Marc Stanley in The Times of Israel: Dear Great Leader

In this The Times of Israel op-ed, attorney Marc Stanley has taken note of Donald Trump’s assessment of Jews who support the Democratic party and at first seems to strike a penitent note.

With the High Holy Days around the corner, I just can’t wait for Yom Kippur to begin atoning. As you recently proclaimed, Jews who vote Democratic are “disloyal.” Well, I hope you will find a way to forgive me, for I have been disloyal—very disloyal.

Then Stanley lists the many ways he has “misunderstood” the president. If only he understood Dear Great Leader Trump’s special ways of showing respect to Jews, then maybe he wouldn’t be so “disloyal.”

In the op-ed, Stanley reminds readers that most American Jews are just as “disloyal” as he is which should give the president some reason to worry about his current strategy.

Netflix Documentary The Family: Response to a Christian Critic

Last Friday, I ended the week with a list of reviews and reactions to the Netflix documentary The Family. As promised, I now want to respond to one of the critics in the Christian Post article.

Southern Baptist leader Denny Burk was quoted in the Christian Post as follows:

Since its release, the documentary series has garnered its share of critics. Denny Burk, president of the Commission on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, labeled the series “one of the most outrageous pieces of anti-Christian propaganda that I have ever seen.”

“There will be millions of viewers whose opinion of evangelicals will be distorted by this film. It catechizes viewers to be suspicious of Christians and to regard us as a clear and present danger to democracy,” he said.

I think irony is the right word to describe Burk’s overreaction. During the founding era, Baptists were fierce advocates of separation of church and state. Jefferson’s letter containing the phrase “wall of separation” was sent to the Danbury (CT) Baptists.  The Southern Baptists have strong statements of doctrine calling for the separation of church and state. In 1804, Baptist John Leland wrote:

Experience, the best teacher, has informed us that the fondness of magistrates to foster Christianity has done it more harm than all the persecutions ever did. (source)

and in 1790, he wrote:

The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence; whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks [Muslims], Pagans and Christians. Test oaths and established creeds should be avoided as the worst of evils. (source)

In my view, The Family documentary raises a strong warning against entanglements of church and state. Although no legal challenge has been made to the National Prayer Breakfast, I believe a case could be made. The NPB is not multi-faith; it is all about Jesus. During those events, it appears to any reasonable observer that the United States has established the worship of Jesus as the state religion.

Necessary Catechism

Evangelicals shouldn’t want the “fondness of magistrates to foster Christianity” to quote Leland. The Family seeks such fondness as a means of operation. When Christians call on government leaders to give aid to the worship of Jesus, the Baptists should be the loudest in complaint. As a Baptist, Burk should be more troubled by the church-state entanglement than by the exposure of it.

I think Burk’s reaction is emblematic of how far Baptists and conservative evangelicals more generally have gotten away from the bedrock principle of church-state separation. I agree with Madison that religion and government both flourish when they are separate:

I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

Practically speaking, the Fellowship Foundation could continue doing their many good works without the National Prayer Breakfast. The development of the NPB was set in the cold war period and arguably served a purpose during that time. However, as we can see in the age of Trump and the emergence of court evangelicals, Christianity and political power damages the simple faith of Jesus and ultimately makes it unrecognizable.

Reviews of Netflix Documentary The Family: Required Reading

I planned to write a review/reflection on the Netflix documentary The Family by today. However, it didn’t happen. Others were more diligent than me and so I will close the work week with links to three reviews and two articles.

Religion News Service – Veteran religion writer Bob Smietana interviewed author Jeff Sharlet and producer Jesse Moss. This is a good inside look at their thinking on some key questions.

Washington Post – Friend and Messiah College historian John Fea reviews and recommends (with some reservations) the documentary. Read his reasons, pros and cons.

Christian Post – Reporter Michael Gryboski cites me in a balanced report about the documentary and provides a statement from the Fellowship Foundation which I haven’t seen anywhere else. I will have more to say about some of the criticisms leveled in this report next week.

The Atlantic – Is the group as powerful as Sharlet and Moss make it out to be? This reviewer wonders if it matters.

Political Research Associates – This is a favorable review from a social justice oriented group.

Annotated Twitter Thread by Jeff Sharlet – Jeff makes notes on the series.

See other reviews or articles about the series? Leave links in the comments.

