Eric Metaxas: Trump is not wrong nearly as much as everybody says he’s wrong

Trump is not wrong nearly as much as everybody says he’s wrong. – Eric Metaxas
This and other gems can be found in an interview with Metaxas conducted by Emma Green for The Atlantic and out this morning. Green interviewed Metaxas at the March for Life and then followed up with an email about Trump’s controversial travel ban.
The above quote in italics comes from an exchange where Green asked:

Green: Evangelical Christians, as a group, are committed to the idea that there is a truth that can be firmly established. But at times, this does not seem to be Trump’s worldview. Take voter fraud—a claim he has repeated with no evidence to back it up.

About Trump’s outrageous claim that 1.5-3 million people voted illegally in the last election, Metaxas answered:

Metaxas: I’m dying to see what this investigation will turn up. Here’s one thing the media and all of us should learn: Trump is not wrong nearly as much as everybody says he’s wrong. In the end, often, what he’s said has been corroborated. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to look into it. It undermines democracy even if there’s a perception of voter fraud.

Probably, I shouldn’t be too surprised since Metaxas said he used David Barton’s materials to help him write his fact-challenged book, If You Can Keep It.
No, the media doesn’t need to learn anything. They need to proceed on the basis that facts should be verified.
Metaxas told Green: “It undermines democracy even if there’s a perception of voter fraud.” We agree there. And that’s why it is irresponsible for Trump to continue claiming without evidence that millions voted illegally.
Finally, on the immigration ban, Metaxas reveals that he hasn’t read that much about it: “As far as I can tell from my limited reading, the order is not what so many are saying it is.” My answer is that he needs to read more. He could start here, and then here and especially here. Perhaps, he should read this report as well.

Which Donald Trump Did Eric Metaxas Support?

Just before Donald Trump told the whole world that all decisions he makes will be according to the values of “America First,” Eric Metaxas published a piece in the Wall Street Journal with the title, “The Promise of Donald Trump.”
In his inaugural address, Trump said:

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.

In his short piece, Metaxas echoed the themes in his factually flawed book, “If You Can Keep It.” From the article:

Most who have truly loved America have done so with a conviction that we are, to use Lincoln’s phrase, God’s “almost chosen people.” We have been abundantly blessed not for ourselves, but so that we could be a beacon of hope and freedom to the world, not least for people like my parents, who sailed to these shores from war-torn Europe in the 1950s and who, when they passed the Statue of Liberty, were enraptured and emotional, knowing that the liberty it represented was not just a word but could be a way of life, one they hoped to embrace and pass on to their children, and now have, by God’s grace.

Metaxas doesn’t seem to hear the “America First” part of the promises from Donald Trump. Metaxas wants us to believe that America has been brought into existence by God to help others. Trump seems to favor a more nationalistic set of values.

This Popular Quote — A Private Faith That Does Not Act — Is about William Wilberforce Not by Him

When I first read it, it occurred to me that there was something not quite right about the tweet below:


Eric Metaxas, who wrote a biography about Wilberforce, retweeted the quote without comment so surely it was said by Wilberforce, right?
I view most quotes now with suspicion (see this quote misattributed to Bonhoeffer) and this one looked fishy. Indeed, it isn’t by Wilberforce but about him.
I posted the quote on Twitter and asked for assistance tracking it down. It didn’t take long for Matthew Dickson to post a link to an Introduction written by Chuck Colson to a 1996 reprinting of Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Christianity. On Twitter at least the switch of attribution from Colson to Wilberforce took place sometime between 2011 and 2012.
Here is the quote from Colson’s Introduction:
Colson quote about WW
So Colson wrote it about Wilberforce. Even though it is frequently attributed to Wilberforce, it isn’t his quote.
As I have explored these fake or misattributed quotes, I have found that a major problem to accuracy is a site called “AZ Quotes.” This site is often referred to by misguided quoters. Along with Eric Metaxas, AZ quotes seems to show up frequently as a source for the misattributed quote about silence in the face of evil. Although I have reported both quotes as being wrongly attributed, the quotes remain. Perhaps, the site needs to hear from more readers.

