Biden appoints Melissa Rogers to head the reestablished Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Glad to see this. Here is Jack Jenkins and Adelle Banks at Religion News Service:

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Sunday (Feb. 14) reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, undoing former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reshape an agency that went largely unstaffed for most of his tenure.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the executive order, Biden echoed his recent remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast, bemoaning widespread physical and economic suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic, racism and climate change. He added that those struggling “are fellow Americans” and are deserving of aid.

“This is not a nation that can, or will, simply stand by and watch the suffering around us. That is not who we are. That is not what faith calls us to be,” he said. “That is why I’m reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to work with leaders of different faiths and backgrounds who are the frontlines of their communities in crisis and who can help us heal, unite, and rebuild.”

He added: “We still have many difficult nights to endure. But we will get through them together and with faith guiding us through the darkness and into the light.”

Biden is expected to appoint Melissa Rogers, a First Amendment lawyer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution to oversee the office, as Rogers did in former President Barack Obama’s second term. Rogers will also serve as senior director for faith and public policy in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Read the rest here.

Joe Biden is the 46th President of the United States

It’s official. The Trump presidency is over. The Biden presidency is here. Here are a few thoughts, with the help of my Twitter feed, on today’s inauguration ceremony:

I began the day with a reminder. It’s been a long four years chronicling Trump and the evangelical response to his presidency. Thanks for joining me on the journey:

There were some snow flurries today in Washington D.C. Perhaps Minnesota Senator Klobuchar, who was one of the major organizers of the ceremony, brought the flurries with her:

Did you notice Biden’s massive Bible?

Bernie seemed to be enjoying himself:

So was Biden’s Secretary of Treasury nominee Janet Yellen:

Lady Gaga was amazing. Since I tweeted this I have learned that the bird on her outfit was actually a dove carrying a olive branch.

The first Latina swears-in the first female, African American, and South Asian-American vice president:

My friend Scott Hancock tweeted seconds after Harris was sworn-in:

Biden was inaugurated at 11:48 AM EST. Twelve minutes too early:

Echoes of Langston Hughes:

What a difference four years make:

This was telling:

Biden comes into office after four years of lies:

Biden quoted St. Augustine:

Presidential historian Jon Meacham, who helped to write Biden’s speech, has been using this Augustine quote for several years:

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” This has a ring of Reagan’s “morning in America“:

Biden asked for a moment of silent prayer for COVID-19 victims:

Apparently this is not the first prayer in a presidential inaugural address.

Here is Eisenhower in 1953:

What shall be our legacy?

What will our children say?

Let them say of me I was one who believed

In sharing the blessings

I received

Let me know in my hear

tWhen my days are through

America

America

I gave my best to you

Hope over fear. I’ve heard that before:

A general take on Biden’s speech:

Poet Amanda Gordon stole the show:

Then Missouri senator Roy Blunt came back on stage:

Inauguration days are days for civil religion:

I finished it this afternoon. Also got in that nap:

Biden was ready to go on day 1:

Obama’s 2006 speech on religion and public life is worth reading amid our current moment

This morning I read Senator Barack Obama’s 2006 keynote address to Call to Renewal, a conference sponsored by evangelical activist Jim Wallis and Sojourners. You can read the entire speech here, but I found this section of the speech compelling:

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take more work, a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do — some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.

But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase “under God.” I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide. They’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

“Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.”

The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be “totalizing.” His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” The doctor went on to write:

“I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”

Fair-minded words.

So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, James Dobson of Focus on the Family was appalled by this speech. I think he realized Obama was no slouch when it came to thinking biblically and historically. This made Obama a threat and probably scared Dobson to death.

I am also struck by the fact that Dobson and Obama have a lot in common. Both argue for the role of Christian faith in American democratic life. Obama is not entirely secular here.

Of course we can also debate whether Obama’s presidential administration, as it developed between 2009 and 2017, reflected the ideas set forth in this speech.

About 60 the 138 House members who objected to the Electoral College count were evangelical Christians

My very conservative estimate is that sixty evangelical Christians who are members of the House of Representatives objected. I think the number is probably higher, but I can’t be sure until we take a deeper dive into the bios of these representatives. Whatever the case, I hope the list below will give you all something to talk about. If you have any additional information please send it along on my Facebook page or Twitter feed. You can also shoot me an e-mail.

And don’t forget to take the survey!

It looks like thirty Catholics also objected.

Here are the religious affiliations of all 138 members of the House who objected to the Electoral College count in Pennsylvania, Arizona, or both. Click here for the Senate.

Robert Aderholt (AL), while a member of the evangelical organization “The Family,” traveled to Romania to meet with a Holocaust denier. He has also fought to display the 10 Commandments in public schools and other public buildings.

Rick Allen (GA) once read a Bible verse to the House Republican Conference calling for the death of homosexuals. He attends evangelically-oriented Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church in Augusta.

Jodey Arrington (TX), like Josh Hawley and Mike Pompeo, is an Evangelical Presbyterian.

Brian Babin (TX) appeared on the radio show of court evangelical Tony Perkins three days after the 2020 presidential election. Babin is an active member of First Baptist Church (Southern Baptist) of Woodville, TX.

Jim Baird (IN) is a United Methodist who believes America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. His church, Gobin United Methodist in Greencastle, does not look particularly evangelical in orientation.

Jim Banks (IN) has an online MBA from evangelical Grace College in Winona Lake. He identifies as an “Evangelical Christian.”

Cliff Bentz (OR) is Catholic.

Jack Bergman (MI) is Lutheran. This is not a historically evangelical denomination.

Stephanie Bice (OK) is Catholic.

Andy Biggs (AZ) is a Mormon.

