Brexit is God’s plan to crush secularism and boost ‘biblical standards’
David Hathaway. Image via YouTube.

The evangelist is  reported here as saying:

I believe that prophetically this is God’s way forward for us as a nation to take a lead in returning to Biblical standards in Europe, free from the secularism of the French Revolution and Napoleonic law.

Now that the referendum is over we, as Christians, must now act decisively.

I believe that just as we prayed earnestly for God’s will to be done, we must now believe that the outcome is part of God’s plan both for us as Christians and the British nation as a whole.

We desperately need to continue to pray for unity in a nation divided, but also that God will bring a spirit of repentance and forgiveness on both sides. I believe that prophetically this is God’s way forward for us as a nation to take a lead in returning to Biblical standards in Europe, free from the secularism of the French Revolution and Napoleonic law.

I believe that the prayers of so many of God’s people has set us free from an ungodly yoke which has marginalised Christian faith.

Hathaway blames the EU for:

Making it almost impossible to teach our children the truth of the Word of God regarding marriage between one man and one woman and teach the acceptability of sex change to very young children. Under the guise of ‘human rights’ legislation, the EU has also sought to prevent us from openly testifying of our faith in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.

We must return to our Judeo/Christian heritage and resist the encroachment of secularism and false religion. One could ask whether the sudden resignation of our Prime Minister who supported ungodly laws, such as the legalisation of same sex marriage upon our nation, was indeed God’s judgement and a challenge to restore true biblical values not only in politics but also the Church.


Digital manipulated image via YouTube

I guess he was referring to the departure of David Cameron, a Bible-believing Christian and multi-millionaire who was replaced by a vicar’s daughter, the utterly incompetent Theresa May, above, who will most likely be looking for a new job shortly . . . possibly as an extra in a zombie movie.

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‘The Cleaners’ Who Scrub Social Media

the cleaners - Screenshot_2018-09-18 CBC News

“Social media platforms say they want to scrub fake news and inappropriate content off their platforms. Find out who’s doing some of the work of actually cleaning it up.”

 

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Man Uses Bible to Justify Decapitating His Girlfriend in Front of 3-Year-Old

A man charged with premediated murder says he decapitated his wife in front of their three-year-old daughter (below) because she didn’t “repent.” He later used the Bible to justify his violent crime.

Timothy Paul Hernandez, a 32-year-old man from the state of Washington, was arrested after his parents came home from church and found the decapitated body of his girlfriend. The couple reportedly had a verbal argument the night before.

They told investigators said Hernandez and his girlfriend were verbally arguing before going to bed that Saturday night. They left for church sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and when they returned home, they found the woman dead

“Timothy advised that he had spoken with God, who told him to strike down his girlfriend … because she did not repent,” a detective wrote in charging documents. “Timothy stated that he struck her down, and caused for her head to be removed from her body.”

Investigator said Hernandez quoted two Bible verses to them, including a passage from the Book of Revelation.

Each of the verses that were quoted had passages in them that spoke about women who did not follow God’s word, so God stuck them down.”

Hernandez was charged with premeditated murder because he didn’t just have a mental health breakdown. He had a fight with this girlfriend the night before, and then chose to kill her the next day, while his parents were at church.Before you jump the conclusion that mental illness played a role in this murder, however, you should listen to what Hernandez himself had to say about that theory:

Hernandez told investigators he was not crazy, and stated that a crazy person would not tell the truth, investigators said.

Detectives found a large butcher knife in the home’s sink, bloody clothing, and used a chemical to illuminate bloody footprints around the body that led into the kitchen to the sink where the knife was located. The victim had multiple stab wounds.

Charging documents also give disturbing details about the 3-year-old observing the crime scene.

As horrific as this is, it seems neither unbelievable nor new. Even if religion played a role in the crime, the root causes for his violent outburst may go back to something even older than Christianity: jealousy and the desire to control a woman. The Bible was merely justification for what he did. Now it’s his only defense.

(Image via GoFundMe)

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CATHOLIC EDUCATION ELECTIONEERING SPURS A BACKLASH

AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT

SCHOOLS

Press Release 758

CATHOLIC EDUCATION ELECTIONEERING SPURS A BACKLASH

Special Deals with Bishops

Since the 1960s the political tactics of the Catholic education lobby have changed little: Back the winner in a close contest, then claim the ‘Catholic vote made all the difference!

