The Court Evangelicals are Out in Full-Force Tonight

In case you have not heard, Donald Trump is having a big dinner right now for evangelical leaders.  It looks like a court evangelical extravaganza.

Click here to see what court evangelical Robert Jeffress is saying about it at the Christian Broadcasting Network.  Jeffress makes it all sound like a political calculation.  We need Trump and Trump needs us.

Court evangelical Johnnie Moore is there:

Court evangelical Gary Bauer is there:

Court evangelical Jack Graham is there:

Court evangelical Greg Laurie is there:

So are James Dobson, Jentezen Franklin, Samuel Rodriguez, and Ronnie Floyd:

Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas is yucking-it-up with fellow court evangelical Mike Pence (more on Metaxas in my next post.  Stay tuned)

Metaxas at Party

It also looks like court evangelical Tony Perkins got an invitation:

Trump finally said something nice about John McCain. I guess he did not want to come across as an unforgiving man with court evangelicals in the room:

Court evangelical Darryl Scott is there:

It wasn’t very hard to learn which evangelicals came to the White House tonight.  Many of them proudly tweeted to their followers and congregation as they relished in the power of the court and solidified their celebrity.

Some of you may be wondering what I mean by the term “court evangelical.”  I wrote a an entire chapter about these Christians in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpThat chapter builds off of several shorter pieces, including:

Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity,” Washington Post, July 17, 2017

The term “court evangelical” has even made it into the Urban Dictionary.

Perhaps the court evangelicals should go back to their hotel rooms tonight and read 2 Samuel 12. (There is a Gideon Bible in the drawer).  Nathan was one of King David’s court prophets.  In other words, he had a “seat at the table.”  When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband, Uriah, to be killed on the battlefield to cover up David’s sins, Nathan rebuked his king.  He told David the story of a poor man whose beloved “little ewe lamb” was stolen by a self-centered rich man who had plenty of lambs but wanted the poor man’s only lamb to serve his guests.  When David’s anger “was greatly kindled” against the rich man in the story, Nathan said to the king, “You are the man!”

Will there be a Nathan in the room tonight?  Somehow I doubt it.

Some Court Evangelicals are Downplaying a Possible Roe v. Wade Reversal

Trump fans

Court evangelicals Jerry Falwell Jr., Johnnie Moore, and Tony Perkins are all downplaying the idea that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by a conservative court.  Here is a taste of Steve People’s reporting for the Associated Press:

Like many religious conservatives in a position to know, the Liberty University president with close ties to the White House suspects that the Supreme Court vacancy President Donald Trump fills in the coming months will ultimately lead to the reversal of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade. But instead of celebrating publicly, some evangelical leaders are downplaying their fortune on an issue that has defined their movement for decades.

“What people don’t understand is that if you overturn Roe v. Wade, all that does is give the states the right to decide whether abortion is legal or illegal,” Falwell told The Associated Press in an interview. “My guess is that there’d probably be less than 20 states that would make abortion illegal if given that right.”

 

Falwell added: “In the ’70s, I don’t know how many states had abortion illegal before Roe v. Wade, but it won’t be near as many this time.”

The sentiment, echoed by evangelical leaders across the country this past week, underscores the delicate politics that surround a moment many religious conservatives have longed for. With the retirement of swing vote Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate plan to install a conservative justice who could re-define the law of the land on some of the nation’s most explosive policy debates – none bigger than abortion.

And while these are the very best of times for the religious right, social conservatives risk a powerful backlash from their opponents if they cheer too loudly. Women’s groups have already raised the alarm for their constituents, particularly suburban women, who are poised to play an outsized role in the fight for the House majority this November.

Two-thirds of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, according to a poll released Friday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Among women of reproductive age, three out of four want the high court ruling left alone. The poll was conducted before Kennedy’s retirement was announced.

Read the rest here.

Tony Perkins Praises Pence Speech at the Southern Baptist Convention and Confuses God and Country…Again

Perkins

We have already weighed-in on Wednesday’s Pence speech.

Here is court evangelical Tony Perkins on the speech:

As [Pence] touched on the country’s divided times, several in the room probably thought about the division right there in that room. Just yesterday, one SBC messenger made a motion to disinvite the vice president, insisting that, “By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members, suggesting that to be faithful to the gospel, we ought to align with a particular administration.”

