An insurrection occurred at the U.S. capitol today. What are the court evangelicals saying?

We all know what happened today. I wrote about it earlier tonight in a post titled: “What happened today is a fitting ending to the worst presidential administration in American history.”

The court evangelicals, a group of pro-Trump evangelicals who regularly visited the White House during the Trump presidency for the purpose of flattering him, “advising” him, and getting their picture taken, are partly responsible for today’s insurrection.

Let’s see what they are saying (and not saying) today:

Conservative anti-Trumper Rod Dreher wants court evangelical Eric Metaxas to “own” what happened today:

Tonight, Metaxas joined other court evangelicals in a “prayer meeting.” According to Bob Smietana’s reporting at Religion News Service, the participants prayed for a miracle. Michelle Bachmann said that the mob who invaded the U.S. Capitol today were “paid rabble-rousers.” “Don’t think for a minute,” Bachmann said, “that these were nasty, naughty, ridiculous, hillbilly Trump people.” Metaxas then prayed: “We need to wake up to the tactics of the enemy who will do anything to win, because there are no values but power.” Bachmann and Metaxas continue to see this as a spiritual battle.

Earlier today, Metaxas tweeted: “There is no doubt the election was fraudulent. That is the same today as yesterday. There is no doubt Antifa infiltrated the protesters today and planned this. This is political theater and anyone who buys it is a sucker. Fight for justice and Pray for justice. God bless America!”

This is why people thinks Metaxas has lost his mind. He claims, with no evidence, that Antifa was behind today’s riot.

Jenna Ellis of the Liberty University Falkirk Center has decided to stake her future on Trumpism:

She is also upset with Mike Pence’s decision to carry-out his constitutional responsibility:

The Metaxas claim that the rioters today were part of Antifa appears to be a popular court evangelical response:

Lance Wallnau:

The Liberty University Falkirk Center is calling for prayer. Will the Falkirk Center season of prayer be focused on repentance? After all, the Falkirk Center’s primary mission is to promote division in the country. The Falkirk Center also seem to think the Trump era has not damaged the proclamation of the gospel. Here’s the tweet:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody thinks Mike Pence got a raw deal:

Brody is also retweeting Kayleigh McEnany on the Georgia election:

The other day Brody said that “journalism is dead.” And today he retweeted the president:

Most court evangelicals are condemning the violence:

I am glad that these court evangelicals condemned the violence, but there words could not ring more hollow. There is no recognition that these men and women empowered Donald Trump or encouraged their followers to vote for him. These court evangelicals spent four years praising Trump as the greatest Christian president in American history. They used their platforms and influence to support the president who triggered the insurrection in Washington D.C. today. Now they pray for peace, unity and the preservation of the American republic. But there is no moral or intellectual equivalency here. One side believes in facts, evidence, science, the rule of law, and the Constitution. The other side believes in conspiracy theories, lies, an unhinged president, and an absolute certainty in their knowledge of the will of God. These two sides cannot be reconciled. What are Franklin Graham, Metaxas, and the Falkirk Center praying for?

Only Mohler, the guy who convinced thousands and thousands of Southern Baptists that it was OK to vote for Trump in 2020, said the president is responsible for what happened today.

It would be best if these court evangelicals (and Mohler) just kept quiet. Or better yet, they could admit their complicity in the insurrection and political terrorism that occurred in Washington D.C. today and repent.

Who will be first?

Trump supporter says that prayer for “election integrity” may lead to the “Third Great Awakening.” (And other court evangelical news)

Russians are hacking the U.S. government and Trump remains silent. Thousands of people died today from COVID-19 and Trump remains silent (except when he takes credit for the vaccine in a tweet about the stock market).

Meanwhile, Trump continues to raise money on his election fraud claims. Today I received e-mails urging me to “reject socialism,” enter a raffle for a signed MAGA hat, claim (with a donation) my “free Christmas gift,” order my Trump Christmas ornament, and help stop Biden from overturning Trump’s “accomplishments,”

Many of Trump’s most ardent Christian supporters–the court evangelicals–are carrying water for this lame duck president. Let’s see what they have said since our last update.

The gang at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center remain Trump’s most vocal Christian defenders.

Hundreds of thousands have died of COVID-19 and a “think tank” at a Christian college is questioning the “expertise” of scientists and doctors:

While everyone is complaining about the “war on Christmas,” the Falkirk Center is engaged in the war on Mother’s Day and Father’s day. It almost makes one wonder if the Center owns stock in greeting card companies.

Pastors who follow science, public health professionals, and state governments are “submitting to power hungry tyrants.”

Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of the Falkirk Center, tells his followers to ignore Anthony Fauci:

Charlie forgets that Tom Paine wrote Common Sense at a Planet Fitness:

Kirk continues to undermine the democratic process with his unprovable election fraud claims:

And let’s not forget Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow and Trump election fraud lawyer Jenna Ellis:

She is still quoting scripture:

And in other court evangelical news:

Sometimes God gives a prophet “corrections”:

Wallnau is not happy with Beth Moore. On Wednesday he shared this Facebook post from someone named Johnny Enlow:

Response to Beth Moore’s Tweet of Dec 13, 2020 (Twitter@BethMooreLPM)

Beth Moore, I was sent your tweet this morning and you wanted to hear from fellow leaders. Your rebuke was public so therefore this too is public. My goal is that this be an entreaty more than a counter rebuke. Now, I pray you will listen to a fellow leader. To acknowledge and recognize that God’s key governmental instrument is President Trump is not “Trumpism”. Nor is it denying Jesus any preeminent place. The reason God has Cyrus’s and Davids and Esthers and Moses’s and Pauls and Elijahs and Gideons and Joshuas etc. etc. is because He uses human instruments. If I applied your logic to your very ministry I could conclude that you are unnecessary to give a message because Jesus as King will take care of it. You seemingly have faith for Him to handle all governmental matters personally without need of an instrument but not religious or spiritual matters. I think it self-evident He would not call us the “salt” of the earth and the “light” of the world if He as King Jesus would handle everything.

