Thursday night court evangelical roundup

COurt evangelicals

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

They are still coming for Jesus:

Graham is responding to this tweet by Mike Huckabee:

I was listening to CNN when Lemon said that Jesus “wasn’t perfect.” I think this was more of a simple theological misunderstanding by Lemon, or perhaps he really doesn’t believe Jesus was perfect. We live in a religious diverse country after all. Don Lemon is free to believe that Jesus was not perfect. (By the way, do Jewish conservatives on Fox News believe Jesus was perfect?) In other words, I did not see this as an attempt to attack Christianity. Lemon was trying to show that our founding fathers were not perfect. He was even calling out liberals. Watch for yourself:

Apparently Robert Jeffress is not happy about this either. But this should not surprise us. He has long believed that we live in a Christian nation, not a pluralistic democracy.

According to Jeffress, anyone who does not believe Jesus was perfect is peddling “fake news.”

Court evangelical journalist David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network agrees:

Again, the point here is not to argue whether or not Jesus was perfect. That is a theological discussion. 3 points:

  1. The court evangelicals do not care about the larger context of Lemon’s statement because the context does not suit their political agenda.
  2. It is fine to tweet that Lemon does not understand the beliefs of Christianity. I am criticizing how his views (or his mistake) were turned into culture war tweets.
  3. The court evangelicals do not believe in a pluralistic society. The idea that Jesus was imperfect may be a “lie” to all serious Christians, but this is not an exclusively Christian nation. Jews, Muslims, atheists, and people of all kinds of religions watch CNN. Non-Christians work at Fox News (I think). The belief that “Jesus was perfect” is an article of faith and it is perfectly fine in a democracy for people to disagree with this claim. As a Christian, I believe in the incarnation, but I am not offended that Don Lemon may not. These kinds of tweets just make Christians look foolish.

Gary Bauer is using his Facebook page to share an article on the American Revolution that appeared yesterday at The Federalist. Jane Hampton Cook’s essay is a historical and theological mess. It blurs African slavery, political slavery, and the biblical idea of liberty from sin. But at least she was able to take a shot at the 1619 Project! That’s all that really matters. Bauer writes:”>Rather than teaching our children a lie — that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery as the 1619 Project falsely claims — this is what our children should be learning in school.”

Hey Ralph, all you need to do is say “Happy Anniversary.” That’s it:

Eric Metaxas is trying to get his book If You Can Keep It in the hands of “every high school history teacher in the country. Before your school adopts Eric Metaxas’s book, please read this article and this series of posts.

Tonight David Barton will be making a case for why Washington D.C. should not be a state. I don’t have time to watch it, but I am guessing it has something to do with Christian nationalism.

Seven Mountain Dominion advocate Lance Wallnau is at it again. He also wants to destroy public education.

Is it really true that Democrats don’t care about law and order or the Constitution? Jenna Ellis of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center thinks so:

Monday night court evangelical roundup

TrumpJentezenprayer1

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

Greg Laurie is still suggesting that the United States was “born out of a revival.” I addressed the many problems with this view here. In fact, religious attendance and membership was at an all-time low during the Revolution.

Johnnie Moore, who calls himself a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” loves Trump’s idea for a “National Garden of American Heroes.”

I wrote about this proposed garden here.

Moore also believes that “primary sources” exist in a vacuum. Most first-year history majors can debunk this approach to reading:

Ralph Reed, as always, is sticking to the playbook:

David Barton and his son Tim are on the Jim Bakker Show talking about monuments. For years, Barton ignored the parts of American history that did not fit with his Christian nationalism. Now he is talking about how we need to see the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of American history. At one point, David Barton compares himself and his son to the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. He praises Tim for training young people to go to their campuses and convince their professors to reject “cultural Marxism” and “cancel culture.” I have now said this several times–the small number of people who are tearing down non-Confederate monuments are providing fodder for this kind of stuff.

Any history teacher who watches this video, and hears the Bartons attack the “dumb” and “stupid” ideas being taught in schools, should be offended. I wonder how many times either David or Tim Barton have set foot in a public school history classroom.

This video is a clear example of the Barton’s Christian nationalist mission. And they are well-funded.

The Bartons came back for a second day on the Jim Bakker Show and basically told viewers that if they don’t vote for Trump the United States will become socialist. The fear-mongering continues. In this interview, they double-down on the idea that anyone who does not vote for Trump is not “thinking biblically.” According to Tim Barton, only about 10% of self-professed Christians are actually “thinking biblically.” The rest “love Jesus” but are ignorant.

Eric Metaxas is still playing to the extremes in order to scare his listeners. Most people in the United States are not engaged in the tearing down of monuments. Most local governments are not trying to remove non-Confederate monuments or erase history.  He plays to these extremes because he wants Trump re-elected and he needs to keep his show on the air. This is what cultural warriors do.

Metaxas keeps pushing his seriously-flawed book If You Can Keep It. He says that the American history kids are getting in schools today is making them ignorant. As I said above in relation to David and Tim Barton, this is a sad attack on hard-working history teachers who are teaching students how to read primary sources, weigh evidence, detect bias, think contextually, appreciate complexity, and grasp how things change over time. When was the last time Metaxas talked with a K-12 history teacher or visited a history classroom?

The fear-mongering continues with Metaxas’s guest John Zmirak. Their discussion of the history of the French Revolution takes so many liberties with the facts that I am not sure where to begin with my critique. Perhaps a European historian can listen to this and comment. Zmirak then refers to political scientist Mark David Hall’s book defending a Christian founding. I haven’t read this book, but you can see a discussion of it here.

The Metaxas-Zmirak conversation moves to a full-blown rejection of systemic racism and a defense of Robert E. Lee monuments. The kind of hate that is now propagated on the Eric Metaxas Show–a show on “Christian” radio–looks nothing like the teachings of Jesus Christ. I don’t understand how Metaxas could have read so much Bonhoeffer and still engage in this garbage. I’ll stick with Charles Marsh on Bonhoeffer: here and here. I would also encourage you to read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and compare his words with what you hear on the Eric Metaxas Show.

