Theologian N.T. Wright appears in the new Amazon movie, “Chasing the Rain”

Wright didn’t make the trailer (at least I didn’t see him in it), but he did issue this release to his NT Wright Online e-mail list:

“I agreed to appear in the upcoming film CHASING THE RAIN for a number of reasons. It is a powerful and deeply moving exploration of the way our efforts to relieve suffering in the world often end up exposing the shadows inside ourselves. Matt Lanter’s stunning performance steers this movie into human heights and depths seldom visited, laying bare the messy interconnections between global and personal suffering. This film raises vital questions and refuses to give the easy answers we might expect. An important work for our challenging time. It is available to stream Friday, December 18, on Amazon.” –Professor Wright

Greg Boyd, Efrem Smith, and Shane Claiborne also appear in the movie:

UPDATE: December 20, 2020 at 12:39AM: Just finished watching the movie. N.T. Wright plays a director of a non-profit organization that brings clean water to African communities. His character wears an earing. Boyd, Smith, and Claiborne play homeless men. I enjoyed the movie, but it is one of those films that you need time to process. Right now the online commentary on the movie is very thin.

Shane Claiborne: “The 2020 election was a referendum on race and Christian faith

After what we witnessed this summer–the killing of black men and women, the president’s lack of response, and the white evangelical rejection of systemic racism–it is hard to argue against Shane Claiborne.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

This election was not only a battle for the soul of our nation, it is also a battle for the Christian faith. While white Christians were the only bloc of religious voters that went for Trump, some 80% of nonwhite Christians voted against him. This suggests that the fixation with Trump that we see in many white Christians has more to do with their whiteness than with their faith. It’s more of a white thing than a Christian thing.

Many white evangelicals have said that they voted on one issue, abortion, that didn’t register as a top priority for any other demographic. More and more people I talk to are hopeful that we can find common ground even on this topic. The number of abortions is dropping every year, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and many of us are convinced that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to support health care and other social services for low-income women, since the leading reason for having an abortion is a lack of resources to raise a child. 

For now, I am encouraged to see so many people stand up for faith over fear, for love over hatred and for hope over despair. We did it in many different ways. Some folks, including many of my friends, explicitly endorsed Biden. Others did not. We saw new factions of pro-life evangelicals stand out in their courageous support for change in Washington while not compromising their convictions on abortion or other issues they hold dear.

Others, like me, did not endorse Biden-Harris, but worked closely and prayerfully with them to get Trump out of office. I have said many times that I do not agree with the Democratic Party on everything, but I agree with them on this: Trump and his enablers needed to go. 

Read the entire piece here.

Faith leaders call for a “free and fair election”

Here is the statement:

We join together as leaders of faith across political, religious, and ideological differences to affirm our commitment to a free, fair, and safe election. The values of our faith traditions inform our dedication to this cause. All of the constitutional freedoms that we enjoy, including our religious freedom, depend on the integrity of our elections—the foundation of American democracy. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and other national challenges this election season, we express our support for the following commitments and call on all public officials, civic leaders, and all people in a position of power across the country to commit to the same:

  • Our leaders must ensure a free and fair election in which all eligible Americans can safely cast their votes without interference, suppression, or fear of intimidation.
  • Leaders and election officials must count every vote in accordance with applicable laws before the election is decided, even if the process takes a longer time because of precautions in place due to COVID-19.
  • Leaders should share timely, accurate information about the election results and resist and avoid spreading misinformation.
  • Leaders must actively and publicly support a peaceful transition of power or continuation of leadership based on legitimate election results.

The commitments outlined above are central to a functioning and healthy republic and they are supported by the vast majority of Americans, yet they are being challenged in unprecedented ways in the 2020 election. America is only as strong as its people’s commitment to our democracy and the freedoms and rights it ensures. We invite our neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds to join us in this urgent commitment to support free and fair elections, especially at this crucial moment for our democracy.

Most of the signers are progressive or liberal faith leaders. Conservative faith leaders must not believe in a “free and fair election” or else they were not asked to sign. Or maybe they refused to sign because they did not want to be associated with liberals.

