Eric Metaxas, You Know the Constitutional Convention Didn't Have Daily Prayers, Right?

In his new book, Eric Metaxas features the June 28, 1787 motion for daily prayer made by Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention. Earlier today, he tweeted out this message with a link to an excerpt of his book, If You Can Keep It. 


Based on the way Metaxas tells the story, I can’t tell if he knows that the Constitution Convention didn’t follow through on Ben Franklin’s exhortation to pray to God. The way he tells the story, it appears that he wants people to believe the delegates went along with Franklin’s motion and then everything went well. In fact, after Franklin chided the delegates for not praying, a motion was made to start daily prayers. However, the meeting was adjourned without a vote being taken. In other words, nothing happened on Franklin’s exhortation.
Here is how Metaxas portrays it.

Drawing up the U.S. Constitution was a massive and unprecedented work of political prudence, and by all accounts, their efforts in that room were failing dramatically.
In fact, there came a day when most of the Founders present believed they had in fact failed — that their meeting must break up without any agreement, and the country would be forced to limp along as it was already doing, until it tore itself apart.
But it was just then, when the disagreements and arguments had mounted to an impossible height, that the eldest delegate, Benjamin Franklin, surprised the room. The man history often remembers — along with Jefferson — as among the more secular of the Founders actually gave a speech to the assembly in which he implored them to turn to God. The fact that Franklin should be the one to beseech the assembly to turn to God in prayer for an answer to their problems is evidence of their desperation, and for those of us who have forgotten how seriously all the Founders took God, it is startling. Here is his remarkable speech:

Mr. President,

The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other, our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ayes, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by- word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

As we have known for over two centuries, their prayers were answered. All impasses were broken, compromises on all issues struck, and solutions found. There arose what all felt to be a truly remarkable — almost odd — willingness for each side to set aside its concerns for the good of the whole. The spirit of selflessness and compromise that came over this body of opinionated, brilliant, and principled men was in the end sufficient for them to ratify the great document called the Constitution.

The problem with Metaxas’ narrative is that no formal prayers were offered. He makes it seem like the Convention acted favorably on Franklin’s motion which led to “compromises on all issues struck.” Not so. James Madison recorded what happened next.

Mr. SHARMAN seconded the motion.
Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, 1.64 bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & 2.65 lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure. It was answered by Docr F. Mr. SHERMAN & others, that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission-that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it: and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within, would at least be as likely to do good as ill.
Mr. WILLIAMSON, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.
Mr. RANDOLPH proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to ye measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 66 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers be used 67 in yr Convention every morning. Dr. FRANKn. 2nd this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing the 68matter by adjourn; the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.
[Note 15: 15 In the Franklin MS. the following note is added:–“The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.”

In short order, two motions hit the floor. Franklin moved for daily prayers with a second by Roger Sherman. Then Edmund Randolph suggested a sermon followed by prayers. Franklin seconded that motion. Neither motion was voted on and the Convention adjourned. In fact, Franklin later noted that “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.” I am sure many of the founders took God seriously, but this story isn’t a good one to offer as evidence.
If the Convention delegates thought prayers unnecessary, then what is Metaxas referring to?
Furthermore, the Convention didn’t come back after the July 4th recess all prayed up and ready to compromise. On July 10, George Washington wrote Alexander Hamilton (who left the convention after the recess) and said:

I thank you for your Communication of the 3d. When I refer you to the State of the Councils which prevailed at the period you left this City—and add, that they are now, if possible, in a worse train than ever; you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment, can be formed. In a word, I almost dispair of seeing a favourable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.