What if King Jesus has Himself sanctioned and raised President Trump as His key instrument at this time? Would it not be an egregious offense before Him for a leader in the Body of Christ such as yourself to not recognize that reality because of some personal wound, grudge, blindness or preference? And worse to then encourage other leaders towards similar mutiny equivalent? What if some leaders in Moses’ day would have reached out to the people and messaged “We have no need to follow Moses! We must only follow God? God will open the Red Sea before us whether we honor or follow Moses or not”. Would that “zeal for Jesus” have been looked upon kindly by God? I think not. It would be a zeal devoid of wisdom. Apply that to every Biblical character of renown that God used as His key instrument. Israel repeatedly faced judgment for ignoring who God had sent as His key instrument. That was true all the way into the New Testament. The Pharisees could not receive Jesus Himself because of their “zeal for God”. They disrespected the instrument God sent because He was not in the package they expected- and He was actually God Himself! Would not anyone championing “God” above honoring the leader this very God had chosen– actually be in rebellion to God?

Beth, I must tell you that as much as I have respected your ministry to the Body of Christ for many years that this is where you find yourself today. You not only are in resistance to God’s instrument of choice of the hour but you are using the very platform God has given you to champion foolishness against God. While there may or may not be “Trumpism” the actual reason there is so much passion in the Body of Christ towards President Trump and what he is fighting for, is because there are millions of believers in this nation discerning God’s will and His instrument of deliverance for our nation. You have done them and the Body of Christ and the general populace itself a great disservice by calling their proper discernment into account. May you back down from your self-righteous stand and properly discern the day and the hour we are in. May the accountability you have projected onto leaders in the Body of Christ be properly felt by you, yourself, as it is serious. –Johnny Enlow

Court evangelical journalist David Brody interviewed new Christian convert and convicted felon Roger Stone:

Eric Metaxas is explaining his “controversial” comments at Saturday’s Jericho March. He tries to separate himself from Alex Jones, his anti-Catholic remarks, and his blatant plugs for the My Pillow Guy.” He also mentions Rod Dreher’s criticism of his appearance at the Jericho March. Rule of thumb: when you need a ten minute segment to clarify your statements, something might be wrong.

He also addresses those criticizing him on Twitter about his belief in election fraud. He specifically mentions Karen Swallow Prior, Kevin Mattingly, and Rod Dreher. He says that their criticism is wrong and “sloppy.” Then he tries to compare the Jericho March with the Civil Rights Movement.

Here are some of the comments on these Metaxas videos:

  • None of this is okay! Biden is NOT OUR PRESIDENT!!! I will NEVER ACCEPT BIDEN OR HARRIS!!!
  • Joe Biden and his campaign TOOK IT BY STEALING so they had to physically “show” that he was “President elect” with signs lol because they themselves know it is fraudulent! Their guilt shows EVERY SINGLE DAY!
  • He calls himself President Elect. He also announced publicly that he and others put together the most comprehensive voter fraud organization in the history of America. Which of these statements is true?
  • We need to be in a position that we are standing in Faith and we’re not giving up! Don’t let them see us sweat! God got this! This is not over!
  • I don’t understand why people are “moving on” from this or letting it slide. Ignoring it. Not standing up to obvious fraud. It makes my heart so sad. Justice and honesty are not being honored. And all the people who voted and put in the effort to abide by the rules have been dismissed. It’s so disrespectful of our nation and our principles. And the implication that anyone who won’t let it go is somehow wrong or imbalanced. I so appreciate your attitude towards this. And the people who are involved. Speaking the truth in love. Bless you bless you bless you.
  • I absolutely 100% agree with you. But Biden doesn’t have have a decent bone in his body. And doesn’t care if all of American thinks he is a lier and crook, which he most obviously is.
  • Don’t forget the pastors of the 1700s who were key in the founding of this nation!
  • Eric, this is part of persecution because we are standing up for Righteousness, Truth, Freedom, and Justice. Persecution will be heavier but remember that you are doing the right thing in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus also said, the world hated Him therefore the world will hate you so count that as a blessing (paraphrase) Matt 5:10. Just a few nights ago, I had a dream and a man in my dream spoke loudly and distinctly the word PERSECUTION. I knew God was showing me to be prepared for it. So be prepared and be blessed for standing on the side withJesus! Paul says in 2Corn 12:10, for Christ, he delights in hardships and persecution.
  • I am stunned people do not want to see or know the truth. We have Forensic research stating Dominion machines have a 68% error rate. Thousands of affidavits from American citizens. Video of fraud taking place. Why should we accept their fraud. NO and HELL NO!

The Electoral College has voted, but Jack Hibbs is still holding out hope:

Jim Garlow shames all evangelicals who did not vote for Trump. They are all baby-killers, socialists, freedom-haters, anti-marriage, totalitarians, and opponents of religious freedom. Here is what he wrote this week at his Facebook page:

81% of evangelicals voted for life in the womb, the sacredness of authentic marriage, for Israel, for choice-based economics/ free market, a job expanding employment which produced the greatest socioeconomic lift to minorities ever recorded …and for liberty and freedom.

