Court Evangelical Update: Robert Jeffress Has a New “Ministry Platform”

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Robert Jeffress at the right hand of Trump

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress has a “brand-new ministry platform.”  You can check it out here.

It doesn’t take long to realize that this “ministry platform” is mostly Jeffress’s appearances on Fox News defending Donald Trump.  Since when did defending a political candidate on a television “news” show count as “ministry?”

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.”

Conflicting Views at First Baptist Dallas

Eternal march

If you read my recent piece at The Washington Post, you will remember that I ended it with a few words about court evangelical Robert Jeffress and his so-called “March for Eternal Life.”

The Dallas Morning News has a short piece on the march.  This is the only piece I have found that interviews people, other than Jeffress, who participated in the march.  Here is a taste:

Students at the march agreed that spiritual matters are the most important of their concerns, but were content with the church’s scope of authority.

Skyline High School sophomore Sergio Daniel Ramirez and his family joined First Baptist Dallas four months ago. He says the church has transformed his personal spiritual life as well as his views on gun legislation and religion in schools. He’d support stricter age limits on gun ownership, raised prices for bullets, and more support programs for victims and their families.

More spiritual opportunities in school would also be helpful, he says, but that the school should not promote any one belief. For that, he has his church.

Sergio Daniel Ramirez does not sound anything like Robert Jeffress.

Here is Jeffress discussing religion in schools in a piece at The Hill:

A member of President Trump‘s evangelical advisory board is proposing teaching students the Ten Commandments to help stop gun violence.

Pastor Robert Jeffress — the head of megachurch First Baptist Dallas — during an interview on Fox News criticized a “crusade by secularists to remove any acknowledgment” of God from the public square and the country’s schools.

He said people have put forth the idea “that we can be good without God.”

“Well, that’s been a dismal failure,” Jeffress added.

“I’d remind our viewers that for the first 150 years of our nation’s history, our schoolchildren prayed, they read Scripture in school, they even memorized the Ten Commandments, including the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill.'”

Jeffress said he thinks the country needs to return to teaching the Ten Commandments.“Teaching people, starting with our children, that there is a God to whom they’re accountable is not the only thing we need to do to end gun violence, but it’s the first thing we need to do,” he said.

Yes, there are generational differences in American evangelicalism.

 

My Piece on Trump and Pornography at Today’s *Washington Post*

Trump and Stormy

Here is a taste:

When I was a kid, the 7 p.m. hour on Sunday night was reserved for either “Mutual Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” or “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

Last night we all gathered around our television sets to watch a porn star talk about an adulterous affair she had with a man who would soon become the president of the United States. Times have changed.

Not since the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998 has the sex life of a president been on display in such a public manner. On Sunday it was Stormy Daniels. Last week it was former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal telling the nation, among other things, that she had unprotected sex with Donald Trump.

Walt Disney and Marlin Perkins would have blushed. Trump’s evangelical supports give him a “mulligan.”

When the country learned that Clinton had sex in the West Wing, evangelical Christian leaders responded with heavy doses of moral condemnation. In a letter to his followers, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson argued that Clinton’s escapades with Lewinsky made him unfit for office. But he also told his readers that they should have seen this coming:

“How did our beloved nation find itself in this sorry mess? I believe it began not with the Lewinsky affair, but many years earlier. There was plenty of evidence during the first Presidential election that Bill Clinton had a moral problem. His affair with Gennifer Flowers, which he now admits to having lied about, was rationalized by the American people.”

Read the rest here.

Can Robert Jeffress Be This Oblivious?

We live in very strange times.  Watch this interview between Lou Dobbs and court evangelical Robert Jeffress:

It’s hard to know where to begin.  Jeffress says: “liberals know that conservative Christians are the last speed bump to the Godless, immoral, society liberals dream of.”  He then praises Donald Trump for defending the rights of evangelical Christians.

As I have written about several times this past week, Donald Trump is the man who has brought pornography and his sexual escapades into the mainstream of public life.  Millions of people will tune in tomorrow night to watch Anderson Cooper interview Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes.  Also, our kids are exposed to discussions of a Playboy playmate talking about having unprotected sex with the man who would become the President of the United States.  At our current moment it is people like Jeffress and the evangelicals who helped Trump get elected who seem to have set the stage for a “Godless, immoral, society.”

Lou Dobbs then says that Trump “spoke-up and he spoke-up alone” for Christians during the campaign.  Whatever you think about the idea that evangelicals are being persecuted in our country today, Dobbs’s comment is a flat out lie.  Nearly every GOP candidate–Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Santorum, Walker, Jindall, Fiorina, Kasich–believed that Christianity was under attack.  Yet evangelicals chose Trump.  (I try to explain why  in Chapter 1 of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump).

