Why white evangelicals criticize the Black church

In the 1980s, when I was a student at a small Christian college, some of my professors warned us about the “liberal theology” of the civil rights movement. What Martin Luther King Jr. did was notable, they said, but he could not be trusted as a theologian. As I look back on this now, I think it is fair to say that a lot of my classmates at the time interpreted this teaching to mean that the civil rights movement was somehow flawed, even unGodly, because its leaders did not tow the line of traditional evangelical theology. That is certainly how I interpreted it.

We now know, through some really good historical work, that white evangelicals were never completely on board with the civil rights movement. What I was getting in college was pretty standard stuff.

Back then I understood why my professors warned us about the civil rights movement. The school I attended had its roots in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. (It was founded, in part, by C.I. Scofield). The fundamentalists were not only fighting liberal theology in the denominations, but they were also, by extension, at war with the “social gospel,” the Protestants who believed that Christianity required its adherents to work for social justice as a means towards Christianizing the nation. Fundamentalists believed that social gospelers confused the true Gospel with moral activism. The true Gospel was about getting people “saved.” The social gospel was a form of “works righteousness.”

When it comes to race, we are in the midst of something similar to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. The stuff they taught me in college is still with us. The Black church’s roots in the social gospel scares a lot of white evangelicals today. Consider Audrey Farley‘s recent piece at The New Republic: The Conservative War Against the Black Church.” Farley writes in the context of the upcoming George senate run-off between Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler.

A taste:

Conservatives claim long-standing tradition for their suspicion of the political, citing scripture on the supremacy of the spiritual realm, ignoring scripture on structural sin, and generally pretending that Jesus and centuries of his followers didn’t make broad demands for a new society and instead sought merely crumbs for the poor and outcast. History, however, reveals the privatization of sin and the intense cynicism toward material politics to be relatively recent inventions, developed precisely to counter racial progress and other social reforms. It illuminates how conservatives’ individualist theology is little more than a pretext for upholding the status quo—a ruse that secular institutions have nevertheless taken seriously.

Read the entire piece here.

When it comes to Raphael Warnock, I think it is fair to say that white evangelicals have an antagonistic relationship with the black church. But I also think that white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock because he claimed to be a “pro-choice” pastor. In other words, white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock for the same reason they will not vote for Jon Ossoff: abortion. The story of American evangelical political engagement is indeed a complicated one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then, last week, a final straw.

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

Six white men decided the Southern Baptist Convention position on race

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

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Baptist seminary presidents unite against critical race theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of quick points.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Krebs on 60 Minutes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

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

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

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

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

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

Jeh Johnson speaks at Liberty University

Jeh Johnson was Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. Today he spoke to Liberty students about character and leadership. Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump, much of this speech was about Donald Trump (and perhaps Jerry Falwell Jr.) During the Q&A he tells campus pastor David Nasser that he believes racism is a systemic problem.

Watch:

Good leaders, Johnson argued:

  1. Tell people the truth
  2. Build consensus (and do not merely find consensus).
  3. Surround themselves with people willing to offer hard truths
  4. Never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. (Like separating immigrant children from their parents).
  5. Live by the Golden Rule

Click here for Politico‘s story on Johnson’s visit.

Two days earlier, campus pastor David Nasser spoke about race in America and on the Liberty campus. He still seems skeptical about systemic racism and believes that a religious revival will solve everything, but before you say he doesn’t go far enough, please try to understand his speech in context. Nasser is trying to address important issues and understands his audience. These are worthwhile steps. Nasser says he is getting some blow-back on campus for his efforts.

People on the Christian Right are noticing what Nasser is doing at Liberty and they are not happy about it. The right-wing Christian website Capstone Report is upset about a recent event on Liberty’s campus:

Here is a taste of the Capstone Report’s post:

According to the source, a Liberty University dean promoted a Christian study of the book The Heart of Racial Justice. The book study is an attempt to radicalize young nursing students in the Social Justice rhetoric, we were told by worried conservatives at Liberty.

The book promotes what are now common tropes among the Critical Race Theory-Intersectionality and Social Justice Wokevangelical movement. Namely, that American Evangelical Christianity is defective, individualistic and promoted evil power structures.

