C.S. Lewis on Court Evangelicalism

What would C.S. Lewis say about tonight’s court evangelical gala?  I started chapter five of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump with this quote:

Let him begin by treating the the Patriotism…as part of his religion.  Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important.  Then quietly and gradually nurse him on  to the state at which the religion becomes merely a part of the ’cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce…Once he’s made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of wordly end he is pursuing.

–Screwtape to Wormwood in C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Metaxas at Party

Eric Metaxas

Garlow Court

Jim Garlow

Garlow Court 2

Garlow

Lurie Court

Greg Laurie and his wife in the court

Perkins Court

Tony Perkins

Graham Court.jpg

Franklin Graham

reed Court

Ralph Reed

More Signs of Evangelical Fear

Ralph Reed

Evangelicals are afraid.  This is one of the major themes of my forthcoming book (June 28) Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  In fact, the entire Christian Right agenda–the agenda that led evangelicals to help elect Donald Trump–is built on fear.

When evangelicals are afraid of losing power they tend to turn to politics.  This, I think, best explains why GOP operative Ralph Reed‘s Faith and Freedom Coalition is spending $20 million to get conservative culture warriors elected in 2018.

Here is a taste of an article at The Hill:

An influential conservative Evangelical group is ramping up its spending on efforts to defend Republican majorities in the November midterms.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, which invested heavily during the 2016 elections, plans to spend nearly $20 million on a voter turnout effort to protect GOP majorities in the fall.

“We are going to make a bigger effort in 2018 than we did in 2016,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

“We think our people are going to come, but we also think their people are going to come and they are going to come in really big numbers. This is going to be hard fought.”

Reed estimated that the group will make 180 million voter contacts through digital outreach, knocking on people’s doors and making phone calls, sending texts, emails and physical mail.

The current budget for the mobilization effort sits at $18 million, but that’s subject to change as the battlefield expands and contracts in the coming months, Reed told a small group of reporters during a wide-ranging interview at the coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” summit in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

Evangelical leaders have long viewed President Trump and the GOP-led Congress as major allies in their fight to reshape the federal judiciary and pass legislation aimed at protecting religious freedom.

Read the entire piece here.

The Latest From the Court Evangelicals:

Here’s a late night update for those who are interested:

Pastor Mark Burns sounds more like Ben Franklin than Jesus as he spins his appearance this morning on AM Joy.

Jack Graham:

Robert Jeffress:

James McDonald wants us to remember that he is an ex-court evangelical. He resigned after Access Hollywood:

The modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer tweets:

Ralph Reed is mixing-it up with a progressive journalist:

Bill Maher vs. Ralph Reed

Court evangelical Ralph Reed thinks Donald Trump is a good Christian and deserves the support of evangelicals because Trump kept his word on Supreme Court justices, “looked into the eyes of the American people” and said he would make changes to the country, is improving the economy, and is not Hillary Clinton.  Since when are any of these things the mark of a true Christian?  Is this the best the court evangelical can do in their defense of Donald Trump?

We are the #19Percent

 

RoadYesterday James Comey, a former Methodist Sunday School teacher and Reinhold Neibuhr fan, was calling Donald Trump a liar before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Near the end of Comey’s appearance on Capitol Hill,  the POTUS was speaking to the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC). The irony is too hard to pass up.

FFC is the brainchild of Ralph Reed, the Christian nationalist who came of age in the 1990s as Pat Robertson’s right-hand man and the first executive director of the Christian Coalition.

Reed disappeared from God and country politics in 2005 after he was implicated in the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal.  In essence, he helped Abramoff mobilize evangelicals to help close casinos on Indian reservations.  He was paid for his efforts by rival casinos.  When Reed expressed concern that the evangelical constituency of his Christian Coalition might not look too favorably on such an arrangement, Abramoff laundered his fees through other organizations.  As Alex Gibney put it in a September 2010 piece in The Atlantic: “there was probably nothing illegal about what Reed did. But, he was engaged in a kind of spiritual fraud: telling his supporters that he was opposed to gambling when, in fact, gambling was making him rich.”

