New video: January 6 insurrectionists pray in the Senate chamber

The New Yorker just released new footage taken January 6, 2020 from inside the U.S. Capitol. Watch the entire video here.

A group of rioters, led by Jake Angeli, the so-called “QAnon Shaman,” said a public prayer from the desk at the front of the Senate. I clipped The New Yorker video to highlight the prayer:

Watch:

Thoughts:

  • Angeli prays like an evangelical. He begins by saying “thank you heavenly father for gracing us with this opportunity….” The phraseology is clearly evangelical.
  • If you still don’t know what Christian nationalism sounds like, just listen to the way this blasphemous prayer blends American nationalism with Christian faith.
  • Angeli seems to have an elementary, albeit flawed, understanding of Christian theology. At one point he refers to a “divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent creator God.” The fact that this language just rolls off of Angeli’s lips suggests he has been around the evangelical block a few times.
  • He thanks God for “allowing the United States of America to be reborn.” This comes straight out of the QAnon playbook. Followers of Q, many of whom are evangelical Christians, believe that America will experience a “Great Awakening” after the evil “Deep State” is defeated. This idea of a “Great Awakening” has meshed very well with evangelical calls for a spiritual revival and evangelical claims that the First Great Awakening of the 18th century precipitated the American Revolution.

Does anyone see any similarities between Angeli’s prayer and the stuff going on here:

Get up to speed on impeachment. What happens next?

CNN’s Zachary Wolf offers a very helpful summary here. The piece explains why the Senate might hold an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office. Here is a taste:

What’s the point of holding an impeachment trial for a former President? There is precedent for impeaching former officials. Read about that — it’s called a “late impeachment” — here. While the main penalty for a guilty verdict in an impeachment trial is removal from office, senators could vote to bar Trump from holding office in the future — remember, he has not ruled out running for president in 2024. He could also lose his six-figure pension and other post-presidential perks.

Read the entire piece here.

Former Missouri senator John Danforth says mentoring Josh Hawley was “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”

John Danforth served three terms as a United States Senator from Missouri. He is an Episcopal priest and the author of Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Danforth is also the founder of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University.

Danforth once called Josh Hawley a “once-in-a-generation” candidate who would one day be president. In 2018, when Hawley was running for a senate seat, Danforth praised him as an intellectual, someone who was “not just some glad-handing politician.” He also compared Hawley to former New York senator and Harvard professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

But things have changed. On Wednesday, Hawley’s objected to the Pennsylvania and Arizona Electoral College votes. Conservative columnist George Will called him a “domestic enemy.” Nebraska senator Ben Sasse said ambition was driving Hawley’s decision. Democrats want him expelled from the Senate.

Now Hawley’s mentor, John Danforth, is blaming Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Hawley.

Here is a taste of Bryan Lowry’s piece at The Kansas City Star:

“I thought he was special. And I did my best to encourage people to support him both for attorney general and later the U.S. Senate and it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life,” he said Thursday. “I don’t know if he was always like this and good at covering it up or if it happened. I just don’t know.”

Danforth said he first met Hawley at a dinner party during a visit to Yale Law School in the mid-2000s when Hawley was a third-year law student. Impressed with Hawley’s intellect, he became a mentor and led the effort to recruit him to run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

He said Hawley’s role in championing outgoing President Donald Trump’s effort to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory based on conspiracy theories, which helped turn Capitol Hill into a powder keg, should disqualify him from a future White House run.

“But for him it wouldn’t have happened,” said Danforth a day after the riot.

“But for him the approval of the Electoral College votes would have been simply a formality,” Danforth, a Republican who represented Missouri from 1976 to 1995, added. “He made it into something that it was a specific way to express the view that the election was stolen. He was responsible.”

Hawley’s office did not immediately respond to Danforth’s criticism or other questions about his role helping lay the groundwork for Wednesday’s chaos.

Read the entire piece here.

Georgia reclaims its Judeo-Christian heritage

Today I was a guest on The Meetinghouse, a radio show hosted by Dwight A. Moody, a Southern Baptist pastor and former dean of the chapel and professor of religion at Georgetown College in Kentucky. We were talking about the Georgia election and the fact that The Peach State just elected a Christian pastor and a Jewish writer to the U.S. Senate.

We are glad to see that Georgia is advancing its Judeo-Christian heritage! 😉

On another note, I think my daughters will now stop playing this TikTok:

The U.S. Senators who objected to the Electoral College results were almost all evangelicals

For the record, the following United States Senators objected to the Electoral College vote in Arizona last night:

Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Josh Hawley (R-MO)

Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)

Roger Marshall (R-KS)

John Kennedy (R-LA)

Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)

They are all Republicans. They are all Trump supporters. But they are also, in one form or another, evangelical Christians. Cruz is a Southern Baptist and a Christian nationalist. Hawley is a member of an Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Cindy Hyde-Smith is a Southern Baptist. Roger Marshall is a “non-denominational Christian” who has the support of the Christian Right Family Research Council, the organization run by court evangelical Tony Perkins. Tommy Tuberville attends a Church of Christ congregation. The former Auburn football coach believes that “God sent us Donald Trump.” John Kennedy is a founding member of North Cross United Methodist Church in Madisonville, Louisiana and is a big Billy Graham fan.

