Trump and the Supreme Court

Two years ago, during the lead-up to the election, I wrote two articles, one just some general thoughts on the election, and then a follow-up about why we shouldn’t be single issue voters. The follow up was necessary, as I was attacked but fellow Evangelicals for not supporting Trump. Mostly, I was accused of supporting abortion (I don’t). That is also a refrain I heard often during the election, ‘well, he’s a terrible person, but…something, something, Supreme Court.’ Of course, but Supreme Court, they meant abortion. I laid out all my reasons not to think this way in that post, so please check it out. I welcome any feedback or thoughts. I received a few after posting that, including a bizarre interaction with a former Sunday School teacher and mentor, before cut of all contact with us (after accusing us of being Godless).

So, I bring this up now as the confirmation hearings continue for Brett Kavanaugh (unrelated fun fact, his name means follower of Kevin). This is Trump’s second appointee; and he will be appointed, despite the Kabuki Theater of the hearings, he already has the votes and this just a time for politicians to grand stand. I guess it’s all worth it now, right? We’ll overturn Roe?

Maybe. Maybe not –

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she would not vote for a nominee who threatens Roe. She said that in a meeting with Kavanaugh, he referred to Roe as “settled law.”

Feinstein specifically asked Kavanaugh about that Wednesday.

“Senator, I said that it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles ‘stare decisis,’ ” referring to the legal principle of not overturning precedents. “And one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.”

One of two things are going on here. First, he is an unprincipled liar who want stand up for what he believes and when he gets on the court, he will vote to overturn Roe, once challenged. I have to assume this is alright with most Evangelicals, as 81% voted for Trump. Second, he actually believes what he is saying. I actually lean towards the latter, and still believe, as I did two years ago, that Roe will be not be overturned. It’s also important to remember, Roe did no legalize abortion – it made it illegal for state to ban abortion. Were it overturned, the issue would be relegated to the states, many of which will keep it legal.

Of course, you could be cynical and say that Trump doesn’t care at all about Roe, but rather likes Kavanaugh due to his devotion to presidential power. However, if we turn over Roe, would it be worth it? It is a serious question, considering the damage supporting him has done to what little reputation we may have had. The hyprocsy with our reaction to him paying off a porn actress and a playboy model for affairs he had with them, as compared to the reaction many of his supporters had during the Clinton issues in the 90’s. That is one reason why this quote from the now famous Op-Ed stuck out to me –

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Again, all this would be fine, I suppose, if he wasn’t considered the ‘Christian candidate’ or if Evangelicals hadn’t voted for him in record numbers. It is fine to vote for Trump, nothing wrong with it at all. If you are rich, or think Mexicans or Muslims are the greatest threat to the country, or you are a nationalist, then Trump was a great choice (the best, believe me). However, none of the makes him the ‘Christian’ choice and I think that distinct will bother me to no end, for as long as I live. I don’t believe that is the main reason for our support for him. I think the main reason is fear.

I’m not the only one either. Micheal Horton recently wrote the same thing. Read anything from John Fea ( or check out my review of his book).  In a strange irony, we as conservatives are looking for power in the government now more than ever, we look there for a sense of right, or protection, to expand and enforce our will/influence. So, here we are, about to have another Justice. Maybe I’m wrong, and Roe will be challenged next year and overturned. What if is isn’t? What will we say then?

 

Biblical Studies Carnival 150

Welcome to the August 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival.

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Y’all ready to get weird? Or at least a little different, depending on your perspective; that’s the question we ask every Labor Day Weekend here in Atlanta. A smaller crowd than last year when Mrs. MMT and I were downtown in the center of it all, but around 700,000 will be in town this weekend, mostly for DragonCon and the Chic-fil-a Kick off GamRelated imagee (that’s how you get pictures like these), but also for things like another minor football game, a Lynyrd Skynyrd Concert, and LudaFamDay.

