Trump’s GOP commemorates MLK after trying to disenfranchise voters in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Atlanta

Ever since November 3–Election Day–GOP members of the House and at least ten senators tried to overturn the votes of Black men and women in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Today, as Nick Visser and Amanda Terkel point out in their article at The Huffington Post, they want us all to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Here is a taste:

One hundred forty-seven Republicans in Congress voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election this month. Not only did they try to overturn the election results and give legitimacy to President Donald Trump’s lies of rampant voter fraud, but they essentially tried to erase the mammoth turnout among Black voters that helped Biden win. 

Twelve days after that vote, 127 of those Republicans ― 86% ― tweeted or put out statements Monday praising the work of Martin Luther King Jr., who is perhaps best remembered for fighting racial injustice.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transformed America and inspired men and women across the world with his call to pursue justice and truth,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted the King quote: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

Boebert is a supporter of the deranged, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory that believes Trump is fighting a Satan-worshipping “deep state” of Democrats and Hollywood celebrities who are sex traffickers. 

The hypocrisy was not lost on civil rights leaders. 

Read the rest here.

As we pointed out earlier this evening, the court evangelicals did the same thing.

The court evangelicals love Martin Luther King Jr. (and other stuff)

Donald Trump is getting out of town on Wednesday morning. The coward is escaping to Mar-a-Lago before Joe Biden is inaugurated the 46th President of the United States at noon. News outlets are reporting that Trump will drop dozens and dozens of additional pardons before he leaves.

As Trump loses power, so do the evangelicals who have supported him and made regular visits to the White House for photo-ops, prayer, and “advising.” For the last four years we have called them court evangelicals. Let’s see what some of them have been saying today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

Eric Metaxas has nothing to say about MLK Day, but he continues to deny that what happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an insurrection. Even after watching The New Yorker video he still believes that those involved in the riots were not Trump supporters. Metaxas is worth millions, but that does not stop him from using his platform to complain that he is losing money from the cancellation of speaking engagements. Of course there are millions of Americans out of work due to COVID-19. They are on food lines and wondering how to pay the rent.

On Friday, Mike Lindell, aka “My Pillow Guy,” visited the White House in a last ditch hope to save the 2020 presidential election. Today Metaxas had him on his show. Metaxas asks Lindell if he has evidence of election fraud. Lindell says he has legitimate evidence that China, Iraq, and Iran were involved in undermining the election. Metaxas claims that the real problem is that Americans don’t respect truth and virtue. Yes, you read that correctly–a diehard Trump supporter is complaining about America’s lack of truth and virtue. The rest of the video is Metaxas boilerplate stuff on “cultural Marxism, “cancel culture,” and “American naivety.” Lindell says that two big box stores will no longer sell his pillows. He believes that the communists are attacking our country. Metaxas agrees. Maybe his next book will be a biography of Joseph McCarthy. In the time it took me to write this post, YouTube removed the video.

Metaxas is also pushing his new memoir. Here he is on Facebook:

I am THRILLED my new memoir, titled FISH OUT OF WATER: A Search for the Meaning of Life, has been given a starred review by Booklist, who called it “A profoundly moving memoir”! UNTIL FEB. 2nd, you can get a SIGNED copy for $25. Take advantage. An unsigned copy is $32.95 at Amazon. It’s the story of my life — literally — and is by turns wistful and funny, and ALL TRUE — and would make a great gift for someone NOT on the same page as many of us here, either politically or theologically. Which is why I wrote it.

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University is appropriating Martin Luther King Jr. today:

In this tweet, the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, the center of pro-Trump evangelicalism, is appropriating Martin Luther King. Jr. to talk about “character”:

Jenna Ellis, a fellow at the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, is no longer working for Trump:

Lance Wallnau believes that people who embrace the “progressive jihad” of “race, gender, and sex” are a satanic force trying to undermine America. Too many evangelical Christians are buying into this “jihad.” As a result, Wallnau believes, they “are not showing up for the spiritual battle of their lifetime.” The reason Trump lost, Wallnau says, is because the church did not stand with him when the going got tough. Wallnau still believes that Trump has the “anointing of Cyrus upon him” and encourages his followers to join the “war” against the Democrats so that evangelicals can reclaim America in 2022. He also says that “Q” is not a real prophet. He adds that Q is “80% accurate and 20% nut zone.”

Here are some of the sixteen thousand comments on the aforementioned Wallnau Facebook video:

  • “It’s not over for Trump…God is doing something.”
  • “Please don’t call [Harris] VP…she is not.”
  • “Yes. President Trump is still President and yes he will have a second term another 4 years. God’s will and prophesized (sic). If you go against God that is the worse (sic) thing you can ever do. God bless America. God bless President Trump.”
  • “I would feel more comfortable about what you are saying if you didn’t show your book 3 or 4 times a video. I believe and trust you until you push the book.”
  • “I am soooo confused! I have been listening to prophets since Nov. 4 and President Trump was suppose (sic) to remain in office, serve his second term! What has happened?!!!”
  • “We need an earth quake here on the day Biden try (sic) to take over our country our America! AMEN

Court evangelical journalist David Brody wants to put an asterisk next to Joe Biden’s name:

Robert Jeffress preached a sermon on Sunday titled “How Should Christians Respond to President Biden.” He warned his congregation about “increasing persecution” against Christians. The Biden administration, he added, might “restrain our ability” to preach God’s word “without consequence.” Read more here. Watch the service here.

