Court Evangelical Franklin Graham: Trump’s Affair With Stormy Daniels is “Nobody’s Business”

Here Franklin Graham talking to the Associated Press:

Two quick thoughts:

1. Franklin Graham has made a lot of things his “business” over the years–homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, Muslims, etc….  But when it comes to Trump he has suddenly become a libertarian.

2. Franklin Graham believes that God put Donald Trump in the Oval Office for a reason and we should thus support him.   OK, let’s say that God did put Trump in the White House as part of His divine plan.  I am sure there are many readers of this blog who believe this at some level.  The court evangelicals believe Trump is in office to defend religious liberty and the free market, end gay marriage and abortion, and restore America to its so-called “Christian roots.”  But what if God put Trump in office to reveal the hypocrisy of American Christians, to call people back to true biblical faith, or to bring an end to a sinful United States of America?  This is the problem with trying to discern God’s providence.  As Ambrose Bierce put it, providence is an idea that is “unexpectedly and consciously beneficial to the person so describing it.”

Trump is a Liar, But That Doesn’t Bother the Court Evangelicals

Court evangelical dinner

So this happened yesterday:

Rudy Guiliani said that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to cover-up his adulterous affair with porn star.

Previously Trump said that he knew nothing about the payment.

So we know that Trump lied, and he probably had sex with a porn star while he was married to Melania.

The Washington Post fact checkers affirm that Trump has made 3,001 “false or misleading claims so far.”  I think it is fair to say that he is a blatant liar.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, lies constantly.  She also claims to be an evangelical Christian.

The court evangelicals don’t care that Trump is a liar.  They will support him no matter what he does or what he says.  The lie related to the $130,000 payoff will not weaken their support.

The court evangelicals are incapable of calling out sin.  The end justifies the means. Their understanding of public ethics is situational.  By the way, Trump’s payoff to Stormy (through Cohen) happened only weeks before the election.  This is NOT something that happened ten years ago.  This happened after Trump apparently became a “changed man” or accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

Trump is already starting to lose parts of Fox News:

But the court evangelicals stand strongly behind him.  Pretty soon they will be the only ones.  When atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, non-evangelical Protestants, and representatives of almost every other religion in the world condemn Trump for his immorality, the evangelicals will still be with him.  Rather than leading with moral conviction, they have cast their lot with one of the most immoral presidents in recent history.  This reminds me of the time when Billy Graham stood behind Richard Nixon when everyone believed he was a liar.

How long are the court evangelicals going to carry water for Trump?  The court evangelicals claim to care about the “Christian character” of the country, but the man they support to lead this so-called “Christian nation” is a liar, an adulterer, etc., etc.  How does that work?

When will the court evangelicals realize that Trump is using them?  Why do the court evangelicals–Jeffress, Moore, White, Graham, Land, Metaxas, Reed, Bauer, Falwell Jr.–believe that a serial liar is telling them the truth?  What ordinary person would put their faith in a man who has lied to the American people over 3000 times?  Any person with any degree of common sense would think twice before believing that a man who lies this much is telling them the truth.

I explore all of these issues and questions in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Pre-order now.

David French is Absolutely Right About the Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelicals

Court evangelicals take heed.

Here is a taste of French’s “Open letter to Trump’s Evangelical Defenders,” published today at the conservative National Review:

A Christian’s primary purpose is not to defend his own religious liberty. It’s not even to fight abortion — as vital as that task is. His basic task on this Earth isn’t protecting Christian education or preserving the freedom of Christian artists. Each of those things is important. Each of those things is necessary. But their defense cannot and must not compromise our true purpose.

And what is that purpose? I’m reminded of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Or, I’m reminded of Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Or, let’s refer to Christ’s famous words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Taken together, these words indicate that our life on this Earth should glorify God, demonstrate profound virtue, and count even our lives forfeit in the pursuit of eternal truth. We are told — promised, even — that in living this life we should expect the world’s scorn. We are told — promised, even — that we will suffer trials of many kinds, and those trials can include brutal persecution.

We are not told, however, to compromise our moral convictions for the sake of earthly relief, no matter how dire the crisis. We are not told to rationalize and justify sinful actions to preserve political influence or a popular audience. We are not told that the ends of good policies justify silence in the face of sin. 

