Is Confronting Fake History Worth It?

After fighting a few of these battles, I still believe it is worth it.

I thought about this question again while watching Princeton historian Kevin Kruse take on Dinesh D’Souza. Kruse created a thread of over 120 historians who either debunked or expressed criticism of D’Souza’s historical writings. For his part, D’Souza seems to thrive on Kruse’s attention and shows no awareness of the significant rebuke by historians of many ideological stripes (left, center, right). D’Souza had this to say in response:

It is obvious that D’Souza will refuse any expert correction. If anything this emboldens his efforts to cast himself as smarter than the academy.

D’Souza’s response, while more brazen and rude, is similar to how other historical revisionists respond to public correction. For many years, David Barton was effectively and accurately debunked by Rob Boston, Chris Rodda, and others. However, Barton and his followers dismissed them as unbelievers who attacked him because he was a Christian. When the criticism started coming relentlessly from within the church, things changed. Eventually, Barton’s book on Jefferson was pulled from publication and he was stung by the scrutiny from once friendly sources.

Those who follow this blog know that Barton made a come back. He eventually published a second edition of The Jefferson Lies with World Net Daily. Barton, pal Glenn Beck, WND claimed that political correctness at Christian publisher Thomas Nelson doomed The Jefferson Lies. However, the evidence contradicted that claim.

Before and after Barton’s book was pulled, numerous Christian historians weighed in against Barton’s writing. Along the way, over 40 Christian historians, some of them quite conservative politically, expressed publicly their criticisms of Barton’s historical claims. It is simply impossible to make a case that the criticism of Barton is based in ideological difference.

Has it made a difference?  I don’t think there is a good way to know for sure.  One can never erase the unprecedented removal of a book from publication. I feel certain Christian history professors are more aware of the issues than ever before. It appears to me that more are speaking out and engaging the public on questions of religious influences during the founding era. I also see fewer instances of false stories such as Congress printed the first English Bible and Jefferson gave his Bible to the Indians as indications that America is a Christian nation.

So what has Barton done? With so many academic Christian historians calling him out, he attacked them back by questioning their Christianity and their expertise. He even attacked Christian colleges and universities. He warned parents to think twice before sending students there. He came up with his approved list of schools where the history departments apparently approve of him. Barton shows no signs of stopping his work recruiting legislators to his brand of Christian nationalism.

Here is a sign of progress. That list was very small with about 10 schools mentioned. Many were small Bible schools. One, Ecclesia College in Arkansas, became embroiled in a fraud and kickback scandal leading to the jailing of the president.

Back to Kruse and D’Souza: Now that Kruse has compiled this list, people who need a quick response to D’Souza defenders have a resource. While an insufficient answer to D’Souza’s overall message, it is a response to D’Souza’s claim that his work is historically sound. Like Barton, D’Souza may yet find a few professors who are willing to put their reputation on the line to support him. If so, the issues will continue to be exposed to more people which will further discredit D’Souza in the long run.

I have watched Kruse and D’Souza for months now and the pattern is that D’Souza makes a claim, Kruse answers, and D’Souza goes silent or responds with an insult. Now that Kruse has confronted several of D’Souza’s claims, this pattern has become clear. That alone has made the effort worth it.

Before Dinesh D’Souza, There Was David Barton

Eric Metaxas (Right), David Barton (Left)

David Barton hasn’t gone anywhere but D’Souza is currently associated with the claim that progressive historians have kept the racist past of the Democratic party out of our education system. In 2004, Barton publihed a book called Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White in which he emphasized the Democratic failings and the Republican history of civil rights advocacy. However, he fails to account for the shift in the Democratic party during the last 50+ years. Typical of Barton, the book is missing important events such as Barry Goldwater’s failure to support the Civil Rights Act. I critiqued the book in a 2012 post.

Currently, Princeton historian Kevin Kruse is documenting on Twitter the many historians who have found D’Souza’s work to be lacking (over 100 at this writing). I was reminded that D’Souza’s spin on the Democratic party isn’t new with him by this tweet from Bruce Wilson:

I don’t know how long D’Souza has been promoting the Democratic party is still the racist party line but he sounds a lot like Barton when he does it. Is it possible that D’Souza lifted it from Barton?

