Trump’s DNI Pick John Ratcliffe Once Hosted Wallbuilders for a Local Prayer Breakfast

This came across the wire today.

 

John Ratcliffe is Donald Trump’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence to replace Dan Coats. In addition to having little intelligence background or experience, questioning Russia’s role in the 2016 election and inflating his resume, he is (or at least was) sympathetic to Christian nationalism.

It seems fair to go back to Ratcliffe’s days as a mayor of Heath, TX since his public service experience is so thin. He has been a Congressman since 2014 when he defeated 91 year old Ralph Hall and conservative Republican in a primary. There is no serious Democratic resistance in the district. In that race, David Barton endorsed Hall.

Given Ratcliffe’s rise to power, no doubt now all is forgiven. In addition to a Trump loyalist, Russia doubter, Rep. Ratcliffe may be sympathetic to Christian nationalism.

Hat tip to Ron West’s blog.

 

Remembering Doug Coe

With the advent of The Family documentary mini-series (based on a book by Jeff Sharlet) on Netflix starting next Wednesday August 9, there will be renewed interest in Doug Coe. Coe was the leader of the Fellowship Foundation for many years before his death in 2017. Although he wasn’t the founder, he did as much as anyone to shape the Fellowship into the organization it is today.

In 2009, I emerged as a vocal opponent of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and more broadly criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. Author Jeff Sharlet initially made the connection between the bill and the Fellowship. Because Ugandan members of the Fellowship and Prayer Breakfast movement were the main supporters of the bill in Uganda, the Fellowship leaders in the U.S. had to decide whether to take a public position on the matter.

Although there were many U.S. influences on the Ugandan legislators, the Fellowship leaders were divided about how to oppose the bill. Some wanted to quietly persuade the Ugandan people to withdraw, while others favored a more active, vocal opposition. However, taking a public position meant increasing public awareness of the organization. This went against the organization’s historical pattern.

For awhile, those favoring more transparency won out and I was invited to interview several Fellowship members including Ambassador Andrew Young, Representative Tony Hall, and Coe.  My write up of the Coe 2010 prayer breakfast interview where he condemned the bill and criminalization was published by Christianity Today.

David Bahati, the parliamentarian who co-introduced the Ugandan bill, later said that the American leaders betrayed him and really wanted the bill to succeed. I think Bahati interpreted the initial silence of some Fellowship leaders as support. However, I believe Doug Coe and other Fellowship leaders were sincere when they spoke with me at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast.

The series begins next Wednesday August 9. Over the five episodes, I will post more information I have about the Fellowship including links to speeches of Coe’s which he allowed to upload to my Youtube account which had not been previously posted.  The trailer for the series is below.

The Family: A Documentary Series on the Fellowship Foundation Starts August 9 on Netflix

On August 9, Netflix will roll out a documentary series based on Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. I was interviewed for this series and will appear in one of the episodes. My part of the picture relates to my work against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill from 2009 to 2015. You can watch a trailer of the series below:

As part of my efforts against the Ugandan legislation, I attended the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast at the invitation of The Family (Fellowship Foundation). While there, I conducted one of four interviews with Fellowship Foundation leader, the late Douglas Coe. It was published in 2010 in Christianity Today.

Coe died last year and there has been some struggle for leadership. The Fellowship has been in the news  to due to their connection Russian agent Maria Butina. I will add  on the series as it progresses.

Prior articles on the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill can be viewed here. 

More recent articles on the Fellowship Foundation, including the case of Russian agent Maria Butina can be viewed here and here.

High Crimes or Misdemeanors?

For me, this is enough.

Is There a Limit for Evangelical Trump Supporters?

Reading an op-ed by Michael Brown, I thought of this question: Is there anything Donald Trump could do to lose evangelical support?

Brown’s column acknowledges some of Trump’s flaws, including the recent attacks on four Democratic minority congresswomen. Brown says he has no desire to defend any of Trump’s inappropriate behavior but given the choice of Trump and a Democratic candidate, he will choose Trump.

So this prompted me to wonder what would it take to cause Brown and/or other evangelical supporters to abandon Trump. What would Trump have to do? If he murdered someone, would that be enough? Attended a gay wedding? Or would all of those far right judge appointments make that worth it?

Trump has been credibly accused of numerous crimes and immoral acts. It will take years to investigate them all. But for Brown and those who think like him, it doesn’t matter. Our American institutions, principles, and other matters of law are secondary to judges and abortion. Brown ended by saying:

And then ask yourself this question: If we can save the lives of babies who were being slaughtered in the womb, do you think they will care if the man who helped save them was sometimes vulgar and crude? And do you think they’ll find us un-Christian if we voted for him?