So it makes sense then, that it is the same weekend in which I host a Biblical Studies Carnival (my first hosting was Labor Day Weekend two years ago). Most of the people who are involved in the Carnivals are academics, pastors/theologians, and a few prolific writers with at least some education. I am none of those things. By day, I’m a City Planner, but by night, well…, actually, I sleep, but sometimes I try to write about Theology or the Bible, and mostly review books. I recently started a series on Thessalonians if you want to check it out. Especially since the nomination of Trump, I’ve become too caught up in the contrast between political christianity and those Christians who actually read the Bible. So, with the scholars being busy this month due to school being back in session, I’ve added a Politics section.

Well, that’s probably enough ado, let’s get to it.

Old Testament
Want to learn to sing the Hebrew Bible? Bob’s got you covered – check out Psalm 111.

Jim asks us to remember Calvin’s thoughts on Psalm 14:1.

Henry posts what he calls a slightly poetic version of Isaiah 10:1-4a.

New Testament
Phil started a series on Sermon on the Mount. I particularly enjoyed his thoughts on Jesus and the Law, which is something I’ve been interested in.

Jarrett shares some thoughts on the Mystery of the Gospel.

Scott starts a series on Revelation. I like the title of his intro ‘Not Your Father’s Book of Revelation’. My father doesn’t read the Bible, but his generation is certainly the one that emphasized Dispensationalism to my generation, which is moving away from this reading. Additionally, one of the things that moved me away from this reading was discussing with my grandfather, who likewise did not read Revelation this way.

Hal responds to Session’s use of Romans 13.

Rod has ‘Greek for a Week’ cover of Philemon 19, 20, 21, & 22.

Ian discusses why Jesus came to bring division and a sword.

Theology
Brandon asks whether Origen was Athanasian or Arian.

Bernard discusses the trouble with faith.

Tim asks how should we respond to the leading of the spirit.

Jeffery has thoughts on whether God has a plan for my life.

Other
Rob is trying to put together a survey on public domain commentaries. It is an interesting project, and if you’d like to help he is looking for volunteers.

William has a review of a Mesopotamian Prayer.

Nijay has a free open-textbook on Intermediate Biblical Greek.

Christoph has some thoughts on mastering Koine Greek.

Michael asks us if it is a waste of time for seminary students and pastors to learn languages.

David asks about sin in the church.

Book Review
Phil reviews Reading Mark in Context.

RJS finishes posting reviews of The Lost World of Scripture.

Micheal has a quick review of Jesus Followers in the Roman Empire. He also has a great quote regarding a rapture from Gene Green, writing in his commentary on Thessalonians (which was my favorite commentary to consult).

Jim reviews Approaching the Study of Theology.

Jason reviews the Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible.

Politics
Jim points out the irony of Evangelical idolatry.

In beautiful irony, Fox News once showed a pictured of NFL players protesting, except they weren’t, they were kneeling in prayer. Pro football will be back next week and we’ll once again be subjected to endless debate about kneeling during the Anthem. Of course, there is a long history of prayer in football, many people I know learned the Lord’s Prayer from sports. However, we’ll listen as many ‘Evangelicals’ get angry over people kneeling when they ‘aren’t supposed to.’

Check out John’s comments on the White House dinner with Evangelicals.

D.G. reminds us that once Evangelicals didn’t even support Giuliani.

Millennials might not follow the Moral Majority playbook. Anecdotally, I’ve seen this to be the case.

Roger Olsen responds to the question, ‘Is Trump Our Cyrus.’ Remember, when the title of an article ends in a question mark, the answer is almost always no.

George surveys Religion vs. Party.

Excurses
As an American, I thought this was posted in the future. Richard has an interesting look into what he calls a ‘dialogue between biblical scholarship and Religious Education.’

Phil’s book is on sale.

Kevin DeYoung shares a few things he’s learned while working on his PhD.

This book cover made me wonder if anyone has ever seen Karl Barth and Warren Buffet in the same room.

Image result for karl barthImage result for warren buffett

 

That’s it for this month. Hope you enjoyed, even if it was a little different than usual. As a pretend theologian (my occupational hazard is my occupation’s just not around), I’m somewhat like a medieval monk – I like to read, write, and drink beer. Now that I’m down reading and writing for the month, only one thing left to do. Thanks for playing along.

