This is the last of a series. Yes; I know it is 2019; this is late because government shutdown. I will provide an index to the other entries in a comment. I have been posting periodically on the hostile coverage of Evangelicals on the part of Big News Media. It is clear that a large driving force in the hostile media accounts was Donald Trump. Big Media has sought to divide Evangelicals from President Trump. They sought to divide Evangelicals from each other, they trashed Evangelicals at every opportunity, and primarily they sought to convince Evangelicals not to vote for President Trump or for any politician who expressed support for President Trump. They wanted Evangelicals to believe it was hypocritical for Christians to support President Trump. They wanted Evangelicals to believe that Republicans were all going to lose badly so it was a waste of time to vote. I don’t know how much success they actually achieved, but they were hard at work to accomplish real voter suppression, while spouting accusations of voter suppression at Republicans.
The cascade of articles seemed to abate, oddly, during the runup to the midterm elections. That was primarily because all of Big Media was in full hair-on-fire excitement over the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. They got themselves worked up real good, anticipating a major defeat for President Trump, and they focused all their energy on that. Other issues were pushed aside. Then, with about two weeks before election day, they resumed running attacks on Evangelical voters.
There was nothing really notable. It was just the usual stuff that I have been observing in nine previous posts in 2018.
I did observe some interesting postmortems about the awfulness of mass media news in the runup to the midterm elections. My favorite media critics at GetReligion put up the best ones. They are putting a happy face on the field of journalism. Mostly they are explaining to Evangelicals just why they have been trashed so badly for years, and attributing the problem to ignorance rather than malice.
In part, I see their point. Journalists as a group are very ignorant when it comes to matters of religion. While 80 percent of Americans generally say they “believe in God,” this is only true for 20 percent of journalists. In comparison to average Americans, journalists are three times as likely to say they are Atheist, and five times as likely to say they are Agnostic. Journalists either grew up without religion at home, or in homes with mixed religions, or else they are openly hostile to the faith of their parents.
Journalists do not recognize religious jargon and do not understand the differences between religious groups. Ignorance on their part can go a long way to explaining a lot of bad reporting on religious people and religious issues.
But there is a lingering matter of open hostility on the part of journalists expressed towards people of faith. This explains some anti-Catholic bias and general anti-Christian bias.
As Leftists, journalists also share a hostility to all conservatives. This shows up as the “pew gap.” The pew gap is a phenomenon that first got talked about in the 1980s. People who attend regular worship services are more likely to vote Republican. People who rarely attend worship are more likely to vote Democrat. This divide has been increasing for forty years.
In terms of journalism, the upshot is that religious people are usually on the opposite political side from Atheists and agnostics. Which is, I think, the root of so much hostile coverage of Evangelicals. For most journalists, politics is their religion.
Journalists howled when President Trump labeled them the “Enemy of the People.” I think that label is accurate. They are certainly the Enemy of traditionally religious People. They are the Enemy of conservative People.
Mass media, the legacy media, you know, those “Lamestream” guys, are keeping me busy tracking their continued attempts to wedge Evangelical voters away from President Trump. One way they do this is to pound on the hypocrisy angle at every opportunity. Of course, Evangelicals continue to provide lots of opportunities.
Hence the #MeTooForChurch series of exposes to detail those Evangelical pastors who have been caught in sin. Particularly notable this summer was the philandering scandal at Willow Creek, which is an Evangelical megachurch with a network of associated churches. Pastor Bill Hybels and his leadership team are out and the church is reeling. Almost every mass media outlet covered it, but all the articles seemed to be derivative of reporting by the Chicago Tribune and Religion News Service. There wasn’t an anti-Trump hook to this story, so it played out in the press the way most church scandals do.
Russkies at the Prayer Breakfast
The New York Times wins the prize for this latest reporting period for an article about the National Prayer Breakfast. The article ran on July 27. The National Prayer Breakfast happened back in February. Why such a late-breaking article? Well, the obvious answer is Russians.
Yes, the NYT ran a hatchet job about the National Prayer Breakfast in which they noted that a couple of Russians were in attendance, including Maria Butina, which, according to them, taints the whole affair and confirms Trump colluded with the Russkies to derail her highness’s path to victory. Now, I would have been content to scoff them and mock them and call them “fake news,” but I saw that one of my favorite media critics, Julia Duin, took them seriously and provided a better response. Here is an excerpt from her post, which includes a quote from the NYT:
The bottom line: I’m just surprised it took the Russians this long to discover what everyone else knew – that the breakfast and its parent organization, the International Foundation, have been organizing “secret” meetings between foreign government leaders and U.S. politicians … for years.
