In short, in a sermon last Sunday Mark Driscoll claimed that some of the elders who accused him of abusive behavior at Mars Hill Church planned to accuse of adultery if he didn’t step out of the pulpit.
From Roys article:
Driscoll alleged that prior to resigning from Mars Hill, God told him “that a trap was set.” Then, during an 18-month hiatus following his resignation, Driscoll said he met multiple times at Panera with some “critics and enemies” who used to be friends, “some who were pastors, some who are still pastors.”
Driscoll said when he asked these former friends about a possible trap, they responded that “the nuclear option was that we were going to accuse you of adultery.”
Driscoll said the plan was to get him “out of the pulpit.” And those plotting against him believed that if “we accused you of adultery, and enough of us signed the open letter, that ultimately there would be such a media firestorm that you would have to exit the ministry . . . for probably a year while a full investigation was done,’” Driscoll recounted.
Sutton Turner, former number two man at Mars Hill, denied anything like that to Roys and then today put out a tweet linking to notes taken from the meeting where Driscoll was informed of the elders findings. Significantly, Driscoll was found to be disqualified from ministry but for no reasons involving infidelity.
From my perspective, this is a fantastical story. If the elders wanted to make such an allegation, they could have made it when he resigned suddenly rather than enter a plan of restoration. Likewise, these same elders could have done this last year when they approached Christianity Today with a statement calling on Driscoll to resign from The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
In 2021, over 40 former elders, including most of the ones who investigated him in 2014, signed a statement calling on Driscoll to resign from his current church. Why didn't they make this allegation then? https://t.co/76cSnZEooF
Although it has taken him awhile, all I can surmise is that he is now fighting back against the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast. Elsewhere in the sermon, he encouraged his congregation to ignore what they read on the Internet. Never mind what hundreds of people say, just listen to Mark Driscoll is the message. What could go wrong?
UPDATE: Miles Rohde, one of the elders on the Board of Elders who investigated the charges against Driscoll, commented on Twitter about Driscoll’s response to the BOE’s findings.
He also told the BOE that we had no authority, regardless of our investigation.
In defense of the rising National Conservative movement (which appears to be adjacent to Christian nationalism), Daily Wire reporter and Claremont fellow Meg Basham wrote this:
Nor is anyone talking about merging the cross with the flag. What they are talking about is using biblical morality as reference point for public policy. This idea was foundational to the formation of our constitutional republic. & it was not controversial to anyone for 200 years
Ms. Basham says biblical morality was foundational for our constitutional republic and this fact was not controversial for 200 years. I have numerous posts on this blog contesting the notion that America’s Constitution was founded on the Bible or Christianity in a deliberate manner. This assumption is the bitter fruit of David Barton’s work.
However, let’s consider this: during the founding era, there were people who believed God had a providential hand in bringing the nation together. That is a different proposition than the Christian nationalist project. I believe with Madison that “a finger of that Almighty hand” of God providentially brought about a system which protects freedom of conscience but does not privilege one religion over another. Furthermore, I don’t believe the Constitution requires biblical morality to be a reference point for public policy. If that was true, the Constitution would have said so.
During the founding era, there were also those who believed God was left out of the process. For instance, Timothy Dwight was a prominent Congregationalist minister and the president of Yale from 1795 to 1817. In a July 23 1812 sermon to Yale students and faculty, Dwight had strong words about those who wrote the Constitution.
The second of these reasons is, the sinful character of our nation. Notwithstanding the prevalence of Religion, which I have described, the irreligion, and the wickedness, of our land are such, as to furnish a most painful and melancholy prospect to a serious mind. We formed our Constitution without any acknowledgment of God; without any recognition of his mercies to us, as a people, of his government, or even of his existence.
The Convention, by which it was formed, never asked, even once, his direction, or his blessing upon their labours. Thus we commenced our national existence under the present system, without God. I wish I could say, that a disposition to render him the reverence, due to his great Name, and the gratitude, demanded by his innumerable mercies, had been more public, visible, uniform, and fervent.
Timothy Dwight wanted more influence of biblical morality on the new government, but he didn’t see it. To him in 1812, contra Basham, the relationship between Christianity and public policy was quite controversial and not to his liking. In fact, as Dwight lamented, the formation of the Constitution was much more secular than religious. For instance, the old statesman, Ben Franklin, attempted to use prayer as a tool to bring some harmony to the contentious convention, but even the cunning Franklin couldn’t get the delegates to pray.
