What is Conservatism?

In his column about conservatives moving toward Trump as devilish deal making, Michael Gerson concludes with thoughts about what conservatism isn’t:

Conservatism is not misogyny. Conservatism is not nativism and protectionism. Conservatism is not religious bigotry and conspiracy theories. Conservatism is not anti-intellectual and anti-science. For the sake of partisanship — for a mess of pottage — some conservatives are surrendering their identity.

He says what conservatism is not but not what it is. Can we assume conservatism respects women, minorities, immigrants, religious freedom, and rationality? Can we assume conservatism embraces scientific research and scholarship?
Some will snort at those questions.
However, what attracted me to conservatism many years ago was that I believed conservatism was more than a list of positions to be defended. I believed conservatives seemed slow to change because they embraced the wisdom of the ages but also recognized the value of science and research and altered their views accordingly.
Mostly, I am thinking of my father who wasn’t especially religious but was a conservative. He had some issues he cared about but disliked the dogmatism of religious conservatives. Even though I am still religious, I have come to see the problem of political goals wrapped up in religious rhetoric.
On the issue of Trump, one distinction which marks conservatism is fidelity to one’s principles. I agree with Gerson, since Donald Trump’s candidacy stands against conservatism, conservatives should look elsewhere.

Bill Kristol Announces The Renegade Party to Oppose Trump and Clinton

Renegade LogoWhile the beginnings are modest, I think a third party could take off this year as both Republicans and Democrats experience buyer’s remorse.
Bill Kristol, Weekly Standard founder and conservative pundit, is not voting for Trump or Clinton and hopes to attract conservatives to a movement which could win three states and push the election into the House of Representatives.
The Twitter account is here and a website is coming. What they lack is a candidate.

Wallbuilders Live: David Barton is America's Premier Historian

Source, Wallbuilders Facebook page
Source, Wallbuilders Facebook page

Last week, co-host of David Barton’s radio show Wallbuilders Live Rick Green started introducing Barton as “America’s premier historian.” Listen”

Green also introduces Barton with this description on May 10 and 16. He adds the title historian to the introduction of Barton’s son Tim.
I suspect historians and regular readers would not choose that phrase to describe Barton (e.g., how many premier historians have their books pulled from publication over historical errors?). In fact, that kind of self-inflation should be embarrassing. Is he really the best or most important historian in America? Who does that?
Since Barton runs Wallbuilders and is paying Green’s salary, he could stop it if he wanted to.
Update (5/18/16): Rick Green introduced Barton today as “America’s premier historian.”

Mark Driscoll Takes On Anorexia, Might Be Demonic

Driscoll AnorexiaMark Driscoll’s most recent video takes on the question: is anorexia a sin (click the link to view the video)?
The prompt for the video is a letter from a young woman who says she has struggled with anorexia for years. In her note, she asks Driscoll if anorexia is a sin.
First, Driscoll expresses appropriate concern for the writer. I share that concern. Anorexia is a baffling condition. However, there are good treatment protocols and with competent help, those who struggle with it can find help.
Unfortunately, Driscoll doesn’t refer her to anything like competent help. She tells him that her pastor said an eating disorder is a disease and her Christian 12 step program said it is rooted in sin. She wants to know what Driscoll thinks.
The right answer is that she has a condition that should be treated medically. Sounds like she needs to get out of that 12-step group.
From his website, here is the list of factors he uses to answer her question.
In Driscoll’s way of thinking, anorexia could be almost anything, including idolatry or the work of demons. Speaking of demons at 8:40 into the clip, Driscoll says:

This is where Satan, demons are lying to you, tempting you. The Bible says that Satan is the accuser of the children of God. He accuses them day and night in Revelation 12:10 there are accusations. If you start realizing this oppression, you can get out of it by acknowledging what God has to say. Oppression, an accusation, is often in the second person, you are unlovable, you need to punish yourself, you don’t appear attractive, whatever the oppression is, it’s telling you something that’s just not true. And so, what you need to understand is that’s demonic, that God doesn’t speak to you that way and if you’re hearing in the second person, maybe someone is talking to you, a spiritual being is lying to you, I’ll get to that in just a moment, and the way out is deliverance, you have victory in Christ, Colossians 2 says He has disarmed and defeated the powers and principalities of evil, triumphing over them through his victorious forgiveness of sinners on the cross.