After laying low for a few years, Reed created the FFC in 2009.  He describes his organization as a 21st century version of the Christian Coalition.  This is a good description.  The FFC appeals to evangelicals of a certain age who are nostalgic for the glory days of the Christian Right.  It fuses traditional evangelical moral values with free market capitalism, tax reform, national defense, the GOP, and the support of Israel.

The 2017 FFC conference got underway yesterday.  The theme is “Road to Majority.” So much for the narrow road of Jesus as laid out in Matthew 7.

Speakers include Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Mark Meadows, Joni Ernst, Ted Cruz, Michael Medved, Pat Boone, Grover Norquist, Eric Metaxas, and James Dobson.  It seems to be a very friendly place for the Court Evangelicals.

Here is Trump’s speech:

A few more thoughts.

  • Trump begins by acknowledging that 81% of evangelicals voted for him in November 2016. He said,  “We got 81% of the vote.  I want to know, who are the 19%? Who are they? Where do they come from?” Well, I think it’s time to let Trump know that we are here. Let’s try to revive the hashtag #19percent.
  • When historians study what happened in the United States on June 8, 2017, they will inevitably compare the humility of Comey before the Senate to the arrogance of Trump’s speech before evangelicals.  These comparisons will not be missed.
  • Trump says “we are under siege.”  Who is under siege?  Is this a veiled reference to the Comey hearing?  Does he mean that evangelicals are under siege?  But Trump continues:  “we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever, you watch.” Since when does the Christian gospel teach us to seek political power that makes us bigger, better, and stronger than ever?  The Court Evangelicals love this stuff.  The crowd goes wild.
  • Trump says his “one goal” is to fight for America and “America First.”  Do any other Christians get a bit queasy when the Court Evangelicals cheer “America First?”
  • Trump doesn’t stop there.  He actually has the audacity to quote Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Someone in Trump’s camp must know that evangelicals love the New International Version).  I want to hear Trump apply this verse to his budget proposal, his (now long-term) plans for a border wall, his health care plan that will keep over 20 million people uninsured, and his attempt to ban refugees.  And yes, the Court Evangelicals applaud.
  • Trump takes credit in this speech for repealing the so-called Johnson Amendment. Actually, The amendment is still on the books. Only Congress can change this amendment to the tax code. Trump says that repealing the Johnson Amendment “was a big deal and a very important thing for me to do for you, and we are not finished yet.” What does Trump mean by “not finished yet?”  Does he plan to continue to support the Christian nationalism of the Court Evangelicals?  Is there a connection between this vision for America and his attempt to ban Muslims from entering the country?  “We are not finished yet.”  Somewhere David Barton must have been smiling.
  • Trump says that “we are here to celebrate two values that have always been linked together…faith and freedom.”  As an American historian it is hard to argue with this statement. Evangelicals have been linking these things for a long, long time.
  • Speaking of history, Trump says “Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer.” I am not sure what Trump is referring to here because this did not happen. Those who want to explore this further should check out pp. 151-152 of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Proud to be a member of the #19percent.

The Court Evangelicals

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

I have been getting a lot of positive feedback on my use of this phrase in an earlier post today on the evangelicals who seem to love Trump’s recent executive order on religious liberty.

Not all evangelicals who voted for Trump are what I am describing as “court evangelicals.”  I am going to use this phrase from now on to describe Trump’s inner circle of evangelicals who think it is a good idea for ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit, have bowed a knee to the political power of the presidency, think Trump is a “baby Christian,” believe evangelicals have found their “dream president” in Trump, and regularly show up at the White House whenever Trump wants to say something about religion.  The court evangelicals sacrifice their prophetic voice to political influence.  The court evangelicals have put their faith in a political strongman who promises to alleviate their fears and protect them from the forces of secularization.

Trump Jeffress

As I wrote earlier today, the backlash to Trump’s recent executive order on religious liberty was fierce.  It fails to deliver on what Trump promised evangelicals on this front during the campaign.  But you won’t hear the court evangelicals complain.

I described some of these court evangelicals the other day.  The list includes:

Jerry Falwell Jr.

Paula White

James Dobson

Mark Burns

Ralph Reed

Robert Jeffress

Eric Metaxas

Franklin Graham

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white