In one of the more ironic lines of this episode, court evangelical Metaxas criticizes the Democratic Party for refusing to “stand against the madness.”

That’s all for today. Until next time.

Thursday night court evangelical roundup

Trump Court Evangelicals 2

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

Court evangelical Tony Perkins joins several other evangelical Trump supporters to talk about the 2020 election:

A few quick comments:

15:58ff: Perkins says that Christians “have a responsibility” to vote along “biblical guidelines” and “biblical truth.” He adds: “if you notice lately, truth is under attack.” As I said yesterday, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear Trump supporters try to defend truth. When will they speak truth to Trump? If Perkins wants to talk about biblical principles he should read about Jesus before Pilate in John 18 or Nathan’s words to King David in 1 Samuel 12. How dare Perkins sit there and say that “it is the truth that will make men free.”

Shortly after Perkins finishes speaking, the host shows a video comparing the GOP and Democratic platforms. The GOP platform, Perkins believes, is biblical. The Democratic platform, he believes, in unbiblical. “It’s like oil and water,” Perkins says. This is what we call the political captivity of the church.

And then comes the fear-mongering. Perkins implies that if evangelicals do not vote for Trump, the Democrats will come for their families, their religious liberty, and their “ability to worship God.” Listen carefully to this section. It begins around the 17:40 mark. I wonder what the earliest Christians would think if they heard Perkins say that unless America re-elects a corrupt emperor they would not be able to worship God. I wonder what the early Christian martyrs, those great heroes of the faith, would say if they heard Perkins tell the audience that “your ability to share the Gospel in word or in deed” rests on a Trump victory. As Bonhoeffer says in The Cost of the Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

20:00ff: The audience does not start applauding until conservative pastor-politician E.W. Jackson tells them that Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist ploy to get people to buy into some sort of socialist, communist world view….” See what’s going on here. An African-American evangelical politician gives an audience full of white people the freedom to cheer against an anti-racist organization.

27:00ff: William Federer, probably known best in certain white evangelical circles for publishing a book of quotations from the founding fathers, implies that the CIA, Department of Justice, and FBI are planning a “coup” against Trump.

36:00ff: Tony Perkins says that if one believes human beings are created in the image of God, it will “direct all of your other policy.” He adds that the violence in the streets after George Floyd’s death was fomented by people who did not believe that women and men are created in the image of God. Was their unnecessary violence in the streets? Of course. But most of what happened in the streets after Floyd was killed had everything to do with the kind of human dignity Perkins is talking about here. How could he miss this?

41:35ff: Perkins notes the high levels of abortions among African-American women and blames the problem on Planned Parenthood. He fails to see that there is a direct connection between systemic racism, poverty, and abortion in Black communities. Of course, if one does not believe in systemic racism, then it is easy to blame Planned Parenthood and continue to ignore the structural issues of inequality and racism in our society.

1:30:00ff: Federer starts talking about the Second Great Awakening and how it led to abolitionism. This is partly true, but Frederick Douglass offers another perspective on this. When his master got saved during the Second Great Awakening, Douglass said that he became more brutal in his beatings. Why? Because he was now following the teachings of the Bible as understood by the Southern preachers who led him to God. Don’t fall for Federer’s selective history. It is a selective understanding of the past used in service of Trumpism. The 17th, 18th, and 19th South was loaded with white evangelicals who owned slaves and embraced white supremacy.

1:32:00: Perkins makes a connection between the Democratic Party and the French Revolution. He sounds like Os Guinness here.

There is a lot of other things I could comment on, but I think I will stop there.

And in other court evangelical news:

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University is tweeting a quote from Jerry Falwell Sr.

In case you can’t read the quote:

The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country. If there is any place in the world we need Christianity, it’s in Washington. And that’s why preachers long since need to get over that intimidation forced upon us by liberals, that if we mention anything about politics, we are degrading our ministry. —Jerry Falwell Jr.

I will counter with a quote from C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape LettersScrewtape (Satan) is giving advice to his young minion Wormwood:

Let him begin by treating 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 worldly end he is pursuing.

Samuel Rodriguez is holding a 4th of July prayer meeting at his church. The meeting is built upon his “prophetic decree” that America is “one nation, under guide, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” I wonder if he would have received the same prophetic decree prior to 1954, the year the words “under God” were added to the pledge.

James Robison tweets about the founders as if slavery did not exist.

Ralph Reed seems to think that Donald Trump’s “sins” are only sins of the “past.”

Robert Jeffress is ready to prove it:

Until next time.

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

TrumpJentezenprayer1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court evangelical Ralph Reed retweeted Ingraham today:

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Falkirk Center’s Jenna Ellis:

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

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

Until next time…

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

trump-with-evangelical-leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Gary Bauer’s Facebook post:

Kudos to my good friend Vice President Mike Pence!

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

all lives matter cartoon

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Thursday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelical dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she is claiming that Biden is mentally incompetent:

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Court Evangelicals at Table

Since my last update, a few things have changed in court evangelical land. Neil Gorsuch, one of two Donald Trump Supreme Court nominees, has defended LGBTQ rights and has proven he may not be the best court evangelical ally when it comes to questions of religious liberty. I imagine some evangelicals who are looking for a reason to reject Trump at the ballot box in November may have just found one.

Police reform and debates over systemic racism continue to dominate the headlines. On the COVID-19 front, more and more churches are opening this weekend and Donald Trump is preparing for a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

What do the court evangelicals have to say?

In an interview with Charisma magazine, James Dobson writes:

In an outrageous ruling that should shake America’s collective conscience to its core, the U.S. Supreme Court has redefined the meaning of “sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Not only was this decision an affront against God, but it was also a historical attack against the founding framework that governs our nation.

Dobson says nothing about Trump or how Gorsuch burned white evangelicals on this decision.