The disputations continued even after Franklin’s motion. It was not until mid-July, with the threat of dissolution hanging over their heads, that the delegates reached a compromise. Even then, four delegates left the convention in protest (John Mercer, Caleb Strong, John Lansing, Luther Marton) and three delegates didn’t sign the Constitution  because it lacked a bill of rights (George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Elbridge Gerry). In the end, only 39 of the 55 delegates signed the document. The more parsimonious explanation for the consensus is that those with strong disagreement left the Convention.*
The quotes from Washington and Madison Metaxas used in his book about the miracle of the Constitution were written after the end of the Convention and did not reference Franklin’s call to prayer.
If the events were taught accurately, would Eric Metaxas really want this taught in school? It certainly doesn’t support the Christian foundation narrative Metaxas develops in his book.
Clearly, Metaxas wants us to believe that God was involved in the Constitution. If you believe in providence, you believe God is involved with every government (read Augustine). However, in his book, Metaxas flirts with the idea that America has a special relationship with God, in the sense of being a chosen people like Israel was chosen. Metaxas quotes Abraham Lincoln calling Americans “an almost chosen people” and then later puts words in Lincoln’s mouth:

He [Lincoln] understood that to be chosen by God— as the Jews had been chosen by God, and as the prophets had been chosen by God, and as the Messiah had been chosen by God— was something that was a profound and sacred and even terrifying obligation. Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 213). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

America is chosen like the Messiah? I’m not a theologian but that sounds like a problem to me (see Wheaton College historian Tracy McKenzie’s thoughts on this topic). Again about Lincoln from the Stream excerpt of If You Can Keep ItMetaxas writes

Why is it too much for us to suppose — as Franklin, Washington, Adams, and so many others did — that the finger of the Almighty might indeed have been involved? This was an idea that did not die with the founders but lived and was kindled afresh by Abraham Lincoln, who faced obstacles every bit as difficult as what the founders faced, and who came to the same conclusions about how they must be surmounted.
And it is an idea that must not die with this generation. May God help us to keep it alive, not just for our sake, but for the sake of all those beyond our shores who hope to taste the freedoms we enjoy, and for all those yet to be born, too.

May God help us not to perpetuate myths and instead tell the whole story.**
UPDATE: After I posted this article, an editor at the Stream added a sentence disclosing that no action was taken on Franklin’s motion.
Metaxas franklin article paragraph
While I am glad the editor provided this fact, I believe doing so raises questions that are not answered here. Metaxas used the story to draw a straight line of causation from Franklin’s call to prayer to the harmonious completion of the Constitution. With the revelation that the Convention delegates didn’t believe prayer was necessary, the whole narrative is thrown into question. Why even talk about Franklin’s speech since what he called for didn’t happen?
For more historical problems in Metaxas’ book, If You Can Keep It, see here, here, here, and here.
 
*Others left for business or personal reasons but may have also disagreed with one aspect or another of the Constitution.
**I added an additional quote from the book to demonstrate what is apparent to anyone who reads it that Metaxas uses his citations of Lincoln and the founders to support his view that America is on a mission from God.

In His New Book, Eric Metaxas Whitewashes George Whitefield on Slavery

In his new book If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas provides an overview of early American history in order to remind us what is special about America. In the process, he provides a pithy formula for national success, but he makes significant historical errors and glosses over important facts. One such fact is the involvement of evangelist George Whitefield in introducing slavery to Georgia.
In his chapter on Whitefield (which appears to be summarized without attribution from Thomas Kidd’s excellent book on Whitefield), Metaxas asserts that Whitefield’s preaching was a great equalizer among American social classes. On page 111, he adds:

The egalitarian strains of the Gospel extended to women and blacks as well. Many female preachers were spawned by the revival of the Great Awakening and many African American preachers too. Unlike most of the mainline ministers of his day, Whitefield often spoke to “Negroes” and once remarked that he was especially touched when one of them came to faith. One of them even asked Whitefield, “Have I a soul?” That Whitefield believed he did meant that the Negro was in this most important respect perfectly equal to whites.
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 111). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This is a disturbing whitewash of Whitefield’s views and actions relating to African slaves. As Kidd documents in his book (see also this post), Whitefield was “convinced that introducing slavery into Georgia was essential to the colony’s economic prospects…” Prior to Whitefield’s advocacy for slavery, Georgia had banned it. Whitefield himself owned slaves. On March 22, 1751, Whitefield wrote about the need for slavery in Georgia:

As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt, since I hear of some that were bought with Abraham’s money, and some that were born in his house.—And I cannot help thinking, that some of those servants mentioned by the Apostles in their epistles, were or had been slaves. It is plain, that the Gibeonites were doomed to perpetual slavery, and though liberty is a sweet thing to such as are born free, yet to those who never knew the sweets of it, slavery perhaps may not be so irksome. However this be, it is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?

