangelical supporters of Trump have been talking about “forces” undermining Trump, framing the impeachment proceedings in “spiritual battle” language, said John Fea, a historian at Messiah College.

In November, Franklin Graham, president and chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, told Eric Metaxas on his radio show, “Well, I believe it’s almost a demonic power that is trying . . .” And Metaxas interrupted and said, “I would disagree. It’s not almost demonic. You know and I know, at the heart, it’s a spiritual battle.”

Last week, Trump hosted about 50 evangelical leaders in the White House to pray for him, especially drawing pastors from the Pentecostal tradition where teaching on “spiritual warfare” is prominent.

“If Trump is indeed God’s anointed, impeachment and his potential removal is of utmost concern to those with this worldview,” Fea said.

Why doesn’t Graham go all the way and say that he is the most “pro life pro faith president in American history? 🙂

Once again, a Trump supporter refuses to argue based on the facts of the case.  If you want to say impeachment is a “sham” then you need to make a solid constitutional case for why Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his failure to cooperate with Congress are not impeachable offenses.  Impeachment has nothing to do with whether a president is pro life, pro faith, a defender of religious freedom, or presiding over a strong economy.  (On the latter point, it find it interesting that so many court evangelicals are now economic determinists.  I thought they didn’t like Karl Marx).  Jack Graham, like the rest of the court evangelicals, are in Trump’s pocket. How else can we explain the fact that he will not say anything negative about this president and simply ignore his indiscretions.  Either shut-up about politics, or apply biblical truth to public life (and this POTUS) in an even-handed way.

See my comment above.  Ralph, please make an argument based on the facts of the case.

This document is absurd.  A quick response:

  1. The House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump and no one else.
  2.  Stop trying to politicize what it means to be a God-fearing, family loving and patriotic!  This “family values” rhetoric has been around since the late 1970s and  Trump’s behavior and policies in office have made it virtually meaningless.  I wonder what Moore and Rodriguez think about the moral quality of the rhetoric coming from this White House? Do they really want evangelical children to listen to Donald Trump or read his tweets? Should we all tell our children to be like Trump and publish children’s books extolling his character? And don’t even get me started with “family values” after what Trump did to migrant families at the border.
  3. This document makes vague references to “due process” and “rule of law.”  It does not say ANYTHING about the facts of the case.  (See my response to the Jack Graham tweet above).  Rather than approaching impeachment and Trump’s behavior with deep historical and theological reflection, this statement just echoes the talking points of the GOP members of the House Judicial and Intelligence committees.  Christian leaders should do much, much better than this.  I’m not holding my breath.
  4. This document assumes that those who impeached Trump do not believe in “free elections” to determine political leadership.  Actually, if it wasn’t for “free elections” the Democrats would not have won the House in 2018.  The people spoke.  The 2018 election was a referendum on the first two years of the Trump presidency.  THIS is democracy at work.  But I assume Moore and Rodriguez mean that Trump’s impeachment somehow undermines the results of the presidential election of 2106.  First, the undermining of the elections was done BY THE RUSSIANS well before impeachment.  Second, impeachment is meant to discipline a POTUS during the time in-between elections.  Based on the logic of Moore and Rodriguez’s statement, the impeachment of Bill Clinton also undermined the people’s voice in the election of 1996.  The near-impeachment of Richard Nixon undermined the people’s voice in the election 1972.
  5.  The statement reads: “They impeached millions of Americans…who believe that it’s precisely the job of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the United States government to intensely obstruct one another in order to check and balance our freewheeling democracy….” I have no idea what this means.
  6. The statement assumes that one cannot believe “every life is sacred in and out of the womb” and still support impeachment.  That’s nonsense.  Trump’s impeachment has nothing to do with abortion or any other kind of life issue. He was impeached for abusing power and obstructing Congress.

Gary Bauer has a unique ability to nicely summarize the court evangelical position in 560 characters.