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If you are interested in hosting or know someone who might be interested please contact Phil. Contact info from his post last month –

I am borderline desperate for the rest of the year!  Please contact me via email (plong42@gmail.com), twitter direct message (@plong42) or comment here in this carnival. Whether you are a relatively new blogger or you have hosted a carnival in the past, do not hesitate to contact me. October, November and December are open as of July 1. It is not too early to volunteer for a 2019 carnival.

Borderline is clearly an understatement if I’m hosting again, but  it goes legit again the next month with Jim. Like I said earlier, the carnival is mostly hosted by scholars and students, but there are a few pastors and at least one completely pretend internet theologian that has hosted in the past. If you are interested, hit up Phil and get some more info.

*All pictures, except my beer, stolen from google image search/reddit. Please @ me if they are yours and you want attribution or removal.

Book Review: Believe Me

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

When you receive an advanced reading copy to review, you are supposed to have the review out before the book is published, something I rarely do. However, today is one of the days I’ve done it correctly. This book will be available for purchase starting tomorrow, June 28.

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Short, easy read

Summary
The subtitle kind of says it all. How did Evangelicals so overwhelmingly support Trump (more than any other candidate in history)? He received 81% of self identified Evangelicals. There are people who dispute the support, due to the self identified label and have found that people who attend among those who attend church weekly, the support drops to 40’s. However, Fea is a historian, and clearly knows that we as Evangelicals are now tied to Trump, whether we like it or not.

The book isn’t necessarily a critique of Trump or his policies, but just an explorations as to why this man, of all people, would be considered the ‘Christian candidate.’ Excluding the intro and conclusion, the book is broken into five chapters: Evangelicals Politics of Fear, how people have used fear to drum up support; The Playbook, how Christians have used fear over the past 70 years or so to affect politics in certain ways; Short History of Evangelical fear, from the Puritans to today Christians; Court Evangelicals, those famous Christians today who seek power and influence the ways courtiers once did with kings; and Make American Great Again, what exactly does Trump mean by this, when was it great, and for whom?

My Thoughts
I’m pretty sure the first time I came across Fea’s blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home was during the 2016 elections. He very clearly, as was I, seemed confused as to how Trump had the Evangelical vote. Many Christians now, including some of the most vocals supporters, say they chose Trump because he was better than Clinton, but many of them were supporters in the Primary. Fea points out in the book, that prior to Trump jumping in the race, Carson lead the Evangelical vote, but shortly after, Trump took it over, lost it briefly a few months later, and after recovery always lead. To some people, this made sense, to others it is absolutely confounding.

A twice divorced billionaire, who brags about infidelity, believes if you are rich you can grab random women ‘by the pussy,’ doesn’t believe in asking for forgiveness (a pillar of Christian beliefs), and is so ostentatious that he seems to be the physical embodiment of avarice seems to be an odd choice for the so-called Evangelical vote. This book is essentially Fea trying to understand what happened.

If Court Evangelical is a new term to you, it will likely be the most interesting chapter. The most striking to me was chapter five, Make America Great Again. As Christians, we need to seriously consider the ‘great again’ part and it’s implications. It might be great for me, a Protestant white guy, but what about basically everyone else that exists? And how serious is he about getting back to the ‘good ol’ days’?

There’s a lot more I could write about this topic, and if you are interested, the book is a must read. It is a great intro into how to think about Evangelical support for Trump. Even if you are supporter, especially if you are a ‘supreme court’ supporter, you should really read this book. I do have two brief criticisms and then a final thought before this gets too long.

First, a theological issue. Fea must come from an Arminian branch of Protestantism, as he misunderstands a few things about Puritan thought as well as Calvinism. It doesn’t necessarily change anything in the book, but if you come from a Reformed or Lutheran background, you’ll see some theological and hermeneutical errors. Second, he is a little too quick to say someone in not a Christian. While I agree that Trump shows not a single ‘fruit of the Spirit’ nor any ‘good works’, I’m hesitant to ever doubt someone’s profession of faith.

