Donald Trump the Divider of Evangelicals; The Kids Aren't Alright With It

Over the weekend, Mark Oppenheimer penned an op-ed criticizing Eric Metaxas for supporting Donald Trump. More than criticize Metaxas’ position, Oppenheimer expressed surprise that a Bonhoeffer biographer like Metaxas could overlook what seems to be an obvious fascist theme in Trump’s campaign.
Today, conservative writer and friend of Metaxas Rod Dreher accuses Oppenheimer of smearing Metaxas. However, he does it while agreeing with Oppenheimer that Metaxas is agonizingly wrong to support Trump.
This is a fascinating exchange (read both articles) and one that illustrates what feels like an impossible choice to many people this year. Trump’s pandering to evangelicals has divided the camp. We’re not seriously divided on Clinton, very few are offering a defense. However, when it comes to Trump, some celebrity evangelicals like Grudem, Metaxas and Falwell feel the need to not only vote for Trump but to convince others to do so. People like Russell Moore feel the need to keep people away from Trump.
Instead of feeding the poor, helping the broken and testifying, evangelicals are fussing about just how crazy and fascist Trump is. Is he just a little, or unacceptably too much? This can’t be a good thing.
Such shenanigans are not lost on many evangelical lay people, especially the kids. This morning I ran across this article by Amy Gennett. She makes a case that “the youth” are watching and don’t like what they see.

Over the last several months, I have lost respect for the Republican party, and I honestly thought that would be the biggest tragedy of this election. But the disappointing truth is this: I’m losing faith in Evangelicals.
And this is frightening. I am an Evangelical. I hold to Evangelical theology. I have attended not one, but two Evangelical schools. But I fear that we’re going to lose an entire generation because of the actions, words, and teachings of some Evangelicals. Including Wayne Grudem.

Teaching at a Christian college, I hear these thoughts often.
Grudem’s article raised the GOP flag and implied it was sin not to salute. Metaxas tells us we must vote for Trump or the whole nation drops into the abyss. Ms. Gannett continues:

Evangelical leaders are not just supporting nationalism, but are elevating nationalism to a Christian virtue. Many point back to the founding fathers as Christian leaders in our nation and impress upon us that we must support the constitution and protect our country because it is a Christian thing to do. We have deeply muddied the language between serving our God and serving our country. Forget the martyrs of the faith around the world, posters show us that soldiers make the “ultimate sacrifice.” As Christian millennials, we just can’t buy this. We look over our shoulders at our nation’s history and wince a little. We don’t have a lot of national pride because we are waking up to the immense on-going racism that exists in our nation’s systems, the horrors of early American history, and the tragedies around the world that happen because every country has nationalists. So when you equate nationalism with Christian virtue, we’re out.

Evangelical leaders need to wake up and smell the wisdom in this. Of course, there are evangelicals of all ages (I’m pushing 60) who are bolting from Christian nationalism. Ms. Gannett believes her generation is itchy to get away from it which could be one of the silver linings of this storm.

When Trump Came to the Door, Why Didn't Evangelicals Play Hard to Get?