I don’t know if Louie Giglio supports Trump, but he is now apologizing for his use of the phrase “White Blessing”:

The apology seems honest and sincere.

Jenetzen Franklin praises Trump as a great listener and defender of law and order.  But Trump’s police reform speech failed to address the systemic problem of racism in America. It attacked Obama and Biden and it defended Confederate monuments. Is this big action?

Johnnie Moore, the guy who describes himself as a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is doing the same thing as Jenetzen:

Greg Laurie interviewed South Carolina Senator Tim Scott on police reform. Scott talks about the “character” of police officers and shows a solid understanding of the Bible, but the issues of racism in America go much deeper than this. I encourage you to listen to Gettysburg College professor’s Scott Hancock upcoming interview at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

The Laurie-Scott conversation is a step in the right direction, but it focuses on striking a balance between law and order (Scott quotes Romans 13) and individual acts of racism.  The real conversation should be over to have an ordered society and address systemic racism. Today, for example, Scott said that the United States is not a racist country.

Robert Jeffress is “thrilled” to have Mike Pence speak at his church for “Freedom Sunday.” Expect fireworks. Literal fireworks! Once again, it will be God and country on display.

Here is another view of Pence.

Last Sunday, Jeffress addressed the Floyd murder and its aftermath with his congregation at First Baptist-Dallas. He summarized his response to our current moment in three statements:

1. God hates racism. Jeffress FINALLY admits that First Baptist Church was on “the wrong side of history” on matters relating to race. This is a huge step! It would have been nice to have this history included in the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, but I don’t think I have ever heard Jeffress say this publicly.  Let’s see where this goes. First Baptist-Dallas has some reckoning with the past to do.

2. God hates lawlessness. Jeffress says that there is “nothing wrong” with peaceful protests, but he condemns the looting and riots. He does not say anything about the root cause of the riots. One more question: Does God hate Christians who disobey unjust laws? I think Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about that. So did most of the patriotic pastors during the Revolution. You know, the guys who created America as a “Christian nation.”

3. Racism and lawlessness is not the problem, the problem is sin. Agreed. The sin of racism pervades every institution in America. In order to address the problem of racism we need to go beyond mere calls for personal salvation. American history teaches us that some of the great evangelical revivals led to abolitionism and other forms of social justice. At the same time, some of the great evangelical revivals led to a deeper entrenchment of racism in society. Jeffress’s church, which celebrates its history of soul-winning, is one example. Also, let’s remember that when Frederick Douglass’s master got saved during an evangelical revival, he became more, not less, ruthless in his treatment of his slaves. We will see what happens this time around, but individual spiritual regeneration does not always solve the deeply embedded problems of race in America.

Now I want to hear how this generally good, but also insufficient, message applies to Jeffress’s support of Donald Trump.

James Robison is right. But so is Jurgen Moltmann when he said that Christians must “awaken the dead and piece together what has been broken“:

Tony Perkins is talking with David Brat, the dean of the Liberty University School of Business, about law and order and the breakdown of K-12 and higher education. Perkins thinks the real problem in America is a “lack of courage.” I did a post about courage a few weeks ago.

Brat wants Christians to be “prophets, priests, and kings.” Yes. Here is something I wrote last month about such royal language:

What does it mean, as Scot McKnightN.T. Wright, and Matthew Bates, among others, have argued, that Jesus is King? What role do Christians play as a royal priesthood, proclaiming the truth of God to the darkness and, as Wright puts it, “reflecting God’s wisdom and justice into the world.”And there’s the rub. Reed’s Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God as understood by many conservative evangelicals, looks the other way when a ruler from another kingdom (so to speak) practices immorality. They do not seem to take their citizenship in this Kingdom as seriously as they take their American citizenship or, at the very least, they seem unwilling to say more about the tensions between the two. (There is, of course, a deep history behind the conflation of these two kingdoms).

Gary Bauer just retweeted this:

Perhaps he should have made a caveat for Christians in prayer. But let’s face it, the court evangelicals don’t do nuance very well.

Ralph Reed is fully aware of the fact that Gorsuch and Roberts have betrayed him and his followers. Yet don’t expect him to throw out the Christian Right playbook anytime soon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is ready to retire and Reed will no doubt try to make the 2020 election about the Supreme Court:

Rob McCoy, the pastor of Calvary Chapel of Thousands Oaks in Newbury Park, California, invited Charlie Kirk, the Trump wonderboy, to preach at his church last Sunday. McCoy introduced him by quoting Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever it admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Kirk then got up and gave a fear-mongering political speech that ripped evangelical pastors who have participated in anti-racist protests. At one point, Kirk told the Christians gathered on this Sunday morning that if the Left “takes him down” he “will be on his feet” not “on his knees.” This was an applause line. If you want to see hate preached from an evangelical pulpit, watch this:

And let’s not forget Charles Marsh’s twitter thread exposing Eric Metaxas’s use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to attack Black Lives Matter.

Until next time.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Metaxas

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

Eric Metaxas is still attacking systemic racism. Today one his guests said, “systemic racism does not exist. It is a conspiracy theory that the radical Left has been using to try to destroy the whole American system of justice, of equity, of individual rights, and of the Christian mission of the human being as morally responsible for his own actions and for no one else’s.” (For what people mean when they say “systemic racism,” I point you to Chris Cuomo’s show last night).

Metaxas says that people are now talking so about systemic racism right now because Donald Trump “has been such a monkey-wrench in the deep state.” (No reference here to the idea that people may be talking about systemic racism because of the death of George Floyd and the peaceful protest in every U.S. city”). His guest also compares what is happening right now in America to the Salem Witch Trials. Metaxas compares the woke mob to “Hitler and the Nazis” and also suggests that Black Lives Matter and anyone else who is sympathetic to the movement is the Antichrist. Metaxas knows where his ratings bread is buttered.

OK.

In other court evangelical news:

Robert Jeffress believes that churches should lead the way in solving the problem of racism. He writes, “Every major social and political movement in American–from abolition to the Civil Rights Movement–has been led by pastors and churches. Too many attempts have been made in recent years to scrub our public square clean of religious language and devotion.”

