Another Convening of the Court (Evangelicals)

This is from court evangelical Greg Laurie‘s Twitter feed:

I don’t recognize everyone in the picture, but I do see Franklin Graham, Paula White, Tim Clinton, and Robert Jeffress.

After looking at this photo-op I am reminded of former court evangelical A.R. Bernard’s line.

By the way, Chapter Four of my forthcoming Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump is entitled “Power Brokers: The Court Evangelicals.”  The good folks at Eerdmans Publishing tell me that pre-orders help them get the message of the book to the maximum number of people.

Believe Me JPEG

 

Not All “Two Kingdom” Christians Ignore the Government’s Unethical Behavior

Tinder 2People like Robert Jeffress give “two-kingdom” theologians a bad name.  (Get up to speed here).

Even if one embraces the idea that the Sermon on the Mount or the Great Commission should not dictate government policy, Christians are still required to speak and act when the government exerts itself in unjust, untruthful, and hateful ways.

My favorite two-kingdom thinker is retired University of Massachusetts political scientist Glenn Tinder.  Here is what Tinder says in the “Social Transformation” chapter (4) of The Political Meaning of Christianity:

…if Christians are even more pessimistic about human beings than are conservatives how can they favor reform?  How can they do anything but cling to all institutions, however unjust, that counteract the chaotic potentialities of  human beings and achieve a degree of order?  There are three interconnected answers to these questions.

First of all, Christian principles place one in a radical–that is, critical and adverse–relationship to established institutions.  The Kingdom of God is a judgment on the existing society; the imminence of the Kingdom of God symbolizes its impermanence.  Jesus was crucified because his presence and preaching were unsettling to reigning religious and political groups.  Jesus did not seek the violent overthrow of these groups, but neihter did he show much concern for their stability…

The second answer to the foregoing questions is that these basic attitudes have to be acted on.  This is a matter of spiritual integrity.  To be opposed to the established order in principle, but in favor of keeping it exactly as it is, is an incongruity necessarily destructive of prophetic faith.  Beliefs are not genuine unless they affect one’s conduct as well as one’s mind.  To anticipate the coming of the Kingdom of God is merely sentimental, a private frivolity, unless one seeks ways of reshaping society according to the form of the imminent community.  The Christian universe is not, as we have seen, an eternal and changeless order; it is a universe moving, under the impetus of the Word of God, toward radical re-creation…

Finally, however, it must be said that Christianity forbids us to assume the inevitability of failure.  It requires hope, and hope pertains to the immediate, as well as the eschatological, future…It is reasonable to be skeptical concerning the possibilities of social transformation.  But human beings have no warrant for holding fixed opinions in this matter, for they cannot know the kind or degree of change God intends to effect in history.  And those who accept Christian principles do know, through Christ, that all things move toward the Kingdom of God, however humanly incomprehensible the movement may be…

Robert Jeffress’s Half-Baked 2 Kingdom Theology and Christian Nationalism

Trump Jeffress

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress recently tweeted:

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, has recently made the following claims about Donald Trump:

  1. Trump is correct, from a Biblical point of view, in making a preemptive strike on North Korea
  2. Trump is correct in deciding to ban immigrants  based on race.
  3. Trump and the government he leads does not need to conform to any standards of Christian character because according to the Bible the only purpose of government is to protect its citizens so that they can live and worship freely.

This “two-kingdom” view of politics is not new.  Jeffress’s view of government looks something like Martin Luther’s view of government.  Jeffress believes that Christians should never hold the government accountable to moral or Christian standards.  I don’t know any Lutheran who believes this.  So I am hard-pressed to say Jeffress’s view is Lutheran.  Most Lutherans I know believe that there are always times when Christians must criticize the government and political figures when they go astray.  Lutherans don’t believe that government can be redeemed, but they certainly believe that speaking boldly in defense of truth, justice, and love is a biblical mandate when falsehood, injustice, and hate raises their ugly heads.  I will need some Lutheran ethicists, theologians, and historians to help me here (and maybe some New Testament scholars), but I seem to remember German Lutherans learning this lesson in the 1930s and 1940s.

The piece to which Jeffress links in the tweet above celebrates this half-baked two-kingdom view.  If I have time I will try to engage with the piece in another post.  In the meantime, here are two tweets to get us started:

Darryl Hart, am I right about this?

Dallas Civil Rights Activist Tapes “95 Theses” to First Baptist Church

peter_johnson

Rev. Peter Johnson, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who now lives in Dallas, just taped his 95 Theses to the doors of court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s First Baptist Church.

