The Day of Reckoning and the Judgment on Capitol Hill —
The Final Days of Donald J. Trump’s American Reich
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The True Evangelicals
In 1973, a broad group of evangelical leaders released the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern, calling for a greater commitment to biblical justice that was missing in American evangelicalism.
Forty-five years later, a diverse group of especially younger followers of Jesus, who emerged from and remain within the evangelical tradition, met in Chicago to continue to take up this biblical mandate.
We reflected on and affirmed the 1973 statement which, in its time, was groundbreaking for addressing and combating materialism, militarism, systemic racism, and sexism—and which inspired future generations.
We also discerned together how to respond to the current crises in evangelicalism, which jeopardizes the reputation and witness of the Christian church.
Sadly, in 2018, several false narratives around the identity of evangelicals in the United States undermine Christian witness and distort American politics.
Often, evangelicals are identified in the media and by the public as being predominantly white, right wing, and unconcerned about the poor and oppressed.
For example, the story that became nationally and globally dominant after the 2016 election was that 81 percent of “evangelicals” voted for Donald Trump, when,
1. ) in fact, this group only represented the votes of white evangelicals.
When evangelicals of color and younger evangelicals are accurately accounted for, the picture changes significantly.
For example, evangelicals of color vote overwhelmingly otherwise.
2. ) In contrast to these false narratives, evangelicals compose an ethnically diverse group whose movement reflects a historical and ongoing commitment to Jesus, the authority of scripture, evangelism, and God’s biblical call to justice.
As diverse evangelicals, our faith moves us to confess and lament that we have often fallen short of the biblical values and commitments proclaimed in the gospel and affirmed in the 1973 Declaration. In addition to the 1973 Declaration, many diverse evangelicals, including women, African-American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and Indigenous leaders, have put out strong statements that have often been ignored.
Millions of people, especially younger believers, have left the faith during a time in which evangelicalism has become increasingly partisan and politicized. People on both sides of the political aisle have demonized those who disagree with us and failed to love both our neighbors and our “enemies,” as Jesus instructs us to do.
3. ) We should not be captive to any political party, because our allegiance belongs to Christ. Like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we believe the church is “called to be the conscience of the state, not the master or the servant of the state.”
In Affirming the 1973 Declaration, as well as other historic statements from diverse evangelicals, we recommit to an evangelical faith that follows Jesus’ example of living and sharing a gospel that always proclaims good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed. (Luke 4: 18-19)
4. ) We recommit to a biblical justice that demonstrates the reign of God as we strive for abundant life for all God’s children, which must include combating economic inequality and exploitation.
5. ) We recommit to more faithfully and courageously follow Jesus, who affirmed the sacredness and dignity of all human life.
Building on the 1973 Declaration as well as other historic statements from diverse evangelicals, we also commit to love and protect all people—including life at every stage, people of color, women, Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ people, people who are living with disabilities or mental health issues, poor and impoverished people, and each one who is marginalized, hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, or imprisoned. (Matthew 25:31-46)
6. ) We commit to care for and protect the earth as God’s creation.
7. ) We commit to resisting all manifestations of racism, white nationalism, and any forms of bigotry
—all of which are sins against God.
8. ) We commit to resisting patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and any form of sexism and to always affirm the dignity, voices, and leadership of women.
9, ) We commit to defend the dignity and rights of all people, particularly as we celebrate and embrace the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in our nation and churches.
We hope and pray that this statement, and the positive actions it inspires, will help to counteract and transform false narratives and stories into liberating ones.
We invite you to join us in the journey of following Jesus, who calls us to proclaim and live the gospel, committed to love and justice.
1 https://www.prri.org/spotlight religion-vote-presidential-election-2004-2016/
The Chicago Invitation
Diverse Evangelicals Continue the Journey
We invite you to join us in the journey of following Jesus, who calls us to proclaim and live the gospel, committed to love and justice.
The Chicago Invitation
AS EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS WE SHOULD SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE
AS EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the full authority of the Word of God, we affirm that God lays total claim upon the lives of his people. We cannot, therefore, separate our lives from the
situation in which God has placed us in the United State sand the world.
We confess that we have not acknowledged the complete claim of God on our lives.
We acknowledge that God requires love. But we have not demonstrated the love of God to those suffering social abuses.
We acknowledge that God requires justice. But we have not proclaimed or demonstrated his justice to an unjust American society.
Although the Lord calls us to defend the social and economic rights of the poor and oppressed, we have mostly remained silent.
We deplore the historic involvement of the church in America with racism and the conspicuous responsibility of the evangelical community for perpetuating the personal attitudes and institutional structures that have divided the body of
Christ along color lines.