So then, is there no limit? Is there no crime or evil deed Trump could do that would make Brown and those of like mind think twice? Trump is not just vulgar and crude. Among many other things, he regularly deceives the public, is presiding over one of the most corrupt administrations in American history, and has been credibly accused of assaulting numerous women (and has bragged about doing so). Is there no bottom?

What High Crime or Misdemeanor Would it Take?

I leave it as an open and public question for Michael Brown and/or any other evangelical Trump supporter. What would make you support impeachment? What high crime or misdemeanor would it take? The ones we know about aren’t enough, so what would it take? Be specific, name something Trump could do which would end your support.

Brown thinks those opposed to Trump are not really worried about Christian witness. For the most part, I agree with him that Christian witness isn’t the real issue. Obviously, Trump supporters don’t care about their Christian witness. That is the last thing they care about. They now trust in Trump and not God.  Being unsatisfied with the results of virtue as a means of reaching public policy goals, they have gone in for raw political power. In the short term, this seems to be working out better. Virtue was so difficult and didn’t really get the job done.

As an aside, I don’t understand the attachment to Trump. If Trump was impeached, they would have Mike Pence who is less erratic but just as committed to their public policy goals. In any case, evangelicals have fallen on their sword for Trump and one doesn’t often survive falling on one’s sword.

Donald Trump recently told a Turning Point USA crowd that “I have article two where I have the right to do what I want as president.” Trump also has a court full of evangelicals who let him do whatever he wants.

 

A Reminder That Eric Metaxas Loves Katie Hopkins

In what may be the greatest mixed message I have ever seen, Donald Trump tweeted that he didn’t approve of a North Carolina crowd chanting “send her back” (referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar) by retweeting nativist Katie Hopkins praising the crowd for chanting it.

Trump frequently asks his followers to disbelieve their own eyes. He does nothing to discourage the crowd from chanting the slogan. It is obvious that he didn’t come across negatively since his follower Hopkins revels in the moment and congratulates “Team Trump” on their new slogan.

Eric Metaxas Loves Katie Hopkins

This is old news by now but I post on it to remind my evangelical readers that Bonhoeffer author Eric Metaxas just loves Katie Hopkins. He had her on his show again and praised her rhetoric as recently as June. Watch:

Hopkins is well known for her quaint ways of promoting bigotry. More recently, she pointed to Jewish leaders for the shooting in Pittsburgh.

This is ridiculous. This is the person Metaxas told his listeners he wanted to put before them.  I often wonder if Metaxas forgets that his parents were immigrants, but in this segment he acknowledged it. In this segment, Hopkins speaks of immigrants as “them” and about native Brits as “us.” Obviously, Metaxas likes his status as “us.”

In this segment, Hopkins expresses worry that immigrants take away services from older people in the UK. I don’t really think she means it. At least, in the past, she hasn’t cared much for older Brits. Here is what Metaxas’ hero had to say about old people in a 2015 interview:

“We just have far too many old people.” Did I know that one in three NHS beds was being blocked by the elderly and demented? A third of our hospitals filled up by people who don’t even know they’re there? She’d soon put a stop to that. “It’s ridiculous to be living in a country where we can put dogs to sleep but not people.” Her solution? “Easy. Euthanasia vans – just like ice-cream vans – that would come to your home.” After they’d finished in the hospitals, presumably. “It would all be perfectly charming. They might even have a nice little tune they’d play. I mean this genuinely. I’m super-keen on euthanasia vans. We need to accept that just because medical advances mean we can live longer, it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Why didn’t Metaxas ask her about that social program? I feel sure Bonhoeffer would approve, right Eric?

Lindsey Graham on Trump: Is He a Racist or a Narcissist?

This is a question Trump supporter and Senator from SC Lindsey Graham sought to address in his defense of Trump today. Here is a series of tweets from Frank Thorp, NBC news reporter with Graham’s thoughts.

I really do believe that if you’re a Somali refugee who likes Trump, he’s not going to say ‘go back to Somalia.’ A racist says go back to Somalia because you’re a Somalian or you’re a Muslim or whatever, that’s just the way he is. More narcissism than anything else.

The main line of defense is that Trump likes who likes him even if that person is a person of color. According to Graham, race alone does not determine the disliking. Trump says nasty things about people who insult him even if they are white. Witness his treatment of Paul Ryan. It is true that he cuts down anybody who points out the president’s flaws. Furthermore, he has surrounded himself with minorities who gush his praise. It is less than clear what he says about them behind closed doors but he has not avoided his minority supporters.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that a check on this would be to assess the types of insults he makes against various disliked people. I haven’t checked this, but I don’t think he has ever told Bernie Sanders or Nancy Pelosi to go back to their countries of origin.