On page 209, the authors assert that the Christian West has used its power to preach an “individualistic gospel” over true forms of Christianity. Instead some type of communitarian form of Christianity is promoted and preferred.

And on pp. 88-89, the authors preach an anti-corporate message claiming that White Americans “must face what people of their ethnicity have done to others” and that “Western government and corporations are the world champions of spin doctoring and spin control” and that the West pursues economic and military conquest of others around the globe.

If this book were written in 1979 instead of 2009, everyone would recognize the Marxist roots of that critique.

The core of the book teaches white people enjoy white privilege and have exploited other people groups historically. There is no nuance in this view showing the historical reality that every people group in history has done something like the authors allege—it is what the pages of history continue to show—whether the Islamic invasion of Europe reversed only by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours or the vast invasion of the West by the Great Khans of the Steppes.

On the day (Thursday) between Nasser’s remarks and Johnson’s visit, the Falkirk Center, Liberty’s culture war wing and public voice, held a conference on campus. The folks at the Capstone Report sound just like what I heard yesterday at the Falkirk event. Liberty University is trying to address racism on campus, but their public image, as represented the Falkirk Center, remains the same. As might be expected, the university is in the midst of a post-Falwell identity crisis and we are seeing it all play out on YouTube and online.

Are the police killings of unarmed Black men isolated incidents?

This graph is from a June 2020 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute:

Here is Dawn Araujo-Hawkins at The Christian Century:

Two days before Rusten Sheskey, a White police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, fired seven shots into the back of Jacob Blake, a Black man, at close range while three of Blake’s young children watched, the Public Religion Research Institute published its latest report on racism and police brutality.

During a summer punctuated by White police officers gunning down Black body after Black body, PRRI found that most White Christians—across denominations—continued to see such shootings as isolated incidents.

Based on polling done in June, the majority of White mainline Protestants (53 percent), White Catholics (56 percent), and White evangelicals (72 percent) believe that when the police kill a Black man, it is not representative of a pattern in the way law enforcement treats Black people.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump and critical race theory: What is really going on?

In case you missed it, Donald Trump discovered critical race theory over the weekend. Here is Friday’s memo from Russell Vought, the director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget:

September 4, 2020

M-20-34

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

FROM: Russell Vought
Director

SUBJECT: Training in the Federal Government

It has come to the President’s attention that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date “training” government workers to believe divisive, antiAmerican propaganda.

For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” According to press reports, in some cases these training have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.

These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We can be proud that as an employer, the Federal government has employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We can be proud that Americans from all over
the country seek to join our workforce and dedicate themselves to public service. We can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow Americans as Federal employees. However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training
that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.

The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions. Accordingly, to that end, the Office of Management and Budget will shortly issue more detailed guidance on implementing the President’s directive. In the meantime, all agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these unAmerican propaganda training sessions.

The President, and his Administration, are fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States. The President has a proven track record of standing for those whose voice has long been ignored and who have failed to benefit from all our country has to offer, and he intends to continue to support all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or creed. The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.

Trump has been tweeting about this:

And here are a few of Trump’s retweets this weekend:

So what is happening here?

What is critical race theory? You can learn all about it here.

Critical race theorists believe that racism is a systemic problem in the United States. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice executed by a “few bad apples,” but a system of injustice woven deeply into American culture.

I have read several stories on Trump’s attempt to ban critical race theory and it is still not clear to me exactly which federal training programs Trump is talking about here or how critical race theory is being taught in these programs. I think it is fair to say that Trump knows absolutely nothing about critical race theory apart from the fact that his political base is against it.

And what should we make of the fact that a memo from the Office of the President condemning a federal government training program cites “press reports” as its primary evidence? Trump’s seems to have learned about critical race theory from this segment of the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News:

Chris Rufo, the guy who appears in this video, works for the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank. You can read his other writings here. You can learn more about others connected to the Discovery Institute here.

So what should we make of critical race theory? Like all academic theories, we should engage it thoughtfully. Critical race theory is one way of helping us come to grips with the fact that some groups in society oppress other groups. In the United States, there has been a long history of White people oppressing Black people. As a result, White people have had advantages–privileges even–that Black people and other people of color have not.