There are some notable evangelical and evangelical-friendly voices who signed this statement including:

Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Church, (Charlotte, NC)

Manfred Baruch, Palmer Theological Seminary

Stanley Carlson-Thies, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals

Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians

Walter Contreras, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Richard Foster, Renovare

Justin Giboney, The AND Campaign

Roberta Hestenes, PCUSA Church

Dennis Hollinger, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Joel Hunter, Community Resource Network

John Inazu, Washington University

Walter Kim, National Association of Evangelicals

Mark Labberton, Fuller Theological Seminary

Samuel Logan, The World Reformed Fellowship

JoAnn Lyon, The Wesleyan Church

Walter McCray, National Black Evangelical Association

Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

Napp Nazworth, freelance writer

David Neff, former editor of Christianity Today

Gabriel Salguero, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Ronald Sider, Christians for Social Action

Boz Tchividjian, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Michael Wear, Public Square Strategies

Progressive Evangelicals Revive the 1973 Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern

YMCA Wabash

The Wabash Avenue YMCA, Chicago

In 1973, a group of evangelical leaders gathered at the YMCA on Wabash Avenue in Chicago to affirm the Christian call to racial justice, care for the poor, peace, and equality for women.  The result of this meeting was The Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern.  The signers included Samuel Escobar, Frank Gaebelein, Vernon Grounds, Nancy Hardesty, Carl F.H. Henry, Paul B. Henry, Rufus Jones, C.T. McIntire, David Moberg, Richard Mouw, William Pannell, John Perkins, Richard Pierard, Bernard Ramm, Ronadl Sider, Sharon Gallagher, Lewis Smedes, Jim Wallis, and John Howard Yoder.

Historian David Swartz begins his excellent book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism with a discussion of this meeting.  I encourage you to read his extensive coverage of this important moment in the history of progressive evangelicalism.  I also highly recommend Brantley Gasaway’s Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice.

Forty-five years after this Chicago YMCA meeting, progressive evangelicals have reaffirmed the Declaration.  Here is a taste of “The Chicago Invitation: Diverse Evangelicals Continue the Journey”:

As diverse evangelicals, our faith moves us to confess and lament that we have often fallen short of the biblical values and commitments proclaimed in the gospel and affirmed in the 1973 Declaration. In addition to the 1973 Declaration, many diverse evangelicals, including women, African-American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and Indigenous leaders, have put out strong statements that have often been ignored. Millions of people, especially younger believers, have left the faith during a time in which evangelicalism has become increasingly partisan and politicized. People on both sides of the political aisle have demonized those who disagree with us and failed to love both our neighbors and our “enemies,” as Jesus instructs us to do. We should not be captive to any political party, because our allegiance belongs to Christ. Like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we believe the church is “called to be the conscience of the state, not the master or the servant of the state.”

Affirming the 1973 Declaration, as well as other historic statements from diverse evangelicals, we recommit to an evangelical faith that follows Jesus’ example of living and sharing a gospel that always proclaims good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed. (Luke 4: 18-19)

We recommit to a biblical justice that demonstrates the reign of God as we strive for abundant life for all God’s children, which must include combating economic inequality and exploitation.

We recommit to more faithfully and courageously follow Jesus, who affirmed the sacredness and dignity of all human life.

Building on the 1973 Declaration as well as other historic statements from diverse evangelicals, we also commit to love and protect all people—including life at every stage, people of color, women, Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ people, people who are living with disabilities or mental health issues, poor and impoverished people, and each one who is marginalized, hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, or imprisoned. (Matthew 25:31-46)

We commit to care for and protect the earth as God’s creation.

We commit to resisting all manifestations of racism, white nationalism, and any forms of bigotry—all of which are sins against God.

We commit to resisting patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and any form of sexism and to always affirm the dignity, voices, and leadership of women.

We commit to defend the dignity and rights of all people, particularly as we celebrate and embrace the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in our nation and churches.

Signers include  Ruth Bentley (1973 signer), Tony Campolo, Sharon Gallagher (1973 signer), Shane Claiborne, Ruth Padilla-DeBorst,  Wesley Granberg-Michaelson (1973 signer), Lisa Sharon Harper, Joel Hunter, David Moberg (1973 signer), William Pannell (1973 signer), Richard Pierard (1973 signer), Ronald Sider (1973 signer), Andrea Smith, Jim Wallis (1973 signer), Barbara Williams-Skinner, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Read the entire statement here.  Jim Wallis discusses the statement here.

