White Evangelicals Stand with Trump

Are evangelicals moving away from Trump?

Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins wrote yesterday that any suggestion evangelicals are deserting Trump is wrong. He cited research from the Pew Foundation as a support.

Contrary to media reports, Perkins said white evangelicals, young and old, are sticking with Trump and also sticking with their evangelical identification. He took his information directly from a Christian Post article which reported on a speech given by Pew Foundation’s  Alan Cooperman. One fact that Perkins didn’t report is that evangelical voters are becoming more accepting of gays and same-sex marriage, even as they are becoming more pro-life and supportive of the Republican party. This is a trend I have written about previously.

Regarding Trump, white evangelicals gave him a 71% approval rating. For Perkins, this is a source of happiness; for me, it is a discouraging fact. According to Cooperman, those who attend church frequently are more likely than infrequent attenders to support him.

Something that Perkins doesn’t mention that concerns me is the wide gap between white and black evangelicals. Just 11% of black millennial Protestants identify as Republican whereas 77% of white millennial evangelicals do. While I don’t know what this means, the difference is stunning. On the big political issues of the day, religious similarity isn’t a unifying force. It is a big problem for me that the leader of a group purporting to research the Christian family doesn’t report this as a problem for the church.

This difference jumps out at me more than anything else in this report about Cooperman’s presentation. In general, blacks and whites see many issues differently in the culture. White evangelicals want to believe that the gospel unifies. Those opposed to social justice initiatives claim the gospel is enough to unify. However, in practice, that doesn’t seem to be working out. Instead of crowing about political victories, I think white evangelical leaders should be grieving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters.

 

Tony Perkins: Christianity is Great Except When It Isn't

The title of this post summarizes what I get out of this Tony Perkins interview with Politico. Tony Perkins is the head of the Family Research Trump court evangelical picCouncil which claims to promote family values. Because FRC has historically called for politicians to exemplify family values, Perkins gets a lot of questions about his support for Trump.  This exchange between Perkins and reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere  is especially revealing:

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
What happened to turning the other cheek? I ask.
“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

Shorter Perkins: when Christian teachings don’t get you want you want, then try something else. As I understand Perkins here, there is a limit to Christianity. You can follow it so far, but when it doesn’t work to get power in the situation, you resort to whatever tactics might be necessary. Otherwise, the unthinkable might happen: Christians might lose political power.

Christianity? What Christianity?

To me, this is another example of an evangelical leader changing Christianity to fit the requirements of being a Trump follower. Today, it is Perkins; often it is Franklin Graham, most days it is Jerry Falwell, everyone’s favorite fallen angel. After Trump’s indecorous reflections on third world nations earlier this month, Jerry Falwell went out with an defense – Trump was being presidentially authentic.  Columnist Jonah Goldberg was having none of that.

Falwell, in a riot of sycophantic sophistry, not only wants to argue that whatever a president does is presidential but also seeks to elevate the idea that authenticity is its own reward. This is contrary to vast swathes of conservative and Christian thought. A person can be authentically evil, crude, bigoted, or asinine. That is not a defense of any of those things. I’m no expert, but my understanding of Christianity is that behavior is supposed to be informed by more than one’s “authentic” feelings and instincts. Satan is nothing if not authentic.

We live in a time when some of our Christian leaders model how Christian leaders act when they believe Christianity has failed as a practical matter. “You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins said. Once you’ve turned both of them, it must be time to move on to some other approach.
And nearly every day, we see evidence that they have moved on.

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

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

Why Santorum can’t win in November

Watch this clip:

Tony Perkins’ pastor, Dennis Terry, brings the Christian nation rhetoric in a large way. Everyone else can just get out.

Can a candidate who wants to unite the nation clap at such rhetoric? Santorum did. He says he didn’t, but he certainly is clapping when the camera moves his way when Terry says the Holy Spirit will “show up” if we elect godly leaders.

I do not believe the electorate will be as forgiving to Santorum as they were to Obama over his pastor issues. I don’t think Obama’s answers about Rev. Wright were satisfactory, and I don’t think Santorum’s mere disagreement is sufficient either. Perhaps I am wrong and Santorum could win the GOP nomination while pandering to Christian nation rhetoric, but I certainly hope he doesn’t.

What if NARTH was a scientific organization?

