John Throckmorton and Separation of Church and State

In 1640, thirty-nine male residents of Providence in what is now Rhode Island voted to ratify a system of government that allowed residents complete freedom of conscience in religious matters. The exact phrase they agreed to was “Wee agree, as formerly hath bin the liberties of the town, so still, to hould forth liberty of Conscience.”

This was the settlement of Roger Williams, the Baptist minister who had been expelled from Salem, MA and who championed religious freedom next door to John Winthrop’s Massachusett’s Bay colony where the wrong beliefs could get you in trouble with civil authorities. Williams founded Providence in 1636 and deeded shares of the land to twelve other men in 1638. One of those men was John Throckmorton. Throckmorton, a direct ancestor of mine, came from England with Williams and was also one of the 39 residents of the city who signed the first charter guaranteeing liberty of conscience.

Doing a little Ancestry.com research, I recently discovered this direct line back to John Throckmorton and I must admit it gave me an irrational measure of pleasure. I have taken pretty clear stands for separation of church and state and vigorously opposed Christian nationalism. My David Barton fact checking work has been motivated by passion for the belief in church-state separation. The current revival of Christian nationalism motivates me to counter it as I am able. Learning that a great, great, (five more greats) grandfather was involved at the beginning as a co-laborer and friend with Roger Williams is deeply satisfying.

Even after John Throckmorton became a Quaker, he stood up to Williams when Williams criticized the Quaker movement. It appears my ancestor was zealous to defend his independence of mind, even when his old friend came against him.

The story of Williams and Great(x7)-Grandpa Throckmorton reminds me that once upon a time Baptists were known for their fierce dedication to separation of church and state. Now, they are known for these shenanigans:

Here is John MacArthur declaring that he doesn’t support religious freedom.

John Leland, the great Baptist who preached in MA and VA, said:

No national church can in its organization be the Gospel Church. National church takes in the whole nation and no more, whereas the Church takes in no nation but those who fear God and work in every nation. The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever.

Should one sect be pampered above others? Should not government protect all kinds of people of every species of religion without showing the least partiality? Has not the world had enough proofs of the impolicy and cruelty of favoring a Jew more than a Pagan, Turk, or Christian, or a Christian more than either of them? Why should a man be proscribed or any wife disgraced for being a Jew a Turk a Pagan or a of any denomination when his talents and veracity as a civilian him to the confidence of the public?

Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.

Many Christian nationalists today want the government to privilege Christianity. They don’t like what some people do in their private lives and want the government to legislate against it. Even though the state has no compelling interest in regulating this private conduct or conscience, Christian nationalists appeal to concepts like biblical law and biblical morality to suggest that the civil law should reflect their idea of what the Bible teaches.

 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Merry Christmas 2021

This is a tradition on the blog:

Recorder artist Victoria Rigel played two recorders at once in this 2008 performance of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I accompanied her on the guitar. She adds the second recorder at the beginning of the second verse.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas Eve! Audible Waters – Do You Hear What I Hear?

A Christmas tradition on the blog has been to feature a song on Christmas Eve by Audible Waters, a musical project of a blog commenter who goes by “Mr. Jesperson.” His project has focused on a collection of Christmas songs over the years. This year I post a new one for them: Do You Hear What I Hear?

I hope your Holiday season is wonderful.

Getting Jefferson Right Gets a Rise from the Fall of Mars Hill Church

I haven’t written much about the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Church because I wanted to hear the whole thing before I did. Now that I have, I will say more about it over time. On the whole, I recommend it. Several years ago when Mars Hill Church was unraveling, I assumed someone would do a deep dive into the rise and fall of the church; I just didn’t think it would be Christianity Today.

On the level of individual work, Mike Cosper did an superb job of weaving characters and various story lines in and out of the narrative.  Having written and produced a documentary in the past, I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into that beast.

What brings me to the blog backroom at this time is something I just learned over the weekend: Mike Cosper’s casual mention of my book with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, has led to a modest Mars Hill bump in interest in Getting Jefferson Right since The Tempest episode came out on November 12. I’ll call it a Mars Hill Rise.

Here is what Cosper said about the Jefferson book starting at 1 hour and 11 minutes into The Tempest episode.

There’s a sense in which he (Throckmorton) was an ideal candidate to respond to this particular moment in the story (the plagiarism aspect). For several years, much of Throckmorton’s blogging had been focused on debunking the work of David Barton, a Christian nationalist, known for writing books and curriculum about the origins of the U.S. that are popular in some very conservative homeschool circles.

That led to the publication of a book called Getting Jefferson Right which Throckmorton co-wrote with Michael Coulter. The book carefully deconstructs many of Barton’s Christian nationalist myths and it led to one of Barton’s books being pulled from publication. His foray into looking at Driscoll didn’t come from any specific interest in his work. I think in a way that’s also reflected in his interest in Barton. Warren has a mind for detail; a mind attuned for the kind of research and cataloging necessary to track instances of plagiarism.

I love it when threads of my life come together and this was a significant couple of minutes for me. The modest sales boost or the Facebook page interest aren’t the remarkable points here. For me, it was Cosper’s matter-of-fact dismissal of Christian nationalism. The reference to David Barton’s “Christian nationalist myths” was extremely gratifying. As I listened, I became aware that numerous people who had never thought about Christian nationalism in a negative way (or at all) were listening to the podcast since Rise and Fall has remained near the top of the podcast charts since it came out.

Indeed, in Getting Jefferson Right, we deal with some of the foundational stories that Christian nationalists like to tell. Did Congress publish the first English Bible in the U.S. for the use of schools? Did Jefferson create an abridgment of the New Testament to evangelize native Americans? Was Jefferson forbidden to free his slaves by Virginia law? Did Jefferson sign his presidential documents in the Year of our Lord Christ? Christian nationalist history is unlike any history most of us have heard or studied. In our book, we focus on claims involving Thomas Jefferson and give the facts.

For more on Getting Jefferson Right, click through this link. You can find the book in Kindle and paperback format on Amazon. Conveniently, Amazon says it arrives before Christmas!

For more on the removal of Barton’s book from publication, see this link.

Stop the Presses! Mark Driscoll Needs $650,000 More!

Remember the Mars Hill Church Jesus Festival?

At the end of 2013, Mark Driscoll’s church asked Mars Hill Church attenders for $2-million because God was going to do great things with the money in 2014. One of those things included a big party the church leaders called a “Jesus Festival.” Driscoll described it this way:

From Pastor Mark Driscoll: Heaven is going to be a party and we need to practice for that party. Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing a lot more about our first-ever Jesus Festival, August 22 at Marymoor Park near Seattle. Everyone at Mars Hill churches far and near is invited for this unique opportunity to grow together and evangelize within the surrounding community. We’ve never done anything quite like this event, but picture a huge outdoor celebration with live bands, food trucks, fun stuff for the kids, open-air gospel preaching, baptisms, and a summer night filled with the worship of thousands of brothers and sisters praising Jesus together. Pastor Dustin Kensrue will be leading us in worship, and as the date gets closer we’ll announce some special guests who will be joining us as well. Thanks to your generosity as a church, the whole thing will be free, which will make it very easy to invite non-Christian family and friends.

The church gave closer to $3-million, but the big heaven-party-practice never happened. No doubt the rapid financial decline of the church had something to do with that, but it may be that the concept of a Jesus Festival served a purpose to rally financial support. When asked about why the church didn’t have the party, Mars Hill Church spokesperson Justin Dean told Huffington Post:

Contrary to what has been reported, we did not raise money specifically for the Jesus festival. Gifts given during the end of the year campaign, as well as any gifts given to Mars Hill Church, go towards ministry operations, evangelism, and church planting all over the world.

Donors often don’t understand that unless the charity makes a specific promise to use their donations in a certain way, the charity decision makers can do what they want with it. They can bait with big plans, then switch to the current expense fund if they want.

Deja Vu All Over Again?

On Tuesday, I reported that Mark Driscoll Real Faith has a Real Need. To finish 2021 strong, he wants people to give him $200,000. He doesn’t say how he plans to use it, just that he needs it. I thought possibly he could need it to do church work, but now I don’t think that is it. I found out he is going to his church for an even stronger finish. Check this out.

The Trinity Church has its own giving campaign. He needs $650,000* for that side of the business.

So just as with Mars Hill Church, Driscoll wants his church to give substantially over and above their regular giving for expenses that apparently don’t fit in the budget.

This ask further confuses the earlier Real Faith ask for $200,000. Driscoll says he needs $200k for Real Faith, but then he says some of this $650k will also benefit Real Faith. Consider this component in the appeal:

2. Add more lighting and cameras so that we can improve the worship experience in the main room and also capture the worship and baptisms (over 400 in 2021!) in audio and video format to share online to minister to the more than 100 million people who are receiving Bible teaching through Real Faith from Trinity Church.

Now it is even less clear what Driscoll wants to do with $200,000 for his personal ministry/business.

Loaded

Maybe I just don’t understand how this ministry thing works. I’m sure that’s it. The man of god needs are different than the little people in the pew needs. The MOG needs his sermon dial in spot (see below):

And he needs his Loaded First Edition Bronco to contemplate great thoughts.

In any case, I will note again that I bet your local food pantry needs your money more than Rev. Driscoll or most megachurch pastors do. Don’t get me wrong, I know some churches are feeding lots of hungry people and doing lots of good. I bet lots of people will hear about Jesus in 2022 even if you don’t give a cent to Rev Driscoll, so consider helping those who hear about Jesus by knowing his kindness and care via a warm meal or a warm coat, or a cleft palate surgery.

*Mars Hill watchers will no doubt do a double take at the $650,000 amount since that was the amount of Driscoll’s severance in 2014 when he left the church.

 

After a Year of Trials, Mark Driscoll Needs $200,000 to Finish Strong!

Brother, can you spare 2-million dimes?

After a year of trials (aka The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and various Trinity Church former members, etc.), Brother Driscoll and his Real Faith has a NEED!

“As we approach the end of the year, RealFaith must meet a $200,000 need to finish strong and step into 2022 ready to tell more people all about Jesus.”

You can sing a nice tune with $200k in a month. My church budget for the whole year is less than that (admittedly, it is a small church).

Brother Driscoll doesn’t tell us what the need is for, just that he believes next year is going to be bigger than this year. Huge, I tell ya, it’s going to be huge.

Mars Hill All Over Again?

This appeal reminded me of the Mars Hill Church year end giving campaigns. Former Mars Hill Church executive pastor Sutton Turner wrote about the Mars Hill pattern of running up deficits during the year and then throwing a “Hail Mary” year end giving appeal to make up for the deficit spending. Here is the relevant part of that 2012 memo to fellow executive elders Mark Driscoll and Dave Bruskas.

From what I can tell by this past year’s budget, we have had a strategy of completing a Hail Mary every December with a big giving campaign. This has allowed the negative monthly financial performance to continue while we count on a Hail Mary giving push in December to make up for the annual deficit. Givers are giving to grow the body and plant more churches, but given our spending habits, their gifts just help us catch up. With the growth ofthe church, the 2011 version only allows for enough cash to run through June 2012 and is not a sustainable plan for December 2012.

Smells similar.

Here is one difference. Driscoll is writing potential donors in 2021 from his personal ministry – Real Faith — and not from The Trinity Church. He is personally asking people give him $200,000 so he can do something with it. It is hard to tell what is his church work and what is him doing stuff apart from the church. Seems like most pastors would be funded by their church to do the things he is talking about doing through Real Faith with all that “outpouring of support.” Makes me wonder what is the main thing and what is the side hustle. 

Who Needs $200,000?

In any case, I am going to go out on a limb and say that this guy right here doesn’t need your $200,000 as much as your local food pantry.

Nothing but need as far as the eye can see.

Brothers and sisters, if you can spare some dimes, I humbly suggest two or three alternatives.

Smile Train – This charity provides cleft lip and palate surgeries for needy children where it is difficult to obtain such care. The charity has a perfect accountability rating from Charity Navigator.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative Foundation (SCI) – This charity is a top-rated organization that fights the spread of development-killing parasitic worms in children world-wide.

Closer to home: I am sure Mark Driscoll would understand if you made a year end donation to your local church or food pantry with him in mind. If you don’t have one to donate to and want a suggestion, here is the link to Mercer County, PA’s food network. I just made a year end donation and I hope you will consider it as well.

 

Brother, Can You Spare 2-Million Dimes? (to the tune of the George Michael version)

Once I built a megachurch, made it run
Made it grow and it was mine
Once I built a megachurch, now it’s done
Brother can you spare 2-million dimes?

Once I built a tower, made it run
Brick and money and time
Once I built a tower, now it’s done
Brother can you spare 2-million dimes?

 

 

Mark Driscoll Claims Credit for the Work of Mars Hill Church Women

You will probably think you’ve heard this story before.

In 2013, Mars Hill Church published a study guide on the New Testament book of James. Mark Driscoll wrote the Introduction to the book but did not claim authorship. In fact, much of the book was written by women in the women’s ministry. Here is an email describing a document provided by Driscoll to guide them thematically (most names redacted).

From: “h****@marshill.com” <h****@marshill.com>
Subject: James research
Date: August 23, 2013 at 1:34:36 PM CDT
To: Marci Turner <m***@*******.com>, “g****@marshill.com” <g****@marshill.com>,  <j******@hotmail.com>, “d*****@a.com” <d****@aol.com>, <s*****@mn.com>,  <l******@gmail.com>, <k****@s.edu>,  <*****@i.com>
Hello James team:

Below is some great information that Pastor Mark has prepared regarding the approach he will take to the James series.

So, put on your theological thinking caps – this is good stuff.  As always, and as indicated below, please do not share this.  I’m praying for you and hope this is helpful to you, as it was to me, as we learn to discern well and trust God for his truth to be revealed to us as we write for his glory.

Thanks!

H

Director of Women’s Ministry
Mars Hill Church
www.marshill.com

While I don’t have all of the work done by all of the women, I do have the work done by Marci Turner. First, I will post the Introduction where Driscoll wrote in 2013 about who is responsible for writing the study guide. Then I will post the same page from the 2021 book, titled Faith Works.

The attribution accurately credits Mars Hill staff, Docent Research, and faithful volunteers. Those faithful volunteers were women, some of whom were not considered trustworthy by Mark Driscoll at various stages of Mars Hill’s existence. However, Driscoll and the boys thought it okay to use them to anonymously write copy.
…then the description of authorship.

The book now is a “group effort” if by that Driscoll means he added to material written by others and then he put his name on it. To me, a group effort is a group of people working on something, and they all get credit. In this case, the actual source of the material is even more vague than in the first edition.

In light of my reporting over the years, as well as the recent Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, I am not surprised Driscoll didn’t acknowledge the women. However, he should have and he still should. For one, Marci Turner isn’t happy that her work has Driscoll’s name slapped on it. However, there isn’t much that can be done about it since Driscoll was allowed to buy the Resurgence material when he left.

Nonetheless, there are substantial amounts of material that female members of Mars Hill wrote that Driscoll has put his name on. Here is just one example from Marci Turner.

The material in the red rectangle is in the new Faith Works edition. See below (see also the side by side comparison link below):

And here’s another instance:

There are other examples, but I think this makes it clear that the materials supplied by the “faithful volunteers” have now been retooled by Mark Driscoll. And it can now be known that those faithful volunteers were women of the church who couldn’t be trusted with much, but could give the man of god some copy for his content management system.

Below is one side by side comparison:

Side by Side

According to Sutton Turner, all of these study guides were partially written by the Women’s Ministry.

A Note about Critical Race Theory and Roots

A brief note about criticism of Critical Race Theory in Christian academia.

Critics of CRT invoke the historical connection of CRT theorists to the Frankfurt School with the primary mischief being the connection to Karl Marx. Tracing ideas back to Marx is like an intellectual scavenger hunt. The more connections you find, the better you feel about opposing CRT (or whatever you think CRT is, today).

The problem with this exercise is that anyone can play with any set of ideas. I am just sitting over here wondering when the focus comes back around to the devil’s major of psychology. You can trace psychology’s roots back to any number of unsavory characters. Regularly through my undergraduate and graduate schooling, I heard from Christians that I was wasting my time at best, and sinning at worst, by being in psychology. Freud and Skinner and Ellis and Rogers(!) were all atheists and pagans and had nothing to offer Christians.

Nouthetic and biblical counseling continue this theme in the present day although the heat isn’t as hot as that which is directed at CRT. Psychology will no longer bring down civilization; CRT surely will.

Let’s face it, much of what is taught in any academically sound Christian university requires comfort with a host of concepts that make CRT look tame. I don’t know how long we can hold on before the whole of Christian academia is routed by the worldview warriors. Before long, we will be engaged in a multifront war. When will the theistic evolutionists have to run for cover? Will Freudian psychoanalysis or Rogerian therapy once again be theories that dare not speak their names in Christian circles?

I remember when truth was truth and the mission of the Christian professor was to find it wherever she/he could. Mine for gold, spoil the Egyptians, all truth is God’s truth; those phrases meant something to Christians operating in academia. Common grace allowed non-Christian image bearers to find and articulate truth even while beginning with assumptions incompatible with Christian theology. Now, apparently, Christian profs are supposed to put on a hazmat suit if there is a whiff of the world on ideas and claims that are not manifestly Christian. Best to keep socially and academically distant from that stuff.

What I am getting at is that CRT isn’t any more troubling than other things we teach in psychology and the other social sciences. If there is something wrong with evaluating CRT and using aspects of it when it is valuable, then there won’t be much of a social science curriculum left when CRT critics continue their work on the rest of our majors.

Psychology v. Christianity

For an illustration of a Christian ministry targeting psychology in the same manner as many Christians are targeting CRT, consider this teaching article from Andrew Wommack Ministries. Wommack and faux-historian and Christian nationalist David Barton are mutual supporters and work together on projects.

Wommack says, “Modern psychology was brought to the forefront by Sigmund Freud in the late nineteenth century. Freud certainly wasn’t a godly man. He was obsessed with sex and linked every problem of man to the sexual drive.” Referring to Matthew 7, Wommack says the fruit of psychology can’t be good because the roots (Freud) are bad.

Wommack then does with the entire discipline of psychology what many Christian writers do to CRT: creates a team of straw men to incinerate.

Here are four major tenants (sic) of psychology that I believe are incompatible with biblical Christianity:

1) We are products of our environment.

2) Therefore, we are not responsible or accountable for our actions.

3) This leads to placing blame for our actions on anything else but on us, making us victims.

4) Self-esteem is paramount.

I doubt Wommack means psychology has renters, so he actually claims there are four major tenets for the whole discipline. The first one might apply to a radical behaviorist but not to a behavioral genetics proponent. An existential psychologist would vehemently disagree with point two. I don’t know of any approach that advocates victimhood. Self-esteem is important, but it is so 1960s-1970s to say it is paramount. Self-efficacy and self-regulation became a research preoccupation of social learning theorists during and after that era. The point is that Wommack does to psychology what Christian critics often do to CRT — shake out the nuances and make it into to something which can be easily demonized and dismissed. One might ask a certain Christopher Rufo about how to do that with CRT.

I recognize that no one currently is accusing psychology of being the biggest threat to the gospel and the church, but I wonder how long it will take for the culture war guns to tire of CRT and point in some other direction. We better get ready; we haven’t had our turn for awhile.

 

Does Critical Race Theory Threaten the Gospel?

A lot of evangelicals are saying it does but I don’t see how.

Over the past month, I have been reading critical race theory analyses in search of how they might threaten religion in some manner. Thus far, I haven’t encountered any mention of the Bible, the gospel, or religious criticism. There is frequent mention of white privilege, colorblindness, and systemic racism. However, nothing in the analyses I have read asks anyone to change their religion or modify their beliefs in God. The only change at issue is social change in the direction of justice. Critical race theory analysts hope to highlight the insidious nature of racism in various institutions where white people are often blind to it.

As far as I can see so far, critical race analyses don’t make claims about the deity of Christ or whether He rose from the dead. There are no theological claims involved that I can find. I didn’t feel that my faith was challenged at all. There was no way of salvation offered.

What is challenged is the status quo. In one analysis, I read this passage about a private school’s decision to hire a diversity coordinator.

A CRT analysis would explore the ways in which the multicultural courses and programming challenged and changed racist practices and policies. A limitation of the liberal commitment to diversity was manifested in Well’s hiring one person, an African American, to attend to the school’s diversity initiative. Making her responsible for teaching all the multicultural courses and providing all the programming and professional development in the areas of cultural sensitivity and awareness demonstrates the school’s lack of commitment to diversity. This token commitment to diversity, which rested solely with one person, and encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, essentially ensured that change at Wells would not be sweeping or immediate. Thus, with the limited human resources Wells employed to “diversify” the school and the curriculum to create a more diverse and inclusive schooling environment, it guaranteed that changing the racist remnants of the “Old South” would not likely happen quickly, but incrementally and superficially instead, if at all. An abiding limitation of liberalism is its reliance on incremental change. Interestingly, those most satisfied with incremental change are those less likely to be directly affected by oppressive and marginalizing conditions.

On the surface, it appears that the school is working to make change, but an hard look at the situation from the minority perspective doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. When examined in this manner, it becomes clear that the school isn’t serious about diversity, but that their efforts may be to assuage guilt or to hold off public criticism. The analysis can’t get to the motive and doesn’t appear to try. However, the point is that the response isn’t sufficient to address justice and equity for minorities.

I haven’t agreed with every analysis I have read. Some use so much jargon I am not clear what they mean. However, I have not encountered any articles which ask me to convert to another religion. I have not been asked to give up mine. Seeing racism which is embedded in institutions and social practices is eye opening and sobering. Often, it makes me angry. I feel resolved to do what I can to help the situation. But what I don’t feel is an urge to convert to another gospel.

 

 

 

APA Apologizes for Role in Racism and Eugenics

Although long overdue, the American Psychological Association on October 29 issued an apology to people of color and indigenous people for the role of psychologists, including many leaders of APA, in promoting racism and eugenics thoughout the formative years of the profession. Accompanying the apology is a remarkable historical timeline of events documenting the role of psychologists in promoting white supremacy, racism, and eugenics. Finally, the APA also passed a resolution which calls on psychologists to work toward ending racism.

For the first time, I have been teaching a course in the history of psychology this semester and have covered some of this ground. Especially in considering the role of G. Stanley Hall, Lewis Terman, Paul Popenoe, Robert Yerkes, Henry Goddard and others, one must confront that at least one purpose for which these men did their work was to promote “race betterment” via eugenics policies.

This is the dark side of the history of psychology and we cannot avoid it. I am pleased to see these documents and statements from the current APA leaders. Perhaps, one of the most important immediate benefits will be to confront the same attitudes which seem increasingly common today.

So Who Could Be Against This?

When the statement was released, The Bell Curve author Charles Murray had this response.

You may remember Murray’s policy recommendations from The Bell Curve relating to government assistance to poor people:

“The technically precise description of America’s fertility policy is that it subsidizes births among poor women, who are also disproportionately at the low end of the intelligence distribution. We urge generally that these policies, represented by the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies, be ended.”

Murray’s advice is a barely sanitized version of a eugenicist’s dream. For instance, Charles Goethe, founder of the California Eugenics Society wrote this letter to the editor in the Sacramento Courier Journal in 1953.

This same Goethe visited German in 1934 and then wrote fellow Human Betterment Foundation member E.S. Gosney:

You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought and particularly by the work of the Human Betterment Foundation. I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”

This was published in the organization’s newsletter and thus available to psychologist Lewis Terman and marriage counselor Paul Popenoe who were members of the Human Betterment Foundation.

The APA steps forward with regret that psychology in the form of scientific racism and intelligence testing was used to promote sterilization, discrimination and racism, and some people today still object. I say it is about time and their reasonable service.