Doesn’t the same sort of thing happen at Vatican embassies around the world? Is this news all that surprising? The key question is documenting the money involved.
What’s more, participants appear to see ultimate value in meetings and relationships seemingly irrespective of the motives of those present.
I would sub in “evangelistic value,” in that the motive behind the breakfast is to pave the way for the spread of the Gospel in foreign countries by inviting their government officials to the breakfast.
Remember, the folks at the breakfast – and the Foundation – are using this as an opportunity to reach the Russians (and others) just as much as the folks from overseas are using it as a way to reach influential Americans.
Well, yes, one of the original reasons for holding a prayer breakfast targeted to Washington politicians was to use it to reach out to leaders of non-Christian nations to persuade them to treat their Christians better, and possibly to persuade both American and foreign politicians of the truth of the Gospel.
Of some interest over the summer were media digs at Evangelicals in ways devised to emphasize that journalists think Evangelical Trump voters are all hypocrites. Salon ran an article, but since it is Salon, maybe they don’t qualify as news media. Their article excoriated Evangelicals for being hypocrites on account of Trump’s immorality, and then they paused to celebrate the general rise of sexual immoralities, and then they also celebrated the rise of people who have dropped out of traditional churches. Typical.
The only reason to mention Salon is because they get promoted in the feed at the Google News aggregator. Google promotes their catchy headline, and that is what puts them on my radar. Their headline stayed in the Google News Spotlight for several days.
Mike Pence, Christianist monster
There was a spate of articles that seemed intended to wedge Mike Pence away from President Trump, or to simply portray Mike Pence as a monstrous theocrat. Since they were all simply rehashing stuff I have written about before, there is no need to give a blow-by-blow. SSDD.
There was a more recent example. It was from an Alabama newspaper, but it also got featured prominently near the top of the default Google News page. This one was also intended to chide Evangelicals because they support immoral President Trump. They found a liberal Baptist history professor (he also has an MDiv but I don’t know if he was ever ordained). They quote him extensively saying the usual Leftist stuff:
There are broader issues at play, too, with Trump’s stand on Muslim immigration echoing past religious right alarms against non-Protestant immigrants changing the nation’s faith demographics.
“Trump is, at best, racially insensitive, if not racist,” said Leonard, a former religion professor at Samford University and retired divinity dean at Wake Forest University.
But many evangelicals like his style, Leonard said.
“Fundamentalists vest great power in the authoritarian leader who brooks no disagreement,” Leonard said. “They have an appreciation for Trump as an authoritarian figure.”
Baptists traditionally supported the separation of church and state, but shifted with the rise of the Moral Majority in 1979 and the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980. Despite being divorced, Reagan was the choice of evangelicals over Jimmy Carter, a born-again believer and Baptist Sunday school teacher who did not agree with the religious right on many issues.
That is pitiful dreck through and through. “Trump’s stand on Muslim immigration echoing past religious right alarms against non-Protestant immigrants changing the nation’s faith demographics.” This assumes the Leftists’ worst construction of “religious right alarms” about Muslim immigration, insinuating that the concern is with all “non-Protestant immigrants” and alleging that the problem with Muslim immigrants is demographic, which of course is code for racist. I am calling B.S. on Dean Leonard and AL.com and the reporter, Greg Garrison.
I think Dean Leonard has slandered Fundamentalists as well as President Trump.
I recall debates among traditionalist Christians regarding the difficult choice between irreligious divorcee California actor Reagan versus Baptist Georgia farmer Carter. We voted for Reagan. I don’t recall anyone being called “immoral” for making that choice. But I have been called immoral for voting for President Trump, and in fact, I saw that “immoral” smear tossed around again just this week by NeverTrumpers.
And I resent Dean Leonard’s slander that “Baptists traditionally supported the separation of church and state, but shifted with the rise of the Moral Majority….” Did Baptists stop supporting the separation of church and state? He alleges in that article that Baptists want to use the power of the state to re-establish their dominant political position. He is wrong. Baptists are appealing to government to stop coercing Christians into forced speech that celebrates the sins of the protected classes. Baptists and other traditionalist Christians are appealing to government to stop meddling in local bathrooms. The key for Baptists and other Evangelicals is that Team Obama was using the federal government to elevate non-traditional religion over traditionalist religions; we simply wanted the State to cease establishing Leftist religion.
