#NeverTrump and President Trump

This will be the note I sign out on this year. I’ll be off the next seven weeks but we’ll continue to publish other authors during that time.

In the build-up to the 2016 election, American evangelicals were a pessimistic bunch. We racked up an impressive (and depressing) run of unfavorable court rulings and legal battles, featuring photographers, bakers, and florists. These defeats all ran parallel to our biggest cultural defeat, the Obergefell decision. In addition to this, we saw our standing in the Republican party fall sharply as the party nominated a candidate who by every traditional standard held by the religious right was an abysmal failure. (The fact that we supported him anyway will almost certainly teach the GOP that evangelical voters will go with them no matter what. This realization, of course, robs evangelicals of all their political capital that they might use to influence the GOP.)

Add to that the ever-growing number of “nones” that Pew and Gallup found in their religion surveys, the remarkably hostile response to the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, this summer’s Supreme Court ruling against many state-level abortion regulations, and the alarming court case in Massachusetts that would result in the policing of religious speech from Christian ministers and, well, things looked grim. Continue reading

Courage, St. Crispin’s Day, and the 2016 Election

It’s a fortunate quirk of our calendar that this year St Crispin’s Day, the day on which Henry V led the English to victory against the French in 1415 and made immortal in Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” fell two weeks before the presidential election, a day on which a sizable portion of our nation’s evangelicals will demonstrate precisely the sort of cowardice Henry’s words so beautifully condemn. Continue reading

Our Impoverished Imaginations: The World of Jen Hatmaker

Last week Jen Hatmaker, a prominent evangelical author who most recently featured on the Belong Tour with several other notable evangelical women, gave an interview to RNS focused primarily around politics and the 2016 election. Amongst other things, they covered issues related to sexual ethics, same-sex relationships, and gay marriage. Continue reading

Categorizing the Benedict Options: A Reformation Day Reflection

Today marks the 499th anniversary of the day that would come to be seen as the spark that ignited a movement that purified the church in northern and western Europe and gave new energy to an already strong movement to return to the classical sources of Christian wisdom. I am referring, of course, to Reformation Day and to October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed (we think) his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

It’s a notable day in the church calendar and yet it is also one that arouses no small bit of controversy. The late medieval church had been marked by corruption, scandal, and abuse for several hundred years by the time Luther rose to prominence, but what Christians still to this day cannot agree on is what should have been done to deal with the decadence of the European church and particularly the hierarchy of the dominant ecclesial institution in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholics, The Radicals, and the Magisterial Reformers

What is interesting is not simply that we are still having these debates today, but that the three sides involved in the debates have not even changed all that much. In this post I want to draw out the enduring relevance of the Reformation and the debates that marked the first 50 years after Luther’s emergence by identifying three separate movements within the western church. All three are variations on Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option as all three are, much like their 16th century variants, trying to wrestle with difficult, complex questions in the aftermath of widespread failure on the part of the church.

Continue reading

How Evangelicals Can Build a Responsible Political Witness

Our latest contribution on this year’s election comes from Dr. Greg Forster.

Russell Moore is right that self-appointed evangelical political leaders are destroying the credibility of American evangelicalism by endorsing Donald Trump. One implication, which Moore doesn’t speak to, is the urgent need for American evangelicals to develop a responsible political witness. These charlatans and hucksters are only able to get into the spotlight because of the vacuum left by the absence of an authentic gospel presence in our culture’s civic forum.

Yes, it’s dangerous to try to build a political witness for the church. The failure of the Religious Right, the bankruptcy of social conservatism and the scandal of evangelical leaders selling their souls for Trump all point to these dangers.

Yet it is fear of these very dangers that has prevented responsible leaders from building an authentic gospel witness to politics. That paralysis has created the vacuum within which fools like James Dobson and Tony Perkins, glory hounds like Eric Metaxas and prostitutes like Ralph “I Need to Start Humping in Corporate Accounts!” Reed operate. Continue reading

Dr. Moore and the Politics of Dinner Parties

I’m pleased to publish this essay by Susannah Black reviewing Dr. Russell Moore’s recent Erasmus Lecture given last weekend in New York City.

On Monday night I got on the E train in Forest Hills and headed to the Union League Club on East 37th Street to hear Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, announce the end of the Religious Right as a political force in America.

So that was interesting.

This was, of course, the Erasmus Lecture: First Things’ signature annual lecture; a sort of State of the Nation or Setting of the Agenda for politics and religion in America, straight to your computer’s livestream from Murray Hill in Manhattan. It’s been going on for 29 years now, and past speakers have included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Timothy Dolan; past subjects have included Islam and Christianity; the crisis of conservative Catholicism in the age of Francis; the development of Catholic moral teaching; genealogies of modernity… the gamut of the topics of conversation that those who can’t help but talk about politics and religion at the dinner table have been talking about for the past quarter century plus. Continue reading

On Voting and Civic Participation: A Response to Wayne Grudem

I’m delighted to publish this incisive review of Dr. Grudem’s Trump endorsement written by Drs. Matthew Arbo and Jeremy Kidwell.

This has been a strange and bewildering year for American politics, and for certain segments of the American church. Some commenters have felt confident to call the church’s reaction to the general election a “schism” in the religious right—quite strong language. The candidacy of Donald Trump has been inordinately mystifying for many of us, Christians included, but “schism” is far too vague a diagnosis in attempting to capture the state of this discourse, just as “religious right” is a rather unimpressive sociological descriptor. We would like to suggest that this and a great many other takes on “evangelical politics,” reflects a troubling confusion about the nature of Christian political citizenship that has finally been drawn from the background into the foreground of political discourse. This confusion is on clear display in Wayne Grudem’s 19 Oct piece “If You Don’t Like Either Candidate, Then Vote for Trump’s Policies.” Continue reading

The Five Stages of Evangelical Grief

I’m pleased to publish this guest post from new Mere O contributor Brian Mesimer.

I was recently at a church conference where one of the plenary addresses focused on the role of the Christian in the public square. The speaker, a Christian philosophy professor, said all the right things a Christian professor should say in that kind of lecture. And yet nothing he said made me feel remotely comfortable about the place of evangelicals in the public sphere. I suppose that part of that feeling came from my concern about the coming collapse of evangelical politics after Trump’s inevitable loss. My therapist’s imagination, however, wouldn’t let me stop there. I couldn’t help but think that our strategic planning for 2020 or our concern over whether or not the Benedict Option is viable is a bit premature. Continue reading

7 Theses on Evangelicalism After Donald Trump and 2016

In the aftermath of the many scandals of the past week and a half, which began with the Trump tapes, and the consequent loss of endorsements for Trump (and the increasingly appalling support for the man), now is a good time to take stock of where evangelicalism is as a social movement in America and what our post-Trump future will be.

Continue reading

A Truth Above All Contexts: Daniel Kirk, Whiteness, and the Theological Interpretation of Scripture

I’m pleased to publish what is a predictably comprehensive critique by Alastair Roberts of some recent work written by Daniel Kirk, who has become one of the main intellectual leaders of the post-evangelical left.

The Revisionism of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Kirk’s Criticisms

The Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement recently faced some criticism in a Daniel Kirk post (reiterating criticisms he has made in the past). He sums up his criticism as follows: Continue reading