This was the way the DLP worked in the 1950s and 1960s. Until the DOGS entered the political scene and the voting went the other way.

This is also what has happened in the recent Longman and Batman by-elections. The Catholic education authorities assessed which party was likely to win – then entered these by-elections in the final week. In Batman, the Greens had blown themselves apart in wrangling and the Labor candidate was set to win when the Catholic Education Office entered the race with robo calls.

Labor won and Bingo! The Catholic vote made all the difference!

In Longman, Labor held Longman but polls showed it on a knife-edge, with One Nation’s preferences likely to be key to deciding the result.The Liberal candidate told a fib about a service medal, and some One Nation preferences fled to Labor. Then Catholic authorities made made a last ditch intervention in the Longman by-election, telling parents their schools would get another $250 million under Labor.

Labor won and Bingo! The Catholic vote made a difference!

The Catholic Education Offices and the Archbishops want the ‘special deals’ provided Catholic schools since the introduction of State Aid in the 1960s to continue. They want an open door into the public Treasury with no strings attached. They want financial entanglement of Church and State but talk separation of Church and State when it comes to accountability.

Forget any pretence at a ‘Needs’ policy. Catholic schools have been arguing against the coalition’s school funding policy after it was changed to a needs-based model, where funding was taken from richer schools and moved to poorer ones. They have always favoured rich schools over poorer ones.

Forget the fact that public money is being used by the Catholic sector to interfere in the democratic political process.

Forget the plain fact that many schools are ‘overfunded’ and there is minimal accountability.

Forget the fact that Australia does not need Gonski 2.0. It needs a Royal Commission into the rorting of public funds by the private education sector. DOGS believe the antics of the banks and the financial sector pale before those of the private education sector.

Birmingham was starting to realise his unenviable position.

Many of the private schools are being publicly funded up to, and, in many cases beyond the public funding available to the public sector.

It is time Australia got rid of the sectarian, inefficient, uneconomic and privileged funding of the private sector. They are already paid for.

It is a disgrace that our Prime Minister, worried about a few uncertain votes, goes cap in hand to Catholic Archbishops suing for peace and promising OUR taxes willy nilly.

A proud democratic government should tell the private sectarian sector that public money is for public schools only. He who pays the piper must not only call the tune, but be answerable for it.

Yet – Once Again this political tactic has worked. Or Has it?

Prime Minister Turnbull has taken over negotiations with the Archbishops, Bishops and Catholic bureaucrats from Education Minister Birmingham who, to give him credit, was doing something. He was showing some awareness and reacting to complaints of the Auditor Generals about the lack of public accountability with private education funding. Birmingham was actually taking his Ministerial responsibility seriously.

But as the Australian newspaper gives coverage to the Catholic sector entering negotiations for its ‘special deals’ the non-Cathoic private sector have woken up. They might get left behind – again. Yet you discover this , not from the Murdock but from the Fairfax Press.

On 31 July 2018 David Crowe of the Age informs us that a ‘School Funding War has Erupted’ and groups representing 650 private schools across three states have fired off a blistering letter to Mr Turnbull demanding an urgent meeting to ensure he does not strike a “special deal” with Catholic schools to give them an unfair advantage. Non-Catholic private school families are being warned of another damaging “funding war” over education that could lift their fees and close services, in a new challenge to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to rule out a deal that could cost independent schools $1 billion over a decade. Crowe writes:

Parents would react with “dismay and anger” if the government gave in to a political campaign by Catholic schools to extract a special deal, wrote Independent Schools of NSW chief Geoff Newcombe, Independent Schools Victoria chief Michelle Green and Independent Schools of South Australia Carolyn Grantskalns.

“We support more funding for all schools, regardless of sector, as long as there is a level playing field,” they said.

“This recent campaign, however, has used the rhetorical stereotypes of class warfare, impugned the integrity of staff in independent schools, and published ‘hit lists’ of selected independent schools.

“It would be a backward step if, as a result of this political pressure, we return to the funding wars, in which the stereotypes of ‘class warfare’ and ‘hit lists” re-emerge in practical form.”

……Catholic school authorities used a meeting with Education Minister Simon Birmingham on Tuesday to press for a resolution within weeks with a revised formula to increase their funding.

“It was a productive discussion, but it’s now crunch time for some key decisions to put these issues to bed,” said Dallas McInerney, the chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW.