Dan Bishop (NC) attends Providence United Methodist Church and sings in the choir. It is unclear if this is an evangelically-oriented United Methodist congregation. He defines himself as a “Christian conservative.”

Lauren Boebert (CO) wrote in clear evangelical language when she recently tweeted, “I’m a Christian. So they may try to drive me to my knees, but that’s where I’m the strongest.” She became a born-again Christian in 2009.

Mike Bost (IL) organized a prayer movement for Donald Trump, which was reported on by the Christian Broadcasting Network. He may have caught COVID-19 at an event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Mo Brooks (AL) left the Mormonism of his wife and now identifies as a “non-denominational Christian.” “Non-denominational” is code for evangelical.

Ted Budd (NC) is an evangelical Christian and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.

Tim Burchett (TN) is an evangelical Christian and a member of the Presbyterian Church in America

Michael Burgess (TX) is a Reformed Episcopalian. This is an evangelical, or at least orthodox, denomination.

Ken Calvert (CA) does not seem to make his faith a dominant part of his political identity.

Kat Cammack (FL) started a Faith & Pro-Life Coalition. I can’t find much on her specific religious identity.

Jerry Carl (AL) is an evangelical Christian. He helped found Luke 4:18 Fellowship, a Southern Baptist Church in Mobile.

Buddy Carter (GA) attends Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah. It is hard to tell from the church website if this is evangelical-oriented congregation.

John Carter (TX) attends Central Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church in Round Rock, TX.

Madison Cawthorn (NC) is a devout evangelical who attends Biltmore Church in Hendersonville.

Steve Chabot (OH) is Catholic

Ben Cline (VA) is Catholic

Michael Cloud (TX) is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. Before he entered Congress he was the communications director at Faith Family Church, an evangelical megachurch in Victoria.

Andrew Clyde (GA) is a member of Prince Avenue Baptist Church, an evangelical megachurch in Bogart.

Tom Cole (OK) has a Ph.D in British history from the University of Oklahoma,. He attends a United Methodist Church. Perhaps it is Moore United Methodist Church. He has taught history at Oklahoma Baptist University, an evangelical Southern Baptist university.

Rick Crawford (AR) is a Southern Baptist and attends Nettleton Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

Warren Davidson (OH) is an evangelical Christian who has the support of court evangelical Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council. He has been a leader in the evangelical youth organization Young Life and attends Grace Baptist Church in Troy, OH.

Scott DesJarlais (TN) attends Epiphany Mission, an Episcopal Church in Sherwood. He does not seem to identify as an evangelical Christian. He also has an embarrassing past

Mario Diaz-Balart (FL) is Catholic.

Byron Donalds (FL) is an evangelical Christian who converted in the parking lot of a Tallahassee Cracker Barrel. He was a youth leader at Living Word Family Church in Naples.

Jeff Duncan (SC) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church in Clinton. He believes in intelligent design.

Neal Dunn (FL) is Catholic.

Ron Estes (KS) is Lutheran

Pat Fallon (TX) is Catholic

Michelle Fischbach (MN) is Catholic

Scott Fitzgerald (WI) is Catholic

Chuck Fleischmann (TN) is Catholic

Virginia Foxx (NC) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock.

Scott Franklin (FL) attends First Presbyterian in Lakeland. The church is PC-USA, but it seems pretty evangelical. Staff members have degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Asbury Theological Seminary.

Russ Fulcher (ID) is an evangelical Christian.

Matt Gaetz (FL) is a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Walton Beach. He says he was “saved in a Baptist church.

Mike Garcia (CA) calls himself a “Christian who believes in God and Jesus as our savior” but he does not seem to make his Christian faith a central part of his politics.

Bob Gibbs (OH) is a member of Nasvhille United Methodist Church. He holds conservative positions on most social issues, but it is unclear if his church is evangelical-oriented.

Carlos Gimenez (FL) is Catholic.

Louie Gohmert (TX) is a Southern Baptists Sunday School teacher and conservative evangelical.

Bob Good (VA) is an evangelical Christian who describes himself as a “biblical conservative.”

Lance Gooden (TX) is a member of the Church of Christ, a conservative Protestant denomination that is not usually associated with evangelicalism, but shares similar convictions on social issues.

Paul Gosar (AZ) is Catholic.

Garret Graves (LA) is Catholic.

Sam Graves (MO) is a Southern Baptist.

Mark Green (TN) is a Southern Baptist evangelical. He is a creationist.

Marjorie Greene (GA) is a conspiracy theorist who has a “strong Christian faith.” It is not clear if she identifies as an evangelical.

Morgan Griffith (VA) is Episcopalian.

Michael Guest (MS) is a Southern Baptist who attends Brandon Baptist Church where he teaches Sunday School and serves as a deacon.

Jim Hagedorn (MN) is a Missouri-Synod Lutheran.

Andy Harris (MD) is Catholic.

Diana Harshbarger (TN) is a Southern Baptist. She teaches Sunday School at Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport.

Vicky Hartzler (MO) is a self-identified evangelical Christian.

Kevin Hern (OK) is an evangelical Christian who attends the Church at Battle Creek, a non-denominational megachurch.

Yvette Herrell (NM) attends Christ Community Church, an evangelical congregation in Alamogordo.

Jody Hice (GA) is a Southern Baptist and a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a strong Trump evangelical.

Clay Higgins (LA) holds to most Christian conservative social issues, but his religious identity is unclear apart from his self-designation as a Christian.

Richard Hudson (NC) identifies as a Christian and has been endorsed by the Family Research Council.

Darrell Issa (CA) is Eastern Orthodox.

Ronny Jackson (TX) was endorsed by court evangelical Robert Jeffress. He is a member of the Church of Christ.

Chris Jacobs (NY) is Catholic.

Mike Johnson (LA) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church of Bossier City.