Africans are expendable and whites are not.
Yes, Whitefield preached to slaves and expressed pleasure when they converted. However, he also resisted the urging of at least one of this colleagues to reject slavery.  Not only did he own slaves, but he used his considerable influence to change the attitudes of Georgia decision makers to allow slavery in the colony.
Whitefield biographer James Gledstone commented in 1871 on Whitefield’s efforts to bring slavery to Georgia:

How complete and miserable a failure was the attempt to unite slavery and Christianity will be seen by and by. Meanwhile we think of the orphans being habituated to look upon Negroes as a servile race, of their growing to manhood and womanhood educated in the ideas of slaveholders, and of their being able to throw over all the abominations of the system, the reputation of a philanthropist so humane and a saint so sincere and so holy as was George Whitefield; neither can we forget that every man who owned a slave would be able to justify it by Whitefield’s example.

This reminds me of David Barton’s whitewash of Thomas Jefferson on slavery.
It is beyond absurd for Metaxas to write, “The egalitarian strains of the Gospel extended to women and blacks as well.” In what universe can Whitefield’s approach to Africans be construed as regarding them as “perfectly equal to whites?”
Apparently, Whitefield worship is a matter of great importance to Metaxas. He needs Whitefield to fill the role of the great Christian reason we had the revolution. About Whitefield, Metaxas says:

We might also say that providence brought them [unity and self-government] into existence through the life and work of a single man, very little known to us today. We are talking about the life and work of the man named George Whitefield, without whom the United States simply could not have come into being.
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 77). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Did providence also bring about slavery in Georgia?
Apparently, Metaxas needs Whitefield to be larger than life in order to bring God into the founding. At the close of the chapter on Whitefield, Metaxas says:

When we take the full measure of Whitefield’s role in creating what would become the United States, who can help but wonder whether our history is one in which God himself— and if not God, then at least those who are motivated by the idea of God and all it portends— has played a central role?
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 114). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

If you want a book to delight you with pleasantries and clever phrasing, this one could work. However, if you want accurate and honest history throughout, this is not the book for you.
 
*In my Kindle copy, there are only 7 end notes. I could be wrong but it seems like Metaxas owes a large debt to Kidd’s book on Whitefield.

Eric Metaxas and Ann Coulter Agree: #Nevertrumpers Don't Want Trump Because He is Too Common

Of all the rationalizations for Trump I have heard, the conversation between Eric Metaxas and Ann Coulter is the most scandaleux.
Today, Ann Coulter was on Metaxas’ show and the conversation got around to Donald Trump. Metaxas tripled down on his support for Trump. For her part, Coulter again referred to the 1965 immigration reform as the source of our current immigration problems. In the process, Metaxas told the audience his parents came from Greece in the 1950s. Lucky them. Prior to the 1965 immigration bill, immigration from Greece was restricted. The 1965 immigration reform demonized by Coulter expanded immigration from Greece as well as other eastern and southern European nations.
Trump, the Poor Man’s Rich Guy
At 32:56 into hour one with Ann Coulter, Metaxas talked about Trump’s appeal to working people. Metaxas told Coulter that Trump doesn’t seem like a plutocrat and is comfortable spending time on construction sites because that where he has spent most of his time. Coulter then said that Trump has always been like that. She said in 1988 Trump said he didn’t get along with “the fancy rich people.” The strangeness continued:

Metaxas: Trump is the classic nouveau riche in the sense that the elite want to sneer at people like that. And people like that are so disturbing to the cultural elites that the ideal that someone like this could be potentially president, it’s very upsetting. You see that on the left and on the right and again this is independent of policy stuff.
Coulter: You are absolutely 100% right about that. That’s a lot of what the “never trump” animus comes from.
Metaxas: Yeah
Coulter: …because it isn’t logical. Whenever people aren’t giving you logical arguments, I’m mean I’m not one to go around looking for motives, but they’re perfectly clear in this case with the sneering and the spluttering and the sighing. They aren’t trying to make a factual argument, it’s just, ‘he’s so déclassé’.
Metaxas: Right, right.