Read the rest here.

Evangelicals and the Stormy Daniels Bump

Trump and Stormy

Over at Cleveland.com, historian Rodney Hessinger and sociologists Kristen Tobey, both of John Carroll University, call our attention to the fact that evangelical support for Donald Trump has actually grown since the Stormy Daniels affair.  They are not surprised.

Here is a taste of their op-ed, “President Trump gets a Stormy Daniels bump with evangelicals“:

The most recent Pew polls suggest that President Donald Trump hasn’t just held his support amongst white evangelicals but actually has grown his support since the Stormy Daniels story took hold.

With his white evangelical support having dropped to 61 percent in December, Trump now enjoys 78 percent support, just a shade beneath the support he won from white evangelicals on Election Day.

Many commentators have puzzled about the seeming hypocrisy of those who would see adultery and womanizing as grave sins. And yet for those who know the history of evangelicalism in America, this should be no surprise at all.

In fact, there are good reasons why we should expect this result. The history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in America fit well with Donald Trump and his message.

Read the entire piece here.

We have also commented on the Stormy Daniels-Trump affair.

Court Evangelicals to Base: No need to worry, we won’t be confronting Trump on the Stormy affair anytime soon

Nathan

Nathan to King Daniel: “Thou are the man!”

We reported on this yesterday.

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council claims that the June 19, 2018 meeting between the court evangelicals and Trump is not about Stormy Daniels.  Listen here:

Source

So let me get this straight. The leader of an evangelical organization that defends “family values” is on a radio show ASSURING listeners that he WILL NOT be confronting the president about his adulterous affair.  Think about this.

What would Nathan say?

Donald Trump, King David, and Stormy Daniels

David

First there was the King Cyrus defense.  Now there is the King David defense.

Here is a taste of Jane Coaston’s piece at VOX:

To ignore or excuse the Daniels saga, some evangelical Christians are even using a biblical comparison to explain their continued support for Donald Trump: the story of King David. As one conservative talk show host put it, Trump and King David were both men “after God’s own heart.”

The story of King David, a sinner who remained beloved by God and favored by his people, has been a favorite of evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump, even during the Republican primaries. Their reasoning is that like King David, Donald Trump has committed adultery, and like King David (or President Franklin Roosevelt, as one columnist wrote), Trump can be a great (and moral) leader even after having committed adultery….

Dennis Prager, a conservative columnist and Trump supporter, wrote in October 2016, “If God shouldn’t be ashamed for supporting King David, Christians shouldn’t be ashamed for supporting Donald Trump, given the far more corrupt and destructive alternative.”

And in August 2017, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said to a television interviewer, “I tell people from time to time … you know the good lord used King David the best I can tell, King David wasn’t perfect either. But he was the chosen man of God. Let’s go make America great again.”

Read the entire piece here.

OK, let’s play this game for a second.

The Old Testament teaches that “the good lord” did use King David after his sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah.  But there were also consequences to this sin that shaped the rest of Israel’s history and David’s life.

Here is 1 Samuel 12: 7-15

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a]the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.

By these standards, America is in big trouble.  Maybe God is using Donald Trump.  If we employ the same logic and rules of biblical interpretation used by Trump’s evangelical supporters, we might argue that God may be is using Trump to punish America for its sins.

 

My Piece on Trump and Pornography at Today’s *Washington Post*

Trump and Stormy

Here is a taste:

When I was a kid, the 7 p.m. hour on Sunday night was reserved for either “Mutual Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” or “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

Last night we all gathered around our television sets to watch a porn star talk about an adulterous affair she had with a man who would soon become the president of the United States. Times have changed.

Not since the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998 has the sex life of a president been on display in such a public manner. On Sunday it was Stormy Daniels. Last week it was former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal telling the nation, among other things, that she had unprotected sex with Donald Trump.

Walt Disney and Marlin Perkins would have blushed. Trump’s evangelical supports give him a “mulligan.”

When the country learned that Clinton had sex in the West Wing, evangelical Christian leaders responded with heavy doses of moral condemnation. In a letter to his followers, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson argued that Clinton’s escapades with Lewinsky made him unfit for office. But he also told his readers that they should have seen this coming:

“How did our beloved nation find itself in this sorry mess? I believe it began not with the Lewinsky affair, but many years earlier. There was plenty of evidence during the first Presidential election that Bill Clinton had a moral problem. His affair with Gennifer Flowers, which he now admits to having lied about, was rationalized by the American people.”