If you are not familiar with the Martin Luther and the 95 Theses, click here to learn more.

Here is a taste of the story in Dallas Magazine:

Hoofing it through downtown a bit ago to grab lunch, I ran into the Rev. Peter Johnson, near the corner of St. Paul and San Jacinto streets. He had a sheaf of papers under his arm and a cameraman at his elbow.

“Hey, Peter, what are you up to?” I asked.

“I just taped my 95 theses to the doors of First Baptist,” he said, handing me an 8-page stapled copy. “Channel 8 was there, and we were filming, too, until a security guard made me leave.”

I looked over at the church — or, rather, at the crazy fountain and St. Paul Cafe. One wonders what Martin Luther would have to say about all that and about Robert Jeffress himself, the senior pastor at First Baptist, the one who scurries to television in defense of every Trump utterance, including his recent “shithole” remark. 

“Did you get every door?” I asked Peter.

“Yup.”

“Including the ones to the original sanctuary?”

“Sure did.”

“Were you tempted to use nails, like Martin Luther did it? Oh, I guess you needed tape. Too many glass doors.”

“I didn’t want them to get me for destroying property,” Peter said. “I still thought they might arrest me. I told my personal lawyer not to bail me out. Just let me stay in jail. My wife was giving me all kinds of hell this morning.”

I think he was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to take a ride in the back of a squad car. We parted ways after I promised to write something about what he’d just done. As for his 95 theses, they are a mix of scripture and quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

Read the rest here.

“Out of the Abundance of the Heart His Mouth Speaks”

Trump Jeffress

Check out Bonnie Kristian‘s piece at The American Conservative on how the court evangelicals have let Trump’s “vulgarity” in the “s—hole controversy” distract “them from his inhumanity.”

A taste:

Self-proclaimed Christians’ complicity in this chicanery is particularly egregious given Scripture’s clarity on the connection between our tongues and our hearts. Just as no “good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit,” Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Plain, so a “good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”

What Jesus preached is utterly incompatible with court evangelicals’ claims that we may disregard Trump’s words—that his obscenities about women and people of color may be brushed aside as a point of personal preference—because his policyintention, or heart is good.

Words and deeds cannot be thus separated, for “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks,” and “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Our deeds and words, meaning and language, all have the same source. Knowing this, Trump’s evangelical backers deceive themselves and others when they use a sham dichotomy to create an illusion of distance between Trump’s language and his person.

Like a small blaze that will burn a great forest, the Apostle James wrote, so “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity.” It “sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (If ever James needed a vivid illustration of his message, Trump has supplied it, and I confess his negative object lesson has me reexamining the habits of my own tongue.) James’s exhortation does not lend itself to “I wouldn’t speak that way, but…” Fire is not so easily contained. This month Trump has shown himself once more as an arsonist, and insofar as they let his vulgarity distract from his inhumanity, his evangelical supporters act as accomplices.

Read the entire piece here.  Good to see that the phrase “court evangelicals” is continuing to get traction.

As Expected, a Leading Court Evangelical Defends Trump’s “S$%#Hole Comments”

And here we go:

Jeffress:

Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment. 

As individual Christians, we have a biblical responsibility to place the needs of others above our own, but as Commander-in-Chief, President Trump has the constitutional responsibility to place the interest of our nation above the needs of other countries.

I am glad we have a President like Donald Trump who clearly understands that distinction and has the courage to protect the well-being of our nation.

In other words, Jeffress endorses xenophobia here.  He is dabbling in the most dangerous and extreme forms of two-kingdom theology here.  We have seen this kind of “America First” mentality before for in the history of the West, especially in the 1930s and 1940s.

I am on the road, and will try to return to this later today, but I am reminded of when Billy Graham was appalled by Nixon’s language on the Watergate tapes, but completely missed (at least initially) the larger moral problem of the break-in and the cover-up.

Charles Marsh: “The call to an armed laity is beset with problems”

Guns

The court evangelical Robert Jeffress says that 25-50% of the members of his First Baptist Church–Dallas carry guns to church and are prepared to use them.

Charles Marsh, a professor of theology at the University of Virginia, is rightly bothered by this. In “The NRA’s Assault on Christian Faith and Practice,” he asks conservative evangelicals to rethink their position on guns.

