Friday night court evangelical roundup

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

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

Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills doesn’t like masks:

On his FB page, Jim Garlow is pushing Hydroxychloroquine and his love for Brazilian president Boldonaro:

Brazilian President Bolsonaro is healing from Covid-19 with Hydroxychloroquine. We spent time with him in Brazil in Dec 2018. He is an exceptional leader. (IMPORTANT: Dr. Vladimir Zelenko has treated 2,400 Covid-positive patients in New York City, and has only lost one – with a protocol of Hydroxychloroquine with over-the-counter Zinc, and Azithromycin if…if…if begun in the first five days. After that, it does not help.)

At least Tony Perkins admits it is an “angry fringe.” From FB:

If we want our leaders to stop giving in to the angry fringe that wants to erase our history and destroy our freedom, we need to stop being complacent. The church has to pray, as the disciples did, for the courage and boldness to face the cancel culture of our day and proclaim the gospel truth. The future of our country depends on it.

Robert Jeffress is still mad at CNN’s Don Lemon. (I wrote about this yesterday). The court evangelicals are getting a lot of mileage out of this one:

Richard Land, the leader of an evangelical theological seminary, tweets about “civil religion” as if it is a good thing for the church:

Jerry Falwell Jr. supports an effort to rename the town of Lynchburg, Virginia. No word yet whether or not he wants to rename it “Liberty.” 🙂

He claims that the reason his father changed the name of “Lynchburg Baptist College” to “Liberty Baptist College” in 1976 was because the name of the town was an “embarrassment” because the word “lynch” was in the name.

This all sounds like Falwell Jr.’s effort to do damage control after Black faculty and student athletes left Liberty University after his blackface tweet.

By the way, according to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s mother Macel Falwell in her book Jerry Falwell: His Life and Legacy, the name was changed because Jerry Falwell was concerned that a large monetary gift for his college was inadvertently sent to Lynchburg College, the liberal arts college down the road. Althought I am also pretty sure the Bicentennial (1976) had something to do with the name change. When the name was changed before the 1975-76 school year, Liberty changed its school colors from green and gold to red, white and blue.

Until next time.

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.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Court Evangelicals at Table

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

Jentezen is worried about the radical left controlling churches:

Jack Graham is asking people to wear their military uniforms to church on Sunday. Why do white evangelicals always appeal to the Armed Forces, and only the Armed Forces, on July 4th?

I am really confused by both Paula White’s retweet and Samuel Rodriguez’s original tweet:

I am also confused by this tweet. What has history told us, Paula?

James Robison makes it sound like “profanity, pornography, and exploitation” are new things in America:

Robert Jeffress tweets the Great Commission:

I’ve always wondered why so many Christian Right preachers stop after Matthew 28:19. Don’t they realize that the Great Commission continues into verse 20: “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

If the Great Commission means we should be observing all Jesus commanded us, Christians should rejoice when persecuted (Mt.5:11-12), be agents of reconciliation (Mt. 5:23-25), tell the truth (Mt. 5:37), turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:38-42), love their enemies (Mt. 5:44-46), stop practicing their righteousness before men (Mt. 6:1), judge not (Mt. 7:1-3), not cast their pearls before pigs (Mt. 7:6), practice the Golden Rule (Mt. 7:12), follow the 81% narrow way (Mt. 7:13-14), beware of false prophets (Mt. 7:15-16), pray for laborers (Mt. 9:37-38), fear not (Mt. 10:28), defend their rights deny themselves (Lk 9:23-25), celebrate the poor (Luke 14:12-14), and welcome strangers (Mt. 25:35).

Jeffress is also mad about the California prohibition against singing in church. It looks like he got the news from the alt-Right, white nationalist website Breitbart:

Eric Metaxas is devoting his entire show today to re-running this.

Richard Land explains why we should still celebrate July 4th “amid this mayhem.” He uses his Christian Post editorial to attack critical race theory. Not a good look coming from the guy who said this.

