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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Metaxas Thinks He Saved Bonhoeffer from the Cultural Marxists

David Barton (Left); Eric Metaxas (Right)

Although this is entirely predictable, I want to preserve the moment. Eric Metaxas believes he saved Bonhoeffer’s legacy from the cultural Marxist academics who study Bonhoeffer for a living.

Metaxas tweeted this in response to a statement from the International Bonhoeffer Society calling for the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. An article by Jim Wallis summarized the statement and served as the trigger for Metaxas’ tweet.

It is a fine statement of objections to Trump’s term in office and Wallis offers some sobering parallels to Christian sentiment about Hitler during the 1930s and 1940s. The cultish devotion to Trump does mimic some things said about Hitler. I can understand support for certain of Trump’s policy positions, but I cannot understand the slavish fealty to Trump as a man. This is idolatrous and dangerous.  I urge you to read the IBS statement and support their work. They are fine and serious scholars.

Metaxas’ tweet exposes more about him than it does about the Bonhoeffer Society. It is one thing to believe you have a significant perspective to add to a field, it is quite another to believe you alone have the truth. Bonhoeffer scholars have documented significant omissions and problems in Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer.  He scoffs at their work and fails to respond in a scholarly manner. Mostly, he told journalist Jon Ward, he ignored them:

The handful of early negative reviews of my book on Bonhoeffer have not struck me as substantive, or as anything more than ideological griping, so I have labored to ignore them.

This is the way of so many Christian celebrities. Metaxas, like David Barton and Dinesh D’Souza, portrays an arrogance about his work. They are above correction and error. Any criticism is ideological and therefore beneath them.

And so it goes. Metaxas continues his labor. It must be a hard labor because these days there is so much he has to ignore.

Eric Metaxas’ Christian Case Against the Constitution

David Barton (left); Eric Metaxas (right)

Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Eric Metaxas was allowed to opine on what he called “The Christian Case for Trump.” In essence, he argued that Trump’s failings don’t matter as long as Trump opposes abortion and supports religious liberty for Christians. I argue in response that there is no distinctly Christian reason to favor one president over another when it comes to applying the law.  Assuming for a minute that we can determine what Christian public policy is, a president who holds those policies still must abide by the law or face the consequences.

Metaxas begins by faulting the editorial of Christianity Today’s Mark Galli which called for impeachment of removal of Trump from office. Galli called the president “profoundly immoral” and stipulated to his guilt in the Ukraine affair. Metaxas objected that Galli misapplied Christian doctrine:

But these subjective pronouncements promote a perversion of Christian doctrine, which holds that all are depraved and equally in need of God’s grace. For Christianity Today to advance this misunderstanding is shocking. It isn’t what one does that makes one a Christian, but faith in what Jesus has done.

I believe it is Metaxas who confuses the matter. Galli does not make a judgment about Trump’s salvation, but rather Trump’s fitness for office. Trump may or may not be a Christian but that isn’t at issue when it comes to conviction on the articles of impeachment. If we take Metaxas seriously, then no law breaking office holder could be held accountable — after all we are all sinners so who should throw stones?

Metaxas dismisses Galli’s proper comparison of Trump to Clinton. In Galli’s editorial, he noted that Clinton’s sins led many evangelicals to call for his ouster. However, many evangelicals now look the other way with Trump and excuse his actions. Metaxas’ justification for this is political:

In the 1990s some Democrats were antiabortion. Neither party could exclusively claim the high ground on this deepest of moral issues. Mr. Clinton spoke of making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” No longer. Despite ultrasounds and 4-D imaging, Democrats endorse abortion with near unanimity, often beyond viability and until birth. If slavery was rightly considered wicked—and both a moral and political issue—how can this macabre practice be anything else? How can Christians pretend this isn’t the principal moral issue of our time, as slavery was in 1860? Can’t these issues of historic significance outweigh whatever the president’s moral failings might be?

The last question is really the heart of Metaxas’ argument. For good measure, he paints the Democrats as favoring open borders, socialist and Christian hating. So for Metaxas, Trump’s problems are better than the only alternative he considers which is a Democratic-socialist takeover.

Metaxas’ analysis is misleading on a key point

There are several fact based problems with Metaxas analysis. I will take just his key point. Abortion was just as divisive in the early 1990s as it is now. I am old enough to remember the absolute Republican hatred of the Clintons and the belief by pro-life advocates that Hillary was evil. I was much more involved in pro-life and Republican circles in the 1990s and I can tell you the divide is the same.

