Court Evangelical (and Self-Proclaimed Modern-Day Dietrich Bonhoeffer): “Everyone Who Knows Us Knows This.”


I was struck by one of the quotes in Jack Jenkins’s recent piece at Religion News Service on the evangelical response to the Trump s***hole remark.

Jenkins quotes Johnnie Moore, the court evangelical who basks in the fact that he has been described as one of the “world’s most influential young leaders” and “a  modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Here is the quote:

Johnnie Moore, a former vice president of Liberty University and the de facto spokesman for the unofficial advisory board, responded to RNS in an email about Trump’s alleged remark: “Obviously, those words aren’t words we would use, and everyone who knows us knows this.”

  1. What “words” are Moore referring to in this quote: The vulgar word Trump used or the president’s words about immigration?
  2. If he is talking about the latter, is it really true that “everyone” knows that “those words aren’t words we would use?”  Frankly, after a year of court evangelicalism, I don’t think this is as “obvious” as Moore suggests it is.  It is certainly not “obvious” to me.

Are Court Evangelicals More Concerned With Trump’s Vulgar Language or the Racism Behind It?



First, let’s deal with the language.  I don’t appreciate the vulgarity.  And now we have CNN using the word “s#$%hole” every two minutes.  Last night I got the impression that CNN anchors and pundits seemed to be enjoying their opportunity to use this term on the airwaves.  The network was clearly relishing in the shock value.  I am sure they got a ratings bump.

Frankly, I don’t want this kind of vulgarity used on television.  If you want this kind of language broadcasting into your home get a premium cable subscription.  My kids are older now, but as I watched CNN last night I imagined the horror of a young family sitting in an airport or restaurant with CNN blaring and having to shut the eyes and cover the ears of their young kids. (Today, I noticed that CNN is now warning parents to get the kids out of the room before they use the term).

Of course CNN would not be put in this situation if our President had not used such a term.  Trump’s lack of character and discretion is a reflection of a culture that grows more coarse by the day.  This is not progress.  Trump exacerbates this culture.  Yet 81% of American evangelicals voted him into office.

Second, what about the court evangelical response? To their credit, many court evangelicals have separated themselves from Trump’s comments.  Jack Jenkins has covered this well in a piece at Religion News Service. Others have remained silent. Still others have decried the language, but defended the larger racist point about immigration.

As I wrote yesterday, this entire episode reminds me of Billy Graham’s response to the Watergate transcripts.   Grant Wacker describes this well in his biography of Graham:

Graham finally muscled up the courage to start reading New York Times excerpts in the middle of May [1974]. ‘The thing that surprised and shook me was the vulgar language he used…I felt physically sick.”  Elsewhere Graham admitted to weeping and throwing up.  Graham biographer Marshall Frady said Graham attributed Nixon’s fall to “sleeping pills and demons.”  Graham insisted he was misquoted.  But he was prepared to say that ‘all of Watergate was demonic because…it caused the American people to lose confidence in its institutions…almost as though some supernatural power of evil was trying to destroy this country.

Graham’s reference to Nixon’s language left many journalists and historians appalled.  They felt Graham had proved incapable of distinguishing between the minor issue of cussing and the major one of undermining government.  On the face of it they were right.  Graham did underscore Nixon’s language. He even said that was what upset him “most.”  Yet deeper issues were involved too.  First, Graham prided himself on his ability to judge character.  Nixon had not revealed that side of himself, at least not to that extent.  The preacher had heard the same language from Johnson, but Johnson did not pretend otherwise.  Nixon did.  The second, deeper issue involved the role of language in the evangelical subculture.  As in all subcultures, language formed boundaries that separated insiders from outsiders.  Graham also prided himself on not drawing boundaries, but Nixon was different.  He pretended to be an insider yet his language proved that he was not.  “Inwardly,” Graham wrote, “I felt torn apart.” 

Are the court evangelicals weeping and throwing up today?

Does Trump’s vulgar language make them “physically ill?  More importantly, does the content of Trump’s statement on immigration make them “physically ill?”


Evangelicals Respond to the President’s Racist Remarks


I was going to do some posts on this today, but Warren Throckmorton has things covered pretty well.  Read his post here.

I will make a few comments based on Throckmorton’s post:

Eric Metaxas appears to have lost his way.  Even his fellow New York City evangelical and The King’s College chancellor Greg Thornbury has called him out.  I think it is so ironic that Metaxas is saying evangelicals who oppose Trump’s remarks vile are “People… in love w/feeling morally superior.”  Let’s remember: this is the guy who once told his fellow evangelical Christians that “God will not hold us guiltless” if we did not vote for Trump.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post is the gold standard on this controversy.  She quotes A.R. Bernard, the New York City megachurch pastor who resigned from Trump’s evangelical council after Trump blamed “both sides” for the racial conflict in Charlottesville last August.  Here is a taste:

A.R. Bernard, a black pastor of a 40,000-member church in New York City, resigned from the evangelical council in August after Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville.

While back then Bernard said he didn’t think Trump was a racist, that changed Thursday.

“His own comments expose him,” Bernard said. “They were elitist and blatantly racist.”