But 14% of so-called “evangelicals” (which used to mean Bible believing) knowingly voted for the dismemberment of babies, the destruction of biblical marriage (yesterday I posted an article about Biden appointing a transgender to high office and it was immediately removed), socialism (which inflicts staggering human pain), economic policies which result in the poor becoming a permanent and dependent underclass, an anti Israel stance (which brings God’s judgment – Genesis 12:3), for authoritarianism and totalitarianism (think Cuomo, Newsom, Whitmar, Lightfoot, Pelosi all making rules for “the deplorables” while they violated them!) and – even though the 14% of “evangelicals” were warned that it would cost us religious freedom – tyranny for those who hold to a distinctly biblical faith. Read this article carefully. Very carefully. These are the causes which 14% of so-called “evangelicals” openly supported, and helped destroy what is left of this wounded and tattered nation. At what point, will they repent?

This has little to nothing to do with specific candidates or parties per se. It is not Republicans vs Democrats. It is not Right vs Left. At its core, it is not even Trump vs Biden. It has everything to do with right vs wrong, with good vs evil. It has to do with policies. With principles. Some biblical. Others radically anti-biblical.

Where is the shame among the 14%? Where is the repentance? Look what 14% supported. I am not angry. I am sad. I grieve for them. Read the article carefully (Leftist “evangelicals” – as if there can be such a thing! – are referred to.)

I am assuming that the so-called “14%” will not be part of this (also on his FB page):

A wild question. In the midst of our national demise, is there a chance we are on the cusp of the Third Great Awakening in America? My gut feeling – and I might be totally wrong – is that the 3rd Great Awakening just MIGHT be 1.Very different from the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings and… 2.There is a possibility – maybe – that we just MIGHT already be in it, given the massive prayer movement that is in the US – along with many other nations praying for us during this horrific time. However, we don’t yet recognize it for the revival it is, because it gets overshadowed or overridden by the political nuances since the spiritual awakening is flowing primarily out of a royally botched, fraudulent election.

In other words, prayer for “election integrity” will lead to a revival.

Robert Jeffress has been pretty quiet on the “election fraud” front. Yesterday he tweeted about Santa Claus:

Ralph Reed seems to have moved on from the presidential election. He continues to focus on the Georgia Senate run-offs:

Everyone is discovering the court evangelicals!

The conservative pundits are outraged at what happened at Saturday’s Jericho March!

David French is worried that too many evangelicals have fallen for conspiracy theories.

Rod Dreher says we would be wrong to “blow off” the influence of these evangelicals who still believe Trump won the election.

Andrew Sullivan is concerned about the fusion of religion and politics.

Matt Lewis asks: “Is nothing sacred?”

Beth Moore is not really a conservative pundit, but she is still fired-up.

And we already discussed Michael Gerson.

And those who regularly question my decision to cover the court evangelical phenomenon seem to be taking it seriously now. Yes, even John Wilson ;-):

I’ve been writing about this for the last four years. At this point I am more interested in who was NOT at the Jericho March on Saturday:

Franklin Graham

James Robison

James Dobson

Jentezen Franklin,

Jack Graham

Paula White

Tony Perkins

Johnnie Moore

Ralph Reed

Greg Laurie

Robert Jeffress

The more traditional court evangelicals–most of whom are not connected with the Independent Network Charismatics and similar groups– seem to be focused on the Georgia Senate race and COVID restrictions. Would they like the election results to be overturned? Sure. Do they believe that there may have been election fraud? Of course they do. But they did not want to join the folks who were on the Mall on Saturday. This branch of court evangelicalism seems to only show-up when Trump is in the house or when one of his surrogates is present. They prefer power over prophecy.

And maybe some of them really believe Biden won.

We will see what happens after the Electoral College votes later today, but right now the evangelical voter fraud movement is led by Eric Metaxas (who showed his Charismatic side on Saturday), the gang at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center (Metaxas, Charlie Kirk, Jenna Ellis, Sebastian Gorka, etc.), and the My Pillow Guy.

UPDATE (December 15, 2020, 12:41am):

Some folks on Twitter were not happy with this post. Here are a few:

These tweeters made fair points, which prompted me to explain things further. It’s never a good idea to try to “explain further” on Twitter, but I am a glutton for punishment! 🙂

Eric Metaxas just lost Rod Dreher

Eric Metaxas blocked me on Twitter years ago, but historian Seth Cotlar took a screenshot of an exchange between Metaxas and Rod Dreher:

And in case you can’t read Seth’s tweet:

Many of you know Rod Dreher as the cantankerous American Conservative writer and author of The Benedict Option. (I disagree with Dreher on a lot of things, but I really liked his book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming)

Read the Central City News here. Metaxas knows that this is a local central Louisiana paper, but he is banking–literally banking–on the fact that his followers don’t know this.

Rod Dreher defends the “Little Hitler” philosophy professor at Taylor University

In my post on the firing of Taylor University philosophy professor Jim Spiegel, I wrote:

Should he be fired for “Little Hitler”? I can’t answer that question. I would need to know more about the local culture on campus at Taylor and the way Spiegel and his song fit into that culture. Perhaps there is a larger story here. Maybe this is more than just an academic freedom issue.

I do know, however, that Taylor University Provost Michael Hammond, a historian of American evangelicalism during the civil rights movement, is a good man with the best interest of Taylor in mind.