Bill Johnson (OH) sounds like an evangelical. He identifies as a Christian, a conservative, and a family man.

Jim Jordan (OH) does not seem to identify as an evangelical, but evangelicals love him.

John Joyce (PA) identifies as a Christian, but does not seem to make his faith an important part of his political identity.

Fred Keller (PA) is a member of the Reformed Church of America, a denomination that contains evangelicals but is not normally associated with evangelicalism. He attends First Reformed Church in Sunbury.

Trent Kelly (MS) is a member of Saltillo First United Methodist Church. It is unclear if this church is evangelical-oriented.

Mike Kelly (PA) is Catholic.

David Kustoff (TN) is Jewish.

Doug LaMalfa (CA) identifies as a Christian, but faith does not seem to be a central part of his political identity.

Doug Lamborn (CO) identifies as an evangelical Christian.

Jacob LaTurner (KS) is a Catholic.

Debbie Lesko (AZ) attends a Baptist church

Billy Long (MO) attends First & Calvary Presbyterian Church in Springfield. It is a member of ECO, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

Barry Loudermilk (GA) is a Southern Baptist who has been endorsed by Christian nationalist David Barton. He was part of an evangelical barnstorming tour leading-up to the 2020 Georgia Senate run-off.

Frank Lucas (OK) is a Southern Baptist who attends the First Baptist Church of Cheyenne.

Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) is Catholic.

Nicole Malliotakis (NY) is Greek Orthodox

Tracey Mann (KS) identifies as a Pietist who attends First Covenant Church in Salina. The church is a member of the Evangelical Covenant denomination.

Brian Mast (FL) is an evangelical Christian who attended church at Calvary Chapel.

Kevin McCarthy (CA) is a Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian. He attends the Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield.

Lisa McClain (MI) is Catholic.

Daniel Meuser (PA) is Catholic.

Mary Miller (IL) attends Oakland Christian Church, an evangelical congregation in Oakland, IL.

Carol Miller (WV) is a Baptist. She attends the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Huntington. This church is not association with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Alex Mooney (WV) is Catholic.

Barry Moore (AL) is a Southern Baptist who is a Sunday School teacher and deacon at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Enterprise.

Markwayne Mullin (OK) attends a congregation associated with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.

Gregory Murphy (NC) identifies as a “conservative Christian.”

Troy Nehls (TX) is a graduate of Liberty University. He has encouraged Christians to carry firearms to church. He attends Faith United Methodist Church in Richmond, TX. Christianity Today has identified him as an evangelical.

Ralph Norman (SC) attends Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill. It is a member of the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America.

Devin Nunes (CA) is Catholic.

Jay Obernolte (CA) appears to be a Protestant, but he does not seem to overtly connect his faith to his political identity.

Burgess Owens (UT) is a Mormon

Steven Palazzo (MS) is Catholic.

Gary Palmer (AL) attends Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. It is a member of the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America. He has a history with evangelical organization Focus on the Family.

Greg Pence (IN) is Catholic.

Scott Perry (PA) identifies as a Christian.

August Pfluger (TX) identifies as a “devoted Christian.”

Bill Posey (FL) is a United Methodist. He attends the Rockledge United Methodist Church. The pastor of the church trained for the ministry at evangelical Asbury Theological Seminary.

Guy Reschenthaler (PA) identifies as a Christian.

Tom Rice (SC) is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church. It is an evangelical Anglican congregation.

Mike Rogers (AL) is a Baptist. He attends the independent Saks Baptist Church in Anniston.

Hal Rogers (KY) is a Southern Baptist who attends the First Baptist Church of Somerset.

John Rose (TN) is a member of Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ, a Churches of Christ congregation.

Matt Rosendale (MT) is Catholic.

David Rouzer (NC) is a Southern Baptist

John Rutherford (FL) is Catholic.

Steve Scalise (LA) is Catholic.

David Schweikert (AZ) is Catholic.

Pete Sessions (TX) is a Methodist. He attends First United Methodist Church in Waco. The pastor of the church is a graduate of the evangelical Asbury Theological Seminary.

Jason Smith (MO) is Pentecostal. He attends Grace Community Church in Salem.

Adrian Smith (NE) is an evangelical Christian. He attends Calvary Memorial Evangelical Free Church in Gering.

Lloyd Smucker (PA) is a Lutheran. He attends Zion Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Leola.

Elise Stefanik (NY) is Catholic.

Greg Steube (FL) is a Methodist.

Chris Stewart (UT) is a Mormon

Glenn Thompson (PA) identifies as a Protestant.

Tom Tiffany (WI) does not seem to publicly identify with a religious denomination.

William Timmons (SC) attends Christ Church in Greenville, a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, a conservative branch of South Carolina episcopalianism.

Jefferson Van Drew (NJ) is a Catholic.

Beth Van Duyne (TX) is an Episcopalian

Tim Walberg (MI) is an evangelical Christian who attended Moody Bible Institute, evangelical Taylor University and Wheaton College. He is an elder at Trenton Hills United Brethren Church in Adrian.

Jackie Walorski (IN) is a Pentecostal who attends SouthGate Church (Assembly of God) in South Bend.

Randy Weber (TX) is a Southern Baptist. He attends First Baptist Church of Pearland.

Daniel Webster (FL) is a Southern Baptist who attends First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando.

Roger Williams (TX) identifies as a Christian.

Joe Wilson (SC) is an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, a theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination. He attends First Presbyterian Church in Columbia.

Rob Wittman (VA) is an Episcopalian.

Ron Wright (TX) is Catholic.

Lee Zeldin (NY) is Jewish.

NOTE: I am counting churches in the Southern Baptist Convention as “evangelical.”