I have a hard time keeping track of all these religious “declarations,” but I took note of this one because of its connection to the historic 1973 meeting.

The “Court Evangelicals” in *The New York Times*

Trump court evangelicals

Check out Laurie Goodstein‘s piece on anti-Trump evangelicals at The New York Times.  The article focuses on Shane Claiborne and the recent Red-Letter Revival in Lynchburg, but it also mentions our phrase “court evangelicals” and links to The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog.

Here is a taste:

The revival last month was the most energetic of several recent attempts by Christians in various camps to confront what they see as Mr. Trump’s “court evangelicals” selling out the faith. The critics have written columns, and a book called “Still Evangelical?” They convened a closed-door summit last month at Wheaton College. A number of bereaved, eminent elders plan a procession to the White House soon to hand over their manifesto, “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.”

Read the entire piece here.

“We Need a Revival”

Liberty U
We linked to his “Photo Essay” on Wednesday.  Today we want to call your attention to David Swartz‘s report from Liberty University and the Red Letter Revival.  Swartz visited both this past weekend.

Here is a taste of his piece at the Anxious Bench:

Over the weekend, I drove our trusty red minivan from Kentucky across the Appalachian Mountains to Virginia to check out the action. I attended the revival Friday night, took a three-hour campus tour of Liberty on Saturday morning, and then returned to the revival on Saturday afternoon. As you might expect, the contrasts between the two evangelical sites—just five minutes apart—were fascinating and stark. (For a photographic essay of both sites, click here.)

If not for much of the content, Falwell might have felt quite comfortable with the Red Letter Revival. Preachers called for more piety and generous giving. They warned of sin pervading the land. They told churchy jokes (Claiborne said he wasn’t in Lynchburg to protest, but instead to “pro-testify!”), using humor along with lament to drive a spirit of old-fashioned revivalism. Attendees responded, raising their hands and exhorting the preachers from their seats. Exclamations of “We need a revival!” carried along extended periods of biblical exposition. As the gathering ended, Tony Campolo presided over an altar call.

Read the rest here.

Progressive Evangelicals vs. Court Evangelicals in Lynchburg

Trump court evangelicals

Over at VOX, Tara Isabella Burton has a nice piece of reporting/commentary on the so-called “Red Letter Revival.”  Glad to see the phrase “court evangelical” made the cut.

A taste:

Two years ago, the idea that the old-guard evangelicals would treat Trumpism as a tenet of their faith was unimaginable. According to a FiveThirtyEight poll, only 44 percent of white evangelical Republicans supported Trump during the primaries. But in the months and years since Trump won the Republican primary, evangelicalism, (white) nationalism, and Trumpism have become increasingly closely linked. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in the general election.

Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Channel, as I have previously written, has become a de facto mouthpiece for the Trump administration, lobbing softballs at administration officials in exchange for access. Members of Trump’s evangelical advisory council, including prosperity gospel preacher Paula White, have gone on the record telling listeners that God has ordained the Trump presidency.

Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and Trump’s evangelical right-hand man, even turned “Make America Great Again” into a hymn. As historian John Fea put it in a Washington Post op-ed, these are “court evangelicals,” who see Christianity and political power as going hand in hand.

As a result, across the evangelical spectrum, those who have vocally opposed Trump or his policies have often met with strong backlash. After Southern Baptist Convention leader Russell Moore — president of the convention’s policy arm — made vocal opposition to Trump a hallmark of his public persona, hundreds of Southern Baptist churchesthreatened to withhold funding from the central convention. (While Moore kept his job, he was forced to apologize for some of his remarks about Trump.)

Read the entire piece here.

Falwell Jr to the Red Letter Christians: Don’t Pray On Our Campus

We have covered this weekend’s “Red Letter Revival” in Lynchburg, VA here and here.

Well, it looks like things are getting a bit tense between the progressive evangelicals staging the event and Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.  This afternoon Shane Claiborne, the organizer of the revival, tweeted this:

In case you can’t read the tweet, I have typed the exchange of letters below.  I have added links where appropriate.