For trailers and promotional information, go to the Netflix page for the series.

Trump Admin Ordered to Provide Basic Needs for Children; AACC Lauds Administration’s Record on Trauma

On Wednesday, I noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been booked to speak at the October Tim Clinton (aka American Association of Christian Counselors) conference in Nashville. Clinton touted Pompeo’s record on trauma in his announcement. See below.

However, the Trump administration has a rather dismal record on trauma in our own nation. In fact, yesterday a federal court had to instruct the administration on basic care for migrant children. Among other things, the Trump administration had argued that soap and dental care were not basic needs for children. An appeals court said otherwise:

“Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep-deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety,” the appeals court panel ruled.

Why would anyone need to be ordered to do this for children?

It is no secret that Tim Clinton supports Trump and is on his evangelical advisory committee. He is the owner of AACC and can do what he wants with it. However, he markets the business as a trade organization of a diverse group of counselors, some of whom work with children and many of whom work with trauma. There are experts in trauma resolution speaking at the conference, such as Diane Langberg. Break out sessions on trauma are scheduled. In my opinion, it is an insult to have a key representative of an administration generating trauma speak to a group who every day tries to prevent and heal that trauma.

Sec. of State Mike Pompeo to Speak at American Association of Christian Counselors Conference

Tim Clinton (aka The American Association of Christian Counselors) is holding a conference for counselors in early October of this year. It is a huge undertaking and generally draws over 5,000 counselors. Clinton has taken heat in past years for politicizing the conference by inviting non-counselors to speak. This year he has outdone himself by scheduling Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Trump administration has been widely criticized for the way it has handled support for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Arguably, the Trump administration has a mixed record when it comes to the issues Clinton raised in his praise for Pompeo.

I will raise just one illustration on religious persecution: North Korea. No president has coddled the North Korean dictator like Donald Trump. There is religious persecution in North Korea and the U.S. has done nothing to make that an issue there.

In any case, Clinton owns the AACC and can bring in anyone he wants to. It is beyond belief that psychology or counseling CEUs could be offered for listening to a political speech but that is how Clinton runs his show. I want to remind counselors that you also have a choice.

The Family: Doug Coe’s 1989 Sermon to the Navigators – Jesus Demands Total Commitment

Throughout the Netflix documentary The Family, clips of Family leader Doug Coe preaching a sermon to a Christian audience are played. The clips come from his sermon to the Navigators, a Colorado based Christian mission group, on January 16 1989. This sermon — titled Jesus Demands Total Commitment — had not been available online until 2010 when Coe sent the video to me to post on YouTube. He felt his words had been taken out of context and wanted the entire sermon posted.

The video doesn’t include Coe’s introductory remarks about George Bush and is also cut short. Bruce Wilson has the entire audio available which does have several minutes of Coe praising Bush for his Christianity and asking the audience to pray for him. One thing that is typical of Coe in those remarks is that he doesn’t ask for the audience to pray for Bush to pursue certain policy goals (e.g., end abortion, appoint judges), but instead to make godly decisions. While Coe might have had preferences, he did not seem as interested in specific policy outcomes as the current crop of evangelical leaders surrounding Trump.

I believe this is the only posted video of the event which begins just after the sermon begins. Given YouTube guidelines at the time, I had to break it up into four parts.

More on Doug Coe.

Who Agrees with Tucker Carlson About White Nationalism?

To me, it seems obvious that white nationalism is a problem in America. However, Tucker Carlson famously said it isn’t. Even after Charlottesville, the church shooting in South Carolina, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the El Paso massacre, Carlson said it ranks low on America’s problems.

I wondered who agrees with him and found, as many people quickly pointed out, that former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke cheered Carlson on.

This is not good company.

Who else?

C-Fam’s Austin Ruse

The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway

The Federalist

Talk Show Host Vicki McKenna

Kellyanne Conway defended Carlson. “But what about Antifa?”

The Stream’s John Zmirak and Eric Metaxas

John Zmirak is a Senior Editor at The Stream, a Christian online publication conceptualized by James Robison. I responded to this tweet:

And then Zmirak replied:

After that tweet, Zmirak blocked me. Eric Metaxas retweeted Zmirak’s original tweet.

