Historian Thomas Kidd: On Slavery and George Whitefield

Thomas Kidd is professor of history at Baylor University and a prolific writer. In 2012, World Magazine published Kidd’s reporting on Thomas Nelson’s decision to remove David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies from publication.
In October 2014, Yale University Press will publish Kidd’s book on George Whitefield. In his most recent newsletter, Kidd addresses the uncomfortable fact that many otherwise admirable figures in our history owned slaves. In the case of Whitefield, he not only owned slaves but worked to advance slavery.  Kidd gave me permission to use this material from his Thursday newsletter:

The most challenging issue for a biographer of George Whitefield (as with Patrick Henry) is his identity as a slave owner. I admire Whitefield and Henry, as well as similar figures of their time such as Jonathan Edwards or George Washington, but their owning people as slaves remains an unavoidable moral problem.
How does one admire a historical figure who kept slaves? How does an author fully convey his disapproval of American slavery, while not condemning an individual altogether? I am not sure that I have gotten the balance exactly right, but we want to avoid two extremes.
One extreme might suggest that Whitefield was a great man of God, and that harping on his owning of slaves denigrates his memory as a Christian hero.
The other extreme might say that whatever Whitefield accomplished for God was fatally tainted by his owning slaves, so he is better forgotten or just used as a cautionary tale.
I think the better approach is to humbly acknowledge that we all have moral blind spots. We can justify all manner of habits and practices that, in three centuries’ retrospect, may seem appalling. But this does not excuse Whitefield’s complicity in what was a fundamentally immoral system, from the terrible wars and slave catching trade in Africa, to the horrible passage of the forced Atlantic voyage, to the dreadful working conditions for slaves, to the physical and sexual abuse that many slaves endured in the Americas.
Jonathan Edwards seems an easier case to forgive, as he only kept a few household slaves and just occasionally spoke in public about the rectitude of slave owning. Whitefield, by contrast, was arguably the key figure in having slavery introduced in the colony of Georgia, where it was originally banned. I was dismayed to find archival evidence that Whitefield may have even allowed slaves to work at the property of his Bethesda before Georgia made slave owning legal.

Although I personally lean a little more toward the “fatally tainted” extreme, I like the way Kidd articulates the situation. What I also like about Kidd’s work is that he does not hold anything back. While he confesses his personal admiration for the good the man did, Kidd presents a complete picture of his evil deeds (e.g., Whitefield working to advance slavery in Georgia). This seems to me to be the proper role of the historian.

Anne Arundel County Council Candidate David Whitney's Questionable Defense of State Militias

David Whitney is an instructor in Michael Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution and is also chaplain of the MD/VA branch of the white separatist League of the South. He is also seeking the Democratic nomination to run for Anne Arundel County Council.
Whitney is a minister who believes the Bible supports no restrictions on the Second Amendment. As a part of a recent newspaper interview, Whitney says he was asked about his view of state militias. He claims a Constitutional mandate but even more basic than that, he says opponents of militias are the enemies of God. As I will demonstrate below, his appeal to the Bible is highly questionable. Whitney writes:

So the opponents of the Militia are really opponents of God’s Law. For example, you simply need to obey what Jesus said in Luke 22:36 (KJV) “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” Therefore it would be lawless to amend away the Second Amendment. So those who oppose Constitutional Militia not only reject the Founders of our Country, they reject and violate the U.S. Constitution and the State Constitutions and more importantly they reject and violate the Law of God; the command of Jesus which is the Supreme Law of the Universe. They are the truly lawless ones in America and not those who believe Constitutional Militias must be reestablished in our land.

Ok, let’s look at Luke 22:36 in context:

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.