Pastor Mark Burns thanks Trump for protecting Confederate monuments:

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University is using Edmund Burke to defend Confederate monuments and the white supremacy they represent.

I have many questions about this tweet, but here are two:

  1. Would the Falkirk Center feel the same way about George III, Parliament and British tyranny? Would they tear down monuments?
  2. Would the Falkirk Center like this “good, bad, and ugly” approach to American history to be applied to public school American history textbooks?

It looks like Trump will be “telling the truth” tonight in South Dakota. Here is what Falkirk Center spokesperson Jenna Ellis retweeted earlier today:

I am watching the crowd assembling at this event right now. No social distancing. No masks. The president’s job is to protect the people. This rally is immoral.

Until next time.

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court evangelical Ralph Reed retweeted Ingraham today:

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Falkirk Center’s Jenna Ellis:

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

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

Until next time…

Christianity Today’s Former Editor Mark Galli Debates Court Evangelical Richard Land on Boston Public Radio

Galli

The conversation occurred on WBUR-Boston.  Listen here.

Some of you may recall that Richard Land was behind the editorial that led to the resignation of its political editor Napp Nazworth.

A few takeaways:

  • Galli says he had been planning the Christianity Today editorial for “five or ten minutes” before he wrote it.
  • Galli has a history of trying to get evangelicals on the Left and Right to talk to one another. But this editorial was different. He said “we crossed the rubicon.”  He needed to speak out against Trump
  • Galli responds to his evangelical critics: “They pass this off, when they do respond … many pass it off, and say, ‘Well, he’s fighting for the causes we care about. And if he has a few rough edges, we can live with that.’ And they don’t seem to recognize that a man who calls his political enemies crazy, and lying, and disgraced, and losers, and crooked, and phony and fake — and does this day in and day out, often many times a day — they don’t seem to recognize that he is exacerbating the culture of contempt, which was already well under way before he became president. I mean, Hillary Clinton called many Americans a basket of deplorables. But it’s no question that President Trump has taken that to a new level. And the fact that they don’t connect that with the biblical verses about holding one’s tongue — and how dangerous the tongue can be, and how powerful words are, and how we have to be guarded in our speaking — they seem to have completely made a disconnect between those things. And to call that type of language ‘rough edges’ is to miss the gravity of what’s going on.”
  • Galli does not believe that pro-Trumpers are fearful.  Meghna Chakrabarti pushes back.  Galli responds by saying that the left is also fearful.  This sounds a lot like John Wilson, Galli’s former colleague.
  • Does evangelical support of Trump hurt their Christian witness?  Galli says that there is a LOT of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it is.  He references the many letters he has received in response to his editorial.
  • Galli says that the word “evangelical” is now just a political world.  It has become useless.
  • Galli responds to Franklin Graham’s claim that he has “lost his mind.” He defends the idea that Christianity Today is still following Billy Graham’s founding vision.
  • Land enters the conversation and criticizes Galli for his “elitism.” He praises Donald Trump’s policies on abortion and religious liberty.  Land believes that the best way to reduce the number of abortion is to elect the right president.  I am not sure this is true.
  • Galli explains what he means by “elitism.”  He didn’t use the term in previous writings for the purpose of looking down his nose at evangelical Trump voters.  He was just stating a fact. Indeed, Galli is correct here.  Most of Trump’s evangelical support does come from the working class.
  • Land says that most Southern Baptists were not voting for Donald Trump in 2016.  They were voting against Hillary Clinton.  Land then turns the conversation again to abortion.
  • Galli says that pro-Trump evangelicals fail to “hold Trump’s feet to the fire” when he advances a “culture of contempt” with his rhetoric.  Such a culture, Galli says, is detrimental to the nation and the church.  Land responds.  Says that the “culture of contempt” did not start with Trump.  He refers to rhetoric by Obama and Hillary Clinton.  This, of course, is a logical fallacy.  Barack Obama is no longer President.  Hillary Clinton is not president.  Galli is not writing about Obama and Hillary.  He is writing about Trump.
  • An evangelical caller and mother is upset that evangelical Christians are not coming out and supporting Trump’s “bullying.”  Land responds by saying Obama and Hillary were also bullies. He seems to suggest that there is a moral equivalence between Trump and Obama/Hillary on this issue.