This post probably comes a little too late. However, there may be a little time left. We’re the ones, after all, who are supposed to believe in miracles.
The Strange Case of a Bonhoeffer Biographer Endorsing Trump
Too many evangelicals just melted into a puddle of sugar when Donald Trump came calling. Some liked him from the beginning (e.g., Jerry Falwell, Jr.) and then he grew on some others, like for instance Eric Metaxas. Metaxas is a strange Trump convert since he wrote a book on Bonhoeffer that, despite its errors of fact, is viewed as semi-inspired by many evangelicals. As Mark Oppenheimer points out in the Daily Beast today, Metaxas should know how to identify budding fascism since he wrote about Bonhoeffer’s resistance to it. Oppenheimer is understandably perplexed and offended by the contradictions between Metaxas the Trump supporter and Metaxas the Bonhoeffer biographer.
I have all kinds of problems with evangelicals going gaga for Trump, but one of the biggest is that they enable his flaws. In the Daily Beast article, Metaxas makes excuses for him, likening him to a “cranky ‘uncle’ who is basically harmless but doesn’t know when to shut up.” My first thought: I don’t want a cranky Uncle having the nuclear codes. Second thought: How is that supposed to reassure anyone that Trump is a good choice? Third thought: Metaxas isn’t paying attention to what Trump proposes on a regular basis. Trump sounds more troubling than a cranky Uncle.
Now here is something else I don’t understand. Why do evangelicals fail to use their leverage and influence? If evangelical leaders stick up for the groups Trump bashes, what is Trump going to do? Go get another major demographic group to replace us? Where’s he going to go? Enabling him by making excuses violates the principles evangelicals are supposed to champion and reinforces Trump’s belief that he can do anything and his supporters don’t care.
It May Not Be Too Late for an Alternative
There are currently efforts to recruit an alternative candidate. Why haven’t evangelical leaders moved in that direction? There are many voters who don’t want Trump or Clinton. An alternative candidate, with sufficient support from evangelicals, might be able to upset the electoral math and send the election to the House of Representatives. Sure, it is a long shot, but why give up on that principled option so soon? There is still time for this.
If the third party option doesn’t work out, then a substantial number of evangelicals would go for Trump. However, evangelicals should pursue all options first. The group Better for America is still promising a conservative independent candidate. If BfA’s candidate doesn’t work out, then I can understand some evangelicals moving toward (not me, but it would happen) Trump. However, if the millions who want someone beside Trump, Clinton, Johnson or Stein move toward a new independent candidate then evangelicals could salvage some of their credibility and perhaps take part in a political miracle.
Go check out Oppenheimer’s article. He provides a look at Metaxas’ support from a Jewish perspective.

Eric Metaxas: The Fake Bonhoeffer Quote Was a Joke

Scroll to the end for updates:
Now Metaxas says he was playing the mountebank with his fake Bonhoeffer quote:


In May, Metaxas tweeted the following:


In the ensuing response of tweets from his followers, several disagreed with the quote (as if it was a real quote) but no one challenged it. Recently, twitter user Michael Goff asked Metaxas for help to find it. Several people had hunted for it and asked Metaxas about it with no response. Now he says it was all a joke.
In looking into this joke, I found another possibly more serious issue. The fake voting quote was a take off of another fake Bohoeffer quote which Metaxas has seriously attributed to Bonhoeffer.
For instance, in his student guide, Metaxas has this image:
metaxas st edition silence quote
Elsewhere, including this tweet, Metaxas has attributed this quote to Bonhoeffer.


According to three Bonhoeffer scholars I consulted, the quote doesn’t appear in Bonhoeffer’s writings, nor is he known to have said this. For instance, Victoria Barnett told me in an email:

You’re correct that the quotation (“Not to cast a vote for the two majors IS to cast a vote for one of them”) doesn’t appear in Bonhoeffer’s writings. It may be a variation of another “quotation” that has been circulated and is supposedly on the Metaxas website: “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.” I’ve gotten a few inquiries on the source of that one, but it doesn’t appear anywhere in DB’s [Bonhoeffer’s] writings either.

Barnett’s bio indicates her qualifications to speak on the subject:

Victoria J. Barnett is director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is a general editor of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, the English translation series of Bonhoeffer’s complete works published by Fortress Press.

I don’t know if Metaxas thinks misleading his public is a joke or not, but he should take responsibility for it.
UPDATE: Continuing to focus on “the joke,” Metaxas has not addressed the ongoing representation of the “Silence in the face of evil…” quote as coming from Bonhoeffer.

Eric Metaxas Promotes Trump Vote with Fake Bonhoeffer Quote

UPDATE (7/30/16) – Now it appears that Metaxas is making fun of the fact that his fans trusted his Bonhoeffer quotes. Instead of addressing the concerns of those who checked the quotes, today he offered up a Freddie Mercury lyric as a Bonhoeffer quote.