Yesterday, I pointed out that most members of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) are not mental health professionals or scientists. Even though the name of the organization promotes research and therapy, three-fourths of the members are not trained or credentialed to do either activity.
Despite the constituency of the group, NARTH is promoted by religiously conservative groups as a scientific organization. One example of this is an appearance in July of this year by NARTH President Julie Hamilton on Washington Watch Weekly, a radio program of the Family Research Council. FRC has taken a lot of heat, from me included, about the information they disseminate about sexual orientation. Some of that criticism should also be directed at the sources of their misinformation. As this interview illustrates, one such source is NARTH.
Tony Perkins sets up the interview by referring to the then current controversy over Marcus Bachmann’s counseling clinic and the allegations that he provides reparative therapy. Then he gets to the interview:

There’s a bigger agenda here. They [gay advocates] want to discredit anything that has to do with Christianity. But there’s something even more troubling here. And what they are doing is that they are trying to discredit a type of therapy that’s based on scientific research and that’s why I’ve invited my next guest to join me. Dr. Julie Hamilton is the President of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH. NARTH is a professional scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. They’re not a Christian organization per se, they are focused on the science to help people who want to escape the lifestyle of homosexuality. Dr. Hamilton is also featured by the FRC’s new documentary, The Problem with Same-Sex Marriage and you can find out more about that at FRCRadio.org.

After the introduction, he gets to the bottom line:

Perkins: It’s no surprise to us that faith based counseling is under attack but what does the scientific research say about sexual orientation and an individual’s ability to change it?
Hamilton: The research is clear that people are not simply born gay and that people can change in the area of their sexual orientation.

After some conversation about client self-determination, the interview returns to what research says about change therapy.

Perkins: Now in the wake of this attack on Congresswoman Bachmann and her husband Marcus, we see a number of quote-unquote experts, counselors parade out on cable networks, and I’ve not seen, it’s certainly not a debate, it’s one-sided and they’ve all said, ‘well, all of this type of counseling, the reparative therapy, the idea that people can come out of the lifestyle, that’s been disproven, it’s been rejected and that is harmful and should not be allowed.’
Hamilton: Ok, that’s simply not true. What’s missing from the discussion is what research really reveals. Recently, NARTH releases a landscape survey and an analysis of 125 years of data. So basically we looked back 125 years of case studies, reports and research studies looking to answer the question, is change possible? And what we found is that over the last 125 years, change of sexual orientation has been documented in the scientific literature. And so we know looking at that that for years it has been clear, and even in the recent studies it has been very clear, that people can and do change in the area of behavior as well as attraction. So, and the other thing that we looked at in our landscape review was whether or not change attempts were harmful. And we found very clearly that there is no established report of harm to individuals that therapy tends to be more helpful to people and that it is not a harmful thing. There’s no, and even the American Psychological Association did admit in a report in 2009 that there is not enough evidence to claim that it’s harmful.

There is a lot wrong with Hamilton’s defense of change therapy. First, she glosses over the fact that even the most charitable reading of studies of orientation change find that most participants aren’t successful. Second, she cites the NARTH review which dismisses the flaws in the studies conducted over those 125 years of research. In the NARTH review, George Rekers is cited and we now know the rest of the story about his failed research on gender variance and his own personal issues. The work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson is cited despite the fact that none of Masters’ co-workers have come forward to say they ever saw any of the conversion therapy clients claimed by Masters. Even Masters’ wife and co-author, Virginia Johnson had questions about the existence of the conversion cases.
Some therapists who produced case studies of cure simply made up the cases (e.g., Cornelia Wilbur in collaboration with journalist Flora Schreiber). Many of those old studies were aversive therapy studies where electric shock was used to provide pain in association with same-sex attraction. While some people reported changes, there is very little follow up to find out if they remained changed or simply adapted to the shocks. These methods were discontinued for ethical reasons. NARTH continues to tout studies of approaches no one uses now to bolster their claims. I could go on, but I’ll stop after I note that Hamilton did not mention the studies that find minimal or no change, like the Edification study where the same-sex attracted member of mixed orientation marriages reported no change in attraction on average.
What if NARTH’s representatives disclosed the problems with the research in their public statements? What if they were candid and reported that some of the old studies are flawed to the degree that they cannot be used? What if these representatives disclosed that many of those who report change continue to be attracted to the same sex? Or also mentioned that some studies find no change? What if the differences in results for men and women were disclosed? Or the existence of bisexuality was included in the discussion of what the reported changes mean? What if they reported data from studies discrediting reparative therapy?
Can you imagine a 125-year landscape review of autism or childhood schizophrenia produced in the manner NARTH touts its survey? NARTH reps would be on the radio bringing back cold, distant refrigerator mothers as the cause.
It is possible that groups like the Parents Action League, ACPEDS, and Defend the Family International (Scott Lively) could find some other way to promote their views, but if NARTH was a scientific organization it wouldn’t be NARTH.