Jesus and the disciples had just completed the Passover meal and Jesus was about to go out and pray. However, before He went out, He specifically referred to a prophecy that He would fulfill by being numbered among transgressors. Certainly, armed men would be considered subversives. Jesus did not stop talking at verse 36 as if he was encouraging the arming of a militia. If this was His teaching, then His militia would be pretty weak. They only had two swords and Jesus said in verse 38 that two was enough. Surely, the two swords were not enough to arm the disciples, but they would have been enough to number Jesus among the transgressors. Note that Jesus does not advise any more sales of purses, bags or sandals.
Even more evidence against Whitney’s interpretation is the fact that Jesus didn’t encourage the use of the weapons. According to John 18, Peter carried one of the two swords and when Jesus was confronted by the Roman soldiers later, Peter lopped off the ear of the high priest’s servant. The Luke 22 passage also records the scene without mentioning Peter.

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him,“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

Understandably, the disciples were a little confused. They had swords but asked if they should use them. After Peter started carving up the opposition, Jesus strongly told him to stop and healed the servant. It seems pretty clear that Jesus had another thing in mind for the swords. They had served their purpose and it wasn’t to resist an unjust authority.
Whitney should worry more about bearing false witness than bearing arms. He is running as a Democrat with no intention to represent the people as a member of the Democratic party.

Former Soviet State Wants to Go Early American, Calls David Barton For Help

In the strange but heard on Glenn Beck (I know I just repeated myself) category, Right Wing Watch reports that David Barton got a call from an old Soviet state to come help them with their “underpinnings.”

Mars Hill Fundraising Solicitation: Signs of Struggle or Just a Normal Emergency?

This tweet was directed my way this morning:

Many organizations issue urgent sounding end of the year appeals. It is hard to know if Mr. Lee is correct about Mars Hill or if this is just one of those formula letters sent at a strategic time to get people to give when they otherwise wouldn’t think to do so. However, if former community coach Dalton Roraback is correct and attendance is way down, then this email could be the sign of cutbacks at the Seattle megachurch.

No Date Scheduled for Publication of Mark Driscoll's Book "The Problem with Christianity", Is Resurgence On Hold?

UPDATE (6/18): Today, in response to an email inquiry, Todd Starowitz, senior public relations manager for Tyndale House, told me

At this time we do not have a pub date for The Problem with Christianity.

I also asked if any other books were slated to be published by the Resurgence imprint. I already knew Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book was scheduled for this Fall and Starowitz confirmed that her book was coming out in September. However, he also said:

To my knowledge we do not have any additional Resurgence titles that have release dates scheduled at this time.

In early 2013, Resurgence seemed poised to publish several titles with Tyndale House. Now, the flagship author does not have a publication date and no other titles are on the schedule.
After Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage shot to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for self-help books for one week in January of 2012, he secured a publication deal with Tyndale House for his Resurgence imprint. Now we know that Real Marriage was assisted in the climb to #1 status by a contract with Result Source, a firm which pursues bestseller status by gaming system of book sales counting. Driscoll’s next book from Tyndale has the working title, The Problem with Christianity, and was once slated to be published this fall. However, according to Tyndale House, the book will not be published in the fall after all.
In late May, Tyndale sent a tweet in response to my question about the book:

Tyndale House did not reply to a follow up question asking when the book would be published. The book description is still on the Tyndale website:

Are Christians Crazy? A seismic shift has occurred across the cultural landscape. In a world where Christian values once formed the moral bedrock of society, Christians are now considered nothing short of crazy. Today, questions about social issues and “intolerant” Christians hog the headlines, portraying people of faith as angry and irrelevant. This cultural shift has touched just about everything—from conversations in coffeehouses to interactions with coworkers. And more often than not, the conversation begins with someone saying, “My problem with Christianity is . . .” Whether it’s the way Christians treat gays and lesbians or the church’s stance against abortion and premarital sex, people these days just don’t have much use for Christianity. In The Problem with Christianity, Pastor Mark Driscoll presents the findings of two groundbreaking surveys about the way Christians are perceived in today’s world. And with his trademark candor, Driscoll offers timely advice about how to respond to critics.

A companion DVD is also advertised.
Amazon has the release date as January 1, 2015.
My question to Tyndale was “When do you plan to release Mark Driscoll’s new book?” The answer “not this fall as originally scheduled” told me when it wasn’t going to be released but nothing about the planned date. Perhaps the book’s publication is on hold indefinitely.
Also of interest in the aftermath of the Result Source deal is the absence of Driscoll from his agent’s list of clients. As first reported by Wenatchee the Hatchet, Yates and Yates currently does not list Driscoll as a client. I left Yates and Yates a couple of questions on their website which have gone unanswered.