Fortunately, wisdom prevailed, soundly defeating the ill-conceived resolution. But it is a clear indication that there are some within the church that are either too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced, or – as Jesus described in John 17 – being in the world but not of it. We can’t influence if we retreat. We don’t have to agree with everything this president has said or done, and we don’t, but it is foolish and even detrimental to persecuted believers around the world to fail to acknowledge that this administration is being used to set the table for the church to do its work unhindered. The vice president, Mike Pence, is an unabashed believer who’s championing their cause in the White House. Look at the doors this administration is opening for religious liberty and free speech. Now is not the time for shutting doors – now’s the time to rush through and seize this moment of opportunity.

Read the entire piece here.

Wow! There is a lot to unpack in Perkins’s post.

  1. Perkins criticizes pastor Garrett Kell’s resolution to replace Pence’s speech with a time of prayer.  But notice how he does it.  He blames Kell (“one SBC messenger”) for promoting disunity.  Actually, if you read Kell’s resolution, it was steeped in unity–not for the nation, but for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Perkins seems confused.  The SBC meeting in Dallas was not a political event or a God and country rally.  It was a religious event.  It seems to me that “unity” at a religious event should revolve around spiritual things, not politics or nationalism.
  2. Perkins suggests that anyone who opposed Pence’s speech is “too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced.”  In other words, those who opposed Pence’s speech are not smart enough to realize that they are being played by the Left, the media, or (add your favorite bogeyman here).  But let’s remember that the Trump White House asked the SBC if Pence could come and speak.  Is it possible to view this as anything but an attempt to shore-up votes among the evangelical base?  Who got played here?
  3. Perkins has the audacity to quote John 17, a passage in which Jesus prays for unity in his church.  Again, he confuses Jesus’s prayer for unity among fellow Christians with national unity.  Jesus was not praying for national unity.  He was not praying for unity in the United States.
  4. Perkins’s piece would make a great primary source for students to read in an American religious history course.  It provides an amazing example of the way that the Christian Right conflates the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of America.  Politics don’t “set the table” for the church.  God sets the table.  Perkins sees everything in political terms.  He also talks about “seizing opportunities,” a clear reference to the 2018 election.

Some Court Evangelicals Break Ranks on Trump’s Immigration Policy

immigrants

The Trump administration is separating children from parents at the Mexican border.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that Romans 13 justifies the policy, but court evangelical Franklin Graham calls the policy “disgraceful.”  Another court evangelical, Samuel Rodriguez, also opposes the policy.  Learn more from this piece at CBN news.

I am now waiting for the following evangelical leaders to stand-up to Donald Trump’s immigration policy:

Robert Jeffress has said nothing.  Yet he has wished Trump a Happy Birthday and thanked him for being such a great POTUS:

Jerry Falwell Jr. has said nothing.  If he tweeted something today I can’t see it.  He blocked me a long time ago.

Paula White has said nothing.  But she is tweeting:

Eric Metaxas:  I don’t know what he is saying on this issue.  I am blocked.

Johnnie Moore:  He seems more focused on Trump’s meeting with North Korea”

Mark Burns is being a good court evangelical:

James Dobson, the champion of “family values” has an interesting tweet today:

Ronnie Floyd seems to be running a prayer sweepstakes:

Richard Land: Silent

Greg Laurie is focused on a big rally in Dallas and Trump’s meeting with the North Koreans:

Tony Perkins, another champion of family values, has said nothing about the fact that Trump is ripping families apart at the border. Do “family values” only apply to white families? Middle-class families?

But he does love Trump:

 

Mike Pence Tells Pastors to “Share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Pence

Yesterday Mike Pence appeared before a group of court evangelicals and Christian nationalists and exhorted them to “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”  Here is a taste of a Christian Broadcasting Network piece on Pence’s appearance at the Watchman on the Wall Conference:

In a last second surprise appearance before a pastors conference in Washington DC, Vice President Mike Pence outlined how the Trump administration has championed causes important to the evangelical community and implored them to continue to, “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

“Other than the service of those who wear the uniform of the United States especially our cherished fallen, the ministries that you lead and the prayers that you pray are the greatest consequence in the life of the nation,” the vice-president told those attending the 2018 Watchman on the Wall conference sponsored by the Family Research Council.