The Court Evangelicals Take a Photo

Most of them were there on Friday night:

COurt Evangelicals

I don’t recognize everyone, but I see Alveda King, Jack Graham, Jenetzen Franklin, James Dobson, Shirley Dobson, James Robison, Michael Tait, Greg Laurie, Michelle Bachmann, Eric Metaxas, Tony Suarez, Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Johnnie Moore, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, Richard Land, Cissie Graham, Tim Clinton, Harry Jackson, and Jim Garlow, Paula White, and Guillermo Maldonado.

I wonder if Trump can identify them all.

Many of these people feature prominently in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

The Politics Editor at *The Christian Post* Resigns

Nazz

Napp Nazworth, the politics editor at The Christian Post website, announced on Twitter that he has resigned:

The executive editor of The Christian Post is court evangelical Richard Land. (Click here to read our past posts on Land). Members of the editorial advising team include Princeton professor Robert George and court evangelicals Harry R. Jackson, Johnnie Moore (who touts himself as a “modern day Dietrich Bonheoffer [sic]), and Samuel Rodriguez.

Nazworth is referring to an editorial, written by Land and Managing Editor John Grano, titled “Christianity Today and the problem with “Christian Elitism.”

Here is a taste of that editorial:

You may think Trump is a narcissistic, morally challenged, belligerent cad who has no business being president — except for the pesky constitutional fact that over 60 million American voters elected him to it. You may see Trump as a modern day Cyrus, the Persian king who did God’s bidding in assisting in the restoration of Jerusalem. You may think Trump is a Samson-like hero called to realign the Supreme Court, to redirect the economy toward the American worker, and/or to tear down the pillars of Deep State corruption in modern Washington. But whatever you think — and however you vote — America will certainly survive and is, in significant ways, thriving under a Trump presidency — even if it lasts another four years.

However, our religious and other freedoms will not long survive a government of elites so convinced of their superiority that they are willing to compromise constitutional due process, after illegally manipulating the nation’s national security and law enforcement apparatus behind the scenes, to depose a duly-elected sitting president — all the while declaring arrogantly to the American people that it is for their own good.

These are the fellow travelers that Christianity Today is clearly aligning itself with at this critical juncture in our nation’s history. CT’s op-ed does not represent evangelical Christianity today, yesterday or in the future. After all, a majority of Trump’s evangelical support has been triggered by his opponents’ advocating policies that make him appear to be, at the very least, the lesser of two evils in a binary contest.

CT’s disdainful, dismissive, elitist posture toward their fellow Christians may well do far more long-term damage to American Christianity and its witness than any current prudential support for President Trump will ever cause.

Read the rest here.

I am saddened that Napp Nazworth has become a victim of this.  I have never met him, but over the years he has republished a lot of my writing at The Christian Post.  I respect him for his courage.  If only more evangelicals and GOP members of Congress had the same courage.

In June 2017, I warned that Donald Trump would change the landscape of American Christianity.  It is happening.

Todd Starnes, the Fox News Radio Host Who Gave a Platform to the Court Evangelicals, is Out

Starnes and Jeffress

Former Fox News radio host Todd Starnes often referred to court evangelical Robert Jeffress as the official chaplain of his Right-Wing radio program.  Just recently, Jeffress appeared on Starnes’s program and said that Democrats worship the Old Testament god “Moloch, who talks about child sacrifice.”  Starnes responded by saying “I believe that.”  Read all about Jeffress’s appearance here.

Starnes was fired today.  Apparently these comments were even too much for Fox News, although an article at The Wrap suggests that the firing was in the works well before the Moloch incident.   It will be interesting to see how Jeffress will respond.  How can he blame the liberal mainstream media for firing Starnes?