Hilarious.
UPDATE (7/29/16): Barry Harvey, a professor of theology at Baylor University and member of the content team for the Bonhoeffer Center told me via email: “Not only do I know of no place that Bonhoeffer says this, it doesn’t sound like him at all.” He added, “The German index to the collected works also contains no such reference.”
Because the tweet resembles another, more famous quote falsely attributed to Bonhoeffer, I also asked Harvey if there is any evidence that Bonhoeffer said

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.

Many people incorrectly attribute this to Bonhoeffer and Metaxas has the quote in bold print on his website.
metaxas website silence
However, again Harvey told me “I know of no place where he [Bonhoeffer] says this.” (see also Clifford Green’s book on interpreting Bonhoeffer).
Several people have tweeted Metaxas for an explanation without response. Metaxas has advanced the “Not to speak…” quote on at least two occasions (here, and here attributed to Bonhoeffer. He also included it in a study guide for his biography of Bonhoeffer.
Finally, I just heard from Bonhoeffer expert Victoria Barnett (with the Holocaust Museum) who also said neither quote is found in Bonhoeffer’s work. She told me:

You’re correct that the quotation (“Not to cast a vote for the two majors IS to cast a vote for one of them”) doesn’t appear in Bonhoeffer’s writings. It may be a variation of another “quotation” that has been circulated and is supposedly on the Metaxas website: “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.” I’ve gotten a few inquiries on the source of that one, but it doesn’t appear anywhere in DB’s [Bonhoeffer’s] writings either.

………………………………………………….. (original post)
Today, Eric Metaxas was asked on Twitter where to find the following quote in Bonhoeffer’s writings.


If you read through the comments, Metaxas was criticized severely for his support for Donald Trump (see this post).
What is also puzzling about this quote is that I can’t find it in Bonhoeffer’s book on ethics. Metaxas cites pages 265-266 but in the two Google versions at those pages, I can’t find it. Actually, a search of both version turns up nothing for the quote. I can’t find it anywhere except in Metaxas’ tweet.
For those who know Bonhoeffer well, help me crowd source this. Is this a real Bonhoeffer quote?

Eric Metaxas and David Barton: Show Me the Miracles

Barton Metaxas picOn Tuesday, I posted an audio clip of David Barton on Eric Metaxas’ radio show talking about the two times when Thomas Jefferson cut up the Gospels to create an extraction of the morals of Jesus. During Jefferson’s first term, he revealed his beliefs about Christianity to some of his closer friends and in the process decided to cut out of the Gospels portions which Jefferson believed were actually from Jesus, leaving the rest behind.
On the program, Barton told Metaxas a made up story about what Jefferson did and mixed in a little truth with some error to create a flawed picture. Metaxas took it in without question. In my Tuesday post, I debunked Barton’s story about how Jefferson got the idea to cut up the Gospels and today I want to set the stage for what is a more difficult aspect of this story: identifying the verses Jefferson included in his first effort to extract the true teachings of Jesus from the Gospels.
The reason it is more difficult to know what Jefferson included in his 1804 effort is because the original manuscript has been lost. There isn’t a copy we can look at. The version completed sometime after 1820 is the one commonly known as the Jefferson Bible. That version can be purchased from the Smithsonian and viewed online.
Do We Know What Jefferson Cut Out of the Gospels?
Reproductions of the 1804 version exist but for reasons I will address in this series, there are some disputed verses which Jefferson may or may not have included. There really is no way to be sure.
Jefferson mentioned both versions in a letter to Adrian Van Der Kemp in 1816, Jefferson wrote about both extractions:

I made, for my own satisfaction, an Extract from the Evangelists of the texts of his morals, selecting those only whose style and spirit proved them genuine, and his own: and they are as distinguishable from the matter in which they are imbedded as diamonds in dunghills. a more precious morsel of ethics was never seen. it was too hastily done however, being the work of one or two evenings only, while I lived at Washington, overwhelmed with other business: and it is my intention to go over it again at more leisure. this shall be the work of the ensuing winter. I gave it the title of ‘the Philosophy of Jesus extracted from the text of the Evangelists.’