In his short op-ed, Metaxas drops fact challenged hints (refers to “socialists,” the FBI’s “J.Edgar Hoovers”) that the Democratic deep state alternative universe would be so bad that Trump is a far better alternative no matter what impeachable offense he has committed. In short, Metaxas plays the role of a demagogue, mongering fear to move people away from their critical sense.

Walk by Sight Not by Faith

Another serious problem with this kind of reasoning is that fear mongering causes people to walk by sight and not by faith. Metaxas tells Christians that they need Trump. Their world will fall apart if Trump isn’t president. Abortion will be worse, you won’t be able to pray in public, the worst will happen, the sky is falling. God will not be on His Throne.

In fact, if Trump is convicted, Mike Pence will become president. This is right now the choice. Then Christians of that persuasion can vote for Pence next November. The fear based choice offered by Metaxas is a false one. Metaxas and the president’s court evangelicals aren’t acting from faith or principle, they are reciting talking points.

The only real issue for the Christian or any citizen right now is Trump’s guilt on the articles of impeachment. Christians don’t have a political team. The Christian position on impeachment and conviction is for senators now to do impartial justice as the Senate oath specifies. To argue otherwise is to make a case against the Constitution and rule of law.

 

About Eric Metaxas’ Tattooed Pilot

In a 12/20 interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN, Eric Metaxas was asked how he can support Trump given Trump’s actions. Watch:

Metaxas wants us to think Trump is just a naughty president with his bad language and womanizing. Here’s the thing; I don’t care if Trump has tattoos. I really don’t care that much that he has been married three times. It is relevant that he paid off women to keep his affairs secret but even that isn’t the main event for me.

Sticking with the pilot analogy, I want to know if the pilot get his license by bribing the person who tests pilots? Did he cheat taking the pilot’s exam? Did he lie to get it or keep it? Has he been accused of any crimes as a pilot? If so and he’s investigated, does he lie about matters related to the charges? Does he hide pertinent documents?  Does prevent witnesses from talking?

Metaxas is infuriatingly dense on this point. He portrays his opponents as legalistic prudes. This is simply dishonest.

Trump right now is keeping his staff from providing Congress with information. He is withholding documents from Congress. He lies to the public and Congress about his “perfect” call to Ukraine’s president. He lies about being exonerated by the Mueller report. If Trump is a tattooed pilot, being tattooed is the least of our concerns. He’s dangerous and needs to be grounded.

Is It a Children’s Book or a Book for Adults? Eric Metaxas Can’t Seem to Decide about Donald Builds the Wall

Eric Metaxas loves him some Donald Trump.  Not only does he defend just about everything Trump does, Metaxas has written two illustrated books about the president. The most recent one is called Donald Builds the Wall. This one depicts Trump building a wall between the good people of the U.S. and swamp dwelling creatures of those swampy countries to our south. It is the casting of refugees as swamp creatures that has some people upset. Here is a tweet from Rondell Trevino, who founded an immigration group sympathetic to work with refugees.

Metaxas responded that the creatures weren’t migrants but politicians.

I suspect the distinction will be lost on most readers, especially young ones. Metaxas then claims the book isn’t really a kid’s book but rather “an adult HUMOR book in the GUISE of a kids book.”

However, in an interview with CBN News, Metaxas clearly stated that the book is for children.

Obviously this is for kids, so you want to make it simple, but it is kind of that simple because we’ve lost sight of the basics of what it means. If you want freedom you have to guard your freedom. You have to make sure the people who are part of your nation buy into that idea of what it is to be free and these are really heavy ideas that are not being done justice in the mainstream media and we kind of thought in a children’s book, in a humor book we can say what you can’t say sometimes in a different form.

The publisher’s description of the book on Apple books describes it as “the children’s book and political parable that America needs right now. ”

So which is it Eric?

Caravan of Troublemakers

In the introduction the book, Metaxas and his illustrator Tim Raglin call refugees a “caravan of troublemakers” who are coming to “take over the country.”

This appears to be a reference to the recent waves of refugees coming from Central America who are fleeing violence.

I suspect that this is a book which historians will see as an indicator of the bankruptcy of evangelical leadership during the Trump era. The effort to get children to associate people wanting to find a better life in the United States with “bad news,” “troublemakers,” and “swamp creatures” is clear and indefensible. In the past, refugees leaving their homes and coming to America (think Neil Diamond) have been considered noble. In the pen and ink of Metaxas and Raglin, they are “troublemakers” and “bad news.”

Currently, we have a president who allows Stephen Miller – an open white nationalist sympathizer – to serve as an advisor to the president on the subject of immigration. Last month, for the first time, no refugees from anywhere were settled in the U.S. The State Department has a freeze on resettlements and a plan to reduce such moves to the lowest level in 30 years in 2020.

