Robert Jeffress: George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Peter Wehner are all “disgraces to the Republican Party”

But are they disgraces to the church of Jesus Christ?

It looks like pastor Jeffress is now a spokesperson for the Republican Party.

As Jeffress’s fellow Southern Baptist and court evangelical Richard Land put it, “the most dangerous place in Texas is between Robert Jeffress and a television camera.”

Here is Jeffress:

Jeffress also says that Biden looks like he is “aging” and does not have the energy to be president. The worst part is the way Jeffress couches this common pro-Trump political attack with biblical language.

Wehner: “Any true conservative should be appalled by the prospect” of a second Trump term

Trump flag

Here is conservative (but not Republican) Peter Wehner at The New York Times:

Conservatives and Republicans therefore have to ask themselves: Are we willing to entrust our cause and our country to him for another term? Do we really want Mr. Trump’s venomous approach to politics and life to be even more deeply imprinted on the Republican Party? Isn’t it already poisoned enough for many young, nonwhite and suburban voters?

The detoxification of the Republican Party and the conservative cause therefore begins with the de-Trumpification of the Republican Party and the conservative cause. It is in the best interest of the country and conservatism to rid itself of the Trump presidency. Only then can the healing and rebuilding begin.

When it comes to his policy agenda, Joe Biden is no conservative. I wish he were. But despite efforts by Trump supporters to pretend otherwise, Joe Biden is not Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Moreover, conservatism places a premium on prudence, human dignity, respect for the law and institutions, commitment to truth and reality, and a reasonable and reasoning governing temperament. In all of these respects, and others, Mr. Biden is more truly conservative than Mr. Trump.

Read the entire piece here.

Wehner: “Trump is a psychologically broken, embittered, and deeply unhappy man”

Trump rain

Peter Wehner compares Trump with Reagan:

There were certainly ugly elements on the American right during the Reagan presidency, and Reagan himself was not without flaws. But as president, he set the tone, and the tone was optimism, courtliness and elegance, joie de vivre.

He has since been replaced by the crudest and cruelest man ever to be president. But not just that. One senses in Donald Trump no joy, no delight, no laughter. All the emotions that drive him are negative. There is something repugnant about Trump, yes, but there is also something quite sad about the man. He is a damaged soul.

In another time, in a different circumstance, there would perhaps be room to pity such a person. But for now, it is best for the pity to wait. There are other things to which to attend. The American public faces one great and morally urgent task above all others between now and November: to do everything in its power to remove from the presidency a self-pitying man who is shattering the nation and doesn’t even care.

Read the entire piece at The Atlantic.

Peter Wehner on Jonathan Haidt

Righteous MindSome of you are familiar with Haidt‘s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. He argues that ethical judgments “arise not from reason but from gut feelings.” Over at The Atlantic, Peter Wehner has an extended piece based on an interview with Haidt.

Here is a taste:

In 1992, Haidt received his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he encountered several professors who had interesting things to say about morality that, he said, “set me up to think about a much broader moral domain.” But it was the years immediately following Haidt’s time at the University of Pennsylvania that were transformational. He spent two years at the University of Chicago working with Richard Shweder, an anthropologist, who was his postdoctoral research adviser. Shweder has a motto: If someone asserts it, try denying it and see if that makes sense. If someone denies it, try asserting it and see if that makes sense. “It’s a great way to overcome confirmation bias and to try on new ideas,” Haidt told me. “Richard Shweder in particular just blew my mind wide open.” The experience “really changed me and prepared me to step out of my prior politics, my prior moralism, my prior self-righteousness.”

While he was at Chicago, Haidt received a fellowship to study morality in India. In September 1993 he traveled to Bhubaneswar, in the Indian state of Odisha, where, among other things, he learned the power of rituals and of a commitment to religious purity as a way to knit communities together. While in India, Haidt “really tried to understand a culture very different from my own, and in the process, for the first time, I was able to look at evangelical and conservative Christianity not as a force hostile to me as an atheist, a cosmopolitan, and a Jew, but as a moral community striving for certain virtues—and I could understand those virtues and I could respect those virtues. It was that combination that really drained me of my anger and hostility and, I think, helped me to just listen to people and try to map out what [they are] aiming for. What are the virtues they’re trying to instill? What is the vision of the good that they are pursuing? Without that period, I don’t think I ever could have written The Righteous Mind or been of much use in studying a culture war.”