Here is a taste of his piece at Religion & Politics:

Evil cannot be completely eradicated; gun violence cannot be reduced to zero. The world is fallen; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Yet there are reasonable measures that would decrease the number of gun deaths and mass shootings: universal background checks, limits on the size of magazines, closing the private sale and gun show loopholes, and empowering federal agencies and the CDC to share critical information and compile data on gun violence in public health are all sensible measures that save lives.

On issues related to gun violence, safety, and regulation, evangelicals clearly need, and deserve, a more theologically robust discussion. A good start might be formulating questions for reflection and study, such as: Are there aspects of American gun culture that contradict or confuse the message of the Gospel? (If so, let’s name them.) Have evangelicals sought to understand gun violence in America under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with prayerful discernment of practical solutions? How can followers of Jesus preserve the distinctive speech and practices of Christian witness from the religion of the NRA, whose distinctive speech and practices cluster around the promise of overwhelming force? Under what conditions, if any, should the Christian lay down his or her arms? Does the support of the American gun lobby bring glory to God?

My father is a conservative Southern Baptist minister who for 40 years served parishes in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. In his theological and social convictions and most other respects, he would be called a Russell Moore evangelical. The one major exception is guns. On this issue, my father’s deep loyalty to the global ecumenical church and his experiences in missions through evangelical congregations in Europe and Africa have time and again brought him into conversations with people for whom the American gun loyalty remains a stumbling block to faith. Though he is very much a social conservative, my father believes that a Christian’s commitment to the Gospel must chasten the person’s cultural and political preferences—and for this reason, he admires the counter-cultural ecumenism of Baptists like Clarence Jordan and Carlyle Marney.

In a letter written in the spring of 2007 after the mass killing of 33 people at Virginia Tech, my father spoke of the tragic alliance of evangelicals and guns and its effects on Christian conviction. “Church people in the United States are getting their signals from political ideology and the NRA lobbyists,” he said. “There is no rational connection between the 2nd Amendment and stock piling of semiautomatic rifles and ammunition. What should the church’s role be? Teach the people to take seriously the teachings of Jesus. When He talked about refusing to be people of violence, that is what He meant. If I want what is best for my fellow beings, if I really desire to see a society of order, security, and freedom, then I should have no problem in seeing the connection between GUNS FOR ALL and the prevailing tragedies of war and mass killing that follow. The prophets had a vision of the kingdom where swords would be beaten into plows. I hope and I pray, that we in the church will capture that vision.”

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress and the “Christianity Today Crowd”

jeffress

Back in July 2017, I called attention to a growing divide in American evangelicalism.  It looks like court evangelical Robert Jeffress agrees with me.  I also think Jeffress is right  when he says that Trump did not create the divide, but exacerbated it.

In this interview with Christian conservative radio host Janet Mefferd, Jeffress identified anti-Trump evangelicals as the “evangelical elite” and the “Christianity Today crowd.”  According to Jeffress, this divide in evangelicalism is not merely about different views on Christianity and government.  Nope.  The divide is between “evangelicals who take the Bible seriously, and those who don’t.”

Here’s a thought.  Instead of evangelicals in the “Christianity Today crowd” abandoning the label “evangelical,”  I think we should fight to keep the label and bring back the word “fundamentalist” to describe people like Jeffress.

Listen:

By the way, I can’t wait to tell some of my non-college-educated, working class friends who did not vote for Trump that they are part of the evangelical “elite.”

Is Evangelicalism Experiencing a Lutheran Moment?

luther

Back in 1992, Mark Noll published a piece at First Things titled “The Lutheran Difference.”  In that piece he made the following observations:

  • Despite the popularity of Garrison Keillor, Lutherans have always appeared to be “on the fringe of American life”
  • Lutherans are “remarkably unremarkable.”  They are “pretty ordinary” or “ho-hum.”  Unlike evangelicals, for example, they do not have “spectacular stories of conversion.”
  • The history of Lutherans in America is very interesting.  It needs more attention.
  • Lutherans have much to offer Americans if they contribute to the culture “as Lutherans.” Lutherans can offer “resources” to Americans, especially other Protestants,” that “would be an incalculable benefit.”
  • Lutherans have always insisted history is important for the faith, while other American Protestants, especially evangelicals, have “proclaimed that the past is pollution.”  It was Lutheran Jaroslav Pelikan who wrote “tradition is the living faith of the dead” and “traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”  Noll writes: “American liberals, who want to fix things by themselves and right away, both need to learn from Lutherans that God’s concern extends over decades and centuries as well as over days, weeks, and months.”
  • Lutherans have much to offer in thinking about Christian political involvement.  Noll writes: “The dominant pattern of political involvement in America has always been one of direct, aggressive action modeled on Reformed theories of life in the world.”  He adds: “there have been only occasional examples of what could be called ‘Lutheran irony.’ In religious terms, this irony is the sense that precisely when Christians mount their most valiant public efforts for God, they run the greatest risk of substituting their righteousness for the righteousness of Christ, and thereby subverting justification by faith.”