It is hard to study American history and not see this oppression. It is also difficult to study American history and not see continuity between the past and present. The legacies of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and white supremacy are still with us just like the founding fathers’ ideas of liberty and freedom and individual rights are still with us.

This past week I was teaching the students in my U.S. history survey course about seventeenth-century Virginia. This colonial society passed laws that made Black men and women slaves in an attempt to quell disgruntled poor whites who had shown a propensity for political rebellion. The codification of race-based slavery in Virginia law resulted in the social, economic, and political advance of the former white indentured servant population in Virginia.

Were there individual acts of racism in colonial Virginia? Of course. But what the Virginia government did was systemic–its leaders embedded racism in the culture of the settlement. While this is an early example of systemic racism, we can point to many other examples in American history where White people were able to achieve something called the “American Dream” on the backs of slavery and other oppressed and marginalized people.

I have a hunch that Rufo is a Christian. And I have no doubt that Trump’s decision to root out critical race theory will win him points with his evangelical base. So what should a Christian think about critical race theory?

Christians should expect injustice and oppression in this world. The world is fallen. We learn this from reading Genesis 3. Sin pervades this world and manifests itself in both individual transgression and cultural systems. We place our hope in Jesus Christ, a suffering savior whose death for our sins initiated a new kingdom–the Kingdom of God– that will one day reach its fulfillment in a new heavens and a new earth. God redeems our individual lives and will one day redeem His creation, which Romans 8 tells us is “groaning” with “labor pains” as it awaits redemption. Until Jesus returns, citizens of God’s Kingdom are called to live justice-filled lives. And those who care about justice will privilege standing with the poor and oppressed.

So if theologians like James Cone, critical race theorists, or American historians can help me better understand oppression, the ways I have benefited from such oppression (even if I don’t commit overt acts of racism), and teach me how to have greater solidarity with my black brothers and sisters, why wouldn’t I want to learn more about it?

As a Christian, I prefer to see the world through the eyes of my faith. In other words, I want my “theory” to be the teachings of the scriptures and the Christian tradition. This may mean that I embrace parts of critical race theory and reject other parts. This might also mean that I reject the way critical race theory is applied, especially when it leads to violence. But Christian’s shouldn’t be afraid of it.

If we want to use jargon that is common in today’s political climate, I think it is fair to say that Trump is “canceling” critical race theory. Trump and his followers want open discourse, debate, and the free exchange of ideas, but only with those ideas that they find agreeable. Critical race theory appears to have become a new kind of McCarthyism. How else should we interpret Trump’s call to “please report any sightings.”

Finally, let’s acknowledge what is really going on here.

First, Trump is trying to distract us from the fact that he called American soldiers “losers” and “suckers.”

Second, Trump is trying to scare Americans, especially his white evangelical base, into voting for him in November.

Third, by attacking a theory he knows nothing about, Trump continues to engage in the subtle (but premeditated) racism that has defined his entire presidency. We saw it in Charlottesville. We saw it in Kenosha. We saw it following the Floyd murder. And we see it whenever he talks about the suburbs.

Fourth, this whole incident shows us, once again, that we have an incompetent president who watches Fox News and then impulsively tweets policy proposals based on what he has seen.

A “progressive evangelical thinker” responds to the Eric Metaxas punch

Apparently, I am now a “progressive evangelical thinker.” Perhaps this may restore my reputation among some in the academic profession. 🙂

Here is Samuel Smith at The Christian Post:

While some on social media, including at least one progressive evangelical thinker, have been critical of Metaxas in the wake of the video, evangelical author Rod Dreher appears to defend Metaxas in a blog post published by The American Conservative. 

Read the entire piece here. For our coverage of the Metaxas punch, click here, here, and here.

Metaxas made an appearance on Tucker Carlson last night and joined the Fox News host in some standard court evangelical fearmongering:

I doubt Carlson or Metaxas watched the entire mass. Here it is:

What are the court evangelicals saying about Kamala Harris?

COurt Evangelicals

Let’s start with the folks associated with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s and Charlie Kirk’s Falkirk Center. Yes, these are the Christians who represent Liberty University in the public sphere:

Eric Metaxas says Harris has “no core values” and is only driven by ambition and power. What an ironic thing for a Trump supporter to say.