“We’ll meet again within a fortnight to address the outstanding matters that need resolution.

“We’re trying to ensure the government has a fairer funding model in place for all schools.”

The growing dispute centres on a review of the school resourcing funding model by company director Michael Chaney and others, setting the framework for an attempted compromise with Catholic and independent schools.

Fairfax Media understands the independent school sector fears it could lose $1 billion over a decade under some proposals to help the Catholic sector, tilting the playing field in the competition over fees and services.

So much for the undemocratic, selfish, privileged private sector gouging public funds out of an ever shrinking Treasury. As their screaming representatives clash with the Catholic authorities, exploding with fears of falling into a new class of ‘losers’, there is no mention of the vast majority of Australian children enrolled in the public, inclusive, non sectarian schools throughout the nation.

Fairfax provides the following figures.

There are 1730 Catholic schools educating round 760,000 students across the country.

There are 1061 independent schools educating 604,000 students.

There are 6639 public schools with 2.52 million students across the country.

As an afterthought public schools which educate by for the majority of Australian children – got a mention…

AEC president Correna Haythorpe said Mr Turnbull should restore $1.9 billion in funding for public education rather than strike special deals.

“Public schools were victims of savage funding cuts under Gonski 2.0, and they must have their funding restored before Mr Turnbull considers any further special funding deals for private schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

DOGS are not alone. Here are two of the 362 comments on the David Crowe Age article:

Batlow

The solution is simple. Public schools should be funded from the public purse. Private and religious “schools” are organisations which have opted out of the public system.

They can fund their undertaking from their own resources. If private schools cannot sustain themselves financially, they should give up (or “go broke” in business parlance), and let the children return to the normal public education system.

There are many sophisty-based counter arguments, I know; but the debate to keep raging decade after decade, ever weakening our education system. It’s very simple. In Australia education is universal, secular and free. There is not one single good reason why anyone needs to attend any school, other than a public school. Public education is good for Australia.

Just think how much better off Australia would be, if Tony Abbott had attended Chatswood High School instead of a private “school”.

Sterling

My kids go to an independent school (non-denominational) and I do think that students of these schools should be funded. BUT the majority of funds should go to government schools, and private schools should stop investing ridiculous amounts into facilities that are elitist and unnecessary, and then still expect funding. The last thing I want my children to be educated in is the art of snobbery. Private schools need to get a grip!

And this is what Chris Bonner’s reaction:

Catholic school funding: here we go again

I have a great idea to fix the drought. Give farmers drought relief, extend it to better-endowed areas with access to water –and continue it long after the rain returns. The farmers I know would be horrified if this happened.

But when it comes to school funding the Catholic bishops have no such shame. Every attempt to establish needs-based funding is manipulated

to appease the private school sectors-and the resulting distortions become a permanent part of the school landscape.

This pattern is decades-old, beginning around the time needs-based school funding was undermined in the Whitlam years. In the recent two decades both the Howard and Gillard governments went through the motions of needs-based funding,while feather-bedding the non-government sector. It’s on again. Following the recent by-elections -and almost before the tumult and shouting has died down –another government has lent a willing ear to the dubious school funding claims of the Catholic bishops.

According to The Australian, PM Turnbull’s willingness to listen has been hurried along by last weekend’s tilt by the bishops to influence the voters. It raises a host of questions, not least about who paid for their latest electoral foray.The enduring myth about the extra money sought by the bishops is that it is needed to make up the ‘shortfall’ created by the Turnbull Government’s otherwise feeble ‘Gonski 2.0’ equity funding –which included attempts to reduce the impact of previous special deals.

But in the eyes of the bishops, yesterday’s special deals have become today’s and tomorrow’s fixture. There will always be winners and losers if governments are serious about equity funding. Public schools lost –they have to wait for a decade to possibly see greater equity. The Independents are going to lose (and the Catholics gain) if funding needs are calculated –as they should be around parental incomes. And funding should always be adjusted –including being reduced –as the school circumstances change. Welcome to the real world.

It is highly likely that the Catholic schools will get what they want. Labor threw in the towel decades ago; it is surprising that education minister Birmingham has held the line for as long as he has.

