The court evangelicals respond to Donald Trump’s RNC convention speech and the aftermath

metaxas and Graham

Eric Metaxas and Franklin Graham were both in action (so to speak) at last night’s GOP convention

Last night I thought Franklin Graham offered a good opening prayer to kick-off the last night of the GOP convention. Today he sat for an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. At times Graham tried to be bipartisan, but in the end this was pure court evangelicalism. This idea that the socialists (and other secular enemies) are coming to close our churches has a long, long history in American evangelicalism. As I wrote in Believe Me, evangelicals said the same thing about Thomas Jefferson in the run-up to the election of 1800. On another matter, it is disingenuous for Graham to claim that he is “just one man” and does not speak for a significant portion of American evangelicalism. There are white evangelicals who hang on every word he says.  Watch:

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas showed us how to blind-side a protester and backpedal to safety. In this August 22, 2020 interview, Metaxas talks with fellow court evangelical Greg Laurie about “the role of virtue in the public square.” Metaxas notes how Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks were known for “turning the other cheek.” He laments the way “rage” and “violence” are “setting the [Christian cause] backward and confusing people.” He even speaks of non-violence as a Christian virtue. This 15-minute interview is interesting (to say the least) in light of what Metaxas did last night. Jab and move, jab and move.

Jack Graham ran into some trouble last night, along with dozens of other court evangelicals:

Two things are going on in this tweet. First, Graham’s story appears to be true. I am not sure how Graham was able to interrogate the “thugs” and “infidels” about their political ideology (Marxism), but he is right to suggest that this kind of harassment needs to stop. Second, Graham is playing to the base. He did not punch the protesters like Metaxas did, but Graham is obviously hoping his tweet will serve Trump politically by scaring evangelicals to pull a lever for the president in November.

If I recall correctly, in the New Testament Jesus stopped on the road to Golgotha with the old rugged cross on his shoulder and called his tormentors “thugs” and “infidels.” He then asked God to stop the insanity.

The same goes for Paula White:

I am guessing that Gary Bauer believed Trump delivered last night for the Christian Right

Ralph Reed saw his “good friend” Jack Abramoff Rudy Giuliani:

Reed and Giuliani

Robert Jeffress spent some time at the court today:

And then he talked with Lou Dobbs about it. There is no one “kinder and more gracious” than Donald Trump “and that’s what “makes him such an effective leader”:

67 days to go. I am afraid it is going to get a lot worse.

Sunday in Trumpland

 

Trump Barry

Things seem to be business as usual in Trumpland.

Last night we learned that Donald Trump’s sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, had some choice things to say about her brother. Let’s be clear. She didn’t say anything that we didn’t already know about this president.

Readers of this blog might be interested in Maryanne Barry’s comments about the president’s political base: “All he wants to do is appeal to his base. He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.”

The White House released a statement regarding the comments made by the president’s sister. It read: “Every day it’s something else, who cares. I miss my brother, and I’ll continue to work hard for the American people. Not everyone agrees, but the results are obvious. Our country will soon be stronger than ever before.”

It is the eve of the Republican National Convention and the convention website has very little information about what is going to happen. We do, however, finally have a list of speakers. The Trump family will be filling a significant number of speaking slots.

U.S. Senators speaking include Tim Scott, Rand Paul, Marsha Blackburn, Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, and Tom Cotton. Some GOP Senators with national reputations will not be speaking. This list includes Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Chuck Grassley, Josh Hawley, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Mike Lee, John Kennedy, Kelly Loeffler, Martha McSally, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, and Rick Scott.

Speakers from the House of Representatives include Steve Scalise, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Dan Crenshaw, Elise Stefanik, Lee Zeldin, Kevin McCarthy, and Jeff Van Drew.

Others noteworthy speakers include former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend (and former Fox News pundit) Kimberly Guilfoyle, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Trump staffer Kellyanne Conway, Eric Trump’s wife Lana Trump, and Rudy Giuliani.

There are also several speakers who represent our nation’s ongoing culture wars. They include court evangelical Franklin Graham, Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandman, court evangelical Charlie Kirk, and the St. Louis’s gun wielding couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey.

Trump is still tweeting about God.

He is still obsessed with the pledge of allegiance:

For a full treatment of what happened read this post from yesterday.

Trump had another tweet today about God:

This tweet, of course, is a blatant attempt to win the votes of evangelicals in November. But it also tells us what Trump really thinks about evangelicals. He believes that we will gravitate to any political candidate who mentions the name of God. We will blindly follow the sound of the “We want God” mantra–like zombies–into the voting booth. Sadly, this may actually be the case for many of my fellow evangelicals.