Some quick thoughts on the CNN documentary “Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President”

I’ve always been a Jimmy Carter fan, so I was eager to watch Mary Wharton‘s documentary “Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President” last Sunday night. On one level, it did not disappoint. I knew very little about Carter’s relationship with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, and Jimmy Buffett. For example, the part of the documentary that covered the 1976 Democratic primary was fascinating. The Allmans, Cash, Nelson, and Buffett backed Carter. The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt backed California governor Jerry Brown. It was no contest. Carter and his southern rockers crushed Brown and helped the Georgia peanut farmer win the presidency against Gerald Ford in November.

As you see above, the documentary includes interviews with some heavy hitters, including Carter and his son Chip. The former president tells some hilarious stories about his relationship with some of these artists, including one about Chip smoking pot on the roof of the White House with Willie Nelson.

This is a great documentary, but I wish Wharton would have said more about how Carter thought about the connections between his love of popular music and his evangelical faith. Wharton includes footage of Carter teaching Sunday School. She occasionally shows the interior and exterior of Carter’s church in Plains, Georgia. She includes a clip of Carter talking about how he explained his Christian faith to Bob Dylan when the folk hero visited the Georgia governor’s mansion. Carter also seems to have had an influence on the faith-based music and activism of Bono. But the faith angle is too peripheral to the story Wharton tells. For example, what did Carter and Dylan talk about? Did Carter have a theology of popular culture that allowed him to reconcile rock music with his Christian faith? How did he respond to his evangelical critics, the kind of critics who would eventually rally against him to form the Christian Right and boost Ronald Reagan’s victory over Carter in the 1980 election? Christianity shaped Carter’s moral core, but Wharton doesn’t seem interested in how his Christianity informed his love of Dylan, Nelson, Cash, etc. This was a missed opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The authors of the report write:

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

Here’s more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some quick and very preliminary thoughts on the evangelical vote in 2020

The best exit polling we have right now comes from Edison Research. The Washington Post summarizes it here. According to Edison, 76% of white evangelical voters chose Trump. 23% of white evangelical voters chose Biden.

In 2016, roughly 81% of white evangelicals chose Donald Trump and 16% voted for Hillary Clinton.

If the Edison research is correct, the white evangelical vote is fairly similar to the 2004, 2008, and 2012 presidential elections.

I don’t see much difference between the white evangelical vote for Trump in 2016 (76%) and 2020 (81%). In Believe Me, I explained why so many white evangelicals voted for such an immoral president. The reasons they did it again in 2020 are generally the same. I think the number is slightly lower this year because a small percentage of white evangelicals just grew disgusted by Trump’s character, handling of COVID-19, and his failures on race.

But why are Biden’s numbers in 2020 9% higher than Hillary Clinton in 2016? I see two related reasons:

First, Biden is not Hillary Clinton. Evangelicals are not supposed to hate, but they hate Clinton. Some white evangelicals who would never vote for Hillary were comfortable voting for Biden.

Second, there were no legitimate third party candidates. No Evan McMullen. No Gary Johnson. So more anti-Trump evangelicals, for reasons I mentioned above, voted for the Democratic candidate.

We will see if the work of sociologists and political scientists bear this out.

This is not some kind of white evangelical shift to the Democratic Party. Biden got roughly the same amount of white evangelical votes as Barack Obama and John Kerry. In other words, the narrative remains the same: an immoral and incompetent president, running for a second term, got a lot of white evangelical votes. Little has changed. This is the story historians will tell.

Faith leaders call for a “free and fair election”

Here is the statement:

We join together as leaders of faith across political, religious, and ideological differences to affirm our commitment to a free, fair, and safe election. The values of our faith traditions inform our dedication to this cause. All of the constitutional freedoms that we enjoy, including our religious freedom, depend on the integrity of our elections—the foundation of American democracy. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and other national challenges this election season, we express our support for the following commitments and call on all public officials, civic leaders, and all people in a position of power across the country to commit to the same:

  • Our leaders must ensure a free and fair election in which all eligible Americans can safely cast their votes without interference, suppression, or fear of intimidation.
  • Leaders and election officials must count every vote in accordance with applicable laws before the election is decided, even if the process takes a longer time because of precautions in place due to COVID-19.
  • Leaders should share timely, accurate information about the election results and resist and avoid spreading misinformation.
  • Leaders must actively and publicly support a peaceful transition of power or continuation of leadership based on legitimate election results.

The commitments outlined above are central to a functioning and healthy republic and they are supported by the vast majority of Americans, yet they are being challenged in unprecedented ways in the 2020 election. America is only as strong as its people’s commitment to our democracy and the freedoms and rights it ensures. We invite our neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds to join us in this urgent commitment to support free and fair elections, especially at this crucial moment for our democracy.

Most of the signers are progressive or liberal faith leaders. Conservative faith leaders must not believe in a “free and fair election” or else they were not asked to sign. Or maybe they refused to sign because they did not want to be associated with liberals.

There are some notable evangelical and evangelical-friendly voices who signed this statement including:

Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Church, (Charlotte, NC)

Manfred Baruch, Palmer Theological Seminary

Stanley Carlson-Thies, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals

Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians

Walter Contreras, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Richard Foster, Renovare

Justin Giboney, The AND Campaign

Roberta Hestenes, PCUSA Church

Dennis Hollinger, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Joel Hunter, Community Resource Network

John Inazu, Washington University

Walter Kim, National Association of Evangelicals

Mark Labberton, Fuller Theological Seminary

Samuel Logan, The World Reformed Fellowship

JoAnn Lyon, The Wesleyan Church

Walter McCray, National Black Evangelical Association

Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

Napp Nazworth, freelance writer

David Neff, former editor of Christianity Today

Gabriel Salguero, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Ronald Sider, Christians for Social Action

Boz Tchividjian, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Michael Wear, Public Square Strategies

Are you looking for some pre-election (or post-election) reading on religion and politics?