What might complicate matters is the rapid intervention of Independent school peak groups, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 1. They declared they supported more funding for all schools, regardless of sector… adding, without any hint of irony, “as long as there is a level playing field”. The recent Catholic campaign, they said:“has used the rhetorical stereotypes of class warfare, impugned the integrity of staff in independent schools, and published ‘hit lists’ of selected independent schools. It would be a backward step if, as a result of this political pressure, we return to the funding wars, in which the stereotypes of ‘class warfare’ and ‘hit lists” re-

emerge in practical form. Heady stuff indeed and not a public schoolie in sight. Perhaps like me they just love to watch!

Amidst all this an interesting perspective on the Catholic campaign seems to have been missed. As always in the past the campaign has highlighted the likelihood of school fees rising and schools closing – 350 schools this time around.

They only had to close schools once (Goulburn 1962) to put the fear of

God -or his earthly underlings -into politicians. But the context in which this all plays out has considerably changed. The financial costs to governments

of Catholic school closures are nowhere near what they would have been in the past. In recurrent funding terms Catholic schools in Australia are already government schools. Most are funded at well over 90% of the public funding going to government schools. Independent schools are fast catching up.

Many could be closed with governments ending up financially ahead.

In completing research for a recent discussion paper, I had a closer look at the relationship between government and Catholic schools in 71 small NSW towns. Funding two competing small schools in each of these towns is very expensive for governments –the recurrent funding costs for all the schools was $330 million in 2016.

On completing a paper ‘merge’ of the schools in each town I discovered that the recurrent cost to governments fell by 10%. Even if remotely equivalent figures could be scaled across Australia the savings to government of a more efficient provision of schools would be substantial. Obviously many factors come to bear on decisions about closing schools, but perhaps those running the current Catholic campaign need to bring themselves up to date with some fiscal realities. Then again, none of this will feature in the ongoing jockeying around school funding. The actors come and go but the script for how it will play out has been around for a long time.

Chris Bonnor is co-author with Jane Caro of “The Stupid Country”

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Why Is Christian America Supporting Donald Trump?

John Fea teaches American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He is the author of the new book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (Eerdmans Publishing, June 2018).

 

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A week ago Sunday, June 24, 2018, First Baptist Church of Dallas held its annual “Freedom Sunday.” The church website described the special service this way: “Celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ with patriotic worship and a special message from Dr. Robert Jeffress, “America is a Christian Nation.”

Not everyone in Dallas was happy about it. Robert Wilonsky, an opinion writer at the Dallas Morning News, wrote that Jeffress and the First Baptist Church were “divisive” for claiming that America was a Christian nation. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed. Atheists protested. Eventually, the billboard company contracting with the church removed signs advertising Freedom Sunday.

This, of course, did not stop the service from going forward. The people of First Baptist Church spent the morning of the 24th waving American flags, wearing red, white, and blue shirts, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and celebrating the United States military. Vice-president Mike Pence sent a letter of encouragement.

Was this a religious service or a celebration of nationalism? What was the object of the congregation’s worship?

Jeffress has been preaching his “America is a Christian Nation” sermon for a long time. On Sunday he stuck with his usual script. He indicted the “secularists, atheists, and infidels” for “perverting” the Constitution. He chided the federal government’s failure to acknowledge God in the public square. He told his congregation that academics, historians, and teachers have been lying to them about the religious roots of the United States.

Jeffress made one problematic historical reference after another. He made the wildly exaggerated claim that fifty-two of the original fifty-five signers of the Constitution were “orthodox conservative Christians.” He peddled the false notion that the disestablishment clause in the First Amendment was meant to apply solely to Protestant denominations.

Near the end of the sermon, Jeffress suggested that spikes in violence, illegitimate births, divorce, and low SAT scores in America are the direct product of the Supreme Court’s decision to remove prayer and Bible-reading from public schools.

Jeffress concluded the service with an altar call. He asked people to come to the front of the church and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. I am sure Jeffress was sincere in his desire to lead people to Jesus, but after his message it was unclear whether he was inviting them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior or embrace the idea that the United States was founded, and continues to be, a Christian nation. Maybe both.

***

Robert Jeffress is best known as a Fox News religion commentator and one of the first evangelical leaders to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. He has called Trump “the most faith-friendly president in history.”

Within two weeks following the announcement of his candidacy, several polls had Trump leading among white evangelical GOP voters. In November 2016, 81% of these evangelicals cast their vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States. The reasons for this are complex, and we probably need to wait a generation or two before historians can begin to make sense of them, but three young sociologists have published a scholarly essay that suggests the most plausible explanation.