The court evangelicals seem to welcome Trump’s appeal to his base. This morning a megachurch pastor in California turned his pulpit over to Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center:

I wonder what Kirk will say. Perhaps some of his most recent tweets (last 24 hours) will make it into his Lord’s Day sermon:

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis loves Trump’s tweet about God:

Self-pointed prophet Lance Wallnau is still talking about Kamala Harris as a “Jezebel” (and hawking a book).

 

Court evangelical journalist David Brody believes Trump is the only biblical candidate:

I am curious about what Brody means by “traditional biblical policy positions.” Most evangelicals didn’t really see abortion as a political issue until the mid-1970s.

Robert Jeffress was on Fox News this morning.

First, he seems to believe that one can “remove God” from public life. It this theological possible? I think most evangelicals, myself included, believe God is bigger that this.

Second, Jeffress also ignores the fact that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited every night at the DNC convention with the phrase “under God” included. But why would the pastor bring this up when he can twist the truth for political advantage?

Third, Jeffress implies that people of faith in the Democratic Party are not true Christians.

Fourth, Jeffress continues to promote this idea that abortion is the only political issue evangelicals should be concerned about. Perhaps he should read conservative evangelical David French’s column today in which he challenges this idea.

Watch:

Stay tuned. Classes start this week at Messiah University, but I still hope there is time to watch the GOP convention and write a few words.

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

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

Rudy Giuliani shares a tweet from a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. Notice how Giuliani uses Jenna Ellis’s tweet of Psalm 27 to make a political statement. When he says “we all matter” I think we all know the message he is sending in the midst of our post-George Floyd moment. In a follow-up tweet, Ellis gives Giuliani an “Amen.”

As the coronavirus cases spike, Ellis retweets an anti-masker attacking California senator Kamala Harris:

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center does not understand history. It’s tweet today seems like a defense of Confederate monuments. I am guessing Russell Kirk is taken out of context here. As I argued in Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past, history is always created from a dialogue the between past and the present. Sometimes the past is useful in the present. Sometimes the past is a “foreign country.” Ironically, the Falkirk Center and the rest of the Christian Right activists who talk about the past, have mastered the kind of cherry-picking Kirk may be warning against here.

What is the relationship between the following tweet and Jenna Ellis’s anti-mask retweet above? It seems that “rights” are a form of self-fulfillment, while concern for others is a form of self-denial. John MacArthur’s lesson might be useful for evangelicals as they think about masks and the spread of COVID-19.

Florida is seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases. Paula White is opening her church:

Wow: This is an amazing tweet from Trump’s #1 court evangelical:

Tony Perkins is hosting a video conference called “Arise and Stand.” You can watch it here.

Here is Gary Bauer’s Facebook post:

Kudos to my good friend Vice President Mike Pence!

Vice President Pence stood firm in the face of the media mob this Sunday, as well as the mob in the streets, by refusing to repeat the divisive slogan, “Black Lives Matter.” He was pressed to do so during an appearance on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Of course Black Lives Matter, as do Asian lives, Hispanic lives and Caucasian lives. That’s the truth. And it’s also a central Christian principle that the color of our skin is the least unique thing about us. What makes us special is that we are made in the image of God, and the vice president strongly believes that. 

Read the rest here.

I’ve said this before, this pivot toward “all lives matter” is simply a way for those on the Christian Right to avoid tough conversations on race in America following the killing of George Floyd. When Pence refused to say “Black Lives Matter” on television he was sending a message to the Trump base.

all lives matter cartoon

It’s all about the Supreme Court justices for Ralph Reed.

Theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan Tran have a nice response to Reed’s way of political thinking:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resources families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of “adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare or creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marion icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

Read the entire piece here.

Ralph Reed, perhaps more than any other member of the Christian Right, is responsible for what Hauerwas and Tran call a “failure of political imagination” among evangelicals.

According to Robert Jeffress, the “eventual collapse of our country” is now certain:

And last but not least, David Barton is on the Eric Metaxas Show today. When activists indiscriminately topple and deface monuments, it just provides ammunition and fodder for Barton’s Christian Right view of the past.

Barton defends a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a white supremacist who helped found the KKK. He seems to think that such a statue is essential to his ability to teach history. This comment even makes Metaxas squirm: “I think we all would agree that lines can be drawn, we don’t have a statue to Adolph Hitler.” In this sense, Metaxas’s obsession with Godwin’s Law serves a useful purpose.