Election Day is a week away, but the subject of religion and politics is not going away anytime soon. Now is the time to contact Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books so you are prepared for the post-election reality.

Here is a taste of Borger’s latest newsletter:

I saw two yard signs yesterday, one that made me chuckle and the other that made me smile and then shake my head, just short of an eye roll. The more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me.

The first looked just like the ubiquitous, red, white, and blue ones and it looked so real. It read, “Giant Meteor 2020.” Another version out there says, underneath, “Just end it already.” Ha.

The other one that made me glad for a moment also looked real, but was no joke. It said, “Jesus 2020: Our Only Hope.” That’s true and good news, but, in a way, it frustrated me. Let me explain.

Beside the obvious quip that Jesus isn’t running in 2020, this beautifully well-intended sign says, by announcing this true truth — Christ is our only hope, a truth I hold as dear now as I ever have — as an alternative to the signs about which candidates to support, seems to imply that somehow we who believe in Jesus are above the fray. That because we know the ultimate hope and believe in the good news the Bible proclaims we are somehow exempt from the messy choices to be made this side of the new Jerusalem.

(Insofar as it serves as a timely reminder that neither party can provide ultimate hope and resists the overstatement of near messianic claims from the parties and candidates, I’m glad.)

As an evangelical myself, I’m always happy when people bear witness to the salvation offered by the cross, blood, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the true King. I mean that. (As long as the witness happens in a context of care and dignity, sensibly and kindly shared, of course.) So the sign made me smile, glad for a family that wanted to use the opportunity of putting out yard signs to put one out to point others to Jesus. I get it.

But, in the context of this custom of putting out political yard signs it seemed to maybe carry an implied message that this political stuff isn’t all that important, that Jesus is all that matters. It almost seemed to encourage political disengagement, poking at those who care about Biden or Trump or any number of local folks running. At least the cynical meteor one was a joke.

In the early ’70s we had a saying, inspired by a powerful gospel song by the late, great Andre Crouch. His song was “Jesus Is the Answer” and, like the “Jesus 2020” sign, it speaks true truth.

But then I learned another, harder, question, a necessary reply. It came from a black evangelist who marked my life in life-changing ways, Tom Skinner. Skinner cried, “If Jesus is the Answer, What Are the Questions?” That is, our faith dare not be reduced to cliches or slogans or inspirational bromides, no matter how pious or true. Like the way Jesus Himself is God incarnate in the world, we, too, have to live out God’s Answer in the world. Incarnational faith answers the question, “so what?” It offers real answers to real questions. Saying Jesus is the answer just isn’t enough.

In a way, that was part of the conflict between Jesus and the super-religious faith leaders of the first century. You study the Scriptures, he says to them, but don’t even know what they mean. You sound all religious, but don’t get the point. You want Messiah to come but you ignore me and my teachings. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus explained to these religious right leaders of his day what they were missing, the “weightiest matters of the law” — justice and mercy and fidelity.

Look it up if you don’t believe me. And then ask how the modern day religious leaders who lead people into voting for a white supremacist sexual abuser not known for honesty, let alone justice or mercy, might reply to Jesus. I guess their desire to take over the courts and “own the libs” is more important than hearing Matthew 23:23.

Read the rest here.

Western Michigan pastor resigns over Trumpism in his congregation

Another story about what Trumpism is doing to American Christianity. Here is Mitchell Boatman at the Holland Sentinel:

HOLLAND — Keith Mannes has given his life to the Christian Reformed Church, serving as a pastor for more than 30 years. He’s done so happily and thankfully.

But on Sunday, Oct. 11, Mannes gave his last sermon and walked away from ministry among increasing political tension and divisiveness.

Put simply, he stepped away due to the CRC’s broad support of President Donald Trump.

While Mannes loves the congregation he served at East Saugatuck CRC for the past four years, he says the church as a whole has “abandoned its role” as the conscience of the state in support of Trump, leading Mannes to step away.

“There’s a quote from Martin Luther King where he said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state,’” Mannes said. “That just hit me hard because I think, broadly, the white evangelical community in our country has abandoned that role.

“The question of the church largely and how it’s functioned in this moment has been really disturbing. That’s been troubling enough that I need to lay it all down.”

Read the rest here.

A veteran pastor on evangelical support for Trump

For nearly three decades Jim Abrahamson has been a teaching pastor of the Chapel Hill Bible Church near the campus of the University of North Carolina and Duke University. He was instrumental in starting this congregation in 1971 with a group of about 20 students and young faculty. The ministry grew to include some 2000 individuals. The church has a reputation of being broadly evangelical in its theology, nondenominational in its affiliation, open minded in its learning style, lay centered in its ministry, and ecumenical in its community involvement. Jim is retired and no longer the lead pastor of the congregation. In the piece below he offers some thoughts on evangelicals, Donald Trump, and the coming election. This article reflects the thoughts of Jim Abrahamson and does not represent the official position of the Chapel Hill Bible Church or its staff.–JF

Brene Brown writes, “We’re tired of the national conversation centering on “What should we fear? and Who should we blame?” Our greatest challenge is not the pandemic, racial injustice, economic stress or climate change. I believe that the greatest challenge we face in our country at this time is leadership.

In my three decades of pastoral ministry as an evangelical Christian pastor I have learned that it is not circumstances that shape our lives going forward but rather how we respond to them. The majority of my evangelical friends believe that our current President is the clear choice in the upcoming election. Realizing that evangelical Christians will not be comfortable with everything in a particular party’s platform, we have got to decide what issues are most important. I am asking Evangelical Christians to reconsider what they believe to be most important based on the following scriptural principles.