The following Senators objected to the Electoral College vote in Pennsylvania last night:

Josh Hawley (R-MO)

Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

Roger Marshall (R-KS)

Rick Scott (R-FL)

Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)

Cindy Hyde Smith (R-MS)

John Kennedy objected to Arizona, but he did not object to Pennsylvania. Rick Scott and Cynthia Lummis did not object to Arizona, but did object to Pennsylvania.

Lummis is a Lutheran and has not made Christian faith a central part of her political identity. Scott is a founding member of Naples Community Church, an independent evangelical church that “affirms the necessity of the new birth.”

Of course there were many evangelical Senators, including Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), John Thune (R-SD), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) who did not object to the Electoral College votes. Other evangelical Senators, including Jim Lankford (R-OK), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), originally said that they would oppose the Pennsylvania results, but changed their minds after the insurrectionists broke into the U.S. Capitol.

Let’s set the record straight on what Mike Pence can and cannot do at tomorrow’s certification of the Electoral College results

Donald Trump seems to believe that Mike Pence can overturn the votes of the Electoral College tomorrow when Congress certifies the results.

Here is Trump last night in Georgia:

And earlier today:

CNN is reporting that Trump and Pence had an unscheduled lunch today.

Is Trump right?

No.

Let’s start with the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1:

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President…

The Constitution says that the sitting Vice President does have a role in the certification process. His role is to open the results (presumably in envelopes) sent to him by the states. It is purely ceremonial.

Now let’s move on to the pertinent parts of the 12th Amendment.

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;-The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;-The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President…

The 12th amendment requires electors to cast one electoral vote for president and one electoral vote for vice president. This was necessary after Thomas Jefferson and his VP running mate Aaron Burr both received the same number of electoral votes in the president election of 1800. Learn more about what happened here. Notice that the language related to the Vice President’s role in opening the certified votes does not change with the 12th Amendment. His job is to open envelopes. It is a role that is purely ceremonial.

The final document of note is the Electoral Count Act of 1887. This act was passed ten years after the controversial presidential election of 1876. It clarifies the role of the vice-president in the certification of the Electoral College votes. Here is the pertinent part of the act as codified in 3 U.S. Code 15:

Congress shall be in session on the sixth day of January succeeding every meeting of the electors. The Senate and House of Representatives shall meet in the Hall of the House of Representatives at the hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon on that day, and the President of the Senate shall be their presiding officer. Two tellers shall be previously appointed on the part of the Senate and two on the part of the House of Representatives, to whom shall be handed, as they are opened by the President of the Senate, all the certificates and papers purporting to be certificates of the electoral votes, which certificates and papers shall be opened, presented, and acted upon in the alphabetical order of the States, beginning with the letter A; and said tellers, having then read the same in the presence and hearing of the two Houses, shall make a list of the votes as they shall appear from the said certificates; and the votes having been ascertained and counted according to the rules in this subchapter provided, the result of the same shall be delivered to the President of the Senate, who shall thereupon announce the state of the vote, which announcement shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President of the United States, and, together with a list of the votes, be entered on the Journals of the two Houses.

Here is Joe Biden doing his ceremonial duty on January 6, 2017:

Here is Al Gore certifying the election of George W. Bush. Very awkward, but necessary:

The rest of the Electoral Count Act explains the entire process of dealing with objections. The Vice President’s only role in dealing with objections (which several members of the House and Senate, including Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz will bring) is to “call” for written objections.

In the end, there is nothing Pence can do to change the election results at tomorrow’s certification ceremony. It may take some time because of the objections, but Congress will certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and Biden will be inaugurated on January 20.

ADDENDUM (8:37pm): Apparently Pence is going to do the right thing.

We are back from break. What happened?

Vacation is over. What did I miss? Here is a small taste of what has happened in American politics over the last ten days:

  • A bomb exploded in Nashville on Christmas morning. We are learning more every day about the suicide bomber. Fortunately, no one other than the bomber himself was killed. As far as I know, Trump did not comment publicly on the bombing. He played golf.
  • Trump refused to sign the Consolidated Appropriation Act. It included $900 billion for COVID-19 relief, including a $600 check for Americans making under $75,000 a year. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin negotiated the bill on the president’s behalf while Trump was busy trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s major problem with the bill was the $600 dollar COVID relief check for individual Americans. Trump wanted to give Americans $2000.
  • Trump eventually signed the Consolidated Appropriation Act on December 27. Because he signed it one week late, many Americans did not receive unemployment compensation during the final week of 2021. Why didn’t Trump sign it? It is hard to tell. But he was probably upset with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell for declaring that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. While Trump held his personal grudge, millions of Americans went without federal help during the Christmas holiday. The president played golf.
  • Meanwhile, Democrats and some Republicans supported Trump’s claim to raise the sum of the relief checks to $2000. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Georgia GOP Senators fighting for their political lives in tomorrow’s Georgia run-off, supported the president. But McConnell did his best to make sure that the American people would only get $600
  • Just before we went on break, Trump vetoed the Defense Authorization Act. This bill, which is the standard act to fund the military, had bipartisan support. In fact, this bill has passed with bipartisan support since 1961. Trump vetoed the bill because it included provisions for renaming military bases named after Confederate leaders. He also claimed it protected social media companies. On December 28, the House of Representatives overturned Trump’s veto by a vote of veto 322-87. On January 1, 2021, the Senate overturned the veto 81-13. It was the first time in the Trump presidency that Congress overturned one of his vetoes.
  • On the same day the Senate overturned Trump’s veto on the Defense Authorization Act, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley said that he would object to the 2020 Electoral College vote when the Senate meets to certify it on Wednesday. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, upon hearing about Hawley’s stunt, called it a “dangerous ploy” and added: “Let’s be clear here: We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage.” The next day, GOP senators Marcia Blackburn (TN), Mike Braun (IN), Ted Cruz (TX), Steve Daines (MT) Ron Johnson (WI), John Kennedy (LA), and James Lankford (OK) said they would join Hawley. So did Senators-Elect Bill Hagerty (TN), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), and Tommy Tuberville (AL). Cruz’s office issued a press release. Let’s be clear. This protest will not change the election results. Both houses of Congress will certify the votes of the Electoral College and Joe Biden will be inaugurated President of the United States on January 20, 2021. It will now just take a few additional hours. Read Peter Wehner’s recent article at The Atlantic if you want to understand what is really going on here.
  • If my calculations are correct, 22,715 people died of COVID-19 since my last blog post.
  • Yesterday, January 3, 2021, The Washington Post released part of a phone call between Trump and Brad Raffensberger, Georgia’s GOP secretary of state. The President urged Raffensberger to “find” 11,780 Trump votes in Georgia. Trump threatened Raffensberger by telling him that if he did not find the votes he might face “criminal” charges. Here is a clip from their one hour conversation:

Listen to the entire phone call here.

So what have Trump’s court evangelicals had to say over the holiday break? I will cover that in my next post, which will appear later this morning. Stay tuned.

Why white evangelicals criticize the Black church

In the 1980s, when I was a student at a small Christian college, some of my professors warned us about the “liberal theology” of the civil rights movement. What Martin Luther King Jr. did was notable, they said, but he could not be trusted as a theologian. As I look back on this now, I think it is fair to say that a lot of my classmates at the time interpreted this teaching to mean that the civil rights movement was somehow flawed, even unGodly, because its leaders did not tow the line of traditional evangelical theology. That is certainly how I interpreted it.

We now know, through some really good historical work, that white evangelicals were never completely on board with the civil rights movement. What I was getting in college was pretty standard stuff.

Back then I understood why my professors warned us about the civil rights movement. The school I attended had its roots in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. (It was founded, in part, by C.I. Scofield). The fundamentalists were not only fighting liberal theology in the denominations, but they were also, by extension, at war with the “social gospel,” the Protestants who believed that Christianity required its adherents to work for social justice as a means towards Christianizing the nation. Fundamentalists believed that social gospelers confused the true Gospel with moral activism. The true Gospel was about getting people “saved.” The social gospel was a form of “works righteousness.”

When it comes to race, we are in the midst of something similar to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. The stuff they taught me in college is still with us. The Black church’s roots in the social gospel scares a lot of white evangelicals today. Consider Audrey Farley‘s recent piece at The New Republic: The Conservative War Against the Black Church.” Farley writes in the context of the upcoming George senate run-off between Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler.

A taste:

Conservatives claim long-standing tradition for their suspicion of the political, citing scripture on the supremacy of the spiritual realm, ignoring scripture on structural sin, and generally pretending that Jesus and centuries of his followers didn’t make broad demands for a new society and instead sought merely crumbs for the poor and outcast. History, however, reveals the privatization of sin and the intense cynicism toward material politics to be relatively recent inventions, developed precisely to counter racial progress and other social reforms. It illuminates how conservatives’ individualist theology is little more than a pretext for upholding the status quo—a ruse that secular institutions have nevertheless taken seriously.

Read the entire piece here.

When it comes to Raphael Warnock, I think it is fair to say that white evangelicals have an antagonistic relationship with the black church. But I also think that white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock because he claimed to be a “pro-choice” pastor. In other words, white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock for the same reason they will not vote for Jon Ossoff: abortion. The story of American evangelical political engagement is indeed a complicated one.

You don’t congratulate someone who just robbed a bank (and other court evangelical news)

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally acknowledged that Joe Biden was the “President-elect of the United States of America. He also warned GOP senators to stop contesting the election.