“Keep preaching the good news. Keep preaching in season and out of season as the Bible says. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have,” he continued.

So just what did Pence mean by “the good news of Jesus Christ?”  Here are some possible options:

  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim Donald Trump as God’s anointed messenger sent to restore America to its Christian roots.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that America was founded as a Christian nation.
  • Go ye into all the world and continue to teach people to live in fear rather than hope.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and peddle nostalgia for some of the darkest moments in American life.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the right not to bake cakes for people you don’t like.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to fight for your rights.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to elect the right candidates in the next election.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need for victory in the culture wars.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that the man in the oval office is a serial liar.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to call immigrants rapists and murderers.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and defend that guy who said that there were “good people” on both sides in Charlottesville.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim support for a politician who has committed adultery with a porn star and Playboy playmate.

Unfortunately, the real message of the Gospel–the “good news”–has been corrupted in the minds of so many Americans because of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and the kind of people who gathered at the “Watchman on the Wall” event.  These men and women have exchanged the Gospel for political power and at the very least have funneled the “good news” through the lens of partisan politics.  Their gospel is Christian nationalism and it is best preached with a healthy dose of fear, power, and nostalgia.

And as long as we are at it, let’s name some of the names of the people who spoke at this event:

Kay Arthur

Michelle Bachmann

David Barton

Lt. Gen. William Boykin

Jim Garlow

Bishop Harry Jackson

Josh McDowell

Tony “Mulligan” Perkins

Todd Starnes

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?

Tony Perkins Has It All Wrong

Lamb

Conor Lamb

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the guy famous for saying that he is willing to give Donald Trump a “mulligan” for his adulterous affair with Stormy Daniels, chides his fellow conservative evangelicals in western Pennsylvania for not coming out to vote in the recent special election.  He writes:

Although the liberal media won’t admit it, there’s a deliberate effort to try to discourage evangelicals from voting and being involved. That’s why we’re seeing an almost daily rehashing of Trump’s past. Americans can’t make it through a half-hour of cable news without hearing about the president’s behavior back in 2006. They can’t open a newspaper without another columnist shaming Christians for supporting Trump. That’s by design. Liberals know that if they can shame evangelicals for supporting this president, they can suppress their enthusiasm. Their aim is to translate that into a decline of our record participation in 2016. If that decline happens — even a little bit — they can retake Congress. And they understand as well as we do that if Republicans lose either chamber, the president’s conservative agenda is as good as dead

Thoughts:

  1. Perkins repeats a version of the old “mulligan” argument.  I have addressed this in multiple places, including here and here and here and here.
  2. Perkins devalues evangelical voters.  He makes it sound as if they are too easily swayed by the media and are incapable of making up their own mind.  This might be true (i.e. Fox News), but usually it is those on the Left who say this about conservative evangelicals.
  3. Perkins is engaging in the usual paranoia and scare tactics that we usually see from the court evangelicals.  Perkins knows that the success of his message is dependent upon his ability to cultivate fear in ordinary evangelicals.  I develop this point more fully in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  (Don’t forget to pre-order!)
  4.  I don’t know how many evangelicals in this special election voted for Democrat Conor Lamb, but I would guess that many did.  These evangelicals sent a message to people like Tony Perkins and Donald Trump.  Perkins assumes that Lamb beat Rick Saccone because evangelicals did not come out and vote.  But what if Lamb beat Saccone because evangelicals did come out and vote and in the process rejected Trump’s agenda?

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.

The Editor of *Christianity Today* Weighs-In on the Perkins and Falwell Jr. Debacle

CT

Christianity Today usually tries to stay out of the political fray.  Frankly, I was somewhat surprised that they were willing to let me write so freely about Ted Cruz during the 2016 campaign.  (The piece actually won an award).  I respect the folks at CT and I am always impressed by their reporting on evangelicalism and politics.  Court evangelical Robert Jeffress has described those affiliated with the CT approach to politics as the “Christianity Today crowd.”  (Count me as one of the crowd!)

Earlier this week, editor Mark Galli (check out his new book on Karl Barth) weighed-in on the Tony Perkins “mulligan” and Jerry Falwell Jr.’s wacky comments and tweets.