Political involvement: My priorities with respect to my life as a US citizen are shaped by principles formed by Christian Scriptures. Jesus, in response to a poll tax to support the Roman Empire, instructed his followers to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). In the USA we have a government “of, by, and for the people,” which means we are called to be involved in politics. Our vote, voice, and virtue are not optional but a part of what it means to “render to Caesar.” For many it is surprising to note that Jesus seemed to have no problem paying taxes to support the corrupt Roman Empire. This challenges me to rethink what is most important in our political agenda as American Evangelical Christians. This leads to a second point.

Expectations: An important Biblical passage comes from St. Peter, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13). The Christian’s striving for social justice and peace is an important witness to a kingdom of God that is coming, but not expected to appear in this age. As Christians, our ultimate hope is not to produce a perfect society in this age. Our hope is in the return of Christ at the end of history. As the late Richard John Neuhaus put it, “We cannot expect the kingdom of God before its time and without its King.”

Jesus saw a distinction between our responsibilities to the Roman Empire, “rendering to Caesar” and imposing the principles of God’s kingdom,  “render to God the things that are God’s.” Civic virtue should not be ignored but Christians must decide where and  how to promote it.  When our vision to “Make America Great Again” is to make it our customized version of the kingdom of God, we misunderstand the Kingdom and lose credibility as witnesses for it’s Gospel. So what should Christians strive for as aliens in a “secular society”? This leads me to a third point.

Peacemaking: Evangelical Christians are to promote order, civility and good will as peacemakers. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). We are called to promote civil peace so that we can show and tell the Gospel’s hope to the world. The Gospel is about peacemaking – with God, our selves, and our neighbors, in that order. Christ does not call Christians to impose on the secular state, the same spiritual goals and moral boundaries that are expected of the Christian church. We are to invite individuals to be a part of Christ’s family. The civic protocol of our republic was shaped by the European Enlightenment, Classic GrecoRoman structures, and a generic, Biblical moral worldview.  The architects of our constitution did not frame America as a distinctly “Christian nation” and Christ did not seek to influence the world through political, military or economic power. His kingdom was to emerge, not through controlling people from the top down, but by from the bottom up, changing hearts one by one. A key characteristic that we as evangelical Christians should look for in our president is the ability to be a peacemaker so that we can effect change through the popular support of “we the people.”

Character in leadership makes a big difference in peacemaking, and “promoting the general welfare.” Leaders must promote respect for our civic institutions (like the presidency and the press), model common values of our republic (like truthfulness and compassion), and be both civil with others and a servant of the people. We need a president who is a wise, healthy, adult who possess characteristics that mark him or her as an effective political peacemaker displaying characteristics like:

  • Truthfulness – Respecting common facts of reality, and transparency, not deceptiveness
  • Trust – Respecting others, dependability, earning other’s respect
  • Tolerance – Forbearing with diversity and differences
  • Tenderness – Empathetic, compassionate, gracious
  • Toughness – Perseveres wisely with courage, and stamina, not as a childish bully but after the manner of a true civil servant.

I am concerned as I observe President Trump unashamedly sow fear rather than trust, build walls rather than bridges, and foster vitriol rather than compassion and empathy. He seems too comfortable with lying, focusing on optics rather than reality, and self-interest rather than the “general welfare.”  If this is allowed to continue we will survive as a nation but the credibility of evangelical Christian’s witness will be so damaged by their association with Trump, that any superficial gains will not be worth the losses incurred.

As citizens, we dare not overlook the character defects of our President and we must ask ourselves, does Donald Trump exemplify the traits necessary to lead us through this stressful period of our history in bringing us together? In contrast, Joe Biden has a long and consistent pattern of personal strength in these areas. He has a track record as an empathetic bridge builder with strong family values, a sound faith, and a history of perseverance through many personal trials. Noting Jesus’ encouragement to “seek the truth” and “fear not,” I have concluded that Biden is better suited to lead our nation than Trump.

In the Kingdom of God, the means are a part of the ends. When the devil tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:8-10) he offered him “the world’s kingdoms and their glory” if he would only give up the means, and Jesus  said “no.” However, many evangelicals are saying “yes.”

Faith leaders for Biden

Faith-2020-Overlay

As I said last night, I was eager to see the list of 350+ faith leaders who will be voting for Joe Biden in November. Last night I finally got a chance to see the list. I don’t recognize most of the names, but here are a few that caught my eye:

Lisa Sharon Harper, Joshua DuBois, Amy Butler, Gene Robinson, Serge Duss, Rob Schenck, Brian McClaren, David Gushee, Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, John Pavlovitz, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, and Diana Butler Bass.

350 faith leaders will endorse Joe Biden

sider_horz

Ron Sider endorses Joe Biden

Here is Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service:

More than 350 faith and community leaders are planning to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris this week, adding their voices to the campaign as it ramps up its engagement with religious groups.

According to a list shared exclusively with Religion News Service by organizers, the mass endorsement will come from a diverse slate of religious leaders, many of whom are backing a candidate publicly for the first time.

The Rev. Fred Davie, a Presbyterian minister and executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, was the chief organizer of the endorsements. “Our country is at an historic inflection point and in desperate need of moral leadership,” he said in a statement to RNS. “This election presents a stark moral contrast between the common good values of the Biden-Harris agenda and the divisiveness of the current administration.”

Davie is also chair of the multi-religious advocacy group Faith 2020.

