Liberals aren’t stupid. Conservatives aren’t racist. The people we disagree with are not our enemies
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 4:57 PM

Liberals aren’t stupid. Conservatives aren’t racist. The people we disagree with are not our enemies

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 4:57 PM
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 4:57 PM
Progressives are not stupid and evil. Conservatives are not racists and misogynists.
Progressives are not stupid and evil. Conservatives are not racists and misogynists. File illustration

 

‘When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump’: High-profile evangelicals will meet privately to discuss their future
Friday, April 13, 2018 8:10 PM

‘When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump’: High-profile evangelicals will meet privately to discuss their future

Friday, April 13, 2018 8:10 PM
Friday, April 13, 2018 8:10 PM

 April 12 at 10:45 AM 


Wheaton College. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering next week to discuss the future and the “soul” of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump.

The diverse group, which includes nationally known pastors such as Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard, is expected to include leaders of major ministries, denominations, colleges and seminaries. The gathering will take place at Wheaton College, an evangelical college outside of Chicago, according to organizer Doug Birdsall, honorary chair of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals.

The gathering, which has been in the works for several months and was discussed at evangelist Billy Graham’s funeral last month, will take place before the expected meeting of a separate group of evangelicals who advise, defend and praise Trump. Those leaders, which include members of Trump’s informal advisory council, are considering convening at Trump International Hotel in Washington in June.

The purpose of the Wheaton meeting is to try to shift the conversation back to core questions of the faith, and Trump as an individual will not be the focus of discussion, Birdsall said. Nonetheless, the president will be the “elephant in the room,” he said, because under his leadership the term “evangelical” has become negatively associated in the minds of many Americans with regard to topics such as racism and nationalism.

While the organizers said they are not trying to build a new coalition or launch a counter political agenda, the gathering shows how many key leaders of major institutions are wringing their hands over the state of evangelicalism.

“When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump,” Birdsall said. “When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don’t say evangelism or the gospel. There’s a grotesque caricature of what it means to be an evangelical.”

Those gathered will not necessarily oppose Trump and some may even be friendly to some of his policies, said Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, who is also helping to organize the event. But organizers said evangelicals need to return their focus to the term’s true definition: a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus’ work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.

“We need to be wiser and better in the way we do ministry,” said Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. “Faith and God and sin and grace and idolatry are about fundamental human reality, and everything else is a way of dealing with those issues. It is a complete terrible reversal when [people believe] religion is about politics when it’s the other way around.”

“No matter what happens to American evangelicalism, it is here to stay. It’s international, global and politically diverse,” he said, pointing out that evangelicalism is quickly spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, Keller said, many evangelical leaders talked nervously of the future, but for different reasons than the ones that concern them now. Some were fearful that religious academic institutions could lose accreditation or federal funding because many do not hire openly gay staff members. And several colleges and universities, including Wheaton, sued the government over an Obamacare mandate to cover certain forms of contraception.

Under Obama, many of these leaders felt that their religious freedoms were under attack, feeling pressure primarily from the left. Now, Keller said, many of them feel under attack from those on the right if they support a more open immigration policy or foreign policy.

Bernard, a black pastor of a 40,000-member church in Brooklyn, said he fears that white evangelical supporters of Trump have put the reputation of American Christianity in danger.

“They continue to squander their moral authority in an attempt to sanitize the president,” said Bernard, who resigned from an advisory group of evangelicals last year after Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville after a white supremacist march.

Many white evangelicals have been too focused on what they view as issues of sin and personal morality, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, without looking at the systemic injustices that most concern black evangelicals, such as economic inequality and racialized policing. The bill has now come due, he said.

“This presidency has exposed the spiritual, moral and racial condition of this nation,” he said. “The racial divides go deep in this country, and they’ve invaded the church.”

Several of those planning to attend the Wheaton gathering said they are tired of seeing leaders who regularly praise Trump — such as evangelist Franklin Graham, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress — representing all evangelicals.