Of course. How could I have missed that in myself?
Probably, that is what is going on with the hundreds (and growing) of delegates who want to vote their conscience at the GOP convention. They feel so above the Donald.
What Metaxas said might be more accurate about Trump’s father, but not Trump. Trump had quite a significant head start on his current wealth. Given the lavish lifestyle Trump has lived, it seems impossible to believe that anyone has ever complained about having a “déclassé'” president. If anything, Trump has been part of the cultural elite class. He has bragged about using his money to buy politicians, including the attorney general of Florida.
I suspect Trump has spent time on construction sites. Probably though, he should have spent more time on them. According to past building contractors with the Trump organization, he hasn’t paid many of his construction contractors. In Atlantic City, Trump is known for failure to pay on time and full price. USA Today found hundreds of liens and lawsuits where prompt and full payment was an issue. While Trump hasn’t lost them all, he has lost plenty. According to USA Today’s, New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission records in 1990 demonstrate that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or in a timely manner.
If anything is classic about the exchange on Metaxas’ show, it is an illustration of rationalization and confirmation bias.
Au contraire Metaxas and Coulter, the factual arguments have been made (many times, e.g. here). Neither of you like them. That is fine, but one of you is out hawking a book that claims America is screwed if we don’t return to virtue. So let’s drop the silly notion that Trump’s opponents are snooty old moneyed rich people who look down on Trump the rich common man.
To paraphrase Coulter, using French words is not an argument.

Evangelicals Meeting with Trump: Brothers and Sisters, What Else Do You Need to Know?

I will admit, I am very disappointed with evangelical so-called leaders who are going to meet with Donald Trump tomorrow. I just can’t imagine what else they need to hear from Trump. His statements and actions aren’t subtle and he has subjected us to them for over a year.
At the top of the disappointment list is Eric Metaxas who just released a book calling for public virtue to help save the nation. He also has declared Donald Trump the only hope for the nation. Today’s Washington Post previews the meeting with quotes from several evangelicals including a lengthy interview of Metaxas.  According to the Post reporter, Metaxas wants “a glimpse of Trump’s soul.”
But really, Eric Metaxas, what else do you need to see?
Trump has said he doesn’t ask forgiveness (Metaxas already knows that), judged a judge on his heritage, said he plans to deport 11 million people, he sadistically mocked a disabled reporter (fact checked here), he said war crimes and torture should be permitted, he claimed service members should engage in war crimes and torture to follow his orders, he has limited the freedom of the press while giving press credentials to white supremacists, ridiculed John McCain for being a prisoner of war, and he has mocked women, his opponents and anybody else who gets in his way. We had to deal with nicknames like “Lying Ted” and “Little Marco” during the primaries. Tattooed on Donald Trump’s soul is the phrase: “Win at all costs.” I haven’t even covered the falsehoods and business dealings. Just spend some time reading through Trump University sales manuals. Honesty and respect for customers are not high on the list of virtues.
Instead of speaking truth to power, I think many of my evangelical brethren just want to be close to power. However, at least one evangelical who got an invitation isn’t going — Robert George — and his response to it is worth reading.

I respectfully decline. I have been a severe critic of Mr. Trump and there is nothing he could say at a meeting in which he is courting conservatives that would alter my low opinion of him. I trust that I do not need to go into detail about the words and actions that have caused me to form that opinion. Perhaps the only politician in America of whom I have an even lower opinion is Hillary Clinton, so I certainly understand why some are urging us to hold our noses and support for Mr. Trump. But I fear that he will, in the end, bring disgrace upon those individuals and organizations who publicly embrace him. For those of us who believe in limited government, the Rule of Law, flourishing institutions of civil society, and traditional Judeo-Christian moral principles, and who believe that our leaders must be persons of integrity and good character, this election is presenting a horrible choice. May God help us.

Like George, I don’t think there is anything Trump could say in a meeting that could undo what he has already done and said. Here’s hoping that these evangelicals will become the leaders they are portrayed to be and respond to Trump on principle not pragmatism after their meeting tomorrow.