Bernard said Trump’s comments Friday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “added insult to injury.”

The silence of the mostly white men who remain on the informal council, he said, “is getting louder.” While members say they’re there because they’re influencing the White House on topics from Israel to religious freedom, Bernard said he doesn’t believe the council has any real influence.

“I think they’re politically convenient to the president,” he said.

Bernard is a former court evangelical. He has left the court and now has a story to tell.  I also find it a bit strange (to put it mildly) that Metaxas is saying via Twitter that Bernard fails to understand the true meaning of racism.

Again, read Throckmorton’s round-up.

The Author’s Corner with Ashley Baggett

51SmfhXThCL._SY346_.jpgAshley Baggett is assistant professor of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at North Dakota State University. This interview is based on her new book, Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans: Gender, Race, and Reform, 1840-1900 (University Press of Mississippi, 2017). 

JF: What led you to write Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans?

AB: I have been raising awareness about and combatting intimate partner violence (commonly referred to as domestic violence) for the better part of a decade, but I started researching Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans after noticing most historians focus on the North and leave out criminal cases. 

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans?

AB: Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans argues that the Civil War upended gender expectations, and in the 1870s and 1880s, New Orleans women demanded the right to be free from violence. The legal system responded by recognizing that right and criminalizing intimate partner violence until the 1890s, when abuse became racialized throughout the South and used as a means of racial control.

JF: Why do we need to read Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans?

AB: Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans demonstrates that abuse was not seen as “part of life” or acceptable for much of American history. Instead, legal reform on abuse was (and is) closely tied with how we perceive men, women, race, and relationships. The book inserts the South into the historical narrative on intimate partner violence and adds important insight on the Jim Crow era. 

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

AB: As I became more aware of pressing social problems, especially sexual assault and intimate partner violence, I committed myself to making a difference. For me, that was through understanding the past. History can inform our current decisions and interactions, and to that end, I always hope my research, teaching, and outreach effect a positive change.

JF: What is your next project?

AB: My next project is on an article that examines intimate partner violence during Union occupation. I am also working on an anthology about gender based violence in American history.

JF: Thanks, Ashley!

The Author’s Corner with John Hayes

51eS3fj0YsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_John Hayes is associate professor of History at Augusta University. This interview is based on his new book, Hard, Hard Religion: Interracial Faith in the Poor South (The University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write Hard, Hard Religion?

JH: The original idea was to see if, as a Southern historian, I could find real-world evidence for the imaginative landscape of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction—if I could demonstrate that O’Connor, with her literary insight, had evoked something real but perhaps opaque to historians. As I moved into the project, I realized that the type of Christianity embodied in her middle-class characters was well analyzed in the historiography; it was the Christianity of her poor characters (her primary characters) that had little presence in the scholarship beyond a few hints and fragments. The book is my attempt to excavate this distinct Christianity of the poor and to interpret it in its context.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Hard, Hard Religion?

JH: In the circumscribed world of the New South, poor whites and poor blacks exchanged songs, stories, lore, visual displays, and other cultural forms with each other, crafting a distinct folk Christianity that spoke from the underside of regional capitalism. Their folk Christianity was a fragile but real space of interracial exchange and a fervent attempt to grasp the sacred in earthy, this-worldly ways.

JF: Why do we need to read Hard, Hard Religion?


* It’s the first historical monograph on folk Christianity in the American South.

* In the face of a culture that continues the well-established tradition of denigrating and dismissing the poor, it shows the inner complexity, cultural creativity, and rich interiority of the poor of a certain time and place.

* It complicates what we think we know about religious life in the American South, especially by debunking the abiding trope of religious homogeneity on either side of the color line.

* In the face of scholarship that insists that Jim Crow was the culture of the New South, it argues for the fragile but real presence of interracial religious exchange among the poor.

* Where else, in the pages of a single volume, can you read about haunting songs of personified Death, anti-Mammon odes to the Titanic, and praying spots deep in the woods; about cows kneeling in reverence on Old Christmas night, graves decorated with bedsteads and grandfather clocks, and initiates emerging from imminent death to the sights and sounds of bright green trees and birds chirping away?

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

JH: I had an a-ha moment a few years after college: I realized that history was a way to take the abstract philosophical/theological questions that obsessed me and pursue them in concrete, tangible form—to explore the “big questions” not in open potentiality but in flesh-and-blood actuality. That was the initial impulse, but as I’ve worked as a historian I’ve also come to see another impulse that was there at the outset, but subconsciously: history is crucial for understanding identity. Nothing falls from the sky; everything has a story behind it. I’ve driven to seek the stories behind our society so that I can make sense of it. To know the past is to get a handle on the present.

JF: What is your next project?

JH: It’s very much in the coalescing stage, but I want to look at religion in “moments of possibility” before and after the circumscribed world of Hard, Hard Religion: in Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. In both moments, sacralized social structures were being destabilized, and new religious conceptions had to emerge—though what exactly they would look like was very much an open question. That’s a very different context from my book, where poor people carve out meaning within stable, confining social structures.

JF: Thanks, John!