And here is an even more interesting question: Will Jeffress, another employee of Fox News, be next?

But before we leave this story, let’s reflect on some of the memorable Todd Starnes-Robert Jeffress-court evangelical moments that we have covered here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

  • Jeffress tells Starnes that 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg needs to look at a rainbow and read Genesis 9.
  • Jeffress supports Donald Trump’s view that no good Jew can vote for a Democratic candidate.
  • Starnes defends Jerry Falwell Jr.’s tweet telling McLean Bible Church pastor David Platt to “grow a pair.”
  • Richard Land tells Starnes that Trump was the “lesser of two evils” in 2016 and adds that Hillary Clinton will always be the “greater evil” in any election in which she runs “unless she is running against Lucifer.”
  • Starnes describes Christians who oppose patriotic worship services “so-called evangelical Christians.”  Jeffress calls Christianity Today “fake news.”

Paige Patterson and Richard Land Will Co-Teach an Ethics Course

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Yes, you read the headline correctly.

Paige Patterson, who was ousted at Southwestern Theological Seminary for dismissing women’s concerns about domestic abuse and rape  (see our coverage here), is teaching an ethics course at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But it gets better.  Patterson is co-teaching the class with Southern Evangelical Seminary president and court evangelical Richard Land.  In 2013, Land retired early from his post at the Southern Baptist Church’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission because he made racially insensitive remarks in the context of the death of Trayvon Martin.  (Russell Moore replaced him in the post).

Here is Adelle Banks’s piece at Religion News Service:

Patterson plans to co-teach a mid-October weeklong class on “Christian Ethics: The Bible and Moral Issues” with Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, a school that is not affiliated with the SBC.

“Dr. Patterson’s one of the most significant figures in evangelicalism in the last 20 years, at least, of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century,” Land told Religion News Service, “and we believe that there are a lot of people who would like to hear from him about living the Christian life in America. I believe he’s an asset to evangelicalism and we’re looking forward to it.”

Read the entire piece here.

Some Court Evangelicals Break Ranks on Trump’s Immigration Policy

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The Trump administration is separating children from parents at the Mexican border.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that Romans 13 justifies the policy, but court evangelical Franklin Graham calls the policy “disgraceful.”  Another court evangelical, Samuel Rodriguez, also opposes the policy.  Learn more from this piece at CBN news.

I am now waiting for the following evangelical leaders to stand-up to Donald Trump’s immigration policy:

Robert Jeffress has said nothing.  Yet he has wished Trump a Happy Birthday and thanked him for being such a great POTUS:

Jerry Falwell Jr. has said nothing.  If he tweeted something today I can’t see it.  He blocked me a long time ago.

Paula White has said nothing.  But she is tweeting:

Eric Metaxas:  I don’t know what he is saying on this issue.  I am blocked.

Johnnie Moore:  He seems more focused on Trump’s meeting with North Korea”

Mark Burns is being a good court evangelical:

James Dobson, the champion of “family values” has an interesting tweet today:

Ronnie Floyd seems to be running a prayer sweepstakes:

Richard Land: Silent

Greg Laurie is focused on a big rally in Dallas and Trump’s meeting with the North Koreans:

Tony Perkins, another champion of family values, has said nothing about the fact that Trump is ripping families apart at the border. Do “family values” only apply to white families? Middle-class families?

But he does love Trump:

 

Court Evangelicals: How Dare These Other Evangelical Leaders “Steal the Microphone” From Us!

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Wheaton College

CBN News is reporting that some of the court evangelicals are not particularly happy that evangelicals leaders who do not frequent the court of Donald Trump met at Wheaton College this week.

Here is a taste of Jenna Browder’s piece:

Those at the meeting held at Wheaton College indicated they wanted to make sure political allegiances to Trump don’t get in the way of the gospel message but it didn’t sit well with some evangelicals who support Trump’s policy initiatives.

Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for the Faith Advisory Council, was among the many pro-Trump evangelicals not invited.