Finally, I really appreciate the intro and concluding chapters in this book. I’m told some people do not read these, but you really should. I am sure Fea will be attached as a ‘liberal’ or people will say he is not a Christian for writing this book, but the intro makes it pretty clear what he is trying to do. Even more, the conclusion is a great piece of writing on the confusion about the support for Trump. He wrote so much of what I’ve felt or wondered. It’s not that voting for Trump is wrong, it’s that the fact he is viewed as the Evangelical leader just makes no sense. If you are rich, or think the most dangerous think in America is Mexicans picking our fruit, or if you want to ban Muslims, or if you are just a party line Republican, then Trump makes the most sense. And all of that is fine, but to tie him up in religious language and say he is the best candidate for Christians is just confounding.

This vote will follow Evangelicals for all of American history. If you are curious as to how we go her, this book is a must read.

 

*I received a free copy of this book from Eerdman’s Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This is my first review for Eerdman’s and the first time I’ve received a galley proof in hardcopy.

Stuff from last week

I haven’t been posting much recently, partly due to time and partly due to disinclination, but last week a came across a few things I found interesting, that I thought I’d share. The plan was for it to go up on Friday, but the Monday Morning Wife and I had our 10th Anniversary and I got distracted.

Russell Moore spoke on The Gospel Coalition Podcast about the obstacles of religious liberty. Depending on your perspective, it’s not what you think. I thought the points he makes about us looking too much for the government to help us and enforce our view of morality were really good; though he does fail to note the painful irony that some of the biggest pushers for ‘religious liberty’ and government enforced morality are often the most ardent anti-government.

Somewhat related, Theocast talks about losing a generation at church. I’m less concerned than most people, though probably not concerned enough, because I think it is inevitable. We were never a ‘Christian Nation’, whatever that means, but for the most of our history, we’ve been a solidly Christian culture, but we aren’t any more. This means we are shedding some of the cultural only hanger’s on. I guess I should care more, but I don’t.

The other thing that stuck out to me about this particular episode was the lack of political honesty. There is one quick mention/jab about not agree with ‘they younger people’ and their politics, but no real discussion about the impact politics has played on losing more and more young people. When I was growing up, Monica Lewinsky was the worst thing ever, a national moral tragedy. Many of the same people publicly deriding Clinton are now, 20 years later, some of the most vocal supporters of Trump. A democrat being immoral is cause for massive public outcry, but these people really don’t seem to give a shit how many hookers and pornstars a republican bangs. All these leaders have traded in the Gospel of Christ of the promise of power from Christian Nationalism, and we are the lost generation?

I could go on and on about this, because it pisses me off so, but if the ‘church’ keeps acting like questioning the Moral Majority or St. Ronnie is blasphemy, and cannot have adult conversations about political issues such as healthcare, minimum wage, income inequality, etc. without resorting to beating up tired old strawmen or just screaming ‘socialism’, we are going hemorrhage anyone under 65 faster than we can imagine.

Speaking of being somewhat bad with economics, I started a new book – Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give
It seems really good so far, except they seem to think per capita GDP is useful measure, confuse mean for median, don’t accurately represent inflation, and ignore income inequality. I guess this isn’t surprising, because those things tend to get political, and they state at the beginning, they don’t want to do that, for, you know…reasons. Anyway from a Biblical prospective, it is pretty interesting so far, especially the focus on community.

I haven’t written many reviews lately because I’m still trying to power through this – 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology I’m a big fan of theology, and the part where he gets rolling are really good, but it is slow going as it is a bit repetitive, a little redundant, and well, over 400 pages.

Lastly for books, I read Notes From the Underground, which is really interesting, but I have this copy – Notes From Underground And The Grand Inquisitor. I recommend against this as the second half of the books is an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov (Everyman’s Library), which I already own.

Finally, you may have seen that we moved our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There is plenty written out there about the political consequences of this, but I found this article from a Catholic viewpoint to be interesting. If you didn’t grow up in the dispensational work, or studied your way out, Christian Zionism can seem really odd, so I appreciate the view from someone else.

That’s all for now, hopefully, I’ll have some reviews up soon.

Book Review: Real Love in an Angry World

Real Love in an Angry World: How to Stick to Your Convictions without Alienating People

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read; short book

Summary
A good, quick summary of this book is somewhat hard to do. Bezet’s main idea is that there are unhappy people out there who are mad and/or judgmental towards Christianity. Additionally, these people come from both ends – those opposed to Christianity, and Christians (or at least those who would call themselves as such, like Westboro Baptist) themselves who think your Christianity isn’t good enough. He spends a little time on Christian who have drifted away from historic Christianity, i.e. denying the validity of the Scriptures, miracles, etc. However, most of the time is spent on the two more angry sides, the non-believers and judgmental believers (for instance, he relates a story of taking his wife to see a Celine Dion in Vegas, and losing a few church members once they found out he was in Vegas).

