Is Rev. Robert Jeffress Going to Heaven?

One of the truths of Christianity that shined so brightly as the Reformation unfolded is that Christians can backslide. If they do not work on their faith, they can slide away from the faith. “Once saved, always saved,” to be sure, but saying that cheapens it. Grace is not cheap. It cost Jesus his life. And if we do not work in our sanctification, maybe we never were justified at all. And if we were, but we slide backwards, what will the almighty God do to pull us to him.

We should keep an eye on Robert Jeffress to find out one way or the other.

Jeffress has been worshiping at the altar of Trump lately. He’s put aside the holy and Godly for a seat not at the Lord’s table, but at Trump’s. And as he gets rewarded mightily with access, one need not take too deep a reading of Psalm 73 to worry for him and which side of salvation he is on. The latest example is an exchange with Ben Sasse.

Jeffress had Sean Hannity at his church Sunday morning. Jeffress was going to deliver a special message, “America at a Crossroads.” He seems to be peddling a heretical brand of Christianity that suggests we can have Heaven on earth when, in reality, we are strangers passing through.

Ben Sasse wisely replied quoting Jesus, who said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Sasse then noted that perhaps the Sabbath could be free of politics. On the Sabbath, Jeffress decided to punch back. He couldn’t wait till Monday. And how did he attack?

He attacked Ben Sasse for not doing anything to pass the House’s 20 week abortion ban and, naturally, “spending your time criticizing POTUS.”

That’s a heck of an attack for a pastor to make. The prophets of old spent their time admonishing the kings to seek first the kingdom and Jesus himself defied the leaders of his day to advance God’s kingdom.

But Jeffress, on the Sabbath, wants to admonish a Senator for putting God’s kingdom first instead of Donald Trump’s.

By the way, Ben Sasse is one of the sponsors of the twenty week abortion ban. Robert Jeffress is not.

Given Jeffress’ behavior this past year, you and I should both add him to our prayer lists. He seems more committed to Trump’s America, than Jesus’s eternity.

Chillax, Conservatives – Trump Isn’t Threatening the First Amendment

One of the things I love about the conservative movement is its intellectual honesty and principled consistency.  This is what sets conservatism apart from the GOP, which seems more than content to let progressives run the show in Washington even when Republicans control Congress and the White House.  It’s also the reason that conservative commentators feel freer to level criticism at Republican candidates and the GOP leadership when they believe its warranted.  Ever wonder why there was a serious Never Trump effort among many conservatives, while the Democrat establishment just fell in line behind Hillary Clinton?  It’s because they couldn’t reconcile supporting Trump with upholding their conservative beliefs.  Had the Democrat Party been half as honest, they would have nominated Bernie Sanders.  Instead, they picked the Wall Street crony who put her principles up for sale to the highest bidder.

Obviously, Never Trump didn’t work out.  Fortunately, for the country, neither did Hillary Clinton–but what we have now is a presidency that has exposed some of the deep fault lines within conservatism.  Some leading voices–such as Bill Kristol, who once tweeted that he preferred an unelected Deep State to an elected Trump state–have doubled down on their opposition, and continue to insist that the president can do no right.  Still others–Sean Hannity, with his hell-or-high-water defense of the Trump agenda, comes to mind–seem to think that the president can do no wrong.  The debate rages on, day in and day out, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  Far from showing weakness, however, it really demonstrates the intellectual vitality of the conservative movement.

So when Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he took the mainstream media to task for their coverage of his administration, conservatives naturally stood up and paid close attention.  And as is his wont, the president ignited a firestorm when he complained that NBC had falsely reported his demand for a ten-fold increase in America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons:

No, I never discussed increasing it. I want it in perfect shape. That was just fake news by NBC, which gives a lot of fake news, lately.  No, I never discuss — I think somebody said I want ten times the nuclear weapons that we have right now. Right now, we have so many nuclear weapons. I want them in perfect condition, perfect shape. That’s the only thing I’ve ever discussed.General Mattis put out a statement, or is putting out a statement, saying that that was fake news — that it was just mentioned that way. And it’s, frankly, disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.No, I want to have absolutely perfectly maintained — which we are in the process of doing — nuclear force. But when they said I want ten times what we have right now, it’s totally unnecessary. Believe me. Because I know what we have right now.

Guess which part of the quote the media highlighted?

It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.