The “work of one or two evenings only, while I lived in Washington, overwhelmed with other business” is a reference to his 1804 effort which was done for his “own satisfaction.” When he referred to “his intention to go over it again at more leisure” in an “ensuing winter,” he referred to the version he later completed sometime after 1820. It should be obvious from this letter that Jefferson viewed the second project as a completion of the 1804 work which was “too hastily done” while attending to his presidential duties. Jefferson does not refer to them as two separate projects with separate purposes. Rather, the 1804 version was more like a trial run and the latter was the product of more time and concentration.
How Do We Know What Verses Jefferson Included?
There are two primary sources for our knowledge of what verses Jefferson included. First, ever meticulous and organized, Jefferson prepared a listing of texts he planned to include. Michael Coulter and I included images of the originals (housed at the University of VA) in our book Getting Jefferson RightThe second source is the cut-up Bibles Jefferson used to cut out the verses he pasted together to form the 1804 version. In contrast to Barton’s claim, Jefferson didn’t cut out only Jesus’ words and he certainly didn’t cut them all out and paste them end to end.
Although these sources are critically important, they are not sufficient to be sure about what Jefferson included. A major barrier to certainty is that Jefferson cut out some verses which were not listed in his table of texts. This can be discerned by reviewing the parts of the Gospels which were cut out. What can never be known for sure is why Jefferson cut out more verses than he intended. We cannot assume that he intended to cut out any verse other than what he listed in his table of verses. However, we cannot assume he didn’t decide as he was doing it that he wanted to include something on the fly.
There are good arguments to be made for both possibilities. Jefferson said he did the 1804 version “too hastily.” Thus, he may have made some errors in cutting and cut too many verses or simply cut some in error from the wrong page. Anyone who has literally cut and pasted any kind of craft project can probably relate to that possibility.
On the other hand, it is certainly plausible to think that Jefferson changed his mind as he read through the Gospels again. He may have decided he wanted a particular verse that he didn’t include in the table. Nothing would have stopped him from clipping it.
Another possibility exists for the 1804 version which we know is true for the 1820 version. At times, Jefferson surgically extracted miraculous content from within a verse. In other words, he cut out a verse from the Gospels but when he included it in his manuscript, he only included a part of the verse.  For instance, Jefferson included Matthew 12:15 in his 1820 version, but he left out the end of the verse where the healing took place.*
jefferson bible mt 12
Mt. 12:15 in entirety reads:

But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all.

Jefferson intentionally left out the healing (“and he healed them all”) even though he included the verse. Clearly, it is not enough for us today to know what Jefferson cut out of those Gospels in 1804. For a perfect reconstruction, we would have to know what parts of the verses he included. A few disputed verses do have some miraculous content but that is no guarantee that Jefferson included that content in his compilation. We know he used partial verses in his second attempt; it is very plausible that he did the same thing the first time around.
Barton’s story to Metaxas completely glosses over these facts. If we really want to get inside Jefferson’s thinking about Jesus in the Gospels in 1804, we should first look at the table of texts he constructed (click here to examine those tables). Then we can look at the verses which Jefferson cut out but didn’t list. However, we must approach those disputed verses carefully. We don’t know why he cut them out and we don’t know what parts, if any, he actually included.
Barton Also Uses a Flawed Secondary Source
In The Jefferson Lies, Barton links to two secondary sources for his information about what is in the 1804 version. In at least one case, the source has a major error which we point out in Getting Jefferson Right. In the next post, I will address that secondary source error.
 
I challenge Eric Metaxas to bring on an actual historian and/or me to discuss the issues raised recently about his book, If You Can Keep It or this series.
*Jefferson Bible, ch 1:59-60.

David Barton Told Eric Metaxas an Untrue Story about the Jefferson Bible

Barton Metaxas picLast week, Eric Metaxas had David Barton on his radio show and told the audience that he loved Barton and his work. He also said he used some of Barton’s work to help write his new book If You Can Keep It. That book has been the subject of many critical reviews.