Eric Metaxas Doubles Down on Claim That Donald Trump is Our Only Hope

In an interview about his new book with John Zmirak  for the online publication, The Stream, Eric Metaxas doubled down on his support for Donald Trump. After much talk implying that evangelical Christianity is the only foundation for virtue, he claims Trump is “our only hope.”

John: This current election is deeply dissatisfying to many Christian voters. How would you answer those who see Hillary Clinton as a grave threat, but fear that Trump lacks the virtue (much less the religion) to lead a free people? Even if he’s the lesser of two evils, is his rise a symptom of our fading virtue and faith?
Eric: Yes, Donald Trump’s rise is certainly a symptom of our fading virtue and faith, but ironically he may well be our only hope for finding our way back to bolder expressions of them. The eerie waxworks automaton formerly known as Hillary Rodham Clinton will no doubt double down on President Obama’s two-term repulsion to Constitutional government, in which unutterably sad case we simply wouldn’t ever be able to claw our way back up the abyss into which we shall have been thrust. If two more anti-Constitutionalist judges are shoehorned onto the Supreme Court we will have a Constitutional crisis — actually a cataclysm — in which the last Justices of that hoary institution will take that thing once described by a Constitutionalist Executive as the “government of the people, by the people, for the people” and place it into a coffin gaily decorated with smiley face and rainbow stickers.

It is uncanny to me that Metaxas puts his trust in one man and a deeply flawed man at that.
I say again that his book is pointless if at the end of the day Trump is our best hope.* In fact, based on his reasoning for supporting Trump, he really doesn’t believe in the value of virtue and faith. He fully trusts in a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. If we can get that, then all is well. If we can’t, then who cares about a virtuous people, the cataclysm cometh.
In response to Metaxas’ Trump endorsement, some folks expressed disbelief and disappointment on Twitter.


*If You Can Keep It is also plagued by historical errors which I pointed out here, here and here.

Eric Metaxas: We Need Virtue in Our Leaders and We Must Vote for Donald Trump

Thanks to Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review for asking Eric Metaxas how he reconciles his call for public virtue with his support for Donald Trump. It still doesn’t make sense to me but at least the contradiction is exposed and obvious.
I addressed Metaxas’ alarmism in a post earlier today. In today’s NR post, Lopez asked Metaxas if leaders need to display virtue. Metaxas said “generally, yes.” Then Lopez brings the money to the table:

KJL: Does that automatically suggest one cannot vote for one Donald J. Trump?
METAXAS: Not only can we vote for Trump, we must vote for Trump, because with all of his foibles, peccadilloes, and metaphorical warts, he is nonetheless the last best hope of keeping America from sliding into oblivion, the tank, the abyss, the dustbin of history, if you will. If you want to know how bad things are in America, and how far we have gone, read the previous sentence aloud over and over.

Donald Trump is our “last best hope?!” He will keep us from the abyss? These sentences don’t tell me how bad things are in America but they do indicate the seriousness of Metaxas’ apocalyptic fever.
If the answer to America’s problems is in his new book, where in his book does he recommend anti-virtue? He argues against himself. He says we are at the abyss and to fix this, we must recapture faith which leads to virtue which leads to freedom. However, he then argues Republicans should acquiesce to Donald Trump’s nomination which brings us someone who:

  • praises Putin and thinks a friendly meeting with Kim Jong-un is a good idea
  • advocates torture for combatants and death to civilian families
  • declares a judge to be unfair because of his heritage
  • wants to deport 11 million people
  • limits the freedom of the press
  • singles out an entire religion for discrimination
  • rationalizes Trump University, other business misadventures too numerous to mention, and his obvious lack of preparation to be president

In the interview, Metaxas claims that Hillary is so bad that the nation will not survive her. To me, this shows a stunning lack of historical perspective. Hillary is not blameless by any means but there is no comparison which places Trump in the category of America’s last best hope.
If Trump is America’s last best hope, then Metaxas needs to withdraw his book because there is absolutely nothing in it we need. 
Instead, we need GOP delegates to have a Bonhoeffer moment at the convention. They are not bound to vote for the worst choice. I recently saw Thomas Jefferson quoted in a Weekly Standard article on this very point. In 1810, Jefferson answered a question posed by John Colvin about deviating from observance of the law:

A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.