The Nature of Prejudice

The work of Gordon Allport on prejudice seems relevant. Allport wrote in 1954 that humans find it very easy to fall into prejudices but very difficult to abandon them. A foundation for prejudice according to Allport is personal values. For Trump there appears to be no higher value than loyalty to himself. Allport wrote:

…negative prejudice is a reflex of one’s own system of values. We prize our own mode of existence and correspondingly underprize (or actively attack) what seems to us to
threaten it The thought has been expressed by Sigmund Freud, “In the undisguised antipathies and aversion which people feel towards strangers with whom they have to do, we recognize the expression of self-love, of narcissism.”

The process is especially clear in time of war. When an enemy threatens all or nearly all of our positive values we stiffen our resistance and exaggerate the merits of our cause. We feel — and this is an instance of overgeneralization — that we are wholly right. (If we did not believe this we could not marshall all our energies for our defense.) And if we are wholly right then the enemy must be wholly wrong. Since he is wholly wrong, we should not hesitate to exterminate him. (p. 26)

Allport also argued prejudices are maintained by placing exceptions to the negative prejudgment into subcategories. Allport described the process this way:

There is a common mental device that permits people to hold to prejudgments even in the face of much contradictory evidence. It is the device of admitting exceptions. “There are nice Negroes but . . ” or “Some of my best friends are Jews but. . . .” This is a disarming device. By excluding a few favored cases, the negative rubric is kept intact for all other cases. In short, contrary evidence is not admitted and allowed to modify the generalization; rather it is perfunctorily acknowledged but excluded. (p. 23)

So in response to Lindsey Graham, it certainly is possible that President Trump is motivated by both negative racial stereotypes and narcissism. I am not making a diagnosis but I am saying that the work of Allport demonstrates that one may maintain negative prejudice while claiming one does not have negative judgments by using an exception as proof — as Graham did for Trump. What may move minorities (or a member of any other group Mr. Trump doesn’t like) into the good or — more cynically — useful category is that they praise him. He appears to dislike many whites but doesn’t appear to have a group prejudice toward them. What is at issue is the evidence that keeps coming up that he may have prejudices toward certain minorities as a group which can be overcome principally by obsequious praise for him.

 

Who Invented the Therapy in Those Joseph Nicolosi Books Banned by Amazon?

Recently, Amazon stopped offering Joseph Nicolosi’s books for sale. Nicolosi, who died in 2017, was a polarizing figure in American psychology but was well liked among evangelicals. Evangelicals are writing about reparative therapy now like it was Christian counseling. I know they know it wasn’t but that is a subject for another post.

In this post, I want to publish an adaptation of two 2017 articles (here and here) in which I disclosed a rift in the reparative therapy movement between 1990 and 1996. There was a dispute over who originated the form of therapy later popularized as reparative therapy. This post lays out that dispute. If Elizabeth Moberly had her way in the early days, Nicolosi’s books might have been pulled because she believed they contained too much of her material without sufficient attribution. The ex-gay movement in the form of Exodus International sided with Nicolosi and the rest is history.

The following is adapted from posts which were originally published on January 19 & 20, 2017.

Elizabeth Moberly Accused Joseph Nicolosi of Taking Her Work

Once upon a time, I wrote frequently about sexual orientation, psychotherapy, and the culture wars that have raged about those topics. A review of my blog posts since I started in 2005 would be like reading a history of the ex-gay movement, reparative therapy, sexual orientation change efforts and many related matters. Even though general interest has diminished about gay change efforts since the close of Exodus International, I have some stories still to explore.

Below is a brief letter to the editor exchange between Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi. While I don’t have permission to publish them, I also have some letters involving Dr. Moberly and the Exodus International board which reveals a six-year feud (1990-1996) between Moberly and Nicolosi over who founded reparative therapy.  Moberly strongly asserted that Joe Nicolosi plagiarized portions of her work and took credit for the development of reparative therapy which she believed rightly belonged to her.

First, here is the letters to the editor of the California Psychologist (Jan, 1990).
Moberly Nicolosi LtE Cal Psyc 1990

Thanks to the help of California Psychological Association administrator Patricia VanWoerkom, I was able to get Nicolosi article. An image of part of it is below. To read the entire article, click here.
Nicolosi CPA RT clip 2 89
In the article, Nicolosi says:
Nicolosi CPA article Moberly credit
In the piece, he provided the standard reparative explanation of homosexuality. According to this view, gays do not fully identify with the same sex parent. This gives rise to a defensive detachment which they seek to repair with same sex relationships. He gave credit to Moberly for her writings but this was not enough for her. In her pleas to the Exodus International board, Moberly claimed that Nicolosi was merely a practitioner of her reparative therapy approach. She felt Nicolosi’s article wasn’t just based on her theoretical writings, but that his entire approach was simply borrowed from her. From her point of view, he was not a developer or collaborator, but someone who simply copied what she had already discovered.