D’Souza claims history teachers obscure the fact that Democrats favored slavery and Jim Crow laws. That certainly isn’t true in our local school system and as Kevin Kruse regularly points out, historians teach the facts — all of them. It is D’Souza and Barton who leave out the facts they don’t like.

Kruse’s thread with the line up of historians is here:

Former Big 4 Auditor: Dark Clouds Loom Over Harvest Bible Chapel

A former “big 4” accounting firm auditor is raising red flags about the future of Harvest Bible Chapel. Jason Watkins, who has analysed Gospel for Asia’s finances on this blog in the past, predicts tough financial times ahead.

Given reduced offerings and the outstanding $42-million in debt, the church may need to further reduce staff in order secure additional financing and live within their means. There is also the matter of severance payments for James MacDonald and other departing pastors which will encumber the church.

Watkins prepared a series of charts to depict the situation. They show that the church’s giving is 79% off from the budgeted amount for their Closer campaign. Regular giving is off by 50% compared to previous years. Here are two images with links to the supporting charts:

Donations are down 50% over 2016 and 2017 at the same time of the year.  More figures supporting these charts can be viewed here.

The response to the Closer campaign is even more distressing. Additional figures from HBC sources showing giving from 2016-2017 can be viewed here. That chart also shows the pledges for the Closer campaign.

Members and leaders of HBC face a reality check over the next several months. This information is provided in this format to assist members in this process. Faced with a similar reality, Mars Hill Church fragmented into autonomous local churches. Some didn’t make it and some have thrived. Perhaps HBC will follow that path.

It has been reported that Lawrence Swicegood from Gateway Church is involved in assisting HBC. Mr. Swicegood helped Gateway put a good face on their recent layoffs and he may find a way to assist HBC. A potential pitfall for HBC would be to be acquired or bailed out by Gateway and compromised in doctrine by such a link. In any case, it seems likely that dramatic changes are in store for HBC.

 

 

Ralph Drollinger Says He’s Not a Christian Nationalist But Exhorts Legislators to Please God with Immigration Policy

Provider of Bible studies and counsel to members of Donald Trump’s Cabinet Ralph Drollinger doesn’t like to be called a dominionist or a Christian nationalist. Loosely, these terms refer to people who believe the laws of the United States should reflect and be based on the teachings of Christianity. Any other influence is false and will lead to bad government.

In a recent newsletter Drollinger uses (misuses) Hebrew words for foreigners to inform legislators about what he believes U.S. immigration policy should be. In essence, he concludes “May God grant you, our lawmakers, wisdom in crafting this last point into a policy that is pleasing to God. I pray for you in this regard.”

The heart of Drollinger’s message is a rigid classification of non-natives based on different Hebrew words. He apparently hasn’t done the study himself; he based his classification on the work of James Hoffmeier. Hoffmeier’s work on these words has been criticized as overly rigid attempts to apply modern legal concepts of citizenship to the ancient Hebrews (see this article).

I am not going to repeat Bojidar Marinov’s article but what stood out to me was Marinov’s research into the use of the words for foreigner in the Old Testament and the lack of legal structure matching our own. The words aren’t always clearly differentiated. Furthermore, the words don’t correspond to categories which make sense in modern America. Marinov wrote:

In this specific case, to know if Hoffmeier’s interpretation of the terms is correct, we need to look not to our modern legal concepts but to the Bible. Does the Bible contain any practical example of the legal difference between ger and nekhar? Does it have an example of an illegal alien arrested and deported back to his land? Does it have any legal stipulation in the Law of God declaring “illegal immigration” to be a crime? Does it contain the specific penalties for such a crime? Does it mention an institution charged with issuing visas or permits? Does it mention a legal procedure that grants a ger status to foreigners? Simply sticking our modern concepts on top of those terms is poor scholarship; we need to be consistent with the Bible, not with our modern times, to know if a hermeneutic is correct.

