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.
Yes, that stale accusation is making the rounds once again. After a diversion of several weeks, Big Media is now in panic mode since early voting has started. Big Media was distracted by Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, and used that as the launch pad for attacks on white women, in an attempt to shame and bully white women who were leaning towards Republican candidates. They showed how desperate they are to wedge voters away from the GOP and President Trump. Now they are returning to more familiar ground, which is continued attacks on white Evangelicals in an attempt to wedge them away from President Trump’s GOP.
Of course the New York Times is leading the charge. They ran an article that purported to provide a political history of Evangelicals: “Religion and Right Wing Politics: How Evangelicals Reshaped Elections.” It is mostly forgettable. It contains several howlers, such as “American evangelicals had long steered clear of politics,” which is silly. It would be better to say that American evangelicals had long been politically divided. This article incorrectly cites the Moral Majority as the beginning of political realignment of Evangelicals. I think that is really clueless. The Moral Majority got its start and gained traction because the Democrat Party started kicking traditionalists and conservatives out and embraced moral confusion. Along the way, the NYT quotes Michael Gerson as part of the “Religious Right.” Ha.
The New York Times also did a feature where they invited young Evangelicals to comment on their personal politics. They said they received 1500 comments. They printed ten or so. It was pretty much what you would expect. The New York Times’s favorite Evangelicals are actually ex-Evangelicals. The young Evangelicals the NYT chose to quote expressed quite a lot of confusion and dissatisfaction with their Christianity.
NeverTrumper David French wrote a column at National Review in which he riffed on the NYT comments from young Evangelicals and blamed this youthful religious confusion on Donald Trump. He charged “tribalism.” How tedious.
My favorite media critics noticed all this, but in this case they are very clever but ultimately less than helpful. They are pro-life Democrats, though, so it is not surprising that they are not up to the challenge of giving this mess the thorough mocking that it all deserves.
They did manage to pass along this nice observation:
“…it’s amazing the degree to which the voices in this unscientific survey that ended up in print — in the world’s most powerful newspaper — sound exactly like you would expect young evangelical Timesreaders to sound.”
Elsewhere, NPR is rooting for liberal Evangelicals, hoping that they will persuade some traditionalist Evangelicals that Trump is so immoral that they should not vote for him.
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.
Things have been sort of quiet since my last installment in this series, what with our mass media consumed 24/7 by Trump, Russians, Mueller, Manafort, and Michael Cohen. However there were a few items that might have slipped your notice.
A historian had a book tour. Eerdmans Publishing hooked John Fea up with a tour to promote Believe Me: The Evangelical Road To Donald Trump. This got a mild round of approving articles in the usual spaces. The book is evidently pretty dry, because if it had any juice he would have been treated to a higher-profile tour.
An evangelical Christian himself, Fea argues that the embrace of Donald Trump is the logical outcome of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life defined by the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and a nostalgic longing for an American past. As insightful as it is timely, Fea’s Believe Me challenges Christians to replace fear with hope, the pursuit of power with humility, and nostalgia with history.
The book is loaded with all the old slanders against traditionalist Christians from the 18th century as well as more recent slanders. I can tell this from reviews, comments and an interview with the author; I have not read the book. It has become tedium that mass media like to pass along repetitive instances of liberal “Christians” criticizing traditionalist Christians using Bible passages.
Along that same line there was a book by a liberal Evangelical pastor named Rob Schenck, who told his personal testimony about how he converted from pro-life to pro-abortion. SSDD.
I saw a few new articles from some of my favorites about the press’s general ignorance of religion and religious issues. They are clueless and it shows. Sometimes their ignorance is good for a laugh.
The most recent instance of note was a long feature in the Washington Post. It is a profile of the Trump voters in a Baptist church in Alabama.
“The presidency of Donald Trump has created unavoidable moral dilemmas not just for the members of First Baptist in Luverne but for a distinct subset of Christians who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly evangelical and more uniformly pro-Trump than any other part of the American electorate.”
Gee, well, I suppose we can guess where this one is headed, can’t we?