Further, we have failed to condemn the exploitation of racism at home and abroad by our economic system.
We affirm that God abounds in mercy and that he forgives all who repent and turn from their sins. So we call our fellow evangelical Christians to demonstrate repentance in a Christian discipleship that confronts the social and political injustice of our nation.
We must attack the materialism of our culture and the maldistribution of the nation’s wealth and services.
We recognize that as a nation we play a crucial role in the imbalance and injustice of international trade and development.
Before God and a billion hungry neighbors, we must rethink our values regarding our present standard of living and promote a more just acquisition and distribution of the world’s resources.
We acknowledge our Christian responsibilities of citizenship. Therefore, we must challenge the misplaced trust of the nation in economic and military might—a proud trust that promotes a national pathology of war and violence which victimizes our neighbors at home and abroad.
We must resist the temptation to make the nation and its institutions objects of near-religious loyalty.
We acknowledge that we have encouraged men to prideful domination and women to irresponsible passivity.
So we call both men and women to mutual submission and active discipleship.
We proclaim no new gospel, but the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who, through the power of the Holy
Spirit, frees people from sin so that they might praise God through works of righteousness.
By this declaration, we endorse no political ideology or party, but call our nation’s leaders and people to that righteousness which exalts a nation.
We make this declaration in the Biblical hope that Christ is coming to consummate the Kingdom and we accept his claim on our total discipleship until he comes.
—Nov. 25, 1973, Chicago
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has not to referred judicial misconduct complaints against Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a judicial panel for investigation, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
Judge Kavanaugh currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
A fellow judge on the panel, Karen LeCraft Henderson, forwarded more than a dozen misconduct complaints to Roberts after concluding that the reports were substantive enough that they should not be investigated by fellow judges on the same panel.
“The complaints do not pertain to any conduct in which Judge Kavanaugh engaged as a judge,” Henderson said in a statement. “The complaints seek investigations only of the public statements he has made as a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
“The situation is highly unusual, legal experts and several people familiar with the matter said,” The Post explained. “Never before has a Supreme Court nominee been poised to join the court while a fellow judge recommends that a series of misconduct claims against that nominee warrant review.”
Roberts was appointed by then-President George W. Bush, who revealed in his memoir that Kavanaugh had helped him decide to nominate Roberts to the court.
“If Justice Roberts sits on the complaints then they will reside in a kind of purgatory and will never be adjudicated,” New York University Law School Professor Stephen Gillerse explained. “This is not how the rules anticipated the process would work.”
The Testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
WE BELIEVE YOU, DR. FORD!
— There was something truthful and good about the presence of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford today. Her strength of character anchored her testimony about the attempted rape by Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
It’s about time some goodness has prevailed in the sinister Senate misguided by the tainted hands of zealous Republicans.
Regardless of the outcome of the so called “hearing”, Dr. Ford’s honesty and credibility stood out proudly and resonated loudly, and will provide a lingering lamp of light and hope for those Americans who are tired of the spectacle of circus politics dominated by Big Money and corporate interests.
Thank you Dr. Ford for your inspiration. We believe you. —
Portrait of an American Patriot: a Profile in Courage
2 For yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, “Peace and safety“; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the Day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
The Day of Reckoning and the Coming Bloodbath of the GOP
There are many different ways to approach subject as explosive as what I personally witnessed watching Dr. Christine Ford today.
But let us look at the legacy of Ralph Reed and Franklin Graham along with his hysterical anorexic sister, who famously said America should be attacked in a nuclear war because then “Jesus would Come”
Certainly I could have written about the blackmail and threats and extortion by the Southern Evangelicals to the Senate Republicans that stated in no uncertain terms that Brett Kavanaugh was to become the next Supreme Court Justice: or Else.
But such a story is like shooting ducks in a barrel…
Everyone is quite well aware ( or should ), be that the Southern Evangelicals were very early on co-opted by the recidivist, stagnant, deeply reactionary and bedrock racist faux “Christian” Daughters of the Confederacy Antebellum South, who felt the North had ruined their lives of ease and comfort that was built entirely on the enslavement and degradation of the Black Race which they felt was exactly how their deformed vision of God and his Christ they saw as racist just as they were, because slavery was mentioned at length in the Old Testament, and also referred to in the New Testament…
Billy Graham Warned Against Mixing Religion and Politics
The evangelical leader said in a 1981 profile that people in his position “can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person.”
While evangelical leader Franklin Graham has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, his father Rev. Billy Graham publicly warned against the prospect of religious figures becoming too attached to a political stance.