The book is broken into nine chapters that kind of bounce around on different topics. Everything from picking our battles to loving your neighbor (and just who is your neighbor) to then loving you enemy, to a little bit of history on the Bible. He touches on politics a number of times, but not necessarily specific topics or policy points, mainly just that Christians can disagree with each other while still be Christians, and Christians can disagree with non-Christians while still showing love and understanding. I don’t know how long he has been working on the book, but as it was published near the end of 2017, I assume it is at least partially motivated by the rise and election of Trump.

My Thoughts
Overall, it is a good book. Bezet is a good writer, very personal, and I thought, very humorous. I struggle with exactly who should read this book. For most Christians, it is probably worth your time to read, especially because it is so short. It reads quickly and is funny, his points on how to listen to people and how important it is to really listen, and his continual emphasis on the need to truly love others, are great reminders and points weakness for most of us. I especially like his point about loving others being the second great commandment. He points out that on the liberal Christian and non-Christian side, there is often the comment that we just need to love each other because that is what Jesus said and that is all we need. Bezet rightly points out, this is the second great command, this first is to love God. Part of that love means being faithful to God and His Word.

While all is helpful, I think the best use could be for those Christians on the extreme end of the non-loving judgmental side. Those who are the most angry and often express hate. The problem is, of course, I don’t think the people who need it the most would actually read it, and if they did they’d likely just disagree. I guess you never know how the Spirit will move some people, but I remain skeptical. Either way, it might be helpful for you to recognize some issues in your life, and if you see some of these issues in others, it might help you in reaching out to them and helping them to show the love of Christ, while retaining the love for God.

*I received a free copy of this book for an honest review

In the News 11/17/17

Antarctica was once covered in forest, so that’s pretty cool.

Another ‘responsible gun owner’ accidentally shoots himself and wife, at church, will explaining how he would protect himself and others should someone attack the church. It is ironic, but it isn’t funny, almost like guns aren’t toys and this wanna-be hero complex might be dangerous. Hopefully, he and his wife will cover quickly.

FCC again trying to ban net neutrality. As a reminder, this means that companies like AT&T and Comcast could slow your internet down if you use things like Google or Netflix.

House passes a tax bill that along with ballooning the deficit that they supposedly care about will also repeal state and local tax deductions and limit the mortgage interest deductions.

As the article points out, “Repeals many other deductions: These include those for medical expenses, tax preparation fees, alimony payments, student loan interest and moving expenses.”

Not mentioned in the article, and just in time for National Adoption Month, the bill would also repeal tax credits that help offset adoption cost. Natalie has a good run down of why adoption is so expensive.

Hannity calls for a boycott of the sponsors that pulled their adds from his show after he should support for Roy Moore, who apparently likes underage girls.

Related, this article. The Evangelical response to Moore is going to be a huge point in our political history, I think. Then again, we screwed it up with Trump, so who knows? It has been well documented what Evangelicals thought about Bill Clinton in the 90’s and why he wasn’t fit for office. As the article points out, we’ve already given up ground on morality so that we could claim it was alright for ‘our guy’

 Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped to 61 percent from 44 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll. During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from to 72 percent from 30 percent, the survey found.

Think about that, the number of people that basically said, ‘never mind, morality doesn’t matter’ went up almost 150%. Trump is the only reason. If we take the correct stance with Moore, maybe we can regain whatever little credibly is left of Christians to have in society.

Quickly, on Moore, he has done nothing illegal, it appears. I want to make that clear to start with, because there are people accusing him of being a molester or pedophile, and that is incorrect. The age of consent in most states, including Alabama, is 16, so the girls that he did interact with were of age. It just make him creepy and weird as man in his early 30’s dating high school girls. As a man in his early 30’s, this is really unimaginable, when I see high schoolers or even college students at church, I can’t believe how young they look. We just hired a guy in his early 20’s at work and another 30 year old and I swear we didn’t look that young. So, that is a bit repugnant and anyone violating the half plus seven rule is creepy to me.