Read the rest here.

How Robert Jeffress Has Changed His Tune (and why he should be ashamed of himself)

Trump Jeffress

Listen to the first few minutes of this interview with court evangelical Robert Jeffress:

//embeds.audioboom.com/posts/6736991-chris-krok-evangelicals-and-trump/embed/v4?eid=AQAAADfrslpfzGYA

Some comments:

Jeffress says that evangelicals had a “binary choice” between Trump and Clinton in 2016.  Clinton supported abortion.  Trump did not.  Fair enough.  I could say something here about one-issue voting, but I will save that for another place–perhaps a forthcoming book scheduled to appear in June.

Jeffress has used this “binary choice” argument to disguise the fact that he supported Donald Trump in the GOP primary when there were other candidates–Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Santorum, Perry, Huckabee, Fiorina, Bush, Jindal, Walker, Kasich–who were pro-life and conservative on social issues.  Jeffress often brags that he was the first evangelical leader to back Trump.  If this is true, he needs to explain–in positive terms–why he chose Trump over the others.  In my view, Jeffress is in a different category from the evangelical leaders who merely “held their nose” and voted for Trump.

Jeffress also says in this interview that Trump’s immoral past does not matter.  God has forgiven him.  Jeffress doesn’t care what Trump did before he became president as long as he maintains the right policies.  In arguing this, Jeffress has suggested that character, past and present, is not important for a presidential candidate. This is a relatively new view for Robert Jeffress.  It is a view that he seems to have adopted when Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency in 2015.

For example, in his 2011 book Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days, Jeffress tells his readers to vote for men of character because a person’s “core beliefs serve as a restraint against immorality, corruption, and dereliction of duty.”  He rejects the “popular” notion that “a politician’s personal life has no impact on his public service.”  At one point in the book, he even takes issue with Martin Luther.  Jeffress asks:

But what if your choice comes down to voting for a qualified non-Christian candidate or an unqualified Christian?  Doesn’t competency trump spirituality?  Some people quote an alleged comment by Martin Luther: ‘I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent believer.’  Such a declaration appears to make good sense, until you consider some obvious flaws in such an argument. (p.109-110)

The “flaw” in Luther’s argument, according to Jeffress, is Luther’s belief that a political leader’s competence is more important than his character.  Last time I checked, Trump has neither.

Jeffress seems to reject the idea that sins–even forgiven sins–have consequences.  Someone who committed murder ten years ago and seemingly got away with it may have asked God for forgiveness, but if new evidence emerges in the case he or she is still going to jail for murder.  (I can’t believe I have to explain this, but this is the world in which we now live).

Donald Trump’s sins may be between him and God, but I wonder what Jeffress thinks about the manner in which these sins have coarsened our culture?  Because of the actions of this president we now have porn stars and Playboy models all over the news.  I hope Jeffress is disgusted by this.  I am sure he is upset that his grandchildren have to see this.  Any serious Christian would be.  If he is indeed troubled by the fact that the porn industry is getting free publicity every night on the nightly news (including Fox News), he must realize that this is happening because Trump’s past sins (forgiven or not) have found him out. Character matters–past and present.  Jeffress should be ashamed of himself for not speaking out about this.  He is a Christian pastor.

Jeffress may also want to think long and hard about his role at Fox News in light of recent comments by Ralph Peters.

Peter Wehner on the Axe Files: The “Mulligan” Defense is “Complete Hypocrisy”

Perkins

Court evangelical Tony Perkins

Peter Wehner is an evangelical Christian and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  He is a leading anti-Trump conservative.  Wehner has served under Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

Check out his podcast interview with former Obama adviser David Axelrod.  He describes court evangelical Tony Perkins’s “mulligan” defense of Donald Trump as “compete hypocrisy.”

You may recall that we addressed the court evangelical hypocrisy yesterday.