And this:

In preparation for teaching a graduate seminar in the spring of 2005 on political psychology, Haidt read an introductory essay by the historian Jerry Muller in a book Muller edited, Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought From David Hume to the Present. All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up. Haidt discovered that conservatives had some important insights to offer on human nature, the value of institutions, and the importance of moral capital. He felt conservatism offered an important counterbalance to the excesses of progressivism. He also came to appreciate the pedigree of conservatism, from the writings of people like Edmund Burke in the 18th century to Thomas Sowell in the 20th. (Haidt told me he considers himself to be a centrist, engaging with views from multiple sides in order to understand issues. But he’s a centrist who only ever votes for Democrats, because he thinks the Republican Party has been in a state of moral and philosophical decline for many years.

Haidt laments the state of contemporary American politics, believing that on both the right and the left we’re seeing populism that responds to real problems but in illiberal ways. “On the right,” he said, “the populism there is really explicitly xenophobic and often explicitly racist … I think we see strands of populism on the right that are authoritarian, that I would say are incompatible with a tolerant, pluralistic, open democracy.”

Read the entire piece here.

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

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

metaxas Blackface

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

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

The condemnation on Twitter has been fast and furious:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unraveling President

Trump corona

Here is Peter Wehner at The Atlantic:

Watching formerly serious individuals on the right, including the Christian right, become Trump courtiers has been a painful and dispiriting thing for many of us to witness. In the process, they have reconfigured their own character, intellect, and moral sensibilities to align with the disordered mind and deformed ethical world of Donald Trump.

And we will see, as we have for the entire Trump presidency, the national Republican Party fall in line. Many are speaking out in defense of Trump while other timid souls who know better have gone sotto voce out of fear and cowardice that they have justified to themselves, and tried less successfully to justify to others.

What this means is that Americans are facing not just a conventional presidential election in 2020 but also, and most important, a referendum on reality and epistemology. Donald Trump is asking us to enter even further into his house of mirrors. He is asking us to live within a lie, to live within his lie, for four more years. The duty of citizenship in America today is to refuse to live within that lie.

“The simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions,” Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said in his mesmerizing 1970 Nobel lecture. “Let that enter the world, let it even reign in the world—but not with my help.”

Solzhenitsyn went on to say that writers and artists can achieve more; they can conquer falsehoods. “Falsehood can hold out against much in this world, but not against art,” he said.

But art, as powerful as it is, is not the only instrument with which to fight falsehoods. There are also the daily acts of integrity of common men and women who will not believe the lies or spread the lies, who will not allow the foundation of truth—factual truth, moral truth—to be destroyed, and who, in standing for truth, will help heal this broken land.

Read the entire piece.

Wehner: “The Trump Presidency is Over”

Trump creed

If it were only this easy.

Here is Wehner, a conservative pundit, veteran of three GOP presidential administrations, evangelical Christian, and staunch anti-Trumper, at The Atlantic:

Donald Trump is shrinking before our eyes.

The coronavirus is quite likely to be the Trump presidency’s inflection point, when everything changed, when the bluster and ignorance and shallowness of America’s 45th president became undeniable, an empirical reality, as indisputable as the laws of science or a mathematical equation.

It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain. The president, enraged for having been unmasked, will become more desperate, more embittered, more unhinged. He knows nothing will be the same. His administration may stagger on, but it will be only a hollow shell. The Trump presidency is over.

Read the entire piece here.

Darryl Hart Reviews *Believe Me*

Believe Me 3dDarryl Hart reviews Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump alongside Peter Wehner’s The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.  I must have missed this review when it appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of the traditionalist conservative quarterly Modern Age.  Apparently the Intercollegiate Studies Institute saw fit to republish the review at its website.