League of the South is Ready for Battle

This weekend the League of the South is having their annual convention in Florida. According to the League, they are ready for war. The League was one of the groups who did battle at Charlottesville. The League’s leader Michael Hill, wrote this in 2014:

But what about that liberal canard that says that no matter how well armed the citizens are, they will never be able to defeat the modern military in a toe-to-toe confrontation? First, that presumes that the US military would fire on its own people, a question whose answer we do not know. And, second, it presumes that the fight would be a conventional one. More likely, it will be Fourth Generation Warfare, which is just another way of saying guerrilla war.

In 4Gen Warfare the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition. To oversimplify, the primary targets will not be enemy soldiers; instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.

4Gen Warfare doesn’t require that the populace be armed equal to the military and law enforcement. In fact, having such firepower, with few exceptions (such as full-auto “assault weapons,” silencers, and a handful of other esoteric toys), would be a logistical and tactical burden to the common 3- to 5-man group so common in this type of warfare.

Make no mistake about it, the League and groups like it engage in rhetoric unlike any Scientologist or evolutionist. They are dangerous with enough numbers to create terror and motivate criminal activity.

According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, white supremacist groups account for a significant number of criminal investigations. Watch:

While white supremacist* motivated crime isn’t the greatest threat, it isn’t trivial and one should question the motives of anyone who minimizes it.

Additional information: See this report on domestic terrorism 2018. Yes, the numbers are small but the potential damage is great and the threat appears to be growing.

 

*white supremacy and white nationalism have been distinguished by some as the difference between attitude and political objective. Supremacy is an attitude that whites are better than other races; nationalism is a political objective of make America a majority white country or favoring segregation. It is hard for me to make much of a distinction in attitude. To me, it seems to be a rationalization of racial prejudice to claim white nationalist political goals while claiming to have no bias toward people of color. For the purpose of this post, I am considering the terms synonyms.

Fox News Pundit Tucker Carlson Says White Nationalism is a Hoax and Not a Problem

In the wake of the El Paso shooting, Fox News pundit with the ear of the president Tucker Carlson told his audience that white supremacy isn’t a problem. Watch:

Carlson said in his rant said, “the combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium.” This is supposed to comfort his audience by suggesting that groups with small memberships can’t be a problem.

Small But Deadly

I counter by noting the membership of the group behind the 9-11 bombings was never large, numbering in the thousands according to this report.  According to a Center for Strategic Studies report, the core membership in al-Qaeda is currently fewer than 1,000. However, the report suggests that al-Qaeda is in a resurgence and continues to be a threat around the world. The movement is decentralized and numerically small but nonetheless remains a threat to our security.

Small groups can coordinate efforts and create terroristic threats as the Unite the Right rally showed in Charlottesville. This lawsuit filed against various white supremacists outlines actions taken by small groups of white supremacists to plan violence. One of the defendants in this suit is accused of using the web to plan violence at Charlottesville. The suit alleged that:

Daily Stormer established “meet ups” and chat rooms that coconspirators and attendees used throughout the August 11 and 12 weekend to coordinate their violence. The Daily Stormer released its own poster promoting the “rally” that read, “UNITE THE RIGHT/ Join Azzmador and the Daily Stormer to end Jewish influence in America,” accompanied by a Nazi-like figure wielding a hammer, ready to smash a Jewish star. For months before the Unite the Right events on August 11 and 12, Anglin organized his followers to attend and prepared them to commit racially motivated violent acts in Charlottesville. Although Anglin did not attend the rally himself because he is currently in hiding in order to evade service in connection with a separate lawsuit relating to events in Whitefish, Montana, Anglin orchestrated the movements of Daily Stormer followers and incited them to violence on a live feed contemporaneously with the events as they occurred on August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville.

The point is large numbers are not necessary for great harm to occur. Surely Tucker Carlson knows this.

In fact, the parallel to global terror groups should stimulate greater efforts to monitor and intervene in these domestic terror networks. Far from a hoax, white nationalist groups are emboldened in recent years. I have been following these groups for about a decade and I think they are as potent as I have seen them.

Daniel Dale and FBI Director Wray brings the facts on why white supremacy is a problem.

Patheos Evangelical Blogger Says El Paso and Dayton Shootings Appear to be False Flag Operations (UPDATED)

UPDATE: That was fast. Just hours after I published this post (but a day after Blankley’s article was published on Patheos), the “false flag” claim was pulled from Bethany Blankley’s blog. If you want to see it, you can go to the archives here and here. She also posted it at her personal website here.

