Republican National Convention Roundup

If we can’t make the case to the American people that voting for our party’s nominee is consistent with voting your conscience, is consistent with defending freedom and being faithful to the Constitution, then we are not going to win, and we don’t deserve to win. — Ted Cruz

As balloons fell after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accepted his party nomination last night, the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want' rang through the arena.

I am uncharacteristically left speechless after the sad, sad events in Cleveland this past week. As Matt Walsh said, “not my circus, not my elephants,” but it’s still hard not to cry a little cry over the final bullet in the head of the Republican party. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to all that social/fiscal conservatism… stuff, I guess. I mean, minor details really. Not like we’re gutting the soul of the party or anything. Move along folks.

The only bright spot, of course, was Ted Cruz’s perfect balance of principle and savvy, reminding us of what Republicanism used to stand for and reminding us that far more hangs in the balance this election than the presidency. One of the most devastating potential consequences of Trump’s nomination is that discouraged Never Trumpers will not mobilize to keep Congress in the red, as dozens of seats are up for grabs. Cruz’s reminder to vote our consciences “up and down the ballot” was not just a subtle dig at Trump. It was a useful word of advice to real conservatives that there are still worthy senators and representatives out there who need their vote. By the way, I’ve seen a number of people condescendingly wag their fingers at Cruz for “breaking his pledge” by not explicitly endorsing Trump. (And how interesting that even Trump’s own supporters know good and well that “vote your conscience” doesn’t mean their guy.) What a lot of sanctimonious hoo-ha. I won’t even try to respond to all that better than the man himself.

But anyway, I thought about writing a little eulogy, until I read around and realized it’s all been said more eloquently than I can match. So, I refer my gentle readers to the following gems of wisdom. Take up and read:

Jonah Goldberg chooses Ted, ’nuff said

Maggie Gallagher on where the Republican party is going from here (spoiler, it’s leftward ho!)

Ben Shapiro adding his thoughts

Matt Walsh on what true conservative unity should look like (and why uniting around Trump isn’t it)

David French on how we lost the Republic in Republicanism

On Race, Dallas, and Passive-Aggressive Southern Baptists

What can I say about this past week that hasn’t already been said? First, we got two murky black civilian shootings in a row, which appear to have been dissimilar in some key respects but were naturally spun together as “Policemen hunting down teh blacks!!!” As with Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile became equally worthy mascots of a movement that tramples individuality.

Then, the thing every smart policeman could have told you was coming, if you were willing to listen: Slaughter of white cops on a mass scale. An outpouring of vicious bile from gleeful, racist black Twitter users, of whose existence President Obama was apparently blissfully unaware when he said he believed he “spoke for every single American citizen” as he offered his obligatory phoned-in condemnation of the shootings. But remember, nobody really knows the motivations of the shooter. I mean it’s not like he said in so many words that he wanted to kill white cops or something. Oh wait. And I won’t even touch Dear Leader’s latest comment that it’s become easier for kids to get their hands on a gun than a computer or even a book, seeing as how Matt Walsh has already won the Internet on that front.

But enough about our bloviating, passive-aggressive president. Let’s talk about passive-aggressive Southern Baptists instead! Yes Russell Moore, I am looking at you.

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The Religious Right is Dead, Long Live the Religious Right

Moore Dobson collage HQ

Words fail to express how tragic it has been to watch the complete capitulation of old-guard evangelicalism to the giant con that is Donald Trump’s candidacy. Words do not fail me when I think about how disgusting it is that Trump doesn’t even have to pretend to give a damn about the things evangelicals hold dear. But I’m trying to keep this PG-rated here. (Meanwhile, I notice that he finally paused to acknowledge SCOTUS’s disastrous abortion ruling with the astute observation that if Scalia were still alive, the vote would have been 5-3 “the opposite way.” Oh, wait, actually, we would still have lost 5-4, never mind. But don’t worry, I’m sure Trump will hire the best people to do math for him once he’s elected President.)

The latest and most painful development in this slow-motion train-wreck is James Dobson’s choice to join Trump’s religious “advisory” board, while simultaneously spreading what he later clarified was only a second-hand rumor that Trump had “accepted Christ.” The real kicker? The person who some people say they heard from their cousin’s sister-in-law’s aunt might have led Trump to Christ is (drumroll please) Paula White.

So yeah, if you need me, I’ll be under all my blankets sobbing in a fetal curl. Wake me up when Jesus comes back.

What’s that you say? I can’t just hide in bed until the apocalypse? What, are you gonna tell me the death of the religious right does not equal the death of the church, or something?

I should have known.