After Dobbs dismisses the “March for Our Lives” going on today in major U.S. cities, Jeffress says “we can’t rely on legislation alone to deal with guns.  It’s a heart issue.”  So let me get this straight–we should rely on the legislation and the President of the United States to deal with religious liberty, abortion, gay marriage and [add your favorite Christian Right social issue here], but on guns “it’s a heart issue.”

Jeffress has the audacity to stage his “March for Eternal Life” event on the same weekend as the “March for Our Lives” event.  I tweeted about this last night:

Jeffress’s event also suggests that the “eternal life” concerns of American evangelicals are somehow disconnected from the pro-life issues taking place today during the March for Our Lives rallies.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying here that marching for gun rights will save us (I am an evangelical, after all), but I am saying that evangelicals, if they are pro-life and believe in human dignity, must be advocates for gun control in some form.

During the interview Dobbs says “How low have we fallen.”

Indeed.

How Robert Jeffress Has Changed His Tune (and why he should be ashamed of himself)

Trump Jeffress

Listen to the first few minutes of this interview with court evangelical Robert Jeffress:

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Some comments:

Jeffress says that evangelicals had a “binary choice” between Trump and Clinton in 2016.  Clinton supported abortion.  Trump did not.  Fair enough.  I could say something here about one-issue voting, but I will save that for another place–perhaps a forthcoming book scheduled to appear in June.

Jeffress has used this “binary choice” argument to disguise the fact that he supported Donald Trump in the GOP primary when there were other candidates–Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Santorum, Perry, Huckabee, Fiorina, Bush, Jindal, Walker, Kasich–who were pro-life and conservative on social issues.  Jeffress often brags that he was the first evangelical leader to back Trump.  If this is true, he needs to explain–in positive terms–why he chose Trump over the others.  In my view, Jeffress is in a different category from the evangelical leaders who merely “held their nose” and voted for Trump.

Jeffress also says in this interview that Trump’s immoral past does not matter.  God has forgiven him.  Jeffress doesn’t care what Trump did before he became president as long as he maintains the right policies.  In arguing this, Jeffress has suggested that character, past and present, is not important for a presidential candidate. This is a relatively new view for Robert Jeffress.  It is a view that he seems to have adopted when Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency in 2015.

For example, in his 2011 book Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days, Jeffress tells his readers to vote for men of character because a person’s “core beliefs serve as a restraint against immorality, corruption, and dereliction of duty.”  He rejects the “popular” notion that “a politician’s personal life has no impact on his public service.”  At one point in the book, he even takes issue with Martin Luther.  Jeffress asks:

But what if your choice comes down to voting for a qualified non-Christian candidate or an unqualified Christian?  Doesn’t competency trump spirituality?  Some people quote an alleged comment by Martin Luther: ‘I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent believer.’  Such a declaration appears to make good sense, until you consider some obvious flaws in such an argument. (p.109-110)

The “flaw” in Luther’s argument, according to Jeffress, is Luther’s belief that a political leader’s competence is more important than his character.  Last time I checked, Trump has neither.

Jeffress seems to reject the idea that sins–even forgiven sins–have consequences.  Someone who committed murder ten years ago and seemingly got away with it may have asked God for forgiveness, but if new evidence emerges in the case he or she is still going to jail for murder.  (I can’t believe I have to explain this, but this is the world in which we now live).

Donald Trump’s sins may be between him and God, but I wonder what Jeffress thinks about the manner in which these sins have coarsened our culture?  Because of the actions of this president we now have porn stars and Playboy models all over the news.  I hope Jeffress is disgusted by this.  I am sure he is upset that his grandchildren have to see this.  Any serious Christian would be.  If he is indeed troubled by the fact that the porn industry is getting free publicity every night on the nightly news (including Fox News), he must realize that this is happening because Trump’s past sins (forgiven or not) have found him out. Character matters–past and present.  Jeffress should be ashamed of himself for not speaking out about this.  He is a Christian pastor.

Jeffress may also want to think long and hard about his role at Fox News in light of recent comments by Ralph Peters.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress and Juan Williams Have a Debate

This is an interesting debate in the context of Juan Williams’s recent piece.

I thought Jeffress’s eyes were going to pop out of his head at one point.

Jeffress is  being very disingenuous here.   He fails to address the fact that he supported Trump in the GOP primary over Cruz, Rubio, Carson, and others.  For Jeffress, 2016 was not just a “binary choice” between two bad candidates.  He was pro-Trump from the beginning.  He did not hold his nose and vote for Trump, he strongly supported him almost from the moment The Donald came down the escalator at Trump Tower. (And this is giving Jeffress the benefit of the doubt when he says that Hillary Clinton is just as immoral as Trump.  I am not ready to concede that point yet).

You can get my take on the 2016 presidential election in Chapters 1 and 2 of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Don’t forget to pre-order.

Believe Me Banner

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

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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”

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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.