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:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQQq50JWsmY[/youtube]
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.)
[youtube]https://youtu.be/M4604reEqk0[/youtube]
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.

The Futility of Donald Trump's Johnson Amendment Promise: Most Pastors Don't Want to Endorse Political Candidates

trump donate campaignCBN’s The Brody File reported yesterday that Donald Trump will speak to a group of pastors in Florida about repealing the Johnson Amendment.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will be speaking to hundreds of pastors this Thursday in Orlando, Florida. This is a private event sponsored by the American Renewal Project. Trump will speak to them about his push to repeal the Johnson Amendment. The law, which has been in place for decades, is perceived by some Christians as making it more difficult for pastors to speak out on political issues and candidates from the pulpit.

Correction: the amendment doesn’t prevent speaking on “political issues.” It does prohibit all tax-exempt organizations from campaigning or advocating for specific candidates.  Here is the IRS guidance on the matter:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

The prohibition is about campaigning for a person, not speaking out on issues. Ministers may speak about any issue and even speak in favor of a candidate, but they may not involve their churches in partisan campaign activities. It is very sad to me that any minister would want to use the church of Christ to promote a candidate but since some would, I am actually glad that the Johnson Amendment exists.
Many Christian supporters of Trump (e.g., Eric Metaxas today) think it is a big deal that Trump wants to pursue a repeal of the Johnson Amendment. If one can rely on surveys, many pastors don’t agree. According to a Christianity Today analysis, most pastors don’t want to endorse specific candidates from the pulpit or on behalf of the church. For instance, CT cited a Lifeway Research survey which found that a whopping 87% of pastors disagreed with the statement: “Pastors should endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit.” Only 29% of a Pew Research sample of Protestants and Catholics felt that churches should endorse candidates during elections.
I am glad a majority of ministers don’t want to use the church as a political tool. Doing so subordinates the mission of the church to political aims. Taking sides also risks alienating church members who disagree. Those members can feel coerced to vote consistently with the church endorsement.
Furthermore, the IRS isn’t enforcing the law. According to CT, thousands of pastors have violated the law (just think of that when you hear Trump say he’s the law and order candidate), but the IRS hasn’t done much about it.  Trump’s Johnson Amendment promise is just another substance-free hook to hoodwink evangelical voters and soothe the doubts of evangelical endorsers.
Brody’s analysis of the Florida event is a pretty good argument why the Johnson Amendment isn’t currently relevant to what churches actually do. Brody said:

Events like this one will be crucial to Trump if he wants to beat Hillary Clinton. The reality is that evangelical pastors are a major key ingredient to mobilizing the masses. They hold great power over a captive audience every week in the pews. Trump needs them engaged. If they are, the flocks will typically follow. The result? A bottom up approach that will affect turnout exponentially. The top down approach of receiving key endorsements won’t do squat unless the evangelicals sitting in the pews are motivated. Trump shouldn’t assume that the anti-Hillary sentiment will be all he needs. No. He needs to do some work and by showing up in Orlando he’s well on his way to striking evangelical gold.

If Brody is right, then why does the Johnson Amendment matter? If Trump can get those pastors on his side, they will go pull spiritual rank on the captive sheep and the flock will get in line. There’s evangelical gold in them there churches and Trump needs to mine it like a boss.
I hope Brody is wrong. First, I hope most pastors will continue to resist a church endorsement of a candidate, and second, I hope the sheep break free from their captivity and become independent in their thinking and voting.

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?

In New Book, Eric Metaxas Takes a Page from David Barton

Yesterday, History professor Gregg Frazer posted a very helpful preview of Eric Metaxas’ upcoming book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. In this book, it appears that Metaxas has taken some pages from David Barton.

There is a preview of the parts of the book available at Amazon and Google so I was able to check some of what Frazer wrote and look into a couple of additional problems. Given what I found, I would not recommend it unless one plans to fact check it. However, as Frazer notes, fact checking is not easy since Metaxas didn’t include many end notes or source materials.
Given what I read, Frazer is spot on.

One of the more egregious historical errors is the claim that the “very first settlers on American shores” came “precisely” to gain religious freedom, along with the equally false claim that “in America the idea of religious freedom was paramount,” and that there was “a complete tolerance of all denominations and religions” from the beginning (34–35).

These are not minor differences in interpretation. As Frazer says, these claims are false. Even though it may be a common false claim, it is disappointing to see Metaxas perpetuate it.

Thomas Jefferson and Yahweh

Of interest to me is Metaxas’ treatment of Thomas Jefferson. The first issue I checked revealed an error and a significant misrepresentation of Jefferson. Metaxas, like Barton, seems to want his readers to see Jefferson as much more religious than current political leaders. In doing so, he uses a questionable quote attributed to Jefferson to make it appear that Jefferson believed in “Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures.”
MetaxasJefferson
Here Metaxas claims that Jefferson wrote Daniel Webster a letter in which Jefferson said: “I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the [Bible] will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.”

First, Jefferson did not write this in a letter to Webster. The fact checkers at Monticello have looked into this and concluded, “This quotation has not been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson.”

Actually, in a June 16, 1852 letter to a “professor Pease” Daniel Webster claimed Jefferson told him this quote during Webster’s visit to Monticello. Webster said he “spent a Sabbath with Thomas Jefferson many years ago, at his residence in Virginia.” Webster added that “It was in the month of June and the weather was delightful.” According to Webster, on that Sunday in June, Jefferson uttered the words about the Bible (actually Webster said Jefferson said, “sacred volume”).

There are several problems with this quote. First, Webster visited Monticello from December 14-19, 1824, not in June. The weather was not delightful, as they were delayed in leaving because of bad weather. Webster wanted to leave Monticello early because, according to an account of the trip, he received troubling news about an illness in one of his children. When the weather broke (December 19, 1824 — which was a Sunday morning), they left the area. In the historical account of the visit, Webster made no mention of religious discussions or Jefferson’s quotes about perusing the sacred volume.

Thus, the quote itself is suspicious and Metaxas reports it incorrectly as being written by Jefferson.

There is another problem with Metaxas application of the quote to suggest Jefferson believed in the God of the Old Testament. Jefferson didn’t have very good things to say about the Old Testament. Jefferson wrote that Jesus reformed the deficient religion of the Jews.

His [Jesus’] object was the reformation of some articles in the religion of the Jews, as taught by Moses. That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.

and

Jesus had to walk on the perilous confines of reason and religion: and a step to right or left might place him within the gripe of the priests of the superstition, a blood thirsty race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel. (letter to William Short, August 4, 1820)

Jefferson’s view of Yahweh is not well represented by Webster’s questionable quote, but rather by his own words, calling Him “cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.”

I am pleased that Gospel Coalition published this review and hope that Metaxas will quickly address the errors and misleading narrative.

Note: The one concern with Frazer’s review is that he says Metaxas’ used a fake quote attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville. Apparently, Frazer had a prepublication copy of the book with the Tocqueville credited with the quote. Sometime prior to the Google preview being posted, the error was rectified because Metaxas acknowledges in the Google copy that the quote is false (although he cites it and says it summarizes Tocqueville well).