Here is a taste of his piece:

To be fair to Perkins, however, the call to turn the other cheek is not a universal guideline for Christian behavior. It is a very good guideline in many, many situations, and one Christians should instinctively start with. But it doesn’t take deep imagination to recognize that Jesus does not call us to simply absorb evil in every instance. He certainly didn’t. He called out the Pharisees in the strongest language—“hypocrites,” “blind fools,” “sons of vipers” (Matt. 23)—and he turned over the tables in the Temple and drove out the money changers with a whip (John 2:15).

In the same vein, we rightly tell women they should not simply turn the other cheek when a man sexually assaults them. Similarly, African Americans who are abused by the system should fight for justice. And so on and so forth. Christianity is not a passive faith in the face of evil, but one that encourages and models courage and standing up to evil, along with the virtues of patience and forbearance.

This is one reason being a Christian is so hard at times. It takes a fair amount of wisdom to discern when and how these various virtues come into play in any given situation. I’m making a larger exegetical point here: We Christians should not reflexively default to one set of virtues when we’re trying to craft or critique public policy. So formally Perkins is right to suggest that.

Galli is much harder on Falwell Jr.  Read the rest here.

The Slow and Steady Decline of Evangelical Morality

Perkins

Tony Perkins’s recent blog post at the Family Research Council is entitled “On Morals and Mulligans.” Here is a taste:

As I said when that footage was released in October to rationalize or excuse this type of behavior. But let’s also be realistic: Americans can only hold President Donald Trump accountable for what he does in office. We can’t do anything about the past. Americans may not like it, find it distasteful, and wish it hadn’t happened — but it did. Like any of us, he needs to own his failings and take responsibility for his actions. And in some of these cases, I believe he did. (Italics mine).

If we except Perkins’s problematic suggestion that we should only hold Trump accountable for what he does in office, then I have several follow-up questions:

  1.  Trump tried to cover-up the affair with $130,000 weeks before the election.  Should Trump be held accountable for this?
  2.  As I wrote two days ago:  How does a man who runs an organization committed to strong Christian families give Trump a pass on adultery?  Yes, it happened ten years ago, but does Perkins really believe that the fallout of such a revelation will have no effect on Trump’s family.  Does he think Melania should give Trump a pass because his adulterous affair with a porn star happened ten years ago?  Shouldn’t a so-called “family values” crusader be standing up for those hurt by Trump’s sins?  I could say the same thing about Roy Moore’s victims.  Why wasn’t the Family Research Council supporting these victims?
  3. What has happened to evangelical morality?  Trump should be held “accountable” for all kinds of things he has done in office: his racist comments, his arrogance, the crassness of his Twitter feed, his endless lies.  And we could go on.  There was a time when evangelicals thought officeholders needed to be called out for these things.  How low is the moral bar for people like Perkins and the rest of the court evangelicals?  (We will support Trump as long as he doesn’t cheat on his wife in the oval office with a porn star).

Perkins goes on:

As I said again on CNN Tuesday night, I was not an early supporter of Mr. Trump because of his past personal conduct. But, after the candidate I was supporting dropped out of the race, it became a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. So, I began communicating what I thought it would take for Mr. Trump to gain evangelical support. You may recall that we said he would: 1) need to commit to appointing pro-life judges, 2) choose a conservative pro-life, pro-family running-mate with a solid record, and 3) agree not to undermine or dilute the conservative GOP platform. To my amazement (and several others’), he not only met — but exceeded — the high bar we had set. No other Republican nominee had ever pledged to nominate “pro-life” judges. Mr. Trump put it in writing and released it to the nation.

Perkins, as you might expect, has a pretty firm grasp on the Christian right political playbook.  The playbook teaches him to elect a pro-life POTUS who will pick a pro-life running mate and support pro-life justices.

Hey Tony, how has this playbook been working for you and your predecessors over the last forty years?  You are fighting a losing battle.  In fact, you have probably lost the battle already. And I write this as a fellow evangelical.  Isn’t it time to develop a new playbook–perhaps a playbook that does not force you to trade your integrity and moral voice for a handful of federal judges?

Read Perkins’s entire piece here.