Trump, Porn, and the Coarsening of Culture

 

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Rihad, Saudi Arabia,

Trump and his wife.  He allegedly cheated on her with a porn star

I have spent a lot of time at this blog challenging the idea, popular among conservative evangelicals, that we should elect candidates who promise to “restore” or “return” America to its supposedly Judeo-Christian roots.  I have been critical of politicians and others who want to “reclaim” a Christian golden age that may never existed in the first place.  Trump’s phrase “Make America Great Again” is extremely problematic, both from a historical perspective and an ethical perspective.  We can’t go back.  We may not want to go back.

Yet I sometimes find myself in agreement with conservative Christian cultural warriors when they talk about the coarsening of America culture.  I am thinking, for example, about the kinds of public discourse, violence, and sex that we tolerate on our television screens.  The bar for what is acceptable behavior in public has lowered significantly in recent decades.  Our kids are exposed to unhealthy images–on television, at the theater, at school, on their computers and phones, and on their video games– at a much earlier age than I was.  I don’t think I am engaging in nostalgia here.  Anyone who has watched the culture develop over the course of the last couple of decades cannot miss this.  Even if you disagree with my use of words and phrases such as “unhealthy” or “acceptable behavior” or “coarsening” to describe these changes, you would still have to admit that things on this front have changed over time.  In my view, they have declined over time.

Let’s take pornography.  I think a lot of people, whether religious or not, would agree that porn has a negative effect on American culture.  I am guessing that one does not have to be an evangelical Christian to conclude that pornography degrades women, destroys families, teaches young people (who are watching it in increasing numbers via the Internet) an unhealthy view of sex, and leads men to throw away their money.

As if it wasn’t already easy enough to become addicted to porn, we now have a President of the United States who is in a legal battle over an adulterous affair he had with a porn star.  Stormy Daniels is everywhere.  Last weekend CNN reporters covered her stripping at a Florida men’s club.  I imagine that her free porn videos online are going viral. I am sure Stormy has been a great boon for the industry.  Like it or not, she is now part of the political mainstream.  A porn star may have found her way onto the pages of American history textbooks.

I think there might be lessons here for two groups of people.

First, and perhaps most obvious, are the court evangelicals.  Frankly, I was appalled when Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, tweeted:

Stormy Daniels, a porn star, is “irrelevant?”  Trump’s playboy lifestyle and strong connections to the porn industry have made a porn star a household name in America.  I am sure Jeffress has counseled people who are addicted to porn.  I am sure he knows about families that have been torn apart because of porn.  I am sure he knows about men who have squandered away their savings or ran up massive credit card debt on Internet porn sites.  How could a pastor say that Stormy Daniels is irrelevant?

I ask the same question of the other court evangelicals, especially Tony Perkins, the champion of “family values” who gave Trump a “mulligan” on his affair with Stormy Daniels.  Is Perkins’s vision so narrow that he does not see the consequences of Trump’s sin on the culture at large?  I thought guys like Perkins wanted to clean-up the culture, not give a pass to a guy who brought a porn star into the center of public life.

But I also have a word here for all of my secular friends who think that evangelicals are obsessed with sex.  Many secular liberals, especially folks on college campuses, will be quick to condemn Trump’s relationship with a porn star.  I am glad to see that they have managed to find their moral footing on this issue.  But where have they been before Stormy Daniels came on the scene?  Why aren’t they working with evangelicals to curb pornography?  Is there common ground here?  It seems that only the most extreme libertarian can look the other way when they encounter the negative effects that pornography has had on our social institutions.  Rarely does one hear a college professor talk about the coarsening of our culture.  Perhaps they do not want to be labeled Puritans or Fundamentalists.

Maybe it is time to talk once again about virtue–the kind of common morality that the founding fathers believed essential to the preservation of a healthy republic.  Whatever you think about the founders, their flaws, and their failure to live-up to many of their ideals, they did believe that the survival of a nation was impossible without at least some kind of moral core.  It is hard to play the identity politics card on this one.  The negative effects of porn impact people of all races and classes and both genders.

American citizens will have robust debates over issues such as abortion or the nature of marriage, but I hope that they can find common moral ground on something like pornography.

The fight against pornography was once a Christian Right issue. But if reform is going to happen on this front it will now need to be led by religious and non-religious anti-Trumpers.  The court evangelicals have lost all moral authority to speak on this issue.  The next time I hear a pro-Trump evangelical leader condemn porn I will respond this way.