Evangelicals, whether Baptist or not (I am not a Baptist), are politically active because we are defending ourselves against the attacks of the Left, who have been using the power of government, as has been discussed here at Ratburger.org on previous occasions. Leftists may cry “theocrat” but the truth is that they are the ones on offense and we are the ones on defense, and it has been this way ever since the Reagan Administration.
I will close this time with an opinion column that ran at The Atlantic. It was by Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism at CUNY. It was more of the ‘Evangelicals are racists’ stuff that I have been writing about all year. This one seemed to pivot; Beinard did not address himself to Evangelicals and gave no indication that he expected to have any Evangelical readers. He was not trying to wedge Evangelicals away from President Trump. He was giving Leftists permission to consider Evangelicals to be horrible racist, sexist, homophobic, mean persons, as a way to encourage Leftist political activisms. He wrote on the topic of corruption, brushing off all allegations of corruption by Hillary, and focusing on the corruption of Trump. He wrote that Evangelicals were more concerned about people of color corrupting the complexion of America than about Trump’s political corruption.
I think we will see less of the media attempts to wedge Evangelicals away from President Trump. We have seen a number of pundits and journalists wailing about how, for all their attacks, articles, shows, editorials, histrionics and shouting, the needle has not moved; Evangelicals who support President Trump have remained unmoved.
There is a Liberal strain of Evangelicalism that gets a lot of favorable coverage in Leftist Mass Media. They are both political liberals and theological liberals. The thing that makes them popular with Big Media is the way their spokespersons use credentials as “Christians” to bash American Christianity. In particular, these are the liberal Evangelicals who are Democrats who oppose President Trump, and they oppose Christians who support President Trump. So we are at the intersection of religion and politics and the culture war. Lamestream media promote Leftist Christians as a way to drive a wedge between President Trump and his base.
I am writing to address one particular thing that gets said by liberal “Christians.” I saw it recently on several Leftist blogs, where they were riffing on coverage of the release of a new book. It did not generate much in the way of media coverage, primarily because Big Media was chasing Mueller investigation squirrels and Charlottesville anniversary racism squirrels. However, I thought it worth addressing because we have seen it before and we will see it again.
The topic was “Fear.” It was said that 81 percent of ‘Evangelical Voters’ had been motivated to vote for Donald Trump by fear.
Well, I agree, but, I strongly disagree with the things that were said. Some of the things that were said are that the Evangelicals who support President Trump are “mean” “selfish” “racist;” you know, all the usual Leftist blather. But stick with me and eventually I will get around to a theological point.
The book this time is Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, by John Fea, who is a liberal Evangelical and a history professor. Last month The Atlantic ran a long feature by Fea. Near the top, the professor gets to spiritual issues:
Moses told the Israelites to “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” The Hebrew God told Job: “At the destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.” The Psalmist wrote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
The Gospel of John teaches Christians that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” St. Luke writes: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Despite all these scriptural passages, it is still possible to write an entire history of American evangelicalism as the story of a people failing miserably at overcoming fear with hope, trust, and faith in their God. But it is also possible to find evangelicals, drawing deeply from Christian theological resources, who sought to forge an alternative history.
Fea then launches into a diatribe, reviewing historical points to trash American Evangelicals of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. He grinds the ax of how American Evangelicals were fearful anti-intellectual xenophobic racists. After too many words, he wrapped that up with remarks about racist fear of Obama, and homophobic opposition to SSM. He pivots to current times with this:
After a recent lecture on Trump and his evangelical supporters, a woman approached me at the lectern and identified herself as an evangelical who voted for Trump. “I am part of the 81 percent,” she said, “but what choice did I have?” I have heard something similar many times from evangelicals who voted for Trump.
He gives a brief review of the Hillary campaign, and then brings out the big trope:
Ironically, some evangelicals have found a savior. They sought after Trump, he answered them, and he delivered them from all their fears.
But other evangelical options are available. Evangelicals are people of hope, not fear. The practice of Christian hope points us to a life beyond this world, but it also requires us to act in such a way that models God’s coming kingdom. The Kingdom of God is characterized by the love of enemies, the welcoming of strangers, the belief in the human dignity of all people, a humble and self-sacrificial posture toward public life, and a trust in the sovereign God of the universe. Fear is a natural human response to social change, but evangelicals betray their deepest spiritual convictions when they choose to dwell in it.
This is a conflation of fears. Throughout this essay he does what we have seen so often before. He is mixing up spiritual fear with worldly fear.
