Good Friday to you.
Good Friday to you.
Good Friday to you.
Evangelicals have been a big puzzle since Donald Trump has come on the scene. Why would these moral crusaders fall behind a womanizer who bragged about sexual assault? A new study from sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry in a recent edition of the Sociology of Religion journal provides some answers.
The study, which is also summarized by the authors in Monday’s Washington Post, points to a belief in core tenets of Christian nationalism as a major factor associated with Trump support. To assess Christian nationalism, the authors asked participants in the Baylor Religion Survey the following questions:
“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
“The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse coded),
“The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”
The authors found that the more a person believed America is or should be a Christian nation, the more likely that person was to vote for Trump. This was true across party affiliation. The image below taken from the study demonstrates that Democrats with Christian nationalist beliefs were three times more likely to vote for Trump than Democrats who didn’t have those beliefs.
Item five above is one which can be interpreted without a Christian nationalist meaning. Christians of many stripes see God as having a general plan which includes the success and failure of nations in it. One need not see America as having a special plan to endorse this item. Otherwise, I think the items assess important components of Christian nationalist beliefs about church and state.
In short, the more you buy into David Barton’s way of looking at history, the more likely you are to be a Trump supporter. Christian nationalist voters reason that Trump will move America toward their vision of a Christian America even if he isn’t personally devout. Once upon a time, Christian leaders told us that character counts in leaders. Now, power is what matters. Trump voters want policies in place which will coerce a Christian consensus — make America Christian again.*
The authors also found that anti-Muslim sentiment related to Trump support. Christian nationalists, such as David Barton, have demonized Islam beyond the historical record and at least one Christian “religious liberty” group denies religion status to Islam.
After reading this study, I feel on the side of the angels by fact checking Christian nationalists historical claims (e.g., Getting Jefferson Right). Christian scholars have a special responsibility to present the facts and withstand the pressure from Christian leaders to corroborate a false Christian nationalist narrative.
*The title of the Sociology of Religion article is “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
Does Christianity Need Donald Trump’s Help?
A comment on Gospel for Asia’s Facebook page about K.P. Yohannan’s participation at the Surajkund “Happiness is a Journey” spiritual retreat
with the masters brought a quick response from Gospel for Asia and K.P. Yohannan (see my prior post for background). The commenter wanted to know why Yohannan was participating in a retreat with Sufi and Hindu masters for the purpose of making self the most important person in one’s life. GFA replied:
Hi Daniel – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’d like to provide some more information in answer to your question. K.P. Yohannan has been given the amazing opportunity to speak at an event where no person who has a worldview based in scripture has ever been invited to share before.
It is an intellectual event that is put on by the Times of India (one of the largest Indian English newspapers). K.P. has been contributing for a little while now as a writer to Speaking Tree, which is the online publication of Times of India. Through his writings, he has been calling attention to environmental issues, women’s empowerment, children’s education, healthcare challenges, etc. and his articles have been greatly appreciated.
And now he has been invited to be a panelist for a retreat program hosted by the Times of India. K.P. will be the only one to represent the scripture based worldview at this significant forum!
K.P. Yohannan shared this when asked about this event, “We are called to love our neighbors. It’s human nature to avoid or even be scared of those that subscribe to a different set of ideas or worldview. But we need to strive to see everyone as Gods creation and God loves all people, for God is love. Jesus went everywhere, met everyone, accepted everyone – never created an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. Let us follow His example.”
Would you join us in praying for this event and K.P.’s time to share with other with different worldviews?
An intellectual event? The conference is described on the event website as “a life-changing spiritual journey.”
When was the last time you felt elated and not just content? When was the last time you stopped to feel the fresh air brushing against you or took a moment to appreciate nature in all its glory? Chances are that while all this sounds like the perfect fodder to feed our souls, few of us rarely have the time (and the inclination) to build a relationship with the most important person of our life – our own self.
And herein lies the struggle. While we spend a major part of our life aimlessly looking for happiness, seldom do we realise that true happiness lies within us – we only need to look for it. And how do you do that? By giving your body (and your mind) the much-needed rest once in a while and helping it reach an inner zen, one that is full of belonging, happiness and fulfilment.
The Speaking Tree Retreat, Surajkund aims to do just this for you. Come join us as we take you on a life-changing spiritual journey with esteemed masters, who will help you find new meaning to life. Soak in the serenity of your own soul and discover (and feel) happiness like never before!
Yohannan is taking a much different approach to yoga and his fellow masters than he used to. In his best selling book Revolution in World Missions,* Yohannan has harsh language for the religions practiced by his new colleagues.
While settling in, I flipped on the big TV set that dominated the room. What burst on the screen shocked me more than anything I had ever seen in America. There in beautiful color was an attractive woman seated in the lotus position teaching yoga. I watched in horror and amazement as she praised the health benefits of the breathing techniques and other exercises of this Eastern religious practice. What her viewers did not know is that yoga is designed for one purpose only-to open up the mind and body to receive visitations from demon spirits.
Because this American yogi was dressed in a chic Danskin body suit, claimed a Ph.D. degree and was on educational TV, I assume many of the viewers were deceived into believing this was just another harmless exercise show. But those of us born and raised in nations dominated by the power of darkness know that hundreds of Eastern religions are marketing themselves in the United States and Canada under innocuous-even scientific-sounding-brand names.
Few Westerners when they see the news reports of poverty, suffering, and violence in Asia, take time to stop and ask why the East is bound into an endless cycle of suffering while Western nations are so blessed.
Secular humanists are quick to reel out many historic and pseudoscientific reasons for the disparity, because they are unwilling to face the truth. But the real reason is simple: The Judeo-Christian heritage of Europe has brought the favor of God, while the false religions have brought the curse of Babylon on other nations.
Mature Christians realize the Bible teaches there are only two religions in this world. There is the worship of the one true God, and there is a false system of demonic alternative invented in ancient Persia. From there, Persian armies and priests spread their faith to India where it took root. Hindu missionaries in turn spread it throughout the rest of Asia. Animism, Buddhism and all other Asian religions have a common heritage in this one religious system. Because many Westerners are unaware of this fact, demonic influences now are able to spread Eastern mysticism in the West through pop culture, rock bands, singers and even university professors. The media have become the new vehicle for the spread of demon worship and idolatry by American gurus. (1998, pp 98-99).
So what is it exactly that is going to happen at Surajkund, Rev. Dr. Yohannan?
*See this post for more on that book.
Today, Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli wrote an op-ed calling on Sovereign Grace Churches to submit to an independent investigation of allegations of covering up past child abuse at associated churches. Here is the gist:
To put it simply: Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC; formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) and its individual churches and leaders who have been accused of failing to adequately respond to past incidents of child and sexual abuse should submit to a thorough, truly independent investigation.
For years, SGM has been fending off allegations of covering up child abuse. In the last couple of months, SGM has been under renewed pressure due to a sustained confrontation from Rachel Denhollander (source, source). Denhollander, the first to make public abuse allegations against Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, recently made a compelling case on her Facebook page for SGC to launch an independent investigation of the allegations.
Another influence on Galli’s editorializing is a former ministry partner of SGC, Brent Detwiler:
We call for a fresh and thorough independent investigation not because we believe SGC guilty of every one of its critics’ charges. We are as bewildered as anyone and simply don’t have enough information to make a confident judgment on the matter. We see, however, that SGC and some of its individual congregations—and pastor C. J. Mahaney (founder and former president) in particular—are under a cloud of suspicion. A former ministry partner of Mahaney turned critic, Brent Detwiler, has been chronicling the controversy for many years and claims that 100 pastors, 300 small group leaders, 40 churches (including his own), and 12,000 members have left SGC churches largely over what they claim has been abusive and deceitful leadership.
SGC has already responded to the op-ed. CT gave the denomination a heads up earlier this week which allowed SGC leaders to craft a response for their website. The full response is also below:
Recent public statements have called for Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) to undergo an “independent third-party investigation” of our history and current practices to determine if sexual abuse is being covered up and abusers protected in our churches.
We believe it is the Church’s obligation to lead in any realm related to justice for or protection of any child who has been harmed. Our difficulty is this: the most specific accusations involve allegations made in a civil lawsuit filed in 2012 involving two churches that are no longer part of Sovereign Grace. As to those two churches, we have no authority, no right to their pastoral records, and no access to their internal reports. We, therefore, have neither the right nor the ability to agree to, require, or conduct an investigation of these churches. One of those churches has already performed its own third-party investigation, but SGC has no access to that report or details from that investigation.
Secondly, SGC is a denomination consisting of 72 churches, each of which is individually constituted and governed by its own board of elders. While there is a specific process by which a charge may be submitted against an elder by any current or former SGC church member, SGC leadership has no authority to mandate an investigation by an outside authority upon all of our churches. We are therefore unable to authorize an independent third-party investigation of SGC and its churches.
Clearly any specific allegations of child sexual abuse should be reported to criminal and child protection authorities, regardless of the passage of time. We recognize the critical importance of treating child sexual abuse seriously and its victims with compassion. To this end, SGC has taken specific steps in recent years to better understand and address the risk of child sexual abuse. Since 2014, we have provided the MinistrySafe child safety system to SGC churches free of cost, including training, screening forms, policies, and proactive reporting practices.
To ensure that any survivor of child sexual abuse in our churches feels protected and cared for, we have sought ways to further strengthen our practices. We are exploring the involvement of an organization with expertise and objectivity in dealing with issues of abuse to assist our pastors and elders in this regard. This is intended to help ensure that allegations are reported, cases are handled legally and wisely, and abuse survivors are provided proper care. It is our desire and goal to maintain consistency in all SGC churches where child sexual abuse issues are encountered, and, specifically, to provide compassionate care and support to those who have experienced past sexual abuse.
In sum, we desire to walk transparently, to grow in our ability to better address this risk, and to honor Christ in the way we care for those who have experienced abuse.
Sadly, the impasse remains and it is difficult to see how it resolves. Galli ends his op-ed by saying that a fresh investigation is desperately needed for the sake of the victims, the SGC, the integrity of evangelical churches, and the gospel. It is hard to argue with this.
In what might come as a surprise to his loyal American followers, K.P. Yohannan is about to join Hindu and Sufi masters for a three-day retreat where participants can spend $700-1000 each to find their “inner zen.” According to the website advertising the religious confab, participants will learn to “build a relationship with the most important person of our life – our own self.” See the line up of “masters” (click link to see a larger image):
The participants won’t be trekking up to a remote retreat, but rather staying in a nice 5-star resort hotel — Vivana by Taj at Surajkund, just South of New Dehli.
Apparently, Yohannan won’t be one of the keynote speakers but will be a part of one of the panel discussions. Although the retreat appears to be an interfaith event, it doesn’t appear to be about religion. Rather it is about self-fulfillment and happiness. As such, his involvement is a long way from his theme in Revolution in World Missions. There is something unseemly about Yohannan being referred to in the company of “eminent masters” like Sister Shivani, Swami Sukhabodhananda, and Yog Guru Dr. Sarakshit Goswami. At least Goswami earned a doctorate in Yoga. Yohannan’s “Dr.” is honorary but he uses the title anyway.
I doubt one could find anything on a GFA website about donating so that the CEO and founder of GFA could moonlight conducting motivational workshops with gurus from other religions. I also wonder if his fellow masters know how he talks about them and their religions when he is in the U.S.
For a good summary of the expulsion of Gospel for Asia from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, see this post highlighting documents released by former board member Gayle Erwin.
Gospel for Asia’s RICO lawsuit
Gospel for Asia Told Staff They Could Track Funds but Tells Federal Court They Can’t
In a May 14 2015 staff meeting, a Gospel for Asia staffer asked why GFA regularly asked for funds since so much money was just sitting in banks in India. I understand the point of the question. If GFA has millions sitting in banks unspent, then why bother donors for more money? To answer, GFA officials complained that all funds have to be spent on donor designations which can be tracked here and in India. This question and the answer are relevant because in the current RICO lawsuit, GFA defendants are now saying they are having great difficulty tracking down where the U.S. donations are spent. Questions about how funds have been spent are at the center of the federal fraud case brought by Garland and Phyllis Murphy against GFA.
In a February court order, federal judge Timothy Brooks scolded GFA for insufficient answers to requests from plaintiffs for answers to questions about where funds have been spent. Specifically, Brooks wrote:
Furthermore, despite consistently telling donors for years that 100 percent of donations went for the purposes designated, now attorneys for GFA want to revise history. In the February 28 order, Judge Brooks summarized the discovery process and pointed out that GFA had originally promised to account for specific donations, but then noted that GFA had backed away from that stance (see footnote below).
If GFA now claims they never promised to use donations for designated purposes, they will need to explain this very clear message to staff on May 14, 2015. In that meeting (a link to the audio is below), K.P. Yohannan and David Carroll said donations made for specific items were held until those items could be purchased. Carroll also added that GFA in Asia had reports to verify these expenditures.
In this meeting, GFA founder, CEO, and Metropolitan Bishop of the Believers’ Church K.P. Yohannan, then COO David Carroll, and other leaders
addressed staff questions about controversies just beginning to swirl around GFA. To listen to the entire exchange, click through to the audio. Because GFA has threatened Patheos with legal action on previous occasions, I am hosting the audio elsewhere and will describe it below.
Initially, David Carroll read this question: “We always pray for more funds because we say the ministry could do so much more if we had it. Why is the ministry sitting on so much in India ($94 million per FC-6 reports)?” Carroll explained that the FC-6 reports are not audited financial statements and are required to show what money comes into India. He said GFA-USA has nothing to do with the preparation of the report.
He then said the funds going into India are restricted and have to sit in an account until the use can be fulfilled. He used the example of donations for bicycles. Funds given for bicycles have to sit in an account until they can spend the money on bicycles according to Indian law. Even if an earthquake happens in Nepal and funds are needed, those bicycle funds can’t be used for earthquake relief.
He said the balance in India was about $7 million, not the $94 million claimed by the questioner.
He said, “We cannot spend the money until we can spend it on the project for which it was designated and that’s important.”
Yohannan declared, “Absolutely every designation is fulfilled. If not, the guys who are responsible for it, the guys in India, they go to jail.”
Carroll finished the question by saying:
As a former auditor, I’m always wondering, so did the money that someone gave for a blanket for a cold person in North India, is that sitting somewhere, does somebody know about that blanket that’s given like that amount? And we’ve asked that question of our Asian office and they’ve said, ‘yes, we actually have a report that mirrors your report here.’ So yes, if a blanket was given here but it hasn’t yet been given because it’s warmer there or whatever the reason, then the money is sitting there and able to be accounted for when it goes out.
When reassuring staff in 2015 that donations were being used as promised, GFA leaders were quite convincing. When addressing discovery in a 2018 RICO case, a federal judge appears to be frustrated with GFA’s inability to do what they promised. These inconsistencies were exposed months after the May 2015 staff meeting.
Later in 2015, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability did an investigation which ended with the expulsion of GFA from membership. In their September 2015 report*, the ECFA found that the GFA’s field partners banked foreign contributions for years while local funds went to meet designation from donors. Because of this procedure it was “extremely difficult for GFA to demonstrate that it has exercised appropriate control of the funds” donated by U.S. donors.
David Carroll told staff that GFA’s field partners had $7 million on account. ECFA’s report found the amount to be $186 million at about the time of the staff meeting. From the ECFA report:
Allegations were made that GFA had upwards of $150 million in partner field accounts, far more than necessary to provide appropriate operating reserves. During our visit on June 3, ECFA was informed that GFA field partner cash reserves were approximately $7 million. After ECFA requested detailed documentation of cash balances held by foreign field offices, on June 29, we discovered that GFA’s field partners had $259,437,098 on hand at March 31, 2014 and approximately $186 million in June 2015.
In the ECFA report, GFA acknowledged that solicitations are more specific than expenditures. I wonder if GFA’s attorneys have read this report.
GFA solicits funds for narrower purposes than the eventual expenditure of the funds. During ECFA’s review on August 12, GFA staff provided a document to demonstrate the flow of funds from GFA to field partners. ECFA learned that donor-restricted donations are appropriately tracked by particular revenue classifications. However, we also discovered, and it was confirmed by GFA staff, that the disbursement of the gifts are tracked in much broader categories. For example, donations were received and tracked for 38 different specific items including kerosene lanterns, bio sand filters, chickens, manual sewing machines, blankets, bicycle rickshaws, and others, but related expenses were only tracked as “community development.” In other words, donations were raised for 38 specific items, with the donations pooled for expenditure purposes instead of expending them specifically for the purposes raised.
ECFA did not find any evidence that donors to the 38 different giving categories had awareness that their gifts were grouped and used in a broader category than the specific categories in which the gifts were raised. ECFA’s staff raised concerns regarding GFA’s compliance with ECFA Standard 4, 7.1, and 7.2 in raising funds for a particular purpose but then failing to document the actual use of those funds by the particular donor-restricted purpose.
Subsequent to this conversation, on August 16, GFA staff indicated that GFA field partners will begin tracking expenditures by specific item accounts to provide adequate transparency as to the use of designated funds.
*This report was not made public by the ECFA or GFA, but was released to me by Gayle Erwin, former GFA board member who resigned from the GFA board over GFA’s misconduct.
Mark Driscoll is getting us ready for a big announcement. Check it out:
His next big book could be part of the fun. According to Christian Market Weekly, Driscoll is signing with Charisma:
Pastor Mark Driscoll is returning to publishing by signing with Charisma House. His new book, Spirit-Filled Jesus, will release in October 2018.
No doubt the Jesus-loving, Youtube-filming, Charisma-publishing Driscoll brand will be big. Even though the trail of busted stuff in Seattle is still there, it is easy enough in the big Evangelical circus to pitch your tent somewhere else and start a new show in a new season.
A resurgence of Driscoll branding is probably coming at about the right time. I have noticed in my little corner of the Christian world less awareness of him and the Mars Hill history. Just this year I asked a class of undergrads how many had heard of him and not one hand went up. That had never happened before and is a problem for The Brand.
For those coming late to this party, there are several links to get you started.
Wenatchee the Hatchet. – This blogger has followed Mars Hill Church for many years and has a wealth of information and detail about church history and various players who have been associated with the church over the years.
Mars Hill Church Blog Summary – This link will lead to all blog posts about Mars Hill Church. My posts started in late 2013 after Mark Driscoll’s disastrous interview with Janet Mefferd.
Daily Beast – This link leads to my series of articles at The Daily Beast on Mars Hill Church. For those wanting a quick summary on Mark Driscoll’s plan to place his book Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list, this is a good place to start. Also, these article provide a summary of the fall of Mars Hill Church.
In a closely watched race for PA’s 18th District Congressional seat, Democrat Conor Lamb has a 627 vote advantage over Republican Rick Saccone as of this afternoon with all absentee and polling ballots counted. Some provisional and military ballots must be counted which won’t be final until next week. However, there may not be enough of them to make a difference in the total.
For now, Lamb has declared victory while Saccone has not conceded. Republican leaders outside of the district are leveling blame at Saccone. According to the Washington Post, Corry Bliss of the Congressional Leadership Fund called Saccone a “joke.” In my view, the joke is on Bliss. His group ran expensive false and negative ads in the district. For instance, a series of ads claimed Lamb was a follower of Nancy Pelosi. To the contrary, Lamb does not support Pelosi and has argued for new leadership in the party. If anything, those ads may have alienated suburban Republican voters and pushed them toward Lamb who ran a positive and issues oriented campaign.
While Saccone’s judgment is open to question (he thinks David Barton is a fine historian), his Republican record and resume are consistent with Trumpian populism. He has been a state legislator, has years of foreign service (even if embellished), and thinks Trump walks on water. In my opinion, all of the complaining about “candidate quality” is an effort to put the best face on what must be a very frightening prospect for Republicans running in 2018. There are numerous districts around the nation where GOP representatives are more vulnerable than the GOP slot was in PA’s District 18.
While a recount is not mandatory in a close House election, Saccone’s team has not ruled out the potential of legal maneuvers to hold up the declaration of a Lamb victory. The outcome might not be official until the legal challenges are exhausted.
On March 1, I reported that those serving with Rick Saccone in North Korea did not recall his time in North Korea as he has portrayed it during his
campaign for Congress in PA’s 18th District. Saccone has claimed he was a diplomat negotiating daily with the North Koreans and was the only American in North Korea for a year between December 2000 and December 2001.
Then, on March 10, The Guardian posted a reported which confirmed and extended my article. Reporters Benjamin Haas and Ben Jacobs spoke to Ambassador David Lambertson and a South Korean official who served with Saccone. Lambertson confirmed to Haas and Jacobs what he told me. The South Korean, Kim Joong-keun, said of all the Americans he worked with Saccone was ranked “at the bottom.”
Saccone has used this experience in his campaign ads and Donald Trump referred to Saccone’s North Korean experience during his campaign stop over the weekend. Trump said Saccone told him things about North Korea that his experts didn’t know. Before a friendly crowd, Trump made Saccone’s few months of experience in North Korea into a matter of great prestige which is exactly what Saccone has been doing the entire campaign.
Saccone’s ad on North Korea:
In fact, according to career foreign service officers who served at the same time as Saccone, he wasn’t the only American in the area and he wasn’t there a year. His work with the North Koreans did not rise to the level of a diplomat according to those who also represented the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization as did Saccone.
The PA Congressional race is very close with the newest Monmouth poll out today showed Saccone’s Democrat challenger Conor Lamb ahead by a six point margin. The special election is tomorrow.
Nonprofit Cornerstone Television Endorses Christian Nationalist Rick Saccone in PA’s 18th District Congressional Race
Announcement for Rick Saccone’s U.S. Senate Bid Featuring David Barton
Posted on Thursday, an episode of Cornerstone Television‘s Real Life featured an interview with GOP candidate for Congress in PA’s 18th District Rick Saccone (source – start 15:38). Cornerstone CEO Don Black interviewed Saccone and offered his endorsement, encouraging viewers to vote for him. Watch:
And then after the interview Black added a specific call to viewers to vote for the “man of God.”
Cornerstone Television is a nonprofit organization and as such is not supposed to offer political endorsements for candidates. The Johnson Amendment is still in place and even if the IRS goes easy on churches, Cornerstone Television is not a church. From the IRS website:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
In the first clip, host Black asked Saccone if America’s greatest days are ahead. Saccone said the Lord was leading America now. Saccone’s evidence for this that we have a strong economy with strong markets.
At the same time, I think many Christians are lamenting the leadership of a President who has paid a porn star for silence, prefers white immigrants to dark skinned ones, and rips apart families at our borders. The evangelical church is widely regarded as a joke and many leaders mock the importance of moral leadership.
This episode provides yet another lesson about what is wrong with identifying Christianity with one political party. Eventually the religion and the politics are so intertwined that they become indistinguishable. The religious talking points and the political talking points are the same. Strong markets, economic prosperity, and voting for the GOP are now all the Lord’s work.