……………………………… (original post)

Patheos blog Hedgerow written by Bethany Blankley yesterday called the massacres at Dayton and El Paso “false flags.” She wrote:

Unfortunately the tragic events of shootings in El Paso or Dayton increasingly occurring in America appear to be False Flag events perpetrated by conspirators to get rid of the Second Amendment. Once you’re familiar with the pattern, you’re able to identify them.

According to Blankley, other tragedies may be false flags, including Sandy Hook.

Some investigators point to 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NORAD drills of 9/11, the 7/7 London Bombings, the 2011 Norway shooting, the Aurora shootingSandy Hook, and the public shootings in Orlando, South Carolina, West Virginia, California, Nevada and many more as False Flag attacks.

Is Alex Jones an investigator? Jones also called the Sandy Hook massacre of school children a false flag and is in the middle of a defamation suit brought by families of Sandy Hook victims. Jones has been removed from several web platforms.

 

Some Questions for Francis Chan, K.P. Yohannan, & Gospel for Asia about Believers Church and Ring Kissing

Francis Chan and K.P. Yohannan are out with press releases and a video conversation designed to rehabilitate Gospel for Asia’s reputation. Francis Chan is investing his substantial reputation in this effort and I hope it is worth it to him. The men are hoping to convince donors that it is safe to trust Gospel for Asia now that the mission giant has settled a fraud lawsuit with Garland and Phyllis Murphy.

In the Chan-Yohannan conversation, several questions are raised which demand answers if they expect to be trusted. In this post, I will take two issues which pertain to K.P. Yohannan’s (or as he is known in the Believers Eastern Church “Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan Metropolitan“) status as Metropolitan of the Believers Eastern Church in India. First, here is the segment of the video where he claims he is equal to the other bishops, and that nobody kisses his ring.

Yohannan and His Power

Yohannan says “I have no greater power than the 30 other bishops.” I have questions for Chan and Yohannan about that statement.

According to the Believers Church constitution (see also chapter three), the Metropolitan is the “final authority” on all matters ecclesiastical and temporal.  Yohannan serves until he wants to leave and is the head of all bodies in the church. He can’t be removed. None of the other 30 bishops have that kind of power. The Metropolitan can appoint and disband committees and clergies, consecrate Bishops, and when he decides there is not a consensus of bishops he can exercise his “discretionary power.” No one else can do that.

According to the Constitution, the Metropolitan also is co-owner with Believers Church of all property maintained by the church. From Chapter three:

In 2005, local church pastors were reminded to register property in Yohannan’s name. This letter was sent to make sure they did it according to church policy.

And then finally, there is the 2015 email from former GFA Chief Operating Officer David Carroll to K.P. Yohannan which asked Yohannan how he could explain Yohannan’s claim not to be in charge of things in India. Click here to read a transcript of the email which came to light as a part of discovery in the Murphy v. GFA case. The relevant segment is when Carroll wrote to Yohannan:

We can say all we want that we don’t have anything to do with the Believers Church or the field and that you are only the spiritual head of the church and that finances are handled by others but you, but as a practical matter, that will not hold up.

As many former staff members and at least one former board member (Gayle Erwin) acknowledge, K.P. Yohannan has much more power than the other 30 bishops. Now, Metropolitan and Rev. Chan could you please explain why these documents tell a different story than you all told on the video?

Ring Kissing

Yohannan told Chan, “We do not have a practice of people kissing my ring.” Then what is this from K.P. Yohannan’s birthday video:

Yohannan wears his Metropolitan ring on his right hand.

Now review this video of an ordination ceremony. One can’t see lips to ring but it doesn’t really look like a hand to the forehead either. It appears to me that the priests are kissing his right hand.

While these matters are not as large as where millions of dollars went (see David Carroll’s email for more about that), they do make me question credibility. Chan and Yohannan want the public to believe every word they say. However, here is direct evidence my eyes can see which contradicts what they are telling me on this new video. What am I supposed to believe?

Since 2015, I have repeatedly asked GFA for answers to these kind of questions. I have asked them why K.P. Yohannan’s name is all over legal documents in India and why the Believers Church constitution says he is the supreme authority when at the same time. he tells American audiences that he isn’t. I have gotten no answers. Sorry Rev. Chan and Metro Yohannan unless you provide some answers that make sense, I will believe my eyes.