Meanwhile, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has not said a word.

Trump continues to raise millions on his election fraud claims through his Trump Make America Great Again Committee. 75% of the money he raises can be used for his own political activity, including rallies, travel, and supporting other candidates. In other words, Trump is is building the infrastructure of a shadow presidency.

So what are the court evangelicals saying today?

The Liberty University Falkirk Center crowd is still fighting:

Interesting tweet from a Trump-supporting “think tank.” Truth?:

So far the Falkirk Center has yet to acknowledge Joe Biden as President-elect.

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis is not going down without a fight:

But she also seems to have been less than truthful about how things ended at a previous job.

Ellis also retweeted Trump. “Tremendous evidence”:

She also retweeted Hershel Walker:

And of course she is quoting scripture:

Charlie Kirk criticized Mitch McConnell for congratulating Joe Biden:

In this tweet, Kirk claims to care about “unity & healing”:

More on “congratulating” Joe Biden:

And in other court evangelical news:

Lance Wallnau believes Mitch McConnell is now part of the “deep state.” He says that God is doing an “autopsy” on this election and if evangelicals keep praying we will all see that Trump won.

Court evangelical journalist David Brody interviewed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the author of the recently dismissed Texas voter fraud lawsuit.

Jim Garlow is still holding “election integrity” prayer meetings.

Ralph Reed is rallying pastors in Georgia:

Tony Perkins is also focused on Georgia:

The people have spoken. The Electoral College voted. Who will be the first court evangelical to acknowledge publicly that Joe Biden is the next President of the United States?

COVID-19 is raging. Trump goes to Georgia. What are the court evangelicals saying?

Donald Trump was in Valdosta, Georgia this weekend trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The event was a rally for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the GOP candidates running for Senate in Georgia, but Trump turned it into an opportunity to whine and complain about voter fraud. He repeated more false and debunked claims about how the Democrats tried to steal the election.

Meanwhile, people in the United states are dying of COVID-19. Trump appears to be ignoring the virus, although he does seem to be aware that his election fraud lawyer Rudy Giuliani has contracted it.

So what did the court evangelicals, Christian leaders who claim to be committed to truth and compassion for the suffering, have to say this weekend.

The Washington D.C. Jericho March is coming-up.

Over on Parler, the new social media outlet for conservatives, Eric Metaxas is quoting Jesus in Luke 8:17: “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.”

Jim Garlow’s “Election Integrity” prayer meetings continue.

On the Liberty University Falkirk Center front:

Jenna Ellis, spokesperson for the Falkirk Center and Trump lawyer, is quoting Bible verses:

Ellis remains optimistic:

She will move forward without Giuliani:

Future historians will try to reconcile the evangelical support of Trump’s election fraud claims with these kinds of tweets:

Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, tweets with no evidence or source:

In Political Science 101 you learn that elections are decided by votes, not counties:

Kirk does not seem to know much about the character of the Kingdom in which Jesus serves as king. Jesus is was not a populist culture warrior. His Kingdom is not of this world and his followers do not seek worldly power.

In the midst of COVID-19 deaths and unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, the Falkirk Center at Liberty University is posting about truth:

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center promotes a speaker who connects “fear of COVID” to socialism:

The Liberty University Falkirk Center is still pushing election fraud. It looks like a Liberty University law professor is involved as well:

And in other court evangelical news:

Here is Lance Wallnau:

If you watch this whole video, Wallnau offers his listeners “sanctified gossip” about Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue’s failure to support the president. He describes a “Christian populist movement” of 40 million voters who will lead the “backlash” against GOP governors in swing states who will not support Trump’s voter fraud claims. This video has over 200K views and 13K comments.

Demonic forces are preventing American expansion:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody interviewed Pennsylvania state legislator Doug Mastriano:

Hard hitting journalism from Brody:

And this:

I love how Brody distinguishes Fox “dayside” from conspiracy theorists like Hannity, Ingraham, and Carlson who appear in the evening.

This USPS worker seems to be making the rounds on pro-Trump media:

Jack Hibbs believes the republic is at stake.:

Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil. – Psalms 36:1 -4

As the battle continues regarding our Nations’s future during this attack by the wicked to overthrow and undermine our election, I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s challenge to the American people, when at the conclusion of our Founding Father’s Constitutional Convention, Franklin was asked by a woman waiting in the crowd outside – “What kind of government have you given us Dr. Franklin?” Franklin answered with both a challenge and a rebuke when he said “A Republic if you can keep it.”

Most people (thank the LORD not all) in the United States today are so civically ignorant of their Constitutional Rights and Biblical calling that they have no vision nor understanding of what to do with them. They are willfully blind to the truth and have resigned themselves to 15-second bites taught by the blind themselves.

“Facts are stubborn things” said John Adams but we the people have become too distracted to care. Sadly, many people in this Nation have rendered themselves unworthy of the very freedoms they enjoy in this (God-given) Republic.