Leave it to Jeffress to somehow connect the church’s role in social justice to the victimization of white evangelical churches.

I wish Jeffress was correct. I wish white churches would step-up and work to end racism in America. But first let’s stop and think more deeply about the history of American reform movements. Yes, Christians were active in the abolition movement and civil rights movement. This activity has been well documented. But let’s also remember that abolitionism was necessary because white churches in the South–including Jeffress’s own Southern Baptist Convention–endorsed slavery. In fact, the Southern Baptist Church was born out of its defense of slavery.

And how about the civil rights movement? Let’s remember that Martin Luther King Jr. and the other leaders of the Black church had to fight for civil rights because white churches and pastors did nothing to end it. King wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the white clergymen in Birmingham who did not not want him in town because he was an “outside agitator.” And let’s not forget that Jeffress’s own First Baptist Church in Dallas was a bastion of segregationist theology. So before Jeffress starts pontificating about churches leading the way, he should look at the history of his own people.

Jeffress says that “reform is always local.” I wish this were true when it comes to the history race relations in America. The racist localism of white cities, and the fear of “outside agitators” like King, meant that change had to come from the outside, including the federal government. History teaches that when we leave white evangelical churches, especially those in the South, to solve the problem of racism, very little happens. I pray that things might be different this time around.

Below is a video of Jeffress’s appearance tonight on Fox News Business with Lou Dobbs. I was waiting for Jeffress to bring up Romans 13 to defend the police. It happened tonight, just after Jeffress asserted that Trump does not have a racist bone in his body. And he concludes by saying that if Biden wins in 2020 he will bring out the guillotines and kill everyone who has a thought that the Left does not like. What is it lately with all of these references to the French Revolution? Jeffress sounds like the Federalists in New England who feared that if Thomas Jefferson were elected president in 1800 the Democratic-Republicans–fueled by the spirit of the French Revolution– would start closing churches and confiscating Bibles. And there are still smart people out there who reject my fear thesis.

Meanwhile:

Ralph Reed is trying to convince people that he has compassion for Stacey Abrams

Franklin Graham wants you to vote for law and order:

Until next time.

Thursday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Trump Court Evangelicals 2

So what has happened in the country since yesterday’s update?

  • Donald Trump continues to deny systemic racism in the police department and American society generally. At a speech at a Dallas megachurch today he said that there is no real problem with the police department apart from a few “bad apples.” He added: “we’re dominating the streets with compassion.” At the same event, Attorney General Bill Barr said that “we’ve never had a president who was more committed to reforming law enforcement.” I am trying to figure out how Trump can believe in police reform and still think the problem is just a few “bad apples.” It doesn’t make sense. It is also worth noting that Trump came to Dallas to discuss race and policing in America, but the Dallas Police Chief, Dallas County Sheriff, and District Attorney were not invited. They are all black.
  • Mark Millery, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and the nation’s top military officer, apologized for taking part in Trump’s photo-op on June 1. He called his participation a “mistake.”
  • Local and state officials are removing Confederate statues from public spaces and the protests over the death of George Floyd continue.
  • Trump announced that he will be back on the campaign trail. He will hold his first mass campaign rally since the COVID-19 lockdown in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth (June 19). This is the day African Americans celebrate the 1865 reading of the Emancipation of Proclamation. This event will take place a few weeks after the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying today?

Jack Graham called out the individual sin of racism on Sunday, but there is not much here about how racism is embedded in our economic, legal, and cultural institutions. (To be fair, I have not listened to the entire sermon). This is usually how far most of the court evangelicals will go on the question of race.

Martin Luther King’s niece is on Fox News defending Trump:

The Family Research Council (FRC), run by court evangelical Tony Perkins, is talking about abortion. But the video the FRC tweeted today actually makes a good argument for the fact that abortion is directly related to systemic racism and poverty. Yet Perkins and his fellow court evangelicals deny the existence of systemic racism and support politicians with policies that favor the rich over the poor. When will the court evangelicals get serious about reducing the number of abortions in America?

Johnnie Moore, who hails himself a “Modern Day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” shares a video of HUD Secretary Ben Carson saying that under Trump’s leadership the American people will realize that “we are not each other enemies.” What world does Moore live in? Trump a healer? Trump a unifier?

Ralph Reed is talking about Trump’s accomplishments. He is “flummoxed” that some Christians and political conservatives do not support Trump. No surprise here. Reed helped to write the Christian Right political playbook. He has executed it his entire life. He knows no other way.  As I have argued, the playbook is unChristian and ineffective.

Franklin Graham’s daughter:

Today Eric Metaxas interviewed a conservative African-American author named Horace Cooper who wrote a book titled How Trump is Making Black America Great Again. Cooper works for an organization called the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Until next time.

Tuesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

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

We already mentioned what Robert Jeffress said today about the “weak” evangelicals who are questioning their support of Donald Trump.

He also did an interview with the alt-Right website Breitbart.

Breitbart · Breitbart News Sunday – Robert Jeffress – June 7, 2020

Here is Jeffress: “First of all, let me just point out the obvious truth that Dr. Martin Luther King was a pastor who got involved in politics. We hear today all the time, ‘Well, pastors shouldn’t get involved in politics. Christians shouldn’t get involved in politics.’”

I am not going to respond to this here, but I wrote about it in the final chapter of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. The bottom-line is this: King spoke truth to power. Jeffress bows to it.

Jeffress goes on: “Were it not for pastors, there would have been no civil rights movement…If it were not for pastors getting involved in politics, there would have been no abolition of slavery. If it were not for pastors getting involved in politics, there wouldn’t have been any American Revolution.”

We are all political. No argument here. Ministers of all kinds are involved in political work. I like Glenn Tinder’s definition: “Politics is the activity through which men and women survey the historical conditions they inhabit.” Politics requires attentiveness and availability. Attentiveness requires us to know what people are doing, suffering, and saying. Availability asks, “is there anything I can do about it?” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, Christians are always engaged in political activity.  This then raises an important question: Are we engaging politically according to the ethics of the Kingdom to which we belong and hold citizenship?