Now, if he did have sexual contact with the 14 year old, then he is, in fact, either a child molester or statutory rapist, depending on how the law is in Alabama. Either way, if convicted (hypothetically, as the statue of limitations has run out), he would be a registered sex offender. Since he cannot be tried, you have to seriously ask yourself, do you believe that his plan was to hold this girls hand for a few years until she was old enough? To me, the answer is clearly no. So, is a potential sex offender who we want representing ‘evangelical morality’? Again, we have Trump, so what is the difference?

Two more thoughts, then I’ll wrap it up. I appreciate that a few people are at least willing to admit, that it is all still just about abortion. I disagree we should be single issue voters, especially when it means supporting a possible sex offender. I’d appreciate if some more people were even more honest and just say they only care about low taxes, drop the whole morality charade completely. That would at least be consistent.

My other, and final, thought is really more of a fisk of this quote by a Moore supporter (and Bill Clinton detractor) from the article:
“All of us have sinned and need a savior,” Floyd said.
Sadly, pastors discussing sin in public now only seem to happen when they are dismissing a sin.
“Of course, moral character is still important.
Obliviously moral character doesn’t matter, we have Trump (81% of Evangelical voters) and you are literally being interviewed about your support for someone who attempted statutory rape. 
But with Bill Clinton or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, we’re talking about something completely different.
In what way? 
You have to look at the totality of the man.
Exactly, he has a long history of dating teenage girls as a man in his 30’s. He attempted to date a girl that, had he been successful, would make him a sex offender. This is why people are saying he is unfit for office, the totality of the man. Speaking of which, he is also a man who said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office. 
That’s why I support Judge Moore.
Why again? I missed any actual reason.
I’ve prayed with him.
Oh, sure, that’s a legit reason.
I know his heart.”
No, no you don’t. No one knows anyone’s heart. You don’t even know your own. Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

In the News 10/26/17

More anti-intellectualism, not surprising about Climate Change. If you don’t like something, just ignore it, what could go wrong.

I guess someone at WHO finally realized who Mugabe is.

American’s health continues to decline, but at least we are working longer in life. Not sure what to do with this sentence – “Declining health and life expectancy are good news for one constituency: Pension plans, which must send a monthly check to retirees for as long as they live.”

We’ll have a warmer, dryer than usual winter in the South. Most of the rest of the country for that matter. Wetter in the north, cool in Pacific northwest.

James Comey officially outed as Reinhold Niebuhr on Twitter. Lots of interesting speculation as to what that means, if anything.

Interesting thoughts on Trump’s political impact on the view of presidents for future generations.

I hope someone appreciates the irony of paying $1.5 million for a note about a ‘modest life’.

I hope this trend continues, not enough people know whether something is actually an add or not.

Flake is out, likely on fear he can’t win a primary. I guess this is good if you don’t like Republicans, but that also makes it easier for people like Roy Moore (quoted below) to get into the Senate.

His long record of political extremism includes suggesting that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, advocating making homosexuality illegal and refusing to rule out the idea that LGBT people who transgress against his idea of God’s law should face the death penalty.

Gun laws the Founders actually supported.

Good job Georgia, not at all suspicious or confirming of our shady reputation.

In other state news, Massachusetts may leave the Eastern Time zone.

Book Review: Choosing Donald Trump

Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him

My Rating – Must read

Level – Quick and easy, short book

Summary
The subtitle of the the book pretty much sums up what it is about. Conservative Christians were angry and put there hope a man Mansfield calls ‘an unlikely champion’. If fact that is the first section of the four sections of the book.

This first section has two short chapters about the (then) current political situation and how Trump fit into it. The second section, called ‘the backstory’, is basically a 65 page biography of Trump. The third section, ‘the appeal’, get to why Christians would even be interested in someone like Trump. This is probably the most informative section, with chapters on the Johnson Amendment, Obama, Hilary Clinton, and voters who felt like the found a political voice only in him. The final section, ‘Prophets and Presidents’, where Mansfield dives into the interaction of prophets with kings in the Old Testament and then contrast that with the pastors around Trump today.