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VidAngel is Being Sued, But It’s Probably Just as Well

In recent months, you may have noticed ads for a relatively new movie filtering service called VidAngel. Based in Utah (probably owned by a bunch of Mormons), it operates on a buyback model, where moviegoers can buy a movie, stream it through VidAngel’s content filters, then sell it back to VidAngel within 24 hours for a net loss of only $1. Well, sort of. Technically, if you read the fine print, you were paid back in VidAngel credit, so that you’d get a discount on the next movie you rented with them. See what they did there?

Anyway, it didn’t take long for Disney, Fox, Lucasfilm inter alia to notice the company in a legal way. You can read all about the team they’re assembling for the defense, posted last week on their blog.  They seem confident about their chances, believing they’ve discovered a loophole that will allow them to continue operating. The comments on this article provide good summaries of the state of the law and theories about how good their case actually is. Not being a legal expert, I’ll let others make those predictions. At any rate, this kind of legal battle is merely the latest in a long string of Hollywood vs. Mormon Video Editing Outfit battles. I’ll let you figure out who typically comes out on top, although in fairness, the most recent one was decided in the Mormon company’s favor, using the same legal team VidAngel is now hiring.

To be honest, I find it difficult to care who wins or loses this case. In fact, given the way this particular site has compiled and marketed its content, I can think of a couple reasons why it might be just as well if it went away.

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Orlando Aftermath: Between Sentiment and Vitriol

Police in Orlando direct family members away from the scene of the shooting.

There has been no shortage of Christian think pieces about Orlando in the last 36 hours. Almost without exception, their headlines are variations on the “here’s how Christians ought to react” theme. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this. It’s the template Christian pundits are expected to follow in the wake of any national atrocity. But I trust my readers to decide for themselves how they choose to react to the events of Sunday morning. So I simply offer my observations on the Orlando aftermath, in hopes that they will distinguish themselves in some way from what you have already encountered.

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The Transgender Phenomenon: Why Mark Yarhouse is Dead Wrong

As usual, I am approximately two weeks behind the hot issue of the week, but in this particular case, since literally nobody else is out there saying what I’m about to say, I figured what the heck. Might as well get out there and offend someone.

The name “Mark Yarhouse” might not ring a bell with the average reader. He’s a Christian psychiatrist at Regent College who has conducted multiple studies on gender and sexuality and is touted by outlets like Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition as “the leading Christian scholar” on gender dysphoria. A full bio is available here (which includes other resumee items like the facilitation of various “dialogues” between homosexuals and Christians). Last year, he wrote a long-form piece for Christianity Today condensing the highlights of his book Understanding Gender Dysphoria. A couple weeks ago, he appeared on their podcast to weigh in on the bathroom wars and Obama’s executive order.

Ordinarily, I don’t pay much attention to what Christianity Today is up to these days. They lost me a while ago. But since this recent interview with Yarhouse was highlighted in the newsletter for Summit Ministries, a solid conservative organization for whom I’ve been freelancing this past year, I was curious. As soon as I had clicked their link and realized Yarhouse was the guest, my heart sank, because I knew just what to expect. And it’s hardly “helpful,” “thoughtful,” “useful,” or any of the other milquetoast adjectives that have been used to describe Yarhouse’s work.

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Donald Trump and the Corruption of Captain America

Captain America Hail Hydra

The Internet exploded this past week over the release of a new Captain America comic that reveals him to be an undercover villain with Hydra. For readers who don’t keep up with all things Marvel, Hydra is a black ops Nazi off-shoot infiltrating high places in the U. S. government. So for Captain America, historic foe of the Nazis, to be Hydra…well, this counts as a Really Big Deal in Marvel world. Now, happily for those of us who ignore the comics and just enjoy the Captain America and Avengers movies, Disney most likely knows its demographic better than to follow suit. And given that Cap’s character arc in the Cinematic Universe was planned long before this comic hit the market, it seems safe to say that the Steve Rogers we know and love will remain unsullied.

But for the foreseeable future, Comic Book Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, is bad. What’s more, the writers have gone out of their way to assure readers that this is “not a clone, not an imposter, not mind control, not someone else acting through Steve. This really is Steve Rogers, Captain America himself.” Still, some have made a plausible case (language warning) that given the nature of comic books, even the newly villainous Cap won’t be sullied forever. What with Galactic Infinity Gems And Stuff floating around, even I could make up some day-saving nonsense involving a parallel reality. Who knows? It’s a stupid comic book, and the only rule of stupid comic books is that quite literally anything can happen.

So, why am I wasting time writing about a stupid comic book? Why should you waste your time reading what I have to write about a stupid comic book? Why does this matter?