Metaxas’ book lionizing Trump doesn’t appear in the hands of children in a vacuum. This administration has steadily kneecapped the flow of legal immigration, even when that means keeping brown-skinned Christians out.

Thus, Metaxas book is fiction is more ways than the obvious one. He promotes a fictional narrative about Donald the swamp drainer and Donald the freedom preserver. And Metaxas now claims he isn’t targeting children. This is just one of many stories he can’t get straight.

Future Metaxas Books

Metaxas does have a wealth of material to work with. I can suggest some future titles:

Donald Bribes a Foreign President

Donald Abandons an Ally

Donald Grabs a Cat

Donald Loses a Trade War

Think of more? Leave them in the comments.

Additional note:

In previous media interviews, Metaxas calls these books “children’s books”:

On his Facebook page, Metaxas calls the book a children’s book.

The Holy Spirit Led Metaxas to Write Children’s Books about Trump

In this CBN clip, the book is repeatedly referred to as a children’s book.

For kids of all ages…

Publisher’s description on Apple books.

How many adult books are sold on Toywiz.com?

Dear Rev. Graham: If the Tax Cut is So Good for Churches, Then Why is Giving Down?

On the November 21 edition of the Eric Metaxas Show, Metaxas interviewed Franklin Graham and the two literally demonized Trump’s opponents. Watch:

Graham first suggested an “almost demonic power” is behind opposition to Donald Trump. Metaxas interrupted to say that such opposition is demonic and the product of a spiritual battle. I could talk for paragraphs about this idolatry, but I will refer you instead to a tremendous article by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic out today. Wehner deftly makes the point that Graham and Metaxas degrade political and religious discourse with their demonization of opponents. Instead of disagreement with contrasting ideas, we have damnation of an opponent’s character.

Did Trump Raise the Economy from the Dead?

And speaking of ideas, Metaxas and Graham threw out a couple I want to address. Metaxas first declared that “literally three years ago the economy was dead in the water” and then agreed with Graham that now it is “screaming forward. That’s a fact.” But is it a fact?

The economy is pretty good by some measures. However, as I pointed out on Twitter yesterday, it wasn’t dead in the water when Trump took over.  In his The Atlantic piece, Wehner expanded on this today.

At the same time, economic growth under Trump has been so-so. GDP growth—which, under Trump will not reach even 3 percent during his first three years in office—is decelerating. The deficit has exploded. The manufacturing industry is in recession. And job growth during the last 33 months of the Obama presidency was higher than job growth during the first 33 months of the Trump presidency.

A good analysis of before and now was done by Heather Long who examined 15 indicators during the Obama years and the Trump administration up to the present. No, Eric, the economy was not dead in the water. Your Dear Leader hasn’t completely tanked it yet, but he had a healthy starting point.

Do Big Tax Cuts Lead to Big Tithes?

After Metaxas’ incomplete economic analysis, Graham suggested that the good economy has a special benefit for churches and Christians. As the leader of two huge nonprofit ministries with somewhere around a million in salary per year, this is something Graham surely knows about. Graham said more people are working so more people are tithing. Graham attributed the economic growth to the tax cut.

However, are religious contributions up since the tax cut? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was signed into law on December 22, 2017. Many provisions went into effect in 2018. Was there an immediate impact on religious giving?

According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, “giving to religion is estimated to have declined by 1.5% (a decrease of 3.9% adjusted for inflation).” Specifically in conservative churches, nearly half of churches in a Lifeway 2019 poll saw their giving decline or remain the same from 2017 to 2018. The tax law increased the standard deduction so many people may not have donated as much because they didn’t get a deduction for reporting it. Some may be saving up deductions for the 2019 tax year so the immediate effect won’t be known for awhile. However, there was no immediate obvious bump up in religious giving.

Furthermore, in Graham’s own Samaritan’s Purse ministry, giving was down significantly in 2018. Giving in 2018 was down $88.5-million which represents an 11% decline in giving over 2017.

So in short, opponents aren’t demons and perhaps things aren’t as good economically as Dear Leader and his followers suggest.

 

A Reminder That Eric Metaxas Loves Katie Hopkins

In what may be the greatest mixed message I have ever seen, Donald Trump tweeted that he didn’t approve of a North Carolina crowd chanting “send her back” (referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar) by retweeting nativist Katie Hopkins praising the crowd for chanting it.

