Public Religion in the News Digest, November 8, 2019

The President’s latest private meeting with Christian-Right leaders

Quote: “Trump’s meeting on Tuesday with at least 25 faith leaders from around the country was not on his public schedule, however it was acknowledged by a brief White House statement later that day.

“Johnnie Moore, a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom who attended the meeting, said faith-based leaders vented about the impact of impeachment efforts on their legislative priorities and that the sentiment was, ‘they’re trying to impeach us.”’

Excluding individuals and couples from adopting, on religious grounds, by a federally-funded agency

Quote: “At the time, Miracle Hill Ministries, a Greenville South Carolina charity, accepted only Protestant, churchgoing people to its federally funded foster care program and required participants to sign a statement of faith. That meant it declined serving Jewish or even Catholic families wanting to foster a child.

“Miracle Hill, which received about $600,000 in public funding in 2018, asked for the exemption, so it could continue receiving government support

“HHS granted it in January. The following month, a Catholic mother of three who was denied an opportunity to volunteer at one of Miracle Hill’s children’s homes sued the federal and state governments, accusing them of religious discrimination. In June and before the case was heard in court, Miracle Hill relented and allowed Catholics to serve as volunteers and foster parents so long as they agree to a doctrinal statement of belief.

“It still won’t allow Jews or Muslims or same-sex couples to foster children.”

If you don’t know yet who Paula White is, you might want to learn

From the Religion News Service

Quote: “Televangelist Paula White is unfit to serve in the position of advisor to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative,” read a statement from Americans United President Rachel Laser. “She has no experience in government or public service and no history of undertaking the kind of interfaith outreach necessary for this role. Instead, she has operated in the shadows to influence public policies that discriminate against women, LGBTQ people and religious minorities, and the nomination of partisan judges who will support those harmful policies.”

From the New York Times

Quote: The move is “a very ominous sign” and signals that “Christian narcissism” has come into the White House, said the Rev. William J. Barber II, who organized the Moral Mondays protests in North Carolina and who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

“The so-called prosperity gospel is a false gospel,” he said, comparing it to a theology that justified slavery because of economic prosperity. “It is an attempt to interpret the gospel to be primarily about personal wealth and personal power, which is contrary to the theology of Jesus where the good news was always focused on caring for the poor, the least of these, the stranger, the sick.”

From Right Wing Watch.

White prayed at Trump’s inauguration and is often at his side when he is making an announcement that shows his willingness to turn the religious right’s agenda into federal policy. She has told viewer of Jim Bakker’s TV show that opposition to Trump is opposition to God. At an election rally in Orlando in June, her prayer portrayed Trump’s opponents as evil, wicked, and demonic. And she is mobilizing religious right leaders to denounce the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.

Here is a short video compilation of Paula White moments. Wow. Just wow.

And one more, from Religion Dispatches.

Quote: This religious revival is all about impeachment. The hour-long prayer session included a standing ovation and was widely covered by Fox News and other conservative outlets, who explicitly characterized the prayers as a pushback against impeachment. “We are unwavering in our support for the president,” said one of the preachers. In June, White prayed at a Florida Trump rally and declared, “Let every demonic network that has aligned itself against the purpose, against the calling of President Trump, let it be broken, let it be torn down in the name of Jesus,” and that “Trump will overcome every strategy from hell and every strategy from the enemy.” Such revivals are nothing new—for Trump or for other presidents waging a public relations war against impeachment.

President Trump’s speech to a Values Voter Summit (a gathering a mostly Christian Right religious leaders), October 12, 2019. It is a long, winding speech. Full of ad hominem attacks on opponents and critics. A grand example of how to subvert religion to one’s political purpose.

Quote: Socialism is obsessed with the pursuit of power because it has replaced religion within government.  And in their eyes, it has absolutely replaced religion.  When you look at some of the things that they’re in favor of, it’s like, it’s like anything — nobody has ever seen anything like it.

The New Green or Green New — you can say it either way, by the way.  It doesn’t matter; same thing.  (Laughter.)  It doesn’t matter.  Somebody said, “Which comes first?”  I said, “It doesn’t make any difference.  They’re both crazy.”  (Laughter and applause.)  No cows, no planes, no people, no energy, no oil, no gas — no nothing.

This evening, we reaffirm true foundations of American society.  We believe that every American has the right to live by the dictates of their conscience and the teachings of their faith.  (Applause.)  We believe in the right to free exercise of religion.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

This is a really good summary of the deep divide between partisans, exacerbated by religion. You’ll see many illustrations in the article of how differences are at the stubborn level of meaning-making: story, belonging, moral order, obstacles/empowerment.

Quote: This separation in attitudes is rooted in an even deeper divergence between the two sides: While whites who identify as Christians still represent about two-thirds of all Republicans, they now compose only one-fourth of Democrats, according to results provided by the Pew Research Center from a new study it released last week. Americans unaffiliated with any religion, and racial minorities who identify as Christians, now each make up a bigger share of the Democratic coalition than white Christians do, Pew found. Both groups remain only relatively minor components of the GOP coalition.