Anyone who follows Hart on twitter (@oldlife) knows that he is a regular critic of my blog, public writing, and views on Donald Trump, but I at least appreciate his willingness to engage with my ideas.

The only place where I would quibble with Hart’s understanding of my argument is when he writes about my “credentials.”  Hart writes:

Recent books by John Fea and Peter Wehner…are remarkably useful for understanding how broad swaths of American Protestants assess not simply the presidency of Donald Trump but the history and character of the United States. Both authors are laymen in evangelical churches and have no professional standing as church officials. But both writers are also experts in professions that encourage members to make judgments about American politics and society. Fea teaches U.S. history at Messiah College, an evangelical liberal arts school in central Pennsylvania, and Wehner has been a staffer in three Republican presidential administrations and is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

These credentials distinguish Fea and Wehner from the ordinary evangelical in the pew. At the same time, both authors vehemently critique President Trump and the evangelicals who voted for him on grounds that rely little on the expertise that comes with historical inquiry or political experience. Instead, they rely on the moralistic squint that born-again Protestants have made a trademark of Christian devotion.

Anyone who has read Believe Me knows that the book is filled with American history.  So while I have never understood my book as a work of history, I think my training in American history has indeed contributed to my moral critique.

Read the review here.

Peter Wehner on the Current State of the Republican Party

Mitch McConnell, John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, Joni Ernst

Peter Wehner’s recent piece at The Atlantic is titled “The Downfall of the Republican Party.”  Here is a taste:

In 1991, when Václav Havel received the Sonning Prize for contributions to European civilization, he spoke about those “who are starting to lose their battle with the temptations of power.” It is an insidious thing, Havel warned, to become captive to the perks of power. Politicians, he said, soon learn how easy it is to justify staying in power even as they give up bits of their soul in the process. It is easier than they think, he said, to get “morally tainted.”

“Politics is an area of human endeavor that places greater stress on moral sensitivity,” Havel concluded, “on the ability to reflect critically on oneself, on genuine responsibility, on taste and tact, on the capacity to empathize with others, on a sense of moderation, on humility. It is a job for modest people, for people who cannot be deceived.”

To see men and women who in other spheres of their lives are admirable, who got into politics because they believed it was a noble profession and had a positive vision for the Republican Party, beaten down and broken by Trump is a poignant thing. Their weakness and servility, their vassalage to such a fundamentally corrupt man, is dispiriting to those of us who not only lament the injury Trump is inflicting on the nation as a whole but who still care about the Republican Party and worry that conservatism is in the process of being subsumed into angry, ethnic populism.

What Republicans who have rallied behind Trump don’t fully grasp yet is the toxic effect he’s had on the younger generation, and on college-educated, suburban, and nonwhite voters. (Trump is wildly popular among blue-collar and rural voters, who are shrinking as a percentage of the voting population.) The damage done by Trump won’t be limited in its reach. He has imperiled the future of the party he leads. And those who think the GOP will simply snap back to the best of what it was pre-Trump—who think the worst elements of Trumpism will vanish once he leaves the White House—are kidding themselves.

Those who fell in line behind Trump have empowered him (and his many acolytes and media propagandists) to redefine much of conservatism and the principles that once informed the Republican Party. I don’t think that is what they intended, but that is what they have helped achieve.

Read the entire piece here.

Wehner Takes on Grudem: “There Is No Christian Case for Trump”

Grudem 23

Trump defender Wayne Grudem

Today at The Atlantic, Peter Wehner writes “when faith is treated as an instrumentality , it’s bad for politics and worse for the Christian witness.”  Anyone who reads this blog, or has read Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, knows that I agree with him.  In this piece he engages Wayne Grudem’s criticism of Mark Galli’s December 2019 Christianity Today editorial.

Wehner is a fellow at the  Ethics and Public Policy Center.

A taste:

It isn’t enough for many of Trump’s evangelical supporters to say that, by their lights, he is advancing policies that promote the common good even as he is acting in unethical ways that deeply trouble them. In that difficult trade-off, they could admit, they have decided that the former should take priority over the latter. Instead, they have created a cartoonish image of the president, pretending that his character flaws are trivial and inconsequential, while his policy achievements put him near the top rank of American presidents.