Moberly pointed out to the Exodus board that Nicolosi said he was the “author of one of those rumored treatments [to help gays change to straight].” Moberly countered that Nicolosi did not author anything. He simply copied what she had written and passed some of it off as his own work.

Ethics Complaint

According to Moberly, she filed an ethics complaint with the American Psychological Association and California Psychological Association. Only the CPA responded, she claimed, and found that Nicolosi had inadvertently copied her material. A CPA representative later told me that those records were sealed.

I think the founding of modern day reparative therapy is an interesting historical issue. Some time ago, I asked a former Exodus board member (who wants to remain anonymous) about the rift. The individual said the dispute was “common knowledge” among Exodus people. My source said

Elizabeth believed that Joe’s reparative therapy concept belonged to her as reported in her research work in Psychogenesis and Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, and that Joe had not given sufficient acknowledgment to her work; and (2) that Joe believed he had referenced her work adequately and had taken her concepts and built upon them sufficiently to justify reporting on his own work in his book Reparative Therapy.

This individual was on the Exodus board at the time and made contacts with both Nicolosi and Moberly to try to resolve their differences. According to my source, the effort was unsuccessful. Nicolosi and Moberly did not come to unity over the issues. In 1996, Moberly left the ex-gay movement to return to England to conduct research into alternative treatments for AIDS and cancer. I tried to contact her in 2011 but received no reply.

Moberly’s books on reparative therapy were published in the early 1980s. According to Moberly, Nicolosi was introduced to her work via a client and he began using her approach in the late 1980s. Moberly was exasperated that Nicolosi published his first book on the subject in 1991 without giving her what she felt was sufficient credit. In his 1991 book, Nicolosi did in fact cite one of Moberly’s books and gave her credit for the concept of defensive detachment. However, Moberly felt that was insufficient. She pulled out of speaking for at least one of the Exodus conferences because she believed Exodus should not have promoted Nicolosi’s book. Perhaps she would have written Amazon if it existed in 1991.

As to the specific question — who conceptually founded reparative therapy? — I think the answer must be Elizabeth Moberly. She wrote first about all of the key concepts and described the kind of therapeutic relationship that reparative therapists, including Nicolosi, have promoted. Without question, Nicolosi popularized reparative therapy through his books, the organization he co-founded (NARTH), and via the vocal support of Exodus International and Focus on the Family. His appearances with James Dobson on the Focus on the Family radio show and subsequent role as featured speaker at FoF’s Love Won Out conferences solidified Nicolosi’s enduring role as key representative of reparative therapy. The reason his books are now being targeted is because he was the central figure in promoting the approach.

In the current scene, it doesn’t much matter who developed the concepts. People who oppose the books just want them gone. There is a certain irony that long ago the founder of reparative therapy also tried to prevent their promotion.

 

Are Some Americans Less American Than Others?

On July 14, President Trump tweeted the following message:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

Although they were not named, the progressive congresswomen Trump referred to were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. These legislators had been publicly feuding with Nancy Pelosi and Trump waded into the Democrats’ internal conflict.

There are many problems here. The first is that three of the four congresswomen are from the United States. They can’t go back to any other country. Trump has been accused of racism with these tweets because these are all women of color.

I understand the accusation. Growing up in Southern Ohio in the 1960s, I recall hearing white people saying that black civil rights advocates should ‘go back to Africa.’ That made no sense to me since we were all born in the same country, many of us in the same town. However, I eventually figured out the “go back” phrase was a way to put people of color into an outgroup–not us. Users of the “go back” attack wanted to put minority hearers in their place. The message was like things the way they are or leave. Change is not an option.

This is what Trump did with his tweets. He created false categories of “we” and “they.” Trump put Americans he disliked into a category of “their country” and put him and his supporters into “our country.” As soon as I read those tweets, I associated them with the “love it or leave it” and “go back to Africa” rhetoric I heard in the past. I suspect many people of color did as well. This is false and demeaning because the congresswomen are American citizens and entitled to raise their voices in dissent without having their membership in American society challenged. We’re all Americans, right?

Compounding Trump’s error, he attacked the progressive congresswomen because they expressed dissent. Although he has suffered little public push back from Republicans, he is on the wrong side of history with his message. For those Trump supporters who are having trouble seeing the problem, let me cite two former presidents.