Jeffress goes on: “It was the Black-Robed Regiment, a group of pastors, who led the way in the American Revolution. These did so by peaceful protesting, and there’s everything right with peaceful protesting. Many times, peaceful protests are the antecedents to needed reform like the abolition of slavery, like the civil rights movement.”

This is completely wrong. Read this post.

Eric Metaxas is re-running the last five minutes of an interview with his Liberty University Falkirk Center colleague Charlie Kirk in which they trash the idea of white privilege.

Then he and Victor Davis Hansen spin a crazy theory about the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Metaxas says that these two competing visions of revolution could lead to a civil war. He is essentially making the same argument Os Guinness made a few weeks ago. Hanson should stick to writing about ancient military history. Metaxas should stop doing American history. Here is what happened the last time he tried.

(I should also add that the idea of “decolonizing” one’s personal library seems just as crazy).

Ralph Reed is praising an op-ed piece by Trump’s campaign manager:

Lance Wallnau believes right-wing commentator Candace Owens is an “Oracle”:

I think the use of the words “defund the police” is a terrible slogan. First, it does not truly represent what is really meant by this kind of reform. Second, it plays right into Trump’s politics of fear. Here is Franklin Graham playing to the fears of white evangelical voters:

Johnnie Moore, the guy who wants everyone to know he is a “modern Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is getting-out the vote for Trump along with Samuel Rodriguez, and Jenetzen Franklin. Mike Huckabee is also involved.

Until next time.

Today’s Court Evangelical Update

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

Maybe we should make this a daily thing. The court evangelicals are still using their platforms to defend the president.

Robert Jeffress, who earlier today compared Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s church to the myth of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge, will be doubling-down on his defense of Trump:

Gary Bauer is extolling Trump as a great unifier:

Bauer also issued a statement on his Facebook page:

…As the president was delivering these remarks, law enforcement officials from multiple agencies were moving unruly crowds back from the line they had formed on the other side of Lafayette Park. A curfew supposedly began at 7:00 PM.

At the end of his remarks the president said, “I am taking no questions. I am now going to a very sacred place.” President Trump then walked across the street from the White House grounds to St. John’s Church, which was attacked during the weekend rioting.

The president was joined by top administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump stood outside the church and held up a Bible. They are already mocking it at CNN and MSNBC.

But President Trump knows what millions of Americans have forgotten or have never been taught. When our founders went to Constitution Hall, the main idea that they put in our founding documents came from the Torah (the Old Testament) and the New Testament.

That is where they found the idea that liberty comes from the God of Abraham. That is where they found that we are all brothers and sisters made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we have dignity, value and worth.

That is what the president asserted in a dramatic 35 minutes. This not only magnifies the historic choice facing the country in the years ahead, it magnifies the stark choice that is before us in literally five months.

In my view, the next five months will determine whether we will be the last generation in America that is truly free.

Ralph Reed is retweeting a post from an anti-abortion group comparing Trump’s photo-op with Bill Clinton holding a Bible while actually attending church. (I have no idea what this has to do with abortion):

Reed has also issued a statement:

I applaud President Donald J. Trump for visiting St. John’s Episcopal Church, the “church of presidents,” this week after rioters attempted to burn down what is one of the most sacred ecclesiastical spaces in our country.

By visiting St. John’s, President Trump delivered two important messages. First, our streets and cities will not be given over to the rioters, criminals, and domestic terrorists who have hijacked the peaceful protests over the tragic death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Such violence—especially when directed at churches—dishonors Mr. Floyd’s memory and is contrary to everything Martin Luther King preached and the civil rights movement taught about nonviolent resistance to evil. Second, Trump’s visit to St. John’s made clear that while addressing real grievances about discrimination and enacting sound public policy such as criminal justice reform are needed, the real answer to what ails America is the repentance, forgiveness, and redemption that can be found in faith in Christ.
Some of President Trump’s critics seem more upset about him holding a Bible at a church than they were about the vandals who nearly burned it to the ground. The vast majority of Christians are grateful that the President made clear that we need more faith in America, not less, and we cannot allow the destruction of churches or other houses of worship.

Tony Perkins just interviewed Albert Mohler as part of Mohler’s tour for his new book. Perkins argues that protests in the streets are directly related to the decline of Christianity in Western Civilization. He may be correct. This is a sign that white Christianity may be losing its hold on the West. As I have argued, Christianity has done a lot of good things for Western Civilization. It has provided ideas such as freedom that have led to the end of slavery. It has also contributed to a lot of bad things. The West has failed to address systemic racism. One would think that the president of a Southern Baptist seminary like Mohler would know this better than most people. He apparently does not.

Mohler has the audacity to claim that people protesting the indignity shown to George Floyd do not understand the real meaning of human dignity. He makes it sound as if all the protesters are secular or atheists and all those who oppose the protests believe in human dignity. I know Mohler doesn’t believe this, but he is bound by the politics of his denomination and his political party (he is a Trump supporter) to perform this kind of spin. Mohler makes no bones about his loyalty to the GOP and Trump at the end of the interview.

Not all evangelicals are the same. My evangelical church is really taking systemic racism seriously. Here is Joel Gordon, an elder in the church. Here is Scott Hancock, an African-American history professor at Gettysburg College.

Let’s Check-In on the Court Evangelicals

COurt Evangelicals

Here is what your favorite pro-Trump evangelical leaders–the court evangelicals— are saying about everything going in our country right now:

Robert Jeffress is using scripture to subtely suggest that Christians should obey their government. Once again, he is using the Bible and the flag in the same tweet:

Samuel Rodriguez said he was glad to see Trump brandishing the Bible “like a Boss.” He added, “I see Donald Trump going, ‘You all dare to burn a church behind the White House. How dare you? Let me show you something.”