He adds that the oppression may have come on her and that it might even be generational in her family such that women in her family are “under this kind of demonic torment and oppression and God wants you to rebuke that and walk in freedom and deliverance.”
This point reminds me of Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church spiritual warfare sermons where he describes demon trials for oppressed people.
Driscoll’s last point gets closer to where he should have started and ended. He tells the young woman that she may have medical problems, although he doesn’t specifically refer her for treatment.
For more information on eating disorders, check out this NIH website.
PS – I find some of what Driscoll said about acceptance of body image to be incompatible with what he and his wife wrote in Real Marriage about cosmetic surgery. Read Tim Chailles reaction to the Driscoll’s approval of cosmetic surgery.

Rolling Stone Examines Evangelical Reactions to Donald Trump

Writing for Rolling Stone, Sarah Posner examines a variety of evangelical reactions to Donald Trump’s status as presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Yours truly is quoted along with several other conservatives grappling with what it means to live in a Trumpian universe.
Some highlights:

  • Trump might get 50% of the evangelical vote says Tobin Grant. That prediction compares unfavorably to Mitt Romney’s 79% of the evangelical vote in 2012.
  • Denny Burk, professor at Boyce College told Posner: “I think that Trump is uniquely disqualified.”
  • Although time is running out, about 40 conservatives are planning some kind of move to counter Trump according to Erick Erickson. Lord, haste the day.
  • Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has resisted calls to become a third-party candidate.
  • Fellow Patheos blogger John Mark Reynolds blames rampant conspiracy thinking for some of Trump’s support.

I pointed out that religious leaders who oppose Trump aren’t getting very far in offsetting the Trump tide. Evangelicals who support Trump are tossing the Republican political establishment aside and ignoring many of their religious leaders as well (e.g., Russell Moore). The way the quotes are presented, it may sound like I am blaming them, but that isn’t the case. Like many others, I am amazed how this election season has turned everything upside down.
It is disturbing to see evangelicals Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and others contradict themselves so dramatically in the name of party unity. Perhaps this unity worship is why Erick Erickson predicts many evangelicals will vote for Trump, although not enough to win. Although I agree, I don’t feel confident. In this political environment, it feels like the sand shifts frequently which as we know isn’t a good place to build a house.

Trump Says He Won't Release Tax Returns After He Said He Would Release Tax Returns

From Donald Trump's Twitter page.
From Donald Trump’s Twitter page.

For months, Trump said he would release his tax returns. Then he said he was getting them ready. Then he said he would release them once his audit was complete. See RedState for the details.
Now Trump says he won’t release them. Nothing is preventing him but himself.
As Jennifer Rubin points out, GOP delegates can apply some pressure. Trump may have opened himself up to a contested convention, delegates or not. Delegates should abstain unless Trump provides the information.
This is another promise broken and he hasn’t even gotten to the convention.

Gospel for Asia Files Response in RICO Suit

Wills Point GFA Chapel - Architect website
Wills Point GFA Chapel – Source: Architect website