OK. Now that we are done with the Liberty University crowd, let’s move on to some other court evangelicals. The Christian Right warriors are out in force.

Ralph Reed:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody:

Pastor Darryl Scott:

Pastor Scott on the previous tweet:

I think the Christian pastor just “went there.”

Gary Bauer:

Tony Perkins is getting nervous:

Franklin Graham:

Onward Christian soldiers!

David Barton says 19th-century Christians who used the Bible to defend slavery were “the exception, not the rule”

Watch:

There are a lot of historical problems with this video, but the one of the most overt problems is Barton’s claim that most 19th-century Americans were abolitionists. Apparently Barton believes that those who used the Bible to defend slavery were the “exception to the rule.” The only way such a statement is true is if you believe that the South was not part of the United States during the era of slavery. I am sure Barton knows that the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in America today, was born out of a reading of the Bible that justified slavery. Exception to the rule?

Barton also confuses slavery and racism. (The conversation takes place in the context of a condemnation of the Black Lives Matter movement). He claims that 75% of New England clergy signed a petition condemning slavery. I don’t know if this is true, but I don’t think it would surprise any historian that 75% of New England clergy would sign such a petition. This region was the center of anti-slavery activism in the 1850s.

But even in New England, segregation and racism was present, if not dominant. Systemic racism was deeply embedded in the region’s culture. I would encourage Barton to read Joanne Pope Melish’s Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England ,1780-1860. Here is a description of the book:

Melish explores the origins of racial thinking and practices to show how ill-prepared the region was to accept a population of free people of color in its midst. Because emancipation was gradual, whites transferred prejudices shaped by slavery to their relations with free people of color, and their attitudes were buttressed by abolitionist rhetoric which seemed to promise riddance of slaves as much as slavery. She tells how whites came to blame the impoverished condition of people of color on their innate inferiority, how racialization became an important component of New England ante-bellum nationalism, and how former slaves actively participated in this discourse by emphasizing their African identity.

As some of you know, I have been reading David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass. Blight notes how Douglass faced overt racism in New England following his escape from slavery. Here is just one small passage from Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom:

The distances between the young abolitionist’s private and public lives were thrown into stark contrast, which would only grow with time. Twice in September [of 1841] Douglass was insulted, accosted, or thrown off the Eastern Railroad, the second instance occurring at the Lynn depot. On September 8, Collins and Douglass had purchased train tickets in Newburyport to travel north to Dover, New Hampshire, to speak at the Strafford County Anti-Slavery Society. The two were sitting in one double seat as the gruff conductor ordered Douglass to immediately move forward to the Jim Crow car. For Douglass such constant practices of segregation were always about dignity, as much as the “mean, dirty, and uncomfortable” space of Jim Crow cars. Collins vehemently objected on behalf of his black companion….With the conductor’s “little fist flourished about my head,” Collins reported, he too was ordered to leave the car. “If you haul him out, it will be over my person, as I do not intend to leave this seat,” proclaimed Collins. The conductor brought in several of the railroad’s hired thugs to do the deed. With Collins loudly protesting this was “no less than lynch law,” five men dragged the strong Douglass over Collins’s unmoved body, “like so many bloodhounds,” and “thrust him into the ‘negro car.'” In the fracas, Douglass’s clothes were torn and Collins described himself as “considerably injured in the affray.” Not missing an opportunity to make a Garrisonian doctrinal point, Collins told of a second conductor who went into the Negro car to console Douglass with the intelligence the railroad’s policy was not so bad after all, since so many churches “have their ‘negro pews.'”

Please don’t get your American history from David Barton.

Was Jesus White? Michael Gerson on Eric Metaxas’s recent claim

Metaxas

Former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson sets the record straight on a recent claim by court evangelical Eric Metaxas. Here is a taste:

Evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas is one of those figures on the right who has been miniaturized by his association with President Trump. The author of a flawed but serious biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is more recently the co-author of the children’s book “Donald Builds the Wall!” From Dietrich to Donald is a fall of biblical proportions.

Now Metaxas has stirred controversy with a tweet contending (or assuming) that Jesus was White. His claim was made in reaction to news that the United Methodist Church is partnering with Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility,” to produce a video series on “Deconstructing White Privilege.” Metaxas’s response read in full: “Jesus was white. Did he have ‘white privilege’ even though he was entirely without sin? Is the United Methodist Church covering that? I think it could be important.”