“When a lot of folks think about evangelicals they think of people who are tied to the administration, but they don’t represent the evangelical community,” said World Relief vice president Jenny Yang, who will co-chair this group’s conversation along with Bishop Claude Alexander, a black pastor based in Charlotte. She later said she did not intend to imply that all of Trump’s advisers do not represent evangelicals.

Even though the gathering isn’t about politics, Yang said she expects discussion around major events of the past year, including the #MeToo movement about sexual assault and harassment, the white supremacy march in Charlottesville, and Trump’s refugee and immigration policy changes. About six leaders from outside the United States, she said, will tell the group how evangelicals are perceived globally.

Many of the evangelical leaders who will attend the meeting are caught in a generational divide. Their institutions tend to be fueled by an older generation of primarily white donors, many of whom are conservative and friendly to Trump’s policies. However, the future of their institutions is worrisome because many younger evangelicals and the growing numbers of evangelicals of color are distraught by the perception that the movement has become so tied to Trump.

Since World War II, American Protestants have tended to group themselves into three broad categories: fundamentalism on the right, mainline Protestantism on the left and evangelicalism somewhere in between.

But white evangelicals, who made up 26 percent of the electorate in the last election cycle, have been a powerful group to court politically since the 1980s. Exit polls showed that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and the president’s approval rating among those voters remains strong at 78 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Given such strong support, a case could be made that the greatest barrier to the gospel is evangelicals’ embrace of “Trumpism” as an ideology, Birdsall said.

“We realize millennials are disaffected and global evangelical leaders are disillusioned,” Birdsall said, pointing to his own daughter’s concern that people perceive evangelicals as racist and fearful.

Few nationally known white evangelical pastors have vocally opposed Trump, though some critics have emerged, including John Piper, a retired megachurch pastor in Minneapolis who has written of Trump’s “immoral behavior.”

As evangelicalism has grown without any formal hierarchy, it has formed tribes often driven by celebrity pastors, authors and artists. Evangelical leaders of institutions have been having conversations about how to address an evangelical identity crisis, said Rich Mouw, former president of Fuller Seminary, but most of these gatherings are small.

“There’s a real pastoral problem right now that in any given congregation that it’s a topic you can’t talk about,” Mouw said. “I don’t think it’s fear. I think it’s genuine pastoral perplexity about how we deal with this.”

Other invited leaders at next week’s gathering include Mark Labberton of Fuller Seminary, Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College, Jo Anne Lyon of the Wesleyan Church, Harold Smith of Christianity Today and Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

 

'Concerned' Evangelicals Plan To Meet With Trump As Sex Scandals Swirl
Friday, April 6, 2018 7:17 AM

'Concerned' Evangelicals Plan To Meet With Trump As Sex Scandals Swirl

Friday, April 6, 2018 7:17 AM
Friday, April 6, 2018 7:17 AM

Sarah McCammon | NPR | April 6, 2018

Donald Trump seen during at a church in Las Vegas in October 2016. White evangelicals fueled his campaign, but some now worry about recent sex scandals and the affect they could have on the midterms. Evan Vucci/AP

As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June, four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting tell NPR.

"We're very concerned" about the allegations, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. The leader is involved in hosting the gathering, which organizers are aiming to take place June 19 at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The source said the combination of the Stormy Daniels sex-scandal allegations and Trump's continued reputation for divisive rhetoric could suppress evangelical turnout in the November 2018 elections.

"It is a concern of ours that 2018 could be very detrimental to some of the other issues that we hold dear," like religious liberty and restricting abortion rights, the source noted. The source, like the others with knowledge of the event, spoke to NPR on the condition of anonymity so as to not jeopardize the meeting.

Trump has denied Daniels' allegations. Speaking with reporters on Air Force One on Thursday, he also denied knowing about the payment his attorney, Michael Cohen, made to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election. She alleges she was paid $130,000 not to talk about the alleged affair.

Sources say organizers are working to firm up planning for the day-long event with the White House before sending invitations to hundreds of conservative Christian pastors and political leaders in the coming days.