Trump frequently asks his followers to disbelieve their own eyes. He does nothing to discourage the crowd from chanting the slogan. It is obvious that he didn’t come across negatively since his follower Hopkins revels in the moment and congratulates “Team Trump” on their new slogan.

Eric Metaxas Loves Katie Hopkins

This is old news by now but I post on it to remind my evangelical readers that Bonhoeffer author Eric Metaxas just loves Katie Hopkins. He had her on his show again and praised her rhetoric as recently as June. Watch:

Hopkins is well known for her quaint ways of promoting bigotry. More recently, she pointed to Jewish leaders for the shooting in Pittsburgh.

This is ridiculous. This is the person Metaxas told his listeners he wanted to put before them.  I often wonder if Metaxas forgets that his parents were immigrants, but in this segment he acknowledged it. In this segment, Hopkins speaks of immigrants as “them” and about native Brits as “us.” Obviously, Metaxas likes his status as “us.”

In this segment, Hopkins expresses worry that immigrants take away services from older people in the UK. I don’t really think she means it. At least, in the past, she hasn’t cared much for older Brits. Here is what Metaxas’ hero had to say about old people in a 2015 interview:

“We just have far too many old people.” Did I know that one in three NHS beds was being blocked by the elderly and demented? A third of our hospitals filled up by people who don’t even know they’re there? She’d soon put a stop to that. “It’s ridiculous to be living in a country where we can put dogs to sleep but not people.” Her solution? “Easy. Euthanasia vans – just like ice-cream vans – that would come to your home.” After they’d finished in the hospitals, presumably. “It would all be perfectly charming. They might even have a nice little tune they’d play. I mean this genuinely. I’m super-keen on euthanasia vans. We need to accept that just because medical advances mean we can live longer, it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Why didn’t Metaxas ask her about that social program? I feel sure Bonhoeffer would approve, right Eric?

Eric Metaxas Appears to Minimize His Part in Spreading False Bonhoeffer Quote

In 2016, I discovered that this famous quote could not be found in any of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works:

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

The quote attributed to Bonhoeffer was popularized by Eric Metaxas after it was published on the jacket of his best selling book on Bonhoeffer in 2010. To my knowledge, until yesterday, Metaxas has never addressed the false attribution even though it came to his attention in 2016.

First, I need to give a little background.

A week ago, Christianity Today published a fine article by Jen Wilkin on lessons from the life of Tamar. In it, Wilkin used the quote as follows:

There is a line we often hear attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Twitter user Matt Stephens tweeted a link to the article and pulled out the quote with attribution to Bonhoeffer. Assistant Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel University Andy Rowell responded by linking to my post showing that the quote didn’t come from Bonhoeffer. He also included author Jen Wilkin in his tweet.

Wilkin replied that she believed her handling of the quote preserved “the uncertainty of the quote’s origin while appreciating its message.” She also added later this statement, possibly meant in jest:

I think the fact that Mr. Stephens simply attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer indicates that Wilkin’s approach didn’t communicate sufficient uncertainty about the quote’s origin. Furthermore, it occurs to me that she would have had a chance to educate a lot of people if she would have left Bonhoeffer out of it. In my opinion, CT and Wilkin should make a correction in the article.

At some point, Eric Metaxas was added to this Twitter thread and responded to Jen Wilkin with the following tweet:

While it is true that the quote is not in the Bonhoeffer book and did appear on the jacket, it is also true that Metaxas included the quote in his other books spun off from the original (e.g., study guide, Miracles). He also tweeted it, led the book promo video with it, and used it in his public speaking appearances. For instance, here is a speech where Metaxas used and attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer even though he admitted he didn’t know the source.

This is in 2014. Even though he couldn’t find a source, he attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer anyway. Now the quote will never die.

Additional note: I recently learned that Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition took on fake quotes and included this one.

Stephen Haynes points to research from Warren Throckmorton (here and here) tracing the quote to a 1971 book by Robert K. Hudnut.

Wax’s conclusion about this quote:

The truth is, it’s not a Bonhoeffer quote. So don’t spread it.

Good advice.

More on the Bonhoeffer quote:

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

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

Eric Metaxas: The Fake Bonhoeffer Quote Was a Joke

No Correction on Bonhoeffer Quote from Metaxas or Publisher

Eric Metaxas Sides with Russians over U.S. Dept of Justice in Maria Butina Case (UPDATED)

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)

Yesterday, Eric Metaxas tweeted this defense of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina (see my post about her case):

Butina was charged in July with attempting to advance Russian interests via the development of contacts within the Christian right, the National Rifle Association and the Republican party. Last week, she struck a plea agreement in which she admitted her guilt in exchange for a reduced sentence. About 97% of such cases end up in a plea agreement.