Ecclesia College Bans Questions about Arkansas Bribery Scandal

Ecclesia
Ecclesia College

Last week, Arkansas state representative Micah Neal pleaded guilty to fraud and accepting bribes from two non-profits in his district in exchange for state government discretionary funds. One of the non-profits has been identified as Ecclesia College, a Bible college in Springdale, Arkansas. In the plea agreement with Rep. Neal, the president of Ecclesia College — Oren Paris III –  is referred to as one of those who authorized payments to Rep. Neal. After this news emerged, Paris issued a statement via Facebook denying any wrongdoing.
After Paris posted his denial, I left a comment asking about specific elements of the plea agreement. The agreement claimed Paris (“Person B”) authorized payment of $18,000 to Neal through a consultant (“Person C”). On the Facebook page comment section, I asked about the identity of Person C is and why Ecclesia College paid Person C $65,000 as stated in the plea agreement. According to the agreement, $18,000 was authorized to go to Rep. Neal. Two other commenters also called on Paris to provide more information.
As of yesterday, Ecclesia College has removed those comments from their Facebook denial and banned my account from commenting. I heard from one other commenter who is also banned. Instead of addressing what are fair questions based on the plea agreement, Ecclesia removed the comments.
It seems likely that additional charges will come in this case and that the questions for Ecclesia will not go away. If there is truly no wrongdoing Ecclesia should be transparent about this deal which involves tax payer funding and a breach of public trust.

Ecclesia College Benefited from Arkansas Bribery Scheme

UPDATE: Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III tonight issued a statement denying any wrongdoing in this case.
A news report out of Arkansas sounds ominous for some of the blog’s favorite people.
Ecclesia College received $200,000 from an Arkansas government agency to build a building on campus. According to the report a sitting State Representative took a $18,000 bribe in order to funnel the money to Ecclesia.
This isn’t the first time Ecclesia benefited from public funds. The school received $592,000 via the same discretionary fund in calendar years 2013 and 2014. Only the Arkansas Energy Office received a higher amount of funding over the same period.  Despite lack of regional accreditation, Arkansas tax dollars have been spent lavishly on Ecclesia.
David Barton and Eric Metaxas are on the Board of Regents at Ecclesia, although there is nothing in the report suggesting they knew anything about the matter.
According to the plea agreement, the president (not named in the agreement) of “Entity B” was aware of the arrangement. The president of “Entity B” (Ecclesia College) is Oren Paris III.
According to a contact at Ecclesia president Paris is meeting with the board about the plea agreement this afternoon.
Here’s part of the agreement involving the only named participant, Representative Micah Neal:

Honest Services Fraud Concerning Entity B
v. In or around 2014, Senator A told NEAL that if NEAL, as an Arkansas Representative, authorized and directed GIF money to Entity B, then Person B would pay NEAL a portion of the money in exchange for EAL’s official action.
w. NEAL and Senator A agreed to authorize and direct a total of $200,000 of GIF money to Entity B in exchange for kickbacks from Person B. Of the $200,000, NEAL agreed to direct $50,000 of the GIF money to Entity B, and Senator A agreed to direct $150,000 of the GIF money to Entity B.
x. On or about December 18, 2014, the NWAEDD issued a check in the amount of$200,000, and drawn on the NWAEDD’s Arvest Bank account ending in 8611, to Entity B. The check constituted GIF monies that had been appropriated by NEAL and Senator A, and was awarded pursuant to a GIF grant application signed by Person B that had been emailed, via interstate wire communications, to the NWAEDD from Entity B in Springdale, Arkansas, on or about December 5, 2014. The application requested a $200,000 GIF grant and listed NEAL and Senator A as sponsors.
y. On or about December 19, 2014, the $200,000 check from the NWAEDD to Entity B was deposited into Entity B’s Centennial Bank account ending in 0681. Arvest Bank subsequently settled the check totaling $200,000 with Centennial Bank via an interstate wire communication.
z. The spreadsheets maintained by the NWAEDD for NEAL and Senator A showed a deduction in December 2014 of $50,000 and $150,000, respectively, for the GIF grant awarded to Entity B.
aa. A check dated January 5, 2015 and drawn on Entity B’s Centennial Bank account ending in 0681 in the amount of $65,000 was issued to Person C’s company and deposited that same day into Person C’s company’s Arvest Bank account ending in 7761. The check was issued at the direction of Person B. Over the following three days, Person C made three cash withdrawals per day totaling $53,700 from his company’s Arvest Bank account ending in 7761.
bb. Between approximately December 19, 2014 and approximately January 30, 2015, and following Entity B’s receipt of NEAL’s and Senator A’s GIF money in the amount of $200,000, Senator A contacted NEAL and told him that Person C would be bringing $18,000 in cash to NEAL in exchange for NEAL having authorized and directed the appropriation of the GIF money to Entity B.
cc. Between approximately December 19, 2014 and approximately January 30, 2015, and following NEAL’s communication with Senator A, Person C met with NEAL and, on behalf of Person B, paid NEAL $18,000 in cash.
dd. NEAL agrees and stipulates that he conspired with Senator A and others in the Western District of Arkansas and elsewhere to deprive the citizens of the State of Arkansas of his honest services as an Arkansas state legislator by taking official actions and using his official position to appropriate and direct funds to Entity A and Entity B in exchange for kickback payments, and that the conspiracy and scheme to defraud the citizens of the State of Arkansas of his honest services involved the use of interstate wire communications and mailings that were sent and/or received in the Western District of Arkansas.

