What are the court evangelicals saying about the DNC convention?

We have now had two nights of the DNC convention. Let’s check-in on the court evangelicals:

I think this must have been taped before the convention, but watch Eric Metaxas and John Smirak mock Kamala Harris’s first name. And then they compare Harris to Jim Jones and Jonestown. Finally, they take more shots at Biden’s faith and the Catholic church.

Metaxas continues to cash-in on the Trump presidency. Today on Facebook he is promoting his new book in the “Donald the Caveman” series. It is titled Donald and the Fake News.

Fake news metaxas

But I digress. This post is supposed to be about the convention.

Robert Jeffress is countering the DNC convention with something called “Faith Week.”

“Faith Week” includes:

Pastor Jack Hibbs:

Let’s end tonight’s roundup with the Liberty University gang at the Falkirk Center:

Charlie Kirk does not seem to have recovered from Monday night’s meltdown:

And here is Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis:

This Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow is getting excited about the Republican National Convention:

And these:

Christian politics at its best (worst).

How Many Have Died Because of These Voices?

This reminds me of Kara Swisher’s recent piece.

And it doesn’t stop.  Here is Laura Ingraham, TODAY:

This is anti-intellectual populism 101. It is also very dangerous and utterly irresponsible. Please listen to public health experts.

By the way, here is Naval War College professor Tom Nichols. I recommend his important book:

 

“Fox, the whole Fox, and nothing but the Fox”

Hannity

I think a lot of folks can relate to this piece.  Here is Kara Swisher at The New York Times:

I’m a huge pest, in fact. “I’m going to block your number, if you don’t stop,” my mother said to me over the phone several weeks ago from Florida, after I had texted her the umpteenth chart about the spread of coronavirus across the country. All of these graphs had scary lines that went up and to the right. And all of them flashed big honking red lights: Go home and stay there until all clear.

She ignored my texts, so I had switched to calling her to make sure she had accurate information in those critical weeks at the end of February and the beginning of March. She is in the over-80 group that is most at risk of dying from infection. I worry a lot.

But she was not concerned — and it was clear why. Her primary source of news is Fox. In those days she was telling me that the Covid-19 threat was overblown by the mainstream news media (note, her daughter is in the media). She told me that it wasn’t going to be that big a deal. She told me that it was just like the flu.

And, she added, it was more likely that the Democrats were using the virus to score political points. And, did I know, by the way, that Joe Biden was addled?

Thankfully, Mom had not gone as far as claiming the coronavirus is a plot to hurt President Trump — a theory pushed by some at Fox News heavily at first. While she has been alternately appalled and amused by the president, and often takes his side, she is not enough of a superfan to think that he is any kind of victim here.

So, she kept going out with friends to restaurants and shopping and generally living her life as it always had been. “What’s the big deal, Kara? Stop bothering me,” she said over the phone. “You’re the one who is going to get sick, if you don’t stop working so much.”

And with that she was off to another social event, with me unable to stop her since I was hundreds of miles away. That spring break kid was bad, but this was also not good.

I could not lay the blame at the feet of social media this time. No, Facebook was not my mother’s source of misinformation (in fact, the company has been trying to improve in this area). It was not the fault of Dr. Google, which has at least pushed out more good information than bad. And my mom doesn’t use Twitter.

Instead, it was Fox, the whole Fox and nothing but the Fox.

Read the entire piece here.

The “Massive Backtracking” at Fox News

Fox News

Here is former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart:

Paul Farhi’s and Sarah Ellison’s piece at The Washington Post reminds us that:

  • Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham of Fox News said the news media was stirring “mass hysteria” and were “panic pushers.”
  • Hannity said downplayed the power of this pandemic.
  • Ingraham called the Democrats “the pandemic party.”
  • Ingraham told the elderly to quarantine, but suggested everyone else should go about their daily activities and “don’t take a cruise maybe.”
  • Fox Business News host Trish Regan said the media was using the coronavirus to “impeach Donald Trump.”
  • Only Tucker Carlson has taken the coronavirus seriously.
  • “Judge” Jeannine Pirro said that the idea that the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu “doesn’t reflect reality.”
  • Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, went on Fox and said that the coronavirus was sent to the United States by Kim Jong Un and the Chinese.
  • On Sunday, Devin Nunes went on Fox and told everyone who was healthy to go out to dinner.  Then he made an absolutely disingenuous effort to clean things up.