Claiborne to Falwell:

Dear President Falwell,

I’ve been in touch with David Nasser, who shared your email with me.  David and I had a chance to talk at length on the phone, and we had a meaningful time of prayer together.  We’ve also been discussing the possibility of bringing a group of Liberty students up to Philly to spend some time with at The Simple Way, and volunteer in the neighborhood.  I hope that can happen soon.  I have come to know so many wonderful Liberty students and alumni, one of which works in our office.  I loved my visit to Liberty a few years ago when I spoke in chapel, though I do have one regret–not hitting up the snowboarding hill.  Next time.

As you may know, we are hosting a gathering in Lynchburg on April 6-7 called the Red Letter Revival Lynchburg.  I’ve had the privilege of working with Liberty University students, Liberty alumni, and the fine folks of Lynchburg who are all working together to host and shape this important event.  We will be featuring an amazing lineup of preachers.  Christian authors and musicians–both from Lynchburg and from all over the country.  You are welcome to join us.  In fact, we would love to have you join us–for all of the revival or any part of it.  We truly believe we will see a large number of folks dedicate their lives to Jesus and justice over the weekend.

I am writing with a very specific request.  I have reached out to you in the past to ask you to pray with me, and I am reaching out again.  I’d still like to pray together, even regularly if you are willing.  I already pray for you, but I would love to pray with you.  I also would like to ask your permission to bring some people from the revival onto campus on April 7.  We’d like to join students and alumni, and you if you are willing.  What we have in mind is not a protest but an on-campus prayer vigil in the afternoon (1-3pm). Would you join us?  If you can’t join us, would you give us permission to come onto campus and pray for our country, our leaders, for you, and for Liberty University?

Feel free to give me a call if you prefer.  My cell number is _____________________.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Your brother in Christ, 

Shane Claiborne

And here is a response from the Liberty University Police Department:

Mr. Shane Claiborne,

This letter serves as notice to inform you that you have been restricted from all properties owned and controlled by Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church.  It is also notice that you are restricted from attending any and all events and activities of Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church.  Should you decide to violate this restriction, you will be arrested for trespassing according to Virginia Code Section 18.2.119….


Colonel Richard D. Hinkley

This whole thing is a mess.  I am no fan of Liberty University or Jerry Falwell Jr. Anyone who reads this blog knows that to be true.

I am a fan of Shane Claiborne and his work in Philadelphia.  I don’t identify as a “progressive evangelical,” but I certainly appreciate the concerns of those who do identify with the label.  I support the spirit of the #LynchburgRevival.

Yet something doesn’t seem right to me about Claiborne’s letter to Falwell.

Yes, Claiborne takes the high road.  He asks Falwell to pray with him on the campus of Liberty University.  But the letter also fails to acknowledge that Claiborne has brought this Red Letter Revival to Lynchburg precisely because Lynchburg is the home of Liberty University and precisely because Falwell Jr. is a rabid court evangelical.

This Red Letter Revival is a direct attack on Falwell Jr. and his university. It suggests that Falwell Jr. and Liberty University are somehow insufficiently Christian. (This might be a fair argument, but that is not the point here).  But the letter sounds like Claiborne has no issues whatsoever with Liberty or its president.  Claiborne should at least acknowledge his differences in his letter to Falwell or say something about how prayer might play a role in softening those differences.

How does Claiborne expect Falwell to respond in light of some of Claiborne’s recent tweets?:

Again, I have no problem with the content of any of these tweets.  I think Falwell Jr’s Christianity is toxic.  I don’t think a Christian university should have a gun range.  I have strongly criticized Falwell’s comments about Trump. But if Falwell Jr. prays with Claiborne, it looks like he (Falwell) is admitting that he is wrong about Trump and that the Christianity he promotes at Liberty is indeed “toxic.”  If Falwell Jr. doesn’t pray with Claiborne, he looks like a jerk.

The fact that Claiborne shared these letters via Twitter makes it look like there is more going on here than just a request for prayer.  Did Claiborne really believe Falwell Jr. would take him up on this offer?