They also briefly discussed Barton’s pulled-from-publication book, The Jefferson Lies. In particular, Barton claimed to enlighten the audience about what is commonly known as the Jefferson Bible. Metaxas started to ask Barton a question about Jefferson’s editing of the Gospels, and Barton jumped in to explain.

I have addressed this story before but want to write a series of posts to show that Barton’s story is mostly fiction. Today, I start with the audio, the transcript and address a few of the key claims. First, the audio segment:

Transcript (the words in bold print are either untrue or highly questionable):

Metaxas: Jefferson is perceived as being rather secular, that he excised the Bible, rather the New Testament to remove the miracles and the…

Barton: Can I jump in on that one for a second because that is the one that Christians will repeat the most often?

Metaxas: Right, of course.

Barton: And I say Jefferson cut out all the supernatural, the stuff he didn’t like? And they say, Yeah. What are you talking about? They say, the Jefferson Bible. I say, really? Yeah, the Jefferson Bible. I say, which one? First off, they didn’t know there were two. And I say, yeah there’s the 1804 and an 1820 so which one so which one are you talking about? And so then I say, have you read either one of them? Well, no. How do you know he cuts it out? Well, that’s what they always say. Well, let me tell you about the 1804 and then go to 1820.

In 1804, Jefferson was given a sermon by a friend named, excuse me 1803, he got a sermon by a friend named Edward Dowse and the sermon was by William Bennet an evangelical in Scotland that says if you want to reach the American Indians do not give them the Bible because they might read Leviticus, they might read the genealogies, he said give them excerpts out of the Bible.

So Jefferson read that sermon, he then goes to the White House and takes two White House Bibles and he cuts out the teachings of Jesus, what we would call the red letters of Jesus. He pasted them end-to-end. He gave that to a missionary friend and said look, this is a lot cheaper than printing the Bible and its got the teachings. In that, he has the dead being raised, Jesus is raising the dead, Jesus healing the sick, Jesus cleansing lepers, Jesus is the son of God, resurrection, heaven, hell, angels. But wait! I thought he cut out all that sp__, no, it’s there.

The second one he did was in 1820. And he said, and by the way, every University in America back then required you to take a course in moral philosophy, every theological school, same thing. And so he [Jefferson] lists nearly 20 writers where he read their moral writings and he concluded that Jesus was better than all of them.

So he went through in 1820 and found 81 moral teachings of Jesus, he compiled them end to end. He called the book the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth, and it was the stuff like the great commandment, love God with all your heart soul and mind. It was turning the other cheek, it was forgiveness, it was the good Samaritan, it was the Golden Rule, and that’s what he did in four languages. Nobody knew that existed until 1886, and Cyrus Adler the Secretary of the Smithsonian found it from Jefferson’s grandson, they bought it , they got it to Congress and in 1902, US representative John Lacey said you know this is so great, if we could just live by the teachings of Jesus. So Congress printed 9,000 copies and for 50 years if you were a Freshman in the House or Senate, they gave you the life and morals of Jesus, read this and you’ll stay out of trouble.

Metaxas: Unbelievable.

Barton: Now wait a minute what happened to this stuff about hating. Let me point out that Jefferson was a lifetime member of the Virginia Bible Society, the third largest contribution he gave in his life was to the Virginia Bible Society, when his kids and grandkids learned to read, he gave them a Bible to read, he’s a funder of the John Thompson Bible, the largest Bible ever done in America, he’s a funder of the Thomas Scott Bible, he tried to fund the Charles Thomson Bible. If Jefferson hates the Bible, why does he keep doing this stuff? See that’s one of the seven lies we’ve been told about Jefferson. And everybody repeats what they’ve heard. Read it for yourself. It doesn’t cut out the miraculous, or the supernatural. Read it for yourself.