The Number of Court Evangelicals is Growing

Worship Leaders

Last week the number of court evangelicals increased dramatically as the White House invited evangelical worship leaders to meet Donald Trump.  Thanks to Dr. Andy Rowell, a professor at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, for identifying some of the worship leaders who appear with Trump in the above photo:

  1. Paula White-Cain (and husband Jonathan Cain met the night before Dec 5, 2019 at the White House with Trump supporters Jentezen FranklinMarcus LambJoni LambHarry Jackson)
  2. Brian Houston (Hillsong Church pastor) Instagram video and instagram of seanfeucht
  3. Kari Jobe (Carnes) (traveling worship leader, was at Gateway Church, Southlake TX, with Trump supporter, Pastor Robert Morris)
  4. Cody Carnes (traveling worship leader, was at Gateway Church, Southlake TX, with Trump supporter, Pastor Robert Morris) Instagram video
  5. Brian Johnson (President of Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram of seanfeucht (His father, Bethel Church pastor, Bill Johnson voted for Trump).
  6. Jenn Johnson (co-founder Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  7. Britt Nicole (traveling singer)
  8. Sean Feucht (Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram group photo and another photo and video
  9. Stephen James Hart (Visual Worship Leader, Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram group shot.
  10. Luke Hendrickson (Mixing engineer, Bethel Church, Redding, CA) Instagram group shot.
  11. Heather Armstrong (photography, Redding, CA)
  12. Kiley Goodpasture (Project Manager, Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  13. Dominic Shahbon (Director of Events, Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  14. Allison & Antonio Marin (Strings players, Northern CA)
  15. Jeremy Edwardson (Music producer, Redding CA)
  16. David Funk (Worship leader – Gable Price and Friends, Redding, CA)
  17. Chris Quilala (Jesus Culture, Sacramento, CA)
  18. Joseph Zwanziger (The Father’s House, Vacaville, CA) Instagram group shot.
  19. Tosha Zwanziger 
  20. Terry Crist (Lead Pastor, Hillsong Phoenix) (Not 100% sure he was there)
  21. Michael Stampley (Worship leader, GA)
  22. Heidi Stampley
  23. Micah Stampley
  24. Trent Cory (Hope City United Church, Albany, GA)
  25. Keisha Cory 
  26. Myles Rutherford (co-pastors, Worship with Wonders, Marietta, GA) and group shot
  27. DeLana Rutherford 
  28. David Brinson (Senior Pastor, Eighth Day Church, Warner Robins, GA who worked with Paula White)
  29. & son Rafael Brinson 
  30. Tim Brinson (Worship Leader, SC and GA)
  31. (Jonathan) Ernstly Etienne, Worship Director, Free Chapel, Gainesville, GA (associated with Trump supporter, Pastor Jentezen Franklin)
  32. Hillary Harper Etienne
  33. Eddie James (traveling worship leaders, Ocoee, TN) Instagram group shot.
  34. David Binion (Dwell Church, Fairview, TX)
  35. Nicole Binion (not 100% sure if she was there – photo)
  36. Nayomi Thomas (worship leaders, Raymore, MO)
  37. & Jaye Thomas 
  38. Bryn Waddell, Charlotte, NC.
  39. Two women from New Wine Music. selfie. (associated with Trump supporter, Pastor Guillermo Maldonado of El Rey Jesús, in Miami, FL). 
  40. Jonathan Williams, photographer

These Nashville worship leaders loved it:

I think former Christianity Today managing editor and evangelical writer Katelyn Beaty sums it up pretty well:

Here is what I wrote about power in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

The court evangelicals have been shown “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matt 4:8-10); but, unlike Jesus in his encounter with the Tempter, they have gladly embraced them.  Evangelicals claim to follow a Savior who relinquished worldly power–even to the point of giving his life. Yet they continue to place their hope in political candidates as a means of advancing an agenda that confuses the kingdom of God with the United States of America.  Evangelicals often decry the idea of “separation of church and state” (although as we will see in chapter 2, they have not always thought this way), but this constitutional principle has always served as a safeguard to protect the church from the temptations that come with worldly power.  Political scientist Glenn Tinder says that power is a “morally problematic” idea because it almost always induces “others to serve one’s own purposes.”  In the sense that political power objectifies other human beings, it is a “degraded relationship if judged by the standards of love.”  Political power does not have to result in immoral ends, but it nearly always does due to the fallenness of human beings and brokenness of a world stained by sin.  Humility, on the other hand, is always centered on the cross of Jesus Christ, a political act that ushered in a new kind of political entity–the kingdom of God.  Humility thus requires listening, debate, conversation, and dialogue that respects the dignity of all God’s human creation.  What would it take to replace the pursuit of power with humility?