Other endorsers — most of whom organizers said are acting as individuals and not on behalf of their affiliated organizations — include a number of liberal-leaning voices, such as the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, an author and Lutheran pastor; David Gushee, an author and Christian ethicist; David Beckmann, president emeritus of the Christian organization Bread for the World; Diana Butler Bass, author and historian of religion; Rabbi Jack Moline, head of Interfaith Alliance; Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action; the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, pastor at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City; Rabbi Sharon Brous, head of IKAR Jewish community in California; Valarie Kaur, Sikh activist and head of the Revolutionary Love Project; Anju Bhargava, former member of Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and board member of the Hindu American Seva Communities; Imam Talib Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, also known as “The Nation’s Mosque”; Greg M. Epstein, Humanist chaplain at Harvard and MIT; and Brian McLaren, Christian author and activist.

Read the rest here.

Nothing new here. What I really want to see is a list of white evangelicals who will be endorsing Biden. As far as I know, Ron Sider is the only person mentioned in this article who identifies as an evangelical. Of course there could be others. I am eager to see the entire list.

Night four at the 2020 DNC convention

Biden nominee

It was a great night for the Democratic Party. I don’t think they could have done this convention any better. Frankly, it may have been more effective than a traditional arena convention. The GOP has a tough act to follow.

Below are a few thoughts, based on some of my live-tweeting.

Let’s start with the segment on Biden’s Christian faith:

A few thousand white evangelicals from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona might decide this election:

But here is a way that Democrats can keep more white evangelicals after November 2020:

Delaware Senator Chris Coons gave a good speech that echoed yesterday’s Fox News op-ed on Biden’s faith. But Coons did not address anything I wrote about in the tweets above. If Biden can address these issues between now and November he could win a record number of white evangelicals. He could easily connect his platform to a real conversation about abortion. The religious liberty stuff will be a little more difficult without offending the left-wing of the party.

Let’s move on to history.

I am still waiting for someone to tell me when the last time a historian spoke in a prime time slot at a political convention.  Jon Meacham was excellent:

So please take the following tweet in that context:

My historian students–both at Messiah University and the Gilder-Lehrman
“Princeton Seminar”–know that the roots of the United States are located in more than just the British settlements.

And as long as we are talking about history:

You can also do a lot of other things with a history major.

The segment with Biden’s Democratic primary rivals was amazing. I could have watched another hour of this conversation. As Cory Booker said, it was like the show with all the contestants “voted off the island” on “Survivor”:

A quick thought on Michael Bloomberg’s speech:

Not all evangelical celebrities support Donald Trump:

Biden gave a great speech. I appreciated his call to find one’s “purpose” in life.

The exact quote was: “As God’s children each of us have a purpose in our lives.”

And the following:

I was also pleased to see this speech seasoned with the words “hope,” “humility,” and “history.” I feel like I’ve heard those words before. 🙂

Here is the Seamus Heaney quote from “The Cure at Troy” that Biden used in the speech:

History says,

Don’t hope on this side of the grave,

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme

The next verse (which Biden did not use in the speech) reads:

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracle

And cures and healing wells.

Read Biden’s entire speech here.

Mark Silk: “Trump’s 2020 religious attack on Biden harks back to 1800”

NO GOD

Here is Mark Silk at Religion News Service:

In case you hadn’t heard, last week President Donald Trump attacked his presumptive Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, on religious grounds. “No religion,” declared Trump. “No anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God.”

It’s been 220 years since the religion card was played so bigly in an American presidential campaign. The precedent is more apt than you might think.

The election of 1800 pitted the incumbent president, John Adams, against his old-friend-turned-bitter-rival Vice President Thomas Jefferson. In the two-party system that had emerged in the 1790s, Adams was the Federalist, Jefferson the Democratic-Republican. The Federalist case against Jefferson centered on charges that he was a “Jacobin,” a radical on the order of the French revolutionaries he had admired since serving as American ambassador to France in the late 1780s.

In a series of newspaper articles published in 1798, Alexander Hamilton attacked those revolutionaries for trying to “undermine the venerable pillars that support the edifice of civilized society,” not least by “the attempt … to destroy all religious opinion, and to pervert a whole people to Atheism.”

Hamilton claimed that Jefferson was, like them, an atheist who, with the help of fellow American Jacobins, would pursue the same agenda if elected. In the words of another Federalist writer, the choice was clear: “GOD—AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT … [or] JEFFERSON AND NO GOD.”

And this:

Unlike Trump, John Adams did not himself attack Jefferson for irreligion. And unlike Biden, who called Trump’s attack “shameful,” Jefferson did not publicly respond to the attacks. As he wrote to James Monroe, “As to the calumny of Atheism, I am so broken to calumnies of every kind … that I entirely disregard it.”

Read the entire piece here.

The analogy is not perfect, but there are certainly similarities. Trump’s words about Biden play upon white evangelical fears over the decline of “Christian America.” Similarly, anxiety over the secular assault on America’s Christian political institutions played a predominant role in the presidential election of 1800. Adams was a New England Federalist who defended the idea that republics only survive when built upon the moral foundations of Christianity. Jefferson, Federalists believed, was most responsible for allowing infidelity to flourish in America.

Jefferson had the support of frontier, largely uneducated, evangelicals–such as Methodists and Baptists–who shared his commitment to religious liberty. It is noteworthy that the religious liberty-loving ordinary farmers supported that supposed “anti-God” candidate.

The Federalists, mostly members of the educated classes, called attention to Jefferson’s heretical beliefs: Jefferson did not believe in the Trinity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the divine inspiration of the Bible. He was not the kind of leader who should be the president of a Christian nation, the Federalists said, and they were prepared to stage an intense political campaign to discredit him before the American people.