What’s most interesting to me in all this is the psychology at play. From what I can tell, in many cases Trump’s most devoted evangelical supporters are blind to what they’re doing, so in a sense they’re not acting cynically or in bad faith, even as they are distorting reality.

I have observed firsthand that if you point out facts that run counter to their narrative, some significant number of the president’s supporters will eventually respond with indignation, feeling they have been wounded, disrespected, or unheard. The stronger the empirical case against what they believe, the more emotional energy they bring to their response. Underlying this is a deep sense of fear and the belief that they are facing an existential threat and, therefore, can’t concede any ground, lest they strengthen those they consider to be their enemies. This broader phenomenon I’m describing is not true of all Trump supporters, of course, and it is hardly confined to Trump supporters. But I would say that in our time, it is most pronounced among them.

I wish it were otherwise. When I started my Christian journey, at the end of high school, I never assumed that Christians would escape human foibles and human frailties. But I thought that faith would have more power, including more transformative power, than I have often witnessed, and that followers of Jesus would (imperfectly) allow a faith ethic to shape their understanding of things. That more than most, they would speak truth to power. Too often, they have denied truth in order to gain and keep power.

That isn’t to say I haven’t witnessed many lives that have been transformed by faith, including lives that have deeply touched and shaped my own. But neither can I deny what I have seen, which is that, especially in politics, the Christian faith is far too often subordinated to ideology, to tribalism, to dehumanizing those in the other tribe. Faith is an instrumentality, something to be weaponized. That’s bad for politics; it’s worse for the Christian witness.

Read the entire piece here.

Peter Wehner Interviews Tim Keller at *The Atlantic*

keller

Two evangelical Christians talk about faith, reason, and politics at, of all places, The Atlantic.   The Christian Right claims that the “secular media” does not respect people of faith, but stories like this remind me that such media outlets are more open to discussing issues of Christian faith than they were two decades ago.

Here is a taste of Wehner‘s piece on his conversation with Keller:

I asked Keller about the relationship of the Church, and in particular evangelicalism, to politics. The upshot of Keller’s position is that whereas individual Christians should be engaged in the political realm, the Bible makes it impossible as a Church to hitch your wagon to one political party, especially in these times. “For Christians just to completely hook up with one party or another is really idolatry,” Keller said. “It’s also reducing the Gospel to a political agenda.” (He pointed me to an address by Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, called “The Political Captivity of the Faithful,” with which he concurs.)

Keller noted that this danger isn’t new. As is his wont, he cited a book to help me more fully understand his argument—H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Social Sources of Denominationalism, which holds that denominationalism is primarily a social phenomenon that tends to be captured by different political and social classes. Keller observed that because Christianity properly understood is not a legalistic religion—“there is no New Testament Book of Leviticus,” he told me—it can be a part of almost any culture. In that sense, it’s a fairly flexible faith. “Christians are always more incarnate in the culture—and the danger of that is that they get captured by it. That’s always been a problem,” he said. There’s ever the danger of “cultural and political captivity.”

When I pressed the point further, Keller admitted he believes that “most Christians are just nowhere nearly as deeply immersed in the scripture and in theology as they are in their respective social-media bubbles and News Feed bubbles. To be honest, I think the ‘woke’ evangelicals are just much more influenced by MSNBC and liberal Twitter. The conservative Christians are much more influenced by Fox News and their particular loops. And they’re [both] living in those things eight to 10 hours a day. They go to church once a week, and they’re just not immersed in the kind of biblical theological study that would nuance that stuff.” Too often, he believes, there’s no relationship between a proper Christian ethic and the way it translates into political and cultural engagement. It’s not the doctrine that’s at fault, Keller would argue; it’s the way people are taught and interpret it. It’s a failure of imagination and hermeneutics.

Read the entire piece here.