In filings yesterday regarding the Dickson v. Gospel for Asia RICO lawsuit, Gospel for Asia’s lawyers claim lawyers for Matthew and Jennifer Dickson improperly brought action against a group of GFA employees without specifying their part in the alleged fraud. GFA’s attorneys do not argue the merits of the allegations but rather ask the court to dismiss the suit because such cases must designate how each person participated in fraudulent activities.
Group pleading defenses generally serve the purpose of making it harder to bring suits when individual agency cannot be identified. Plaintiffs are in a bind, they need discovery to prove the extent of coordinated fraud or cover-up of fraud but a court must accept a group pleading doctrine in order to get to discovery. In any case, in my view, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have provided more than enough evidence to proceed to trial against all defendants. To me as a layman, GFA’s response looks like a lawyerly way to avoid facing the evidence.
GFA’s attorneys also defend the arbitration agreement signed by the Dicksons while GFA employees. GFA argues that the Dicksons should be compelled to arbitrate because their donations to GFA were a part of their employment. All employees are expected to donate to GFA which makes disputes arising from their donations a part of the binding arbitration agreement.
I hope this argument doesn’t persuade the court to compel the Dicksons into arbitration. GFA is essentially arguing that employees have no rights and must be compelled to arbitrate allegedly illegal actions on the part of GFA. GFA also argues that their staff must donate to GFA and have no independent existence as a donor. On a related note, those considering working for a Christian ministry should read these agreements carefully. Arbitration agreements should not serve to shield an organization from whistle blowing.
Background articles on the GFA RICO suit
May 10, 2016 Reply to Response to Motion – GFA seeks to compel arbitration
May 10, 2016 Reply to Response to Motion – GFA asks court to dismiss suit
GFA RICO suit filed (2/8/16)
Details about RICO suit (2/9/16)
Statement from GFA board blaming bloggers (2/12/16)
Response from GFA’s lawyers (4/21/16)
Response from plaintiffs to GFA’s Motions to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration (4/19/16)

The American Counseling Association Moves Conference from Nashville over TN's Counseling Referral Law

Recently, TN’s legislature passed and Governor Haslam signed into law a measure which allows counselors to refer clients if the client’s goals conflict with a counselor’s “deeply held principles.”
Now, the American Counseling Association has decided to move the 2017 conference out of Tennessee.

2017 Annual Conference & Expo will NOT be in Nashville, Tennessee!


May 10, 2016
Dear Gloria,
On April 27, Tennessee became the latest state to sign into law discriminatory “religious freedom” legislation targeting the counseling profession and LGBTQ community, permitting counselors to deny services and refer clients based on the provider’s “strongly held principles,”—a clear violation of the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) Code of Ethics.
In light of the passage of SB 1556/HB 1840, ACA members have been very vocal in sharing their opinions on the location of the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo, originally scheduled for Nashville, Tennessee.
After thoughtful discussion and careful deliberation, including taking into account the viewpoints shared by ACA members, the Governing Council made the difficult—and courageous—decision on behalf of our members to move the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo to a venue outside of the state of Tennessee.
We firmly believe by relocating from Tennessee, ACA is taking a stand against this discriminatory law, and we remain committed in the battle to ensure that this harmful legislation does not spread to other states.
We also pledge to work with the counselors and citizens of Tennessee to raise awareness of the danger of this new law, as well as seek ways to support the Tennessee Counseling Association.
ACA is currently seeking proposals from cities that can accommodate its space and housing requirements. More information on the location of the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo will be released as it becomes available.
Watch this brief video message from ACA’s CEO, Rich Yep, explain why ACA will NOT be hosting its annual Conference & Expo in Tennessee this year due to the discriminatory law HB1840. – For more information, click here.
We thank you for your patience and continued support of ACA, and we hope to see you at our 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo. We’re listening! Email myvoice@counseling.org or call 703-823-9800 x600 or 800-347-6647 x600 to share your comments and concerns.
Thelma Duffey, Ph.D.
American Counseling Association


Is The King's University Expanding or Contracting?

The school that God asked Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris to host is having a rough patch. According to the most recent board of directors report, the school has lost three branch locations since 2015 and may close another (Olathe, KS) very soon.
Currently, on TKU’s website, Morris promotes the multi-campus model and claims that TKU will expand the number of locations by 2018.
TKU History Campus
The school boasts that plans call for “20 or more campuses worldwide by 2018.” However, a review of the recent board report paints a different picture. Most students attend the Southlake campus with significant declines in number of credit hours at most campus locations. Three locations have left TKU since 2015 (see the locations in dark grey below).
TKU Extension Campus List
According to the report, no documentation exists for the Hong Kong campus and the NZ campus is under review. Olathe is being reviewed to determine if it is “feasible to continue.”
In the May 2016 president’s report, it is clear that the administrative staff want to move away from multiple campuses:

First, I (along with the administrative staff) have concluded that it would be in the school’s best interest to pivot away from the directive to establish teaching locations on (at least 30) mega-church campuses. The past three years have provided us with ample evidence to conclude that this labor intensive, complicated, expensive plan is not producing the kind of results we had hoped (see Teaching Locations Map on page 46).
Additionally, we have experienced some significant setbacks in our campus extension efforts. For instance, one year ago we were operating on 10 extension sites around the country with two other locations approved and preparing to launch. However, at the end of this academic year, for various reasons, we are positioned to go into the next academic year with only 7 sites in operation (none larger than 60 students) and neither “approved” location willing to move forward (see Teaching Locations Map on page 46).
Second, these “setbacks” have contributed to our resolve to pivot away from this campus expansion model and embrace instead a two-pronged strategy that emphasizes the intensifying efforts to build a healthy, dynamic home campus with over 1,000 resident student by 2022.

In the April 2016 executive committee minutes, one of four challenges was to change the multi-campus model.
TKU Multi Campus
With most campuses in decline, it hard to understand how TKU (or Gateway University as it will soon be known) gets to 20 campuses by 2018. In fact, it appears that the board is going to move away from that approach altogether because at least five of the campuses are stagnant and creating a drain on TKU’s limited resources.
To be fair to TKU, enrollment is up to 747 total students (502 FTE) which represents a 55% increase over five years. However, the promise of a growing multi-location system appears to have faded without prospective students’ knowledge.
Current students who cannot transfer may be left without a clear way forward. Since TKU is not regionally accredited, their credits won’t transfer to accredited schools.
I wonder if campus coordinators are aware that they will be closed down. The ethical thing to do would be to discourage any new enrollments since those students won’t have a future at the regional campus.
What this will probably mean for Gateway Church is a greater burden on their budget since the school now relies on a $1/year lease of facilities as well as cash donations to TKU. Since everything is moving to Southlake, the expenses for a residential campus will no doubt require a greater commitment from the church.

For Mothers Day, Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris Speaks Conception

He did this last year too. One of Mark Driscoll’s friends and benefactors, Robert Morris believes he can speak conception to infertile couples. Listen to part of the sermon actually delivered yesterday:

This is a transcript of the first view minutes. Near the end of the prayer, Morris “speaks conception” to infertile couples (at about 4:00 in this clip).

I do wanna pray over a specific group of ladies.  I do this nearly every Mother’s Day.   Um, and that is, if you want to have a child.  And the reason I do this is for some reason God has blessed this prayer when I pray it.   And I don’t even know why or understand it.
I was getting my hair cut a while back in a specific, where I get my hair cut, and, um, they, there was this lady who I overheard talking about miscarriages and not being able to have a child and she’d been praying for, I think, 12 or 13 years or something.  And I just got so burdened so we, I, just went over to her and she got up at the same time I got up and I said, ‘I’m sorry to overhear your conversation but I’m pastor of a church, and would you mind if I pray for you?’  And so I prayed for her right there in the salon.  And, um, um, she uh, started coming to the church.  She got saved.  Her family got saved.  And, uh, her husband, and they started coming to small group and she had a baby.
And, uh, so, and what’s amazing is, I was getting my haircut there again today, and we were talking about that and they said, ‘uh, Robert, we, we have people that ask to get their haircut in that wing (hand motion towards wing) of the salon – that are trying to have a baby.  And they get pregnant!  And then we’ve had employees that say, ‘can I transfer to that wing (more jerking hand motions towards wing) of the salon?’ And they get pregnant so um.   So, uh, I’m gonna pray for you now.  You don’t have to get your hair cut there.  It is a good place, but….

I offer this without much comment on the stories of pregnancies being influenced by where in the hair salon Morris — pastor of the third largest church in America — sat to get his hair cut.
However, these stories and the rest of the sermon is about hearing from God in dreams and the ability to do miracles. Those outside evangelcalism wanting to understand the diversity under that label should make a distinction between evangelicals who believe such things happen frequently and those who don’t.