If we describe Christian nationalism as the belief that public policy should be influenced by biblical morality (that is to say, the teachings of the Bible about what we should and should not do), then there have always been Christian nationalists like Timothy Dwight. But there have also always been those (like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) who don’t believe public policy should be influenced solely or inevitably by a specific version of biblical teaching. This is what I really want to address in this post.
Can We Play Baseball on Sunday?
There are some practical questions I want Christian nationalists like Basham to answer. She says there has been no controversy for 200 years about using biblical morality as a foundation for public policy. I beg to differ. Immediately, I thought of the Cincinnati Bible Wars which eventually led to the removal of Bible reading from Cincinnati schools in 1872. Then I thought of something more recent: Sunday baseball.
Christians who view Sunday as a day of rest are probably in the minority these days, but once upon a time, their biblical morality was foundational for laws restricting numerous activities on Sunday we now take for granted. One such activity was professional baseball on Sunday. Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago started the trend toward legalization of Sunday games in 1902. But what I want to focus on is my home state of Pennsylvania. In 1927, the PA Supreme Court ruled that a game played in 1926 on Sunday by the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox was illegal. The June 27, 1927 Philadephia Evening Bulletin proclaimed:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today outlawed and banned professional Sunday baseball in this city.The State’s highest tribunal fully sustained the Dauphin County Court, which previously had declared Sunday baseball “a worldly employment,” in violation of the Sunday law of 1794.
The judges specifically appealed to the Christian character of the state of Pennsylvania as a foundation of their decision.
“Christianity is part of the common law of Pennsylvania (Updograph v. Comth., 11 S. & R. 393 and its people are Christian people. Sunday is the holy day among Christians. No one we think would contend that professional baseball partake in any way of the nature of holiness and when contrasted with things which do, it is bound to be categorized as worldly.
The court concluded that professional baseball on Sunday was a worldly activity in violation of the 1794 statute against such activities on Sunday. The court made it clear that the statute had a religious foundation.
“The statue says ‘If any person shall do or perform any worldly employment or business whatsoever on the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, works of necessity and charity only excepted… and be convicted thereof, every such person, so offending shall, for every such offense, forfeit and pay four dollars, to be levied by distress; or in case he shall refuse or neglect to pay the said sum… he or she shall suffer six days imprisonment in the house of correction of the proper country.
“The word ‘worldly’ as here used means ‘concerned with the enjoyments of this present existence secular’ ‘not religious, spiritual or holy.’ Chief Justice Lowrie, speaking for the court in Comth, v. Nesbit, 34 Pa. 398, 409, said ‘Very evidently, worldly is contrasted with religious, and the worldly employments are prohibited for the sake of the religious ones.’
“We cannot imagine in this sense anything more worldly or unreligious in the way of employment than the playing of professional baseball as it is played today. It is not only worldly employment, which is forbidden, but business. There are businesses which are not trade or commerce: Hooper v. California, 155 U.S. 648.
So Christian nationalists and national conservatives, will we have Sunday baseball under your holy regime? Does your biblical morality include Sunday Sabbath? At one time, there was a Christian consensus that worldly activity on Sunday was grievous sin. What happened? What changed? Will you bring Blue Laws back?
Financial pressure brought by the Great Depression eventually brought legislative changes which allowed local communities to decide by vote to have or reject Sunday baseball. In 1934, Philadelphia voted to bring Sunday games to the city.
Some readers may think this is silly. While it may be a light topic, I think it illustrates that historically (200 years plus), Americans have not agreed about how to use biblical morality as a foundation for public policy. It is easy to say biblical morality should be the foundation of public policy in a tweet or a think piece, but it has never been easy to sort out in practice when there are hundreds of different views of what biblical teaching should be. Platitudes are easy, governing and cooperating is much harder in a society with people who disagree with you.
So Christian national conservatives, what do say? Sunday baseball? Other blue laws? Bible reading in schools? Prohibition again? Stoning adulterers?
My schedule these days is keeping me from blogging much so I thought I would bring up some of past material which is relevant to now. One of my earliest meetings with Julie Roy was in 2017 when she hosted a radio show with Moody. This program related to Christian nationalism.
At noon (ET) tomorrow, I will be on the Moody Radio Network program “Up for Debate with Julie Roy” to discuss the question, “Should Christians Be Nationalists?”
The guest taking a contrasting position will be Ken Klulowski who is the Legal Editor at Breitbart News and Senior Counsel & Director of Strategic Affairs at the First Liberty Institute.
As background, see these posts on the subject (here, here, and here)
The show went well I think in that both sides had the ability to make important points. I do want to correct or least amend a couple of Ken Klukowski’s claims.