Metaxas: Peter Wehner’s Article in *The Atlantic* is PREPOSTEROUS

Metaxas

Many of you have seen Peter Wehner‘s piece at The Atlantic titled “Are Trump’s Critics Demonically Possessed.”  Wehner is responding specifically to Franklin Graham’s appearance on the Eric Metaxas radio program.  Watch (or if you can’t see the tweet, click here.)

Just for the record, here is the pertinent part of the video:

Metaxas: “It’s a very bizarre situation to be living in a country where some people seem to exist to undermine the President of the United States.  It’s just a bizarre time for most Americans.

Graham: “It’s almost a demonic power.”

Metaxas: “I would disagree, it’s not almost demonic.  You know and I know that at the heart it’s a spiritual battle.”

Graham: “It’s a spiritual battle.” 

Here is a taste of Wehner’s piece:

There are several things to say in response to the Graham-Metaxas conversation, starting with the theologically distorted and confused charges that were leveled by Graham and amplified by Metaxas. They didn’t make the case that Trump critics are sincere but wrong, or even that they are insincere and unpatriotic. Instead, they felt compelled to portray those with whom they disagree politically as under demonic influences, which for a Christian is about as serious an accusation as there is. It means their opponents are the embodiment of evil, the “enemy,” anti-God, a kind of anti-Christ.

There is no biblical or theological case to support the claim that critics of Donald Trump are under the spell of Satan. It is invented out of thin air, a shallow, wild, and reckless charge meant to be a conversation stopper.

Just ask yourself where this game ends. Do demonic powers explain opposition to all politicians supported by Graham and Metaxas, or to Trump alone? Would they argue that all Christians (and non-Christians) who oppose Trump are under the influence of Satan? What about when it comes to specific issues? Should we ascribe to Beelzebub the fact that many Americans differ with Graham and Metaxas on issues such as gun control, tax cuts, charter schools, federal judges, climate change, the budget for the National Institutes of Health, foreign aid, criminal justice and incarceration, a wall on the southern border, and Medicaid reform? Are we supposed to believe that Adam Schiff’s words during the impeachment inquiry are not his own but those of demons in disguise? Were the testimonies of Ambassador Bill Taylor, Fiona Hill, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman truthful accounts offered by admirable public servants that badly hurt the president’s credibility—or the result of demonic powers?

Eric Metaxas has responded to Wehner’s piece on Twitter.  Since Metaxas blocked me a long time ago I cannot embed the tweet here, but others have shared it with me.  It reads:

This article is PREPOSTEROUS. It claims I’ve said opponents of Trump “are under the spell of Satan  ” and other truly zany things.  I’ve written lots on this president & why I support him, but Mr. Wehner doesn’t seem overly interested in nuance. #slipshod

Metaxas should listen to his own radio program.  I am guessing that he will say there is some kind of difference between claiming Trump’s opponents are guided by a “demonic power” (as he said to Graham on his show) and claiming that Trump’s opponents are “under the spell of Satan” (which he said in the above tweet).  But I see no difference.  Neither does the average Trump-supporting evangelical. And neither does any right-minded person.  Metaxas can’t take a huge sum of money from Salem Radio (one source says he is worth $7 million) to pander to the Trump evangelical base and then claim, when intellectuals call him out on his use of words, that he is being misunderstood.  I might add that he has tried this before.  This is a man who knows that the Trump base butters his bread and yet still craves to be accepted as a New York intellectual–a man of “nuance.”

Ever since Trump has been impeached there has been an uptick in spiritual warfare language coming from the Christian Right.  If Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is correct, and Trump is indeed “the chosen one,” then opposition to the “chosen one” must mean opposition to God.  By claiming that Trump’s opponents are influenced by demonic forces, Metaxas and Graham are implying that Trump is on the Lord’s side.  And why do they believe that Trump is on the Lord’s side?  Because he is president of the United States.  And why is the POTUS always on the Lord’s side?  Because Romans 13 tells us that we must submit to government authority because such authority comes from God. (See more of our Romans 13 posts here). Moreover, America was founded on Christian principles and Trump, through his Supreme Court appointments and defense of religious liberty for evangelicals, is restoring America’s Christian heritage.

