Evangelicals Confronting QAnon

On today’s NYT opinion page, Sarah Posner brings attention to the growing presence of QAnon among evangelicals. Posner makes several important points in this piece. One is that the QAnon conspiracies are recycled stories floating around evangelical circles for many years.  As an old-timer, I recall one world government worries and the satanic cult fears going back to high school days. The Clintons have lived rent free in evangelical heads since they came on the scene out of Arkansas.

With the advent of Trump, the various stories have morphed to form Trump as the Savior archetype in the QAnon narratives. Only he can save us. Furthermore, Trump is the bridge between the delusional and the deceived. He is the gateway drug for many from irrational support of a man to a world of make believe.

As I say in the article, those not quite yet in the QAnon snare will latch on to QAnon messaging if it helps make Trump correspond to the archetype of savior president. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or who spreads it. Christians appear to be some terrible offenders since, for many of them, Trump is the one defending their faith. Since there is only one Defender of our faith, this is a significant problem for Christianity. The Christian nationalist heresy in combination with the QAnon delusion is a powerful drug.

Go read Sarah’s op-ed and engage in the discussion in the comments.

 

Blog Theme: Trumpism – Interview with Greg Thornbury

A feature of the evangelical world since Trump was nominated and elected has been the inability of many of Trump’s evangelical supporters to see Trump’s flaws. John Fea (who will be one of my guests in a future interview) coined the term “court evangelical” to describe these evangelical leaders. Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell are often named among these court evangelicals. Another evangelical figure which has puzzled many observers due to the strength of his dedication to Trump is Eric Metaxas.

I have written several articles about Metaxas’ historical claims, notably his book If You Can Keep It.  His errors are similar to David Barton’s which is understandable once you learn that Metaxas thinks Barton is a credible historian. Perhaps the most popular blog posts about Metaxas’ approach to history are the ones where I attempt to track down the source of this quote:

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

Metaxas once attributed the quote to Dietrich Bonhoeffer but it doesn’t appear in any of his works or speeches. Instead of acknowledging this and making a public correction, Metaxas has just stopped attributing the quote to Bonhoeffer. Consequently, hundreds, if not thousands of people continue to cite Metaxas as the source of a bogus Bonhoeffer quote.

In our interview, Thornbury analyzes Metaxas, but that is not the most riveting part to me. When Greg describes his journey from evangelical college president to where he is now, I believe many evangelicals will relate. There has been pressure to adopt Trumpism as an evangelical and those who don’t go along lose social capital in that world. Students of American religious and political history will be interested in hearing about Greg’s experience. Greg was in the inner circle and describes what it was like to see conservative Christians first tolerate then venerate an unworthy President.

Trumpism is the newest theme in my 15 years of blogging but in a way it is an extension of many themes I am familiar with. The narcissism of celebrity pastors, the false history of Christian nationalism, the anti-science dogmatism of many evangelical leaders, and the single-mindedness and bias of culture warring all come together in Trumpism.

So as a new friend in this struggle, I thank Greg for his time and talents.

Gregory Alan Thornbury, Ph.D., has been a college philosophy and theology professor, dean, and president of The King’s College in New York City. In addition to several books on theology and culture, he is the author of Why Should The Devil Have All the Good Music: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock (Random House, 2018) – a critically acclaimed biography that has been reviewed by The New York TimesThe New Yorker, National Public Radio, and was awarded as the most influential book in arts and culture by Christianity Today for 2019. A popular writer and speaker on philosophy, religion, and the arts, he currently serves as Senior Vice President at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca, founded by Andy Warhol. He is also a consultant for Good Country Pictures, who is currently working on film adaptations of the short stories and novels of Willa Cather, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor for film and television.

You can see all posts about these interviews by clicking this link.

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What Happened to Eric Metaxas? We May Finally Find Out!

Tomorrow, I will post an interview with former King’s College president Gregory Thornbury. Thornbury who is friends with Eric Metaxas offers a theory about why Metaxas has turned into a Trumpist. Watch:

Come back tomorrow to wthrockmorton.com for the rest of the interview with Greg. We take on Trumpism, Christian celebrity, and court evangelicals. It is a revealing and fascinating interview.

UPDATE: To see the interview, click the link.

You can see all posts about these interviews by clicking this link.

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V.P. Pence’s Visit to First Baptist Church in Dallas: How Not to Do Church During a Pandemic

Buzzfeed News is reporting this morning what I wanted to report last week but couldn’t verify: Prior to V.P. Mike Pence’s visit to First Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 among the church’s orchestra and choir. I had heard this from two twitter accounts but could not get primary source verification, so I didn’t run with it.

Buzzfeed reporters were able to get that confirmation and went with the story today. The video of the event shows that the choir was singing and the orchestra was playing without masks. The congregation was close together and the only real precautions were taken by Pence. You don’t need to watch the whole video to see what I mean:

 

Texas is experiencing a scary surge in cases and V. P. Pence should have shown leadership by canceling his appearance and urging Robert Jeffress to hold an online event. Just last week, in neighboring Arkansas, fellow evangelical Governor Asa Hutchinson told the public that the churches who are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks are the ones using masks and social distancing. He identified by name nine churches on a naughty list of churches which had not been following guidelines and thus experiencing more cases of COVID-19.

