Some Evangelicals Turn Away from Trump, Some Remain, Some Haven't Spoken

The fall out continues from the audio of Donald Trump claiming to use his celebrity status to assault women. While some evangelical Trump supporters have remained on the Trump train, at least two prominent ones have jumped off. At least one prominent Trump supporting evangelical has stayed quiet.
UPDATE: Christianity Today’s Andy Crouch produced a hammer after the video scandal and didn’t spare his evangelical brothers and sisters who are enabling Trump. Must. Read.
The Leavers
Wayne Grudem and Hugh Hewitt have taken back their support. Hewitt thinks Trump should turn over the candidacy to Mike Pence while Grudem took back his support and called for Trump to withdraw.
Hewitt also thinks more tapes and awkward material is to come. Grudem still doesn’t know who he is going to vote for if Trump stays in.
UPDATE: Christianity Today has a nice write up of former Trump advisory board member James McDonald’s efforts to get Trump to take advice from the advisory board.
WaPo also has the report of McDonald’s strong denunciation of Trump’s comments on the video.
On the Trump Train
Supporters Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Gary Bauer, are sticking with him. Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. tweeted his Trump pride after last night’s debate. Michele Bachmann is still on the team.
Silence in the Face of Vulgar Video is Still Silence
Eric Metaxas hasn’t tweeted anything since October 7 when he first acknowledged the video. In his tweets, he took a negative view of Trump’s behavior and said he was going off Twitter for awhile.
Trump advisory board member and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton has not responded to two requests for his position on Trump’s candidacy in light of the video.  I expected the owner of the largest association of Christian counselor might have something to say about it.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike Fuoco quoted me in this article on evangelical support for Trump.
Eric Metaxas will keep us waiting until Wednesday but will block out unpleasantness until then. Sigh.

A New Argument for the Existence of God!

Christian apologetics – 2016

Atheists trembled until Tebow went hitless in his next 5 at-bats. Another promising argument spoiled by the rest of the story.

Eric Metaxas: Donald Trump Speaks Hyperbolically and Shouldn't Be Taken Literally

According to Eric Metaxas, people who oppose Trump have taken him at his word and that is a mistake.
Read what he told Justin Brierley with Premier Christianity (UK).

Brierley: I think they would also point to some of his polices, like banning Muslims from entering the US
Metaxas: What fascinates me is how everyone takes him literally, and they don’t seem to understand that he has always spoken hyperbolically and impressionistically. That’s what he does. The idea that he is a racist or a xenophobe, I think that’s simply not true, but if you say something enough people believe it.
What about Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and Mexicans?
If people think that he could bring xenophobic legislation into the United States of America, I just don’t believe that we would stand for it. I think what he is really talking about, which ought to be common sense, is that we’ve got to protect our borders.

The contortions of Trump’s Christian supporters are painful to watch. How else are we supposed to take the policy pronouncements of the GOP candidate for president? If we can’t take him literally, then how can anyone take him at all? Once upon a time words mattered, but in the post-modern evangelical space, a leading evangelical figure is fascinated that his fellows take the words of a presidential candidate seriously.
We are to assume Trump speaks nonsense impressionistically, but we are cautioned with the straightest of faces to take each word from Hillary as a dark prescription for the end of everything good. Furthermore, Metaxas is convinced that the American people will reject Trump’s impressions should they turn out to be literal but will be powerless to withstand Hillary’s evil mind tricks.
Every time I read Mr. Metaxas, I think of the warnings from William Buckley about hyperbolic demagoguery. Buckley knew Trump and warned about him. He also had something more general to say about how America should respond to a demagogue:

In other ages, one paid court to the king. Now we pay court to the people. In the final analysis, just as the king might look down with terminal disdain upon a courtier whose hypocrisy repelled him, so we have no substitute for relying on the voter to exercise a quiet veto when it becomes more necessary to discourage cynical demagogy, than to advance free health for the kids. That can come later, in another venue; the resistance to a corrupting demagogy should take first priority.

Ironically, Buckley’s reference to “free health for the kids” is something Mrs. Clinton championed. In so many words, Metaxas admits that Trump is spoofing us, just talking smack with the details to be named later. What should we do with such a pretender to the throne? According to Buckley, the voter’s first priority should be to reject such “cynical demagogy.” I concur.
For those who believe both Trump and Clinton are corrupted demagogues, there is potential to move the election into the House if only a certain voting bloc would follow Mr. Buckley’s advice.