Metaxas has subsequently attempted to place his claim about Jesus’ ethnicity into context. But there is no context in which this statement makes historical or theological sense. In attempting to debunk the idea of white privilege, Metaxas employed a traditional affirmation of white supremacy.

Read the rest here.

If you are interested in exploring how we got to this place I recommend Edmund J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Sage of Race in America

If a spiritual revival leads to more Christian Trumpism, is it really a spiritual revival? Or is it something else?

frederickdouglass01

There are many white evangelicals who believe that a spiritual revival will solve the problem of racism in the United States. When God transforms a human heart, the argument goes, the inclination to perform racist acts will subside. So we should pray for revival to “heal our land.”

As an evangelical Christian, I believe that God moves in the lives of his human creation and can change their hearts. But racism runs deep in American culture. It is systemic and structural.

The failure of white Americans to consistently and immediately apply Western ideals of liberty and freedom to African Americans is why we have systemic racism in this country. By the time the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments came around it was too late. White supremacy was baked in the American cake. (It was actually baked in the cake of Western Civilization well before 1776 because westerners failed to apply the universal values of the Enlightenment to the cause of racial difference). Neither did the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s end racism in America.

These reform efforts were important steps toward a new birth of freedom, but none of them were able to pull racism out by the roots. The roots were too deep.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this about court evangelical Robert Jeffress:

Jeffress thinks that racism will “evaporate overnight” if people just turned to God. Again, he fails to see that the sin of racism is structural–it is deeply embedded in our all of our institutions.  I recall the argument of  James Davison’s Hunter‘s book To Change the World”: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. In that book, Hunter argues that individual transformation is not the best way to change the world. True change does not happen through some kind of Protestant populism, but rather by the “work of elites: gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life.” Such change takes generations and it can only “be described in retrospect.” Individual spiritual transformation can bring about good ends, but it does not change the “moral fabric” or “DNA of a civilization.” I think Hunter’s words are an important reminder that the eradication of systemic racism is going to take a long time and a lot of work.

Other evangelicals are also calling for religious revival as a means of healing the nation of its racial divisions (and other divisions).

Here, for example, are court evangelicals Greg Laurie and Jack Graham:

If there is a spiritual revival, and it actually does do something to curb systemic racism in America, this would be a relatively new development in our history. I was reminded of this as I read David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass. Douglass was a slave at a time when a great religious revival moved through America. Some historians call this revival the “Second Great Awakening.” This spiritual awakening made considerable headway among the Methodists of the Delmarva peninsula. (See William Williams’s The Garden of American Methodism and John Wigger’s Taking Heaven by Storm).

Here is Blight on Douglass’s view of his owner Thomas Auld:

In August 1833, Frederick attained a special insight into Auld’s character when his master Blightallowed him to attend a religious revival at Bay Side, some eight miles from St. Michaels. This classic country Methodist camp meeting left indelible images in Douglass’s fertile memory. People came from all over Talbot County; two steamboat loads of pilgrims also arrived from Baltimore. The gathering lasted a week, and slaves relieved of work for a few days could hardly resist the excitement of hundreds of campfires roasting meat, a veritable tent city with a preacher’s stand in the middle and a “pen” marked off for “mourners” to enter and make their confessions, embrace the Lord, and be saved. A recent convert himself to Christian faith, although now struggling to understand whether God intended any justice on earth, Frederick witnessed the spectacle of master Thomas’s wrenching emotional breakdown and confession in that pen. Blacks were not allowed in the pen, nor in front of the preacher’s performances, but Douglass tells us that he imposed his way close enough to hear Auld “groan,” and to see his reddened face, his disheveled hair, and a “stray tear halting on his cheek.” Here festered the dark heart of the moral bankruptcy of slaveholders that the future abolitionist would make his central subject.