Over at the American Conservative, Rod Dreher comments on Spiegel’s firing. His entire post relies on a New York Post article defending Spiegel. Here is what Dreher wrote:

You want to commit yourself to taking out loans to pay for a college at which the administration will not support faculty, and presumably not students who cross an invisible line? The firing of Spiegel sends a signal to every other professor on campus, and every other student: you could be next. All it takes is a single absurd accusation, based on even the simplest joke, to ruin a professor’s life.

Some of you think I’m exaggerating when, citing the testimony of Soviet-bloc emigres, I say that life in the US is starting to resemble life under Soviet totalitarianism. Here is the connection: under the Soviet system, all it took was an accusation of disloyalty — including telling a joke that offended the Party — to lose your job and even be sent to prison or into exile. This happened over and over. Last year, I visited Rudolf Dobias, an 84-year-old Slovak former political prisoner, sentenced to 18 years of hard labor in a uranium mine on a false accusation that he had drawn a cartoon making fun of Stalin and Czechoslovak communist leader Klement Gottwald. After release from prison, Dobias and his family lived a life of internal exile; he couldn’t get a decent job, his kids suffered from their father’s punishment, and so forth. All because of a single joke, one that he didn’t even tell! After our interview, Dobias mentioned to my Slovak translator that he was in constant pain now, the result of all the beatings he took in prison as a young man.

Obviously — obviously — Jim Spiegel is not Rudolf Dobias. But he’s on a spectrum. As more than a few Rudolf Dobiases told me for Live Not By Lies, free people have to resist this stuff the moment it starts. Jim Spiegel was absolutely right to refuse to take down his satirical song. The prissy authoritarians at Taylor University ought to apologize to him and hire him back. And they had better make it clear that they have done so, because this is a black mark on the school’s reputation, and a warning to students about an emerging climate of censorship, at a time when liberal arts colleges cannot afford them.

If I were a Taylor student — presuming that they are back on campus this fall — I would gather with a group every day outside Provost Michael Hammond’s office, and sing “Little Hitler” cheerfully, to cause Hammond and the university’s leadership to reflect on the nature of what they have done to a professor who has wronged no one.

Read the entire screed here.

A few thoughts:

  1. Dreher, with very little knowledge of Taylor University, its culture, or the history of the administration’s relationship with Spiegel, compares this situation to Soviet totalitarianism. (Dreher doesn’t even know if Taylor is currently holding face-to-face classes). Soviet totalitarianism at Taylor University? Again, his piece shows absolutely no understanding of Taylor or Christian colleges.
  2. Dreher’s ignorance about schools like Taylor is surprising since he is the author of a book titled The Benedict Option which argues that serious Christians should form intentional communities designed to uphold traditional beliefs. On one level, Taylor University is such an institution. I have no doubt that the administration’s decision to remove Spiegel was made in this context. For whatever reason, Taylor University concluded that Spiegel’s continued employment at Taylor was detrimental to the Christian community that they were trying to sustain. Wouldn’t the Bruderhof, an intentional Anabaptist group Dreher likes, make a similar move if one of its members was undermining community?
  3. Dreher has now put himself into a position where his anger about “cancel culture” and “academic freedom” seems to be butting-up against the Benedict Option.
  4. Finally, my sources at Taylor tell me that the reasons for Spiegel’s firing go well beyond his song “Little Hitler.”

Rod Dreher: “I don’t care that Eric threw a punch at that guy. He had it coming.”

Dreher Metaxas

Conservative pundit Rod Dreher has responded to Eric Metaxas’s punch on Thursday night. His thoughts can be summed-up this way:

  • Metaxas is a great and gentle man.
  • The punch was out of character.
  • Metaxas must have been provoked or felt threatened.
  • Metaxas was probably just being chivalrous because the protester was cursing in front of women.
  • Metaxas should have just walked away from the protester and shouldn’t have taken a swing at him.
  • I wish he didn’t do it because it just gives fodder for his enemies.

Then, after hearing from a supposed eye-witness to the event, Dreher writes, “Yeah, you know, I overthought this. I don’t care that Eric threw a punch at that guy. He had it coming.”

I think Dreher’s comments reflect how most of Metaxas’s evangelical followers will view this event. Others, however, myself included, will have a hard time reconciling Metaxas’s behavior with all his talk and writing about historical figures who turned the other cheek and his daily condemnation of violence in American cities. Again, I encourage you to listen to this 15-minute podcast interview with fellow court evangelical Greg Laurie.

Evangelical quit lit

QuitQuit Lit: “…a genre of literature about the experience of resigning from one’s job (usually in academia).

Read more about quit lit here. We also did a podcast about it here.

As a professor at a Christian college, I am always interested in reading quit lit from evangelical humanities professors. Over at Rod Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative, he quotes from a letter he received from a professor at a Christian university:

Over the last 10 years, our university’s traditional undergraduate enrollment shrunk by more than a third. Administrators attempted to remedy the crisis in ways that were entirely predictable. They brought in consultants; they marketed the university as an ideal destination for any career-minded person; they highlighted professional programs and portrayed their Christian identity in anodyne terms. Trustees—most of whom have no skin in the game when making university-related decisions—responded to budget shortfalls by calling for program eliminations. During this time, the university relied on athletic programs to drive enrollment.

At the end of the day, the university became a less compelling option for prospective students. The teaching environment also changed. The theological literacy of students deteriorated as the university marketed themselves to a wider demographic. While we managed to attract some good students, many (especially male athletes) were unprepared for college-level work. Retention became a responsibility for every professor. Yet enrollments still lagged, and more academic programs were eliminated, including my own.