On one occasion he said he didn’t recognize James Madison from my quote of Madison and then said Madision’s views could be discerned by his vote for chaplains in Congress. He also said most of the founders had seminary degrees.
One. my Madison quote is sound and two, Klukowski did not tell the rest of the story on Madison. Later, Madison forcefully disagreed with the funding of chaplains and said so here.
On the founders and seminary degrees, this is a distortion made famous by David Barton. See this piece about that misleading claim.
On August 12, Andy Wood, incoming pastor of Saddleback Church, addressed in a tweet a growing chorus of voices calling on him to explain why he featured Mark Driscoll as a speaker at his leadership conference in May, 2021.
In the past I interviewed Mark Driscoll to help pastors learn from his mistakes. Since then additional controversy and pain has come out. My choice hurt and confused many people. I regret the pain, confusion & distraction this caused. I humbly apologize for my mistake and error
The reaction was quick and negative. Investigative reporter Julie Roys pointed out that she had posted devastating evidence of history repeating itself at Mark Driscoll’s new church before Driscoll spoke at Wood’s conference. Author Sheila Gregoire pointed out that Driscoll didn’t consider his behavior to be mistakes.
I also weighed in with my opinion and asked some questions.
Acts 29 said it in 2014 and more than 40 of them recently said it again to Christianity Today. Perhaps you could discuss why it was a mistake to platform Mark Driscoll. In other words, what did those elders find, why is that harmful in a leader and how can pastors avoid it?
I decided to follow up on the tweets by contacting A. Larry Ross Communications who I assumed was representing Wood and Saddleback. I asked Wood if he knew that Acts 29 had evicted Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membershipm in 2014. I wondered if Wood knew Driscoll’s elders had investigated him, found him to be disqualified to be an elder and offered him a plan of restoration, all in 2014. Finally, if Wood knew those things, then why did he still believe platforming him was a good idea in 2021?
From A. Larry Ross, I received this answer to my questions yesterday.
We appreciate your questions and commitment to thorough journalism and the truth.
Andy stands by his original statement that he regrets his decision to platform Mark Driscoll at the Echo Leadership Conference. Currently, Andy is choosing not to respond to questions to prioritize and focus on his new role as Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church.
Apparently pastoring Saddleback will require so much focus that Rev. Wood will not be able to think about anything else. He won’t be able to think about his regrets, or why he regrets what he regrets, just that he regrets them. In fairness, he did say he is choosing not to respond, so perhaps he is able, just not willing.
In any case, it is important to note that any advantage Driscoll might have gained by being platformed by Wood in 2021 is essentially nullified by last week’s tweet and this statement released today.
In late July, I wrote here about an anti-critical race theory conference slated for September 24 in my hometown of Grove City, PA. After the CRT controversy at my college (Grove City College), this announcement wasn’t good news. What made it worse was the scheduled participation of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. As it turns out, Harris will not be able to speak at the conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend.
Another change in the good news category is that the conference is now homeless. Last Friday, I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the conference. Early last week, I reached out to Pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raised in the July post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of that information and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting last Thursday evening, they voted unanimously to pull out of participation.
As of today, the conference organizers have not removed First Baptist from the conference website. Also, oddly, the organizers added Jon Harris’ pic back to the website with a caption explaining why he is not presenting.
Above, I mentioned new issues relating to Harris. Not only does Harris think highly of the Confederate South, he also has high regard for another white supremacist regime — Ian Smith’s white rule in Rhodesia. In a Gab posting, Harris waxed nostalgic about whites sticking up for their past against “the barbarian hordes.”In any case, the CRT conference is homeless for now. Lord willing, it will stay that way.
UPDATE (7/28) – Jon Harris announced today on his podcast that he will not be able to speak at the CRT conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend. I continue to hope that the organizers will reconsider having this conference.
UPDATE (8/12) – I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the CRT conference described in this post. I reached to pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raise in this post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of what I raised and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting, the vote unanimous to pull out of participation.
…………………… (original post)
In September of this year, Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church (Harrisville, PA) plans to host a conference on critical race theory at the First Baptist Church in Grove City, PA. Given the speaker lineup, I don’t expect a fair treatment of CRT. I once attended First Baptist and hate to see it used as a site for a politicized show like this.
In any event, the main reason I write about the conference isn’t that more anti-CRT is coming to my town. I have yet to write about the fiasco that happened at my college over CRT. I do hope to visit aspects of that issue sometime soon.