Douglass converted this memory into angry condemnations of the religious hypocrisy of the entire Christian slaveholding universe, especially the little microcosm of Auld’s household, where the young slave now had to listen daily to loud praying and testifying by the white family, and to participate in hospitality extended to local preachers who were sometimes housed at Auld’s home, all the while enduring the good Methodist’s verbal and physical cruelty. For Douglass, the proof of any sincerity in Auld’s “tear-drop” manifested in his actions. In his deeds and his glances, wrote Douglass, it was as if the pathetic master had concluded, “I will teach you, young man, that, though I have parted with my sins  , I have not parted with my sense. I shall hold slaves, and go to heaven too.” Such a vow, imagined by Douglass from the memory of his owner’s cowardly eyes, might serve as an unspoken motto of the Christian capitalists who ruled the antebellum South.

In his 1855 memoir, My Bondage and My Freedom, Douglass says this about Thomas Auld:

It was not merely the agency of Master Thomas, in breaking up and destroying my Sabbath school, that shook my confidence in the power of southern religion to make men wiser or better; but I saw him all the cruelty and meanness, after his conversion, which he had exhibited before he made a profession or religion. His cruelty and meanness were especially displayed in his treatment of my unfortunate cousin, Henny, whose lameness made her a burden to him. I have no extraordinary person hard usage toward myself to complain of, against him, but I have seen him tie up the lame and maimed woman, and whip her in a manner most brutal, and shocking; and then, with blood-chilling blasphemy, he would quote the passage of scripture, “That servant which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

Douglass thought the Methodist revival taking place on Maryland’s Eastern Shore during the 1830s was morally bankrupt because it gave white people a spiritual justification to continue their cruelty.

If a spiritual revival leads to more Christian Trumpism is it really a spiritual revival? Or is it something else?

David Barton’s appears with an African-American conservative who once “thanked God” for slavery

JesseLeePeterson

Jesse Lee Peterson is an African-American evangelical who hosts a radio program.

Peterson:

As part of his self-proclaimed “White History Month,” Peterson recently had David Barton on his radio show. Barton is the pro-Trump GOP activist who uses the past to make political points in the present.

Barton thinks “white history month” is “fun.” At the same time, he seems very uncomfortable with the whole thing.

Watch:

It’s the usual stuff:

  • Columbus was a Christian hero.
  • Juneteenth is bad and it should not be a federal holiday.
  • Public schools should not open in the Fall because they indoctrinate students to hate history. This is a great moment to strengthen the home-school lobby.
  • Barton says public schools don’t teach students how to “think.” I am sure there are thousands and thousands of teachers who might disagree with him here. And many of these public school teachers are Christians. For Peterson and Barton, any students who learn to “think” they become members of the Christian Right.
  • Barton defends Confederate monuments, including a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest. He confuses statues with history education. For Barton, history is just a big morality play.
  • Barton wants to talk about free blacks who owned slaves and Native Americans who owned black slaves. He says that Native Americans were the “highest black-owning group in America.” Read this please.
  • Barton has obviously never set foot in a public school history classroom. He seems to think that history teachers are just cherry-picking facts to serve a political agenda. There are probably some Howard Zinn disciples who do this, but most teachers know that effective history teachers are in the business of teaching their kids how to detect bias through close readings of primary sources. This whole discussion is ironic coming from a guy who has been debunked by virtually every professional American historian for his manipulation of the past to serve his own present-day political agenda. There is a reason why Barton edged out Zinn for the “least credible history book in print.”
  • I know I’ve pointed this out a  few times, but I wonder what Barton would think about the tearing-down of this statue?
  • Barton condemns white evangelical pastors for supporting racial reconciliation.
  • In a convoluted argument, Barton seems to suggest that white people are “licking the boots” (Peterson’s phrase) of Black people because white people don’t know how to rise-up and defend their race like African Americans and Hispanics. It sounds like Barton is saying that white people are “taking a knee” to Black people because they never learned how to defend their whiteness. I wonder if Barton knows that he just made an argument in favor of white identity politics. This is Trump, Steven Miller, Breitbart News, and alt-Right stuff.

I’ll end with this:

Folks need to stop tearing down monuments. It just gives fodder to people like Barton and Peterson. It allows them to spread fear to their evangelical followers and claim that America is under spiritual attack. This is one of the two or three things left that still might get Trump re-elected in 2020. Let’s have a conversation about monuments and race in America, but tearing-down U.S. Grant or George Washington doesn’t help.