Melania and the Tony Perkins Mulligan

Trumps host Hispanic Heritage Month event at the White House in Washington

One more thought about the Tony Perkins “mulligan.”

If the story about Trump and Stormy Daniels is true, and Trump did cheat on his wife, then how can a man like Perkins, a champion of “family values,” EVER give this kind of thing a pass?  Think about it.  The president of the Family Research Council gives an adulterer a moral mulligan because the adulterer will help him advance the cause of strong families and marriages.  Perkins ignores whatever pain and embarrassment Melania might be feeling.  For him this is all one big political calculation.

Trump’s “Mulligan”

Perkins

I am not surprised that Family Research Council president Tony Perkins wants to give Trump a “mulligan” on the whole Stormy Daniels affair. Perkins says he will not judge Trump for his apparent adulterous affair with a porn star in 2006.

Here is his interview last night with CNN’s Erin Burnett:

Perkins says that if Trump did the same thing today he would lose the support of evangelicals.  Frankly, I am not so sure.

But let’s also remember that the attempt to cover-up the Daniels affair took place only three weeks before the 2016 election.  Does he get a mulligan for that?  When Burnett asked Perkins about this he did not have much of an answer.  So let’s get this straight:  Perkins will give Trump a pass on the 2006 affair because it happened in the past.  He will also give Trump a pass for the 2016 cover-up.

Finally, Perkins says that evangelicals were not on board with Trump until he won the GOP nomination.  Who are the evangelicals Perkins represents?  Does he represent Robert Jeffress or Jerry Falwell Jr.?  They were with Trump from the beginning.  Does he represent the average evangelical voter who handed Trump the nomination?

Christian Nationalists Making the Usual Mistakes About American History

Perkins

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, was not very happy with Paul Rosenberg and Frederick Clarkson’s recent Salon article on Religious Freedom Day.  He writes:

When Americans celebrate Religious Freedom Day tomorrow, not everyone will be happy about it. Liberals are already blasting the tradition that honors the 1786 signing of one of the most influential documents in American history: the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Now, more than 230 years into the tradition that sparked a revolution, the Left is ready to recast history.

In Salon, hardly the bastion of conservative thought, Paul Rosenberg tries to persuade readers that freedom is the oppression, insisting that when Christians talk about religious liberty, it’s really just code for “theocratic supremacism of their own religious beliefs inscribed in government.” Taking aim at FRC in particular, Rosenberg points to Frederick Clarkson, who insists that our Church Ministries team has been “empowered to advance a dangerous suite of theocratic and persecutory policies” (while producing absolutely zero evidence to the effect). Instead, he talks suspiciously about our Culture Impact Teams (CITs), our network of on-the-ground activists in churches across America. Operating under the authority of the church’s leadership, CITs serve as the command center for a church’s efforts to engage the culture.

Then he starts to play fast and loose with the Constitution.  He quotes Rosenberg: “I think if we got serious about taking Jefferson and Madison’s foundational ideas of religious equality under the law into the 21stcentury, Christian nationalism would crumble.”  And then Perkins adds: “Our own Constitution closes with the words, ‘In the year of our Lord, 1787.’ That’s a reference to Jesus! The signers not only embraced Christianity, they anchored our most important document in it.”

OK.  I have written about this before.  First, the Constitution says “year of our Lord.”  It does not say anything about Jesus.  Second, this phrase hardly serves as an “anchor” of the Constitution.  Third, “In the year of our Lord” was a standard eighteenth-century way of referencing the date.  We need to be careful about giving it too much theological meeting.  Fourth, it is worth noting that an appeal to God does tell us something about the eighteenth-century world that the founders inhabited.  We don’t sign documents like this today.  Fifth, because the phrase “In the year of our Lord” is boilerplate, it was probably not added until after the delegates had left Philadelphia.  Sixth, the minutes of the Constitutional Convention reveal that there was no discussion about the phrase “In the year of our Lord.”  In other words, NO ONE said anything like: “Let’s end the document with the phrase ‘In the year of our Lord’ because it will send a message to everyone that we are creating a Christian nation.”