Asked for comment Thursday, a White House spokesman declined.

Trump has been invited to take questions from the evangelical leaders for roughly 90 minutes during the meeting. It's not clear whether the allegations from Daniels — or another woman who alleges she had an affair with Trump, former Playboy model Karen McDougal — are likely to come up while the president is on stage in a more open session.

But a source said the president is likely to be asked about the women during private discussions in at least a "sidebar conversation."

The ministry leader said Trump's tone and personal life remain a concern for many evangelicals.

 

"There's things that are like fingernails on the chalkboard to people of faith. That's not who we are; that's not a 'fruit of the Spirit'; that's not leading with humility," the source said, referencing a passage in the New Testament book of Galatians that describes the character traits Christians exhibit.

The meeting is part of an effort to rally and reassure conservative voters, especially white evangelicals who fueled Trump's run to the White House, ahead of this year's midterms. But it also could raise questions about the ethics of holding such events, organized through the White House, at Trump's hotel just a few blocks from the White House.

That prospect did not seem to concern the evangelical leaders involved with booking the event.

"That doesn't even cross our mind," said one person with knowledge of the planning, adding that the hotel was chosen because "this is probably the best deal in D.C."

A chance to "reconvene" and "encourage enthusiasm"

On issues like abortion, religious freedom and Israel policy, many conservative Christians say Trump has followed through on his campaign promises. One source noted that many white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016 with the knowledge that "with Trump it was going to be a gamble," but with no hope that Democrat Hillary Clinton would deliver on any of their top-priority issues.

Many Republicans fear 2018 will be a wave election for Democrats, who've been organizing in opposition to President Trump. Trump has battled low approval ratings, and some polls have suggested support for this president has declined among white evangelicals, a key voting block for Republicans.

The June meeting will be a chance for evangelical leaders to seek reassurance from Trump, and to talk about how to mobilize conservatives around other issues this fall, a source said.

"Let's reconvene," the source said, "and let's see what we can do to encourage enthusiasm — beyond Trump, so to speak."

Such a meeting with the president would mirror a similar event two years ago, when hundreds of mostly white evangelical Protestants gathered at a New York hotel to meet with then-candidate Trump.

The purpose of that gathering was largely to reassure evangelicals concerned about the presumptive Republican nominee's reputation for vulgarity and multiple marriages. It was a few months before the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump could be heard bragging about groping women's genitals without consent.

 

It was a "pivotal moment" in Trump's 2016 campaign, said Ken Blackwell, a conservative activist who advised the Trump transition team. Many evangelical leaders had backed other candidates in the Republican primary, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

"It's an element of his base that can be mobilized quickly," Blackwell said. "It is organized, as was demonstrated in the 2016 elections. It is a block of voters that will make a difference in outcomes, if they turn out [in 2018]."

Voting, a Christian's "civic duty"?

While Trump has been asked to headline this year's event, participants also plan to spend several hours discussing priorities and strategy for the midterms, which could include inserting reminders in church bulletins to head to the polls on Election Day.

Another source with knowledge of the plans for the event tells NPR that the gathering will encourage pastors and other leaders to frame voting as a Christian's "civic duty," rather than urging churchgoers to support a particular political party.

That said, white evangelicals overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates at the polls. Whatever their misgivings, 81 percent of self-identified white evangelicals voted for Trump in the November 2016 election. Recent polls suggest a majority still back Trump despite the Daniels allegations, though his popularity with the group took a dip after the news initially broke.

The source with knowledge of plans for the June meeting told NPR that organizers have worried that some evangelicals might avoid the event because of the Daniels controversy.

"For some evangelical leaders," the source said, "it's a liability."

But others, including Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, expressed optimism that the president will weather the Daniels storm.

"I just honestly don't hear hand-wringing over the issue," Nance said. "They're not surprised; they made that decision a long time ago. This president is not Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee; he doesn't pretend to be a Bible-banging evangelical."