Freedom, like the Gospel, must be preached and practiced, or else it will grow old a wither away like a flower. Truth is active and the pursuit of it is a vigorous ethos.

During these days, I have dedicated my morning hours to be in intercessory prayer for the Nation that God has given me. As I teach and preach that Jesus Christ could return at any moment for His church in His Blessed Hope of the Rapture (Titus 2:13) – I must occupy in this world until He comes. So then I must be busy about my Father’s business in all things.

As my Nation today is literally under attack by enemies both foreign and domestic, I am called to stand on the truth and be obedient to live it out now.

In the next several weeks your life and mine is about to be changed forever. The persecution and violence that is coming can only be met with a resolve to preserve our liberty and freedom for our children and our children’s children.

Be ready Christian to defend your faith, family, and freedom. To that end, Psalm 36:1-4 speaks to me about the horrible people who are boldly and brazenly committing acts of deception, lying, cover-ups, and fraud as they have been exposed as political jihadists.Someday our children will ask us “What kind of government have you given us” may our answer be to them;”A Republic if you can keep it.”

Robert Jeffress is still praising the Supreme Court’s religious liberty decision and Donald Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett. Jeffress seems to only understand these issues through the grid of “rights” and politics. Evangelical Christian Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, has a different opinion. Jeffress also defends Trump’s case for voter fraud

Ralph Reed continues to focus on Georgia:

Gary Bauer:

“Life has risks.” I wonder if Tony is attending face-to-face church these days?

More fearmongering from Perkins. This time it’s a socialist takeover:

Franklin Graham:

Interesting:

One overlooked part of Franklin Graham’s brand of politics is how he loves merging Christian Right talking points with celebrities:

A “MAGA Civil War” in Georgia

Georgia governor Brian Kemp were Trump loyalists. Then election day came and things got crazy. All we need now is for Herschel Walker to weigh-in.

Here is Marc Caputo at Politico:

A new schism — this one between MAGA forces — is taking shape, further threatening GOP unity in advance of the Jan. 5 runoffs for the state’s two Senate seats.

At the center of the conflict is pro-Trump trial lawyer Lin Wood. His advocacy for President Donald Trump — and his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud — have been so extreme that he’s now taken to publiclydiscouraging people from voting for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, arguing that the runoff elections are already rigged.

Amid party fears that a MAGA boycott could cost them control of the U.S. Senate, Trump privately spoke by phone this week with Wood to tell him to “knock it off,” a source briefed on the discussion told POLITICO.

Axios was first to report on the call to Wood and lawyer Sidney Powell, whom Trump had dismissed from his legal team after she espoused expansive conspiracy theories.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who helped build the modern Republican Party in Georgia, theorized the lawyers were whipping up conservatives because “they understand that if they’re out there saying more and more radical things, they’ll get more publicity.”

“It’s one of the nuttier things I’ve seen in a long time in politics,” Gingrich told POLITICO, adding that it’s OK for Trump to question whether the vote against him was rigged — as long as he tells Republicans to vote for Perdue and Loeffler, and to not listen to Wood.

“Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are totally destructive,” Gingrich wrote on Twitter Thursday. “Every Georgia conservative who cares about America MUST vote in the runoff.”

Trump may be giving the Democrats a fighting chance in the Georgia Senate race

On January 5, Georgia will hold two run-off elections to decide who will fill the state’s U.S. Senate seats. Incumbent David Perdue (R) is running against Jon Ossoff (D) in one race. Incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R) is running against Rafael Warnock (D) in the other race. Perdue and Loeffler got the most votes in their races on November 3, but neither candidate got 50% of the vote. Georgia law states that if a candidate does not get a majority of the votes a run-off takes place between the top two candidates.

This election is so important because if Ossoff and Warnock can upset their GOP opponents the Democratic Party will gain control of the United States Senate, giving Biden’s party control of both houses of Congress.

Republicans are getting nervous and it has everything to do with Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential election. Here is Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine at Politico:

…Republicans are increasingly seeing Trump’s posture as not just rhetoric. They view it as a self-serving quest that could imperil the GOP’s grip on the Senate by depressing turnout in two runoffs races that will decide which party controls the upper chamber. And they are publicly hoping he will refrain from pushing his false fraud claims when he visits the Peach State this week to campaign for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Even as Trump urges his supporters to vote for Perdue and Loeffler, he is continuing to hammer Georgia’s secretary of state and governor — both Republicans — for what he calls a “fraudulent” result in favor of Biden. Trump even said he was “ashamed” of his endorsement of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018, and on Monday called him “hapless.”

Republicans in Georgia are exasperated with his rhetoric, and they’re publicly urging the president to avoid talking about the Nov. 3 election.

“It’s time for this to be over,” said former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who previously held Perdue’s seat. “When he comes he needs to not be talking about his race, he needs to be showing his support for the two candidates in Georgia and put to rest anybody who makes any comment about the fact or has any idea about not voting because they might think these two candidates aren’t doing enough to question the election.”