Perkins is correct when he says that Jefferson included the writing of the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom on his tombstone.  Jefferson was a champion of religious freedom.  He believed that everyone had the right to worship God freely without government interference.  Jefferson did not comment on whether or not it was appropriate to have a Ten Commandments display in a courthouse or a prayer before a football game.  It is very difficult to appeal to his writings (or the writings of James Madison) to argue for or against such things.

Perkins writes: “Before President Trump, Jefferson would barely recognize his country.”  Really?  Jefferson lived in a different era, but he would certainly be able to spot Christian nationalists like Perkins.  He did battle against them in his own day (Christian Federalists) and would probably do battle with them today.  Jefferson regularly slammed pious New Englanders and their Christian political establishments.  He worried that they were trying to create a Christian nation, not a nation informed by religious liberty.

I have mixed feelings about this whole religious liberty debate:

  1. When Christian Right evangelicals talk about religious liberty they use this idea in a negative way–to protect themselves and their views.  In other words, they are rarely interested in articulating a positive view of religious liberty that defends the right of all people to worship freely.
  2. There are real religious liberty issues at stake in our country right now.  Will Christian institutions who uphold traditional views of marriage, for example, remain in a position to receive government funds or maintain a tax-exempt status?  I wrote about this yesterday.

On the one hand, people like Rosenberg and Clarkson need to offer a vision of religious liberty that protects the rights of churches, Christian schools, and other Christian institutions to practice their faith in the way they see fit, even in areas of sexual politics.  Frankly, I think Hillary Clinton’s failure to defend religious liberty in this way may have, among other things, cost her the election in 2016.

On the other hand, Christian Right activists like Perkins need to stop manipulating history.  When it comes to Jefferson, Perkins could probably learn a great deal from what David Barton went through when he published The Jefferson Lies.  In the end, if Perkins believes in liberty then he cannot, at the same time, defend the idea that the government should privilege one form of religious belief over another.

 

Gerson: “For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News…”

Bannon Voters Valye

Michael Gerson continues to bring the fire.  He starts his October 16, 2017 Washington Post column with this line: “At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.”

He continues:

The president was received as a hero. Stephen K. Bannon and Sebastian Gorka — both fired from the White House, in part, for their extremism — set the tone and agenda. “There is a time and season for everything,” said Bannon. “And right now, it’s a season for war against a GOP establishment.”

A time to live and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to mourn and a time to embrace angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery. Yes, a time to mourn.

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, “economic nationalism” is the “centerpiece of value voters.” I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear? Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees. A movement that has cultivated ties to alt-right leaders and flirted with white identity politics. A movement that will eventually soil and discredit all who are associated with it.

Read the entire column here.

I took the weekend off, so I did not get a chance to see much of the display of court evangelicalism known as the “Voters Value Summit,” but I hope to get caught up soon.

Family Research Council Weighs-In On My “Court Evangelicals” Piece

Perkins

Perkins supported Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP primaries

Tony Perkins, the President of the evangelical Family Research Council, is not a big fan of my recent Washington Post piece “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.”  He not only critiques this piece, but he also references a 2012 piece I wrote on Barack Obama.  (By the way, I still stand by that piece).

Here is what Perkins wrote yesterday at this blog:

John Fea, a professor at Messiah College, took aim at the president in a Washington Post column earlier this week called “Trump Threatens to Change the Course of American Christianity.” He starts by labeling the White House’s religious base as “court evangelicals,” his term for “a Christian who, like the attendants and advisers who frequented the courts of monarchs, seeks influence through regular visits to the White House.” When I hear the phrase “court evangelicals,” I think of Scripture’s Daniel, Joseph, and others who brought their faith into the presence of the king — people who God strategically placed to influence leaders for the benefit of an entire nation. But Fea doesn’t mean it as a compliment. On the contrary, he accuses them of “changing the religious landscape in the United States” and “alter[ing] long-standing spiritual alignments.”

For the last 50 years, he argues, “evangelicals have sought to influence the direction of the country and its laws through politics. But Trump has forced them to embrace a pragmatism that could damage the gospel around the world and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.” Fea insists that Trump has done little for evangelicals, a charge hardly substantiated by the strides the White House has made on our pro-life and religious liberty agendas. But Fea measures Trump’s sincerity on a different scale: how often he attends church. No wonder he once called Barack Obama “the most explicitly Christian president in American history.” In a column from 2012, he made the staggering claim that the most pro-abortion, anti-faith president to ever occupy the Oval Office was also the most pious.