Now Hannity is referring to the coronavirus as a “crisis” and extolling Trump’s leadership.  Ingraham is calling this a “dangerous health crisis.” Fox took Regan’s program off the air. Trump said he disagreed with Nunes’s “go out to dinner” line.

Fox News has stopped downplaying this crisis.  I am glad to see this.  But we will probably never know the extent of the damage it did. There are so many senior citizens and elderly Americans who watch this network and take what they hear as gospel. I also wonder how much Fox News had to do with so many churches keeping their doors open on Sunday.

Peggy Noonan: “Trump Isn’t Easing Coronavirus Forebodings”

Corona

In the last few minutes, The Washington Post reported a second coronavirus case of unknown origins. CNN just identified a third case of unknown origins. There are now sixty-four entire cases in the United States.

Trump’s recent press conference the other day was a disaster.  It was filled with inaccurate and misleading information.

Earlier today, we learned that the Trump administration will not permit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of  the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to appear on five Sunday morning news shows.

Conservative media is doing its best to shape the political narrative.  Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity of Fox News are claiming that the Democrats are trying to weaponize the coronavirus in an election year.  Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is telling his audience that the coronavirus is “the common cold.”

Medical and scientific experts are needed to diagnose, stop the spread, and find a vaccine for the coronavirus. But populists do not trust experts or intellectuals. Populism is Trump’s political brand. This is a problem.

Not all conservatives run with the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh crowd. Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan writes in her recent column: “If coronavirus becomes a formally recognized world-wide pandemic, and if it hits America hard, it is going to change a lot—the national mood, our cultural habits, the economy.”  Here is another taste:

In a public-health crisis the role of government is key. The question will be—the question is—are the president and his administration up to it?

Our scientists and health professionals are. (I think people see Tony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health as the de facto president on this.) Is Donald Trump? Or has he finally met a problem he can’t talk his way out of? I have written in the past questioning whether he can lead and reassure the nation in a time of crisis. We are about to find out.

Leaders in crises function as many things. They are primary givers of information, so they have to know the facts. They have to be serious: They must master the data. Are they managerially competent? Most of all, are they trustworthy and credible?

Or do people get the sense they’re spinning, finagling, covering up failures and shading the facts?

It is in crisis that you see the difference between showmanship and leadership.

Early signs are not encouraging. The messaging early this week was childish—everything’s under control, everything’s fine. The president’s news conference Wednesday night was not reassuring. Stock market down? “I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democratic candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.” “The risk to the American people remains very low.” “Whatever happens we’re totally prepared.” “There’s no reason to panic, because we have done so good.”

It was inadequate to the task.

Read the entire piece here.

What Impeachment Talk is Doing to Fox News

Trump and Hannity

Writing for Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman describes the current climate at Fox News as “bedlam” and “madness.”  Even Sean Hannity thinks the whistleblower’s revelations are “really bad” for Trump.

Here is a taste:

Trump’s final bulwark is liable to be his first one: Fox News. Fox controls the flow of information—what facts are, whether allegations are to be believed—to huge swaths of his base. And Republican senators, who will ultimately decide whether the president remains in office, are in turn exquisitely sensitive to the opinions of Trump’s base. But even before the whistle-blower’s revelations, Fox was having something of a Trump identity crisis, and that bulwark has been wavering. In recent weeks, Trump has bashed Fox News on Twitter, taking particular issue lately with its polling, which, like other reputable polls, has shown the president under significant water. Meanwhile, Trump’s biggest booster seems to be having doubts of his own. This morning, Sean Hannity told friends the whistle-blower’s allegations are “really bad,” a person briefed on Hannity’s conversations told me. (Hannity did not respond to a request for comment). And according to four sources, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future. A person close to Lachlan told me that Fox News has been the highest rated cable network for seventeen years, and “the success has never depended on any one administration.” (A Fox Corp spokesperson declined to comment.)

Read the entire piece here.

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

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

Here is a taste:

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

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

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

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

Read the entire piece here.

A Tale of Two Evangelical Churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court evangelicalism at its worst.