Sure, it would be a long shot to contest the primary results, but it would not be impossible. In this case, doesn’t virtue demand it? Trump is not now the nominee. What would Bonhoeffer do? Give up? Give in?
 

Eric Metaxas: Things in America Are as Bad as During the Revolution and the Civil War

Promoting his new book, If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas told National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez that things are pretty bad right now.

America is in an existential crisis no less serious than the one we faced in the Civil War. Or the crisis before that, when our nation came into being in the Revolution. For the first time in a century and a half we are facing the imminent vanquishing of the republic, except there is no John Bull or Johnny Reb to fight against. We are being hollowed out silently from within by termites — and a hollow, brightly painted shell called “America” will soon exist where America once stood.

Can he really mean that?
There is strong disagreement among citizens about issues like abortion, gay marriage and gun control, but war has not broken out. Even with the harsh political season, we are hardly at the point of civil war.
I went to church last Sunday. I plan to go again this Sunday. No government thugs came anywhere close to my house of worship. I have exercised the same freedoms this week in my small town that I have all my life. All over the nation, lots of people exercised their freedom to do things I disapprove of but those actions did not stop me from doing what I believe to be right.
I don’t think things are as good as they could be. I think extremism on the left and right is a problem and the polarization of the society has increased. I believe the far left and far right should be held responsible for this. I could go on about this.
Currently, I worry that the GOP nominee Metaxas plans to vote for — Donald Trump — is eroding civility and virtue. I worry that his candidacy is a cancer on the GOP and political process. If anything, Metaxas is complaining about how bad things are but he supports a person who is helping to lead us there.
I think reminders to live virtuously are valuable. Human nature being what it is, I believe we need to be reminded of our values so his appeal to us to live virtuously is fine as far as it goes. However, Metaxas’ pitch is eroded by doomsday fear mongering, the historical errors in the book. and his advocacy for a presidential candidate that simply can’t be emulated in the manner he advocates in his book.
 

Eric Metaxas and Ann Coulter Agree: Donald Trump Must Be Elected

Ann Coulter dropped by the Eric Metaxas Show to rant about third world immigrants and promote Donald Trump. By and large, Metaxas agreed with her.
You can listen to the entire broadcast at Soundcloud and on Coulter’s You Tube account. The segment with Coulter begins at 10:44.  Rather than provide a transcript, I will just describe the segment. If Eric Metaxas endorsing both Ann Coulter and Donald Trump is something that is of interest to you, then you will want to hear it for yourself.
While bordering on being incoherent, I think Coulter tried to sell an analogy from Nazis to Muslims in her opening statements. She noted that we did allow Germans to come into the country in WWII but we got technology out of the deal. She wondered what we are getting out of current Muslim immigration. Metaxas seemed a little befuddled and asked Coulter to clarify her statements. She then said that the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was not an American (even though he was born in New York) because his parents came from Afghanistan.
She then blamed the presence of non-European immigrants on Teddy Kennedy. Specifically, she referred to immigration reform supported by Kennedy (The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965). Previously, immigration from Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe was restricted in favor of immigration from western Europe. This law changed the quotas to allow the entrance of immigrants who Coulter disparagingly referred to as “hoards of the third world.”
According to Coulter, the Democrats had political reasons for wanting to change the immigration laws:

The Democrats looked around the country, they realized they couldn’t get Americans to vote for them, so they decided to bring in hoards of the third world, and the third world, as you beautifully described in your opening, have very different ideas than those of us who came from the Magna Carta, the glorious revolution, the Declaration of Independence. That’s our culture. They have a different culture that has a different view of human life but it helps the Democrats at the ballot box.