The book also includes a short intro and epilogue and an interesting ‘Trump in his own words’ section which is a collection of a few of Trump’s speeches about religion.

My Thoughts
I wasn’t sure what his book was going to be when I saw it on the list from Baker*. I don’t know who Mansfield is or whether he is a supporter or not, and I thought the book might be a bit apologetic for Evangelicals. Instead, it really is just a straight look at the situation. He doesn’t try to paint Trump as the terrible person, nor does he try to portray him in this great light that would explain why Evangelicals could vote for him.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book was the detailing of Trump’s admiration of Evangelicals, or at least preachers. He is somewhat famous now for staying up late and watching cable news, but apparently 20 years ago he stayed up late watching TV preachers. He seems infatuated with their charisma and influence on people. You get the impression that his outreach to Evangelicals maybe wasn’t just a political move, but him actually trying to ‘do good’ so to speak. It was almost like his pushes for ‘religious liberty’ and repeal of the Johnson Amendment are his good works, his attempt to earn some salvation. Honestly, I felt like had Trump met a different strain of American Christianity first, he could just as easily gone a completely different way.

That is actually a really disappointing idea, as this particular charismatic/Pentecostal/fundamentalist strain doesn’t necessarily line up with what he personally believes, but they are on the TV the most, so he sought them. He asked them what he needed to do, and they laid out, at least, the religious wing of his agenda. I really believe that had it been the liberal side, he’d be pushing refugee resettlement and environmentalism, or the reformed side, maybe sex-trafficking and racial reconciliation. He might not have even run as a republican. Anyway, for now that is just an interesting exercise in alternative history.

The biographical part of the book was fascinating. Mansfield did a great job distilling 70 years of this man’s life into just why/how he reacted to the religious vote the way he did and how he doesn’t really fit. The early chapter about Trump’s speech at Liberty University and his commentary on that are great insights.

Finally, I enjoyed the last part of the book where he delves into the famous pastors who supported Trump, their hypocrisy as it came to his morality versus their previous statements about Bill Clinton, and then how the tripped all over themselves to either excuse his behavior or explain why it didn’t matter. There was an interesting survey of all the Old Testament and historical figures different pastors have compare with Trump.

If you are a huge Trump supporter and think he was chosen by God to be the perfect leader of the United States, this book may not be for you; unless you want to be challenged in your thinking. However, if you are opposed to Trump, or politically left, or maybe not opposed but just confused, like me, as to how he garnered so much Evangelical support, this book is a must read.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Hannity and Jeffress

I’ve rewritten the first sentence to this post about 10 times already, I’m just not sure where to start. I agree with all of John Fea’s points here, but I want to say a little more about the problem. Jeffress speech, and it was a speech not a sermon, was fine. It was a political speech to be sure, one that most Christians would get behind. Though, you really shouldn’t with point number 1, about the Ten Commandments. See my review of One Nation Under God for more, I don’t feel like go through it all again. Also, from the Wikipedia page on the Ten Commandments:

In the 1950s and 1960s the Fraternal Order of Eagles placed possibly thousands of Ten Commandments displays in courthouses and school rooms, including many stone monuments on courthouse property.[133] Because displaying the commandments can reflect a sectarian position if they are numbered (see above), the Eagles developed an ecumenical version that omitted the numbers, as on the monument at the Texas capitol (shown here). Hundreds of monuments were also placed by director Cecil B. DeMille as a publicity stunt to promote his 1956 film The Ten Commandments.[134] Placing the plaques and monuments to the Ten Commandments in and around government buildings was another expression of mid-twentieth century U.S. civil religion, along with adding the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.[132]

His second point on abortion is good, though I don’t think Christian’s should be single issue voters. His final point on gay marriage and the Obergefell decision is also pretty standard, though I guess here, too, we could debate the merits of government trying to legislate morality.