The prospect of redefining my professional life is frightening, but staying in academia has no appeal for me. I’ve spent too much emotional energy defending the humanities only to see them subsumed by the servile arts. In cash poor colleges especially, humanities programs have only a nominal role in the curriculum. Administrators may acknowledge the inherent worth of the humanities; yet their survival requires demonstrating their value in economic terms.

For many years, I thought the Christian university could serve as a bulwark against secular drift. But its failure is assured by academia’s de facto objective. Frank Donaghue, a professor of literature at Ohio State, is precisely right: “Higher education is job training, however academics like to think otherwise” (The Last Professors, 85). In this regard, Christian universities are no different than their secular counterparts. Despite their professed mission, they are almost entirely utilitarian in their perspective and bourgeois in their aims. In some cases they can’t afford not to discard the disciplines that would help the Church think carefully and responsibly about the world and its place within it. There are exceptions to this trend, of course. But on the whole, Christian education is increasingly incapable of addressing present day cultural challenges in bold and effective ways.This became especially clear to me in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. I watched several Christian college presidents attempt to establish their anti-racist credentials through feckless moral posturing. As far as I know, none will admit to using academically underprepared young men (many of whom are racial minorities) to pad their enrollments.

Yes, administrators will continue reminding constituents about their institutions’ “enduring Christian mission” and “transformative” educational experience. Such language is an adornment masking the smell of polluted air. Scroll through the list of member colleges and universities of the CCCU. Many of them are bullshit centers of cultural assimilation and vocational training. As crushing student debt increases, these universities will have a harder time explaining why someone should pay more tuition at an institution which may not exist in five years.

Worries about my own career aside, there is something liberating about being untethered from an institution whose future is less than promising.

Anyone who teaches the humanities at a Christian college can relate to this person’s story. We are all experiencing enrollment drops and budget cuts, especially in the humanities. I agree with this writer’s assessment about the “theological literacy” of our students. The humanities are being “subsumed” by professional programs and graduate programs. Sometimes I also wonder whether or not our Christian colleges have become little more than vocational schools.

In sum, I fully understand this writer and I sympathize with him. I respect his decision to leave.

I have long wondered whether the humanities need to be cultivated in places apart from academic institutions. (Johann Neem makes a similar suggestions in his book What’s the Point of College? Listen to our interview with him in Episode 54 of the podcast).

The R.R. Reno “Meltdown”

Reno

First Things editor R.R. Reno

We have written before about R.R. Reno and the First Things magazine response to the coronavirus. On March 20, 2020, we noted Reno’s call to open churches (with a Wendell Berry-inspired response from Eric Miller). Three days later, we called attention to Reno’s claim that “there are many things more precious than life.” On April 8, 2020, we linked to a piece describing Reno and his staff as “the bitter and angry remnant” at First Things magazine. On April 29, 2020, Reno said that the government’s measures to protect Americans from the coronavirus “have been pointless.”

In the last twenty-four hours, Reno seems to have doubled-down on all of these claims via Twitter:

Conservative writer Rod Dreher called it a meltdown. “It doesn’t make me angry,” he wrote today at The American Conservative, “it makes me sad to see this happening.”

Is the Christian Right to Blame for the Coronavirus?

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

As some of you know, earlier this week I participated in a conversation with Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationism.  I think you can still watch the conversation here.

Today at The New York Times, Stewart has a piece titled “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.”

Here is a taste:

At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.

This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis. On March 15, Guillermo Maldonado, who calls himself an “apostle” and hosted Mr. Trump earlier this year at a campaign event at his Miami megachurch, urged his congregants to show up for worship services in person. “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not,” he said.

Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida mocked people concerned about the disease as “pansies” and insisted he would only shutter the doors to his packed church “when the rapture is taking place.” In a sermon that was live-streamed on Facebook, Tony Spell, a pastor in Louisiana, said, “We’re also going to pass out anointed handkerchiefs to people who may have a fear, who may have a sickness and we believe that when those anointed handkerchiefs go, that healing virtue is going to go on them as well.”

By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.

A couple of quick thoughts:

First, most op-ed writers do not write their own titles. The title of this piece is misleading. As Stewart noted in our conversation this week, and repeats in the Times piece, she is writing about a particular kind of evangelical, not all evangelicals.  Her focus is on the anti-science, Trump-loving parts of the Christian Right.

Second, those who are upset by Stewart’s piece should get a copy of Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Stewart is essentially making the same argument about evangelical anti-intellectualism.

Here is conservative writer Rod Dreher:

 

I don’t think Stewart is scapegoating anyone. If one reads the piece carefully, it is hard to argue with the fact that people like Guillermo Maldonado, Rodney Howard Browne, Tony Spell, Jerry Falwell Jr., and others have been reckless. I think it is also fair to say that the white evangelicals who empower Donald Trump bear some of the indirect blame for his bungling of this crisis. Dreher obviously has a beef with The New York Times, but Stewart’s piece, and much of her book Power Worshippers, is pretty accurate.

When the Way of Improvement Can’t Lead Home: A Brief Review of Tara Westover’s *Educated*

Educated Tara Westover

Sometimes the way of improvement leads home. It did for Philip Vickers Fithian, the eighteenth-century son of New Jersey farmers who got an education at Princeton and spent the rest of his short life wrestling with what that meant for his relationship with friends and family in his “beloved Cohansey.”  Fithian eventually returned home, but since he died in the American Revolution we will never know how long he would have stayed.

Wendell Berry left home to become a writer.  He eventually returned to Port Royal, Kentucky and never left.  The conservative writer Rod Dreher went back to LouisianaBruce Springsteen came back to New Jersey.