Andrew Whitehead of Clemson University, Sam Perry of the University of Oklahoma, and Joseph O. Baker of East Tennessee State University argue that “the more someone believed the United States is—and should be—a Christian nation, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.” They conclude that “no other religious factor influenced support for or against Trump.”

These sociologists found that the average Trump voter believes the federal government should: declare the United States a Christian nation, advocate for Christian values, oppose the “strict separation of church and state,” allow the “display of religious symbols in public spaces,” and return prayer to public schools. Likewise, Trump voters believe that whatever success the United States has had over the years is “part of God’s plan.”

This essay is revealing, and it confirms much of what I have written about since the 2011 release of my Was American Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. But it does not address why and how Americans have come to believe these things. The answer to that question invites us to think historically.

Ever since the founding of the republic, a significant number of Americans have supposed that the United States is exceptional because it has a special place in God’s unfolding plan for the world. Since the early 17th century founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony by Puritans, evangelicals have relished in their perceived status as God’s new Israel—His chosen people. America, they argued, is in a covenant relationship with God. The defenders of this idea like to apply Chronicles 7:14 to the United States: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Though dissenters have always been present, the Christian culture of the United States remained intact well into the 20th century. But since World War II, the moorings of this culture have loosened, and evangelicals have responded with fear that their Christian nation is about to collapse. Robert Jeffress is correct about this.

During the 1960s, the Supreme Court removed prayer and Bible reading from public schools, the federal government cut federal funding to Christian academies and colleges that practiced segregation, the country grew more diverse through immigration, and the sexual revolution threatened evangelical patriarchy and gave women the right to choose to have an abortion.

The fear that America’s Christian civilization was falling apart translated into political action. In the late 1970s, conservative evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye (the author of the popular Left Behind novels), and a group of politicians who had been closely affiliated with the 1964 Barry Goldwater presidential campaign, developed a political playbook to win back the culture from the forces of secularization. Most of the 81% of American evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 understood, and continue to understand, the relationship between their faith and their politics through this playbook.

This playbook, which would eventual become the culture-war battle plan of the “Religious Right,” was tweaked occasionally over the years to address whatever moral issues seemed most important at the time, but it never lost its focus on “restoring,” “renewing,” and “reclaiming” America for Christ through the pursuit of political power.

When executed properly, the playbook teaches evangelicals to elect the right President and members of Congress who will pass laws privileging evangelical Christian views of the world. These elected officials will then appoint and confirm conservative Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, defend life in the womb, and uphold religious liberty for those who believe in traditional views of marriage.

The playbook rests firmly on the Religious Right’s understanding of American identity as rooted in its view of the American past. If America was not founded as a Christian nation, the Religious Right’s political agenda collapses or, at the very least, is weakened severely.

To indoctrinate its followers in the dubious claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, the Religious Right has turned to political activists, many of whom claim to be historians, to propagate the idea that the founding fathers of the United States were in the business of building a Christian nation.

The most prominent of these Christian nationalist purveyors of the past is David Barton, the founder of Wallbuilders, an organization in Aledo, Texas that claims to be “dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built—a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined.” Barton and Wallbuilders were the source of most of the historical information Jeffress presented in his Freedom Sunday sermon on June 24th.

For the past thirty years, Barton has provided pastors and conservative politicians with inaccurate or misinterpreted facts used to fuel the Religious Right’s nostalgic longings for an American Christian golden age. American historians, including those who teach at the most conservative Christian colleges, have debunked Barton’s use of the past, but he continues to maintain a large following in the evangelical community.

David Barton peddles fake news about the American past. Yet, if Andrew Whitehead, Sam Perry, and Joseph Baker are correct, his work is essential to the success of the Trump presidency in a way that I imagine even Donald Trump and his staff do not fully understand or appreciate.

Trump does not talk very much about America’s supposedly Christian origins. His grasp of history is not very strong. But his evangelical supporters see him as a gift of God—a divinely appointed figure who has emerged on the scene for such a time as this. He is in the White House to preserve God’s covenant with America, to make America Christian again.