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Why I’m Not Excited About Austin Petersen

As the numbing reality has set in that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, many conservatives are frantically casting about for a third choice. Google searches for libertarian party candidates have sky-rocketed, and one name in particular has been generating a lot of buzz: Austin Petersen. Like other libertarian candidates, Petersen had about zero name recognition a month ago. Now, none other than Glenn Beck has officially endorsed him (after having campaigned hard for Ted Cruz).

Historically, libertarian candidates haven’t excited social conservatives, and with good reason: The libertarian party platform is officially liberal on core issues such as abortion and marriage. Indeed, Gary Johnson, the last libertarian candidate, “supports a woman’s right to choose up to the point of viability” (translation: believes it should be legal to murder babies). So how is Petersen different? The answer is that he’s pro-life. Well, at least, more pro-life than the average libertarian.

That’s an important caveat, one that can be lost in the headlines.

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What Bono Doesn’t Get About Christian Art

Last month, The Message author Eugene Peterson filmed a short conversation with Irish rocker Bono to discuss the Psalms. I know, it sounds like a Christian satire headline, but yes, this really happened. For younger readers who may be drawing a blank on “The Message,” it’s a Bible paraphrase that uses self-consciously casual language/colloquialisms. To give a sample of what this sounds like, here’s Peterson’s paraphrase of a repeated refrain of David’s from the Psalms: “Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?”

The Message also softens and subtly re-glosses some Bible passages that are harsher on sexual sin, which is not a coincidence given Peterson’s leftist leanings. Similarly, while Bono often talks about his Christian faith and has made Christian news as a result, he’s planted his flag very firmly with the left on issues such as gay “marriage.”

All of this is to say that neither Bono nor Peterson is exactly the most authoritative voice when it comes to sound exegesis, which makes me kind of amused that this video created such a stir in Christian circles. I simply fail to see what special insight they’re supposed to be offering that makes their conversation newsworthy.

But, newsworthy it apparently was, and one comment of Bono’s in particular prompted a number of responses. Reflecting on the range of passions and emotions that the Psalms express, Bono criticized Christian music, by contrast, for its “dishonesty.” Instead of settling for worship tunes, he wished Christians would write songs about their bad marriages or social injustice (as Bono put it, “being p**sed off at the government” — somehow I doubt an anti-Obama song would count).

In response, a number of people, including singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson (no relation to Eugene), protested that there’s plenty of honest Christian art out there, it’s just not on the radio. This could be called push-back, but it’s not the kind of push-back I would give. I would be much more blunt. I would tell Bono that he doesn’t understand what makes great Christian art. And I say that as someone who is almost invariably bored by CCM Top 40 and finds my attention wandering during most worship songs.

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Dear Conservatives: Now Is the Appointed Time

Greetings, dear readers. This little blog hiatus turned out to be longer than I intended, but as it happens, the timing of this post seems rather apt when juxtaposed with the last one. As I write this, Ted Cruz has just suspended his presidential campaign, essentially guaranteeing Donald Trump the Republican nomination. Even a pessimist like myself must confess that as bad as I thought tonight would be, I didn’t think it would be this bad.

I could say that a lot has changed since my last post, and in one sense that would be accurate. But there is another sense in which nothing has changed. This night marks the end of many things. But for principled conservatives, it is only the beginning of the long, last battle.

It was one thing to say “Never Trump” when there was a slender but definite chance that Trump would actually fail. It’s another thing to keep saying it when half the people who were standing with you a second ago are now urging you to give in. When politicians you thought you could trust cross, one by one, to the other side. When firebrands you thought you could count on to speak the truth begin speaking for Trump instead. When perhaps some of your own friends and family scream at you for “dividing the party.” When they accuse you of handing the election to Hillary Clinton, even though they have only themselves to blame for finding the one candidate in history’s brightest Republican field that could give her a run for her money… as the worst candidate for President ever.

When all this happens, as it was already beginning to happen, it is not the time to concede. It is the time to stand. For what good is a declaration of principle when it is abandoned at the first sign of defeat? What good is a flag planted one minute only to be uprooted the next?

The Bible assures us that just when things seem to be at their darkest and most bleak, we can be certain of one thing: that it will get even darker and even bleaker. That doesn’t make a very good bumper sticker, but it’s the truth we must face in the coming days.

And yet, though the republic may fall, and our country be plunged into an abyss of corruption and despair, there is a remnant. There will always be a remnant. There will always be children to raise up, and gardens to tend, and flocks to feed. There will always be vows of holy love to take, and innocent lovers to take them. There will always be ageless saints with wrinkled hands folded in prayer, rocking wordlessly in the day’s last light.

Let us pray as they pray, as we are taught to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.