If you believe all these things, as Metaxas and Graham obviously do, then of course you will see American politics today in terms of spiritual warfare.  Ephesians 6:12 has now founds its way to the center of American political discourse.

Wehner: Republicans are “Living Within the Lie”

Jordan

Conservative public intellectual Peter Wehner reflects on today’s impeachment hearings. Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic:

We are facing a profound political crisis. What the Republican Party is saying and signaling isn’t simply that rationality and truth are subordinate to partisanship; it is that they have to be obliterated for the sake of partisanship and the survival of the Trump presidency. As best I can tell, based on some fairly intense interactions with Trump supporters, there is no limiting principle—almost nothing he can do—that will forfeit their support. Members of Congress clearly believe Trump is all that stands between them and the loss of power, while many Trump voters believe the president is all that stands between them and national ruin. In either case, it has led them into the shadowlands.

For those of us who are still conservative and have devoted a large part of our lives to the Republican Party, it is quite painful  to watch all of this unfold. Perhaps too many of us were blind to things we should have seen, or perhaps the GOP is significantly different now that it was in the past, when it was led by estimable (if imperfect) individuals like Ronald Reagan. Whatever the case, we are where we are—in a very precarious and worrisome place.

You can be critical of the Democratic Party and believe, as I do, that it is becoming increasingly radicalized while also believing this: The Republican Party under Donald Trump is a party built largely on lies, and it is now maintained by politicians and supporters who are willing to “live within the lie,” to quote the great Czech dissident (and later president) Vaclav Havel. Many congressional Republicans privately admit this but, with very rare exceptions—Utah Senator Mitt Romney is the most conspicuous example—refuse to publicly acknowledge it.

“For what purpose?” they respond point-blank when asked why they don’t speak out with moral urgency against the president’s moral transgressions, his cruelty, his daily assault on reality, and his ongoing destruction of our civic and political culture. Trump is more powerful and more popular than they are, they will say, and they will be targeted by him and his supporters and perhaps even voted out of office.

The answer to them is that it is better to live within the truth than to live within a lie; that honor is better than dishonor; and that aiding and abetting a corrupt president implicates the aiders and abettors in the corruption.

Read the entire piece here.

Wehner: Of course Trump betrayed the Kurds. He sees “people solely in transactional Terms”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump blows a kiss to supporters following a campaign rally in Akron

Trump kissed the Kurds goodbye

Peter Wehner at The Atlantic:

For once, Republicans have forcefully spoken out against Mr. Trump. Graham said our Kurdish allies had been “shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration.” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, said Trump’s decision is having “sickening and predictable” consequences. Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran, said on Face the Nation that “leaving an ally behind … is disheartening, depressing.” He added, “The Kurds found out on Twitter, for goodness’ sake. We have left them to the wolves. And the message this is sending to our allies around the world, I think, is really going to be bad.” Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican lawmaker who has been the most willing to speak the truth about Trump, declared on Twitter, “The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal.”

Indeed it is. But betrayal is hardly new to Trump, who routinely abandons people who trust in him or the nation he leads. By now, this behavior should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

Betrayal is a leitmotif for this president’s entire life. Think of how he cheated on his wives. Think of the infant child of a nephew who had crucial medical benefits withdrawn by Trump because of Trump’s retaliation against his nephew over an inheritance dispute. Think of those who enrolled at Trump University and were defrauded. Think about the contractors whom Trump has stiffed. Think of Jeff Sessions, the first prominent Republican to endorse Trump, whom Trump viciously turned against because Sessions had properly recused himself from overseeing the investigation into whether Russia had intervened in the 2016 election. Think about those who served in Trump’s administration—Rex Tillerson, John Bolton, Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn, James Mattis, and many more—who were unceremoniously dumped and, in some cases, mocked on their way out the door.

Read the entire piece here.

CNN on Franklin Graham’s Call to Prayer for Donald Trump

Trump Graham

Daniel Burke has it covered at CNN.  He talked to Franklin Graham, Peter Wehner, Warren Throckmorton, Michelle Margolis, and your truly.