Is Hobby Lobby a Christian Company?

According to Jonathan Merritt, there is reason to question Hobby Lobby’s claim to be a Christian company. Writing in The Week, Merritt takes H0bby Lobby to task for buying much of their cheap craft merch from China, a nation with an abysmal human rights record.
Merritt asserts in his conclusion:

If you want to call your business “Christian,” by all means, go right ahead. But those who live by the label must die by it as well. You cannot call your business “Christian” when arguing before the Supreme Court, and then set aside Christian values when you’re placing a bulk order for cheap wind chimes.
Every time you buy a decorative platter from Hobby Lobby with a Bible verse stamped across it, you have funded the company’s fight against the HHS contraception mandate. But you’re also sending a chunk of change to a country that forces people to abort their children, flouts basic standards of workplace dignity, and denies more than a billion people the right to worship.

To his credit, Merritt invited Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention to provide an alternative point of view on Merritt’s page. Moore sharply disagrees:

The Greens cannot control the decisions made by the Chinese government. They can, however, direct their own actions. And, as Americans, they can participate in a democratic republic in which the people are ultimately accountable for the decisions of their government. Buying products from companies that operate in a country that aborts children is not the same as being forced by the United States government to purchase directly insurance that does the same.
Someone with a conscientious objection to the death penalty isn’t implicated in capital punishment because she buys oranges from Florida, where capital punishment is practiced. She would reasonably, though, protest if she were forced to sell lethal drugs to the state for that purpose or if she were compelled to pull the switch on the electric chair.

This topic is interesting to me. Avoiding the exploitation of workers is a Christian value but I am wondering how any company can avoid this kind of situation. Merritt’s point is that Hobby Lobby should be held to a higher standard if the owners of the company insist on the using the label Christian.
I have reservations about any company using the label Christian, in the same way as I wonder what Christian music is or about other uses of Christian to modify something other than a disciple of Jesus. Merritt’s essay makes the topic more practical and relevant to the business choices companies make. Does it matter whether or not a company does business with a Chinese company or a company in a nation which respects human rights?
Again, Merritt cut himself and jumped in the shark tank. Hope he survives this one.

Mark Driscoll to Congregation: Stay Off the Internet

From Mark Driscoll’s sermon dated June 8 on the Mars Hill Church website:

Now, some of you may have heard we’re a Reformed church. Don’t Google it, don’t blow your head up. We love Jesus, read your Bible, stay off the Internet. It’s all shenanigans anyways.

Admittedly, this is a very short part of a very long sermon but I am starting to wonder if this represents a more significant development at Mars Hill Church.
Over the weekend, and then again today, I have heard from sources near Mars Hill that some in the congregation are being warned to avoid blogs and media that have carried articles deemed to be critical of Mars Hill.  One source (6/17, now multiple sources) told me that the accuracy of information is being questioned and false information is being told about me and others.
One hallmark of a controlling organization is the attempt to construct social reality for members. If these sources are accurate, such an effort is troubling.
What makes these claims even more problematic is that Mars Hill will not respond to honest requests for information. Their last response to me was:

We have received your requests, and will not be responding with any comments now or in the future.

On that occasion, at least I received a response. Most of my questions have gone without any answer. If my sources are correct (and I am open to learning that they are not), then Mars Hill is accusing bloggers and other media of printing unbalanced and inaccurate information, while, at the same time, refusing to provide basic responses to the questions from those same sources.