When Metaxas says that debate over monuments is “complicated,” he reminds me of something I wrote at the end of my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?:

In 2010 the political commentator Glenn Beck devoted an entire television program to a discussion of George Whitefield, the eighteenth-century evangelical revivalist and the precipitator of the event known as the First Great Awakening. Near the end of the show, Beck’s conversation with his guests–two early American religious historians–turned to the topic of slavery. Beck wondered how Whitefield could inspire anti-slavery advocates in England such as John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” while at the same time owning slaves. Befuddled by this paradox, and clearly at a loss for words, Beck turned to the camera and said, “Sometimes history is a little complex.”

Barton peddles an unbelievably dumb theory about the origins of slavery and race in America. He says “out of Jamestown” came “slavery and intolerance and classism and racism.” But out of Plymouth came “liberty and freedom and constitutional government, bills of rights, etc.” His source is an uncritical use of an 1888 wall map showing these “two strands of history, one bad and one good.”

Apparently, Barton has never studied New England’s Native American history or the intolerance the Puritans showed to the likes of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. But wait, it gets better. Barton says that “both of those groups were Christian, but Jamestown was not biblical. They [just] professed Christianity. That’s much of what we see in America today. 72% of the nation professes Christianity, only six percent have a biblical world view.” Slavery started in Jamestown, Barton argues, because the settlers didn’t “know the Bible.” This is interesting, since during the early 19th-century Virginians used the Bible to justify slavery. I guess they were more biblically literate by that time. 🙂

Barton seems to suggest that New England did not have slaves. Wrong again. Even Jonathan Edwards, one of Barton’s heroes, a man who Barton would probably say had a “Christian world view,” owned slaves. Granted, New England did not have a slave-based economy, but slavery was not illegal prior to the American Revolution. If you want to learn more, see Richard Bailey’s Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. and Joanne Pope Melishs’s Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860

Barton goes on to say that today “we look at past generations through today’s filter and today’s lens and you really can’t do that.” This is rich coming from a guy who has built his entire career around cherry-picking from the founding fathers and then applying such cherry-picked passages to contemporary Christian Right politics. (See my comments about the Falkirk Center’s tweet about Russell Kirk).

He then uses this argument to reject systemic and institutional racism. Here is Barton:

So all the notion that America is institutionally racist–you gotta see what the atmosphere was like in that day–we were leading the world in the right direction that day. Now we can look back where we are today and say we weren’t perfect…but we’re not the racist nation everyone is trying to make us out to be. When you know history, you see that all clearly.

Barton speaks as if the Civil War–a war over slavery in which 700,000 people died–never happened. Is this “leading the world in the right direction?” Heck, he sounds as if slavery never existed in the United States. He dismisses four hundred years of slavery and racism by saying, “yeah, we weren’t perfect.” Barton is not a historian. He only cares about the parts of the past that advance his political agenda. Read this recent post to see the depths of racism in the evangelical church or grab a copy of Believe Me.

And finally, Metaxas praises Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as a great moment of national unity. He says that Lincoln showed “graciousness” toward his enemy. He said that because of this graciousness, Lincoln and Grant allowed the Confederate monuments to stand. Barton says that Lincoln’s “zealous” Christian faith is why he tried to reconcile with the South after the war. He says that Lincoln took seriously Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5 about “reconciliation.”

There are so many problems with this part of the interview that it is hard to know where to start.

  1. Lincoln did want to the bring the Union back together and he tried to use his Second Inaugural Address to do it. But let’s remember that this address was delivered after victory in the war was all but secured. The Union won. Whatever reunion needed to take place, Lincoln believed, must happen on his terms. The idea that he would allow Confederates to continue to celebrate their slave-holding “heritage” with the erection of monuments does not make sense.
  2. Metaxas seems to think that these Confederate monuments were erected during the days of Lincoln. Most of them were built in the early 20th-century as a way of defending the Confederate’s “Lost Cause”–a commitment to white supremacy. Lincoln had nothing to do with them.
  3. Lincoln was not a Christian. Nearly all Lincoln scholarship is clear about this.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5 has nothing to do with the Civil War or nationalism.
  5. But most disturbing is the fact that Barton and Metaxas seem to be endorsing a white romanticized idea of reunion and reconciliation that left out African Americans. The best book on this subject continues to be David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.

Until next time.

When New York Mayors Run for President

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Former New York mayor John Lindsay, October 1965 (Wikimedia)

What do DeWitt Clinton, John Lindsay, Rudy Giuliani, Bill DeBlasio, and Michael Bloomberg have in common? They were all New York City mayors who ran for president.

