A Teachable Moment: Dinesh D’Souza Refuses to Take Back False Claim about Republicans Owning Slaves in 1860 (UPDATED)

(UPDATE – 6/11/19) – See below the post for an update.

For Dinesh D’Souza watchers, this headline is as shocking as proclaiming that water is wet. I post this incident because it is a clear and convincing demonstration that D’Souza shows zero interest in academic integrity.  Let me lay out the basics. First, D’Souza claimed in a speech that no Republican owned slaves in 1860. Here is the speech:

He said one Republican who owned a slave in 1860 would require him to take back his claim.

Historians on Twitter, led by Princeton’s Kevin Kruse, quickly rose to the occasion and found ten. Follow the thread below for the receipts.

To go directly to the thread with the breakdown of the ten found thus far, click here.

In essence, the method of finding Republican slave owners involves an examination of those who attended the Republican convention as delegates and then comparing that list with registries of slave owners.

For his part, D’Souza said the instances offered by the historians are “invalid” and he repeated his claim this morning.

I looked for counter evidence in D’Souza’s threads and nothing shows up. D’Souza said no Republican owned slaves in 1860, but in fact at least ten Republicans are on record as being slave owners during that year. It doesn’t change the fact that the Republican party generally opposed the expansion of slavery but it does prove that D’Souza’s specific claim is false. His handling of the matter also shows that he cannot be trusted in a dispute like this (as if there was any doubt).

This incident is a case study in cognitive dissonance for D’Souza followers. Will they believe their senses or go along with their loyalty to D’Souza? There is a solid research base in social psychology which suggests his followers will find some way to ease the dissonance and stick with D’Souza. Most will never know about it because they won’t read any of the historians’ posts. Some will simply assume the historians can’t be right because they are “libs.” Those who do engage with the material will have the most trouble. They will hang on D’Souza’s denials and assertions. A few may file this away as a “rare” mistake on D’Souza’s part so they can hold on to other things about him they like. A very few may actually reconsider his integrity.

Where this challenges to D’Souza eventually may have some benefit is to cause venues like Christian colleges and other organizations who might consider having him in to speak to reconsider. I use instances like this one in my classes as illustrations for concepts like ingroup bias, confirmation bias, belief perseverance, and cognitive dissonance. This one will go to the top of the class.

UPDATE – D’Souza admitted he was wrong on his claim with a sorry, not sorry tweet.

If you click the tweet and read through the thread, you will see the “sorry, not sorry” attitude of the response. He still hasn’t taken down the original tweet. D’Souza insists on promoting a false picture of historiography surrounding party realignment. He tells his followers that historians obscure the role of Democrats in the defense of slavery. They don’t obscure anything. He isn’t a great revealer of hidden truths. What D’Souza obscures is the fact that the parties realigned and that there were Republican racists all along the way. He also insists that the parties now are of the same character as they were 150 years ago.

His admission is striking and had to happen because he was caught red handed. His reputation should be in some jeopardy now for anyone who objectively evaluates his rhetoric. Prior to his admission, his claims were absolute. He said many people had already spent much time trying to debunk his claim. In fact, it took a few historians about 30 minutes to counter it. This was a devastating rebuke. D’Souza’s confident claims should never again be taken at face value by anyone. It isn’t that scholars don’t make factual mistakes, of course they do. However, true scholars aren’t as absolutistic and arrogant as D’Souza. He went out on a limb above a canyon, and it was cut off.

American Greatness Quietly Withdraws Bayonet

The name calling has gotten hot and heavy in the recent Ahmari v. French dust up but I haven’t seen any calls for anyone’s death. For that, you need to go to the inappropriately titled Center for American Greatness. In a recent column about Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico, associate editor Pedro Gonzalez took exception to Cato Institute’s David Bier’s views of Trump’s proposals. In response to Trump’s threat to impose tariffs if Mexico did not reduce the number of asylum seekers getting to the U.S. through Mexico, Bier tweeted:

In response, Gonzalez wrote:

Not only do we have troops at the border now, but on the same day Bier called on Mexico to open the floodgates from Central America, a U.S. Marine fired his weapon while on duty along the southern border. The Marine reported he had been attacked inside his vehicle by three people. Around the same time, a mob of angry Hondurans attacked the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa. Technically, this was an act of war. Bier doesn’t seem to mind.