Sometimes the way of improvement does not lead home, but the newly educated traveler finds ways to stay connected and deal with the psychological and emotional challenges that come with displacement.  Richard Rodriguez’s education led him away from home on a variety of levels, but he spent the rest of his career writing about his family and his “hunger for memory.”  Sarah Smolinksy, the fictional character in Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, got educated and left the tyranny of her father’s immigrant Jewish household in New York City.  Yet she figured out a small way to honor her father and sustain a relationship with him, even inviting him to live with her.

But sometimes the way of improvement can’t lead home.  When Frederick Douglass learned how to read he was exposed to a world of abolitionism and anti-slavery that he never knew existed.  Education led to liberation. (This is why we call it “liberal arts education”). There would be no going back to the tyranny of slavery.

We see all three of these models in Educated, Tara Westover’s memoir of growing up among fundamentalist Mormons on a mountain in Idaho.  Westover had no formal schooling, but managed to educate herself well enough to score a 28 on the ACT and win a scholarship to Brigham Young University.

At first, Westover never imagined that her education would take her somewhere beyond the mountain.  She came home every summer and seems to have fully expected a return to her family.  But education changes a person.  Sarah learned that she was becoming something different–something very unlike her physically abusive older brother, her spiritually abusive father (in this sense, her story is most similar to Smolinsky in Bread Givers), and her mother who rejected science and medicine in favor of “essential oils.”

Through the study of psychology Westover learned that her father and brother might be bipolar.  Through her study of history she learned that her father’s conspiracy theories were built on a very shaky historical foundation.  With the help of roommates, boyfriends, and a Mormon bishop in Provo, she learned that doctors and medicine are good things.  With the help of BYU history professor Paul Kerry (a professor who once showed me around Oxford University), she encountered a world of ideas and learning that she never knew existed.  Kerry, with the help of Cambridge historian Jonathan Steinberg, convinced her that she belonged in this world.

Westover not only survived in this world, but she thrived in it.  She won numerous academic awards at BYU, including a Gates Fellowship to Cambridge.  Her way of improvement led her to a visiting fellowship at Harvard and a Ph.D in history from Cambridge.

Yet the longing of home–of family, of place, of roots–continued to pull her back to the mountain. She spent long months during her doctoral program in a state of depression as she came to grips with how education was uprooting her.  When she to tried to bring light to the dark sides of her childhood, address the tyranny, abuse, and superstition that took place everyday on the mountain, and somehow try to bring the fruits of her liberal learning to the place she loved, her family ostracized her.  The way of improvement could not lead home.  There would be no rural Enlightenment.

Westover’s story is a common one, but rarely do we see the tension between “the way of improvement” and “home” play out in such stark contrasts.

What a Historian Does During Vacation

Pitz

Ezra Fitz

With the first leg of the Believe Me book tour behind me, I decided to spend a few weeks in August (including an Outer Banks ,NC vacation), relaxing and consuming things that I do not usually consume during the rest of the year:

I read Rod Dreher’s The Little Way of Ruthie Leming.  Anyone familiar with Dreher’s The Benedict Option should read this book as well.  Dreher’s memoir about his sister and his Louisiana hometown made me think differently about The Benedict Option.

I read Carlos Eire’s moving memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy.   This book will be with me for a long time.  Eire, a Yale religion professor, tells the story of his Cuban childhood in the years before and after the revolution.

I read Hannah’s Son, Stanley Hauerwas’s “theological memoir.”  Hauerwas, the man who Time once called the “America’s Best Theologian,” writes about his upbringing in the Texas working-class, his close relationship with his son, his experience with a mentally-ill wife, his engagement with the world of academia, his spiritual journey, and, of course, his theological views.

I went back and reread Huxley’s Brave New World.  Many are reading this book again in the age of Trump.  The comparisons between the World State and Trump’s America are a bit of a stretch, but Huxley’s points about the differences between building a society based on “truth” and “beauty,” and building a society based on “happiness” and “comfort,” are always worth thinking about.

I learned a lot about Dominican culture from reading Junot Diaz’s novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  I don’t understand Spanglish very well, and had to look-up the meaning of some of the words, but overall it was worth my time.  There are some great New Jersey scenes in the novel.

My daughters sucked me into binge-watching the ABC Family drama Pretty Little Liars.  Don’t judge me!  My favorite line of the show came in Season 7 when Aria Montgomery asks her fiance, a novelist named Ezra Fitz, to remove a dead body from the trunk of her car.  Fitz tells Aria that they “need to deal with the problem in your trunk.”  Aria asks, “how?”  Fitz replies: “I have a master’s degree in American literature.  There’s nothing I can’t handle.”

Bring on the new academic year!

*The Washington Post* Piece on Rod Dreher

Dreher

Washington Post writer Karen Heller went down to Baton Rouge to visit conservative blogger and cultural critic Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option and other books.

Here is a taste of her piece: “Rod Dreher is the combative, oversharing blogger who speaks for today’s beleaguered Christians“:

Rod Dreher’s life is an open book. Several, actually. “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming,” about his late sister. “How Dante Can Save Your Life,” about his love of the Italian poet. His latest, “The Benedict Option,” is a call to beleaguered Christians to divorce themselves from the increasingly secular American mainstream.

