Friday, August 18, 2017

Giving Caesar what is Caesar's

Trump's "Evangelical council" consists of 25 individuals.  Whether they even meet as a body, hold discussions, vote on proposals, set an agenda, I don't know.  It's my understanding at least one of Trump's business councils that he's since disbanded never formally organized or even met, at all.  So maybe this is just for grandstanding purposes.  Still, the composition of it is interesting.

Of it's 25 members, only 11 are described as "pastors."  Another is the "founder" of a "chapel," so we can stretch the point and make it 12.  Almost half, then; but the others are leaders of organizations, with one former member of Congress.  "Focus on the Family," for example, is not a religious organization at all.  Liberty University was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, but it's President now is almost more secular than an atheist:

Some of these pastors are "televangelists."  Some run "megachurches," which is merely televangelism without the TV audience.  All are responsible for upholding a brand (several are noted as authors of several books) more than upholding the Gospels.  I say that without rancor or judgment.  I don't see how you can uphold the gospels and be rich at the same time.  I mention this because none of these people fit the model of "pastor" as I understand it.  They don't counsel their congregations, answer to their membership, baptize their children, bury their family members, respond to their needs.  They have staff to do that.  They don't pastor; I dare say, they preen.  All of these people (save Bachman) have businesses to run and sustain.  What they aren't doing is "evangelizing," a term that goes all the way back to the koine Greek of the Christian scriptures.  The root of the Greek word is our English word "angel," which meant to the original Greek audience not shining perfect white male with wings, but simply "messenger."  To that we add, again in English, the prefix "ev-", to get "evangel."  The "evangel" is the messenger of the good news.  If they are spreading the "good news," they are separating that effort very clearly from their efforts on this council; at least if their public statements about the council and the President are anything to go by.

Interestingly, Christianity Today, itself a conservative publication, tried to find someone on Trump's "council" who spoke unequivocally against Charlottesville and Trump's defense of racism.  The headline describes what the article is supposed to contain:

Here are quotes from the article from all members of the Evangelical Council:

“If we’re going to denounce some racism, we ought to denounce all racism, and I believe that was the point the President was making,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told CBN. South Carolina pastor Mark Burns has also defended Trump’s approach on multiple news networks.

Jerry Falwell Jr. praised Trump in his first mention of the Charlottesville incident on Wednesday: “Finally a leader in WH. Jobs returning, N Korea backing down, bold truthful stmt about #charlottesville tragedy.So proud of @realdonaldtrump”
Well, that's three.  Not much condemnation there.  Johnnie Moore, who is also on the council, spoke in general terms about who was responsible:

The way that some in the media and in the administration as well as other politicians and also activists—Republican and Democrat, liberals and conservatives—have handled the Charlottesville incident has at times been unhelpful, too emotional, and insensitive. We all must condemn bigotry and hatred in pursuit of national healing and unity without exacerbating further conflict.
But the sharp limits of his comments are illuminated by the next comment quoted in the article, from a seminary professor at Southern Baptist Seminary (and NOT a member of the council):

President Trump addressed the nation in a press conference in which he said that the white supremacist protestors were “very fine people.” His full remarks were more than disappointing. They were morally bankrupt and completely unacceptable. People who protest while chanting Nazi slogans are not “very fine people.”
Hard to mistake who is being addressed there.  A past president of the Southern Baptist Convention also speaks strongly against the protestors:

“These protesters do not represent in any form or way the Christian faith or the values followers of Jesus stand for,” said Ronnie Floyd, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention which passed a resolution condemning the alt-right in June. “In fact, white nationalism and white supremacism are anathema to the teachings of Christ, who called us to love and to serve our neighbor—regardless of skin color, gender, or religion—to give up our life for our friends and to even love our enemies.”
Tony Suarez defended the council this say:

But Christianity Today couldn't find one example of a member of the council speaking to Trump as Daniel, Jeremiah, Samuel, Nathan, or Isaiah did (and shame on him for daring to include himself and his fellow council members in such company).

I would say Trump truly does corrupt and destroy everything he touches, and everyone who tries to associate with him in any way at all.  But my concept of the doctrine of original sin won't allow me to let those individuals off the hook quite so easily.


  1. Evangelical's just another word for no more soul to lose. At least among that group.

    I wouldn't trust them to usher or pass the collection plate, nevermind preach.

  2. The value of the church as an institution is that it can serve as a check on hubris. Not that it is perfect at that, but it is a strength non-institutional churches don't have.

    As Matthew so well understood, you need a community to keep you in line.