Glenn Beck Wants $20 to Tell You What You Can Find Out Free

Mr. Beck is certainly a showman, and he has a big show planned for July 22, 2014.
We Will Not Conform is a live telecast to movie theaters around the country on the evils of common core educational standards. Despite being championed initially by conservatives like Mike Huckabee, Common Core has become associated with nearly everything evil, thanks, more often than not, to Mr. Huckabee’s allies in the conservative camp.
In this Hannity segment (click for video), Beck describes the upcoming event. According to Beck on Hannity’s show, common core is about control and manipulation and making money. As an aside, with a $20 ticket price, Beck’s effort to fight against common core seems to be about making money. In contrast to Beck’s claim, Huckabee says that the common core conservatives love to hate is not what the creators of common core had in mind. Huckabee said in February:

I’m convinced that the term Common Core needs to disappear from the lexicon of education policy. It’s a toxic term because it’s come to mean things that most of us can’t stomach, like top-down federal intrusion into the local schools where you live. But Common Core as it was designed had nothing to do with the federal government. It was conceived and controlled by elected governors and state school chiefs to keep the federal hands from interfering. It only dealt with 2 subjects, math and English, and in those 2 subjects, established only state-initiated standards in those subjects, and intentionally did not write or even suggest curriculum. It set voluntary goals—VOLUNTARY goals—controlled by local school boards. Unfortunately, the locally controlled and very simple creation of standards in math and English, created so that students would be measured by comparable regardless of geography has been hijacked by those who took the label Common Core and applied it to curriculum, subjects other than math and English, and even unrelated things as personal data collection. As a result, Common Core as a brand is dead and hopefully the perversions of it will die as well.

Thus, Beck’s (and David Barton’s) use of the label common core only adds to the confusion. I imagine Beck’s cadre of faux experts will scare people about public schools, but don’t expect to come out of the event enlightened. Beck’s misuse of history, and of course David Barton’s many documented historical misadventures disqualify them right off the bat. If you want to get scared about education, just go on You Tube and look up common core. You’ll be just as confused but it won’t cost you $20.

Underneath it all, there is more to this than opposition to standards, and questionable claims about making all kids the same.

Mike & The Mechanics – The Living Years

Say it loud, say it clear…
I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Opposing Views Posts Mark Driscoll's Missing "Jesus Makes Mistakes" Sermon Segment

Opposing Views’ writer Michael Allen posted an article last night which discusses Mars Hill’s ambivalent reaction to the “Jesus Makes Mistakes” segment of Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Acts 6:1-7. Preached publicly on May 4, the sermon featured Driscoll’s speculations about the boyhood of Jesus had he rode a bike, or played baseball. Mars Hill edited the section but then stood by the content. The church leaders also said the editing was nothing unusual even though the edits made the video shorter than any other video in the series. Former Mars Hill Media Team members also contested the official explanation of the edits. After defending the content, Mars Hill issued a copyright complaint with YouTube who acted again me to remove the video clip.  An account of the situation and a transcript of the segment was posted here on May 19.
The missing segment has now been posted on LiveLeak:

Some have asked me about the significance of this story. I think a media empire posing as a church is relevant to the ongoing conversation about celebrity pastors and celebrity status in Christianity. In this situation, local listeners who heard the sermon live were buzzing about it. The decision was made to delete the content in order to “edit the best possible version of the message for distribution to the other Mars Hill locations, and our online audience,” in the words of Anthony Ianniciello, executive pastor of Media & Communications to the Christian Post.
There is something troubling about this. Only the pastors who are rich and famous have a media team which can surgically edit out embarrassing moments or questionable statements. The local pastor rises and falls on what he says and can’t take back. When (and it is when, we all make mistakes) a local pastor says something troubling, he must personally repair the problem big or small. If he makes too many of them, and there is no media team to save him, he eventually faces questions from those he serves.
On the other hand, I feel some tension because I also favor creating quality media products. I like listening to produced music even though I know it is the best version of the several times the song was recorded. I suppose if we are thinking about sermons as media productions and church as ministrytainment, then it makes sense to provide an edited version of sermons.
Some additional tension I feel is that I am reflecting about a system of church which I have not experienced but am skeptical about. I say this then as an observation from afar. It seems to me that the multi-franchise model of church provides a structure where celebrity status for the central media figures in the brand is inevitable. I know it works for many people, but I don’t find appealing the idea of watching a jumbotron of a person I don’t know preaching to other people miles away at some other time. Mars Hillians who like this please forgive me but I think the structure of the church has encouraged some of the concerns many of you are now expressing.