I have been thinking about this piece (and Lutherans) a lot lately.  Evangelicalism may be experiencing (or perhaps should be experiencing) a “Lutheran moment” right now, at least in terms of political engagement.

Let’s remember that Luther believed the purpose of the secular government is to restrain evil, protect citizens, and promote justice. In other words, Lutheranism rejects the idea, made popular by Thomas Aquinas, that government plays a positive role in society by promoting the common good.  God redeems and justifies us in the kingdom of redemption, but government is part of the kingdom of creation.  In other words, government is necessary, but it cannot be redeemed.  Government cannot help in promoting the Kingdom of God.  Most Lutherans call this “2 Kingdom Theology.”

So why might we be having a Lutheran moment right now?  Let me suggest two reasons.

  1.  Many evangelicals who support Donald Trump have justified their vote based on something akin to Lutheranism. (Although they never reference it this way).  They argue that we should not expect government to do anything beyond protecting us and giving us liberty.  Government, for example, is not required to conform to the Sermon on the Mount or other teachings of Jesus.  This is the approach to government I hear most often from court evangelical Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.  And while I think Jeffress misrepresents Lutheranism in several ways, his view of church-state relations seems closer to Luther (and Augustine?) than it does to Calvin or Aquinas.  As long as Trump is protecting us (building a wall, keeping Muslims out of the country, giving us religious liberty, etc.) then he deserves our vote despite his character.  (Of course even this theory does not explain everything, because many evangelical Trumpers voted for Trump because they believed he was a Christian.  I unpack some of this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. (Pre-order here).
  2.  Lutherans always remind us that there is a difference between the kingdom of redemption–the place where we are saved–and the kingdom of creation–the place where government resides.  Evangelicals always need to be reminded of this so they don’t confuse the two kingdoms.  Court evangelicals like Jeffress say that the character or policies of the president do not matter as long as he is protecting us. But they don’t usually behave this way.  Their behavior suggests that they REALLY believe that government should be active–very active.  It should be active in promoting their Christian agenda.

I’m Confused: Is Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress a Political Commentator or a Christian Pastor?

Here is Robert Jeffress arguing that Donald Trump is sane.

If you listen closely, you will notice Jeffress, who comes on Fox News in his capacity as a Christian pastor, says absolutely nothing about faith, religion, Christianity, or the Bible.  This is what happens to court evangelicals.  They must defend and serve the king at all costs.  I am sure Donald Trump is very proud of pastor Jeffress.

Did You Hear About the Golden Trump at Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress’s Church?

trump-gold-696x394The Babylon Bee is an evangelical Christian version of the satire website The Onion.  Yesterday it hit a home run with this headline and story: “First Baptist Dallas Members Melt Golden Jewelry Down Into Towering Donald Trump Statue.”  The piece features court evangelical Robert Jeffress.

Here is a taste:

DALLAS, TX—In a powerful show of devotion to the president of the United States, members of First Baptist Dallas passed their golden jewelry, watches, and personal trinkets down to the front of the sanctuary Sunday morning, where Pastor Robert Jeffress melted the large pile of golden knickknacks into a towering statue of President Donald Trump.

Read the rest here.  Nice work.

“No outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this”

america-at-the-crossroadsCheck out Terry Mattingly‘s column on Sean Hannity’s visit to court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Mattingly secured a few nice quotes from Baylor University theologian Francis Beckwith.

Here is a taste:

While there were Trumpian overtones, this Sunday service demonstrated how many evangelicals have fused talk-show media, faith and politics to create a unique American niche culture, said a conservative church-state scholar at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

“It struck me how different this kind of evangelicalism is, compared with what we’ve known in the past,” said Francis Beckwith, after watching the “America at the Crossroads” event online.

“Evangelicals have always tried to reach out to unbelievers, trying to win them over. … But no outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this. The whole purpose was to rally their base, the people they already have. … Maybe they realize that there’s no persuading going on in America right now. People are just preaching to their choirs.”