In a perfect world, as opposed to this clownish vale of tears, Bier’s remarks would put him at the business end of a bayonet—and to say so is not more incitant than calling on a foreign power to facilitate Invasion U.S.A.

Nevertheless, Bier’s reaction is what we have come to expect from the libertarian-right.

According to Gonzalez, David Bier should die for expressing his views on Trump’s immigration policy. Sohrab Ahmari wrote that civility and decency are secondary values. In practice, this means civility and decency don’t matter. Winning is primary. Re-ordering for that Highest Good is primary. In Gonzalez’s perfect world (re-ordered?), Bier’s First Amendment expression would put him at great risk. Apparently dissent and disagreement isn’t a characteristic of American greatness at American Greatness.

But that glorious day is not now. Apparently, someone got to Gonzalez and let him know that the re-ordering is not complete. He removed the suggestion that Bier’s immigration views made him worthy of death. The link above is the Google cache (preserved here). There was no explanation for the removal. Was it because a funding source complained? Or did some secondary value bubble up somewhere but without courage to say so?

AACC Sponsor Promotes Bible Soaking for Mental Illness

The American Association of Christian Counselors bills itself as a professional association, but it is more like an online infomercial for various educational, health, and mental health products. The creators of the products pay a premium to get before the AACC audience as sponsors and endorsers of the organization. Owner Tim Clinton reaps the benefits.

A new participant in this marketplace is Christian Healthcare Ministries. As I have pointed out previously, CHM is an odd partner for AACC since CHM as a rival to health insurance doesn’t reimburse participants for costs of counseling or psychotherapy. AACC owner Tim Clinton advocates his members buy healthcare coverage which doesn’t cover the services they provide professionally. Why would a licensed counselor who values professional mental health treatment purchase health coverage which doesn’t cover professional mental health treatment?

The mission of CHM and mental health advocacy is actually more at odds than I have previously reported. Not only does CHM not cover mental health treatment, the group significantly minimizes the need for treatment and the reality of psychological disorder.

In an article on the CHM website, CHM board member and OB/GYN Carol Peters-Tanksley encourages CHM members to avoid negative people and soak in the Bible to prevent mental health challenges. After noting that the prevalence of mental health problems is significance, she offers her answers:

When facing challenges like fear, bitterness, poor self-image, lust, money troubles, grief, worry, marriage conflict or any other issue, delving into what the Bible has to say about a specific struggle will change you. Soak in God’s word. Spend time reading and contemplating it. Let the power of Scripture penetrate your soul, wash out the junk and fill you to overflowing with God’s truth and grace.

If your mind needs transformation, pay attention to the media, the people and the Scripture you take in. You’ll experience a different kind of GI-GO: God in, God out.

That’s it. CHM is getting access to 50,000 (at least that’s what Tim Clinton says) Christian counselors to sell programs without mental health treatment as a benefit. Couldn’t CHM at least suggest members go see a counselor?

However, a search of the website for counselor turns up no such recommendation. A search for depression yields a couple of articles on stopping SSRIs. The fact is that CHM isn’t friendly to Christians in mental health or mental health treatment generally speaking. Thanks to AACC, as CHM’s subscriber/members increase, the potential clients of AACC licensed mental health professionals decrease. Why is AACC recommending this to members? Whose interests are being considered first via the promotion of CHM?

Against Sohrab Ahmari-ism

Subtitle: As Rick Wilson says, “Everything Trump touches dies.”