Spiritual fear is fear of eternity. In death there are two directions for your soul to take. Eternal rest with Jesus, or else eternity in the place that is without God. Christians can look forward to eternity in the full confidence that the spiritual debt they owe has been paid in full because they have been adopted into the family of God. There is hope in the blood of Jesus there, and no spiritual fear.
Worldly fear is the fear of bad outcomes in this life. For most white American Christians this does not mean fear of bad guys in the neighborhood. That may be a real fear for some, but, politically, that is a law-and-order, justice system issue. There was a great deal of fearmongering over this issue, but little of the Trump vote in 2016 was manifested as votes for personal safety.
Rather, these votes were for a secure future for children and grandchildren. The fear was that America would descend into chaos. First, in rough neighborhoods in blue cities that foolishly degrade and impede their own police forces. But, later, nationally, as our overextended economy collapses into a new Depression. These are thoroughly worldly fears. They are genuine fears, and they are not much related to spiritual matters.
Further to the worldly fears of Evangelical Voters, we feared that the Democrat Party will transform America in an ugly way that will dismantle our free exercise of our traditionalist Christian religion. We remembered that Hillary said that traditionalist religion “will have to change.” She was running to become the theologian in chief.
Evangelical Vote for a Sinner
We preferred to vote for a flawed man with the baggage of a past history of sexual sins. He was pledging to preserve religious liberty. Our concern was not for our salvation, but for the ability of our grandchildren to live openly as Christians. They may be saved by the blood of Jesus, but they may find themselves enjoying their spiritual freedom from the confines of a gulag.
It is Democrats who have made Christian business owners in blue states into second-class citizens. It is Democrats who have threatened Christian colleges and high schools with a loss of accreditation. It is Democrats who have forced the promotion of sin and forced our children to celebrate sexual sin in public schools. It is Democrats who have said that traditionalist Christians should not be allowed to hold public office. It is Democrats who have demonized any personality who has publicly lobbied for limits on abortion. It is Democrats who promote euthanasia. It is Democrats who pressed federal meddling into state and local bathrooms. It is Democrats who deny real data-based science about the climate. It is Democrats who deny the science of embryology as they promote abortion. It is Democrats who corrupted the social sciences and humanities with anti-Western and anti-Christian activism.
So, yes, we fear the Party of Death. They are anti-police, anti-law, anti-justice, anti-religious, anti-Christian and anti-American. They are the Party that booed God.
We did not elect Donald Trump because we see him as some kind of spiritual savior. We elected Donald Trump to postpone the day when the Left triumphs and dismantles Western Civilization. That will be a dark day for everyone, not just for Christians. Our concerns that led us to vote for Donald Trump were temporal, not eternal.
But they are very real and valid concerns. Though they are not spiritual fears, the fears are well-founded. That does not make us “fearful;” it means we have grave concerns that we express as “fears.” There is a big difference.
Conflating theological concerns with worldly concerns is a deliberate attack on weak-minded Christians, intended to sew confusion and doubt among believers. They impute to our support for our flawed champion a support of his past sins. They called us “immoral” for voting for “immoral Trump.”
They are not being honest, which is their habit. Leftists have always been liars.
Trust Jesus, and trust your instincts. You knew you could not vote for Hillary. However much they harangue you with President Trump’s personal faults, just remember that we are not putting our faith in President Trump for spiritual guidance. The trust we place in President Trump is strictly worldly. And he has proved to be surprisingly worthy of our trust, far exceeding our expectations. President Trump should be rewarded with our full support. He has worked hard to deliver on his campaign promises, rewarding our votes with a political delivery that is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.
The process is the punishment. Just a couple of weeks after the Supreme Court ended a six-year legal ordeal, the Human Rights Commission of the State of Colorado has started a new investigation of Jack Phillips the Christian Baker who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop.
The complainant is a transgender person, who requested a birthday cake to celebrate “the 7th-year anniversary of my transition from male to female.”
Now this is harassment of a businessman for trying to exercise his traditionalist Christianity in his shop. Even though the legal fees will be donated, this man has spent six years of time in a stressful series of hearings, interviews, interrogations, depositions, and other miscellaneous court proceedings, plus time spent with his own legal team. He has been facing bankruptcy the entire time as the weight of the State of Colorado makes it difficult for him to tend to his family and his business.
When Leftists scoff that Christians are not under threat in America, Jack Phillips is exhibit A of the rebuttal. He has just filed for a federal injunction against the Colorado Human Rights Commission.