Are white evangelicals equipped for a conversation on race?

Black Lives

Robert Vischer is dean of the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. His piece at Religion News Service is titled “Will the death of George Floyd sway white evangelicals on race?” I like this piece because Vischer points to the intellectual deficiencies within white evangelicalism that lead many evangelicals to reject systemic racism.

Here is a taste:

In his 1994 book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” evangelical historian Mark Noll explained that evangelical culture encourages “intense, detailed, and precise efforts … to understand the Bible.” White evangelicals have not made a parallel effort “to understand the world or, even more important, the processes by which wisdom from Scripture should be brought into relation with knowledge about the world.”

When the Gulf War broke out in 1991, Noll recounted, evangelical publishers quickly produced, and evangelicals bought in bestselling numbers, books reading the crisis as a direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy signaling the end of the world.

These books, said Noll, “shared the disconcerting conviction that the best way of providing moral judgment about what was happening in the Middle East was not to study carefully what was going on in the Middle East,” but instead to draw “attention away from careful analysis of the complexities of Middle Eastern culture or the tangled 20th-century history of the region toward speculation about some of the most esoteric and widely debated passages of the Bible.”

Has white evangelical culture changed enough since Noll wrote these words to encourage a meaningful exploration of how American laws and policies have shaped the lives of our Black brothers and sisters since our nation’s founding? Will evangelical churches have the courage to host uncomfortable conversations that don’t pretend our nation’s history of racism stopped with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954?

If they look to their Bibles, they might. Recognizing the reality of structural racism is squarely in line with evangelical theology, which recognizes that human beings often sin corporately; the nation of Israel does so repeatedly in the Old Testament. “Sin corrupts every institution and every system because, one way or another, sinful human beings are involved,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr. has said. This means that “laws, policies, habits, and customs are also corrupted by sin.”

Evangelicals have recognized legalized abortion as a structural injustice afflicting American society since Roe v. Wade was issued in 1973. Are they ready to recognize the extent to which the structural injustice of racism continues to afflict our country?

Read the entire piece here.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

Court Evangelicals at Table

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

James Robison does not like the “anti-God” mindset in our country:

I am guessing here that Robison does not see any direct connection between the POTUS he supports and the “father of lies” mentioned in this tweet. How could a man with decades of ministry experience be so deceived?

Jentezen Franklin is preaching about honor. One of Merriam-Webster’s definition of honor is “a keen sense of ethical conduct: integrity.

Shouldn’t church leaders be concerned about coronavirus spreading in churches as well as beaches and open-air demonstrations? My Pennsylvania evangelical church is requiring masks. Jeffress’s church is “strongly encouraging” masks.

Eric Metaxas is once again hosting John Zmirak, a writer at James Robison’s website The Stream. Zmirak is equating Black Lives Matter to the Antichrist and claiming that God gave him this idea. Metaxas wastes no time invoking Godwin’s law.

Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center still doesn’t understand the purpose of masks. By the way, he gets paid a lot of money to write tweets like this:

Lance Wallnau is really excited about Trump’s pardon of Roger Stone.

This will be the last daily court evangelical roundup for a while. I need a break.

When the Confederacy came (back) to Gettysburg

Some of  you may recall my post last week about a friend of friends who visited the Gettysburg National Military Park on July 4, 2020 and encountered overt racism. You can read it here.

We now have a video of what happened.

Watch:

The man debating these white supremacists at the Robert E. Lee monument is Scott Hancock, professor of history at Gettysburg College. Scott, as you can tell from the video, is a man with an incredible amount of patience and self-control. He is a Christian who attends my evangelical church.

Listen to our interview with Scott on Episode 70 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelicals prayer

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

John Hagee invited Fox News commentator, conspiracy theorist, disgraced Christian college president, and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza to speak at the Sunday evening service at his Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. Watch:

D’Souza tells the audience that American exceptionalism is ordained by God and it is under attack. He then moves into his usual critique of socialism. This then devolves into a rejection of systemic racism. If the camera shots of the audience members nodding their heads and cheering is any indication, D’Souza seems to be getting through to them. This is what pro-Trump megachurches have become. It’s pure fearmongering.