The Bible has nothing like this. There is no such crime mentioned, no penalties, no institution charged with enforcement, no permits, no visas, no deportations. The very concept of immigration control is missing; it’s nowhere to be seen. If Hoffmeier is correct in his interpretation of the terms, where would the Hebrews take all these definitions he is proposing? Suck them out of thin air? Go to Edom or Egypt? But even Edom and Egypt didn’t have specific laws nor legal definitions of these concepts; all they had is the whim of a ruler. How would a Hebrew know all the specific details Hoffmeier claims were present in the terms? And how would the Hebrew society know how to enforce them?

Drollinger wants his politician followers to enact his anti-immigrant interpretation of biblical words into law without regard for the fact that Christian interpreters differ about the meaning and significance of the words. He claims he has the correct Bible teaching and that it is wrong to craft policy on any other basis. How can this not be evangelical Christian nationalism?

Even if we use these words as guides, there isn’t evidence that those people referred to by Drollinger as “illegal” were not allowed into Israel. Word studies demonstrate that so-called “illegals” were allowed to cross the borders into Israel lawfully and in fact were drawn to the nation in a positive manner.  For instance, I Kings 8:41-43 says:

As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.

Where is the Hebrew version of ICE? Foreigners were treated differently and had different requirements, especially respecting religious ceremonies but they were allowed to be in the country. This is a far cry from what Drollinger is advising Trump’s cabinet.

While America is not Israel and we are not a covenant nation, we are attractive to those who long for freedom. Ronald Reagan put this in religious terms with his “shining city on a hill” motif. Today’s evangelical Republicans have twisted their Christianity to make it exclusionary to match the political mood, not the biblical text.

 

Harvest Bible Chapel Responds to Anne Green’s Allegations

This evening Harvest Bible Chapel’s leadership (whoever that is now) posted the following response to Anne Green’s allegations of sexual harassment against James MacDonald. Green disclosed an allegation involving James MacDonald in 2005 on Mancow Muller’s radio program earlier today.

Harvest Bible Chapel received a report in September of 2018 of an alleged inappropriate incident, which took place on a private flight in 2005, between Dr. James MacDonald and Mrs. Anne Green. The Elders took the matter seriously and began investigating immediately.

After hearing of the accusation, the Human Resources department of Harvest Bible Chapel proactively reached out to Mrs. Green on September 30, 2018, via email and text. Below is the email. Please note, for privacy, the name of the other woman on the plane has been omitted.

Dear Anne:

We have been made aware that you may have a concern about something from your time of employment or ministry involvement at Harvest. 

We care about all who have labored for the Lord with us, past and present and since it was not reported at the time, we want to offer an opportunity to tell your story to a couple of women who remain here and remember you fondly. 

I would like to schedule a call with you and [other woman on plane], maybe an Elder’s wife and myself, as I work in our HR department. We are offering a safe environment to share your story without fear and understand if you choose not to. Also, be assured this offer does not expire should you wish to talk with us in the future. 

Just know that we care for you and would appreciate some response at your earliest convenience – at least to know we have connected with you to express our care and support.

Mrs. Green did not respond to the email or text invitation. Additionally, Mrs. Green never filed a police report regarding the alleged incident.

The three other passengers from that flight were interviewed. The passengers stated that they did not recall seeing or hearing anything suspicious or inappropriate.

With no complaint filed by Mrs. Green, no report to the police and the testimony of three witnesses on the flight, Harvest Bible Chapel closed the investigation with the Elders considering the case appropriately vetted and no further action required.

In light of today’s radio interview that Mrs. Green provided to WLS Radio, Harvest Bible Chapel would like to reiterate a sentence from the email sent to Mrs. Green in September, “be assured this offer does not expire should you wish to talk with us in the future.”

Elders Announce Changes Coming to Harvest Bible Chapel; Executive Committee to Resign (Video)

Tonight Executive Board member Bill Sperling announced changes coming to Harvest Bible Chapel.

A transcript of Sperling’s remarks can be read here.

Sperling discussed the overall charges from all sources against James MacDonald. It all came to a head for the group last Tuesday night. Inappropriate language, anger and other conduct he didn’t name lead to the removal.