The attacks on Jefferson’s supposed godlessness were relentless. William Linn, a Federalist minister from New York, chaplain of the House of Representatives, and a former president of Queens College (today Rutgers University), opposed Jefferson’s candidacy because of the vice-president’s “disbelief in the Holy Scriptures…his rejection of the Christian religion and open profession of Deism.” Linn feared that under Jefferson’s rule, the United States would become a “nation of Atheists.” Linn made clear that “no professed deist, be his talents and acquirements what they may, ought to be promoted to this place [the presidency] by the suffrages of a Christian nation.” He even argued that the act of “calling a deist to the first office must be construed into no less than rebellion against God.” For Linn, the evangelical choice was clear. If the people were to choose “a manifest enemy to the religion of Christ, in a Christian nation,” it would be “an awful symptom of the degeneracy” of America.”

Upon hearing that Jefferson was elected, frightened New England evangelicals thought that the new president’s henchmen would soon be coming to their towns and homes on a mission to take away their Bibles.

The faith of Kamala Harris

Kamala

Yonat Shimron has some initial reporting on Joe Biden’s running mate at Religion News Service. A taste:

Few, if any, vice presidential candidates have had as much exposure to the world’s religions as Kamala Harris, the 55-year-old senator from California whom Joe Biden just picked as his running mate.

Harris’ ethnic, racial and cultural biography represents a slice of the U.S. population that is becoming ascendant but that has never been represented in the nation’s second-highest office.

Here are five faith facts about Harris:

She was raised on Hinduism and Christianity.

Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was from Chennai, India; her father, Donald Harris, from Jamaica. The two met as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her name, Kamala, means “lotus” in Sanskrit, and is another name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. She visited India multiple times as a girl and got to know her relatives there.

But because her parents divorced when she was 7, she also grew up in Oakland and Berkeley attending predominantly Black churches. Her downstairs neighbor, Regina Shelton, often took Kamala and her sister, Maya, to Oakland’s 23rd Avenue Church of God in Oakland. Harris now considers herself a Black Baptist.

Read the rest here.

Joe Biden pushes back on Trump’s “hurt the Bible, hurt God” comment

BIden 3

Get up to speed here.

Here is The Washington Post‘s Election 2020 blog:

In a late-night statement, Biden criticized the president for suggested that Biden hates the Bible.

“For President Trump to attack my faith is shameful,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s beneath the office he holds and it’s beneath the dignity the American people so rightly expect and deserve from their leaders. However, like the words of so many other insecure bullies, President Trump’s comments reveal more about him than they do about anyone else.”

“My faith teaches me to love my neighbor as I would myself, while President Trump only seeks to divide us. My faith teaches me to care for the least among us, while President Trump seems to only be concerned about his gilded friends,” Biden wrote. “My faith teaches me to walk humbly, while President Trump teargassed peaceful protestors so he could walk over to a church for a photo op.”

Read the rest here.

Joe Biden’s National Faith Engagement Director is an evangelical Christian

DicksonHis name is Josh Dickson. He was a leader in Campus Crusade for Christ during his undergraduate days at the University of Michigan. Many of his relatives attended Moody Bible Institute. His Christian faith led him to a job as a teacher in the poor neighborhoods of the South Side of Chicago. He voted for George W. Bush in 2004, but was inspired to become a Democrat by reading Ronald Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope.

Here are some quotes from Michael Gryboski’s recent Christian Post piece on Dickson:

Dickson believes some evangelicals are moving toward supporting Biden. An example of this, he said, is seeing evangelical leaders’ embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We have seen evangelicals marching in the streets, we have seen evangelicals talking about Black Lives Matter and speaking and praising Black Lives Matter,” said Dickson. “We’ve seen a tremendous response from individual pastors who have large followings who have marched in the streets. We’ve seen leaders, elected leaders who have marched in the streets from evangelical backgrounds.”

This level of support leads Dickson to conclude that “the real religious issue in this election is fighting systemic racism.” Biden, he said, has an advantage in handling that issue.

I appreciate Dickson’s arguments here. I hope he is right. But I don’t think many evangelicals believe systemic racism is “the real religious issue” in this election.

If the number of white evangelicals who vote for Trump in November 2020 drops below the 81% that he received in 2016, it will be because evangelicals are just tired of Trump’s lies, disgusted with his tweets, and upset with his handling of the coronavirus. They may not like Trump’s racism or his handling of Floyd protests either, but I am not sure they are going to vote for Biden (or not vote for Trump) because they want to fight systemic racism.

Here is more from the article:

When asked by CP about concerns over Biden’s stance on abortion, religious liberty, and similar issues, Dickson responded that “there’s room for disagreement” on these matters.

“I know that not everyone is going to agree with him on everything. We’re a big tent party as Democrats. Joe Biden is someone who is putting forward a vision that is inclusive,” said Dickson. “We want to be working with as many people as possible.”

“I see the values that Joe Biden lives by. I see the values that have been reflected in the history of his involvement in public life. And I see the ways in which he’s going to lean into this moment right now where our country is hurting.”

If Dickson wants to get white evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 into the Biden camp he is going to have to do better than this. He needs to get his candidate to say something concrete about the reduction of abortion in America. The numbers of abortions in the country are on the decline and he needs to show how he will sustain this downward trend.

Dickson needs to convince Biden to connect his policies on poverty and systemic racism to the reduction of abortion. If systemic racism is indeed “the real religious issue” in this campaign, then why not bring up the fact that addressing this problem has the potential to lower the number of abortions in America? In other words, Biden should articulate the connection between racism, poverty, and abortion. This will not win over most white evangelicals, but it could secure votes from those who are looking for any good reason to vote for Biden.

Dickson also needs to convince his candidate that our democracy is better when faith-based institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, and social service agencies are allowed to uphold their deeply-held religious beliefs about marriage and abortion. Rather than going after faith-based institutions in order to appease the left of the Democratic Party, Biden can win the hearts and minds of many white evangelicals by articulating a more robust vision of pluralism.

Read the entire Christian Post article here.