The biggest problem I see is the platforming of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. Harris and his apparent alter identity “Joseph Jay” are full throated supporters of the Confederacy. According to Harris, the South had the moral high ground in the Civil War (or War Between the States as he calls it). Lost Cause history and theology view the South as the virtuous side which fought for traditional Christian values. The horrors of slavery are minimized and abolitionists are dismissed as liberals and atheists.
Blogger Bradly Mason did a thorough run down of Harris’ support for the Confederacy and the Lost Cause version of history in this Twitter thread. I will pick out a few items here, but if interested, you can get the full effect by consulting Mason’s thread and following the links he provides. A curious aspect to Harris’ support for the Confederacy is an apparent double life as a “Professor Joseph Jay.” Mason documents the details in the thread, but here is a summary.
In 2011, Harris wrote a paper for The Master’s Seminary titled: “Sacred Conviction: Biblical Authority and the Road to War in Antebellum America.” This paper is a thorough defense of the South as defender of Christianity and a rejection of what Harris casts as the ungodly North. The title of the first chapter is: “All [Northern] Ground is Sinking Sand.” On the first page, Harris lets Presbyterian minister and staunch defender of slavery James Henry Thornwell speak for him with this quote about the North and South in the Civil War:
In one word, the world is the battle-ground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity the stake.
Harris initially denied it, but according to Mason, he later admitted that he wrote the paper. The Master’s Seminary professor Nathan Busenitz acknowledged that Harris attended the seminary briefly at the time the paper was written. Busenitz added that he was prohibited from disclosing Harris’ grade due to privacy laws. This same paper was then later published by Lost Cause publisher Shotwell Publishing in 2018 under the name of Joseph Jay. When the two documents are compared, they are indeed the same paper. Chapter headings are the same and the content is the same, word for word.
Either Joseph Jay plagiarized Harris’ work, or Harris published the paper under the pseudonym Joseph Jay. The latter seems likely since Harris recommends the book on his website. It gets more bizarre. On a Lost Cause radio show hosted by Confederate sympathizer Ed DeVries, Harris was interviewed as Professor Joseph Jay. So a lame pseudonym wasn’t enough, he had to impersonate a professor and move on to academic fraud.
The paper is revisionist history of slavery and the Civil War. According to Harris, a few quotes from Lost Cause historians telling us that the war wasn’t about slavery is supposed to prove his point. Harris fails to mention the statements of the slave states about why they seceded. He also fails to mention the Cornerstone speech of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics.
Harris/Jay also tells us that slavery wasn’t so bad. He/They side with Southern Presbyterian and slavery defender Robert Lewis Dabney (Note below that the paper and the book are almost identical).
Throughout the paper and book, Harris tells us the Confederacy was the noble cause and slavery was not that bad. Perhaps, he advises, it was even beneficial if you consider the spread of Christianity among the slaves.
At heart, the Lost Cause position is a denial of history and appears to be a denial of racism. This is a powerful deception for many White people. In my opinion, CRT hysteria among White evangelicals is a current symptom of this problem. In the face of the horror that is America’s racial history, I suppose it is natural to want to raise up psychological defenses. However, we cannot live in denial and walk in the light.
I certainly hope the two churches will consider canceling the workshop. If ever there was a town where CRT is not being taught in the schools, it would be Grove City. All a workshop like this will do is spread misinformation and create suspicion and division in the community. And certainly, we do not need any Lost Cause nonsense here or anywhere.
In Getting Jefferson Right, Michael Coulter and I include a chapter on Jefferson and slavery. Although Jefferson wasn’t the worst master, he allowed his task masters to treat slaves cruelly. He paid slave catchers to pursue runaway slaves, and he refused to provide freedom for his slaves when Virginia slave laws allowed it.
UPDATE (7/26): Despite being defended in an email by the conference organizer, Harris is now missing from the trio of speakers on the conference website.
I still hope the whole conference is scratched. Grove City is a small, mostly White town. My impression, based mostly on the reports of my children over the years, is that there is notable racism in the schools among students. Bringing in people who associate any efforts at racial equality with CRT and Marxism will only heighten negative stereotypes and prejudices. If anything, Rocky Springs and First Baptist should offer an anti-racism conference.
What a difference it would make if the PCA and Baptist churches would team up to repent of racism in the history of both denominations. Specifically, the PCA exists due to slavery and segregation. Tobin Grant lays it out in a 2016 article:
The PCA was primarily made up of churches who had opposed integration and civil rights. Its leaders openly stated that they were continuing the legacy of confederate churches. As in 1861, the PCA was going to keep the faith pure and free from liberalism.