“We don’t take it personally; we just pray for them,” Moore said in a statement to CBN News. “I’ve said it many, many times, but I’ll say it again: we have been honored to fight to protect religious liberty that even extends to protecting the rights of those who disagree with us on religious grounds, even when they are unkind.”

Robert Jeffress is another advisor not included.  

Richard Land also questioned the weight of the meeting given the absence of some well-known names. 

“Any definition of ‘thought leaders’ and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation – anemic and incomplete,” said Land. 

Other members of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council spoke to CBN News off the record, one voicing his concern over what he sees as this group of evangelicals trying to steal the microphone from those who support Trump. He pointed to the fact that many invited to participate are part of the anti-Trump movement and hold more progressive views on public policy than traditional evangelical Christian voters who supported Trump in 2016.

“It’s a meeting that will have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole,” Jeffress told CBN News. “Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism.”

Read the entire piece here.  The response of the court evangelicals speaks volumes.  They seem legitimately bothered that this other meeting has taken place.

As I wrote in The Washington Post on July 17, 2017: “The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments.”

Court Evangelical Richard Land Stays With Trump

Land

Richard Land, the controversial Southern Baptist leader who recently boasted that the court evangelicals have “unprecedented access” to the White House, told Bruce Henderson of the Charlotte Observer that he has no intention of resigning from his position as an evangelical adviser to Donald Trump.

Here is a taste of Henderson’s piece:

A Charlotte-area evangelical leader said he won’t resign from a Trump administration advisory council despite discomfort with President Donald Trump’s comments on the Aug. 12 violence in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman dead.

Trump came under fire for blaming “many sides” for the clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. Two days later, the president explicitly condemned racism and the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, said in a statement Thursday that Trump’s initial comments were “inartful and begged to be misconstrued and misunderstood in ways that are very hurtful to people.”

But Land said he’ll continue to serve on the president’s Evangelical Faith Advisory Council, saying “Jesus did not turn away from those who may have seemed brash with their words or behavior.”

“A leader presented with the challenges that President Trump is facing needs counsel and prayer from Bible-believing servants now more than ever,” the statement said. “Now is not the time to quit or retreat, but just the opposite – to lean in closer.”

Read the entire article here.

“Lean in closer.”  I understand the logic and I might even agree with Land if I thought that the court evangelicals were there to rebuke Trump in the way that the Old Testament court prophet Nathan rebuked King David.  But so far, apart from a Supreme Court order and a useless executive order on religious liberty, the court evangelicals have had little influence on this reckless POTUS.  In fact, after his recent Arizona speech this week one could argue that he is getting worse.

Court Evangelical: We Have “Unprecedented Access” to the Trump White House

Land

Richard Land

Southern Baptist Richard Land, the president of a conservative evangelical seminary and the guy who held Russell Moore‘s position at the head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Liberty Commission until he made racist remarks on his radio program, is the latest court evangelical to praise King Donald.

In an interview with fellow Southern Baptist leader Ronnie Floyd, Land calls Trump a “pleasant surprise.”  He says that Trump has given him and the other court evangelicals “unprecedented access” to his administration.  Land adds that Trump is “fascinated by evangelicals.” He even discusses what it is like to walk around the White House and schmooze with the other evangelicals who make up Trump’s court.

Listen:

I have always been skeptical of the critics who believe that all conservative evangelicals want to create a theocracy.  I am still skeptical, but getting less so.  Trump and the court evangelicals are pushing me in this direction.

For example, what does Land mean when he says that the court evangelicals have “unprecedented access” to the POTUS?  What do they want to do with this “unprecedented access?”  Are they using such access to speak truth to power?  Are they using this access to call out Donald Trump for his sins?

Are they modeling themselves after the Old Testament court prophet Nathan? Remember Nathan? He was the one who called out King David for adultery and murder using a parable that ended with the phrase “thou art the man!”  Somehow I doubt that this is how the court evangelicals are using their “unprecedented access.”  And if they are using their access this way, it does not appear to be going well.  The “baby Christian” does not appear to be growing.