The support for the President is a sign of intellectual laziness in the evangelical community. Rather than thinking creatively about how to move forward in hope, Trump evangelicals prefer to respond to cultural change by trying to reclaim a Christian world that is rapidly disappearing, has little chance of ever coming back, and may never have existed in the first place.

The American founding fathers lived in a world that was very different from our own. In the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, America was a nation of Christians—mostly Protestants—who put their stamp on the culture.

Yet, amid this Christian culture, the founders differed about the relationship between Christianity and their new nation. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison defended the separation of church and state. John Adams and George Washington also opposed mixing church and state, while at the same time suggesting that Christians, because Christianity taught an ethic of selflessness, could be useful in the creation of a virtuous republic in which citizens sacrificed self-interest for the common good.

The founding fathers believed in God, but most of them did not believe that God inspired the Old and New Testaments or sent His son to die and rise from the dead as the ultimate payment for human sin. The God of the Declaration of Independence is a providential deity who created the world and the people in it, but there is nothing in this important American document that defines this God in terms of the Incarnation or the Trinity.

The United States Constitution never mentions God or Christianity but does forbid religious tests for office. The First Amendment rejects a state-sponsored church and celebrates the free-exercise of religion. This is hardly the kind of stuff by which Christian nations are made. Yet Barton and Jeffress invoke these founders and these documents to defend the idea that the United States was founded as a distinctly Christian nation.

***

If the Christian Right, and by extension the 81% of evangelical voters who use its political playbook, are operating on such a weak historical foundation, why doesn’t someone correct their faulty views and dubious claims?

We do.

We have.

But countering bad history with good history is not as easy as it sounds. David Barton and his fellow Christian nationalist purveyors of the past are well-funded by Christian conservatives who know that the views of the past they are peddling serve their political agenda. Barton has demonized Christian intellectuals and historians as sheep in wolves’ clothing. They may call themselves Christians on Sunday morning, but, according to Barton, their “world view” has been shaped by the secular universities where they earned their Ph.Ds. Thanks to Barton, many conservative evangelicals do not trust academic and professional historians—even academic and professional historians with whom they share a pew on Sunday mornings.

I know this first-hand from some of the negative emails and course evaluation forms I received after teaching a Sunday School course on the history of religion and politics at the Evangelical Free Church congregation where my family worship every Sunday. Because I was a college history professor—even a college history professor at a Christian college with strong evangelical roots—I could not be trusted.

What David Barton does not understand is that there are hundreds of evangelical historians who see their work as part of their Christian identity and vocation. These historians are women and men who pursue truth about the past wherever it leads. This pursuit of truth is a deeply Christian pursuit, as is the case with all efforts to distinguish truth from error.

When people like David Barton cherry-pick from the past to promote political agendas, they do a disservice to the past, fail to treat it with integrity, and ultimately harm their Christian witness in the world. They make evangelicals look foolish. This is not what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 1:18 as the “foolishness of the cross,” it is just good old-fashioned foolishness. It is a product of what evangelical historian Mark Noll has described as the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”

Many of us engaged in trying to bring good history to the evangelical church need the support of Christians who are concerned about the direction Donald Trump, the Christian Right, and the pseudo-historians who prop-up their political agenda are trying to take the country and the church. Good history is complex. It is nuanced. And it is an essential part of truly worshipping God with our minds (Luke 10:27). Unfortunately, complexity, nuance, and intellectual discipleship are not the kinds of subjects that inspire Christians to dig into their pocketbooks.

What would it take to fund evangelical historians to travel to receptive churches around the country and spend some concentrated time teaching American religious history, and American history more broadly, to lay men and women? Perhaps such visits could also include times of worship and prayer?

It is unlikely that such an effort would reach the Robert Jeffress’ of the world. but there are many evangelicals who are open and willing to listen and learn. This was another lesson I took away from my Sunday School class. In fact, the criticism I received paled in comparison with the positive comments I got from those who had never heard a fellow evangelical offer a different, more accurate, view of American history.

American evangelical political engagement is built on a very weak historical foundation. It is time that Christian philanthropists, motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit informed by the pursuit of truth and a concern for the testimony of the Gospel in the world, take the long view and invest in responsible Christian thinking about the American past. The American republic, and more importantly, the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, depends on it.