Most of the PCA was in the deep south. A majority of Mississippi’s churches joined the PCA, giving it the greatest share of PCA’s congregations.
The narrative most commonly heard in PCA churches is that it formed to protect and keep the faith and avoid the slide into liberalism. But this is akin to the belief that the south seceded because of states rights: the southern states claimed they had a right to make their own laws, but they made this claim only because they were on the verge of losing slavery Likewise, the PCA formed to avoid liberalism, but this liberalism was defined as support for integration and racial equality.
Rather than host a conference criticizing anti-racism efforts, I think a PCA church might want to spend more time learning than teaching, repenting than condemning.
The Hindu has this report of raids on headquarters of K.P. Yohannan’s Believers Church.
Makes me wonder when the U.S. authorities are going to come calling on Gospel for Asia.
GFA says they have no legal ties with Believers Church but K.P. Yohannan is in charge of both groups. Also, for years, GFA sent money to Believers Church via front groups in India. They were finally caught doing that and lost their government registration in 2017 (as the Hindu article says).
This all started with a group of former staffers who dared to question what GFA did. I got involved in 2015. It has been downhill from there for GFA.
Yesterday, GOP voters in Maryland elected Michael Peroutka to be their standard bearer in November’s race for Attorney General. Long time readers of this blog might recall many articles here about Peroutka’s involvement with the racist League of the South. The League was one of the white nationalist organizations involved in the Charlottesville riots in defense of the Confederate statues there. They have a long history of racist demonstrations and agitation. One of the stated objectives which Peroutka has been quite vocal about is Southern secession. I have a load of info about him and his Institute on the Constitution here and here.
While there are quite a few posts that come to mind on the occasion of his primary win, this one came to mind first. Once when speaking at the League of the South annual convention, Peroutka closed his part of the program by asking the audience to stand for the “national anthem.” However, instead of singing the U.S. national anthem, he led the audience in a rousing rendition of “Dixie.”
Here is the video:
Peroutka has said he isn’t in the League anymore. He has repudiated racism and said he didn’t see racism while he was in the League. Well, if you believe that, maybe you’ll believe Dixie is the national anthem.
David Barton and friends have been traveling around the country on a post-COVID, pre-midterm election scare out the vote tour. Reporter Allen and the Daily News folks were on top of it. Allen noted that Barton’s 2012 book on Jefferson “was voted the least credible history book in print by the independent History News Network.” Oh, and Allen just happened to cite a certain blogger and his co-author, who opined on Barton’s The Jefferson Lies. What was it The Blogger and Michael Coulter said?
“Barton misrepresents and distorts a host of Jefferson’s ideas and actions, particularly his views and practices regarding religion, slavery and church-state relations,” they said in a co-statement.
As good as Allen’s article was, it could have gone a little deeper. I wish some enterprising reporter would do a deep dive into Barton’s fleeting claim to have an earned doctorate. Of course that turned out to be a big old story about as true as his NCAA basketball story.
In any case, readers in that part of the country have a little more of the story than people usually get when Mr. Barton shows up.
This looks like an interesting story going into the mid-term elections.
As the Republican party continues to deny the Big Truth (Trump did not win the 2020 election) and pretend the January 6 insurrection was a picnic, many conservative and moderate minded people will look for a third party. While many voted for Joe Biden, there is discontent with Biden and the Dems which may lead people to consider the Libertarians. For their part, there is lots of energy in that camp.
In their party convention held in Reno, NV recently, party offices were swept by members of the Mises Caucus. This group is led by Libertarians influenced by Murray Rothbard, Tom Woods, and of course, Ludwig von Mises, and seems to incorporate a more socially conservative element. For instance, the pro-choice plank was removed from the Libertarian platform as was the following language opposing bigotry:
We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant.
It is hard to say if this will make any difference in 2022 voting behavior. It could hurt Republicans by giving socially conservative voters a place to go besides the delusional GOP. It might hurt Democrats by taking away a few socially liberal voters into a party historically known for personal freedom and self-ownership.
In any case, I may be giving this issue more than a passing glance. There are some links with past work I have done. The Mises Caucus considers Ron Paul an elder statesment, if not a living saint. Ron Paul had a run for president a decade ago. At that time, he had some problematic endorsements of the theocratic variety. I noted the endorsement of Philip Kayser, who thought death a good end for gays, divorcees, etc., which didn’t help matters for Dr. Paul.
Will Paul rise again? Will there be a Libertarian strain of Christian Nationalism which will again rise up and influence the Christian right? The strange bedfellows may rise to sleep again.