It’s a startling suggestion until you consider that Fea and other Religious liberals judged Obama on his words, not his ungodly policies. “If we analyze his language [emphasis mine] in the same way that historians examine the religious language of the Founding Fathers or even George W. Bush, we will find that Obama’s piety, use of the Bible, and references to Christian faith and theology put most other American presidents to shame on this front. I think there may be good reasons why some people will not vote for Obama in November, but his commitment to Christianity is not one of them.” His record makes clear that President Obama’s only commitment to Christianity was to drive it underground.

I can’t speak to Donald Trump’s personal faith walk. But I can say that he shares some of evangelicals’ deepest concerns. And although we don’t agree on everything, I fail to see what’s lost by exposing the president to the same God Fea and Barber claim to worship? Isn’t it good for him to be exposed to faith? Obviously, Fea, Barber, and others on the Religious Left have one goal: pushing Christians away from political engagement. But the truth is this: our government is only as good as the character of the people managing it — and the people influencing them. On this point, I do agree with Fea — Christians should never place access over the accountability of Scripture. We should never desire a seat at the table so much that we would compromise the truth to be there. Rather, we should speak truth wherever we are. And as far as I’m concerned, that applies from the White House to our own house.

Read the entire post here.

Just for the record, I don’t see myself as part of the “Religious Left.”  I am an evangelical Christian.  Perkins’s piece is yet another piece of evidence to support my Washington Post piece.  Religious alignments are changing.

Evangelical Tony Perkins Is Upset About Trump’s Pick for Secretary of State

perkinsTony Perkins of the Family Research Council is not happy with Donald Trump’s selection of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.  It has nothing to do with the fact that Tillerson has connections to Vladimir Putin.  Neither does Perkins seem to be bothered that Tillerson’s company, ExxonMobil, has a horrible track record when it comes to the environment (or God’s creation, to use evangelical parlance Perkins is familiar with).

What does bother Perkins about the Tillerson appointment is the fact that he headed the Boys Scouts of America from 2010-2012 and helped convince the organization to admit gay boys.  Perkins is also bothered by the fact ExxonMobil gives money to Planned Parenthood.

I am not disparaging Perkins’s moral convictions on these things, but let me get this straight.  Perkins is OK with a POTUS-elect who cannot seem to tell the truth, who brags about his affairs with women, who wants to undermine religious liberty (which evangelicals are fighting for as well) for Muslims, etc., etc.  But he is upset because Trump’s pick for Secretary of State supported gay Boy Scouts and is part of a company that gives money to Planned Parenthood.

Where was this moral outrage during the election Tony?

Source: David Gibson’s piece at The Washington Post website.

GOP Candidates at the Values Voter Summit

While the Pope is getting all the attention this week, conservative evangelicals are gathered together in Washington D.C. for the Values Voter Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council.  You can watch it live by clicking on the first link above.

Several GOP candidates are speaking:  Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham.

Other speakers include Bill Bennett, Kim Davis, Mark Levin, John McCain, and Rick Perry,

I have watched some of this and read some of the transcripts.  On the religion and politics front, here are some of the major (and interrelated) themes:

  • Religious liberty
  • Abortion and the defunding of Planned Parenthood
  • The links between liberty and God-given (inalienable) rights
  • The Kim Davis case
  • Same-sex marriage
  • The “progressive agenda” to destroy religion in the United States
  • Islam
No surprise here.
I should also add that Donald Trump brought his Bible with him.
What I find especially interesting about what I have seen or read so far is that there has been no reference to the United States as a Christian nation.  I think the idea that the United States is, and was founded, as a Christian nation is implied in many of the conversations and speeches, but specific historical references and appeals to the past have been absent.
When it comes to issues related to church and state, it appears that the Christian Right has changed its approach.  As I have said elsewhere on this blog, the Christian Right is now talking about religious liberty.  This is telling, because appeals to religious liberty have historically been made by outsiders. 
We can have an honest debate about whether or not the Christian Right has ever had cultural hegemony in the United States, but right now they seemed to be operating as dissenting minorities in a non-Christian nation.