Pro-life Congressman blasts Family Research Council over election attack ads

A pro-life Congressman is speaking out about the decision of the socially conservative Family Research Council to run ads attacking him just prior to last week’s election. The first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) was unseated last week by pro-choice Cedric Richmond. Rep. Cao, who has a solid pro-life voting record, was attacked by the Family Research Council on conservative talk radio due to his votes in favor of including sexual orientation in hate crimes law and his support for repealing the military ban on gays serving openly.

About the ads, Rep. Cao told me late yesterday:

For a conservative Christian organization to attack a Republican pro-life candidate in a general election is as ignorant as it is inexcusable.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported last week that FRC bought ads on the conservative talk radio station WRNO, known locally as “Rush Radio” due to the conservative nature of the programming. The ad attacked Cao’s votes on gay issues, saying his record “places your personal liberties at jeopardy.”  

Several pro-life activists I spoke with declined to comment. The National Right to Life Committee did not respond to several requests. However, one pro-life activist denounced FRC’s actions. Psychologist Rachel MacNair, Vice-President of Consistent Life, a pro-life think tank, told me that

FRC sabotaged the pro-life cause — not just in losing a vote in Congress, but in the far deeper matter of public persuasion for the ultimate goal of making abortion unthinkable.

Can you be pro-life and moderate or supportive on gay issues? Public opinion polls show that the public is become more moderate on gay issues while growing more negative toward abortion.  If these trends continue, pro-life political groups may need to decide which social issue is more important to them. In the case of Rep. Cao, FRC’s anti-gay sentiment trumped support for a pro-life Congressman, one FRC endorsed in 2008.

Earlier today, FRC Action president Tony Perkins issued a statement to me defending the move to oppose Cao.

First, FRC Action is not a Republican organization. We are a conservative Christian organization that advocates for the family based upon biblical values and truths.  Many of the problems we face today in America are the result of Republican leadership.

When Cao first ran in 2008, he sought my support and promised to be a conservative, morally based vote for the family.  I endorsed him in that race and because of the unique situation with Jefferson under indictment and no other viable Democrat in the race, Cao won.  In the last two years he has amassed one of the worst voting records of any Republican in Congress on our issues.  By the way, the homosexual community masquerading as Republicans in New Orleans decried our ad against Cao because he was pro-life.  Cao was at best a pro-life vote, under pressure. 

Cao was the lone Republican who voted for the government takeover of healthcare when it first passed the House.  A lot of time and energy was spent on getting him to vote against the measure when it came back to the House from the Senate with taxpayer funding of abortion included.  It he was truly pro-life, he would have been leading the charge against President Obama’s plan; instead he was meeting with him in the White House.  Secondly, we are not a single issue organization that only focuses on the life issue.  We look at where Members stand on life, marriage, family and religious liberty.  Cao’s score on FRC Action’s vote scorecard was 62, lowest of the Louisiana House delegation.  His score was lower than Charlie Melancon, the one Louisiana Democrat in the House.

Cao repeatedly voted for key provisions of the homosexual agenda including: Hate Crimes, the overturning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” even though military leaders said don’t do it.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when he recently helped the Log Cabin Republicans (homosexual Republicans) raise money for their political operation.  It was the Log Cabin Republicans that recently filed a lawsuit against the military in an attempt to force them to allow open homosexuality in the military, which military leaders have said could potentially undermine their ability to accomplish their mission.  The Log Cabin Republicans succeeded at the district court level and for one day the military was forced to change their policy and even had to recruit homosexuals.  That case is currently on appeal. 

I also wanted to send a very clear message to Republicans across the country; if you take a stand against the family, we will take a stand against you.  These squishy Republicans need to know that we will come after them, just like the Democrats. 

For his part, Congressman Cao disputes aspects of Perkin’s account. According to Taylor Henry, Communications Director for Rep. Cao, the Congressman “did not personally solicit the endorsement of FRC.” In fact, Henry told me, “Congressman Cao does not recall ever meeting Tony Perkins” and he “did not make any promises to Perkins.” Henry said he cannot speak for the 2008 campaign staff so there may have been some contact at that time but Congressman Cao made no personal commitments to vote with the FRC. 

Regarding his votes on hate crimes and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Henry said Congressman Cao voted in keeping with his views that gay people should receive equal protection under the law.

See also FrumForum on this story.