As I read Sohrab Ahmari’s betrayal of conservative principles in First Things (!), I thought of those who predicted Trump would kill the GOP and conservatism (even this one). If Sohrab Ahmari speaks for Trump supporting religious conservatives, the never-Trump religious conservatives have been vindicated. Here is Ahmari relegating civility and decency to one’s own tribe:

But conservative Christians can’t afford these luxuries. Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

Ahmari wants to win the culture war and he doesn’t want to be nice about it. For Ahmari, nice in this essay is embodied by National Review writer and religious conservative David French. Curiously, what really set Ahmari off was a drag queen reading a book during a library story time.

I recently quipped on Twitter that there is no “polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war.” (What prompted my ire was a Facebook ad for a children’s drag queen reading hour at a public library in Sacramento.)

I added, “The only way is through”—that is to say, to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.

Ahmari complains that French is too nice and too wedded to pluralism to be of much help in winning the day for Christian morality.

Such talk—of politics as war and enmity—is thoroughly alien to French, I think, because he believes that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side. Even if the latter—that is, the libertine and the pagan—predominate in elite institutions, French figures, then at least the former, traditional Christians, should be granted spaces in which to practice and preach what they sincerely believe.

Well, it doesn’t work out that way, and it hasn’t been working out that way for a long time…

Here is what I get out of Ahmari’s criticism of David French-ism:

  • Fellow citizens of different faiths and beliefs and moral views are enemies of Ahmari’s brand of morality.
  • To the degree that those citizens disagree with his morality and want to act in accord with that disagreement, they must be opposed without civility and decency.
  • The salvation of individuals is insufficient to achieve the common good.
  • The battle is a zero-sum situation. Ahmari’s team wins or the other side wins. Divergent views of what is morally good cannot coexist.
  • Once the enemy is defeated, the righteous victors (Ahamri’s team) will enjoy “the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

What else does Ahmari suggest as a conservative answer to moral decay? He leaves a lot to the imagination of his readers. He implies at one point that government might intervene in social media platforms where he believes conservatives have been censored. What about the drag queens? Does he want to violate freedom of expression, speech, and association? If so, how?

What would this re-ordered public square look like? Would businesses close on Sunday? Would store clerks have to say Merry Christmas? Surely, there would be no drag queens in libraries. Would they be allowed anywhere? Who gets to define the Highest Good? Ahmari tells us that culture will never favor Christianity so he must have something more top down in mind. I think he gives us a clue in his piece when he writes:

Conservative liberalism of the kind French embodies has a great horror of the state, of traditional authority and the use of the public power to advance the common good, including in the realm of public morality. That horror is a corollary to its autonomy-maximizing impulse.

This goes back, I think, to its roots in English non-conformism. In Culture and Anarchy, his great Victorian critique of this mode of thought, Matthew Arnold says of the nonconformist that, because he has encountered the Word of God by his own lights, he sees no need for the authority and grand liturgies of a national church (still less the Catholic Church).

But as Arnold notes, while the nonconformist vision of an austere, no-frills, solitary encounter with God might be suitable in one context, it doesn’t satisfy other necessities, such as collective public worship befitting public needs.

Ahmari adds:

Calls for religious revival are often little more than an idle wish that all men become moral, so that we might dispense with moral regulation.

Ahmari doesn’t like French-ism because he claims that French hopes individual salvation will make people moral and lead to a moral culture. Ahmari disagrees. He argues that “public power” and “moral regulation” will “advance the common good.”

So many questions come up. What is this “public power” and what are these “moral regulations?” Is it a state church? A oath to Dear Leader? Would Ahmari regulate drag queens? Libraries? The press? Free speech?

If this is Sohrab Ahmari-ism, I am against it.

David French?

Since attorney French has been a major player in religious liberty court cases, I would never have gone to him as a figure head for Ahmari’s opposition. Apparently, Ahmari doesn’t like French’s refusal to bow the knee to Trump and the fantasy of a Trump crafted “social cohesion.” However, reading French over the past two years, I think he is as fine as anyone to cast as a foil to Ahmari’s grand re-ordering plan. French knows who he is morally and spiritually, but he also writes convincingly about respect for freedom of conscience.