She said the bill cut off immigration from western Europe, the people who “traditionally populated this country.” She denied the proposition that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants but told Metaxas that we have been overrun with “cheap labor” from the third world who hate the country.
Who Favored the 1965 Immigration Reform?
In fact, a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted for the 1965 immigration bill. Most of the opposition to the bill came from southern Democrats who did not want to upset the ethnic profile of the nation. Coulter has to revise history to provide fuel for her ranting. Later in the broadcast, she again blamed Teddy Kennedy for a bill that more Republicans than Democrats in 1965 supported. There was a time when the GOP was the party of Lincoln.
Metaxas then took the conversation in the direction of support for Trump. Coulter claimed that Trump is the only hope to address the immigration problem. Metaxas agreed. He said the flaws in Trump are outweighed by the fact that he may get to name conservative judges. Metaxas said we might go off a cliff and die if someone besides Trump is elected.
Then, after complaining about California, they talk about the wisdom of having bar patrons carry guns to prevent mass shootings. From there, the conversation covered the usual pros and cons (mostly cons) of gun control. On one hand, Coulter minimized the harm guns might do but then said one gun in a bar might have saved the day.
The segment closed with Metaxas and Coulter lamenting how badly Trump is being treated in the press. What a shame that a free press reports the facts about Mr. Trump. Coulter and Metaxas have special criticism for Mitt Romney since Romney has led the #nevertrump charge. They seem to agree that Romney has some psychological problem (e.g., pathological envy?) which sets him against Trump. I think Romney is shocked that so many people who should know better are supporting Trump.
Metaxas and the Bonhoeffer Card
During part of the first ten minutes, Metaxas gave tribute to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is ironic to me in that he then pivoted to his guest Ann Coulter and their mutual support for Donald Trump. For me, following Bonhoeffer’s example means rejecting a Trump nomination. The GOP delegates would emulate Bonhoeffer if they worked to nominate another candidate to run against Clinton. When it comes to Metaxas, I agree with this fellow:

Eric Metaxas' New Book: On Tolerance for All Denominations and Religions in Colonial America, Part Two

In his new book, If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas writes on page 70:

Since the Pilgrims came to our shores in 1620, religious freedom and religious tolerance have been the single most important principle of American life.

If only.
As I pointed out in two previous posts (link, link), Metaxas makes the argument that the Pilgrims provided a model of religious tolerance which was incorporated by the Founders into formation of America. In contrast to his claim, I wrote about the persecution of Mary Dyer, Anne Hutchinson, and Roger Williams. Today, I bring forward another exhibit in contradiction to Metaxas’ claim. In the year 1700, the Massachusetts assembly passed an “Act against Jesuits and Popish Priests.” Here is an portion:

Be it Enacted by His Excellency the Governour, Council and Representatives in General Court Assembled: And it is Enacted by the Authority of the same. That all and every Jesuit, Seminary Priest, Jesuits▪ Priests &c to depart the Province by the 10th. of September. Missionary, or other Spiritual or Ecclesiastical Person made or ordained by any Authority, Power or Jurisdiction derived, challenged or pretended from the Pope or See of Rome, now residing within this Province or any part thereof, shall depart from and out of the same, at or before the tenth day of September next, in this present year, One Thousand and Seven Hundred. And be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid,Penalty on Jesuits or Priests &c. that shall re|main or come into this Province after the 10th. of September. 1700. That all and every Jesuit, Seminary Priest, Missionary or other Spiritual or Ecclesiastical person made or ordained by any Authority, Power or Jurisdiction, derived▪ challenged or pretended from the Pope or See of Rome, Or that shall pro+fess himself, or otherwise appear to be such by practising and teaching of others to say any Popish Prayers, by celebrating Masses, granting of Absolutions, or using any other of the Romish Ceremonies and Rites of Worship, by or of what name, title or degree soever such person shall be called or known, who shall continue, abide, remain or come in to this Province, or any part thereof, after the Tenth Day of September aforesaid, shall be deemed and accounted an incendiary, and disturber of the Publick Peace and Safety, and an Enemy to the true Christian Religion, and shall be adjudged to suffer perpetual Imprisonment, And if any person being so Sentenced and actually Imprisoned, shall break prison and make his Escape, and be afterwards reken, he shall be punished with Death.Penalty for receiving or harbouring any Jesuit or Priest.

Catholics were to “suffer perpetual Imprisonment.” The law allowed the death penalty for those who escaped from prison and were captured.
Even in Rhode Island, Catholics were excluded from complete religious freedom beginning in 1719.