Jeffress’ church was a clinic in how not to do things. Singing and playing wind instruments are effective ways of spreading a virus. The congregation was not spaced properly and it appears not all were wearing masks. Given that some of the orchestra members have been infected (although none of those members were there), it is possible that some of the orchestra members playing that Sunday had been exposed in prior rehearsals.

While it appears that most church leaders are trying to take COVID-19 seriously, I don’t see how it helps to have so-called leaders disregard best practices. I have been tracking church outbreaks for just over a month and it is starting to get a little hard to keep up with. I count 48 churches as of this writing. As the pandemic enlarges in the U.S., it may be difficult to keep a complate count.

In any case, having church as normal can be a super spreading event and leaders need to heed best practices while still caring for their flocks.

More Apparent Plagiarism in Christian Books

Even though publishers infrequently acknowledge plagiarism in their books, some readers want to know which authors borrow from others and which authors do their own work. Hence, I continue to bring plagiarism news to light.

This is an easy post for me to write because I am citing other people. Notice how easy that is. I find material that is informative and I bring to my readers with a citation so everybody knows who did the work. I don’t need to claim it as my own. I point you to the source. That’s how you avoid plagiarism. See, easy.

Only One Life

First, let’s take this Twitter thread from Jill Hicks-Keeton. She demonstrates that the work of Museum of the Bible co-founder Jackie Green and Lauren Green McAfee in their book Only One Life about Rosa Parks is remarkably similar to Joyce Hanson’s biography of Rosa Parks. Hanson’s book came first.

Here are the tweets:

More Tim Clinton

Now comes Dr. Aaron New with yet more material from Tim Clinton. Aaron has a lengthy thread with all of the apparent plagiarism involving Clinton and various co-authors. I will let Aaron explain the recent finds.

If you click through the images, you will see a pull quote from Chris Thurman in The Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling. However, there is nothing in the book that identifies Thurman as the source of the rest of the material highlighted by Aaron. Clinton and Hawkins cite Thurman’s Soul Care Bible article in the recommended resources list but don’t use any quotes to designate the verbatim use of his material.

In the remainder of the thread (go here to read it all, it is very long), you will find numerous instances where material has been taken from Soul Care Bible authors and use without citation in The Quick Reference Guide. Let me show just two more that Aaron provides in his thread:

No quotes are used for Norman Wright’s and Miriam Stark Parent’s words which come verbatim from the Soul Care Bible. In the Loss and Grief chapter of The Quick Reference Guide (the second book), Clinton and Hawkins included a Norman Wright book in their resources but there is no way for the reader to know that much of the chapter was quoted directly from Wright in the Soul Care Bible.

In the case of the material lifted from Miriam Stark Parent’s Soul Care Bible entry on Loneliness and Personal Growth, Clinton and Hawkins give her an unsourced pull quote but that is all. In the recommended resources, Stark Parent doesn’t get a mention. Clinton recommends three of his books, but readers have no way to know that much of the chapter they just read was originally written by Mirian Stark Parent.

To see more posts on citation problems in Tim Clinton’s work, click here. To see more posts about plagiarism and citation errors in general, click this link.

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My 5,000th Post is a Lament: Trump Used Force on Peaceful Protestors to Clear Way for Bible Photo Op

This month marks 15 years of blogging and this is my 5,000th post. I always thought it might be fun and light but this one is not. It is a lament.

Yesterday evening in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump told a Rose Garden audience that he had deployed the National Guard to disperse crowds and stop violence. It wasn’t clear at that moment but his order was being carried out as he spoke. Not far away in Lafayette square near St. John’s Episcopal Church, peaceful protestors populated the area. Around 6:30pm, the Guard began actively pushing the assembly from the area with shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. Once the area was cleared, Trump walked to the same area with an entorage of officials for a photo op holding a Bible in front of St. John’s church. In short, Donald Trump ordered force on peaceful protestors so he could get a picture using religious images.

This is a frightening new low. There wasn’t an effort to hide it. Ample eyewitness accounts and video exist. This was a power play. Apparently, Trump and his advisors believe his base — including white evangelicals — will fall in line.

Below, I have posted video and various accounts and reflections on the event.

The following is a portion of an eyewitness account of the event from Gina Gerbasi (click the link to read her entire post):

Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protestors off of H Street (the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House. They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels. At this point, Julia, one of our seminarians for next year (who is a trauma nurse) and I looked at each other in disbelief. I was coughing, her eyes were watering, and we were trying to help people as the police – in full riot gear – drove people toward us. Julia and her classmates left and I stayed with the BLM folks trying to help people. Suddenly, around 6:30, there was more tear gas, more concussion grenades, and I think I saw someone hit by a rubber bullet – he was grasping his stomach and there was a mark on his shirt. The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back. People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio. We had to try to pick up what we could. The BLM medic folks were obviously well practiced. They picked up boxes and ran. I was so stunned I only got a few water bottles and my spray bottle of eyewash. We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear. We were pushed back 20 feet, and then eventually – with SO MANY concussion grenades – back to K street. By the time I got back to my car, around 7, I was getting texts from people saying that Trump was outside of St. John’s, Lafayette Square. I literally COULD NOT believe it. WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN’S – a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day – SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!