But really, every work by this conservative Christian writer is a literary act of confession, a quest for purpose and a purge of disillusionment. An influential and prolific blogger for the American Conservative — he averages 1.3 million monthly page views on his blog — Dreher is credited with helping introduce J.D. Vance of “Hillbilly Elegy” to a larger audience. He founded the “crunchy con” ideology — another book, back in 2006 — wedding cultural and moral conservatism with an organic, co-op-and-Birkenstock lifestyle.

He is, however, no supporter of President Trump.

“I’m a social and cultural conservative, and I think Trump is a disaster,” says Dreher, 50. Asked why, he spits back, “Because of his incompetence, his recklessness and his malice. Plus, he is destroying conservatism as a credible public philosophy. The conservative movement needed serious reform, but this is annihilation.”

Read the rest here.  1.3 million page views a month?  Wow!  If all goes well The Way of Improvement Leads Home will have 2 million page views this year!  Here’s hoping that Rod reads this and give us a shout-out at his blog.  🙂

Rod Dreher Interviews Alan Jacobs on *How to Think*

ThinkHere is a taste from Dreher’s blog:

I initially thought How To Think would be a basic primer of informal logic. It’s not that at all, but something more interesting. What’s the book about, and why did you write it? 

Last year, when the Presidential election campaign was ramping up here in the U.S., and my British friends were being roiled about by the Brexit debate, I was working on a different book (an academic one), but kept being distracted by all the noise. It seemed to me that everyone was lining up and shouting at everyone else, and no one seemed able to step back from the fray and think a bit about the issues at stake. More and more what attracted my attention was what seemed a complete absence of actual thinking. And then I asked myself: What is thinking, anyway? And what have I learned about it in my decades as a teacher and writer? I sat down to sketch out a few blog posts on the subject, and then realized that I had something a good bit bigger than some blog posts on my hands. So I set my other book aside and got to work.

You write, “The person who wants to think will have to practice patience and master fear.” What do you mean? 

Practicing patience because almost all of us live in a social-media environment that demands our instantaneous responses to whatever stimuli assault us in our feeds, and gives us the tools (reposts, likes, faves, retweets) to make those responses. Everything in our informational world militates against thinking it over. And mastering fear because one of the consequences of thinking is that you can find yourself at odds with groups you want to belong to, and social belonging is a human need almost as important as food and shelter. I’ve come to believe that our need — a very legitimate need! — for social belonging is the single greatest impediment to thinking.

Read the entire interview here. Learn more about How to Think here.

 

Rod Dreher Calls Out the Court Evangelicals

Puerto

In a post criticizing Donald Trump’s handling of Puerto Rico, American Conservative blogger Rod Dreher (of Benedict Option fame) wonders why the court evangelicals have been so quiet.

Here is a taste:

Where are Donald Trump’s court Evangelicals on this? If you cannot stand up to your friend the US president when he threatens to stop sending humanitarian aid to American citizens who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and without shelter, then God help you when you come before the King of Kings.

Read the entire post here.

Is Freedom a Biblical Concept?

Liberty

Earlier today I posted a piece from Rod Dreher’s blog about patriotic worship.  At the end of the piece I was struck by Dreher’s “update” in which he published a message he received from one of his readers.  Here it is:

“Freedom” is not a Bible concept. Nowhere are we exhorted to throw off oppression and liberate ourselves. To the contrary, the Jews were under real oppression at the time of Christ, and he told them to pay taxes to Caesar and obey a soldier’s command to carry his pack. There were many revolutionary bands at the time, men who could not bear the Roman oppression who were determined to fight for independence. And Jesus never supported them or their cause. He really did have no kingdom in this world. The Apostles failed to get this so consistently that even at the Ascension they asked, “Will you at this time restore the fortunes of Israel?” He didn’t. He had no stake in whether Israel was enslaved or free.

This huge emotional connection between throwing off the British yoke, and being grateful for our beautiful country, all there is to legitimately celebrate and express thanks to God for–between that, and the core teaching and message of Christianity, is false.

“Freedom” is not a Biblical concept, but it’s a capitalist concept–it keeps us “free” to choose teal or autumn gold, leather or aluminum, etc, all those tiny forced choices that really are no choice, as Matthew Crawford says. But it feels “free,” and we enjoy the choosing so much, that we emotionally link it with our faith. Bah humbug.

Interesting.  There were many Loyalists in America during the age of the American Revolution who made a similar arguments.

Don’t get me wrong, I think freedom, and particularly religious freedom, can be rooted in a Christian view of human dignity.  But when I hear my fellow evangelicals talk about “religious freedom” it often sounds like a baptized version of American individualism. Rights and freedoms must always be understood in relationship to the common good. Yet many evangelicals understand religious liberty solely in terms of protection against the potential of government interference with their right to make political statements from the pulpit.  True religious “freedom” also comes with duty, service, and care for others and the creation.  I know many evangelicals believe this, but how come they never frame things this way?

Thoughts on this?

Rod Dreher: It’s “grotesque idolatry”

jeffress

Rod Dreher, conservative blogger and author of The Benedict Optionunloads on Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress, his First Baptist Church in Dallas, and patriotic worship.

Here is a taste of his blog post at The American Conservative:

I find it impossible to watch that ceremony (I’ve been sitting here in the Miami airport watching much of it) and judge it as anything but grotesque idolatry. Not patriotism, idolatry. It’s idolatry of Donald Trump, and idolatry of the United States of America. It is shocking and repulsive, and there will be heavy consequences for conflating the Gospel of Jesus Christ with burning a double handful of incense to President Trump and the USA.

It is good to love one’s country, and to be grateful to God for it. I do, and I am. But this is something different.

