Saturday, August 3, 2019

Fea's Latest on Christian Nationalism

Check it out here. A taste:
If you want a recent glimpse of Christian nationalism at work, read the following transcript from David Barton’s “Wallbuilders” radio program.  As many of you know, Barton is a self-professed dominionist and GOP politician who uses the past to promote his Christian nationalist agenda.  He knows a lot of facts about American history, but he does not think historically about these facts.  In other words, he is oblivious to context, change over time, contingency, causation, and the complexity of the human experience.  Despite the fact that his work as a historian has been discredited, he still has a large following and his disciples include GOP lawmakers and most of Donald Trump’s court evangelicals.  Those who still follow him believe that his critics–many of them evangelical Christian historians–have been overly influenced by secular ideology.
The only disagreement I have with Dr. Fea is that in his post while analyzing the transcript he tries to make sense of a David Barton word salad where arguably no sense is to be made of it.


Brad Hart said...

"Christian nationalism not only exists, but it is a view of church and state that drives a significant part of the Donald Trump presidency. As I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, some of the fastest-growing evangelical groups in the United States embrace Christian nationalism."

I'm not sure I agree with this statement. I get that there are plenty of Christians on the right who love them some Trump, but I know just as many (probably more actually) who find the President, and his life choices, to be anything but disgusting. Some voted for Trump because the thought of a Clinton White House was even more offensive, while others simply didn't vote at all.

In short, I think Fea's attempt to tie Christian Nationalism to Trump is a bit weak Sure, there are some who will drink that Kool-Aid but there are just as many Christians out there who won't.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'd have liked you to attempt to present Fea's case rather than his fatuous ad homming on Barton.

And instead of linking to his own fatuous attack on Barton's "dominionism," I'd have preferred Fea actually quote Barton directly rather than just link to some audio, leaving the reader to have to wade through the interview and guess whatever Fea's on about.

Very sloppy work even if there is truth here. Frankly, Mr. Fea's lack of rigor and seething partisanship do not make it worth the reader's while to find out.

At least Barton manages to keep it in his pants.

Jonathan Rowe said...

He did quote the transcript between David and Tim Barton.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blogger Jonathan Rowe said...
He did quote the transcript between David and Tim Barton.

Mr. Fea did not make an argument. He printed a lengthy discussion then appended his own conclusions at the end. And they are ignorant of the constitutional argument.

Just because Fea has a PhD in history does not mean he knows anything about the law.

To wit, the relevant passages are these--obscured by the way Fea laid them out:


You actually get added protection because it singles out your religious expression. And, that’s a level of protection the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that religious folks had. So, they singled that out to give, if you will, added protection if you’re a religious folk.

What happened in that decision in 1980 was the court said, “No, no, no. Religious folks, secular folks, everybody gets the same protection. Well, that’s not what the First Amendment says.


See what Barton is doing here? He is twisting the Constitution to make it say that Christians have more protection under the law than non-Christians. This is an attempt to privilege Christianity over other religions and no religion. This, my friends, is Christian nationalism.


This is BS. Barton is correct: the First Amendment's explicit protection of the "free exercise" of religion does indeed give an extra layer of protection for religious as opposed to non-religious speech.

Nowhere does Barton specify anywhere that Christian speech is any more protected than Muslim speech. Fea's hatred of Trump and the religious right has driven him to some very sloppy work, to the point of seeing what's not even there.

Tom Van Dyke said...

NB: I do not mean to disrespect John here by referring to him as Mr. Fea. But he is writing as a partisan, as a pundit, on politics. He is not a legal scholar. He is writing from a partisan point of view, not a scholarly one.

He is entitled to his opinion, but he is Mr. Fea here, not "Doctor."

Jonathan Rowe said...

If Barton does have a point, he's in over his head re the specific constitutional claim. As far as I can tell, he's trashing the SCOTUS case Smith, written by Scalia, and that case is both supported and opposed by folks on the left, right and center. Further the case doesn't deal with mere speech, but conduct. Finally he gets the year wrong.

SCOTUS currently has religious speech occupying near absolute protection, with one caveat, along with political speech. If it's hybrid of political and religious, it's almost absolutely protected, with the only issue being whether churches can endorse political candidates without losing their 501c3 status.

See among other cases Phelps v. Snyder.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Barton's always in over his head LOL--but that's not the issue. Fea provides no evidence that Barton said Christian speech has more protection than Muslim speech.

My objection is formal. Fea is wrong and his charge of "Christian nationalism" goes unproved. It is a partisan attack, and gratuitous.

As for the actual issue, John Yoo argued in a well-known exchange with Ramesh Ponnuru [and this may be where Barton's getting some of this]:

Religion has long had a special place in the United States. The Constitution’s First Amendment singles it out for special protection.

Now is Yoo a "Christian nationalist" too> How far does this tar brush go??

As for Scalia, author of the case in question, even he is closer to Barton's position than to Fea's:

“Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name, we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,” he said in a brief talk at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metarie, according to various news reports.