Eric Metaxas: Hillary Clinton is 1930s Fascism in Rainbow Colors

Eric Metaxas continues to double and triple down on his contention that opposition to Hillary Clinton (and support for Trump) is like Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the Nazis. For good measure, he seems to liken Trump opponents to German Christians who failed to oppose Hitler.
Reading the comments, it appears that many of his Twitter followers aren’t buying it.
From Twitter today:



Bonhoeffer was an exception but many German church leaders agreed with the Nazis about the “Jewish problem.” They also had good things to say about the coming Nazi domination. Any analogy to now can only work if Trump is the fascist element. Trump’s conservative opponents are not rhapsodizing about Hillary the way German Christians did about the Nazis.
I agree with this Twitter user:

In a post back in June, I discussed a book Complicity with the Holocaust. Author Robert Ericksen describes how the church overlooked the warning signs about the Nazis. I wrote then:

Consider this quote from Erickson’s book (via Leithart) from a German Lutheran newspaper in April 1933:

We get no further if we get stuck on little things that might displease us, failing to value the great things God has done for our Volk through them [the Nazis]. Or was it perhaps not God but ‘the old, evil enemy?’ For humans alone have not done this, an entire Volk , or at least its largest part, raising itself up into a storm, breaking the spiritual chains of many years, wanting once again to be a free, honest, clean Volk . There are higher powers at work here. The ‘evil enemy’ does not want a clean Volk , he wants no religion, no church, no Christian schools; he wants to destroy all of that. But the National Socialist movement wants to build all this up, they have written it into their program. Is that not God at work?

Heightening concern is the observation that Trump has called for war crimes, singling out and banning Muslims, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, stigma against children of immigrants, and limitations on the press. He also told religious leaders that he wanted to make Christianity more powerful and somehow coerce businesses to say Merry Christmas. Even the impulse to take power in this manner should be questioned by the church. Instead, religious leaders are telling us that Trump “gets it.”
By now, shouldn’t we question boldly the political declarations of religious leaders? History shows us multiple illustrations of religion being used and abused for political benefit. To be candid, I fear this in the present day. Religious leaders have had a full year to study Trump and become knowledgeable about him. However, after one meeting, many come out declaring him God’s man for the hour. I just can’t get there and in fact their reassurances worry me all the more.

As I have said before, I don’t think Trump is reincarnating Hitler. I do think he has described a program for the vanguard of an American fascism. It is not Trump alone that frightens me, it is his followers and those who want him to do more than he publicly described. What he has owned is bad enough.

Eric Metaxas Likes Christian Colleges, Blocks Christian College Profs

Today, Eric Metaxas published an article at CNSNews talking up Christian colleges. The major talking point is that Christian colleges are well rounded while secular schools are one-dimensional. Actually, in the article, he reported the views of NY Times columnist David Brooks. Speaking of Ivy League students, Brooks says:

“They’ve been raised in a culture,” Brooks says, “that encourages them to pay attention to the résumé virtues of how to have a great career but leaves by the wayside … time to think about the eulogy virtues: the things they’ll say about you after you’re dead. They go through their school with the mixture of complete self-confidence and utter terror, afraid of a single false step off the achievement machine.” It’s flat, lifeless, and soul-killing.
But Christian schools attempt to educate their charges in three dimensions. Brooks told Christian college leaders that Christian universities “are the avant-garde of 21st century culture.” Christian colleges “have a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion and intellect. [They] have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”

I can’t agree or disagree with Brooks about Ivy League students, but I can say he is close to the mark on the place where I teach.
It interests me that Metaxas resonates with Brooks observations. Recently on Twitter, Metaxas has blocked several Christian college professors who have publicly expressed concerns with his newest book, as well as his support for Donald Trump. To David Brooks observations, I would add that several of the Christian colleges that I know well are not intimidated by the celebrity culture which marks evangelical Christianity.  We encourage students to question the status quo both in and outside the church.
Over the past couple of months, Metaxas has blocked Messiah College history prof John Fea, Oklahoma Baptist University English prof Alan Noble (recently unblocked), Tyndale University College Philosophy prof Paul Franks and me. There are others but these are the ones who came to mind. It isn’t a major thing to be blocked and my point isn’t to gripe about that. My point is that in addition to the virtues identified by Brooks, many profs at Christian colleges seek the truth wherever it leads, even when that upsets a few big name apple carts.