Stay tuned…

Update on a Spurious Bonhoeffer Quote: Not to Speak is to Speak, Not to Act is to Act

Silence hands version
In late August, I published an examination of a popular quote commonly but incorrectly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

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.

The quote cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s writings and no other primary source has been found.  The first appearance of the entire quote I can find is in a 1998 American Interfaith Institute newsletter. The newsletter reported on a museum exhibit featuring Bonhoeffer. The quote was placed on the Bonhoeffer exhibit with quotation marks as if Bonhoeffer said it but without any citation. The quote has been popularized by Eric Metaxas who still attributes the quote to Bonhoeffer even though he has refused to provide a primary source for it.

Today, I want to present a source for part of the quote which is earlier than 1998. In Robert K. Hudnut’s 1971 book, A Sensitive Man and the Christ, he makes a case that even a sensitive man must act when the need arises.

Hudnut speak act 1971
There are two aspects of this passage which may link it to the eventual misattribution to Bonhoeffer. One is Hudnut’s challenge for the church not to be silent in the face of social evils. The second is the reference to Niemoller and resistance to the Nazis. Through the frailty of memory and lack of citation, someone could have reworked this into a quote about the church not being silent and attributed it to Niemoller’s colleague, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

For “Not to act is to act” by itself, one can go back to 1945 when Francis McPeek said church inaction was a form of political action in an essay titled, “Not to Act is to Act.”

For “God will not hold us guiltless,” one can find many references to that sentence by going to Google books and entering the sentence in quotes. The links returned go back to 1681.

The Hudnut quote was pointed out to me by a Twitter user. I would like to thank him but I can’t find the tweet. If my helper is reading, please identify yourself in the comments.

UPDATE: Found! See below:

Eric Metaxas Illustrates What Evangelicals Need to Correct

As the Donald Trump saga nears the end, it will be good to reflect on what can be learned. One thing I hope for is a backlash against false or misleading information being used by evangelicals to make their political points.
Case in point:


Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for years. However, after so many people have been repeatedly misled by so called thought leaders, I hope more evangelicals wake up to the need for simple fact checking.
On this story, Michelle Goldberg contacted the source.

So I called him. Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

That’s it. That’s all I could find to support the story. Even if this “John” had some connection to the Clinton campaign, it doesn’t mean Mrs. Clinton put him up to it. In any case, this hearsay is not sufficient evidence to go with a news report or even an advocacy piece (as Judicial Watch did).
Metaxas should be ashamed to spread around unsubstantiated reports in this manner and then indict the media over it. We do have a free press and Michelle Goldberg did her job. Apparently, Metaxas didn’t check it out or only believes those who report what he already believes.
To be taken seriously, evangelical leaders must become more skeptical and better fact checkers.
Update: Let’s not forget that Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor.

Eric Metaxas Complains about Clinton Misquotes, Refuses to Correct the Quote He Misattributed to Bonhoeffer

During the debate between Clinton and Trump last night, Eric Metaxas tweeted the following:


Hillary said in passing that “America is great because America is good.” Although the quote is commonly associated with Tocqueville, it can’t be found in his works.
During the debate, Clinton did not attribute the quote to Tocqueville. However, Metaxas himself attributed that quote to Tocqueville in an advance copy of his new book If You Can Keep It. The attribution of the quote was corrected before publication.
I understand the analogy he tweeted. However, it is noteworthy that Metaxas complained about Clinton’s use of the quotation because he has his own quote snafu to resolve. Metaxas has yet to provide a source (or acknowledge the quote isn’t Bonhoeffer’s) for the following 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.