The Supreme Court made an important religious liberty decision today, but some court evangelicals and other Trump evangelicals are still fighting. They continue to stoke fear about threats to religious liberty.

“Christian” politico Ralph Reed turns a SCOTUS victory into a chance to get revenge against his enemy.

Johnnie Moore, the self-professed “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” responds to the SCOTUS decision in a way Bonhoeffer would not have recognized as Christian. Perhaps Johnnie needs to read The Cost of Discipleship.

This is what blind court evangelicalism looks like:

And this (notice “ALL” in all caps):

When you think David French is an “irrational woke liberal” and mock someone’s military service it speaks volumes about you and the institution you work for. In Jenna Ellis’s case it is Liberty University. Remember, not all Christian colleges are the same.

Jenna Ellis was on the Eric Metaxas Show today talking about Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech. Metaxas, who is also a spokesperson at the Falkirk Center, says anyone who criticized the speech is “loony.” He mocks the Sioux leaders who pointed out that Mount Rushmore was on Lakota land: “They have benefited from this country.” Ellis thinks that Trump gave the nation an “honest history lesson” during the speech. Again, this should be offensive to any serious classroom teacher who is working to give American young people honest history lessons. In one of the more comical moments of the interview, Ellis praises Trump for his love of the nuclear family and commitment to the institution of marriage.

Wait a minute, I thought Biden was working with Black Lives Matter to undermine America?:

Richard Land is spewing Christian nationalism:

There is a lot that is wrong with this thread. I don’t have time to respond directly right now, but if you want to dig deeper:

  1. Read this blog. It has subject tags, category tags, and a search engine. I’ve been addressing this stuff for years.
  2. Read Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction
  3. Read my post on Os Guinness’s similar claims about the American and the French Revolution.
  4. Read two books on American exceptionalism: John Wilsey’s American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea and Abram Van Engen’s City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism.

Jack Graham issues a warning:

Graham’s words remind me what I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump about the Election of 1800 and the evangelical response to the threat of the Deep State Illuminati in the early republic.

Until next time.

When the *imago Dei* gets politicized

I Am a Man

Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers’ 1968 campaign.

I have noticed a lot of conversation of late about the Judeo-Christian idea that human beings are created in the “image of God” (imago Dei). In his speech at Mount Rushmore last weekend, Donald Trump said “Every child, of every color–born and unborn–is made in the holy image of God.”

What do Christians mean when they say that men and women are created in the image of God?

Genesis 1:26-27 teaches Jews and Christians that humanity is created in the image of God. The Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible, as New Testament scholar Scot McKnight shows us, translates the word behind “image” with the word eikon.  Icons are paintings, statues, or figures that aid us in our devotion to God. Genesis 1 teaches us that we are living eikons. Much in the same way that monuments try to help us understand more fully what happened in a particular historic place, the creation story teaches us that our lives are monuments–eikons that should point people toward a deeper understanding of God.  We are image bearers. Genesis 1 and 2 will always remind Christians of their true identity.

We are created in the image of God and called to pursue relationships with God and His “good” creation. But Genesis 3 teaches us that we are also sinners who have abused the human freedom God has given to us. “Sin,” theologian Birch writes, “is the word we use to describe how shalom, wholeness, gets broken.” Or to use McKnight’s phrase, we are “cracked eikons.”

Today I am hearing Christians on the political Right invoking “the image of God” to argue against Black Lives Matter and systemic racism generally. They say “all lives matter” because “all lives” are created in God’s image. This is theologically true, but it is impossible to understand American history without thinking about the imago Dei in the context how sin has disrupted God’s shalom. For over four-hundred years, white Christians have not treated African-Americans as fellow image-bearers. As a result, racism pervades many of our institutions.

I think the violence needs to stop. It was wrong during the time of the American Revolution when it was mostly white patriots involved, and it is wrong now. There has been too much collateral damage. And I am not talking here about monuments, I am talking about human lives. But the peaceful protests, the righteous anger, and the many demands for racial justice are all, at some level, defenses of human dignity.

Those Christians who reference the imago Dei to fortify their “all lives matter” mantra  need to read more American history, develop a deeper understanding of the pervasiveness of human sin, and pray for empathy. In the meantime, stop politicizing this foundational doctrine.