[Published] How Christianity Today’s anti-Trump piece sparked a battle over social identity

For those questioning whether the church is guilty of worshiping a political idol, consider how defenders of Christian morality and witness must approach Christians as a skeptical, if not hostile, audience.

I’ve been writing about the evangelical dilemma over Donald Trump since the 2016 election (“Donald Trump is dividing the church”). Back then, it wasn’t rare to find church leaders as outspoken critics of the Republican nominee. But those voices have quieted, some even reversing course, through President Trump’s first term.

So it was interesting to see the reaction from the politically religious (or is it religiously political?) Evangelical church when Christianity Today published an editorial calling for Trump to be removed from office.

Touching on findings from my dissertation about dual religious-political identities and research into Christian nationalism by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry, I take a look at the bigger picture for the church:

It’s at the fusion of this religious and political social identity that Trump finds his most loyal supporters, and why anyone trying to untie that thread is a threat. The messaging by Christianity Today and by Trump and his allies exhibit the state of the church under the gospel of Trump, and a battle over who belongs.

Read the full story in RELEVANT Magazine.

See more of my media appearances here.

Donald Trump is dividing the church

As women of faith find their voice and Millennial Christians question the Religious Right, what does making Donald Trump the candidate of the faithful mean for the church?

I was traveling through the Mississippi Delta when I heard the tape of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk.”

“How can he recover from this,” I initially reacted, before reminding myself how many times we’ve wondered that before.

But as the weekend progressed, the backlash was stronger than any Trump controversy to date, as more establishment Republicans disavowed their own candidate.

Trump couldn’t have been luckier from a news cycle perspective. The tape leaked on Friday afternoon and the exodus followed while most of us were watching football. By the time we started paying attention again, the second debate had fragmented political media attention in a million different directions. And while Trump may have not won over many undecideds with his performance, he delivered enough red meat to his base to give fleeing Republicans pause.

Leaks targeted both candidates that Friday. Before the Trump tape, Wikileaks released emails containing text excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street executives. Both leaks were revelations only insomuch as they confirmed things we already knew about each person’s character.

But the Trump audio was the far bigger story. For one thing, it was more visceral. We could hear the crude words from Trump’s own lips, as opposed to reading the pandering words attributed to Clinton.

More importantly, while the Clinton excerpts outraged people who were never going to vote for her, the Trump tape caused division among his supporters… a division that’s more significant than one election.

It was the countless churches lining that Mississippi highway, and highways like it all across securely red states. Trump divided Evangelicals.

Continue reading “Donald Trump is dividing the church”

[Weekly Rundown] Muhammad Ali tributes; Uncle Verne and Joe Buck; a Christian rocker comes out; what is tronc?

Today, we’re sports-heavy – honoring The Greatest, more Baylor fallout (now featuring Mississippi State), and sports broadcasters accused of bias. That, plus a Christian rocker comes out, social media faces censorship, and something called tronc.

Want to be the first to read the Weekly Rundown? Subscribe to email updates by clicking the “Follow” tab at the bottom of your screen (or here if that’s not working for you). You can also add to your RSS reader.

Sports

Muhammad Ali died Saturday night. If you only knew him as a boxer, I hope you’ll take all the tributes as an opportunity to learn more.

The news broke as I was finalizing this week’s rundown, but people more attuned to great sports writing have been curating your must-reads. I recommend this list from Don Van Natta and Jacob Feldman’s Sunday Long Read newsletter.

From a sports media perspective, ESPN did something I can’t recall seeing before. They went live in the wee hours Saturday with their top journalistic talent. Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap anchored a SportsCenter that was relaxed in pace, letting both men and their guests share longform stories about Ali. Deadspin, who loves to hate on the Worldwide Leader, offered praise, and captured a 12-minute segment for you to watch. SI’s Richard Deitsch has the behind-the-scenes look at how the late-night broadcast came together.

This probably isn’t your first time to see the photo at the top of today’s post. It was taken by Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated in 1965, and remains one of history’s most iconic sports photographs. Many stories have been written about it since. Here’s a longread by Dave Mondy published about a year ago that explores the photographer and the fighters he captured. Continue reading “[Weekly Rundown] Muhammad Ali tributes; Uncle Verne and Joe Buck; a Christian rocker comes out; what is tronc?”

AFA pours cold water on Ice Bucket Challenge

^^ Nifty headline, right? I thought so anyway. And maybe it would have served the American Family Association well to use it on a recent release urging people to think twice before donating to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association as part of the popular Ice Bucket Challenge.

Instead, they went with this…

afa_head

 

I guess it has its own charm.

AFA is firmly on the religious right, boycotting companies that promote products to the LGBT community and choose the term “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.” But this particular message seemed to bother even supporters of the group – not because of its position, but because of the manner in which it was communicated.

I’ve been meaning to blog about the shift in headline writing to SEO and viral social sharing. For now, let me just direct you to a feature in the Columbia Journalism Review, though you probably don’t need to click to know exactly what I’m talking about.

“ALS challenge kills babies” is about as tabloid-esque as it gets… the good old-fashioned form of clickbait. The actual argument of the AFA and similar groups is that the ALSA’s use of embryonic stem cells for research violates the sanctity of life.

This is not a blog post to debate the merits of that argument.

Instead, it’s one to think about why even those who agree with that argument cringed at the way it was presented.

Continue reading “AFA pours cold water on Ice Bucket Challenge”

Getting goats for Christmas (Or, how a disillusioned shopper found his joy)

I hate Christmas shopping. Not because I’m bitterly opposed to the commercialization of the holidays. Not because I can’t fight for a bargain (one infamous Black Friday, I bobbed and weaved through a crowd at a now-defunct electronics store to physically lie atop a row of desktop computer boxes my dad needed for his office). In fact, I love surprising my loved ones with gifts that I know they’ll enjoy.

It’s just that sometimes those gifts are awful hard to find. Maybe I’m just not creative enough. Maybe I don’t have the gift of gifting. My aunt can find everyone in the family the perfect gift every single time, despite only talking to us a handful of times each year. Meanwhile, I’ve never known what to get her. A candle that smells like the ocean? Socks with jingle bells? A toaster?

When you don’t know what to get, hunting for gifts is painstaking, and usually fruitless. It was even worse for me when I lived in Arkansas and the nearest shopping destinations were over an hour away. So, one Christmas, I dug into the family traditions and revived something a fellow displaced relative began some seasons ago. In lieu of the perfect gift, I made a charitable donation in honor of that family member.

Continue reading “Getting goats for Christmas (Or, how a disillusioned shopper found his joy)”