Fact Free Fun Fact Courtesy of Eric Metaxas: A Vote for Johnson is a Vote for Clinton

Dietrich Bonhoeffer biographer and Trump supporter Eric Metaxas goes fact free today. To wit:

In fact, a vote for Johnson is a vote for Johnson. Furthermore, according to Nate Silver at, Trump benefits when Johnson is thrown into polling preferences.

Overall, including third-party candidates takes about 1 percentage point away from Clinton’s margin, on average.

Even Trump’s megaphone Breitbart News headlined in June: Polls: Libertarian Gary Johnson Will Likely Hurt Hillary Clinton More Than Donald Trump
Metaxas didn’t get much support for his #funfact.

#funopinion – Evangelicals like Metaxas, David Barton, James Jeremiah, and Franklin Graham are being played. Trump still cozying up to Putin after Putin’s Russia imposed restrictions on religious liberty. Why aren’t evangelicals going ballistic over it? Instead of looking the other way or placating Trump, evangelical leaders should be denouncing Putin’s moves and should denounce Trump for his silence.

Todd Starnes: You Did Not Paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer When You Said Not to Vote is to Vote

Fox News columnist and pundit Todd Starnes is the latest religious right figure to claim 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.

In his speech to the Values Voter Summit yesterday, Starnes misattributed this quote to German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Here are the relevant references in Starnes’ speech:

To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer – not to vote — is to vote.

and then down the page a bit:

Bonhoeffer once 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.”
I believe this is a Bonhoeffer moment for ever Bible-believing Christian in America.
We can no longer be silent. We are to be civil but not silent. We must roar like lions.

The problem is these words cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. The experts at the Bonhoeffer Society can’t find it in his writings, and no one who uses the quote (not even Bonhoeffer biographer Eric Metaxas) has been able to supply a source for it. I traced it back to a 1998 exhibit in Philadelphia’s Liberty Museum, but now the Museum staff cannot locate a source for the quote. There is no source for the quote in Bonhoeffer’s works and no evidence that he ever said it.
As I have pointed out before, “not to vote is to vote” is nonsense.  When someone doesn’t vote, nothing can be counted for either side. The only way not voting could be considered a vote is if the act of not voting is considered a statement of non-confidence in all candidates.
Whatever not voting is, the phrase “not to vote is to vote” is not a paraphrase of Bonhoeffer. Use the quote if you must, but pundits should stop attributing it to Bonhoeffer.

Eric Metaxas Defends Donald Trump Against Charges He Ridiculed a Disabled Reporter

Today, Eric Metaxas went on full Trump defense. Most recently, he tweeted:

Personally, I think the possible comparison is to Musolini but all of this is debatable and the jury is still out. I will add that Metaxas should clean up his own house before he scolds anyone about historical knowledge (when will Metaxas issue a retraction on the spurious Bonhoeffer quote he has promoted for years?).
However, what caught my eye was his retweet of Ann Coulter’s justification of Trump’s mocking references to New York Time reporter Serge Kovaleski. In her column yesterday, Coulter refers readers to footage of Trump also mocking a General and Ted Cruz. She claims the footage proves that Trump did not mock Kovaleski’s disability. Metaxas retweeted it with this message.

Scary, indeed.
What makes Metaxas’ defense of both Trump and Coulter astonishing is how Coulter defends Trump in her new book. In that book, she claims Trump was not mocking the reporting due to his disability, but because he clarified earlier reporting on Muslim response after the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. She said Trump was just doing a “standard retard” in order to mock Kovaleski. Make sure you read the sentence with the word “retard” highlighted in yellow.
Coulter Retard
Standard retard? Apparently, Coulter thinks having a standard move to mock intellectually disabled people is more acceptable than tailoring one’s ridicule to individual disabilities.
I ask myself: Why is Eric Metaxas recommending Coulter’s defense of Trump making fun of anyone? Because Trump used his “standard retard” to ridicule three people, it is somehow better than using it to make fun of one disabled reporter? I am truly confused by how this justification of inexcusable behavior can be considered the kind of virtue that Metaxas hawks in his new book.
Did Trump Ridicule a Disabled Reporter?