So of course it is larded with the buzzwords you would expect. “Awkwardness” “predicament,” “self-reflection” and “compromising” give way to “whiffing on the big moral questions.” Problematic race history issues in the Southern Baptist Church are dredged up, just to whip up the outragey feels of this mess. Along the way is mixed in a journalism smattering of local color quotes of country Baptist people saying Christian things and saying country things and commenting on President Trump.
In a really nice turn, the reporter (Stephanie McCrummen) gave some space to a member who gave a great statement that is perhaps representative:
There was Terry Drew, who sat in the seventh pew on the left side, who knew and agreed with Trump’s position, and knew that supporting him involved a blatant moral compromise.
“I hate it,” he said. “My wife and I talk about it all the time. We rationalize the immoral things away. We don’t like it, but we look at the alternative, and think it could be worse than this.”
The only way to understand how a Christian like him could support a man who boasted about grabbing women’s crotches, Terry said, was to understand how he felt about the person Trump was still constantly bringing up in his speeches and who loomed large in Terry’s thoughts: Hillary Clinton, whom Terry saw as “sinister” and “evil” and “I’d say, of Satan.”
“She hates me,” Terry said, sitting in [Pastor] Crum’s office one day. “She has contempt for people like me, … and people who love God and believe in the Second Amendment. I think if she had her way it would be a dangerous country for the likes of me.”
Way to go, Washington Post. Him who has ears, let him hear. You may mock and scoff at these rubes all you like, but they see clearly what the Nevers on the Coast missed by a mile.
This long feature has a sub-plot about Pastor Crum preaching a series on the Ten Commandments, with a buildup to his sermon on Adultery. In the end the reporter was disappointed, as her readers will be, that Pastor Crum did not preach about President Trump. But in the end I think this feature is worth reading, with a very uneven mix of quotes from parishioners. In the early going I thought it was going to be simply another hit job, but it is better than that. You can still tell that the viewpoint of these simple Christians is foreign to the reporter and her organization.
I will put links in the comments. One link will be to media criticism of a Frank Bruni editorial in the New York Times, in which he describes what a dangerous ogre the theocrat Mike Pence is, on account of he believes things that traditionalist Christians always believed. Typical.
I recently posted about events in the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. This was not a media-generated thing; it was a genuine grass-roots uprising that gained strength after the Washington Post took it up. It cannot be considered a media-fueled problem. However, it is worth noting that Baptist media lean left and helped push a Progressive into the office of President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I suppose the lesson there is that journalists lean left, even when they work for theologically conservative publications.
And now to continue my periodic reviews of the ongoing media campaign against theologically conservative Christians. The Trump era has seen the media focus on Evangelicals. Well, these things go in cycles, I suppose. I am not alleging any conspiracy; it is just that journalists think alike and are prone to groupthink and herd mentality. Also, they swarm like piranha when they think they smell blood in the water, so if there is any appearance of a potential issue that could be used to wedge President Trump away from his Evangelicals base, they dive in and start muckraking with great energy.
The New York Times published a feature/ exposé/ hit piece that focused on David Brody and the Christian Broadcasting Network. Their article is one of those anthropological looks at the primitives who voted for President Trump. Rather than give a link to their execrable site, you can learn stuff you didn’t already know by checking out the review by my favorite media critics:
The New York Times thinks of David Brody as a special “kind of PR man,” as Terry Mattingly put it in his review of their article. But Brody is just a good reporter, doing good reporting, who happens to enjoy great access to the Trump White House because his reporting is favorable instead of hostile. Mostly his reporting is neutral, but the mass media “Opposition Party” coverage of Trump and the Trump Administration has been so hostile that neutral looks like favorable to both them and President Trump.
Well, gee whiz, of course Christians are tuned into Christian niche media. That is because mass media is an anti-Christian swamp of Leftism.
Pro-Trump Evangelicals only get traction in Christian niche media. Here is an example that is worth your while:
You can contrast that with another hit piece. This one is an LA Times op ed about Evangelical churches are leaner and meaner, bloc voting in ways that overmatch the “nones”; The LA Times is distressed that the “none of the above religion” crowd doesn’t pull more weight at the ballot box.