Sperling said the elders failed to act quickly enough. The Executive Committee therefore will resign and the structure of the elder board will change by downsizing.

There will be no new campus in Hinsdale.

The church will set up a group called HBC 2020 to evaluate the structure and organization of the church. The group will be led by Rick Korte.

I wonder who the outside professionals are and why they were not identified.

What Now for Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald?

Here are some issues I have been looking into.

James MacDonald appears to be on track to launch Walk in the Word as a digital program on March 1. An informed source told me that the plan remains intact. Given the fast-paced nature of recent changes, anything can happen but there doesn’t appear to be any movement there.

According to a source, this weekend’s Wake Up Youth Conference is still limping along but without the participation of as many as 30 churches. These preregistered groups pulled out after Mancow Muller’s bombshell revelations on his radio show.

According to an eyewitness at HBC-Elgin, the elders aren’t responding well to being questioned.

Many are wondering what will happen to the Rabbi Trust established for retiring or disabled pastors at HBC. The larger question relates to a severance for MacDonald. HBC is not legally obligated to disclose this information but a transparent organization would do it.

When Mars Hill dissolved, these details remain secret. Only a few people (who never talked) know the arrangements of Mark Driscoll’s severance. One might argue that his privacy should be protected. Donors might argue that those gifts were never intended to be a golden parachute for a disqualified pastor.

 

Harvest Bible Chapel Removes James MacDonald as Elder and Pastor

This morning, Harvest Bible Chapel announced the ouster of Pastor James MacDonald due to “conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church.” This is one of the reasons given in the bylaws for removal of the lead pastor.

Dear Harvest Bible Chapel Family:

It is with great sadness that we as the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel wish to convey to you a very recent development that has caused us to take immediate action regarding our Senior Pastor, Dr. James MacDonald.

Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported. Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor MacDonald was removed as Senior Pastor and as an Elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church. His employment has been terminated from Harvest Bible Chapel, effective today, February 12, 2019. This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.

Our Elders and Staff are committed to fulfilling our fiduciary duty as the leadership of this congregation, knowing that at times the outcome may be misunderstood or emotionally painful. A more detailed communication regarding next steps for our church will take place in our weekend services.

We sincerely thank you for your prayers, your support, and your patience as we work together to restore a trust in leadership, a humility to surrender to biblical authority, and a firm resolve to move forward as a church family. Please continue to uphold our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family in prayer at this time.

– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

Yesterday, Chicagoland radio personality Mancow Muller played audio of who he alleged was James MacDonald making critical and threatening remarks toward his critics. In response, sources have informed me that a weekend youth conference at Harvest has been called off due to cancellations of participating churches. Even if the youth conference is still on, the audio most likely put pressure on the elders to act.

Are the Elders Next?

There are many questions which remain for the HBC elders. Many of the decisions associated with MacDonald were made with the awareness and apparent support of the elder board. It is unclear how many of them heard the unsavory comments (e.g., threatening to place child porn on a critics computer) and did nothing about it. While the focus of public scrutiny has been MacDonald, the attention now will turn to the elders of HBC. In a similar situation at Willow Creek, the entire leadership team resigned in a bid to return trust of the people to the leaders. Will HBC elders follow suit?

Mancow Muller: James MacDonald is Out at Harvest Bible Chapel (UPDATED)

Updates at the end of the post…

For several days, sources have told me that an announcement would be made today or tomorrow from Harvest Bible Chapel that James MacDonald was leaving Harvest Bible Chapel. I have been unable to confirm them but yesterday radio personality and former (?) friend of MacDonald broadcast his contention that MacDonald was out. The transcript of the announcement is at The Elephant’s Debt and was the subject of tweets from Muller. Here is a portion:

And this weekend, they will announce: James MacDonald is no longer a part of Harvest Bible Chapel.  That is what my sources are telling me.  There are many locations including the brilliant, beautiful cathedral in Chicago.  And this will be the biggest story in religious news on earth today and you’re hearing it here first.  I take no joy in this, but I really found him to be just a conman.  Would have been a great car salesman.  Would have been a great radio salesman.  I would’ve liked to offer him a job selling the Mancow show here.  My sources tell me he was fired, his assistant Rick will soon be gone and also the boys who I like a great deal, Luke and especially Landon.  Again, I take no joy in this, but they also will be gone shortly.  Again, I take no joy in this.