Several readers contacted us in January 2018 seeking to confirm a statement attributed to the elder Graham:
I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.
The statement was also circulated online in meme form:
In this case, the quote is authentic, and taken from the 1 February 1981 cover story in Parademagazine; it was part of Billy Graham’s account of conversations with fellow reverend Jerry Falwell, who helmed the conservative politcal group the Moral Majority. Graham said:
I told him to preach the Gospel. That’s our calling. I want to preserve the purity of the Gospel and the freedom of religion in America. I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. Liberals organized in the ’60s, and conservatives certainly have a right to organize in the ’80s, but it would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.
The statement was featured early on in the story and was also highlighted below a picture of Falwell and then-President Ronald Reagan:
In the story, Graham admitted that he no longer thought of Communists as being “disciples of Lucifer,” contrary to his own rhetoric from earlier in his career.
He also cast himself as having no part of Falwell’s organization, which became a key conservative constituency before dissolving in 1989. He said:
It would be unfortunate if people got the impression all evangelists belong to that group. The majority do not. I don’t wish to be identified with them. I’m for morality.
But morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak out with such authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle to preach to all people, right and left.
I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future.
While the elder Graham has had relationships with several U.S. presidents spanning decades, he told Christianity Today in 2011 that, given the chance to do anything differently in his life, “I also would have steered clear of politics.”
His son, on the other hand, has positioned himself as a Trump supporter since 2011, when he contributed to the debunked “birther” conspiracy theory of Donald Trump that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. In October 2016, the younger Graham published a social media post (misattributed to his father) urging evangelical voters to vote for Trump.
More recently, Franklin Graham has refused to criticize the newly elected and openly racist president for reportedly calling African countries “shitholes”, or held him to account for alleged extramarital affairs — drawing criticism from Graham’s own niece — and claimed that the U.S. was “in a coup d’etat” perpetrated by political enemies of Trump who were using the media against him.
The Racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump
White evangelical Protestants continue to approve of President Donald Trump at about twice the rate of the general public, according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Indeed, the figure is at an all-time high, with some 75 percent expressing a positive view as of March.
Debating the question of why white evangelicals hold so fast for Trump has become a pastime for commentators, given that the president’s values and behavior would appear to be anathema to conservative Christians.
Among political evangelicals, at one ideological pole stand those who purport to see a seamless connection between their agenda and that of the current chief executive. “I think evangelicals have found their dream president,” Jerry Falwell Jr. gushed last May. An oft-heard variation on this view is that Trump may be a sinner, but he’s one chosen by God for a providential mission.
But then there are the prominent hand-wringers. Veteran evangelical writers like Michael Gerson, David French, and Stephen Mansfield have been wrestling with the damage this strategic partnership may be doing to a once-great religious tradition.
It is an abandonment of the evangelical path, these writers argue — to varying degrees and with different emphases — for believers who claim to care about the poor, the suffering, and the outcast, not to mention sexual morality and civic virtue, to line up behind a belligerent boor who bullies women, Mexicans, and Muslims and who has a manifestly feeble understanding of religious texts and history. It’s not that evangelicals are personally prejudiced, these writers claim; nonetheless, they find it disturbing that such voters would overlook Trump’s racism and misogyny for short-term political gains.
But these sympathetic critics fail to grapple with the idea that Trump’s racism and misogyny might actually resonate with the evangelical base, which happens to constitute about 35 percent of the GOP coalition. In fact, racism and intolerance are more woven into the fabric of evangelicalism than these Christian critics care to accept.
The Cult of Denial and Trump’s Base
Evangelicals’ tenacious affection for Donald Trump is not a bug driven by expediency. Instead, it reflects defining features of American evangelicalism that become clearer when we examine the historical record. Doing so reveals that when white conservative evangelicals feel threatened by cultural change, the old demons of racism and misogyny, which lurk at the heart of the American evangelical tradition, return with a vengeance. Trump is just another chapter in that story.
The contorted explanations for the evangelical support of Trump
One version of a familiar defense of evangelicals goes like this: Evangelicals held their nose and voted for Trump despite his obvious flaws because they needed the deal he offered. They felt besieged by a swift-moving culture that, under President Obama, insulted their faith and threatened to rob them of their religious liberties, forcing them to do things like bake cakes for gay couples and create gender-neutral bathrooms in public places.
In a fearful rage, evangelicals rebranded Trump for strategic purposes, seeing him as a champion in a nostalgic fight for a bygone America and as a tool to achieve tactical wins, in particular the appointment of an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice.