…all men professing and of competent estates and of civil conversation acknowledge and are obedient to the civil though of different judgments in Religious (Roman Catholicks only excepted) shall be Freemen and shall have liberty to choose and chosen Officers in the Colony both millitary and civil. (link, page 25)

None of the original founders were still around at the time and for reasons not completely clear (although perhaps related to a desire to be consistent with British anti-Catholic sentiment), Rhode Island passed a law which singled out Catholics. Thus, in the home of religious tolerance in the colonies, religious toleration went backwards. The law was not repealed until 1783.
In New York, Catholics were tolerated until a purge came in 1688. In 1700, New York’s lawmakers passed a law, similar to the anti-Catholic law passed in Massachusetts, which called for imprisonment of priests who led Catholic worship and death for any who escaped prison and were captured. Other colonies went through anti-Catholic periods as well.
When one considers the experience of the Quakers and Catholics, it is impossible to support the notion that religious tolerance was “the single most important principle of American life.” Metaxas engages in wishful thinking when he writes, “complete tolerance for all denominations and religions” existed for nearly a century before the founding of America.
It is astounding that the founders came together to ban religious tests for federal service and enact the First Amendment to the Constitution. However, one cannot exclusively ground this tradition with the Pilgrims and Protestant controlled colonial assemblies. Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Madison and the others, influenced by Enlightenment writers as well as their religious traditions, took the nation in a different direction than was true of the colonial governments.

On Tolerance for All Denominations and Religions in Colonial America

In his upcoming book If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas claims there was “complete tolerance for all denominations and religions” for nearly a century before the founding era of the United States. From page 35 of the book:

On page 70, he adds

Since the Pilgrims came to our shores in 1620, religious freedom and religious tolerance have been the single most important principle of American life.

Such tolerance was not extended to Quakers and other dissenters in the colonies. In 1660, Mary Dyer was hanged in Puritan Massachusetts as a Quaker dissenter. Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts in 1638 and settled in Rhode Island where Roger Williams also settled two years earlier after being banished from Massachusetts.  Persecution and discrimination were the lot of many dissenters from the state church.
Thomas Jefferson did not attribute his ideas about religious freedom to the example of the colonial governments. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson criticized the treatment of dissenters by colonial governments.

Note that Jefferson judged that Puritans showed intolerance toward other sects, most notably the Quakers. They wanted religious freedom for themselves but not for others. Religious tolerance was the exception, not the rule in colonial times, even in Jefferson’s Virginia. Metaxas tells us that religious tolerance was complete; Jefferson said the intolerance matched the level displayed in England. I’ll go with TJ on this one.
Metaxas mentions exceptions to the general religious intolerance but he weaves them in with his contention that the Pilgrims and Puritans gave us the tradition of religious freedom. For instance, Metaxas briefly describes the Flushing Remonstrance and Roger Williams’ settlement in Rhode Island. The Flushing document was a petition to the leader of New Netherland settlement Peter Stuyvesant asking for relief from his ban on Quakers. Metaxas rightly heralds this action. However, Metaxas fails to set it in context. Despite the noble purpose, the petition failed and Stuyvesant cracked down on dissent. He jailed two leaders of the petition effort. Others recanted their dissent in the face of punishment.
Regarding Roger Williams, he was forced out of Massachusetts because he “broached  & divulged diverse, new & dangerous opinions.” Williams had to secretly escape to Rhode Island in January 1636 during the harsh Massachusetts winter. Dissent was not well tolerated. Metaxas does not give us the whole picture. Without banishment due to the intolerance of the dominant Puritans, Williams would not have established religious freedom in Rhode Island.
I can’t understand why writers omit this history. The outline for Metaxas’ book appears to come from Paul Johnson’s 2006 First Things article on the same subject. The cover similar ground and gloss over similar issues. The America given to us by the founders is much closer to Roger Williams’ Rhode Island than John Winthrops’ city on a hill. That is a good thing and a story worth telling and retelling.
 
Additional information:
See my post from yesterday and Gregg Frazer’s review of Metaxas’ book.