Here is Ed Kilgore at New York Magazine:

So that brings us to 2020 and Bloomberg. Interestingly enough, he’s emulating Giuliani’s skip-the-early-states strategy, but he’s putting his vast wealth into ensuring that when the calendar does turn to Super Tuesday in March he will be extremely well-known and have a solid campaign in those states. And it’s looking like he is lucking into a landscape in which all of his surviving rivals will have weaknesses he can exploit. Whether it’s a one-on-one cage match with current front-runner Bernie Sanders, or a large field of wounded and underfunded candidates struggling from state to state, Bloomberg is positioned to do a lot better than Rudy did and perhaps as well as or even better than DeWitt Clinton. If he blows this opportunity, it could be a long time before another New York mayor ventures onto the presidential campaign trail.

Read the entire piece here.

Rudy Giuliani’s Spokesperson is a 20-Year-Old Ambassador for Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center

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Christianne Allen with “Falkirk Fellow” David J. Harris Jr.

The Falkirk Center is Liberty University’s new “think tank.”  Read more about it in these posts.

One of the Falkirk Center’s “ambassadors” is a 20-year old Liberty online student named Christianne Allen. She is also the spokesperson for Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.  I am assuming that Falwell Jr. chose Allen as an ambassador of the Falkirk Center because she has become popular as a Giuliani spokesperson. She is the kind “influencer” Falwell Jr. likes.

And how can we say that the embrace of Donald Trump by leading evangelicals is not damaging the witness of the Gospel in the world?

Here is a taste of Daniel Lippman and Tina Nguyen’s piece on Allen at Politico:

This much is undisputed: Allen soon left public high school to work for the campaign without pay, enrolling in Liberty University Online to complete her high school degree.

But she quickly gained a reputation for inflating her importance.

“I forget all the titles she told me she had. She was ‘millenials for something’ or ‘teens for this,’” one former official said. At one point, her social media accounts claimed she was an official spokeswoman for the Trump campaign. She was not, according to these officials. (In a text, Allen explained that she referred to herself as a campaign spokesperson “only because I spoke at a couple rallies.”)

“I think she made it to a point where she made [volunteering] untenable,” said one of the former Virginia campaign officials, citing Allen’s apparent disinterest in performing basic campaign tasks. “She wasn’t productive, but she was attempting to insert herself into everything. If there’s an event, she’s showing up to help whether or not she was invited to [it].”

Lee Allen described one speech she gave at a Trump rally in front of an old battleship in Norfolk with a crowd of thousands of people. “Hats off to my daughter. She has made her opportunities,” he said.

She did not elaborate further, but Allen’s Twitter bioLinkedIn, and old personal website list an array of suitable credentials: representative of the Trump Victory Finance Committee, the official joint fundraising committee for the re-election campaign; and video columnist for the Daily Caller. Spokeswoman for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Executive director of the Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition.

According to representatives of these entities, these titles are embroidered at best, and completely untrue at the most. She is, however, an “ambassador” for both Turning Point USA and Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, titles she gained this year. And there’s no question she enjoys Giuliani’s confidence.

Read the entire piece here.

On Rudy Giuliani and the Salem Witch Trials

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In case you missed it, here is yet another example of a politician’s sloppy use of history.

 

Or watch this.  (Now I am really curious to know what “two books” on the Salem Witch Trials that Trump’s personal attorney read).

Marisa Iati of The Washington Post does a nice job of addressing the many problems with Giuliani’s comment. She draws heavily from the excellent work of historian Emerson Baker.  A taste:

Although those suspected of practicing black magic have been persecuted at least since biblical times, hysteria around witchcraft in the United States peaked in the late 17th century. Young girls who started screaming and flying into “fits” would prompt local men to complain to a judge that someone was harming the girls through witchcraft. A dubious legal process would follow.

“Under the English tradition of justice, you are innocent until proven guilty,” said Emerson W. Baker, a history professor at Salem State University who has studied the witch trials. “However, in 1692, that clearly did not happen.”

Giuliani was correct that accusers at the Salem trials had to attach their names to their testimony. His claim that people accused of witchcraft were confronted by the witnesses in their cases, however, was largely false.

Many of the people who accused others of witchcraft never appeared at trial, Baker said. Instead, the supposedly afflicted girls would give depositions that were then presented in court. In these cases, there was no opportunity to cross-examine the accusers.

To start a witchcraft investigation, a person would complain about someone to a local judge. The judge would compel the sheriff’s office to arrest the accused so they could appear before a panel of judges, who would determine whether there was enough evidence to detain them before trial.

Read the entire piece here.

Of course Giuliani breaks almost every rule of good historical thinking here.  The comparison between 17th-century New England and impeachment process in the U.S. Constitution is absurd.  The legal culture of Puritan New England and the legal culture of the early American republic were completely different.  If you are going to invoke the Salem Witch Trials, then let’s talk about spectral evidence and execution of Quakers in Boston Common.  Or let’s just talk about how things ended up for the supposed witches in 1692.