In this take, evangelical Trump support is purely transactional, not necessarily an endorsement of his values. Although they “vastly overdid it,” says Stephen Mansfield, the author of Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him,they moved toward Trump “mainly because they felt traumatized in the wake of the Obama years and terrified by the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency.” Trump did activate the (white, rural) “Bubba vote,” Mansfield observes, and evangelicals’ tolerance of his racism is “all very questionable.”
But Mansfield draws a distinction he thinks is important: “I would be careful not to accuse white evangelicals of supporting Trump’s racism, but it’s very clear that they tolerated it and they voted for him anyway.” In a triumph of wishful thinking over data, he adds: “I don’t think their support was ever very deep, and it seems to be weakening quickly.”
National Review columnist David French also embraces the narrative that evangelicals were “gang-tackled” by political correctness under Obama and Clinton would have continued that project. In 2016, “given the choice between a morally corrupt enemy [Clinton] and a morally corrupt ally (or at least someone who promised to be their ally), [evangelicals] chose the ally.” (Elsewhere, however, he notes that Clinton has attracted the ire of the religious right for four decades in part because of her “arrogant, condescending feminism.”)
Nonetheless, French warns, evangelicals should avoid embracing the panoply of distasteful values and behaviors that Trump displays, and he thinks they’ve have failed at that since the election: They’ve leaped to join Trump’s “tribe.” “The true tragedy of Evangelical support for Trump is that a group of Americans who have a higher call on their lives — and faith in a far greater power than any president — now behave (with notable exceptions) exactly like simply another American interest group,” he writes.
(Interestingly, French’s wife, fellow conservative writer Nancy French, emerged from the election with a much less ambivalent view, convinced that evangelicals’ posture of supporting “family values” and respect for women has “all been a façade.” The Republican Party, she says, referring to Trump, “now shelters an abuser.” The Roy Moore debacle only underscored that, she later wrote.)
Defiling the evangelical legacy?
Michael Gerson lays out a particularly condemnatory, yet nuanced, version of the Christian anti-Trump lament in a lengthy, elegant essay in the April issue of the Atlantic. He frames Trump loyalty as “the last temptation” that could forfeit evangelicalism’s future and despoil a long legacy of positive contributions to American culture.
Cheerleading by second-generation Christian right figures like Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham, Gerson writes, is “not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption.” Allowing hatred of their political enemies to “blind” them to Trump’s attacks on people of color and women is a tragic mistake, he suggests.
Gerson offers a 150-year summary of evangelicals’ positive work in the public sphere to make the case that, despite some missteps along the way, white evangelicals have mostly been on the right side of moral and social issues, historically. But his history is strikingly lopsided, reflecting a characteristic amnesia among evangelicalism’s boosters.
First, his narrative largely concentrates on events in the North and Midwest, with a special focus on his alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois, a hub of Christian abolitionism. He then grazes on examples of evangelical social engagement, from the Social Gospel movement, which began in the 19th century and continued into the 20th (during which evangelicals built institutions to support new immigrants and the poor), through the ascent of scientific modernism and evangelicalism’s Great Reversal (a period of political retreat), and finally to the rise of the religious right in the wake of the sexual revolution.
It was only in the late 20th century, Gerson suggests, that evangelicals became reactive and adversarial, and embraced a narrow political agenda focused on resisting the sexual revolution and safeguarding their own rights. A narrowly conservative set of political commitments, Gerson writes, gave them the short-term advantage of becoming kingmakers for the Republican Party rather than prophets for a righteous, more expansive social cause.
Evangelical history is inseparable from America’s tortured racial history
In concentrating his story in the North and Midwest (and by neglecting to mention Native Americans and other groups whites framed as racial “others,” even in those regions), Gerson effectively ignores Southern evangelical political history — no small oversight when attempting to explain support for a racist presidential candidate. He also ignores the diaspora of Southern evangelicals who became a key political apparatus for the religious right in the West.
First, evangelical racial history, whether we’re talking about its liberal or conservative branches, is also incomplete without recognition of colonists’ encounters with indigenous nations. The idea that the indigenous people Europeans met upon their arrival were uncivilized “heathens” was anchored in a white Christian worldview, one was employed to justify various forms of missionary conquest.
Only a tiny minority of Christians challenged the many brutal anti–American Indian policies that went hand in hand with the settlement of North America. This racialized history of settler conquest — and the use of theology to justify brutal acts — is ignored by Americans generally, but it represents a distinct blind spot in conservative evangelicals’ tales of their legacy.
On the question of chattel slavery, evangelicals do not just appear as the abolitionists Gerson cites approvingly. The institution had millions of champions among conservative Christians who drew on Scripture and Curse of Ham theology to defend white supremacy and black subordination. Gerson fails to mention that every major evangelical denomination split along regional lines based on divisions over the slavery question. In fact, the vast bulk of Southern white evangelicals defended slavery, clung to the Lost Cause, fought Reconstruction, and designed and defended Jim Crow.