I wonder what Martin Luther King Jr. would say about Tony Perkins’s ardent defense of Donald Trump during these past four years:

Here is Paula White using King to tweet about justice:

Franklin Graham remembers MLK’s relationship with his father. What he doesn’t say is that many white evangelicals did not like the fact that Graham let this “liberal” preacher join him on the platform. Would Franklin Graham allow Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in one of his crusades today? I have no doubt that Franklin would answer “yes” to this question, but his answer would reveal his failure to truly understand King’s message.

Will the debate over critical race theory divide the Southern Baptist Convention?

It’s a fair question. The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination founded upon a commitment to slavery and racism, is now engaged in a fierce debate over how to deal with racial unrest in the United States. Future historians will notice the irony.

Charlie Dates, the pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, has had enough. His church is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. Here is his recent piece at Religion News Service:

From 2016 to 2019, too, I preached on the campuses of four of the SBC seminaries and had been invited to another. The backstage conversations at these gatherings promised a new era of advancement on race and theology.

So we decided to cooperate and join our church to the SBC in what is known as a dual affiliation. 

The resistance, especially from some of our elderly membership, was swift and sincere.

“That was the old Southern Baptists,” I promised them and others in our church. The specter of racial animus and theological arrogance was giving way to a new era of Christian leadership, I suggested. Sure, there were more battles to be won before legitimate change would warm the hearts of African American churches like ours, but that’s why our movement felt almost prophetic.

At the emergence of the pandemic, the SBC donated to our emergency effort to provide online food delivery services for Chicagoans with SNAP benefits. Here it was, I thought, further proof that the old SBC was fading.

But as 2020 went on, I grew increasingly uneasy. When Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, said the only politically moral option for Christians was the Republican Party, I asked other SBC leaders, good Christian men, to challenge him. They would not. I was shocked, but not surprised, when Mohler endorsed President Trump and watched the two men — on Reformation Day — celebrate each other on Twitter.

And then, last week, a final straw.

On Dec. 1, all six of the SBC seminary presidents — without one Black president or counter opinion among them — told the world that a high view of Scripture necessarily required a corresponding and total rejection of critical race theory and intersectionality.

When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? When did those who have yet to hire multiple Black or brown faculty at their seminaries assume ethical authority on the subject of systemic injustice?

How did they, who in 2020 still don’t have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?

I had to tell my church I was wrong. There is no such thing as “the Old Southern Baptists.”

Conservatism is, and has always been, the god of the SBC.

Read the entire piece here.

When 20th-century students memorized “Dixie” and “long lists of forgettable governors”

Over at The Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman reports on the treatment of the Confederacy in Southern history textbooks:

For much of the 20th century, southern classrooms treated Black history — when they touched the subject at all — as a sideshow to a white-dominated narrative.

Teachers taught students to sing Dixie and memorize long lists of forgettable governors. Civil War battles got described in detail. Textbooks celebrated the violent overthrow of democratically-elected, multiracial governments. Lynching went unmentioned. The evils of slavery got cursory acknowledgments — and quick dismissals. 

“It should be noted that slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States,” a 1961 Alabama history textbook said, falsely

The same forces that took over public spaces to erect monuments to the Confederacy and its white supremacist tenets also kept a tight grip on the history taught to Southern pupils. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) spent decades shaping and reshaping textbooks to put a strong emphasis on Lost Cause views of the Civil War and Reconstruction, which glorified the white supremacist foundations of the Confederacy and was used to justify segregation and authoritarian Jim Crow governance. 

Read the rest here.

Six white men decided the Southern Baptist Convention position on race

Maina Mwaura is a Black Southern Baptist writer with an undergraduate degree from Liberty University and an Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Theological Seminary (SBC). Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

I asked Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, the Rev. Danny Akin, about the meeting where the statement on CRT was devised. He shared that the six — all of them white men — talked on a Zoom call. He said the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the principal architect of the statement, but that they were all on the same page when it comes to issues of race.

I don’t think Akin and Mohler, both of whom I know, understand how problematic it is to have six white men meeting to discuss race without having anyone of color in the room to represent their experience. I find it deeply offensive that people would speak for the SBC on race when they themselves have never worn Black skin; never dealt with its historical and cultural inequities; nor had any firsthand experience of navigating the tensions of race in today’s world.

This problem isn’t only one of misunderstanding academic theories. As America’s demographics shift, the SBC’s attitudes toward race will begin to cost the SBC souls. In 2020, the SBC is led solely by white men. The denomination’s president and the heads of every one of the SBC’s denominational entities are white. White male leadership has been ingrained within the denomination since its founding in 1845, when it broke with the Northern churches over slavery.

Read the entire piece here.

The debate over critical race theory in the Southern Baptist Convention (and beyond) is heating up

Who is afraid of critical race theory (CRT)? The Southern Baptist Convention is.

A denomination founded on racism, slavery, and white supremacy has become the center of opposition to a theory that helps us to better understand the consequences of racism, slavery and white supremacy in American life.

But the Southern Baptist Convention is not alone in this fight. Liberty University is also becoming a bastion of opposition to critical race theory. Liberty University is the evangelical school with a former president who wore a blackface COVID-19 mask that cost the school the support of African-American evangelical pastors and led to the voluntary departure of Black athletes , students, and employees.

These two institutions have chosen to pontificate about the dangers of critical race theory at a time of racial unrest in our nation. Instead of listening and learning in this moment, they felt the need to double-down.