I watched the clips Coulter recommended and I don’t think it is as clear as she does.
First, she doesn’t address why Trump said he didn’t know the reporter when in fact he did. Trump said he was a nice person and told the crowd before he launched into his mocking routine that “you gotta see this guy” referring to Kovaleski. Trump then accused the reporter of using his disability to grandstand (see the Politifact article on these points).
Also, Trump is much more animated and draws his arms up to his body (akin to Kovaleski’s disability) while flailing around when he is mocking Kovaleski more so than when he mocks the General and Ted Cruz. I have embedded the videos below. Watch and decide for yourself.
Trump on Serge Kovaleski and the General:
Trump on Ted Cruz (which this excellent piece points out is three months later! Reporters could not have ignored the response to Cruz since it hadn’t happened yet.)
Whether Trump singled out Kovaleski or was “doing a standard retard” doesn’t matter much to me. It is a very Sad! day when political pressures lead to defense of the indefensible.

The Popular Bonhoeffer Quote That Isn’t in Bonhoeffer’s Works

Bonhoeffer picDietrich Bonhoeffer is a modern day hero among evangelical Christians. Killed by the Nazis in 1945 for resisting the regime, Bonhoeffer’s fame among evangelicals increased after the publication of Eric Metaxas’ acclaimed biography of the Lutheran pastor. For many Christians who feel compelled to take a stand on principle, Bonhoeffer has become an inspiration and guiding light. On that point, perhaps the most repeated and celebrated quote attributed to Bonhoeffer is

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.

These are bold words and together they have helped strengthen the conclusion of many persuasive appeals. Though they are powerful, they are not from Bonhoeffer. According to my research and the Bonhoeffer scholars I consulted, these sentences can’t be found in any of his writings or speeches.

This may come as a shock to countless (really, I stopped counting) Twitter and Facebook users who have posted a picture of Bonhoeffer with that quote attributed to him. The quote is on many lists of essential Bonhoeffer quotes (e.g., see Relevant Magazine’s list). Many politicians and authors have used it to make their many points.

I became interested in the quote while researching this May 22, 2016 tweet from Eric Metaxas:

As Bonhoeffer said “Not to cast a vote for the two majors IS to cast a vote for one of them.” – Ethics, pp. 265-6

Although it wasn’t obvious to me at first, this was a joke based on “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Metaxas posted this in response to a Twitter user who described people who plan not to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

At the time, his Twitter followers didn’t get the joke. Here are some of their tweets in response: “sounds like Bonhoeffer made a boo boo,” “Mr Bonhoeffer was right about many things but still a mere mortal!” and “Sorry, but I think the great Bonhoeffer whiffed on this one.” I couldn’t find anyone who questioned the authenticity of the modified quote.

My entrance into the thread was in late July when a Twitter user asked Metaxas for the quote’s source. One purchased Bonhoeffer’s book on ethics to look up the quote but couldn’t find it. After several days on July 31, Metaxas tweeted

This has gotten out of hand. The ORIGINAL Bonhoeffer fake quote was intended as an OBVIOUS joke. It obviously failed. (emphasis in the original)

Like his Twitter followers, I also looked for the source of the “original fake quote.” In doing so, I learned something more interesting; the popular quote on which Metaxas’ joke was based (“Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”) had been incorrectly attributed to Bonhoeffer.

Questioning the Quote

As far as I can tell, the authenticity of the quote was first questioned in 2013 by Doris Bergen in a book edited by Clifford Green and Guy Carter titled Interpreting Bonhoeffer:

Many lists of “Bonhoeffer quotes” include a sharper indictment: “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.” See also Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), back flap. However, this formulation has not been found in Bonhoeffer’s works.

In a 2015 issue of the Australasian Journal of Bonhoeffer studies, Erich von Dietze also cast doubt on the quote.

While commonly attributed to Bonhoeffer, the origin of this quote remains uncertain. The quote has been referenced to Metaxas, E. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – A Righteous Gentile vs the Third Reich. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010).  However, I have not been able to find it in this work.

The online resource Wikiquotes considers the quote to be “misattributed” to Bonhoeffer and names an obscure organization newsletter as the possible source.

First attributed to Bonhoeffer in Explorations 12:1 (1998), p. 3, as referenced by James Cone (2004) Theology’s Great Sin: Silence in the Face of White Supremacy, Black Theology, 2:2, 139-152, footnote 1.

Explorations was the newsletter of the now defunct American Interfaith Institute, founded by the late Irvin Borowsky. Borowsky also founded the Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. I located the newsletter via the online World Catalog and received a copy of the newsletter courtesy of the document delivery service at Grove City College.