Rodriguez also tweeted this:

I’m still trying to figure out how to reconcile the statement with the tweet.

Ralph Reed seems to be getting more and more desperate. He is trying to maintain composure on a sinking ship. Here he is tweeting a completely debunked piece at The Federalist:

Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk’s Falkirk Center at Liberty University weighs in:

The Falkirk Center seems unsure how to respond to all of this so it turned to Arnold Schwarzenegger. When will Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk learn that the future of American unity is happening in the streets of American cities right now? Don’t be deceived. The Falkirk Center believes in “national unity” on its own terms, and these are not the terms of the people who are in the streets right now. “Dispense of vitriol?” Just read the Center’s tweeter feed. Just read Kirk’s feed.

Speaking of Kirk:

FYI: Brees apologized today. Kirk has not.

Here’s more from Kirk:

And here is Eric Metaxas rejecting the idea of both white privilege and systemic racism. He says these ideas were manufactured by “cultural Marxists.” He says these things are “bizarre.” Let’s remember that Metaxas fashions himself as a historian. Maybe he should read some African-American history. Tune in at about the 16-minute mark:

Metaxas doesn’t even hide his partisanship anymore. Lately his show starts with attacks on Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden as part of a commercial for “My Pillow.”

And then in the second hour of his program on Wednesday he talked with Charlie Kirk:

At around the 28-minute mark, Metaxas addresses the Trump Bible photo-op. I will just let you watch it. Kirk says that anyone who criticized Trump’s use of the Bible at St. John’s Church is trying  to destroy Western Civilization.

At the 39-minute mark, Kirk calls white privilege a “racist and sinister lie.” He even makes the case that when Trump held-up the Bible he was somehow making a statement against white privilege and systemic racism. Metaxas responds with some pretty bad theology.  Just watch. There is only so much of this stuff I can take.

Jack Graham has finally weighed-in:

Yes, Trump did show solidarity with “people of faith”–the conservative evangelical Christians who support him. Did Trump really declare his faith in front of St. John’s church on Monday? Here is how he understands Christian faith. (From an interview last night with Sean Spicer):

David Dark had a nice response to this:

And there is today’s update on the current state of Trump-loving white evangelical Christianity. Learn more here:

Mattis: “We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership”

mattis

Many of you have seen this, but I wanted to record it here. Former Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, speaks the truth:

In Union There Is Strength

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

Read the rest here.

Here are a couple of relevant tweets that readers of this blog might find illuminating:

Court Evangelical Johnnie Moore Brings the Spin on Trump’s Appearance at St. John’s Church

Moore

Johnnie Moore, a prominent court evangelical who claims he is a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is still drinking the Kool-Aid.

Here is what Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David Brody tweeted today:

Moore Trump 1

Moore trump 2

  1. Moore is doing his duty for the president. I would not be surprised if the White House asked him to make this statement. This shows that the Trump campaign is very, very nervous about holding the evangelical base in 2020. I am also guessing that the campaign is worried that the stunt he pulled at St. John’s Church on Monday may have backfired with many evangelicals.
  2. What Trump did was the very definition of a photo-op. Merriam-Webster defines a photo opportunity as “a situation or event that lends itself to and is often arranged expressly for the taking of picture that give favorable publicity to the individual photographed.”
  3. Moore says that Trump’s photo-op was an “act of solidarity.” He is right. Trump was solidifying his white evangelical base and other parts of his base that demand “law and order.”
  4. Based on Trump’s speech in the Rose Garden just prior to the photo-op, there is no way what he did at St. John’s Church had anything to do with defending the right of peaceful protest, especially since he cleared-out peaceful protesters just prior to the photo-op. More on this below. Please don’t buy this spin. It no doubt comes straight from the White House.
  5. Moore seems to be saying that Trump stood before St. John’s Church not because it was a sacred site, but because it was a historical monument. His references to the Lincoln and World War II monuments suggest such an interpretation. If Moore’s interpretation is true, why did he hold up a Bible? Note that there is NOTHING in Moore’s statement about Trump holding-up a Bible. The fact that Trump held-up the Bible undercuts Moore’s entire interpretation of the event.
  6. The bishops were prophetic voices of truth. Trump used the military to drive-out peaceful protesters so he could have a photo-op. Bottom line. How they accomplished this, whether it was tear gas, pepper bombs, or rubber bullets, is beside the point. Don’t let Moore distract you.

Other court evangelicals are also falling in line:

What Are the Court Evangelicals Saying Today?

Trump at St. Johns

Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church yesterday was an attempt to shore-up his white evangelical base. He probably lost some evangelical supporters as a result of his mishandling of the coronavirus. He needs them back. (He is heading to the John Paul II National Shrine today to shore-up the Catholic vote and apparently sign an executive order about international religious freedom).

Here is what the court evangelicals are saying about Trump’s speech yesterday and his visit to St. John’s Church. (I mentioned a few of these tweets in yesterday’s post):

Robert Jeffress went on Fox News to praise Trump for standing with historic St. John’s Church. For him, it was all about religious liberty and the protection of churches from violence. (The Episcopal bishop and the rector of the church have a very different view).  He did not mention Trump’s use of the Bible. Jeffress also revealed that his church, First Baptist–Dallas, was vandalized during the demonstrations over the weekend.

Franklin Graham, as expected:

Jack Graham won’t go there. But the day is still young:

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center, a “Christian” think tank that was essentially designed to strengthen the white evangelical support for the hate-inducing and divisive Trump administration, tweeted:

It is hard to reconcile the Falkirk’s Center’s tweet with this. And Liberty University alumni know it.

Trump evangelical wonder-boy Charlie Kirk is having a meltdown:

Ralph Reed is trying to come-up with something positive to say about Trump:

ADDENDUM: If you have more court evangelical statements send them along and I will add them to the list here. One reader just sent me this tweet from Johnnie Moore:

 
Here is David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network:

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Walking Back Metaxas’ Tweet on Biden to Blackface Days

Metaxas

Religion News Service asked me to write something on this. Here you go:

Eric Metaxas, a Christian author, radio personality and one of the president’s most prominent court evangelicals, wants to make America great again. Earlier this week we got a glimpse of what he might mean by such a return to greatness, and it speaks volumes about the state of white evangelicalism in the age of Donald Trump, particularly as it relates to race.