This high-energy service blended music by a giant choir — backed by an orchestra, an organ and a rock ensemble — with the preaching of the Rev. Robert Jeffress and the promotion of Christian media products, in this case a new faith-based movie, “Let There Be Light,” with Hannity serving as executive producer. Visitors received a free Jeffress book, “America at the Crossroads: Christianity and America, Volume 1.”

Read the entire piece here.

A Tale of Two Evangelical Churches

Yesterday, at the evangelical church I attend, my pastor preached a sermon on Isaiah 12:1-6:

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

 

This passage speaks of God’s grace and power in our lives.  It tells us not to be afraid because we find our strength and our song in the salvation that the Lord provides.  It challenges us to proclaim God’s love for others with joy.  It encourages us to tell the world about God’s transforming love for His creation.

After the sermon, my pastor gave an old fashioned altar call.  He invited people in the congregation who wanted to experience God’s love in a deeper way to come to the front of the sanctuary where they would find members of the pastoral staff available to pray with them and for them.  It was a moving and powerful moment.  My heart was encouraged as I watched dozens of Christians come forward.  This is the kind of thing that should happen in a Christian church.  Sunday morning should be a time for Christians to rededicate their lives to God.

At roughly the same time Sunday morning, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, pastor Robert Jeffress was leading his own service.  After the choir led the congregation in some beautiful singing, Jeffress sat down for an interview with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity.  (You can read my post on that interview here).

After the interview, Jeffress preached a sermon titled “America at the Crossroads.”  You can watch it here.

I am not sure if this is the kind of sermon Jeffress preaches every Sunday morning, or if he was just trying to impress Hannity, but it sounded more like a political speech than a sermon.  While my pastor in Pennsylvania was reading Isaiah’s exhortation to not be afraid, Jeffress was playing to the fears of his congregation.  He said that the United States was “imploding.”  He said that the “atheists, infidels, and secular humanists” were perverting the Constitution.  He said that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but we have lost our way.  He even blamed Harvey Weinstein’s behavior on the removal of prayer from public schools.

He concluded the sermon by asking his congregation to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  I appreciated this exhortation, until I realized that Jeffress’s understanding of Christians being “salt and light” was just another way of saying that they should have voted for Donald Trump in 2016.  Jeffress said that American culture has become a battleground between the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Satan” (the main issue is abortion) and then connected Trump with the former and Hillary Clinton with the latter.

And then, somewhere in the middle of this rant, Jeffress blurted out: “And let me say…how grateful I am for a courageous man like Sean Hannity who is out in the public square pushing back against evil and taking every kind of attack you can imagine. God bless you Sean Hannity.”  The congregation then gave Hannity a standing ovation.  Hannity stood up and thanked everyone as he soaked in the praise.

Jeffress is preaching a holy war.  He is training his congregation to fight in this war.  He is propagating fear.  He has defiled his Sunday morning service with politics.  He is using the Lord’s Day to bring praise and honor to a Fox News political commentator (and in the process no doubt securing his own place as commentator on the cable network).  Is this Christianity?

Court evangelicalism at its worst.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress on Evangelicals Who Oppose the Alt-Right

jeffress

In case you missed it, a group of evangelicals wrote a letter to Donald Trump asking him to condemn the alt-Right.  They claim that they are “American Religious Leaders,” but anyone who read the names of signers will quickly conclude that most of them are Southern Baptists.  You can read it here.

As far as I can tell, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was the only court evangelical who signed the statement.  (How much longer can this guy remain a court evangelical?)  Read the list of signers.  You will not find the signatures of Franklin Graham, Johnnie Moore, Paula White, or Jerry Falwell Jr.

A story at the conservative website Newsmax quotes court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s comments in a Wall Street Journal article on the statement. Here is a taste:

A lot of these people who signed are friends of mine,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s advisory board, told the Journal. Jeffress was not asked to sign the letter, the Journal reported.

“I also know some of them who absolutely despise the president, and cannot get over the fact that a majority of evangelicals voted for him. It shows how little influence these leaders have in the election and over evangelicals.”