Read the entire piece.

Why is Amy Coney Barrett’s Christian faith off limits, but Raphael Warnock’s Christian faith is fair game?

Conservative news websites are freaking-out because Georgia senate candidate Raphael Warnock decried the “moral bankruptcy” of the American church for supporting Donald Trump in such large numbers.

Watch this 2016 speech at Howard University:

He is right. I hope Georgia elects him to the United States Senate.

Conservatives are also upset about remarks Warnock made about militarism.

Jack Holmes of Esquire makes a great point when he asks why Amy Coney Barrett’s faith is “off-limits,” but Warnock’s faith is “fair game.” Here is a taste:

We saw this ahead of the nomination hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, when Republicans got pre-outraged about potential Democratic questioning that might probe Barrett’s religious faith—including her membership in People of Praise, a Catholic group with rituals and traditions thatfall outside mainstream Church practice. Senator Dianne Feinstein blundered her way through some questioning on this front during hearings on Barrett’s appointment to an appeals court in 2017, but there was virtually no Democratic probing here this time around, surely at least in part because the pre-outrage was so intense. This stuff works.

Among the early outrage merchants was Senator Marco Rubio, who issued a statement on September 26 that was preemptively indignant. “Sadly, I expect my Democratic colleagues and the radical left to do all they can to assassinate her character and once again make an issue of her faith during her confirmation process,” he said. Assassination by radicals! That does sound bad. Questioning someone’s fitness for public office based on their religious beliefs is completely unacceptable, you see. It shouldn’t factor into how you assess their candidacy at all. Just ask Senator Marco Rubio, who offered some thoughts on Wednesday regarding Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate in one of Georgia’s two upcoming Senate runoff elections.

Never mind that what Warnock is saying appears to be an adaptation of the Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus Christ, a guy who never was big on militarism. And never mind that Warnock can often be found speaking from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, once home to Martin Luther King, Jr., who himself said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Read the entire piece here.

Here is your Thursday morning court evangelical update

More and more Republicans are implying that it is time to move on from this election and admit defeat. I wish more would step up and proclaim Biden president-elect so that the country can move forward, but most of them seem more concerned about party loyalty than what is good for the nation right now. Many are probably afraid that Trump will somehow exact some kind of revenge if they dare speak out against his claims of widespread voter fraud. Others are worried that if they criticize Trump it will hurt the Republican cause in the two Georgia Senate run-offs on January 5. If Trump voters don’t show-up for that run-off election, and the the Democratic candidates (Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock) win, the Democrats will gain control of the U.S. Senate.

Let’s check-in if anything has changed among the court evangelicals. Remember, I have used this term to describe the pro-Trump evangelical leaders who regularly visit the White House for photo-ops with the president and to supposedly advise him on policy matters. Based on this definition, I am not a Biden court evangelical. I have never been to the White House. Nor do I expect to be part of some kind of Biden faith-advisory council! 🙂 )

The folks at the Falkirk Center at Liberty University is still pushing voting fraud. Today they interviewed Rudy Guiliani:

Today in my Pennsylvania History class we continued our conversation about the Whiskey Rebellion. We talked about how George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Federalists believed that the followers of Jefferson and the members of the Democratic-Republican societies they established in the west were a threat to American ideals. But many of these societies were articulating their grievances against Hamilton’s excise tax on whiskey in very American ways. In other words, they were appealing to the principles of the American Revolution, particularly the resistance to the 1765 Stamp Act.

Washington condemned the whiskey rebels and their societies as threats to national unity, but despite all Washington’s well-rehearsed concerns about partisanship he was not above the fray. He wanted national unity on his terms. He failed to understand that in the 1790s there were two visions of American identity among the people and these visions were at odds with one other.

I thought of this again as I read a Falkirk Center tweet from Ryan Helfenbein. He wants to “proclaim Christ and defend America.” Whose America?

At one point in this video, David Barton, a self-proclaimed historian, suggests that Donald Trump’s tweets about election fraud should be taken seriously as a legitimate primary source. One of the first things we teach history students at Messiah University is how to evaluate sources. Barton is treating the Trump claim of election fraud in the same way he treats the American past. He collects stories about supposed fraud, adds them up without any larger context, and claims something happened. When he engages with the past he collects quotes from the founding fathers, adds them up without any larger context, and claims America is a Christian nation.

Eric Metaxas is encouraging people who are “losing hope that Trump can pull this off” to stay the course. He continues to speak with a sense of certainty that Trump will win this election. He also says that “Fox News has gone over to the dark side” and even implies that Fox is now working with George Soros. Then he tells his audience that he, Eric Metaxas, is now one of the only sources of honest news out there right now.

Metaxas says the Democrats are trying to steal the election and “there is nothing more disgusting” than this. Apparently at Metaxas’s prayer meeting on voter fraud the other night some guy blew a red, white, and blue shofar.