Here is Rowell:

It is entirely appropriate to pray for a president. The problem is if the powerful person “receiving prayer” is primarily using the pray-er to reach their constituency on his behalf. In other words, there likely was not an opportunity to speak truth to power to President Trump. But rather, the strategy is to sell these worship leaders (who have big Instagram followings) with a one-sided “Look at what Trump is doing for evangelicals!” so that they then turn and communicate to their fans: “President Trump and his administration are people passionate about worship and prayer, just like you! And therefore, you should defend President Trump and try to see the good in what he does. And you should vote for him!”

It is of course initially exciting to get an offer to visit the White House and pray for President Trump and disappointing when people criticize you for leading worship (!), but it should be sobering to realize that you are being used to boost President Trump’s popularity. President Trump is in the midst of an impeachment proceeding because of his own misbehavior—because he ignored all advice about Ukraine from his foreign policy advisers. Moreover, on Dec 4, he slashed access to food assistance to 700,000 Americans. And his work on human trafficking is exaggerated. Yes, evangelicals vote Republican for “pro-life” but the abortion rate has been falling fast especially in Democratic administrations due to more access to contraceptives. It is fine to worry about the excesses of a Democratic administration with regard to religious freedom or other issues, but it is another thing to be part of an operation that is focused on promoting President Trump. Moreover, Paula White-Cain, who organized the gathering, is not a model of financial and moral integrity

Read his entire post here.

Is Paula White Bringing Her “Ponzi Scheme” to the White House?

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

Many of you recall that court evangelical and prosperity preacher Paula White is now working in the White House.  Learn more here.

Former George W. Bush Administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter suggests that White is using her new position in the White House to make her spiritual “sales pitch” to her television followers.

Here is Newsweek:

Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House, blasted President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual adviser Paula White, suggesting the religious leader was committing “fraud” and running a “Ponzi scheme.”

The White House recently announced that White, who previously served as the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, would officially spearhead Trump’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Since taking on the official role, the prominent televangelist has continued to sell religious items that she claims will provide spiritual and material benefits to buyers.

“This ‘prosperity gospel’ scam by ⁦@Paula_White⁩ tests the boundaries between ‘religious freedom’ and criminal mail fraud and wire fraud,” Painter argued in a Wednesday morning tweet. “‘Send me money and God will make you rich.’ Now she uses her White House position to make her sales pitch.”

On Tuesday, Painter raised related concerns about White. “Paula White now is running her faith based Ponzi scheme from inside the White House,” he wrote in a tweet, sharing a link to a Newsweekarticle that reported on criticism of Trump’s adviser. ‘”Send me your January paycheck and God will pay you back with interest …. [perhaps out of somebody else’s February paycheck],'” he added.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelicals Weigh-In on Today’s First Day of Impeachment Hearings

Trump court evangelicals

Court evangelicals in the court

Several of the court evangelicals had things to say today (and in the last day or two) about impeachment.

Here is Franklin Graham:

This Paula White quote tells it all.  It is, in many ways, the essence of court evangelicalism and Trump evangelicalism generally.

Here is Ralph Reed:

Moral Majority Veteran Cal Thomas on the Prosperity Preacher Who Just Joined Trump’s White House

Cal T

Here is what I wrote about Cal Thomas in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

When Jerry Falwell Sr. founded the Moral Majority in 1979 –in his attempt to clean up and win back America–journalist Cal Thomas and evangelical pastor Ed Dobson were two of the Moral Majority’s most important staff members.  Thomas put his journalism career on hold to join Falwell in Lynchburg as the Moral Majority’s vice president for communications.  Dobson, a professor at Falwell’s Liberty Baptist College (later to become Liberty University), served as a tireless promoter of the organization from his position as a member of the board.  During the 1980s, those two were influential in shaping the direction of the Moral Majority.  They believed in Falwell’s vision completely and served the cause with passion and zeal.