Last week the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries in the United States openly condemned CRT in “any form or fashion.” Dallas-area pastor and noted evangelical leader Tony Evans, who was quoted by the members of a 2019 Resolution Committee, offered a more nuanced take on CRT:

As I stated in my sermon, which I encourage everyone reading this to watch, I again affirm that the Bible must be the basis for analyzing any and all social, racial or political theories in order to identify what is legitimate or what is not legitimate. But I did not say, nor imply, that CRT or other ideologies lack beneficial aspects—rather that the Bible sits as the basis for determining that. I have long taught that racism, and its ongoing repercussions, are real and should be addressed intentionally, appropriately and based on the authority of God’s inerrant word.

J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, endorsed the seminary presidents’ statement on CRT and then added a Twitter thread:

And then came a piece by a Nathan Skates of the Liberty University Falkirk Center. He praises the SBC seminary presidents and other critics of CRT and then decides to take a shot at Jemar Tisby, author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and this recent piece. Skates writes:

Meanwhile, Jemar Tisby, president of The Witness, a black Christian collective that has advocated for CRT as a means to achieve racial justice and reconciliation, wrote that the Council’s statement showed their commitment to “whiteness.” He stated that the Council “ostensibly met to recommit to their guiding statement: the Baptist Faith and Message. In reality, these seminary presidents reaffirmed and gave themselves over to another historic Southern Baptist commitment: whiteness.”

Tisby went on to criticize the Council’s lack of action on racial issues and defended CRT. Tisby stated that the real threat to the Church is “Christian nationalism,” claiming that America is “not so exceptional” and lobbed charges of racism at evangelicals who support the Republican party.

This author would like to add that if America were not exceptional and were indeed irredeemably and systemically racist, Tisby would not be able to have achieved such success nor be allowed to make such claims without consequence.

I don’t know anything about Nathan Skates, but it doesn’t surprise me Liberty, an evangelical university, would publish such a loaded and ignorant statement like the last paragraph in the above excerpt. Let’s remember that not all Christian universities are the same.

A few final thoughts:

Evangelical Christians adopt all kinds of “theories” without accepting them in total. For example, “pagan” philosophers like Plato and Aristotle have informed the history of Christian theology at every turn. The evangelical “church growth” movement and most evangelical megachurches have embraced secular business theories. American evangelicals drink deeply from the wells of the Enlightenment, especially economic (capitalism) and political liberalism and self-improvement. There is nothing in the Bible about wearing masks, but many evangelicals wear them because they believe in science. Christian counseling owes a huge debt of gratitude to secular psychology (unless, of course, you come from the nouthetic school of counseling).

So why do evangelicals try to “integrate faith and learning” when it comes to ancient philosophy, psychology, economic and political theory, and science, but refuse to do so when it comes to race? I am asking this question to the SBC seminary presidents, Liberty University, and J.D. Greaar.

Do Southern Baptist schools teach secular ideas for the sole purpose of showing their evil origins–a kind of “know your enemy” approach to education? Is there nothing we can learn from human beings who do not share our theology? What happened to “all truth is God’s truth.” This is why I called the SBC presidents’ statement “anti-intellectual.”

What do we mean by critical race theory? I have now defined it in several posts, but I will define its basic tenets one more time for those who may have missed the previous posts:

First, CRT affirms that racism is an “ordinary” or “common” part of everyday life. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice against people of color, it is a system of discrimination built into American institutions, especially the law.

Second, CRT affirms that since White people benefit from such systemic racism, they will not have the incentive to do anything about it. Shock events such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis or the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha might alert White people to racial injustice, but it is unlikely such tragedies will lead to a sustained anti-racism.

Third, CRT affirms that race is “socially constructed.” This means that the racial categories we use are not biologically determined but invented by human beings. There is nothing inherent about any race that should lead to its oppression. Racism is thus best explained by a close examination of American history to see how men and women in power “constructed” the idea of racial difference and promoted bigotry based on those differences.

Fourth, CRT affirms, to quote Delgado and Sefancic, that “no person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity.” For example, I am a male, white, a product of the American working class, and a Christian. These different identities are often mutually dependent on one another and when taken together make me a whole person. CRT uses the technical term “intersectionality” to define the way these different identities overlap and intersect.

Fifth, CRT affirms that Black people and other people of color “are able to communicate to their White counterparts matters that whites are unlikely to know.” At the heart of CRT is storytelling. This is the primary way that people of color can explain the racism that they encounter daily. It also implies that people of color are more equipped to talk about the plight of the racially oppressed than White people.

Which of these points do the Southern Baptist seminary presidents oppose?

Southern Baptist seminary presidents unite against critical race theory

The official statement is tacked-on to the end of George Schroeder’s article at Baptist Press. Here it is:

On this twentieth anniversary year of the Baptist Faith & Message (as revised and adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000), the Council of Seminary Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in its annual session, hereby reaffirms with eagerness the Baptist Faith & Message as the doctrinal statement that unites and defines Southern Baptist cooperation and establishes the confessional unity of our Convention. Our six seminaries are confessional institutions, standing together in this classic statement of biblical truth. All professors must agree to teach in accordance with and not contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message. This is our sacred commitment and privilege, and every individual faculty member and trustee of our institutions shares this commitment. We are thankful for the theological commitments of the Southern Baptist Convention, standing against the tide of theological compromise and in the face of an increasingly hostile secular culture.

In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention, we stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.

The statement seems to suggest that Southern Baptists now formally believe that racism is confined to individual racist acts and is not systemically embedded in American society. The latter appears to be understood as a form of “theological compromise in the face of an increasingly hostile secular culture.”

Yes, you are reading this correctly. A Protestant denomination founded upon its commitment to slavery and racism has rejected the idea that racism is systematically embedded in southern society.

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, has also endorsed the statement.