On page three of the newsletter is an article by Borowsky which promoted the opening of the Heroes exhibit at the Liberty Museum in 1998. One of the featured heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The description on the exhibit is as follows:

He was a Lutheran pastor who left Germany in 1933 at age 27 to protest the Nazi regime’s introduction of anti-Jewish legislation. He could have stayed permanently in England, or later the U.S., but repeatedly returned home to oppose Hitler from within. Helping Jews to escape to Switzerland during the war, he also organized church-based resistance. Arrested in 1943, he was hung for treason in 1945 just days before the end of the Third Reich. According to 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.” (emphasis in the original)

I have been in contact with Borowsky’s daughter Gwen who now manages the museum. Now that she knows the quote isn’t accurate, the exhibit will be changed when that gallery is remodeled (photo of current exhibit). She has no knowledge of the source of the quote since the researcher responsible for it has died. I cannot find it anywhere before 1998.
After 1998, a few citations appear in various data bases but the most prominent is the one by Union Theological Seminary professor James Cone in his article “Theology’s Great Sin: Silence in the Face of White Supremacy” published in the journal Black Theology in 2004. Cone attributed the saying to Bonhoeffer and cited the Explorations newsletter as his source.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

metaxas st edition silence quoteBy far, the greatest number of references to the quote have come after the publication of Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer in 2010. On the back flap of the book, the quote is attributed to Bonhoeffer. In his student guide and study guide for the Bonhoeffer book, Metaxas attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer. It also appears in his 2014 book Miracles. He has tweeted the quote attributed to Bonhoeffer in 2012 and 2013. Several other Christian books cite Metaxas as the source of the quote.

I contacted Metaxas via his website and Twitter in early August to ask for his source. He did not respond.

Since Metaxas’ book was published, the quote has shown up in the Congressional Record seven times, all attributed to Bonhoeffer. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) used it three times on international religious freedom, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) included it twice on religious freedom, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) used it once on defunding planned parenthood, and one of the most interesting uses of the quote was by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) in his apology for a future Iranian nuclear attack. Johnson told the House:

In 2015, I spoke in opposition to the deal that led to the 2030 Iranian nuclear attack because I well remember the words of the theologian Bonhoeffer who eventually died in a Nazi torture chamber. In confronting the murderous madmen of his time, he declared that “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.”

It has been used in hundreds of sermons and speeches opposing abortion and in support of religious liberty. A Google search returns over 38,000 instances of the quote. In April, Christian leaders opposed to Donald Trump used it to justify their opposition to his candidacy. Recently, Janet Porter used it to promote a vote for Trump.

However, the Bonhoeffer experts I consulted agree that the saying is not in his works. One of them, Barry Harvey, a professor of theology at Baylor University and member of the content team for the International Bonhoeffer Society told me via email: “Not only do I know of no place that Bonhoeffer says this, it doesn’t sound like him at all.”

Perhaps the foremost expert on Bonhoeffer’s writings is Victoria Barnett. Barnett is director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is also the general editor of the English translation series of Bonhoeffer’s complete works. Because of her work bringing together Bonhoeffer’s writings, she is able to comprehensively search his known works. When I asked her if the quote came from Bonhoeffer, she told me:

I’ve gotten a few inquiries on the source of that one, but it doesn’t appear anywhere in Bonhoeffer’s writings.

Barnett said she looked for the quote in early translations of Bonhoeffer’s work but cautioned that someday new evidence might turn up. For now, she said,

I am virtually certain that the quote doesn’t exist.

There can be little doubt that the quote’s popularity has risen with the success of Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer biography. If Metaxas continues to usemetaxas back flap it in his speeches and his current website promoting the book, it may continue to be used inaccurately for some time to come.

The appeal of this quote is understandable. The powerful arrangement of words elevates the importance of the cause and bringing Bonhoeffer to one’s side only strengthens the sense that the cause is just. However, since the quote isn’t his, using it is a false witness.

In checking out this quote, I have learned to appreciate Bonhoeffer so much more than when he was just a figurehead on social media. There is value in fact checking. I didn’t find Bonhoeffer behind the quote, but what I found by reading his actual words is much more valuable.

Note: I will add to this post if I find other information regarding the source of the quote pre-1998.

UPDATE: On 11/11/16, I published an update to this post.  In it, I provide an image of a 1971 book with “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” used together.