What, exactly, does it mean to call on the church to “lift the torch of freedom all across the land”? It’s cant. It’s kitsch. “Freedom” is not the same thing as righteousness. As St. Augustine taught, sin is disordered love. You can love good things in a disordered way, and fall into sin. Christians whose moral imaginations are formed in this way, what is going to happen to them when the US government — under Donald Trump, or some future president — does something wicked, something that followers of Jesus Christ ought to stand against?

Read the rest here.

“That’s why I chose you”

PapaCarron375-1050x699

Check out John Allen‘s interview with Father Juan Julian Carron, leader of the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation.  Carron offers some important reflections on how Christians need to live in this world.  I hope the court evangelicals are reading.

Here is a taste:

Allen: Rod Dreher recently argued that Christians should abandon the culture wars in the West because we’ve already lost, and the most we can hope for is a ‘Benedict option,’ meaning creatively preserving small islands of the faith amid a decaying and hostile culture. You too seem to be saying that we should get past the culture wars, without abandoning those positions, but for a different reason.

Carron: Certainly, absolutely. It’s always struck me, the contraposition between trying to make Christianity into a civil religion, on the one hand, and on the other, trying to make it entirely private. To me, it’s like trying to amend the design of God. I ask myself, who would ever have bet that God would begin to reach out to the world by calling Abraham? It was the most unlikely, most confusing, way of going about it anyone could have imagined.

The choice can’t come down to either the culture wars or a Christianity emptied of content, because neither of those options has anything to do with Abraham and salvation history. Abraham was chosen by God to begin introducing into history a new way of living life, that could slowly begin to generate an external reality with the capacity to make like dignified, to make it full.

I imagine that if Abraham were around today, in our minority situation, and he went to God and said, ‘Nobody’s paying any attention to me,’ what would God have said? We know very well what he’d say: ‘That’s why I chose you, to begin posing to reality a presence significant enough, even if no one believes it, that I will make of you a people so numerous that your descendants will be like the stars in the sky.’

When he sent his son into the world, stripped of his divine power to become man, he did the same thing. It’s like St. Paul said, he came to give us the capacity to live life in a new way. That’s what generates a culture. The question for us is whether the situation we’re in today gives us the chance to recover the origins of the design of God.

Allen: You seem fairly optimistic that’s still possible.

Carron: Yes, absolutely. I’m completely optimistic, because of the nature of the faith itself. I’m an optimist based on the nature of the Christian experience. It doesn’t depend on my reading of things, my diagnosis of the sociological situation. The problem is that to be able to start over again from this absolutely original point of departure, we have to go back to the roots of the faith itself, in what Jesus said and did.

If there’s a case for pessimism, it’s that too many times we’ve reduced Christianity either to a series of values, an ethics, or simply a philosophical discourse. That’s not attractive, it doesn’t have the power to seduce anyone. People don’t feel the attractive force of Christianity. But precisely because the situation we’re living in today is so dramatic, from every point of view, paradoxically it’s easier to get across the novelty of Christianity.

Read the entire interview here.

*The New Yorker* Tackles *The Benedict Option*

BenopCheck out Joshua Rothman‘s article on Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.

There was a time when a secular New York magazine like The New Yorker couldn’t have cared less about a book like The Benedict Option or a guy like Dreher. What does the New Yorker’s decision to devote so many words (it’s a long-form essay) to the subject of this book tell us about the role of religion in American culture today?  Just a thought.

Here is a taste of Rothman’s piece:

Dreher takes the phrase “the Benedict Option” from “After Virtue,” a 1981 work by the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. MacIntyre argued that Western civilization had lost its ability to think coherently about moral life. The problem was the Enlightenment, which put individuals in charge of deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. This, MacIntyre thought, rendered moral language meaningless. Try to say that something is “good,” and you end up saying only that it’s “good (to me)”—whatever that means. It becomes impossible to settle moral questions or to enforce moral rules; the best we can do is agree to disagree. Such a world falls into the hands of managers and technocrats, who excel at the perfection of means but lack the tools with which to think deeply about ends. Surviving this new age of darkness might call for the construction of local forms of community, where a realist approach to morality lives on. Today, MacIntyre wrote, “we are waiting not for a Godot but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

Dreher’s book describes a number of intentional “Benedict Option communities” that serve, in his view, as arks in a liquidly modern sea. (Dreher hopes that many different kinds of communities—even, in theory, Muslim and Jewish ones—will adopt the “Benedict Option” label.) One is in Hyattsville, Maryland, a small suburb of Washington, D.C. The community has no name—residents just call it Hyattsville—but, judging from the size of its two gendered Listservs (“Barn Raisers,” for men, and “Hyattsville Catholic Women”), around two hundred Catholic families live there, in modest brick homes with front porches. They send their kids to St. Jerome Academy, a local Catholic school that they have more or less taken over.

Read the entire piece here.

Andy Crouch on the Benedict Option

BenopWe have done a few posts here on Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.  

Over at his website, Christian writer Andy Crouch offers a very witty take on the reception of the book:

1. Social hostility and legal restrictions will undermine the viability of many Christian institutions, and significantly limit individual Christians’ participation in many professions and aspects of public life, in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 20%

Portion of journalistic coverage of the book devoted to this claim: 90%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 98%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 50%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 5%

2. Due to a lack of meaningful discipleship and accommodation to various features of secularized modernity and consumer culture, the collapse of Christian belief and practice is likely among members of the dominant culture (and many minority cultures) in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 80%

Portion of journalistic coverage devoted to this claim: 10%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 2%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 90%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 100%

Hat tip to Eric Miller for bringing this post to my attention.