As the Kentucky General Baptist Association put it in 1860:
Among the white race in the Southern States there is no difference of opinion upon this subject: all are united in the opinion in reference to the political, intellectual, and social inequality between the colored people and the white races. And the people of our Commonwealth generally feel that the present condition of the colored race in this country accords both with the Word and the providence of God.
The Southern Baptist Convention was in fact created in defense of slavery, and in 1947, most Southern state conventions of the SBC refused to support a moderately worded “charter of race relations” that supported desegregation efforts.
The SBC was moved to apologize for racial sins in 1995, but clearly that doesn’t end the story.
Gerson laments, “After shamefully sitting out (or even opposing) the civil rights movement, white evangelicals became activated on a limited range of issues.” But it distorts the historical record to reduce white evangelicals’ opposition to civil rights to a parenthetical. It is even more misleading to write: “Fighting racism galvanized the religious conscience of 19th-century evangelicals.”
Indeed, most politically conservative white evangelicals actively fought every racial inclusion effort from abolitionism to affirmative action. As perhaps the Christian Coalition’s most savvy strategist, former executive director Ralph Reed, put it in 1996, evangelicals:
were among the most fiery champions of slavery and later segregation — all the while invoking God’s name and quoting the Bible to justify their misdeeds. Why are white evangelicals accorded so little respect in the public square today? Certainly part of the answer lies in our past.
In fact, it is arguably not the battle to defend Christian schools in the 1970s that launched the modern Christian right — the narrative that evangelicals themselves, including Gerson, embrace — but resistance by Jerry Falwell Sr., Bob Jones, and others to desegregating those schools in the 1960s.
Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, did not welcome its first black family until 1970. Falwell also hosted the virulently racist presidential aspirant George Wallace on guest pulpits in the South and Midwest in the early 1960s.
Ignoring the Southern evangelical tradition also means ignoring the way that movement shaped the broader development of conservatism in America.
Southern evangelicals then moved West, reshaping that region’s politics too
Jerry Falwell Sr. offered a platform to arch-segregationist George Wallace, shown here blocking a door at the University of Alabama.
Historian Darren Dochuk traces how, in search of economic opportunity, Southern evangelicals left the South and a network of conservative pastors, churches, and organization, with a distinct Southern flair, spread out across the Midwest and the Sunbelt. One group, called the Baptist Bible Fellowship, provided the bulk of George Wallace’s campaign support from the Midwest.
In California, these transplanted Southerners organized support for Nixon and, in turn, became leaders of the evangelical wing of the Reagan revolution. Among the former Southerners who served the cause were Christian right architects Tim LaHaye (of Left Behind series fame), Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and the strategist Richard Viguerie.
From there, evangelical mobilization supported, endorsed, or tolerated the racial dog-whistle politics of California’s Proposition 13, which cut taxes for public services associated with racial minorities, Reagan’s attacks on “welfare queens,” and George H.W. Bush’s famous Willie Horton ad.
From this more accurate perspective, evangelical support for Alabamans George Wallace and, last year, Roy Moore, are bookends of a consistent narrative. With race brought back into view, Moore and Trump are not anomalies. While the nationalist white racial politics of Wallace and Trump may not be explicitly faith-based, in all its forms, it has certainly had no shortage of champions among the white evangelical faithful.
Gerson attributes evangelicals’ failures on race matters today to their “relative ethnic and racial insularity” — as if that is accidental. But a real possibility is that more than 85 percent of evangelical congregations remain racially homogeneous (that is, more than 90 are of a single racial group) because whites have refused to address the ongoing racial attachments in their theology and politics.
As the smartest evangelical critics of Trump recognize, younger generations of evangelicals are quickly distancing themselves from the blight of racism, misogyny, and homophobia in their tradition. Non-evangelical millennials recoil from these attributes.
And the liberal wing of Protestantism seems finally to be rising as a clear alternative, making concerted efforts to take stands against police violence, the scapegoating of immigrants, transgender rights, and protests against the racist right.
If American conservative evangelicals hope to avoid retreat to another period of insularity and irrelevance, they must face the possibility that Trump’s evangelical loyalists aren’t just turning a blind eye to his racial and gender politics. On the contrary: Many may well share those politics.
Nancy Wadsworth is the author of Ambivalent Miracles: Evangelicals and the Politics of Racial Healing and co-editor, with Robin D. Jacobson, of Faith and Race in American Political Life. She is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.