Everything was fine, for his speech. Nothing too dramatic or out of the ordinary for political pundits or Court Evangelicals. He gives his speech, then turns the stage over to Sean Hannity to promote his upcoming movie. All this is fine, if it had occurred on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon, really any time other than Sunday morning. His church is large, and holds an enormous audience, so it is fine to hold a big publicity event there, logistically. However, this was the regular worship service. His speech was a political message, not the Gospel of Jesus. Sunday morning and the worship service of any given church is for proclaiming Christ. It is a time for the ordinary means of grace, the preaching of the Word, taking of communion, and baptism (if you have one).

Jeffress welcomed everyone to hear the Gospel, but I didn’t hear it preached in his message. There was no call to repentance, no need for Christ explained. There was no redemptive narrative. There was only the call to vote not repent, to focus on politics no the cross, to regain power instead of humble yourself, and to make America great again not proclaim the greatness of God.

The American church, for the most part, has sold itself to political power. Events like this one on Sunday at First Baptist Dallas show where are focus is. A cable news hosting received a standing ovation for, well, being a cable news host. There was a roar of the crowd when he, the political conservative, was pitted against another cable news host, a liberal.

I don’t have much else to say about this. I just find it extremely disconcerting. Again, it is not necessarily his message, what he is saying and doing, but when and where he is doing it. This entanglement and church and politics. The movement away form the Gospel to power and control. We can easily look back now at the 1920’s-50’s and see how the ‘mainline’ churches lost focus. Inspired by the Enlightenment, there focus became humanities goodness. The focus on the Social Gospel took time and energy away from the actual Gospel, and they’ve never regained it.

I wonder if in another 50 years, we will look back and say to the 1908’s through now and say, inspired by the Moral Majority and Reagan, the ‘evangelical’ church lost their focus. We looked to political power and away from the cross. Christ tells us you can not serve two masters, and events like these make me wonder which one we are really serving.

 

One other note, Jeffress said government is ‘designed and instituted by God’, described it as ‘ordained and holy’ as the church. I wonder what he thought/thinks of Reagan and his message of ‘government is the problem.’ This could be a whole post to itself, so I won’t get too much into it now, but this is why I stopped being a Republican. The picking and choosing of when government is good and when it should be involved in regulating things.

 

Finally, I’ll also steal the idea from Dr. Fea’s other post, comparing Jeffress’ message to the one of my church. The sermon doesn’t seem to be up yet (edit – sermon), but I’ll post it when it is. My pastor gave a message on Political Power. How it is not our goal in life, and that we are called to be Christians first (not America first). I believe his sermon is in complete opposition to what Jeffress is doing. Whether explicitly or subconsciously, he is more concerned with preserving the political power of Christians than he is morality or the Gospel message.

Trump, Jesus, and Machiavelli

I’ve had my issues with Trump and the inexplicable support he had among Evangelicals, so I won’t dive too much into that right now. However, I did come across this article the other day that I found pretty interesting. It is long, but I think it is worth the read as it delves into some of the moral/political issues of Trump and his weird mix/brand of nationalism, fascism, and religion. Here are a few good quote from it:

When you hear the call for a “strongman” whose chief role is to protect the nation against enemies, do you hear the voice of Jesus or of Machiavelli?

Boyd’s point: that those who take New Testament teachings literally are in no position to lead the political march for nationalistic glory.

Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson wrote two months before the election that seeing fellow evangelists—he named Phoenix Seminary theologian and author Wayne Grudem, among others—“beclown themselves trying to justify support of a man like Trump makes me weep for the shallow faith of a church more wrapped up in its Americanness than its Godliness.”

New York Times reporter quoted one pastor’s resigned plaint: “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”

I’ve also had issues with Grudem, so it was interesting to see Georgia’s own Erickson call him out; also  let’s appreciate the word(ish) beclown. Like I said, I’m not going to write more about the issues with Trump, but this articles really gets at the point that he does not really embody any of the values we do as Evangelicals. I remain perplexed at his massive amounts of support, including this coming weekend, from heavyweights in the Christian world. Of course, I have to add my favorite photo of one of his Evangelical supporters (this, if you don’t know, is the son of the man whom founded the Moral Majority, standing with a twice divorced, avaricious man, proudly displaying photos of himself on magazine covers, including playboy. Reference for the Hustler mention)

Image result for trump and falwell pictures

I just cannot see how we can throw such full support behind this man. I remain fully on the side of the #19Percent.