I think it’s pretty obvious what Land and the other court evangelicals want to do with their access to the White House.  They want to make sure everyone who does not agree with them will either be thrown out of the country or subordinated to the status of second-class citizen. Their approach to public life is driven by the erroneous view that the founding fathers wanted to establish a Christian nation. It is not motivated by the Judeo-Christian idea that all human beings are created in God’s image and thus deserve dignity, worth, and a place in democratic life regardless of their religious beliefs, sexual identity, or views on marriage.

Trump’s Evangelicals

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Paula White is on Donald Trump’s “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board”

Earlier this evening I wrote a post on James Dobson‘s claim that Donald Trump has become a born-again Christian. Dobson’s news comes in the wake of Trump’s meeting on Tuesday with evangelicals.  Shortly after that meeting the Trump campaign announced that it has established an Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.  Apparently this board will eventually lead a larger, yet-to-be-established, “Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee.”

Here are the members of the committee:

  • Michele Bachmann – Former Congresswoman
  • A.R. Bernard – Senior Pastor and CEO, Christian Cultural Center
  • Mark Burns – Pastor, Harvest Praise and Worship Center
  • Tim Clinton – President, American Association of Christian Counselors
  • Kenneth and Gloria Copeland – Founders, Kenneth Copeland Ministries
  • James Dobson – Author, Psychologist and Host, My Family Talk
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr. – President, Liberty University
  • Ronnie Floyd – Senior Pastor, Cross Church
  • Jentezen Franklin – Senior Pastor, Free Chapel
  • Jack Graham – Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
  • Harry Jackson – Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
  • Robert Jeffress – Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas
  • David Jeremiah – Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church
  • Richard Land – President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
  • James MacDonald – Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
  • Johnnie Moore – Author, President of The KAIROS Company
  • Robert Morris – Senior Pastor, Gateway Church
  • Tom Mullins – Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship­
  • Ralph Reed – Founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition
  • James Robison – Founder, Life OUTREACH International
  • Tony Suarez – Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
  • Jay Strack – President, Student Leadership University
  • Paula White – Senior Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center
  • Tom Winters – Attorney, Winters and King, Inc.
  • Sealy Yates – Attorney, Yates and Yates

The best analysis of this group can be found at Christianity Today.  I encourage you to read its post. It is excellent.  (I am also encouraged to see that one of my former students, Morgan Lee, contributed to the piece).

I am not familiar with all of the people on Trump’s committee, but I do think it is fair to say that it is dominated by two types of evangelicals.

Some of the members of the committee are operating with the 1980s and 1990s playbook of the Christian Right.  As I wrote earlier today, this is “an approach that assumes that the United States was once a ‘Christian nation‘ (although that phrase now seems to be replaced with the mantra of “religious liberty”) and the only way to save it from falling into the abyss is to cozy up to national politicians.”  These are veterans of the culture war who long for the glory days of the Reagan era.  Most of them remember the 1990s and thus really do not like Hillary Clinton

The evangelicals on Trump’s committee who represent this group include: Michelle Bachman, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, Robert Jeffress, David Jeremiah, Richard Land, and Ralph Reed.  (Christianity Today notes that there is a Southern Baptist subset in this group that includes Floyd, Jeffress, Land, and others). These folks are mostly white males.  According to my rough estimate, they average just over 64 years of age.

I will call the other major group the charismatic/faith-healing/prosperity/entrepreneurial wing of American evangelicalism.  The evangelicals on Trump’s committee who represent this group include John Mark Burns, Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, Robert Morris, James Robison, Jay Strack, and Paula White.  This group is only slightly younger and slightly more diverse in terms of race and gender.  This groups is eclectic, but many of them are probably attracted to Trump’s business acumen and wealth.

If you read this blog you know what I think about the practice of evangelical leaders cozying up to political power.

Let’s also remember that these evangelicals only represent a some American evangelicals.