Robert Jeffress wants to make sure he is not misunderstood. He is still a court evangelical:

Gary Bauer is fighting the good fight as he sees it. He apparently has some disagreements with Twitter about Trump’s recent tweet.

Tony Perkins is still sowing seeds of doubt among his followers:

I am not sure Trump is doing much “leading” right now.

The people of Georgia will decide if the Senate remains in Republican hands

Two January 2021 run-off elections in Georgia will decide whether Republicans will remain in control of the Senate. Amber Phillips explains at The Washington Post:

Here’s what’s happening.

Georgia election rules set up a runoff between the top two vote-getters if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote. There’s a special election Senate race that was already certain to go to a runoff. It will feature the incumbent, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), and Democrat and first-time candidate and pastor Raphael Warnock.

Georgia’s original 2020 Senate election with Sen. David Perdue (R) trying for a second term has suddenly come back online for Democrats. Perdue had more than 50 percent of the vote after initial votes were counted, but that’s steadily and slowly narrowed as Georgia finishes counting its ballots. With 99 percent of the vote in, Perdue has 49.8 percent. Democrat Jon Ossoff is exactly two points behind, 47.8 percent.

Which means Ossoff and Warnock will get another chance to unseat these two Senate Republicans in a little under two months.

But if you look at the data from November’s election, you’d rather be the Republicans than Democrats in these next round of races.

Let’s start with the special election. Warnock actually got the majority of the vote of any candidate, winning with nearly 33 percent to Loeffler’s 26 percent. But Loeffler wasn’t the only major Republican in this crowded race; she beat Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R). When you add in Collins’s votes into the general Republican tally, you get 46 percent voting for a Republican senator, a full 13 points more than Warnock.

Read the rest here.

Things are getting intense in Georgia

Senator David Perdue canceled his third scheduled debate with challenger Jon Ossof after this happened:

Here is The New York Times:

Senator David Perdue of Georgia withdrew on Thursday from the final debate in his tight re-election race, a day after his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, called him a “crook” and accused the vulnerable Republican of trying to profit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The rivals had been scheduled to face off on Sunday on the Atlanta television station WSB, the third debate in one of two pivotal Senate races in Georgia that could determine which party controls the chamber. The candidates had committed to the debate in September, according to Mr. Ossoff’s campaign.

The news first broke Thursday evening when Mr. Ossoff wrote on Twitter that Mr. Perdue had canceled on him.

“At last night’s debate, millions saw that Perdue had no answers when I called him out on his record of blatant corruption, widespread disease, and economic devastation,” Mr. Ossoff wrote. “Shame on you, Senator.”

Read the rest here. It looks like all Perdue could offer in response was talking points about Ossoff’s apparent “radical socialist agenda.”

According to Real Clear Politics, it looks like this is a dead heat.

Senator Pat Toomey will not run for reelection or for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022

Today we have some local news with national implications. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey appears to be leaving politics. Here is the Philadelphia Inquirer:

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has decided not to run for reelection or for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022, according to two people familiar with his plans, a surprise decision by the Republican with significant implications for the state’s next elections.

He is planning to serve out his current Senate term but won’t run for either of those offices, seemingly ending his career in elected office, at least for now. A formal announcement is expected Monday.

Toomey’s office on Sunday neither confirmed nor denied the senator’s plans. The people familiar with his plans spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

As the only Republican holding statewide office other than judges, Toomey was widely seen as the likely Republican favorite for governor in 2022. His decision not to run for that office or for Senate could create two wide-open contests on the Republican side, while depriving the party of running its most established current political figure in Pennsylvania.

Read the rest here.

Amy Coney Barrett and the “Kingdom of God”

Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett is on Donald Trump’s short list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump met with Barrett yesterday.

Back in September 2017, I called your attention to political philosopher Bill McCormack’s piece at America. Read that post here.

I also wrote about California Senator Diane Feinstein’s claim that “dogma lives loudly” in Barrett. Read that post here. In that post I republished Notre Dame president John Jenkins’s letter to Feinstein. Here it is again:

Dear Senator Feinstein:

Considering your questioning of my colleague Amy Coney Barrett during the judicial confirmation hearing of September 6, I write to express my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern at your line of questioning.

Professor Barrett has been a member of our faculty since 2002, and is a graduate of our law school. Her experience as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is of the highest order. So, too, is her scholarship in the areas of federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. I am not a legal scholar, but I have heard no one seriously challenge her impeccable legal credentials.

Your concern, as you expressed it, is that “dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” I am one in whose heart “dogma lives loudly,” as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.

Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would “follow unflinchingly” all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure you that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates.

It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge. I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom “dogma lives loudly”—which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern.

Now Barrett is getting criticism for a remark she made about the “Kingdom of God.”

Christian conservatives like Barrett are not the only public figures who talk about the Kingdom of God.