A serious problem with Ahmari’s plan to re-order the public square in his fuzzy image of the Highest Good (note the caps) is that such a re-ordering would have to rely on coercion. Someone’s conscience is going suffer. Ahmari doesn’t want it to be his so to hell with civility and decency. I mean that literally. If it takes hellish strategies to get the job done, then we must be realistic. The other side isn’t squeamish. And remember, the other side is made up of libertine pagans (Ahmari’s words), so they will surely use every demonic method available.

For Ahmari, these pagans aren’t just fellow homo sapiens who happen to see the world differently. On the other hand, French and his fellow French-ists respect the Constitutional freedoms available to all citizens. In his rebuttal to Ahmari, French made a point that is foundational to our ability to be one nation.

My political opponents are my fellow citizens. When I wore the uniform of my country, I was willing to die for them. Why would I think I’m at war with them now?

I agree. I get that Ahmari doesn’t like it when other people see the world differently and act on that difference. Most of us try to make the world more comfortable for us. Our founding documents ensure equal treatment before the law to pursue our aims. Ahmari also wants very much to do that for himself and those he likes. However, his ode to group serving bias isn’t a way forward for me, even though we may share some similar doctrinal beliefs. I can’t reconcile it with basic Constitutional freedoms which conservatives claim they want to conserve.

Special Day of Prayer for the Enemies of the President

Franklin Graham is holding a “special day of prayer” for Donald Trump on June 2nd. Graham says the president needs prayer because he has been attacked more than any other president in history. Trump needs prayer, Graham proclaimed, because the entire nation will suffer if his enemies prevail.

I think Graham is going about this in the wrong way. If he really believes Trump is being attacked and persecuted, he should pray also for those he sees as the enemy.

Matthew 5:45 tells us:

 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

However, since he and his group of court evangelicals have chosen sides and decided their course of action, I will cover the part of the prayer territory Graham is leaving uncovered and encourage others to do the same.

Enemies Prayer List

We can pray for the House of Representatives investigators. They are having a devil of a time getting people at the White House to abide by the rule of law. They issue subpoenas and legitimate requests for information only to have them ignored. We should pray for them to have better results and that the rule of law will be followed.

We can also pray that judges quickly rule according to law and not political loyalties. So far, the results look promising.

We could pray for our allies. Often Trump seems to consider them enemies. He often has been nicer to Russia and North Korea than leaders of our traditional allies. The Graham group can pray for Trump, Russia and North Korea; we can take England, France, and Canada.

Let’s add the press to our prayer list. They have a hard job but are maligned on a daily basis simply for reporting what Mr. Trump says and does. Some are bad actors but they are on the left and right. We can pray extra for them.

Apparently, Trump thinks poor Central American refugees are his enemies. I will gladly set aside more time to pray for them. Surely, they need it. They also qualify as being members of the “least of these” Jesus told us to pray for. They should get a double portion.

Who is with me?

If you have other suggestions for our prayer list, please leave them in the comments.

Whatever you pray about, I urge you not to turn Sunday worship into a political pep rally for or against Trump. Whatever you do, do it on your own.

What Will Court Evangelicals Pray on Trump’s Special Day of Prayer?

In a helpful gesture, well over 200 court evangelicals have gone on record as supporters of Donald Trump in a solicitation to fellow evangelicals to pray for the president on June 2. Many of the usual suspects are on the list, but I must admit I am having a hard time getting over former DC Talk member Michael Tait being there.

Nothing in the call to prayer calls Trump to repentance for his many lies, for his support for ruthless dictators around the world, for his obstructions of reasonable Congressional oversight, or for the authorization of cruel treatment of asylum seekers at the border. The Scripture used by Franklin Graham as foundation for the event calls on Christians to pray for kings and those in authority. In our system, that includes the president, but it also includes Congress. The House Democrats are trying to exercise oversight but are being thwarted by Trump and his supporters. I pray for the investigators to continue having victories in the courts. Republicans once believed in the rule of law. Now they believe in protecting Trump. Just what is it that Graham and his court evangelicals want us to pray about when it comes to the subpoenas?