“There is nothing wrong with that, and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that,” added Scalia, a Catholic.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond introduced Scalia to the crowd of about 600 that had gathered for an annual celebration of religious freedom.

In his brief remarks, Scalia said that the principle of religious neutrality has been twisted by jurists since the 1970s to mean that traces of religion must be banished in favor of a purely secular public square. He called that idea “absurd.”

“To tell you the truth, there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?” he said. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another. But we can’t favor religion over nonreligion?”

Scalia said justices should follow the customs and common experiences of the American people on matters of faith more than “abstract principles.”

He said that if the American people at some point decide they want to “impose” secularism on the U.S., “I don’t have a problem with that as long as it is done democratically.”

But, he added, “Don’t cram it down the throats of an American people that has always honored God on the pretext that the Constitution requires it.”

Jonathan Rowe said...

Even if you are technically right, if you look at Wallbuilders for Islam, the only things about it are negative. Accordingly freely practicing the "Christian" religion is sugar and spice, the Islam religion is honor killings (I don't spend much time on Wallbuilders so I could be mistaken here). The Smith case makes it easier for governments to say "no" to unreasonable demands by religion to accommodate odious practices.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Even if you are technically right, if you look at Wallbuilders for Islam, the only things about it are negative. Accordingly freely practicing the "Christian" religion is sugar and spice, the Islam religion is honor killings (I don't spend much time on Wallbuilders so I could be mistaken here).

Well within the realm of American secularism [yr pal Mr. Brayton?] is condemnation of certain tenets of Christianity. If not the whole deal.

Let's stipulate Wallbuilders thinks and says Islam sucks. So what? The "Jefferson Koran" itself [translated by an Englishman] says that Islam sucks in the preface.

ffs, Jon


And why should American secularists condemn orthodox Christianity with impunity but for some reason Christians can't say that Islam sucks?

Absent calls to violence or disturbing the peace, I say that the First Amendment not only defends such free speech, but guarantees the "free expression" of religion, which includes calling the other guy's religion heretical.

Which by DEFINITION includes calling heretics heretics!!

Brian Tubbs said...

Agree with Brad and Tom in this discussion.

Most Christians I know - and I swim in those circles quite deeply as I'm a pastor - are not "Christian nationalists" as Fea would describe (or, as presumably, Jon Rowe would describe). Most of the Christians I know who voted for Trump did so holding their nose. Many of them have told me quite clearly they can't stand him, but they voted for him (as Brad said) as an alternative to Hillary Clinton.

In general, the left (in particular) but critics of evangelical Christianity (in general) make WAY TOO MUCH out of the supposed "allegiance" or "support" that Trump has from "white evangelicals." It drives me crazy. There are MANY voices in the evangelical community who are criticizing Trump - on a fairly regular basis. But these folks don't get a lot of coverage largely because it doesn't fit the media narrative.

Setting Trump aside....

Most Christians I know - and, again, as a pastor, I SWIM in these circles - do NOT want to impose biblical law on the United States. Most do NOT want to create some kind of quasi-theocracy with the Bible as the new Constitution. That's a caricature -- a straw man. Very, very few Christians - including, by the way, David Barton -- want that.

What most Christians (at least in the evangelical world) want today - and I include black evangelicals, Hispanic evangelicals, white evangelicals, etc - is a country whose government protects and safeguards the sanctity of human life, religious freedom (including for conservative-minded, Bible-oriented, traditional view of sexuality and gender), freedom of speech, and freedom of thought and conscience WITHOUT economic or legal penalty. And...

Most evangelicals today want a society, a culture, with less hatred, less division, less racism, and more kindness and love.

THOSE are the priorities right now of evangelical Christians.

Now, WITHIN evangelical circles, you absolutely are going to have Christians commenting critically about other religions, even among and about other denominations, etc.


Morally speaking, as long as people express their differences with some love and humility, we should expect and encourage such an exchange of ideas.

David Barton is a Christian. I fully expect he will criticize Islam. So what?

What people today don't get is this...

Religion, by its nature, is somewhat exclusive and discriminatory.

That's its nature.

People of faith tend to EXPRESS their faith. And tend to organize around their beliefs and practices.

And that's FINE!

This country (eventually) came to a consensus in its founding era to ENCOURAGE this. And we should be okay with that.

Just because Barton or any Christian criticizes Islam - or certain beliefs and practices within Islam - doesn't mean he or other such Christians hate Islam. And it doesn't mean that such Christians want to stifle the religious freedom of Muslims. The Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (the policy and lobbying arm of the largest Protestant denomination in America) has come out strong for religious freedom, including explicitly for Muslims!

Bottom line...I'm tired of the caricatures and false attacks on Christians, especially these days conservative Christians.

If we're going to be tolerant, then let's be tolerant of all faith groups, including Bible-believing, conservative-oriented, tradition-minded evangelical Christians.

Like me.

God bless all.


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