UPDATE (December 2, 2020 at 12:30pm):

Several folks have told me that many of the seminary presidents who signed this statement actually do believe in systemic racism. This appears to be true. Al Mohler, Danny Akin, and J.D. Greaar have all said that systemic racism exists. Mohler seems to making some kind of case for systemic racism here. (I find this interview problematic for a lot of reasons, but that is another post). Akin and Greaar seem to be adhering to something similar to systemic racism here and here.

A couple of quick points.

A person who believes in systemic racism and, at the same time, rejects critical race theory “in any form or fashion,” will need to thread a very narrow intellectual needle. It all depends on how one defines systemic racism and critical race theory (CRT). I summarized CRT in this post. Here is a taste:

First, CRT affirms that racism is an “ordinary” or “common” part of everyday life. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice against people of color, it is a system of discrimination built into American institutions, especially the law.

Second, CRT affirms that since White people benefit from such systemic racism, they will not have the incentive to do anything about it. Shock events such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis or the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha might alert White people to racial injustice, but it is unlikely such tragedies will lead to a sustained anti-racism.

Third, CRT affirms that race is “socially constructed.” This means that the racial categories we use are not biologically determined but invented by human beings. There is nothing inherent about any race that should lead to its oppression. Racism is thus best explained by a close examination of American history to see how men and women in power “constructed” the idea of racial difference and promoted bigotry based on those differences.

Fourth, CRT affirms, to quote Delgado and Sefancic, that “no person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity.” For example, I am a male, white, a product of the American working class, and a Christian. These different identities are often mutually dependent on one another and when taken together make me a whole person. CRT uses the technical term “intersectionality” to define the way these different identities overlap and intersect.

Fifth, CRT affirms that Black people and other people of color “are able to communicate to their White counterparts matters that whites are unlikely to know.” At the heart of CRT is storytelling. This is the primary way that people of color can explain the racism that they encounter daily. It also implies that people of color are more equipped to talk about the plight of the racially oppressed than White people.

Which of these points do the Southern Baptist seminary presidents oppose?

Here’s another thought. Why are Southern Baptist seminary presidents and theologians willing to learn from non-Christians in other areas, but seem unwilling to learn from those unbelievers (and in many cases fellow believers) who write about race? For centuries Christian theologians have read “pagan” philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle and have integrated the thought of these pagans into Christian theological systems. In fact, one cannot understand the history of Christian theology without these ancient thinkers. (Thanks to historian Andrea Turpin who told me that Wheaton College theologian Esau McCaulley makes this case for Plato in his book Reading While Black).

We just interviewed Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn on The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. What she argues about Stoicism, Platonism, and other ancient moral philosophies in her book Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living can be very helpful to evangelical Christians. I am guessing that these seminary presidents would agree.

Next semester I am teaching Homer in a course for first year students. In the context of a Christian college we will read Homer critically, but I imagine there will be things that my students will find useful in Homer as they strive to practice their Christian faith.

I am sure most of these seminary presidents would agree with the phrase “all truth is God’s truth.” I linked to an Al Mohler interview above in which he talks about a variety of non-Christian or non-evangelical thinkers who have influenced him, including the sociologist Peter Berger. If Mohler and others do believe that truth can be found outside the Bible and the church then why do they reject CRT “in any form or fashion” (as I defined it above)?

In the end, this statement is another example of Southern Baptist anti-intellectualism and fundamentalism. When I call someone an anti-intellectual I am not saying that they can’t think. Rather, I am saying that they think in overly binary ways that lack nuance and complexity. As a friend wrote to me this morning, such anti-intellectualism results in fear–the fear of theological or intellectual others and the fear that acknowledging what is true about intellectual others will hurt them politically and lead to a loss of power.

How do we have conversations with people who do not share the same basic facts?

Spoiler: I don’t know the answer to the question I asked in the title of this post.

On Sunday night I watched Chris Krebs on 60 Minutes. Krebs served as the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Donald Trump appointed him to the position. Krebs was tasked with making sure that the 2020 election was secure.

Following the election, Krebs said that the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.” Trump promptly fired him:

Here is Krebs on 60 Minutes:

For some, it doesn’t really matter what Krebs says. They will not believe him. Why would anyone listen to the cybersecurity expert who spent every day of the last couple of years trying to make sure our election was safe? Why would people believe Krebs when God is telling them Trump won? Why would they believe Krebs when Sean Hannity and Newsmax are telling them that there was massive election fraud? Why would they believe Krebs when he is clearly cooperating with a Satanic plot to steal the election from God’s anointed one?

One of Trump’s lawyers actually said that Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot” for defending the integrity of the election. Will Trump terminate Joe DiGenova?

As I watched the news coverage of Krebs’s 60 Minutes appearance and exchanged e-mails with some blog readers concerned about the church and the nation in the wake of the Trump presidency, I thought about veteran evangelical activist Ron Sider’s recent newsletter titled “Could We Just Listen to Each Other?” Here is a taste:

Democracy simply will not work and our country’s future is very bleak, indeed exceedingly dangerous, unless we can start talking and really listening to each other.

I wish I had a good set of solutions. I don’t. So if you have concrete ideas or even successful stories, let me know.

But I intend to pray fervently, and often, that God will show me how to become friends with, and truly listen carefully to the views of those who voted for Donald Trump. We need to pray together. We need to explain respectfully to each other why we think so differently.

That kind of listening does not mean succumbing to relativism. Some statements are true and some are not. I will continue to work hard for the political changes I believe are right.  