I do and plan to continue praying that the right thing will happen and the House investigators will prosper. From my own perspective, I believe that should lead to an impeachment inquiry. I don’t know for certain how that would end up because one can’t know the findings until the hearings are held and the investigations are completed. However, I think the Mueller report as well as other actions by Trump have more than warranted such hearings.  Many Christians are praying for the truth to come out via the investigations; what are Graham’s Christians praying for?

It isn’t clear to me what the court evangelicals are praying for. From an outsiders perspective, it looks like they are praying to preserve a person and not the office. It appears they are asking God to keep Trump in office no matter what he does. If that’s not true, then I think they need to work on their messaging. If it is true, then they have the wrong message.

Eric Metaxas Appears to Minimize His Part in Spreading False Bonhoeffer Quote

In 2016, I discovered that this famous quote could not be found in any of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

The quote attributed to Bonhoeffer was popularized by Eric Metaxas after it was published on the jacket of his best selling book on Bonhoeffer in 2010. To my knowledge, until yesterday, Metaxas has never addressed the false attribution even though it came to his attention in 2016.

First, I need to give a little background.

A week ago, Christianity Today published a fine article by Jen Wilkin on lessons from the life of Tamar. In it, Wilkin used the quote as follows:

There is a line we often hear attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Twitter user Matt Stephens tweeted a link to the article and pulled out the quote with attribution to Bonhoeffer. Assistant Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel University Andy Rowell responded by linking to my post showing that the quote didn’t come from Bonhoeffer. He also included author Jen Wilkin in his tweet.

Wilkin replied that she believed her handling of the quote preserved “the uncertainty of the quote’s origin while appreciating its message.” She also added later this statement, possibly meant in jest:

I think the fact that Mr. Stephens simply attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer indicates that Wilkin’s approach didn’t communicate sufficient uncertainty about the quote’s origin. Furthermore, it occurs to me that she would have had a chance to educate a lot of people if she would have left Bonhoeffer out of it. In my opinion, CT and Wilkin should make a correction in the article.

At some point, Eric Metaxas was added to this Twitter thread and responded to Jen Wilkin with the following tweet:

While it is true that the quote is not in the Bonhoeffer book and did appear on the jacket, it is also true that Metaxas included the quote in his other books spun off from the original (e.g., study guide, Miracles). He also tweeted it, led the book promo video with it, and used it in his public speaking appearances. For instance, here is a speech where Metaxas used and attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer even though he admitted he didn’t know the source.

This is in 2014. Even though he couldn’t find a source, he attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer anyway. Now the quote will never die.

Additional note: I recently learned that Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition took on fake quotes and included this one.

Stephen Haynes points to research from Warren Throckmorton (here and here) tracing the quote to a 1971 book by Robert K. Hudnut.

Wax’s conclusion about this quote:

The truth is, it’s not a Bonhoeffer quote. So don’t spread it.

Good advice.

More on the Bonhoeffer quote:

The Popular Bonhoeffer Quote That Isn’t in Bonhoeffer’s Works

Update on a Spurious Bonhoeffer Quote: Not to Speak is to Speak, Not to Act is to Act

Eric Metaxas: The Fake Bonhoeffer Quote Was a Joke

No Correction on Bonhoeffer Quote from Metaxas or Publisher

AACC Pushing Healthcare Coverage Without Counseling

The American Association of Christian Counselors is promoted as a trade association for Christian counselors. However, in fact it is the for profit business operation of Tim Clinton. The AACC doesn’t elect officers or  involve members meaningfully in the management of the organization.

Because business is the main focus, one must carefully consider what AACC offers to members.  Currently, AACC is pushing a healthcare program which seems to run counter to member interests.