Also, Leftist mass media continued to promote and celebrate liberal “Christians” who whine and complain about traditionalists who actually believe the Bible and try to live accordingly. Last month I wrote about the coverage of an anti-traditionalist group of liberal “Red Letter Christians” and their “Reclaiming Jesus” manifesto. Coverage continued, fueled partly because several of the signers went on tours to promote their latest books.
Every now and then we remark about how Leftism is a religion. Journalists have polled as 85 percent or so “no religion” or Atheist in surveys. But they are not irreligious. They are Leftists. It should not be surprising that, once the fig leaf of neutrality is pulled away, their naked hostility to traditionalist religions is on display.
In my previous post in this series I concluded by noting anti-traditionalist media coverage of a gathering at Wheaton University. It was a group of “concerned” “Evangelical leaders.” It included some theological conservatives, though most of the attendees tilted theologically liberal. Since then, some sound bites by liberal Evangelicals made the rounds, mostly because they were bitterly critical of Christians who support President Trump. Media continues to love quotes from NeverTrump clerics and pundits who have Christian or conservative credentials.
The continuing coverage of last month’s gathering of Evangelicals can be best represented by reading this long feature from the New Yorker, since it summarizes everything that I have seen elsewhere in mass media:
But I highlight it here because it talks about the debates, letting us know that President Trump was not the focus of that gathering, though he was obviously on everyone’s mind. From other media accounts you would have thought that the meeting had been all about Trump. In fact, as I had suspected all along, they talked about a host of culture war issues, with the primary issue being racism.
Racism got a lot of media chatter over the past few weeks (as it has ever since the Democrat Party enacted quotas for minority representation in their Party structure five decades ago). In the past two years we have grown tired of the tedious way they slander all Christians who support President Trump as racists, which they do with complete disregard for the way Trump got more support from blacks and Hispanics than did Mitt Romney. In my last report I linked to the Washington Post blathering about “white Evangelicals’” support for President Trump. This trend continued.
PRRI released new poll results, and The Atlantic mined it for data to spin the racist angle, breathlessly reporting: “…white evangelical support for Trump remains strikingly high, with 75 percent holding a favorable view of the president….” Of course they isolated white Evangelicals. They are still horrified that Trump showed surprising strength among blacks and Hispanics, but they say as little about that as possible.
Leftists were horrified at PBS, who went to the National Day of Prayer event in Washington, and got an interview with Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. It is clear from the follow-up questions that the reporter was put on his back foot by some remarks by Rev. Rodriguez (a Pentecostalist pastor):
There’s many things on that one side of the ledger that would seem to alienate him from the evangelical community, three marriages, accusations of adultery, bragging about sexual assaults.
You’re arguing that the policy side of the ledger is enough to make people think that things don’t matter as much?
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez:
No, I don’t think it’s ever to a point where it doesn’t matter.
I think it comes to the point where we don’t want to write anyone off. You don’t want to write off access to a president who can impact religious liberty, who can impact the sanctity of life. So it’s a matter of balancing these narratives in a way where we never sacrifice truth on the altar of expediency, but we likewise support policies that reflect our Judeo-Christian value system.
So, it was something much more fundamental to evangelicals? When they looked at this last election, President Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, they just felt much more fundamental was at stake that made them want to support him?
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez:
Some would argue the future of American Christianity. Some argued…
Is that right?
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez:
Mass media bias was also clear from the lack of coverage of a story that got lots of attention in Christian media, which was the saga of Alfie Evans in England. It was eerily similar to last year’s enforced death of Charlie Gard. An English hospital decided that, in the “best interests” of the child, that they would seize him from his parents and sentence him to death, to “put him out of his misery.” A British court upheld the hospital’s right to keep Alfie’s death on schedule. American mass media pretended not to notice. Three-sentence blurbs were all that consumers of mass media news got, except that Fox News provided a little bit of coverage. This item is not an attack on Evangelicals; it is simply another indicator (as if any were needed) that mass media does not care about matters that concern Christians, except to the extent that matters of concern to Christians can be used to wedge Christians apart from each other. They seek to divide us in order to conquer us.