For example, I continue to be certain that structural racism continues to exist in education, policing, etc. in ways that benefit white Americans and hurt others, especially African-Americans. I believe that widespread white racism is a terrible sin that makes African-American Christians  and other non-white Christians turn away in disgust. It makes non-Christians refuse even to consider—in fact despise— Christianity. And it is driving many of our younger Christians away from the church and even our Lord. We must speak the full force of truth against the terrible sin of white racism. Furthermore, at the center of any honest conversation on racism must be humble listening to African-Americans tell their experiences of racism. We must listen to them tell us why they are almost ready to totally give up on any relationship with white Christians who do not work to end racism.

At the same time,  I believe that many white Christians with racist ideas truly want to follow Christ. And I want to listen to those who do not believe that structural racism exists and then sit down together and search together to help us all understand and embrace the actual facts.

I simply do not know how to do both honest truth-telling about racism and genuine listening to white Christians who reject even the idea of structural racism. But somehow we must try.

Read the entire piece here.

I am very sympathetic to Sider’s words. But I still wonder how we have conversations with people who do not share the same basic facts about what is happening in the world. How do we have conversations with men and women who do not believe in systemic racism or think such a view of race is undermining the Gospel? How do we have conversations with people who believe Trump actually won this election? How do we have conversations with people who reject science in the midst of a pandemic?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and I don’t have any advice to give at the moment.

I am not a prophet. But it does look like the fault lines in American evangelicalism are deepening.

I write partially out of experience. As long-time blog readers know, I live in south-central Pennsylvania. This is Trump country. My state senator was at the sham hearing in Gettysburg. Doug Mastriano is the state senator in the neighboring district. Scott Perry, who represents me in U.S. House of Representatives, has been helping the Trump legal team on these election fraud cases. When we are not in the midst of a pandemic I attend an evangelical megachurch. I am the only person in my extended family who did not vote for Trump in 2016 and 2020. I know a lot of people who said they “held their nose” and voted for Trump. I know more people who voted for Trump without holding their nose.

I guess I share one thing with the Trump evangelicals: God sometimes performs miracles. This may be our only hope. I will take Sider’s advice and keep praying.

Barack Obama and Ibram X. Kendi on American politics

Alan Jacobs has two quotes on his blog Snakes and Ladders:

Obama:

The point I’ve always made to Ta-Nehisi, the point I sometimes make to Michelle, the point I sometimes make to my own kids — the question is, for me, “Can we make things better?”

I used to explain to my staff after we had a long policy debate about anything, and we had to make a decision about X or Y, “Well, if we do this I understand we’re not getting everything we’re hoping for, but is this better?” And they say yes, and I say, “Well, better is good. Nothing wrong with better.”

Kendi:

There’s no saving America’s soul. There’s no restoring the soul. There’s no fighting for the soul of America. There’s no uniting the souls of America. There is only fighting off the other soul of America.

Obama and Trump did not poison the American soul any more than Biden can heal it. Trump battled for the soul of injustice, and the voters sent him home. Soon, President Biden can battle for the soul of justice.

Our past breaths do not bind our future breaths. I can battle for the soul of justice. And so can you. And so can we. Like our ancestors, for our children. We can change the world for Gianna Floyd. We can — once and for all — win the battle between the souls of America.

Study: White Evangelicals are “cultural others” and the culture wars are getting worse

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia just released its 2020 survey of American political culture. It is titled Democracy in Dark Times. James Davison Hunter and Carl Desportes Bowman are the primary investigators/authors.

It is a very thorough study. Read it here. A few things the study tells us about White Evangelicals:

7 out of 10 “white evangelicals” believe that most opponents of Donald Trump are “socialists.”

9 out of 10 “white evangelicals” believe that the Democratic Party wants to transform the nation into a “socialist nation.”

86% of African Americans believe racism is a serious threat to America and its future. 70% of Hispanics believe this. 68% of White non-evangelicals believe this. But only 36% of “White Evangelical Protestants” believe racism is a serious threat to America and its future.

86% of African Americans believe economic inequality and poverty are serious threats to America. 68% of Hispanics believe this. 66% of White non-Evangelicals believe this. But only 37% of White Evangelicals believe inequality and poverty are serious threats to America.

91% of Blacks believe “the police and law enforcement unfairly target racial and ethnic minorities.” 60% of Hispanics believe this. 57% of White non-Evangelicals believe this. But only 17% of White Evangelicals believe this (83% disagree).

78% of African Americans favor some kind of “financial compensation to African Americans for their historic mistreatment of White Americans” (reparations). 41% of Hispanics favor reparations. 34% of non-Evangelical Whites favor reparation. But only 7% of White Evangelicals favor reparations.

The authors of the report write:

In sum, yes, there is a racial divide in America. Whites, Hispanics, and
African Americans do not share the same or even similar perspectives on
the history, experiences, and issues surrounding race, and the consequence
of this is misunderstanding, a lack of respect, and ultimately prejudice in
the everyday experience of Blacks and other minorities. But these points
of division are not equally or uniformly distributed across the population.
The deepest and most consistent racial division is found between White
Evangelicals and Blacks. Reconciliation begins with mutual understanding,
and by these lights, it is a long way off.

Here’s more:

26% of the African American community identify as “Evangelical.” According to the report, they are “entirely aligned with their larger racial community” on matters of race in America.

Black evangelicals “harbor more ‘conservative’ fears about crime and lawlessness, immigration, socialism, and the like than do secular Blacks. Even so, the two groups in our sample are not that far apart, especially in comparison with the great cultural distance between White Evangelical Protestants and White secularists.”

Evangelicals of color are nearly three times as likely as White Evangelicals to agree that “our founding fathers were part of a racist and sexist culture that gave important roles to White men while harming minorities and women.”

Evangelicals of color are twice as likely as White Evangelicals to see “Wall Street and the banking system as a very or extremely serious threat to America and America’s future.”

53% of White Evangelicals are Republicans. 35% of White Evangelicals are Independents. Only 7% of White Evangelicals are Democrats.

82% of White Evangelicals say that they are either “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” 15% of White Evangelicals describe their politics as “moderate.” Only 2% of White Evangelicals describe their politics as “liberal.”

The authors of the study conclude that White Evangelicalism, a movement that once was at the center of American religious and cultural life, has become a “cultural other” in the United States.

A majority of White Evangelicals believe that the opponents of Donald Trump are “misguided and misinformed,” “close-minded,” “dangerous,” and “arrogant and pretentious.”

Read the entire report here. The study concludes that “nearly 30 years after Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America…, the country is even more deeply fractured by ideology, religion, race, and income.”

Shane Claiborne: “The 2020 election was a referendum on race and Christian faith

After what we witnessed this summer–the killing of black men and women, the president’s lack of response, and the white evangelical rejection of systemic racism–it is hard to argue against Shane Claiborne.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

This election was not only a battle for the soul of our nation, it is also a battle for the Christian faith. While white Christians were the only bloc of religious voters that went for Trump, some 80% of nonwhite Christians voted against him. This suggests that the fixation with Trump that we see in many white Christians has more to do with their whiteness than with their faith. It’s more of a white thing than a Christian thing.

Many white evangelicals have said that they voted on one issue, abortion, that didn’t register as a top priority for any other demographic. More and more people I talk to are hopeful that we can find common ground even on this topic. The number of abortions is dropping every year, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and many of us are convinced that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to support health care and other social services for low-income women, since the leading reason for having an abortion is a lack of resources to raise a child. 

For now, I am encouraged to see so many people stand up for faith over fear, for love over hatred and for hope over despair. We did it in many different ways. Some folks, including many of my friends, explicitly endorsed Biden. Others did not. We saw new factions of pro-life evangelicals stand out in their courageous support for change in Washington while not compromising their convictions on abortion or other issues they hold dear.

Others, like me, did not endorse Biden-Harris, but worked closely and prayerfully with them to get Trump out of office. I have said many times that I do not agree with the Democratic Party on everything, but I agree with them on this: Trump and his enablers needed to go. 

Read the entire piece here.

We are learning more about who was doing some of the shooting in the Minneapolis streets after the death of George Floyd

Here is Holly Bailey at The Washington Post:

A Texas man who claims to be a member of the Boogaloo Bois, a far-right anti-government extremist group intent on starting a second civil war, is facing a riot charge, federal prosecutors said Friday, alleging that the man opened fire on Minneapolis’s 3rd Precinct police station in an attempt to stir up civil unrest during the May protests over George Floyd’s death.

According to a federal criminal complaint filed Monday and made public Friday, Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Tex., traveled to Minneapolis after Floyd’s death and was captured on surveillance video May 28 firing 13 rounds from an AK-47 into the precinct building as it was overtaken by protesters. According to the complaint, Hunter fired his gun and allegedly shouted, “Justice for Floyd!”

Hunter was charged with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot and made his first court appearance Thursday in San Antonio, where he was arrested on Wednesday, according to Erica MacDonald, the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, whose office is handling the case.

The Boogaloo Bois have been spotted at right-wing and left-wing protests, often heavily armed and wearing Hawaiian shirts. Members of the loosely organized group have espoused a range of ideologies, including pro-gun, anti-government and white supremacist views. In some cases, they have been found to purposefully sow confusion by impersonating left-wing activists in an effort to fuel movement toward civil war.

Read the rest here.

A short history of the 1619 Project

Over at The Washington Post, Sarah Ellison chronicles the ways The New York Times‘s 1619 Project has influenced American politics in 2020. Here is a taste:

Sean Wilentz remembers the Sunday morning in August when he walked down his driveway to pick up his Times. The Princeton historian was intrigued to see an issue of the magazine devoted to slavery; his most recent book, “No Property in Man,” explored the antislavery instincts of the nation’s founders. But then he started reading Hannah-Jones’s essay.

“I threw the thing across the room, I was so astounded,” he recalled recently, “because I ran across a paragraph on the American Revolution, and it was just factually wrong.”

Long before “1619” was vibrating on the lips of President Trump and leading GOP lawmakers, objections were brewing among serious liberal academics. Hannah-Jones’s 10,000-word essay opened with her father’s roots in a Mississippi sharecropping family before blossoming into a panoramic take on the nation’s history. In the passage that so enraged Wilentz, she asserted that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery” at a time when “Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution.”

This, Wilentz argues, is patently false: Other than a few lonely voices, England remained committed to the slave trade in 1776. The abolitionist movement didn’t take hold in London for more than a decade — and then it was inspired by anti-slavery opinions emerging from America.

Wilentz was impressed by some of the 1619 Project’s essays, but in November, he critiqued Hannah-Jones’s piece in a public speech. And he contacted other prominent academics, whose complaints about the project were chronicled by the World Socialist Web Site. Eventually, four agreed to join Wilentz in writing a letter to the Times, criticizing the project’s “displacement of historical understanding by ideology.”

It didn’t go over so well.

“We perceived it right away to be an attack on the project,” said Silverstein. He questioned why they didn’t just contact him or Hannah-Jones directly to offer thoughts on how to “strengthen this historical analysis” as he said other readers had.

Wilentz, in turn, was stunned by Silverstein’s response letter, which published alongside the scholars’ in December and was longer than their own — a major tell, in his view, that the Times knew it had gotten something very wrong even while it appeared to dismiss the complaint and avoided addressing many of its points. “Holy smokes,” he thought. “This is war!”

Wilentz, who is White, had not succeeded in getting any Black historians to sign on to his letter. But some shared his concerns. Leslie Harris, a history professor at Northwestern who has written extensively about colonial slavery, was contacted in 2019 by a Times fact-checker asking if preserving slavery was a cause of the Revolutionary War. “Immediately, I was like, no, no, that doesn’t sound right,” Harris recalled. She thought the issue was settled — until she was a guest on a radio show with Hannah-Jones and heard the journalist assert that the colonists launched the revolution to preserve slavery. Taken aback, she was unready to argue but retreated to her car nearly in tears: A fan of the 1619 Project’s mission, she knew the claim could be consequential. “Given how high-profile this was, if this was really wrong, it was —” she paused, punctuating each word. “Really. Going. To. Be. Wrong.”

Read the entire piece here. Read all our posts on the 1619 Project here.

“If you’re a white church, you’re open. If you’re a Black church, you’re not.”

The quote in the title of this post comes from pastor John Onwuchekwa of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta. Onwuchekwa’s church recently left the Southern Baptist Convention because it was “slow-walking racial justice reform.”

Here is a taste of Kadia Goba’s piece at Buzzfeed News:

It’s a common difference between the churches in Georgia right now who are grappling with the coronavirus. More than 7,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the state and those numbers have deterred many of the most vulnerable — churches with large Black congregations — from returning to in-person activity.

Gov. Brian Kemp reopened the state on April 24; a month later, Trump declared places of worship essential, settling a nationwide dispute as to what category they fell under during the pandemic. By then, and soon after, many evangelical churches led by white ministers with predominantly white congregations in Georgia were opening their doors. Many Black churches, some of which had been closed since March 15, continued digital services and one-on-one Zoom meetings with members of their congregation.

“I would be overwhelmingly reckless and irresponsible to put 6,500 people in my sanctuary while COVID numbers in Georgia are still escalating,” Pastor Jamal Bryant told BuzzFeed News, who added that the divide on masks wearing is that of a political nature, and nothing to do with theology.

State data shows the statistics mirror other parts of the country: Seniors and Black people have disproportionately died of the coronavirus. Data in June showed that 79% of people hospitalized in Atlanta for COVID-19 were Black.

Read the entire piece here.

How Trump appealed to our darker angels last night

Here is historian Peniel Joseph at CNN:

President Donald Trump’s toxic performance in the first presidential debate against Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden highlights anti-Black racism’s stranglehold on American democracy.

Tuesday night’s spectacle, was easily the worst presidential debate since live television contests were first aired in 1960, with a debate between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and young Massachusetts Sen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Trump consistently steamrolled moderator Chris Wallace, a seasoned reporter many thought would have fared better. Trump’s falsehoods and outright whoppers about his administration’s inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, his xenophobic pillorying of China and prevarications about his personal income taxes set the stage for direct appeals to America’s worst racial impulses.

Trump’s championing of “law and order” eliminated the dog whistles of which he and his administration have long been fond with more naked appeals to White voters’ racial fears. He has accused Biden of wanting to “destroy” the suburbs — which in his apocalyptic imagination are lily white — by not standing up to antifa and left-wing forces. Asked to publicly disavow white supremacist and military groups, Trump dodged the question. When pressed on a specific far-right group, he said he would tell them to “stand back and stand by.” These comments implied they should be ready to pounce and wreak havoc if — as Trump has repeatedly warned is possible (warnings he stunningly chose to reiterate from the debate stage) — the election results don’t favor him.

Read the rest here.

Trump is a racist. There is just no way around it.

You’ve all seen it by now:

A lot of people are going to say Trump misspoke or Chris Wallace set him up. Trump’s supporters are doing everything possible to defend him. But how can we interpret Trump’s words as something other than racism? Consider some of his previous comments:

The Atlantic has an oral history of his racist statements.

Vox has a timeline running from 1973-2020.

There is even a Wikipedia page on Trump’s views on race.

Read our coverage of Charlottesville 2017 here.

I try to get my history students to think contextually. The work of placing Trump’s comments on race in the historical context of his previous statements on the subject gets us closer to understanding the meaning of his words on Tuesday night. There is a definitely a pattern here and because of this context I feel comfortable calling Trump a racist.

And the day after the debate, Trump continued with the race baiting in Minnesota.

More court evangelical responses to the first presidential debate

See my earlier post here. Here is the latest:

For reasons that are unclear to me, James Robison felt moved to tweet the First Amendment during the debate:

James Dobson on his Facebook page: “Consider this as you watch tonight’s debate.” The “this” is this.

Jack Graham spoke at an event sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Does this mean that last night Trump was fighting a battle for the Lord?

Graham said these words at a Faith and Freedom event that included Mike Pence:

“Whether America remains America.” What does this mean?:

On the day after the debate, Pence is standing alongside Trump. Of course he is:

Biden does not want to defund the police. But if the lie works, why not keep suggested that he will:

Actually, I think you can work for criminal justice reform and still be a racist. Last night is a perfect example.

Yes Jentezen, it just may be the most important election of our lifetime:

John Hagee is ready for the fight:

Gary “Character is Destiny” Bauer had a long statement on his Facebook page. Here it is:

I’m not at all surprised that the president was a little “hot” last night. I suspect that any of us would be eager to defend ourselves and set the record straight if we had been subjected to similar treatment. We would also be furious over what had been done to us.

My friends, don’t forget what President Trump has had to endure the last four years.

Many leftists refused to accept the results of the 2016 election.

The “resistance” rioted during his inauguration.

The Deep State spied on his campaign and undermined his presidency.

His friends and supporters have suffered all kinds of harassment, investigations and prosecutions.

Democrats impeached him over a phone call, and they are threatening to impeach him again.

The left has viciously smeared him time and again. (More on that below.)

Anyone so upset about the president’s style that they are thinking about not voting or voting third party needs to seriously think about whether their frustration with Trump outweighs their love for our country and our values.

Joe Biden is no moderate. And you don’t have to take my word for it. He is running on a platform written by Bernie Sanders and well to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Quick response:

  1. Whatever Trump has had to “endure” was of his own making.
  2. Bauer seems to be supporting Trump’s claim that he will not accept the election results if he loses.
  3. The Deep State is a useful conspiracy theory for people like Bauer.
  4. Trump did nothing wrong with his “perfect call” to the Ukraine
  5. Joe Biden is not a socialist or a man of the left and he made that clear multiple times last night in the debate.
  6. Nothing here about Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy.

This is a perfect example of how the Christian Right uses Twitter to spread misleading information without any larger context. This is why contextual thinking is absolutely essential if we want to restore democracy. Social media is destroying us and Charlie Kirk is contributing to this.

Jenna Ellis loves Rudy:

Unlike other conservatives, Jenna just can’t admit Trump blew it. Nope, this evangelical Christian and fellow at the Liberty University Falkirk Center is defending Trump:

She also retweeted Trump’s racist tweet about blacks coming into the suburbs:

33 more days

We deserved last night’s debate. We didn’t deserve last night’s debate.

Last night the nation got the debate it deserved.

Last night a nation suffering through coronavirus deserved better.

I think both of these things can be true at the same time.

The first 2020 presidential debate was a disaster. It was a perfect representation of the current state of our political culture. I think theologian Keith Plummer got it right when he tweeted:

Biden’s performance wasn’t great, but he hung in there. Historian Amy Bass nailed it:

Biden didn’t need to kill it last night. He is leading in all the polls. Trump did nothing to widen his base. The debate changed very little.

At one point in the debate Biden told Trump: “You’re the worst president America has ever had.” We will let future historians decide this, but right now it is hard to argue with Biden’s assessment. Here is presidential historian Jon Meacham:

As most of you know by now, Trump refused to condemn “white supremacy” and “racists”:

Here is Christian writer and editor Katelyn Beaty:

And then Trump empowered a neo-Fascist group by telling them to “stand back and stand by.” It is worth noting that the Proud Boys immediately made “Stand Back. Stand By” part of their new logo. Yes the President of the United States told a white supremacist militia group to “stand by.” This implies they he may need them at some point in the immediate future.

Actually, this whole Proud Boys thing sets me up nicely for my Pennsylvania history class today:

This may have been the first presidential debate in American history in which one candidate called another candidate a “racist.”

Trump did nothing to win women voters tonight. Here is historian Heather Cox Richardson:

A few odds and ends:

  1. Trump refused to say that he would concede the election if he loses.
  2. Trump interrupted Biden to attack his son Hunter at the precise moment Biden was talking about his dead son Beau.
  3. In the middle of a discussion on COVID-19, Trump attacked Biden’s intelligence. He also mocked Biden for attending “Delaware State” university. Actually, Biden attended the University of Delaware. Delaware State is a historical black university. One would think Trump would know this since he likes to brag how much he has done for HBCUs.
  4. I don’t want to see another debate. This was a waste of time. Let’s just vote in November and move on as a nation.

A few random tweets from the night:

Before the debate court evangelical Robert Jeffress was praying for unity:

I support national unity. I even support praying for national unity. One of the best speeches on national unity was Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

Here’s Sean Hannity being Sean Hannity:

CNN commentators saw things differently:

Is this King George or Vladimir Putin?:

Even the Fox News moderator Chris Wallace was having problems making sense of Trump’s words:

I am hearing all kinds of stories about parents letting their kids watch this debacle. Here is Yahoo News writer Jon Ward:

Here is Amy Bass:

Hey, but at least Donald Trump did this:

34 more days.

Historians gather at Civil War sites to tell the full story

Civil War historians gathered at historical sites on Saturday “in an effort to highlight distortions, omissions and the erasure of Black contributions.” The event was sponsored by The Journal of the Civil War Era as part of an initiative called “A Call to Action.”

Participants included Scott Hancock, Gregory Downs, Kate Masur, LeeAnna Keith, and Hilary Green.

Here is Jennifer Schuessler at The New York Times:

On Saturday, a group of about 30 mustered under drizzly skies at the edge of the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa. The site of one of the bloodiest and most important battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg has seen its share of clashes over the memory of the war in recent years. But this group was there to make a stand of a different kind.

They carried signs with quotations from 19th-century newspapers, passages from the Confederacy’s constitution extolling slavery, and facts (some of them footnoted) about Robert E. Lee’s treatment of his human property. Some in the group wore T-shirts emblazoned with a social media-ready battle cry: #wewantmorehistory.

Scott Hancock, a professor of history at Gettysburg College, urged the group to be “polite” to anyone who challenged them and reminded them they were not at a protest — or not exactly.

“Our job is to do something a bit more constructive by telling a fuller story,” he said.

The group was part of a “Call to Action” organized by the Journal of the Civil War Era, a scholarly publication. For two hours on Saturday, at about a dozen Civil War-related sites across the country, from New York to Nashville to St. Louis, historians simultaneously gathered with signs highlighting distortions in existing plaques and memorials, or things that simply weren’t being spoken of at all.

Read the rest here.