This quote is attributed to Bonhoeffer on the back flap of Metaxas’ biography of the German pastor. He also has referred to it in his speeches and tweets as well as his book on Miracles and a study edition of the Bonhoeffer bio. However, it cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. I have contacted Metaxas and publisher Thomas Nelson but have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.
Silence hands version
There is no disgrace in getting a quote wrong. Scholars do it frequently. The mark of a scholar is to correct the record quickly. To me, this seems especially important since Metaxas has lately taken to advancing Bonhoeffer in the cause of presidential politics. Despite our differences, I urge Metaxas to do the right thing and either provide his primary source for the quote or acknowledge the quote doesn’t come from Bonhoeffer.

Eric Metaxas Uses Odd Term – Fascistic Globalism – Twitter Howls

If it hasn’t happened already, this may be Eric Metaxas jumping the shark.


I can’t respond any better than the numerous commenters who are really taking him to task. Click the tweet and read the comments.
Before a couple of months ago, I did not follow Mr. Metaxas and so I can’t tell if this was coming or has recently shown up perhaps in relationship to Trumpism. In any case, I hope it is a curable condition.
On the term “fascistic globalism,” my impression is that it is a far right term with a less than admirable pedigree. It often is written “fascist globalism” and appears on numerous alt-right and far right websites. One has to wonder what well Metaxas is drinking from.
Here is on example of a use of “fascist globalism from the conspiratorial Centre for Globalization Research.

The NATO Treaty, therefore, is, from its inception, a Treaty against Russia. It is not really – and never was – a treaty against communism. The alliance’s ideological excuse doesn’t hold, and never was anything more than propaganda for a military alliance of America and its allies, against Russia and its allies. Consequently, the Warsaw Pact had to be created, on 14 May 1955, as an authentic defensive measure by Russia and its allies. This had really nothing to do with ideology. Ideology was and is only an excuse for war – in that case, for the Cold War. For example, a stunningly honest documentary managed to be broadcast in 1992 by the BBC, and showed that the US OSS-CIA had begun America’s war against «communism» even at the very moments while WW II was ending in 1945, by recruiting in Europe ‘former’ supporters of Hitler and Mussolini, who organized «false flag» (designed-to-be-blamed-against-the-enemy) terrorist attacks in their countries, which very successfully terrified Europeans against ‘communism’ (i.e., against Russia and its allies). As one of the testifiers in that video noted (at 6:45), «In 1945 the Second World War ended and the Third World War started».
The ‘former’ fascists took up the cause against «communism» but actually against Russia; it wasn’t democracy-versus-communism; it was fascists continuing – but now under the ‘democratic’ banner – their war against Russia. This operation was, until as late as 1990, entirely unknown to almost all democratically elected government officials. The key mastermind behind it, the brilliant double-agent Allen Dulles, managed to become officially appointed, by US President Eisenhower in 1953, to lead the CIA. Originally, that subversive-against-democracy element within the CIA had been only a minority faction. Dulles had no qualms even about infiltrating outright Nazis into his operation, and his operation gradually took over not only the US but its allies. His key point man on that anti-democracy operation was James Angleton – a rabid hater of Russians, who was as psychopathic an agent for America’s aristocracy as was Dulles himself. But the CIA was only one of the broader operation’s many tentacles, others soon were formed such as the Bilderberg group. Then, the CIA financed the start of the European Union, which was backed strongly by the Bilderbergers. This was sold as democratic globalism, but it’s actually fascist globalism, which is dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini had tried to impose merely by armed force. It relies much more on the force of deception – force against the mind, instead of against the body.

Are we to understand that Obama and Clinton are dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini?
Now think about Trump’s glowing words about Russia and his halting support for NATO and then remember that Metaxas has become quite the Trump apologist of late. It appears that Metaxas may be moving toward the conspiratorial far right in more than just his support for Trump.

Let's Say No to God Mandated Voting (UPDATED)

Eric Metaxas has run into some opposition to his efforts to make God into a vote monitor. Last Wednesday he posted an op-ed in the WSJ which brought God to his side. Then this week, he has been tweeting up a storm about it (He deleted the first one sometime early on 10/18).