There were continuing blasts in the ongoing #metoo sexual harassment media excitement. Whenever a pastor is alleged to have engaged in philandery it gets special notice. After a decade spent focused on violators in the Catholic ranks, now mass media is actively seeking out bad boy Evangelical pastors to be pilloried in the press.
The New York Times got all distressed about Betsy DeVos relaxing some strangling regulations related to religious colleges. They focused on how theologically conservative Christian colleges would benefit. They ignored the way the changes can also help theologically liberal colleges. My favorite media critics noticed:
There are some important voices and points of view missing in the New York Times story that ran with this headline: “DeVos Moves to Loosen Restrictions on Federal Aid to Religious Colleges.” In addition to its focus on evangelical schools, this story really needed input from educational leaders on liberal religious campuses and even secular private campuses.
Aside from news coverage, there were the usual editorials. One in particular may be classified as “friendly fire.” It was a sermon by David French at National Review. It was so awful that Bryan G. Stephens posted about it here for us Ratburghers. D. French has a confused sense of Christian morals. His sort of moralizing is something that irreligious mass media outlets love to spread around, as a way to drive another wedge to divide Christians.
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.
Time for my third installment to report on recent mass media attacks on Evangelicals. There is quite a lot to cover, and I probably missed a lot due to work stuff, life stuff, and a local phone service outage that still has my AT&T internet service out. We had tons of anti-Evangelical digs from Leftist mass media that used the occasions of the Parkland shooting and the death of Billy Graham.
Several of the editorials (many masquerading as articles or obituaries) about the passing of Billy Graham brought up his renown for acceptance and support of both Democrats and Republicans, and then sprang from that into assaults on Evangelicals who voted for President Trump. They are obviously waging a political campaign intended to separate President Trump from his base. One example that was cited by other media several times and which was featured in the Google News Spotlight was an excerpt from “The Story with Martha McCallum,” a discussion show on Fox News Network, from Feb. 22. There was an exchange between Juan Williams and Rev. Robert Jeffress, both of whom are regular contributors at Fox News. The setup was Ms. McCallum quoting from a recent column by J. Williams:
“It now seems clear that evangelical Christians who hold up biblical edicts on lying, cheating and adultery, don’t care about the word of God when it comes to Trump.”
Pastor Jeffress began his remarks with this:
“Let me just share this perspective, evangelicals had a binary choice in 2016 between Donald Trump, who admittedly by his own admission is not a Sunday school teacher or a saint, but he has become the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history. The other choice was Hillary Clinton.”
Which was followed by the usual escalation of voices and led to this remark by Juan Williams:
“Well, so I listened to Pastor Jeffress, and he says the policies matter, it’s not the fact that this man, as president of the United States, is a role model for us as a society. And I just think that you’re buying in to the idea that the policies matter but character and Christian doctrine don’t matter.”
I found that to be an interesting assertion, in keeping with the overall tone of mass media coverage of all things Evangelical.
Also in the coverage of the death of Billy Graham, Politico and the New York Times led the rush to trash Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham has supported President Trump, and they preached to their readers about how this is a mortal sin.
What I find even more interesting than sermons against Evangelicals that spring from some news hook is the steady appearance of new attacks on Evangelicals that are not triggered by events but just are part of the media scene. For example, for no apparent reason, the Google News Spotlight featured an anti-Christian rant from RawStory.com. It stayed in the Spotlight for a few days at the beginning of February. When you pushed through and checked it out, it turned out to be a re-post of a blog post that had run at RawStory in 2016. Old news. Old sad news, and of the kind that tells us a lot more about the people who select the Google News Spotlight than it tells us about either RawStory or about Christians.
In a more newsworthy but unprofessional light, Yahoo News did an e-mail interview of Eric Metaxas. The author of the article cited several quotes from old David French articles in which he lambasted Evangelicals, in order to spin Metaxas’s responses. I will put a link in the comments, and also a link to the blog post in which Eric Metaxas published the entire exchange as a way to correct the record.