In opposition to the 1918 Sedition Act, Theodore Roosevelt defended free speech and the duty to dissent. In an Kansas City Star op-ed just days before a vote on the bill, Roosevelt wrote:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

Being anti-Trump isn’t being anti-American. According to Roosevelt, citizens have a right to criticize the president. Furthermore, it is our duty to participate to speak up with what we feel is the truth.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower told a Columbia University audience in 1954 that part of being American is to dissent.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionaries and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Without exhaustive debate – even heated debate – of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither. But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual, or party, that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous–then indeed we are approaching the end of freedom’s road. We must unitedly and intelligently support the principles of Americanism.

Judged by the standards of these Republican presidents, those congresswomen are in the mainstream of Americanism and patriotism. You and I may disagree with their dissent or policy positions, but we cannot disagree with their right and duty to represent their constituents and speak freely. Even if you like Trump’s policies, you should reject the proposition that dissent makes some Americans less American than others. I hope a majority of both parties in Congress will do more than express verbal disapproval, but instead formally and strongly condemn Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

P.S. Will any of the #courtevangelicals come out and condemn these tweets?

These tweets and Trump’s response to them (he doesn’t mind that people consider them racist because many people agree with them) should be a gut check for Trump’s evangelical supporters. Will they really be able to absorb this?

Evangelical Christianity has already taken quite a hit with the Trump presidency and took a body blow with photos of Mike Pence at the border coldly reviewing refugees standing around without room to sit in a smelly containment cell. If Trump gets away with these comments and his defense without evangelical protest, the damage will only get worse.

John Fea Watched Jim Bakker and David Barton So You Don’t Have To; About That Founders Bible

I watched the whole thing because I study this stuff, but John Fea did his readers a favor by summarizing a truly bizarre segment of the Jim Bakker Show (and that is saying something) with David Barton and Brad Cummings as guests. You should go read it.

I really can’t improve on Fea’s piece, but I want to highlight a few things. It is being reported around social media that David Barton predicted that a second civil war might happen if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Barton believes “liberal states” like California will secede. He believes that might trigger a war.

First, I seriously doubt this prophecy. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion regulation will return to the states and California will keep it legal while Alabama will outlaw it — at least for now. I believe there will be strong feelings and some might call for drastic actions, but I believe a return of regulation to the states has been anticipated for many years by both sides of the issue.

The second thing I want to notice here is the crew which cooked up this religious stew. According to Barton and Cummings (co-publisher of The Shack), they got together with Mormon Glenn Beck, seven mountain dominionist Lance Wallnau, and Rick Joyner to discuss where America is heading. I wonder which person’s god gave Joyner “the dream.”

Cummings then said that Joyner had a dream of America’s timeline from heaven’s perspective (because of course America is central in God’s mind). The bottom line is that Joyner said the time line ended with a second American civil war which this time will be “successful” in achieving equality. Let me quote what Fea had to say about this segment of the video:

Barton then affirms Joyner’s vision, and in doing so he says some accurate things about the failure of the founders to deliver on matters of racial equality.  This is a huge step for Barton. It led me to wonder where he was going this.  Where was the culture-war hook?

And then it happened.  At about the 4:50 mark Barton adds an additional layer to his interpretation of Joyner’s dream.  Rather than continuing with his mini-lecture on America’s failure in matters of race, he suggests that Joyner’s vision about a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” was actually about Roe v. Wade.  Barton says that we should expect a Civil War “over the abortion issue.”  If Roe v. Wade is overturned, California and other pro-choice states will secede from the Union and it will end in violence.

Eating this gnostic stew could be dangerous. Barton said he had to be careful how he said it, but there is no careful way to say that it may be God’s will to go to war over abortion. This is lunacy and every sane person should reject it publicly.

As I noted above, the issue will be decided by the states if Roe is overturned. However, even if states do attempt to secede, it is unthinkable to have a war where people die for a pro-life cause.

These people are so far removed from war that they don’t know what they are doing or who they are radicalizing. To them (especially Bakker and his end time food buckets), these sensationalized shows are ways to move products. Cummings and Barton are making the rounds right now to sell The Founders Bible as if it is a new thing. Rather, Barton and Cummings brought that out in 2012 after the failure of The Jefferson Lies.

About That Founders Bible

Barton and Cummings should do some soul searching on their messaging regarding slavery. In the first edition of The Founders Bible, they called slave holder and slavery advocate James Hammond of SC an American leader because he was an advocate of America as a Christian nation (see also here and here). Hammond was just alright then.

For more on historical errors in The Founders Bible, click here.