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, also said it's "highly dubious" that the allegations will substantially erode the president's support or suppress midterm turnout.

Reed said that he will attend the meeting with the president if the planning moves forward. Given how organized and energized Democrats are this year, he said it's important for evangelical leaders to rally their base.

"If these folks don't turn out in record numbers in 2018," Reed said, "it's gonna be a long night for Republicans."

Death, DACA and Decoupling: A Third Way Take on Legislation and Gridlock
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 3:26 PM

Death, DACA and Decoupling: A Third Way Take on Legislation and Gridlock

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 3:26 PM
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 3:26 PM
Anyone who looks at Congress knows it is broken, hopefully not irretrievably so.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/WIN MCNAMEE)U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018.

Anyone who looks at Congress knows it is broken, hopefully not irretrievably so. A look at the last two debates currently swirling in Washington gives us a clue why it is broken. It is about more than party loyalty or tribalism on one side or the other. There is a tactic Congress applies on both sides that leaves us stuck with legislation undone that people on both sides say they favor. I speak of "saying they favor" because they do not favor it enough to change habits that prevent progress on matters on which both sides agree. So in a test I want to ask a question that I think exposes whether the politicians on both sides mean what they say.

The deadlock comes because of coupling. Coupling is the use of an alleged overarching principle to affirm that the issue under discussion is linked to another matter that also has to be solved in order to pass the desired piece of legislation in a consistent way. It is a form of political doublespeak that needs to disappear or, at least be used less comprehensively.

So we cannot solve the DACA problem because we need to figure out and work through the maze that is immigration reform first. The mantra is we do not want to be back here again in five years discussing the issue again (even though we have been at this more than a decade and have gotten nowhere on it and we are now at the point where real people are getting really hurt by our delay). We cannot discuss gun control legislation about automatic weapons or the mentally disturbed because that is tied in principle to gun ownership as a whole.

What is maddening about all of this is that when the American people are polled on either of these specific, smaller issues a large majority is for solving the specific problem and even agree in general on what should be done.

So I ask a series of simple questions as a concerned citizen. Why not decouple these discussions? Why not get DACA legislation passed and deal with the more complex fix later? Why not do something that prevents the wrong kind of weapon being in the wrong kind of hands (or at least puts up a barrier for it) so lives might be saved and people cannot regularly be killed in the dozens by a single gunman with a weapon that has little to do with hunting or self-protection. Why not decouple issues that can be easily separated by seeing the contentious difference in principle is not present in the current cases? Why not take the view that where we have agreement on exceptional situations is worth acting on and need not be held captive by a principle that can be sorted out later in much more complex, less clear, alternative circumstances?

Let me give an analogy. Anyone working with audio ear buds knows if you put them in a briefcase and do not make an effort wind them up to store them they will end up severely tangled in a moment. When they emerge tangled, you do not say let me untangle this all at once. You have to untangle it one strand at a time. That is what decoupling would mean. It would argue that let us do this one step at a time. Let us deal with what most of us agree on and then go back to work on our disagreements. One does not need a PhD in political science to go there. Just do it. Is that too hard to consider?

Here is a principle to consider. Accomplish something in a little step then go on to the next strand that needs attention. Then at least something might get done versus the nothing of the last decade or more. I say this to the shame of both political parties.

In the meantime three things might be accomplished by decoupling our DACA discussions from immigration and the use of weapons of mass destruction from gun control. First, we might reduce the number of catastrophic events we are experiencing, even in schools. Our children are rightly asking us as adults to do this. The adults need to insist our politicians do the same. Our mass funerals are a metaphor for how sick our society has become.

If we care, we will do something to try and stop it. Any pro-life view should be willing to go here. Second, we will take care of a generation of immigrants who, when they arrived as children, had no say in being here and people for whom this country has been their only conscious home. Even the pursuit of the rule of law seeks to have a decent sense of compassion and human understanding as we have the right to craft our own laws and change poor ones.