Read Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement

In 2015, Metaxas interviewed Butina on his radio program. With the two tweets shown above, he has come to her defense. In doing so, Metaxas has adopted the position of the Russian government over his own. The only people espousing the view that Butina was kept in or threatened with solitary confinement and forced into a plea are Russian authorities and their sympathizers. According to the Voice of America fact checking website Polygraph, Butina and her attorney said in court that she was allowed visitation and time out of her cell.

During the hearing for the change of plea Butina and her lawyers denied any physical or psychological pressure telling the judge the decision to enter the plea deal was voluntary.

Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll told the court his client is allowed a “time out of her cell, daily activities and visitations, including those from the representatives of the Russian foreign ministry,” and that she is “doing well and competent.”

In addition to her own statement and her lawyer’s statement, we have a transcript of a pre-trial conference call where it is clear that Butina’s rights were respected. Not only did Butina get counsel about the nature of her right to a plea agreement, she had another attorney advise her when her own attorney thought there might be a conflict of interest. In the transcript, it is clear that Butina had been talking to other inmates and had been allowed to talk to others, including journalists, on monitored phone calls.

Metaxas’ tweet is interesting in that he implies he has information that isn’t public. “Wait until the whole truth comes out,” he pleads. Somehow he knows something about her faith he tells us. Has he spoken to her? He should enlighten us about his sources. The only sources I can find for the story that she has been kept in solitary confinement or threatened with any unusual treatment is Russia Today and the Russian Foreign Minister.* As noted above, those claims fly in the face of what Butina and her lawyer told the judge in the plea agreement hearing (although in November her attorney did claim she had been in solitary confinement at least some of her stay in jail. The U.S. Attorney’s office did not confirm or deny it).

Given what we have learned over the past year about Russian disinformation campaigns in the U.S., it doesn’t seem prudent or wise to trust the word of Russian authorities. While I don’t accept everything anyone tells me without examination, I reserve the highest level of skepticism for Russian claims. There is a high likelihood that these stories of torture and threats of unusual solitary confinement are aspects of an ongoing disinformation campaign the Russians have cultivated among conservative Christians (see this Christian Post article). Sadly, without providing any evidence, Metaxas is helping the Russians promote their position.

*(UPDATE: In November 2018, Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll claimed in court that Butina had been held in solitary confinement for 22 hours at a time for a combined 67 days. There was no confirmation of this claim by the Justice Department. In her plea agreement hearing, Driscoll and client told a different story.

Having come across this media report, I am prepared to revise my position. I will wait to get more information now that Maria Butina’s gag order has been lifted and her plea deal becomes clearer. I would also like to hear from the Justice Department. When I contacted the DOJ, the answer was “no comment.”

Also in Maria Butina’s request to remove the gag order (which was successful) her attorney wrote:

Importantly, the sentencing has not yet occurred, and the government holds in its sole discretion the determination of whether the defendant has offered “substantial assistance” to other investigations and will evaluate, as will the court, the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility. Thus, the defendant and her counsel have no incentive to publicly contradict the Statement of Offense or her guilty plea or otherwise take issue with the plea, nor to discuss any aspect of possible cooperation.

In other words, Butina isn’t going to debate or dispute the governments account of her treatment or whether or not she was forced to enter a plea deal. She and her attorney already said she did so voluntarily.

Image: Twitter

Eric Metaxas Defends Russian Agent; Says Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement Was Forced

David Barton (left) Eric Metaxas (right)

Eric Metaxas is coming to the defense of an admitted Russian spy, Maria Butina. Apparently, Metaxas doesn’t believe his former talk show guest is a spy. Rather, he believes the government threatened her with a year in solitary confinement which led her to a forced plea agreement. No word from Metaxas how he knows any of this. Here is his tweet disputing Butina’s plea agreement (see my post about her admission to spying for the Russian government).

Read Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement

For Metaxas to believe Butina’s agreement was forced, he has to believe the Dept. of Justice is incredibly corrupt. Butina was represented by counsel and agreed that she was an agent of Russia in violation of federal law.  Her plea agreement refers to various documents which they have in their possession. They have text messages and emails with the information described in the plea agreement.

I don’t know how Metaxas will explain Butina’s agreement. Did the DOJ kidnap this girl and pin an espionage charge on her? Did the DOJ make up all of these events and communications? Did they really threaten to keep her in solitary confinement for a year if she refused to sign a false statement? Is her attorney in on the conspiracy too?