More recently, the New York Times gave us another feature in which they were trying to wedge white Christian women away from President Trump:
Evangelical voters, often portrayed as a monolith, are becoming increasingly difficult to define. The support for Mr. Trump reflects a growing pragmatism among evangelical voters who are willing to accept a less than ideal model of Christian faith in exchange for policies that they endorse.
“I think they’ve become experienced and very practical,” said Frances FitzGerald, the author of the recent book “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America.” “By large majorities they used to believe that to be elected, you had to be of good character. No longer. It’s ‘We want a president to do what we want him to do, and he’s going to do it if we turn out and vote.’”
Mr. Trump also appeals to white evangelicals in other ways with his strong language, disruptive view of presidential norms and his policies on taxes. “Religious right rhetoric has always been very martial — isolationist and martial at the same time,” Ms. FitzGerald said.
When they say “increasingly difficult to define,” what they mean is increasingly difficult to caricature and stereotype, which has been their pattern for five decades.
That week, I saw a Google News Spotlight headline for an article from Forbes: “Why White Evangelicalism is so Cruel.” That was sort of intriguing, but the article had already been pulled by Forbes. Vanished into the ether, just like a couple of posts by me and 10 Cents at Site R>. I searched for it the next day and discovered that it had been posted at the author’s personal blog site.
Also earlier this month, The Atlantic posted a very long essay by Michael Gerson: “The Last Temptation.” It carried this subheading: “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in recent memory.” It is very snarky and throws around insults. Here is the key takeaway:
“Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”
That longwinded essay provided several pull quotes that were used by other mass media journalists to attack Evangelicals.
In the end I have nothing really new to report in this post. Leftist mass media continue to try to wedge Evangelical support away from President Trump. They like to quote Republicans whenever a Republican Never attacks President Trump or attacks Christians who support President Trump.
They are the Opposition Party. They are getting plenty of material to work with.
I have been reading a rash of stories about disarray and infighting among Evangelicals. These stories are mostly written by journalists who are not Evangelical, and who can generally be considered hostile to traditionalist religion. They focus on disagreement over President Trump, and then fail as they try to relate a position regarding President Trump to issues in the church.
Remember how the NeverTrumps preached at us? During the 2016 campaign, they said that support for Donald Trump amounted to “sacrificing conservative values.” But as they realized that their erstwhile followers were not dissuaded from Trump’s candidacy, they went further. They began to tell us that it would be “immoral” to vote for Trump. There were some who said that a vote for Trump was “unChristian.”
Anti-Trump sentiment dominates Leftist mass media. They keep recycling the anti-Trump remarks of the Nevers, who for the past 1-1/2 years have been getting greater distribution than ever before, even while their readership has declined. Leftist journalists also like quoting Christian pastors who criticize President Trump. These journalists are typically so unacquainted with religion that they assume that all Christians must be Conservatives. I saw a number of year-end editorials that cited divisions within Evangelical Christianity that quoted the most politically liberal Christians and mistook them for political conservatives because they had Christian credentials.
Journalists seem unable to understand that there is a difference between political right and left and theological right and left.
This editorial is typical. It is featured in the Google News spotlight today. It is by Rachel Zoll of Associated Press. It gets circulated as if it were a news article, but it is an editorial.
Ms. Zoll quoted four politically conservative Christians who offered weak criticism of President Trump, mixed with lukewarm brushoffs that the “shithole” remark was unfortunate but not inaccurate. Then she pivots with this:
“Yet anger spread among other conservative Christians.”
Following which, she quoted two moderates and two liberals. The only thing that would make these four men qualify as “conservative Christians” is that they all believe that the Resurrection actually happened. Otherwise, nobody would call these guys “conservatives” in either the theological sense or the political sense.
What is actually going on is that journalists get praise from other journalists whenever they can wedge liberal Evangelicals away from conservative Evangelicals. This has been going on for a long time. They think that they can boost the Leftists in the Evangelical churches same way that media boosted the Leftists in the old mainline churches, until they destroyed them.
This battle is part of a fight that has its roots in the Enlightenment. It is a continuation of the ongoing fight of the Left against the authority of G-d, by tearing down the churches.