Southern Baptists Are Not Happy About the New Starbucks’ Holiday Cups

A lot of Christians on my social media sites are asking if anyone out there is actually opposed to the new Starbucks cups.  I initially thought that the Starbucks critique came from one guy–an evangelist named Josh Feuerstein

But I was wrong.  
Richard Land, the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and the former president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has joined the cause.
I am curious to see what Russell Moore, Land’s successor as the president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has to say about this.  How many Southern Baptists does Land represent?  If what I have read about Moore is any indication, I would think he would rise above this petty issue and keep the Southern Baptist Convention focused on more important things related to its mission. But will he speak out against his predecessor?  (I haven’t seen any commentary by Moore on this.  If he has spoken or written on this topic please let me know).
It is worth noting that in 2012 Moore spoke out against a Christian boycott of Starbucks after the coffee company announced that it would support same-sex marriage.
Al Mohler, another Southern Baptist leader, is not too happy about it either.

Evangelicals at BYU

Richard Land at BYU

The warm feelings between evangelicals and Mormons are growing stronger.  According to Adelle Banks’s article at Religion News Service, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (Richard Land and Albert Mohler) and the Assembly of God Church (George O. Wood) have recently delivered lectures at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  Evangelical apologist Ravi Zacharias is also scheduled to speak at BYU.

This developing relationship is historically significant.  For most of the twentieth century evangelicals thought the Church of the Latter Day Saints was a cult. Many evangelicals still think this way, as we witnessed during the Romney presidential runs.  If you type the words “Mormonism is” into Google, the top hits are “a cult,” “not Christianity,” “fake,” “false,” and “stupid.” Most of these hits will take you to evangelical websites by organizations such as Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry and the Christian Broadcasting Network.  In the early 1990s, when I was a student at the decidedly evangelical Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, “anti-cult” groups would come to campus and stand at their tables in the lobby of the Chatlos Memorial Chapel to warn us against the threat of Mormonism and seek our support in the cause of exposing its false teachings.

It does not seem that the evangelicals mentioned above are willing to use the label “Christian” to describe Mormons, but they are definitely willing to work with them to advance certain moral issues. In the 2012 election cycle Land made it clear that Mitt Romney (a Mormon) was not a Christian, but a member of a fourth Abrahamic faith.  In 2007 Mohler said that the Latter Day Saints taught a “sincerely false gospel,” but still make good neighbors.  Zacharias is not new to the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.  He spoke there in 2004 along with then Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw and evangelical recording artist Michael Card.  Wood has been taking some heat for his visit. Of course evangelical-Mormon cooperation on moral issues is not unique to the present moment. Mormonism was part of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority coalition in the late 1970s and the LDS leaders continued to stand alongside conservative Protestants as the so-called culture wars heated up in the 1980s and 1990s.

Meanwhile, Mormons have been making efforts to be a greater part of the American religious mainstream.  It should be noted that it was BYU who initiated the meetings with Land, Mohler, Wood, and Zacharias.  The meetings have been centered around faith, family, and religious freedom. 

I am curious what some of the Mormon readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home think about these developments.  Here is a taste of Banks’s piece:

The outreach has gone both ways. In September, Taylor joined two members of the LDS church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Washington installation of Russell Moore, who succeeded Land as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“It’s clear where we disagree, but we’re standing together in the public square for religious liberty,” said Moore, who has recently spoken with Mormon officials about military chaplains’ religious rights.
As Mormons continue to work toward greater acceptance and visibility — from Mitt Romney’s White House bid to a category of questions on “Jeopardy” — they are more likely to have tangible benefits from this engagement, said Stephen Webb, author of the new book “Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints.”
Bob Millet, a BYU religion professor who suggested the evangelical visitors to LDS officials, said the rapprochement helps Mormons, “a sample of the population that’s not well-understood and highly misunderstood.”

Addendum:  Since I wrote and scheduled this post Thomas Kidd has posted something similar at The Anxious Bench.  Check it out here.