The most revealing part of this article is when Burke asked Graham to respond to Christians who think Trump hurts the church.  Burke writes: “Asked how he would answer critics who say that Trump and his evangelical allies are actually a threat to the church, Graham declined to engage the question. ‘I wouldn’t even answer a person like that. I don’t think it’s valid at all.'”

This is yet another example of the current divide in American evangelicalism.  Graham is incapable of understanding that there are people who share his faith and also believe Trump is damaging the witness of the Gospel.  And if such people do exist (and they do), he seems to suggest that he has nothing to say to them because they are wrong.

Here is a taste of Burke’s piece:

Because of his charity work and family name, Graham carries immense influence over American evangelicals, said John Fea, author of “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”

“What he says politically is going to sway how many American evangelicals vote and pray.”

But Fea is among the evangelicals critical of Graham’s pro-Trump prayer event.

The historian notes that Graham ended his Facebook post with a dark biblical warning about the array of spiritual forces aligned against contemporary Christians.

“That’s a code verse,” Fea said. “It sends a clear message to his followers that there is something at work here beyond politics. He’s saying that America is under spiritual attack and equating the attacks on Trump with that.”

Graham said he doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s policies and that God commands Christians to pray for their secular leaders. “If he’s a good President, it benefits every American of every race and gender.” Still, Graham acknowledged that Trump has been an especially attentive patron to his evangelical base, calling him the “most pro-Christian President in my lifetime.”

But other evangelicals have noted the obvious: That Trump’s actions as President have not, and likely will not, benefit everyone.

Read the entire article here.

Is Pete Buttigieg’s Religious Rhetoric Any Different Than the Rhetoric of the Christian Right?

Buttigieg

Peter Wehner makes a pretty good case at The Atlantic.  Here is a taste:

..And yet, precisely on the question of religion as an instrumental good, there is real cause for concern about Mayor Pete. His insistence that “Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction” is a bright-red flag, and ought to worry Christians regardless of their politics.

To say that Christianity points you in a progressive direction is in effect to say that Christianity and progressivism are synonymous. They aren’t. Neither are Christianity and conservatism. Christianity stands apart from and in judgment of all political ideologies; it doesn’t lend itself to being put in neat and tidy political categories. That doesn’t mean that at any particular moment in time a Christian ethic won’t lead people of faith to more closely align with one political and philosophical movement over another. But the temptation, always, is to politicize faith in ways that ultimately are discrediting.

Read the entire piece here.

Wehner’s piece is similar to the argument of James Davison Hunter in To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.  Hunter calls out both the Religious Right and the Religious Left for turning to electoral politics to advance their missions.  He offers another way defined by “faithful presence.”

Evangelical Political Adviser Peter Wehner: Trump is “emotionally/psychologically unwell”

Peter Wehner, who served in the Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2 administrations and is currently a fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, is calling for prayer.

Here is his tweet:

“Faith and the Faithful in U.S. Politics”

Holy Trinity

This was the title of a symposium held recently at Holy Trinity Parish in Washington.  The event was sponsored by the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service and the Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.  Speakers included John Carr (Georgetown), Jocelyn Kiley (Pew Research Center),  E.J. Dionne (Washington Post), Peter Wehner (Ethics and Public Policy Center), and Joshua DuBois (former director of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships).

Here is a taste of an article on the symposium published by Catholic News Service:

Representing the conservative side was panelist Peter Wehner – a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of its Faith Angle Forum, and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and the co-author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.

“I do think Democrats have a problem with religion,” Wehner said. “It’s a party that’s increasingly secular.”

Dionne, who often supports progressive causes in his columns, countered by saying, “Democrats are not a secular party. Most Democrats are part of a religious tradition.”

Wehner noted that the Democratic Party remains a minority party, with Republicans controlling the White House, both houses of Congress, and a majority of governorships and state legislatures, but he added that he thinks Democrats will likely take control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2018 mid-term elections.

Read the entire piece here.