 

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Trump to Sign Faith-Based Initiative Order Giving White Evangelicals More Power

Trump tried to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which would have allowed pastors to tell their congregations who to vote for and turned churches into dark money conduits for politicians. He’s tried to ban transgender troops from the military on the guidance of evangelicals. He has nominated a steady stream of judges who cater to conservative Christian interests. He acted like saying “Merry Christmas” was now permissible even though it was never a problem.

And, of course, we know why he does that. White evangelicals remain the core of Trump’s base.

So today, on the National Day of Prayer (which is, oddly enough, a Christian-only event), Trump is signing a new executive order designed to give those evangelicals even more power.

Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service has the scoop:

President Trump plans to unveil a new initiative that aims to give faith groups a stronger voice within the federal government and serve as a watchdog for government overreach on religious liberty issues.

He is scheduled to sign an executive order on Thursday (May 3), the National Day of Prayer, “to ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government,” a White House document reads.

No. No no no. They don’t need a stronger voice in the government. They’re doing enough damage as is. We don’t need wannabe theocrats getting federal help in choosing all the ways they’re being fake-persecuted.To be fair, President Obama wasn’t terrific on these issues either. Instead of shutting down George W. Bush‘s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama expanded it with his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It was well-intentioned but ultimately problematic.

Trump is now adding steroids to the mix with his White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

There’s a secular argument to be made in support of this office. Most Americans are religious, believers are involved in a lot of public service efforts, and this is a way to coordinate some of those projects.

But we’ve seen what happens when Trump and his Christian clique gets together. They discriminate against religious minorities. They use their connections to push legislation that has no secular purpose. They pretend to be victims just because (gasp) Christian business owners might have to sell the same product to a gay person as a straight one.

Just look at the stated purpose of this office:

The White House said those working on the initiative will provide policy recommendations from faith-based and community programs on “more effective solutions to poverty,” and inform the administration of “any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.”

How the hell will these Christians tackle “poverty” and “religious liberty” when they’re working under a president who supports a Muslim ban and a Republican Congress that passed a bill giving tax breaks to billionaires instead of using the money to help lower and middle class people?

At best, I hope this office is a symbol. Because if they actually get more power, non-evangelicals will be screwed. It’s telling that, in the RNS article, not a single non-Christian was even cited in the piece. Will there be Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc. working on this initiative? (Should we even bother asking?)

Or will we just get more of the same from this White House, where “religious liberty” is synonymous with “special perks for white evangelicals”?

(Image via Shutterstock)

 

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The Scandal Tearing Apart America’s Largest Protestant Denomination

A denominational leader’s claim that abused women should remain in their broken marriages is forcing Southern Baptists to pick sides.

 

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Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson gestures as he makes his opening speech in 1999. John Bazemore / AP
Over the past 20 years, the Southern Baptist Convention has weathered an onslaught of controversies, from renaming the denomination to repudiating the Confederate flag. But in the end, all it took to potentially rend the organization in two was a single quote about domestic violence from a solitary leader that most Americans have never even heard of.Paige Patterson is the 75-year-old president of Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which claims to be one of the largest schools of its kind in the world. He is lionized among Baptists for his role in the “conservative resurgence,” which is what some call the movement to oust theological liberals beginning in the 1970s. But this week, his past legacy and present credibility were called into question when a 2000 audio recording surfaced in which Patterson said he has counseled physically abused women to avoid divorce and to focus instead on praying for their violent husbands, and to “be submissive in every way that you can.”
Domestic-violence advocates quickly and unsurprisingly condemned the remarks, but, and as The Washington Post reported, it sent “leaders scrambling to respond.”Some notable SBC leaders echoed concerns about Patterson’s comments and whether he should step down. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, a book-publishing house and retail chain that is owned by the SBC, released a statement denouncing domestic abuse and calling out Patterson by name. Ed Stetzer, a former Southern Baptist employee who is currently a professor at Wheaton College, penned an article for Christianity Today arguing that Patterson must resign post-haste. Others, including theologian Albert Mohler and mega-church pastor Matt Chandler, also made statements condemning spousal abuse.But the tight-knit Southern Baptist boys’ club is not so easily unraveled, and many leaders have sheltered their colleague. Some have simply remained mum. The denomination’s Executive Committee has not acknowledged the controversy despite the media coverage it has received. Current SBC President Steve Gaines has also stayed silent, though today he curiously tweeted, “You must not speak everything that crosses your mind” and encouraged people to “read your Bible more than you check [social media].” Others have actually offered their support. For example, Atlanta-based pastor and former SBC President Johnny Hunt took to Twitter to praise Patterson as “a man of God and a man of your word.”
It’s not difficult to denounce domestic violence, and it shouldn’t be controversial. And yet, America’s largest Protestant denomination now seems to be ethically schizophrenic when it comes to the topic.In the days since the scandal was first sparked, the situation for Patterson has worsened substantially:

  • First came another quote from the same audio clip, in which Patterson is heard telling a story about a female congregant of his who confessed to being abused by her husband. Rather than report the incident to the authorities or help the woman escape, he sent her back to her spouse and asked her to pray “not out loud, but quietly.” The woman returned the next Sunday with two black eyes, a sight which Patterson said made him “very happy” because it made her husband feel guilty enough to attend church for the first time.
  • Next came the release of Patterson’s defiant public statement in which he only conceded that his remarks were “probably unwise” before painting himself as a martyr who has been subjected to a campaign of “mischaracterization” fueled by “lies.”
  • Then, a video recording from 2014 emerged in which Patterson resembles the ghost of Roy Moore, objectifying and sexualizing a 16-year-old girl in a sermon illustration.
  • If that were not enough, a news story published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1997 surfaced in which Patterson was asked about women and quipped, “I think everybody should own at least one.”
  • Patterson offered an interview to the denomination’s publicity arm, Baptist Press, in hopes of doing some damage control. But he made things worse by confirming that he believes “non-injurious physical abuse which happens in so many marriages” might spur a woman to “pray [her husband] through this.” (Baptist Press later manipulated the quote to read “minor non-injurious abuse” claiming that it better aligned with Patterson’s intention.)
  • Finally, The Washington Post published an article noting that Patterson has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit, which claims he knew about child-molestation accusations against a close friend of his, fellow Southern Baptist Paul Pressler, but chose to cover it up rather than report it.

A wave of such damning allegations and confirmed quotes would be enough to drag down almost any giant. In a #MeToo moment, it’s astounding that Patterson is still standing. But Southern Baptists are a loyal bunch. One wonders if Baptists’ loyalty to one of yesterday’s leaders is blinding them to the optics of his present involvement and the damage to their public witness should he remain in power.

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to recognize that this will not end well.At the denomination’s annual gathering next month, Patterson is scheduled to give the coveted keynote sermon. A growing number of Southern Baptists are protesting his involvement, calling for him to be replaced. But because the messengers approved the schedule last year, there are only two ways he can be removed from the program. Either Patterson can voluntarily resign, which seems unlikely given his recalcitrance throughout the debacle, or the messengers in Dallas next month can offer a motion for his replacement.“If Patterson preaches at the SBC, he will, because of his past work, get a standing ovation,” Stetzer wrote at Christianity Today. “Every news story will point to that moment, tie it together with the accusations against Paul Pressler, and say that Southern Baptists don’t take abuse seriously.”Stetzer is right. If Patterson preaches in Dallas, then the Southern Baptist Convention, which has lost a million members over the last decade, will appear to be tolerant of spousal abuse in a cultural moment in which Americans overwhelmingly oppose such things. Such a perception, whether true or not, will doubtlessly come at a high price.

On any given Sunday, there are more women than men who attend church. These women, in communities across America, may think twice before pulling into a Southern Baptist church’s parking lot. And what of the many social justice-minded Millennials? They may see the denomination’s lack of conviction of their belief that organized religion is irredeemably corrupt, giving them one more reason to saturate churches with their absence.

One can only imagine how the million of Southern Baptist women feel when their own denomination cannot seem to muster enough moral courage to offer a full-throated repudiation of domestic abuse. The denomination holds that God intends for wives to submit to their husbands and has not passed a resolution on domestic violence since 1979.

It’s somewhat easier to tolerate disagreement on matters like race when the majority of SBC churches are overwhelmingly white. But when every congregation is at least 50 percent female, domestic abuse hits closer to home. The Southern Baptist Convention simply cannot afford to stand by a leader who has exhibited a decades-long pattern of dangerous comments that appear to trivialize women’s suffering.

With their denominational meeting fast approaching, Southern Baptists now find themselves in a situation that is precarious, perilous, and frankly ironic. The man who three decades ago unified his denomination now seems poised and willing to divide it.

*This article originally referred to Wheaton College as Wheaton University. We regret the error.

 

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