But 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 “whenever you try to mix power and truth, power usually wins.”  Through his years with Falwell, Thomas learned ho power is the “ultimate aphrodisiac.”  It is not only seductive, but also affects the judgment of the one who “takes it.”  Thomas warned his evangelical readers how the chase 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 is spawned–played to the fears of white evangelicals.  For example, Moral Majority fundraising letters always followed a basic formula: “First, they identify an enemy: homosexuals, abortionists, Democrats, or ‘liberals’ in general.  Second the enemies are accused of being out to ‘get us’ or to impose their morality on the rest of the country.  Third, the letter assures the reader that something will be done…. Fourth, to get this job done, please send money.”  Thomas completely rejected the court evangelical notion that Christians need to have a “seat at the table.”  “Access” to political power, he argued, required compromise of “cherished and deeply held convictions.”  He added: “Religious leaders who seek favor with the king run the risk of refusing to speak truth to power out of fear that they won’t be invited back.”  

These are strong words.  Thomas offers a cautionary tale to today’s court evangelicals based on their own extensive experience in the king’s court.  (Of course this did not prevent Thomas from endorsing Donald Trump).  In his recent column he criticizes the selection of prosperity preacher Paula White as Trump’s new director of faith-based outreach.  Here is a taste:

As far as I can tell from a reading of history, while some presidents were friends of clergy, who sometimes advised them, to my knowledge, none hired them as staff members until the presidency of Richard Nixon. It was during Nixon’s administration that Charles Colson began mobilizing the evangelical community to support the president’s policies and programs, seeing evangelicals as just another special interest group, like organized labor has been for Democrats.

After his conversion and after serving time in prison for crimes related to the Watergate scandal, Colson told historian Kevin Kruse, as recounted in The Washington Post, “Sure, we used the prayer breakfasts and church services and all that for political ends. One of my jobs in the White House was to romance religious leaders. We would bring them into the White House, and they would be dazzled by the aura of the Oval Office, and I found them to be about the most pliable of any of the special interest groups that we worked with.”

The latest spiritual adviser to the president is TV evangelist Paula White-Cain. For 18 years she has claimed to have President Trump’s ear on religious matters, but while his policies closely align with evangelical concerns, there is little evidence her “advice” has had any effect on his personal behavior.

Ms. White-Cain is unlikely to serve the role Nathan the prophet filled when he confronted King David over his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, bringing David to repentance and one of the great statements about placing faith in political leaders: “Put not your trust in princes … in whom there is no help.” (Psalm 146:3)

Read the rest here.

Court Evangelical Paula White Joins the White House Office of Public Liaison

paulawhitefranklingraham_hdv

Paula White at the court with fellow court evangelical Franklin Graham

Paula White is the televangelist and megachurch pastor who claims to have led Donald Trump through his supposed born again experience.  Evangelical theologians and leaders have said  the prosperity gospel that she preaches is heretical.  We have covered White extensively here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

 

The Orlando Sentinel on court evangelical Paula White

More court evangelical fear mongering from Paula White

A court evangelical weighs-in on Thanksgiving in the age of Trump

Court Evangelical Paula White is the Latest to Use the Bible to Defend Trump’s Immigration Policies

Paula White responds to critics of her recent comments on immigration

Court Evangelical: Trump is “100 percent a Christian who understands repentance

Court Evangelical Says Trump’s “Two Corinthians” Gaffe Was a Set Up

Court Evangelical: “We were sent there to take over”

A Court Evangelical Exposed: Heat Street on Paula White

James Dobson Reveals the Evangelical Leader Who Brought Trump to Christ

Here is some of what I wrote about White in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

White’s life is a classic rags-to-riches story filled with hardship, struggle, and eventual victory (and wealth0 stemming from faith in Christ and positive thinking.  She often describes herself as a “messed-up Mississippi girl” who God saved from an early life of sexual and psychological abuse, poverty, and single motherhood.  She is not shy about sharing negative stories from her past because she believes her biography is a testament to how God can help ordinary people live the American dream.  As religion scholars Shayne Lee and Phillip Sinitiere note, White preaches a gospel of “redemption and second chances.”  After a neighbor in her trailer park led her to Christ, Paula married Pentecostal preacher Randy White.  The newlyweds scraped together enough resources to start a church in Tampa, Florida, that would eventually become Without Walls International Church. Well before the 2016 presidential election, White was preaching that individuals could make America great again through a combination of faith in God and self-esteem.  During one appearance on the Trinity Broadcast Network in 2007, White told her viewers that “anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan.”