Reaction hasn’t been bullish.
Today, Jonah Goldberg at NRO responded. Here’s the big finish:

And that is what I find so galling about Metaxas’ argument. I always thought that the role of conscience in Christianity is to treat it as something of great value and importance. Yes, as Catholics teach, it must be rightly formed through reason. A poorly formed conscience can lead to poor decisions. But conscience also speaks to us from a plateau above mere reason. In Metaxas’s formulation, conscience has been reduced to a kind of virtue-signaling vanity, or maybe the sin of pride. “Don’t listen to your conscience because God wants you to vote for Donald Trump” is a weird argument coming from anybody. But it is downright bizarre coming from the moral biographer of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer.

I also find Metaxas’ argument galling.
Also today at the Weekly Standard, a more subdued response was offered by Virginia Hume who imagines what God is telling Metaxas:

God would never want us to seek a third option, no matter how far-fetched. He wouldn’t suggest we wake up and turn toward a good man, who also happens to be running. Turns out God is an old-style politico. “Those independent bids never work. Gotta suck it up,” He says, maybe in a Boston or Chicago accent. The only option God sees is supporting the political equivalent of putting something in the microwave just to see what happens.

Given that it is Metaxas, I am guessing his God has some variation of a New York accent.
Some tweeters of note have also weighed in.


and


and


UPDATE: Eric Metaxas posted a clarification of his tweet concerning Evan McMullin on his Facebook page. Apparently, Metaxas responds to celebrity writers but blocks his lesser twitter followers for doing the same thing Jonah Goldberg did (see above for citation to Goldberg’s article).

The following article in @NRO by the estimable Jonah Goldberg misunderstands what I meant in my tweet — but that is more than half my fault because I can now see how the tweet might be confusing. I was making a perhaps obscure theological point having to do with the idea that fig leaves in Eden were used for a good reason, but ultimately they didn’t do the job. Not in God’s eyes. In other words, Adam and Eve knew they were naked, so they made aprons of fig leaves — but God made clear that was not sufficient. Blood needed to be shed. (Which, incidentally, prefigures Jesus’s death on the Cross.) So He supplied them with the skin of animals, innocent animals that were killed. So I OF COURSE support people following their consciences, but I’m implying — ineffectively, I realize now — that the fig leaves of voting for a third party candidate SEEM to do the job, but fail. And as in Eden, God is not fooled. But I realize this came across as though I was saying these people were TRYING to fool God. On some level Adam and Eve were, but I don’t think people voting for Evan MacMullen are, so my tweet really failed to do the job — as tweets seem rather often to fail — and I’m sorry about that. Also, using a fig leaf is a kind of fussy religious act that fails, because it implies that we can do something that we cannot. God has to do that something. And I was implying that religious people were voting for Evan MacMullin to feel good about themselves, which I do think in many cases is true. But that’s a far cry from them trying to fool God. I’m sure this has failed to explain my dumb tweet, but I thought I owed Jonah and all the others who were baffled by it some kind of explanation. My apologies for the confusion. Blesssings!

Metaxas still thinks McMullin voters are doing so to “feel good about themselves,” in other words for some kind of selfish reason. How insulting. My vote for McMullin will be cast because I think he is a good candidate and because I think we need alternatives to the two party system.
I keep trying to grasp how voting for president is in any way like Adam’s and Eve’s fig leaves. The only way I can get anywhere close is if Metaxas starts with the premise that voting for McMullin is some kind of “fussy” self-centered act which is morally inferior to his act of voting for Donald Trump. This explanation doesn’t clarify, it only confuses and offends. It makes his act righteous and mine a deficient moral act of self-deception.
Go back and try again.
UPDATE (10/18/16) – More rebuttal has come the way of Metaxas. First from David French at NRO:

When Metaxas votes for Trump, and when I write in my choice, we’ll both be voting for losing candidates. The difference is that my choice will be fit for the presidency and possess the character and temperament to lead the greatest nation in the world. His choice will not. I’ll be calling on Christians to support a candidate who possesses real integrity. He will not. He’s throwing away his vote on a corrupt, opportunistic demagogue. I am not.

And then comes Bonhoeffer scholar Charles Marsh with this catchy and provocative title: Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer Delusions.

Likening the Third Reich to a Democratic administration would not be surprising from the obstreperous right-wing crusader Ann Coulter, who appears regularly on “The Eric Metaxas Show.” But Metaxas, who purports to be a winsome, irenic apologist for the Christian faith, in the fashion of his friends Tim Keller and Os Guinness, blindsided some evangelicals in proclaiming that a Hillary Clinton victory in November portends the vanquishing of the Republic—and that taking Bonhoeffer seriously in our time means voting for Donald Trump.

You must read the rest.