Last week, Metaxas published a tweet in response to Joe Biden’s comments during a radio interview with African American talk show host Charlamagne tha God. At the end of the interview, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

Metaxas reacted on the social media platform that he has called “a sick and nasty place”:

Just now Joe Biden tried & failed to walk back his ‘You ain’t black comment’ by saying ‘Sho nuff you is so shizzle ain’t black! Cuz Massa Trump be fixin to put all y’alls behinds back in chains! You done got you sefs no choice in dis hyah. And that’s a FO sho for sho!”

Metaxas eventually deleted the tweet and then devoted part of his own syndicated radio program this week to defending it. Metaxas claims he was poking fun at how Biden’s use of “black lingo”— especially the former vice president’s use of the phrase “ain’t black”— serves as an example of how “old white Democrats” co-opt African American speech for political gain.

Biden’s comment was, as many have pointed out, inappropriate and offensive for its presumption to speak for African Americans. Metaxas’ tweet, however, was worse. His language tapped into the nearly 200-year-old practice of blackface minstrel shows, a form of white entertainment that has long been a source of pain in the African American community.

Read the rest here.

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

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

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

One hour ago, Trump tweeted:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Reed agrees with Graham:

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

Comparing Trump and the Court Evangelicals on Twitter During the Last 72 Hours

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

Tweets and retweets included:

(A lot of our readers are not on Twitter. A “retweet” is a re-posting of a tweet that is then shared with all of retweeter’s followers. When Trump retweets, it is always an endorsement of the content of the original tweet).

And now here are the recent tweets and retweets over the last 48 hours from Trump’s leading evangelical supporters:

It looks like Reed is suddenly interested in politics making racist comments:

Reed has spent his entire life watching polls:

And, of course, Eric Metaxas, senior fellow at the Liberty University Falkirk Center:

metaxas Blackface

What Should We Make of Ralph Reed’s “Christian Case” for Trump?

GOP political operative Ralph Reed recently appeared on the Eric Metaxas Show. Watch:

Thoughts:

2:45ff:  The interview begins with a discussion of the quarantine. Reed seems to be making a case that coronavirus deaths and the shut-down of the economy are both “life” issues. This is certainly true. I am glad to see Reed is extending his understanding of pro-life politics beyond abortion. If Reed is willing to think about what it means to be pro-life in a way that takes him beyond abortion (or disease-based deaths), perhaps he is open to going a step further by starting to think about pro-life policy in terms of poverty, immigration, and the environment.

5:00ff: Reed says that Hillary Clinton was an “unspeakable alternative” in 2016. I understand why he said this. I have argued that Hillary Clinton’s decision to ignore evangelicals in 2020 was a huge political mistake. But I also think Reed’s views on Clinton are based more on recent history than theologically-informed politics.

The history of anti-Hillary sentiment among conservative evangelicals reaches back at least to Bill Clinton’s first campaign, when Hillary defended working in her law practice during her husband’s governorship by saying, “You know, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.” To many who embraced the importance of traditional family roles, this seemed like a disparaging attack on their values. Then, when revelations of her husband’s marital infidelities surfaced, conservatives who challenged his character saw only defensiveness–and maybe something of a double standard–in Hillary’s response. She seemed willing to overlook her husband’s shortcomings, but she was ready to attack her husband’s accusers to advance a political agenda. In a Today interview in 1998, following the Monica Lewinksy affair, Clinton said that the impeachment allegations against her husband were little more than a “vast-right-wing conspiracy.

Many of these values voters have been so deeply influenced by the political playbook of the Christian Right that they were incapable of seeing Hillary Clinton, a devout mainline Methodist, as anything but an enemy. Fear of a Clinton victory blinded them to the fact that, not only did she have far more experience than Trump did, she also championed a position on paid leave that would have strengthened families, had a humane immigration policy, and defended the rights of women, children, the poor, and people of color. Many Christians see plenty of biblical themes at work in her positions, but these are not the themes long championed by the Christian Right. It is worth noting that there were evangelical leaders, including Ronald Sider and Thabiti Anyabwile, who said she was the best evangelical choice in 2016.

Notice how Reed does not use the words “unspeakable alternative” to describe Trump.

13:45: Reed says: “As Christians we hold a dual passport. We are citizens of a Kingdom that is here and yet to come, but we are also citizens of the United States. And we have to be good stewards of that citizenship.” This statement speaks volumes. Reed seems to imply that these dual identities are somehow equal. (I don’t think he really believes this, but political captivity makes people say strange things). If the Kingdom of God has a “here” dimension (in addition to a “yet to come” dimension), as Reed acknowledges, then the Kingdom of God is an alternative political community. What else could it be? It’s a Kingdom, right? And if Jesus reigns over this Kingdom, then its citizens–Christians guided by the Holy Spirit– must say something by way of moral critique to the earthly powers and kingdoms that rival it.

What does it mean, as Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright, and Matthew Bates, among others, have argued, that Jesus is King? What role do Christians play as a royal priesthood, proclaiming the truth of God to the darkness and, as Wright puts it, “reflecting God’s wisdom and justice into the world.”And there’s the rub. Reed’s Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God as understood by many conservative evangelicals, looks the other way when a ruler from another kingdom (so to speak) practices immorality. They do not seem to take their citizenship in this Kingdom as seriously as they take their American citizenship or, at the very least, they seem unwilling to say more about the tensions between the two. (There is, of course, a deep history behind the conflation of these two kingdoms).

14:05: At this point, Metaxas starts to sing the praises of the Christian Right political playbook designed in the late 1970s to win the burgeoning culture war. As I have argued multiple times, including in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, this political playbook teaches Christians that fear, power, and nostalgia are the predominant ways of engaging political life. This playbook is barely Christian. Yes, as Metaxas goes on to say here, Christians must speak to the culture as representatives of the Kingdom of God. He is right to criticize the rapture culture of modern evangelicalism that tells us not to worry about this world because we will be leaving soon to meet God in the air. But Metaxas’s public theology (if you can call it that) is severely limited. Kingdom ethics teaches Christians not to put their trust in political strongmen and grasp at worldly power. He is correct in his desire to engage the culture, but wrong in his approach. Sadly, he has the majority of American evangelicals on his side and this enables him to sustain his brand.

14:48:  Metaxas references his recent debate with David French. (See the transcript here and see my commentary here). Metaxas argues that Trump is a man of character because he has “fulfilled his promises” to evangelicals. Does Metaxas really believe that Trump is somehow different from any other first-term politician who wants to fulfill campaign promises to get re-elected? Metaxas is scraping the bottom of the barrel. His Trump cheerleading seems to have blinded him from the possibility that evangelicals are being played. Is this what evangelical political engagement has come to? Are we now defining presidential character–something that our founding fathers said a lot about–on whether or not a president keeps his election promises? Is “Make America Great Again?” all we’ve got?

16:25: Reed mentions Joe Biden’s ethical challenges. Here, in my view, Reed misses the point. Trump is not a man of character. His tweets and public statements are not only disgusting, but they mobilize the ugly populism that make-up a significant part of his base. They should not dismissed, as Reed does in this interview. Trump’s racist remarks at Charlottesville empowered white supremacists. His immigration policies, including keeping humans in cages, is unChristian. His narcissism got in the way of his ability to handle the coronavirus effectively and lives have been lost as a result. He worked with a foreign country to influence the 2020 election.

I don’t know all the details about this Tara Reade-Joe Biden controversy. If it turns out that Biden harassed Reade, I will condemn it. Granted, it looks like we will have an imperfect choice to make in November, as we often do. But Joe Biden’s character as a man far exceeds Donald Trump. Moreover, his policies are more just, humane, and in some ways more Christian than Trump. (See my comments on Hillary Clinton above).

20:00: Reed addresses the charge that pro-Trump evangelicals who condemned Bill Clinton for his moral indiscretions in 1998 are hypocritical. (I and others have made this charge on multiple occasions and have documented this here at the blog and in Believe Me). Reed argues that with Clinton it was more than just sexual because he also lied and obstructed justice. But if you read the 1998 remarks of James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Gary Bauer, and Wayne Grudem, it is clear that they all thought Clinton was ill-equipped to serve as president almost entirely because of the sexual affair and his willingness to lie about it. Of course, Trump has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women (granted, not in the Oval Office, as far we know) and he denies every charge. He has also told thousands and thousands of lies to the American people unrelated to his sexual escapades. And, if I remember correctly, Trump was also impeached for obstructing justice and trying to cover-it-up. I can’t get my head around Reed’s logic here. What am I missing?

20:30: Reed claims that he did not disqualify Clinton because of his immoral past, but instead disqualified him on the issues. Fair enough. It sounds like Reed does not belong in the Dobson, Graham, Bauer, Grudem camp here. (Does someone want to check him on this one?). But then he says this:

My argument in the book is: if you’re going to exclude someone from serving in society because they’ve made mistakes in the past and because they’ve come up short, then I think that is not only contrary to good citizenship, I think it’s contrary to the Gospel. Throughout scripture, God takes people who are the dismissed, the demeaned, the failures, the outcasts, the people who came up short, the prostitute, the women who had five husbands and was then living with the Samaritan women at the well–these are the people who Jesus reached out to. And I personally think that what Christians did with Donald Trump was they extended grace to him, they hoped for the best out of him, and they accepted him for who he was and where he was and they  hoped to move him along by loving on him instead of throwing rocks and judging him.

It is hard to argue with grace and love. Indeed, Christians are called to pray for those in authority. I hope Reed will apply the same test to the next Democratic president, whether it is Joe Biden or someone else. But at what point does the grace period end? In the Old Testament, God decided Saul was not His guy. And we can think of other similar examples in scripture. Granted, God’s grace to human beings is endless. He will never stop pursuing Donald Trump. But isn’t there a difference between God extending grace to Donald Trump in his personal spiritual life and evangelicals looking the other way on Trump’s indiscretions and then justifying their behavior by invoking Christian grace? Please stop using the doctrine of grace as a political tool.

What about love? If Reed and evangelicals truly love Donald Trump they should take him aside and tell him that his character, rhetoric, narcissism, and many of his policies make him ill-equipped to serve in this role. They will tell him that God is not happy with his behavior. They should give him some hard-love, like the prophet Nathan did to David in 2 Samuel 12. They should lovingly speak truth to power and tell him it is time to go. Why don’t the court evangelicals use their “unprecedented access” to the White House to channel the voice of God to the 45th President of the United States?

22:10: Eric Metaxas wonders why non-evangelicals have such a “cartoonish” view of evangelicals. He fails to realize that evangelicals are mostly to blame for how “secular” people view them. They have damaged their witness, but instead of reminding his listeners of this, Metaxas chooses to play the victim.

I’ll stop there.  Watch the video and draw your own conclusions.

The Court Evangelical Twitter Follies

Trump court evangelicals

The court evangelicals have been dropping some real doozies of late:

Jack Graham recently retweeted this:

No, Jack, the “difference” is back in the day Christians used to call the president our for lying.

Here is a tweet from Ralph Reed‘s pro-Trump operation:

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see Christian leaders talking about “majorities” I am reminded of Jesus’s words: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,and many enter through it.” Mt. 7:13

Here is Reed again. This time he is responding to a tweet from Roland Martin:

Actually, Ralph, I am not sure history bears this out. As I argued in Believe Me and here, the Christian Right has been afraid for a long, long time.

And here is a tweet proving my point that this picture was taken for political purposes in the hopes that court evangelicals would share it with their constituencies.