Lee and Sinitiere call White the “‘Oprah’ of the evangelical world.”  In 2001, she began Paula White Today, a television show that would soon appear on nine different television networks.  Her show and self-help books are filled with helpful advice for overcoming everyday problems. She hawks dietary supplements, teachers her followers how to lose weight (repent and stop eating sugar), and offers beauty tips.  According to Lee and Sinitiere, White “reinvented her image with extensive plastic surgery, modish hairstyles, perfectly manicured nails, chic silk suits, fitted dresses, and a leaner size 4 figure.”  White knows how to market her message and get her followers to send her money. For example, during the 2016 Lenten season, White preached a sermon from John 11:44–the passage in the Fourth Gospel in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  White told her viewers that just as Jesus raised Lazarus, they too could overcome’s life difficulties if they would only “sow the seed of faith” in the form of a $1,144 donation to her ministry.  White assured her listeners that she does not usually request such specific amounts of money, but this was different.  God had specifically instructed her to ask for this $1,144 to correspond with the Scripture passage he told her to preach. Those who donated would receive an anointed “prayer cloth” that would bring “signs and wonders” to their lives.  White herself owns a $2.1 million waterfront mansion and a $3.5 million condominium in Trump Tower in New York City.

Over the years several celebrities have become followers of White.  When pop icon Michael Jackson was arrested on child molestation charges in 2003, he asked White to come to his ranch and provide him with spiritual counsel.  Former New York Mets baseball star Darryl Strawberry sought White’s spiritual assistance amid his several stints in prison for drug-related offenses.  But White’s biggest start-caliber fan is Donald Trump.  In 2002, Trump, who had apparently seen White on television, reached out to the popular prosperity preacher and invited her to a meeting at Trump Tower.  White and her message must have impressed Trump. Following that meeting they remained friends, and Trump began to take White with him on Atlantic City excursions, where she would conduct Bible studies and prayer meetings with the celebrities who visited the casinos.  At some point in their ongoing relationship, White claimed that Trump had a born-again experience. When Religion News Service asked White about Trump’s conversion, she said that she was “one hundred percent” sure that he “confesses Jesus Christ as Lord,” adding that she “shared the Gospel with Mr. Trump,” using the “Roman Road map” (a popular took used by evangelicals to share their faith with others)…..

Now it appears that Paula White is working for the White House.  Here is a taste of the New York Times reporting:

Paula White, a televangelist based in Florida and personal pastor to President Trump whom he has known since 2002, has joined the Trump administration in an official capacity, according to a White House official.

Ms. White will work in the Office of Public Liaison, the official said, which is the division of the White House overseeing outreach to groups and coalitions organizing key parts of the president’s base. Her role will be to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Mr. Trump established last year by executive order and which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty and fighting poverty.

As Mr. Trump campaigns for a second term, he cannot afford to lose support from the religious conservatives who voted for him in 2016 in significant numbers. Without their backing, his path to re-election would be significantly narrower.

He has taken repeated steps to ensure they turn out for him again — by issuing executive orders, making cabinet appointments and nominating federal judges that pass muster with the religious right. On a range of issues from abortion rights to tax exemptions for churches, Mr. Trump has tried to grant Christian conservatives their policy wish lists whenever legally and politically feasible.

But Ms. White cannot be easily categorized as either a political asset or a liability. She has a large following among Christians who believe in the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God blesses people he deems to be of strong faith with wealth, good health and other gifts.

Read the entire piece here.

The *Orlando Sentinel* on Court Evangelical Paula White

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

The editorial board chides the court evangelical for “weaponizing faith for politics.”  Here is a taste of the editorial:

We’re particularly appalled — though not surprised — by Paula White.

Not because she’s a conservative but because of her naked use of religion as a weapon. She’s trying to frighten believers with apocalyptic consequences if they don’t get in line behind this president.

Unfortunately, the national attention on these self-promoting evangelical opportunists risks overshadowing the selfless work of Christian churches and missions that help people who are hungry, poor, sick and homeless.

Here in Central Florida, groups like the Catholic Charities, the Christian Service Center and IDignity better represent the Christian faith tradition.

Read the entire editorial here.