Third, we might just discover how we can work together one small step at a time.... Imagine that.

Dr. Darrell L. Bock is Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as Senior Research Professor of NT Studies. He is an author or editor of over 40 books, including a New York Times Best Seller in non-fiction. He is host of the Seminary's Table podcasts (voice.dts.edu).


Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today. CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

 

Third Way Values: The Reconciliation
Sunday, February 11, 2018 6:41 PM

Third Way Values: The Reconciliation

Sunday, February 11, 2018 6:41 PM
Sunday, February 11, 2018 6:41 PM

By Dr. Darrell L. Bock 

Second in a series

First, there is the Great Commandment, which is love God with all your heart, soul, mind

There is no Democrat or Republican in the third way. It is directed by the relational concerns of the Savior. He is confessed as our Messiah, our Christ, for a reason. He is the believer's one and only King. The mirroring of his work is our chief concern. So what does that work look like when it comes to relating to others?

First, there is the Great Commandment, which is love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-34). This was said to be even more important than worship with burnt offerings! Luke 6:27-36 includes the call to love our enemies as a part of this distinctive love. It is a third way. When we live and react in ways that look like the world as we interact with those who think differently than us we take away our distinctive. We empty ourselves of a visible rationale for the gospel.

So when Paul came to summarize his ministry to the world, he chose a single term to build it around, reconciliation. Two texts describe it. In 2 Cor. 5:17-20, we are ministers of reconciliation between God and people. That is our political manifesto. Our message in v. 19 is an invitation, an urging that people be reconciled to God. There is a vertical reconciliation that is central to our relationships.

We also are described as ambassadors. An ambassador represents a country and its values in a foreign country in which he or she resides. This is true of all Christians anywhere. Whether they are in the USA, Australia, Kenya, Korea, Germany or Turkey, believers represent the ways of God where they are, the third way. Their citizenship and allegiance is to their heavenly homeland (Phil. 3:20-21).

They are part of a community of the reconciled that relativizes a nationalistic patriotism, because they have many brothers and sisters in many countries. That means they should care about what goes on elsewhere in the world and what actions mean for others outside their own political country. The ambassador for God puts that relationship first and seeks to reflect its greatness by seeking that which can bring people together, not tear them apart.

The second text is in Eph. 2:11-22. Here God brings former diehard enemies, Jew and Gentile, together. In other texts other estranged groupings become linked as one in what God has done (Gal. 3:29; Col. 3:8-10). This is the horizontal reconciliation that also is central to the gospel as it grows out of the vertical reconciliation we have with God. Such work reflects what it means to love your neighbor, for that is a goal of our activity as believers as commanded by our one and only King.

The pursuit of justice is an extension of such love that has ultimate reconciliation as a goal and that reflects the honoring of God (Micah 6:8). Sometimes social justice is proclaimed as a political ideology, bone that belongs to the "other" side, but it really is a biblical concept tied to the goal of showing what real reconciliation is like.

It sits under the Great Commandment as a reflection of it and as promoting the respect of what it means for each person to be made in the image of God. Each person is worthy of the dignity that comes with that image of God status. It is why Christians so deeply value life from start to finish and all the way through its journey on this earth.

So it is no accident that Paul summarizes his ministry in one word, reconciliation. Vertical and horizontal reconciliation shows that in God people who were apart can be brought together. It is a reconciliation that stands as a corporate destination for the gospel, one of the goals of which is peace or shalom, where people get along before God.

When we model and mirror such broad human concern for others in our community and outside of it, we show what we are about. We point people in the direction of what the gospel yields, not individually in our salvation, but corporately in our relationships. That makes it a core value of the Third Way and a target to keep in mind as we engage in our contentious political world. For the Third Way, making reconciliation great again is a driving value.

Dr. Darrell L. Bock is Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as Senior Research Professor of NT Studies. He is an author or editor of over 40 books, including a New York Times Best Seller in non-fiction. He is host of the Seminary's Table podcasts (voice.dts.edu).


Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today. CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

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