Obama said this on the presidential campaign trail in 2007. At the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said:

My Christian faith, then, has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years,” Obama said. “All the more so, when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jimmy Carter also believes that Christians should be working to promote the Kingdom of God. Here is an interview with NPR in which he talks about “God’s Kingdom on Earth.”

All Christians believe in some version of the “Kingdom of God.” Students of American religious history know that this phrase has been used just as much by Christians on the left as on the right. The idea of ushering in the Kingdom of God was at the heart of the early 20th-century movement known as the “Social Gospel,” a form of Christianity committed to bringing faith to bear on matters of poverty, racism, and other forms of injustice. In fact, the social gospelers talked about bringing God’s kingdom to earth a whole lot more than the Protestant fundamentalists. Most conservative Protestants in the early 20th-century showed little concern for social issues. They just wanted to get people “saved” and ready for the rapture.

But how does Amy Barrett use the phrase “Kingdom of God?” The source of all the controversy today comes from a 2006 commencement address to the graduates of Notre Dame Law School. You can read that address here. A taste:

Sometimes we’re tempted to say that a Notre Dame lawyer is a different kind of lawyer because he or she is an ethical lawyer. But that can’t be right. Our profession is in pretty deep trouble if the only ethical lawyer is the different one. When you leave here, hold yourselves to the highest ethical standards, and be leaders in that regard. But maintaining high ethical standards ought to be something that characterizes our whole profession—not something that causes Notre Dame lawyers to stand apart.

So if being a different kind of lawyer is not defined by the body of knowledge you have mastered or by the ethical standards you are expected to maintain, might it be defined by the kind of law you choose to practice? The banner hanging in the main reading room says, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Surely we can expect that, as a Catholic law school, our commitment to social justice will lead a higher-than-average percentage of you to choose to work on behalf of the disadvantaged and oppressed. We can expect Notre Dame lawyers like my own classmate, Sean Litton, who left a successful and lucrative practice at Kirkland & Ellis to work for a human rights organization with the mission of eliminating sexual trafficking in southeast Asia. Many of you, like my classmate Sean, will work in the public interest sector, and Notre Dame will be proud of you. But many of you will work in the private sector, and Notre Dame will be proud of you too. It cannot be that being a different kind of lawyer is defined by the kind of law one practices, for that would leave too many of our graduates out of the definition.

So what then, does it mean to be a different kind of lawyer? The implications of our Catholic mission for your legal education are many, and don’t worry—I’m not going to explore them all in this short speech. I’m just going to identify one way in which I hope that you, as graduates of Notre Dame, will fulfill the promise of being a different kind of lawyer. And that is this: that you will always keep in mind that your legal career is but a means to an end, and as Father Jenkins told you this morning, that end is building the kingdom of God. You know the same law, are charged with maintaining the same ethical standards, and will be entering the same kinds of legal jobs as your peers across the country. But if you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love, and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.

As she closes her speech, Barrett encourages the graduates of this Catholic law school to:

  1. Pray about their calling as lawyers
  2. Give a percentage of their salaries to the church and other charitable causes
  3. Seek a Christian community that will assist them in advance their calling as agents of the kingdom of God.

I have written a lot at this blog about the “Kingdom of God.” My understanding of the meaning of this phrase is very similar to Barrett. While some might use the phrase “Kingdom of God” to promote some kind of theocratic takeover of government, this is not how most Christians use the term.

Christians believe that the Kingdom of God was initiated when Jesus died and rose from the dead. We still live in a broken world, but we get occasional glimpses of the new creative order–the coming Kingdom– when we see acts of compassion, justice, reconciliation, mercy, and love.  Moreover, when we creative work that is good, beautiful, or based in truth we are, in some small way, building this new kingdom. A longing for this kingdom is at the center of Christian hope. This is why we pray as Jesus taught us: “They Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Here is Oxford University historian and theologian N.T. Wright from his book Surprised by Hope:

But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain.  You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire.  You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site.  You are–strange though is may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself–accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world.  Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness, every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world–all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.

Here is Wright again:

What you do in the present–by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself–will last into God’s future.  These activities are not simply ways of making the present life less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we will leave it behind altogether (as the hymn  so mistakenly puts it, “Until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away”). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

The practice of the law is a way in which Christians can live-out their callings as faithful members of the God’s Kingdom. This is what Barrett was telling the graduates of Notre Dame law school.

The real question is whether or not Barrett, if nominated and confirmed, would confuse the Kingdom of God with her responsibility to interpret the law of the United States of America. They are not the same thing.

This clip has some of Barrett’s 2018 responses to the questions of Democratic Senators during her confirmation hearings. I’d recommend stopping it at about the 2:37 mark.

UPDATE: I just read Jack Jenkins’s piece on this at Religion News Service. It includes several quotes from Catholic theologians and other experts claiming that it is perfectly fine for Senators to ask Barrett if and how her faith will shape her legal decisions as a Supreme Court justice.