Jeffress seems to believe that a Christian leader’s “influence” is measured by how well his or her political beliefs mesh with “the majority.”  I seem to remember Jesus saying something about a narrow road (Mt 7:14).  Since when is 51% the standard by which Christians develop their political theology?  The theological and biblical contortions Jeffress must make in order to remain a court evangelical never cease to amaze me.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress Has a Message for NFL Players

Here is court evangelical Robert Jeffress on NFL players taking a knee:

Let’s get the facts straight.  These NFL players were protesting more than social injustice on Sunday.  They were also protesting the way that President Donald Trump responded to their protests of social injustice.  Their protests on this particular Sunday were more geared toward the latter than the former.  Jeffress seems to have conveniently forgot what Trump said about NFL players who have refused to stand for the playing of the National Anthem:

I would also add that it is impossible to interpret Trump’s remarks here apart from his remarks after Charlottesville:

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Court Evangelical: “God is not necessarily an open borders guy”

jeffress

Robert Jeffress says that Christians who support DACA (including the signers of this letter and Pope Francis) err on the side of compassion.  The court evangelical who is often found standing at the immediate right hand of the POTUS claims that God is not an “open borders” guy.

In this Fox News interview, Jeffress says that Christians are “confused about the difference between the church and government.”  For Jeffress, “government’s real responsibility is to protect its citizens.”

The interviewer, Ainsley Earhardt, concludes the interview by saying, “It’s tough because the Bible does tell us to honor our authorities, to follow the rule of law, to follow all of the laws–and the laws are clear in this situation–but also have compassion for others. So it is a tough topic.”  Jeffress responds with a hearty “yes” to this statement.

Though Jeffress does not mention it in this interview, his idea of government seems to arise from his interpretation of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapter 13.  Here is the pertinent part of that chapter:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Does anyone know where I can find a book or article or sermon where Jeffress develops his theory of government or interprets Romans 13?  Every time he mentions this text he sounds like he is an 18th-century Loyalist invoking Romans 13 in opposition to the American Revolution.  I wonder if Jeffress would go so far to say that the American Revolution–a rebellion against the God-ordained governing authorities of England–would have been carried out in violation of this biblical principle.  I wonder if he would agree, for example, with evangelical pastor John MacArthur‘s conclusion that “the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers.”  Somehow I don’t think he does.

“All the President’s Clergymen”

Trump_Prayer_090117_HD1080_img_408081The reporters at Religion News Service–Adelle M. Banks, Emily McFarlan Miller, Yonat Shimron, and Jerome Socolovsky–have produced the best piece on the court evangelicals to date.  The article is based on interviews with many of the prominent court evangelicals, as well as scholars and pundits who have been monitoring the comings and goings of Trump’s evangelical advisers.

And I am happy to have contributed to it.

Here are some things I learned from reading “All the president’s clergymen: A close look at Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ ties with evangelicals“:

  • Court evangelicals “fumbled with their iPhones go get them selfie-ready as they made their way to the oval office.”
  • Court evangelicals claimed to be “overwhelmed” by their encounter with the POTUS, although it is not clear if they were overwhelmed by the POTUS himself or the “Holy Spirit.”
  • There is no formal “Evangelical Advisory Council.”  Some court evangelicals are not sure if they are part of the group or not.  Others claim they have had up to a dozen meetings with Trump since he took office.
  • The court evangelicals do not want to be part of something formal.  A formal council would come with “certain legal ramifications.”
  • Despite what the court evangelicals say in their public statements, they have had very little impact on policy decisions.
  • The churches associated with the National Council of Churches (mainline Protestants, Orthodox, and historically black denominations) have been “frozen out” of the Trump administration.  The same is true of Muslim and Sikh religious groups.
  • The court evangelicals are divided over the degree to which they influenced the transgender ban on soldiers in the military.

Where are the Court Evangelicals Tonight? (DACA)

Donald Trump threw another bone to his base today by announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Read about it here.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman offers some nuance:

So far, the only court evangelical who has said the ending of the DACA program is unjust and unChristian is  Samuel Rodriguez.  I hope that Rodriguez used his unprecedented access and “God-given assignment” to rebuke the president for this decision.  I hope he did everything in his power to change Trump’s mind.

So far the rest of the court evangelicals have been silent.  Apparently 300 religious leaders urged Trump to keep the DACA program, but I have not been able to find a list of those leaders.  I will be surprised if there are any court evangelicals on the list apart from Rodriguez.

In the video below, court evangelical Robert Jeffress praises his own prayer in the White House last week as part of the most disturbing display of court flattery I have ever seen.  Where was the discussion of DACA at this meeting? Why didn’t the court evangelicals use their access to the Oval Office to defend these helpless children of immigrants who may soon be deported?  This, it seems to me, is a pro-life issue.  These kids may be ripped from their families and sent to a foreign country to live.  Yet the court evangelicals preferred a photo-op and a round of flattery.  I hope Jeffress will be praying for the 800,000 men and women who will be deported when and if the DACA program is ended.