Christian Healthcare Ministry is a cost sharing program which enrolls people to pay each other’s medical bills.  AACC is pushing this program on the front page of their website:

CommentaryPutting aside other concerns about CHM, a big problem for the members of AACC is that this program doesn’t cover (allow members to share the costs of) counseling or psychotherapy. That’s right, AACC is pushing a substitute for health insurance that doesn’t reimburse for mental health services. CHM apparently is able to bypass the mandated mental health coverage required by the Affordable Care Act and that’s just fine with AACC’s Tim Clinton.

In a long list of services and procedures (including pregnancy for “unwed mothers”) “ineligible for sharing,” this exclusion is listed:

10. Psychological treatment, tests, or counseling: Only emergency room bills incurred to physically stabilize the patient are eligible for sharing.

I am past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. I can’t imagine AMHCA promoting a service which failed to recognize our members. Actual trade organizations advocate for their members as well as for the work their members do. In this case, there is clear discrimination against mental health treatments. Why is this being recommended to a group of mental health professionals?

The recommendation of a healthcare option without counseling runs counter to another initiative of AACC. In the past, Clinton has promoted certification as a way to attract third party payments.

The BCCC credential is now for Clinical Professionals who are state-licensed mental health professionals and want or need this practice certification in order to:

give managed care and other organizational providers a respected credential—one that certifies both competence and ethical practice—that they are increasingly demanding in response to subscribers who want Christian counseling.

So AACC wants members to pay for a board certification to help gain insurance payments for counseling services but now advertises a service which doesn’t even pay for those same services.* I don’t know what Dr. Clinton is getting from this advertisement on the AACC website but I can see from the CHM guidelines what counselors and their clients won’t get. Since the AACC isn’t member controlled, there won’t be answers to any questions about it.

 

*In fact, no managed care organization I know cares about this certification. Managed care organizations require state licensing. In both cases, the benefit of the pitch isn’t for the members.

**Hat tip to Aaron New for pointing out the CHM ad on AACC’s website.

Pay to Pray: Jim Bakker Sells Trump Benefit Coins as Point of Contact with God

In the “Grifters Gonna Grift” category, I report to you a story I saw on Right Wing Watch. Watch:

So Jim Bakker and Lance Wallnau want people to send them $45 for this gold plated coin to use as a “point of contact” between them and God to pray Trump’s reelection. Wallnau says that unbelievers think coin believers are “crazy” but actually the believers are the “sane ones.”

I don’t think Wallnau and Bakker are crazy. I think they are cynically fleecing people. Grifters gonna grift.

If they are sincere, what a strange and weak god these guys have. From their point of view, their god started a miracle but he needs people to buy a coin to make contact with him to “keep the miracle going.” The miracle is that there are people who will actually do this. Wallnau and Bakker need Trump to stay in office so their scams can continue.

It should be obvious that there is no place in Protestant teaching for financially enhanced prayers. One’s faith isn’t enhanced or released by an amulet or talisman. These people are preaching some other religion.

Is Trump Lying or Just Clueless about Tariffs?

Anyone who pays attention to what Trump says on a regular basis is already aware of this doozy:

Trump has doubled down on the claim that China pays tariffs to the U.S. as if we are getting revenue from the Chinese government. In fact, American importers pay the higher prices imposed by Trump’s administration. Ultimately, American businesses frequently raise prices which hurts consumers, especially those in the lowest income brackets.

Larry Kudlow grudgingly admitted that China isn’t paying the tariffs.

Here is one of Trump’s Ohio 2016 voters coming to his senses and realizing Trump has made a mess of things.

Of course, China is not paying duties on imported goods imposed by the U.S. administration. American businesses are. Is Trump lying or is he really that clueless?

I don’t know. There are good reasons to believe either possibility. He lies easily but he also is so narcissistic that he thinks he is right when he is clearly wrong. Either way, this issue illustrates that Trump is simply incompetent. I look forward to the defense strategies of his sheep.