If this claim turns out to be accurate, it will mark the end of a stormy chapter in HBC’s history. Since 2013, HBC has been in and out of the center of public controversy. Most recently, the focus of attention has been on a defamation lawsuit brought by MacDonald and the church against two bloggers, their wives and journalist Julie Roys. The suit was abruptly dropped by the church when a judge refused to stay public revelation of information gained during the discovery process. Ultimately Roys’ investigative reporting and the lawsuit ignited withering public scrutiny.

I will provide updates here as I get them including a response to my email to HBC.

In hindsight, the most recent elder update (2/2/19) may have been signaling changes to come.

UPDATE | Shared in weekend services by Campus Pastors February 2-3, 2019

As shared with you two weekends ago, the Elders and staff are continuing to get low before the Lord. We have been working diligently to position our church in strength and health during this difficult season. To that end, the Elder Board has commissioned a team that has already begun to help us during this time.

The purpose of this team is to study and address critical areas of relationships and church functions that we know need to be addressed. It will consist of current Elders, staff, church members, and multiple outside professionals. As the plan continues to take shape, here are a few first priorities:

  1. Repentance – As the elders and leaders identify areas of sin, the first priority is repentance.
  2. Recovery – Ensure that the ministries of Harvest Bible Chapel are operating effectively in light of recent leadership transitions. Assign responsibility to existing Executive Leadership Team/staff and engage interim outside professional leadership where needed. Communicate effectively regarding our plan moving forward to increase confidence within our congregation.
  3. Review – Conduct a full review of our operating history to identify areas where we need to own our mistakes and areas that require change for a stronger way forward.
  4. Reconciliation – Initiate the peacemaking process under the direction of a third party, to pursue healing and reconciliation in all damaged relationships. The team will also seek to learn from all parties involved in an effort to help the ongoing efforts.
  5. Renewal – Recommend a leadership and operating structure that will position the church for future success in meeting the needs of the body.

Currently, our Elders are meeting multiple times per month. We will share more specifics on the work of this team as it unfolds in the weeks ahead, as well as other important areas the Elders and staff are working on.

Please continue to lift up the MacDonald family in prayer and also our pastors and Elders. We covet your prayers for wisdom and discernment as we seek the Lord together during this important time in our church.

UPDATE:

Mancow Muller may have a different source of information today. He now suggests MacDonald may be soliciting donations for HBC.

UPDATE 2:

An informed source tells me that elders at HBC are meeting today. Currently, there is uncertainty about the direction of HBC with some elders advocating for MacDonald’s removal and others wanting to keep him in place.

Has the National Prayer Breakfast Become a Partisan Event?

Often titles with questions are ways of saying something without committing to it. In this case, I really don’t know the answer to the question.

Today is the annual National Prayer Breakfast, an event facilitated by the Fellowship Foundation but one with the feeling of government sponsorship due to the involvement of numerous Representatives and Senators as well as every president since Eisenhower. Trump will speak today.

Of late, TYT Network’s (The Young Turks) Jonathan Larsen has been doing extensive reporting on the operations of the Fellowship Foundation. In a story out Tuesday, Larsen sited a 2018 blog post in which I noted that Fellowship volunteer leader Doug Burleigh seemed unusually partisan toward Donald Trump.

Larsen reports evidence that those now leading the Fellowship Foundation fund Republican political causes and are strongly in Trump’s court. If this becomes a wide spread perception around the world and in Washington, I think the Fellowship’s influence will decline. Being perceived as non-partisan was a value of the late Doug Coe and accounted for the success of Coe in attracting an impressive array of political figures from both parties to their list of supporters.

In a previous article, Larsen also reported that the Fellowship implemented new rules designed to make clear the Fellowship’s opposition to use of the NPB for influence peddling. For those interested in the NPB and the work of the Fellowship, I recommend that article and a review of those new rules which the Fellowship supplied to Larsen in full.