William Bennet’s Sermon
The first false claim is that William Bennet’s sermon gave instructions about how to reach the Indians with the Gospel. I don’t know why Barton keeps making this claim. He made it in the first edition of The Jefferson Lies and often repeats in his media appearances (e.g., Jesse Peterson show) but he walked it back in the recently published second edition. Furthermore, Mark Beliles, an writer used by both Barton and Metaxas as an authority, told me that Barton is wrong about the content of that sermon. In an email, Beliles said:

Yes, Barton overstated the case about that sermon itself. But the sermon clearly promoted the importance of getting Jesus’ morals found in the gospel into the hands of missionaries of the society, and they of course were going to Indians as well as other groups.

Barton did more than overstate the case. Bennet in his sermon didn’t mention mission work to Indians and certainly didn’t tell readers to withhold a Bible from Indians because they might read Leviticus or the genealogies. He didn’t encourage readers to cut up the Gospels and give the Indians a resurrection-free version of the Gospels. Barton just made that up. Don’t believe me? Click the link and read the sermon for yourself.

Why Did Jefferson Cut Up the Gospels?
Barton makes it sound like Jefferson read this sermon and then immediately went to the White House Bibles with knife in hand. One must pause to understand the timing. Edward Dowse sent Bennet’s sermon to Jefferson in April 1803 (read the entire correspondence here). Jefferson didn’t make his first extraction from the Gospels until March 1804.

In this case, we have Jefferson’s own words about why he cut up the Gospels. To Adrian Van Der Kemp in 1816, Jefferson wrote about his extraction:

I made, for my own satisfaction, an Extract from the Evangelists of the texts of his morals, selecting those only whose style and spirit proved them genuine, and his own: and they are as distinguishable from the matter in which they are imbedded as diamonds in dunghills. a more precious morsel of ethics was never seen. it was too hastily done however, being the work of one or two evenings only, while I lived at Washington, overwhelmed with other business: and it is my intention to go over it again at more leisure. this shall be the work of the ensuing winter. I gave it the title of ‘the Philosophy of Jesus extracted from the text of the Evangelists.’

Jefferson referred to this extraction to John Adams, Benjamin Rush and others. In no place, did he refer to the sermon from Bennet or the letter from Dowse as having anything to do with his desire to cut up the Gospels. Jefferson said he selected only those texts “whose style and spirit proved them genuine, and his [Jesus’] own.” Jefferson said the real words and deeds of Jesus were “as distinguishable from the matter in which they are imbedded as diamond in dunghills.”

Regarding the 1804 effort, Jefferson refers to it as a text “of his [Jesus] morals.” In both efforts, Jefferson was going for a compendium of the moral teachings of Jesus which Jefferson believed to be the actual teachings (diamonds) and not material added by the disciples and Gospel writers (dunghill). Let that sink in a minute. Jefferson presumed to know what parts of the Gospels were really true and which were added and not genuine.
Barton is correct that there were two efforts but because of his story about Bennet’s sermon, he artificially makes Jefferson have two purposes. This is misleading.

Relevant to that point, I challenge Barton or Metaxas to identify the missionary who received Jefferson’s 1804 version. No primary source evidence exists that Jefferson ever gave the extraction to anybody.

What Is In The Jefferson Bible?
In fact, when Barton tells Metaxas’ audience to go read the 1804 version, he knows they can’t. There is no actual copy in existence. We have the tables of texts Jefferson wrote to help guide him in his work and we have the cut up Bibles as well. However, we don’t know for sure what ended up in the version since we don’t have it. We do have the 1820 (in the neighborhood of 1820, it is not known exactly when he finished it) which you can read here.
In the next post on Barton’s story on the Metaxas show, I will take up the question about miracles in the 1804 version. We can’t be as sure what was in that one as in the 1820 version but we aren’t completely in the dark as I will discuss in that post. In the mean time, one can see the following posts on that topic, or get my book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.

Is the Jefferson Bible All the Words of Jesus? Part One

Is the Jefferson Bible All the Words of Jesus? Part Two

Are the Miracles of Matthew 9 in the Jefferson Bible?