“Colorado continues its practice of treating Phillips worse than other cake artists because it despises his religious beliefs and how he practices his faith,” the lawsuit claims.
The Catholic Diocese of Boston has quietly conceded defeat and did not put up a fight. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade of Boston is now a green copy of the Gay Pride Parade. The triumphant Mayor Walsh has just installed the leader of the front group he created as leader of parade arrangements for the 2019 parade. When I search for “St. Patrick’s Day Parade” at the diocesan website, there are no results.
The group OUTVETS was formed in 2014 by Walsh for the purpose of forcing an LBTQ presence into the parade. Here is an excerpt from a recent press release by the Catholic Action League:
OUTVETS was created in July, 2014 as part of Mayor Walsh’s campaign to force parade organizers to admit homosexual groups to the line of march. It was the third such contrivance fabricated for this purpose since 1992. Since 2015, OUTVETS has been marching in the parade with banners identifying their sexual behavior.
In December 2014, with Hurley infirm and absent, a minority on the Veterans Council, led by former Boston police officer Brian Mahoney, and current City Councilor Ed Flynn, seized control of the organization and colluded with Walsh to admit OUTVETS. Flynn would be elected to the City Council in 2015 with support from allies of the mayor.
For many decades the theme of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade could be characterized as “Irish heritage + American values + Catholic religion.”
Currently the parade theme is better characterized as “Irish heritage + triumphant anti-Christian sexual confusion.”
There were some interesting developments since my last post in this series. There were new instances of the continuing mass media assault on Evangelicals and new instances of mass media trying to drive a wedge between President Trump and his Christian supporters.
The drumbeat over Stormy Daniels and her sex affair with Donald Trump continued to be a daily item, most recently because the lawyer who originally paid her hush money had his home and office raided by the FBI, who seized a trove of records that are now the subject of a legal hoo-raw and media tempest. Every time they mention this matter, Nevers and mass media make sure to mention that Donald Trump is morally unfit to serve as President and is undeserving of Christians’ support.
James Comey announced his book. Copies were provided to friendly reviewers who immediately passed along Mr. Comey’s attacks on President Trump. They especially used Mr. Comey’s remarks to an interviewer while pumping for his book. Mr. Comey said that Mr. Trump is “morally unfit” for his office. This of course fed a new round of chattering about how Mr. Trump is undeserving of Christians’ support.
Some high-profile Evangelical leaders had high-profile articles appear about alleged sexual sins. Some of this was fresh news and some was old news that got recycled in order to add to the feeding frenzy. Nevertheless it amounted to an embarrassment for a number of Christian ministries. Bill Hybels is perhaps the most widely known of these ministers. Some of the coverage put me in mind of the “pedophile priests” scandal of fifteen to ten years ago. (At that time some of us observed that “pedophile” was an inappropriate name for the problem, that the Catholic churches did not appear to have a worse situation than Protestant churches, and that churches in general did not appear to have a worse situation than other institutions such as schools or government. The phenomenon is characterized as much by the herd mentality of the media as by the sexual sins in question.)
There was an interesting feature article that appeared at HuffPo. It was an analysis of findings revealed in the trial of Noor Salman, the widow of the jihadi who shot up the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. You may recall that Leftist mass media raised a clamor about how the shooter was motivated by a “climate of hate” and laid responsibility for the shooting on the “anti-gay atmosphere” created by conservative Christians and Republicans. To the credit of the Huffington Post they ran this really interesting post by Melissa Jelten, who reported that almost everything that had been said in the media about the shooter’s motives were wrong.
There was an interesting editorial in the New Yorker. It stirred up some outragey reactions from folk on the right. It was an anti-Christian screed aimed at Chick-fil-A for being popular in New York City, and thereby offending the godless writer and his pals.
Wheaton hosted a conference of Evangelicals, tilted leftward. The Washington Post headline reflects a (months-old) quote from Tim Keller: “There’s now a red evangelicalism and a blue evangelicalism.” As if this was news. Conservative Evangelicals have been looking askance at Liberal Evangelicals for half a century. The problems is that the Liberals became more and more Liberal, to the extent that some are still claiming to be Christian while espousing all sorts of heresies and syncretisms. Some have admitted that they have “emerged beyond Jesus.” Those are the media darlings. (Though they keep whining about the declining size of their flocks.)
So, nothing new here, just a continuation of mass media hostility to Christians in general, with a special level of hate and snark aimed at Evangelicals who support President Trump. I will put links in the comments.