On the other hand, Falwell Jr. is incapable of putting aside his ego and praying with Shane Claiborne and his friends.  This should not surprise anyone.  Even if Claiborne is trying to paint Falwell Jr. into a corner, Falwell Jr. always has the option to be the better man, put down his animosity toward the Red Letter Christians, and join them in prayer.  This might be a bad political move for him, but I am sure God would be pleased.

I am afraid this whole event is just going to cultivate more division.  Falwell Jr. will double down.  Claiborne will go home with yet another reason to show how the Christian Right is intolerant of his progressive evangelicalism.

Evangelicals have been divided for a long time, but the Trump presidency is exacerbating things.  I wrote about this here.

White Evangelical Leaders Talk Trump


Sarah McCammon, our favorite National Public Radio employee (see Episode 13), talks to court evangelical Johnnie Moore, Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior, and evangelical social activist Shane Claiborne.

Here is a taste of their conversation:

MCCAMMON: Karen Swallow Prior, you’re at Liberty University, of course, a place where the president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is a supporter of Trump. You know, I’m curious. You spend time around millennial and even younger evangelicals. What are their priorities when it comes to interaction with politics and culture?

PRIOR: Sure. I think the students at Liberty University really reflect what’s happening with the millennial generation and in general, and that is simply that there is sort of a disillusionment and disengagement from the political process. I think some of that is born of disappointment and from the past election and just distrust of the political process in general. And I see that as probably a healthy counterbalance to the generation that I came up in. I was part of the religious right and part of the culture wars, ethos from a few decades ago where we probably did place too much faith in politics, and we’re bearing the fruit of that now. And this is just a counterbalance that I see, and it’s healthy and corrective and good.

Read the rest here.  It would have been nice to see these folks talk to each other.  For example, Shane Claiborne is planning a “Red Letter Revival” this weekend in Lynchburg, the home of Liberty University.  Swallow teaches at Liberty.  Moore used to work for fellow court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr.

Shane Claiborne To Lead “Revival” Against “Toxic Christianity”

Red Letter

Evangelical leaders Shane Claiborne, William Barber, Lisa Sharon Harper, Tony Campolo, and of the so-called “Red Letter Christians” are going into the belly of the whale: Lynchburg, Virginia.

These progressive Christians are holding a “Red Letter Revival” in Lynchburg, Virginia on April 6-7, 2018.  It will include a worship service, music, and speakers.

Here is a taste of Jack Jenkins’s piece at Religion News Service:

A group of progressive evangelicals and other Christians are planning a “revival” this spring to protest “toxic evangelicalism” and evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. who support President Trump.

Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne announced the event on Twitter Wednesday (Feb. 7), saying he and others plan to host a “Red Letter Revival” on April 6-7 in Lynchburg, Va. — the same city where Liberty University, a conservative Christian school led by Falwell, is located.

Claiborne, co-director of the progressive Christian group Red Letter Christians, told Religion News Service he’s heard Liberty students say they want their school “to be known for its love for Jesus (rather) than its love for Trump.”

Specifics for the event remain tentative, but he said the program would begin that Friday with a “three-hour hype-filled, fiery, beautiful worship (service with) preaching.” The next day would include “a whole bunch of different breakout sessions and music” and conclude with “another big service” Saturday evening — including a “call to action.”

Read more here.

We will see how this plays out.  While I support the spirit of this effort, I wish Claiborne would cast a larger tent.  He seems to have gathered the usual suspects–Campolo, Barber, and the rest of the so-called evangelical left. The “Red Letter Christians” have been protesting GOP presidential candidates for a long time, well before Trump took office.  If Claiborne can attract more evangelical moderates, such as those who signed the recent Washington Post ad on immigration and refugees, his “revival” might have more of an impact.  I hope he can.

Will Jerry Falwell Jr. Debate Shane Claiborne?


I will be shocked it if happens, but Clairborne, the evangelical social justice activist from Philadelphia, has challenged the Liberty University president to a “public conversation” on health care.

The website Christian Today reports:

Radical Christian Shane Claiborne has challenged Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jnr to a public debate following the defeat in the Senate of a bill aimed at repealing Obamacare.

Read the rest here.

Whatever happens with this debate, I am relatively confident that Claiborne has been blocked from Falwell’s Twitter feed.  Welcome to the club!