“An ally of all peaceful protestors” said Donald Trump in his speech; an ally unless those protestors get in the way of his photo op.

The caption to the next video reads: “It began with Attorney General Bill Barr standing with his hands casually in his pockets, not wearing a tie, surveying the scene at Lafayette Park across from the White House, where several thousand protesters had gathered for more demonstrations after the police killing of George Floyd.”

Here is another eyewitness account which was posted as a comment on court evangelical Johnnie Moore’s fawning description of Trump.

The bishop of the diocese of the St John Church, Miriam Budde, reacted with condemnation of Trump’s action.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) found his voice and made this statement:

Ed Stetzer had some mild rebukes for the president.

To use the Bible in a photo op, after clearing peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park with, The Hill reported, “tear gas and smoke bombs hissing” so he could walk to a church, was simultaneously unhelpful to the current situation and at odds with the message of that Bible.

Former political editor at Christian Post, Napp Nazzworth took Johnnie Moore to task:

Perhaps thinking of new Trump supporter Al Mohler, Jarran Sainsbury quipped.

So this is a lament. I recall similar worries, although in a much younger mind and body, in the 1960s. I had a youthful optimism then and while I am still hopeful that our institutions will hold, I am more realistic now. We must all rehearse our rights and remind each other about them. I hope Trump’s base will see through this and turn lament into change.

UPDATE: Trump’s court evangelicals are out in force to spin Trump’s photo op.

The Park Police initially said no one used tear gas. This report has the evidence to contradict that denial.

UPDATE (6/8/20) – Here the most complete analysis I have seen of the event from the Washington Post.

Eric Metaxas Finds His Moral Whisper About Harassment Claims Against Mike Bloomberg

Oh I see how it is. Mike Bloomberg’s past harassment allegations get some press and Eric Metaxas finds his moral concern.

I don’t think this was “whoa” as in “whoa, he is as much of a louse as Trump, maybe I should support him too.” I think this was “whoa” as in “whoa, that’s bad.” What do you think?

Metaxas and other Trump court evangelicals will be severely blasted if they try to play the morality card on Trump’s opponents during this election. They can’t really do it with a straight face. I suspect Metaxas only wrote a muted “whoa” because he knew he would be ridiculed unmercifully if he went for a stronger condemnation.

Recently CBN’s David Brody (a supporter of Trump) acknowledged that making an issue of Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality was not a winning play for Trump supporters since Trump has no moral high ground. Watch:

Brody just ruled out this out as a plausible strategy given Trump’s questionable behavior. I don’t think Bloomberg is going to prevail, but I can’t see how Republicans can make an issue of it if he does.

Court Evangelicals: In All Things, Trump Must Have the Preeminence.

Last weekend, Donald Trump’s evangelical advisors met with him to talk over impeachment strategy. Here is a picture of group on Family Research Council president Tony Perkins’ twitter feed.

I see Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris, James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, and AACC owner Tim Clinton among others.

Perkins says the reason the Democrats want to impeach Trump is due to his support for pro-life, pro-family policies. Odd, absolutely nothing has been mentioned about those policies in the numerous depositions taken so far. Everything has been about the president’s effort to manipulate Ukraine’s president to start an investigation of Hunter Biden in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. The president has stonewalled Congress and engaged in activities to cover up his activities. I believe the attempt to get a foreign government help to win an American election is an impeachable offense.

American evangelical leaders will have to answer for their blind trust in a political leader. I didn’t think evangelical leaders could get much lower but they have. Even if they don’t think what Trump did is impeachable, they should not excuse it. It is as if the Constitution or framers’ intent don’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is protecting Donald Trump.

Robert Jeffress Doubles Down on Civil War Comment

First Baptist of Dallas pastor and Trump court evangelical Robert Jeffress doubled down on his warning of a “civil war like fracture” if Trump is removed from office via impeachment and conviction. Watch:

One of the CBN hosts gave him an opportunity to ratchet back his rhetoric but in Trump-like fashion, he called his analogy to the Civil War “a perfect idea.”

When the same host cited Illinois GOP Representative Adam Kinzinger’s tweet condemning the reference to the Civil War, Jeffress said:

Read the comment and if they come away with that conclusion that I’m advocating or the president’s is a civil war, then they either can’t read or are too stupid to understand what we’re saying.

Here is Kinzinger’s tweet:

Robert Jeffress Invokes Threat of “Civil War Like Fracture” in Defense of Trump

Donald Trump just tweeted the following quote from Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress:

This is of course is an outrageous statement from Jeffress and a sign of panic and desperation from Trump. It is one more sign that Trump is unfit for office that he would incite such divisive rhetoric to try to keep himself in power.

For Jeffress to equate the impeachment of Trump to slavery as a reason for a “Civil War like fracture” is absurd. While we are in the minority, there are many evangelicals who want to see respect for the rule of law.

You can see the interview below: