Public Religion in the News Digest, November 22, 2019

New White House employee Paula White has asked each of her followers (she is a prosperity gospel preacher) to give her $229. In return, she will give instruction in how to defeat one’s enemies.

From the article: White tells believers that in exchange for their money they will receive a “teaching series” on how to defeat their enemies. This series, she says, contains knowledge on the “legal maneuvering of the spirit realms.” Believers will also receive a bottle of anointing oil that White says she has prayed over personally. “I need you to apply the anointing oil to your head, loved ones, house, vehicle, even your checkbook- anywhere you feel attack!!” the email says.

Former Christian Coalition Director, and huge President Trump supporter, has a new book coming out, with an audacious title. According to the book’s description, obtained by POLITICO, the original title for the book was “Render to God and Trump,” a reference to the well-known biblical verse, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The message from Jesus in Matthew 22, has been used in contemporary politics to justify obedience to government — or in the case of Reed’s book, to Trump.

From the article

Regnery Publishing confirmed the book’s existence but said the title is “For God and Country: The Christian case for Trump.” The publisher declined to comment on the reason for the title change.

In his book, Reed will “persuasively” argue evangelicals have a duty to defend the incumbent Republican leader against “the stridently anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and pro-abortion agenda of the progressive left,” according to the description.

He will also rebut claims by religious and nonreligious critics that white evangelical Protestants “revealed themselves to be political prostitutes and hypocrites” by overwhelmingly backing Trump, a twice-divorced, admitted philanderer, in 2016.

A bi-critical take on America’s partisan Jesus, according to Michael Bird, an Australian clergyman and New Testament scholar. One might accuse him of writing a version of a false equivalency. However, I am reading this as how one Christian views American Christianity from a non-American perspective.

From the essay:

It is far more likely that Jesus, historical man and exalted Lord, does not neatly fit into any side of the political spectrum. The Jew from Nazareth cuts across traditional political lines. No party owns him — as if the Lord of the cosmos could be owned. Jesus does not answer to political super PACs and cannot be made to utter political endorsements on cue.

Jesus cannot be mapped onto, let alone owned, by the American political divide.

Do we need an institutionally-based Christian Left to counter the Christian Right? I concur with Bianca Vivion Brooks’ opinion regarding the weakness of “spiritual but not religious” when it comes to organized power and generating movements (e.g., Civil Rights) capable of persisting. However, as I wrote here, I think there are major issues about lining up on the opposite side of a spectrum defined by the Christian Right.

From Ms. Brooks’ essay:

I fear that absent the structural and rhetorical power offered by organized religion, it will become increasingly difficult for the left to fight the growing ideology of right wing extremism, an ideology that has always been heavily undergirded by its own religious dogma. Religion has long been crucial to the right wing in pushing its legislative agenda. In the early 1960s, for instance, the Supreme Court decisions restricting teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in the public schools helped ignite the religious right to political action, and their influence within the Republican Party has grown steadily ever since.

Mister Rogers personal faith practices. I am a Mister Rogers fan; I think he was an exemplar of what it means to be a Christian. With a new movie about Fred and one of his relationships (a well-shielded reporter) just released, Religion News Service interviewed his widow, Joanne. She talks about some of his faith practices in which he found sustenance.

From the interview:

The movie depicts your husband as someone who asked for prayer for himself. Did he ask you to pray for him?

It’s more complex than that. He would ask people who were very disabled, challenged. He would ask those people to pray for him. And, Tom Junod, who was the real journalist in the story, asked him: “Oh, are you doing that just because you want to make them feel good?” And he said, “Oh, oh, not at all. Not at all. I just feel that people who have gone through as much as they have are very close to God.”