Of course, it didn’t help much when the president tweeted later:

So the narrative quickly became, “Donald Trump is attacking the First Amendment!”  What’s more, a lot of conservatives picked up that ball and ran with it.  Senator Ben Sasse, a guy who walks the walk better than almost everyone else in Washington, made his displeasure with the president’s remarks crystal clear:

Kat Timpf from National Review also typifies the response from the right, saying in her column today:

Mr. President: The immense freedom that this country grants to its press is not “disgusting”; it’s beautiful. One of the best things about this country is that our leaders have absolutely no say in our criticism of them, because it’s that freedom that keeps us free. Think about it: Here I am, writing a column criticizing the president, and yet I’m not going to get my head chopped off by the Gestapo! Other countries don’t have that; we do have that, and I’ll never, ever accept its being even slightly diminished . . . and you shouldn’t, either.

Timpf also acknowledges that the press do have a vendetta against Trump and that their reporting on his administration has been riddled with inaccuracies and bias–but in terms of the First Amendment, none of that matters.  And she’s absolutely correct about that.  A free press also means that they are also free to lie, cheat and propagandize as they see fit, without fear of government interference.  When conservatives talk about freedom being messy, this is a prime example–and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But when the media use their positions to advance an agenda other than the truth, the public they are supposed to serve gets the short shrift.  Or, as Bill O’Reilly put it:

In this, O’Reilly is also correct.  Rights under the Constitution may be absolute, but they do not come without responsibility.  The news media, when they push a narrative instead of the facts, are not fulfilling their responsibilities to the public–which is a complete abuse of their rights.  Pointing that out does not in any way put one at odds with the First Amendment.

All that being said, however, it seems to me that the storm of criticism is really much ado about nothing–because, as the media does so often, a relevant portion of Trump’s remarks is not being reported.  In a follow up question from the same press conference, a reporter asks the president pointedly:

Mr. President, do you think there should be limits on what the press should write?

Donald J. Trump:  No, the press should speak more honestly. I mean, I’ve seen tremendously dishonest press. It’s not even a question of distortion, like the question that was just asked before about ten times the nuclear capability. I know the capability that we have, believe me, and it is awesome. It is massive.And so when they make up stories like that, that’s just made up. And the generals will tell you that. And then they have their sources that don’t exist. In my opinion, they don’t exist. They make up the sources. There are no sources.

In this context, a more fair reading of his “frankly” comments would imply that he thought it a shame that the news media allowed their reporters to write blatantly false stories.  It would have been far better if he had expressed it that way, because Trump knows very well that the media will report everything he says in the worst possible light.  Conservative commentators, though, should know better than to advance the media narrative without question.

Donald Trump is a blunt instrument, and he inflicts real damage because of that.  He’s not subtle in the way he expresses himself, and he often embarrasses his office when he goes off-script and says whatever pops in his head.  But he’s also not wrong to point out how the media ill serve the public–and it’s not like anyone else in the GOP has the stones to do it.  If that means he breaks some of the delicate figurines in the china shop with his bluster, I say it’s worth the price.

Sasse Responds To Trump’s Attacks On First Amendment

Ben Sasse’s last name has a silent “e,” but Twitter users can be forgiven for thinking the Nebraska Republican’s name is pronounced “sassy.” The adjective is an accurate description of the Sasse on the popular social media platform. Sasse most recently turned his sharp retorts toward President Trump after the president launched into what can only be described as a series of attacks on the First Amendment freedom of the press.

While attacking “fake news” has proven a popular shtick for the president, he reached a new level on Tuesday with a tweet that suggested that NBC News’ license should be “challenged” on the basis of their report that Trump had said that he wanted to increase the US nuclear weapons arsenal by a factor of 10 in a July meeting. The meeting prompted Secretary of State Tillerson to allegedly call the president a “f—ing moron.”

On a day when the sitting president of the United States directly attacked the First Amendment, the response from Republican officials was underwhelming. While Republicans lined up to denounce NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, it was extremely difficult to find anyone in the GOP who was willing to go on record criticizing Trump’s statements. A piece in The Hill describing the backlash fails to cite a single sitting Republican. In fact, there seemed to be only one Republican responding to the president’s shocking remarks, the sassy Sasse.

It has only been a few weeks since Sasse wowed the non-alternative-right with his Twitter takedown of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. The viral series of tweets brought adulation from traditional conservatives who felt left behind by the new Republican Party and the lack of condemnation for race-baiters like Spencer, who was an organizer of the riotous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Given his history of using Twitter to communicate a strong conservative and pro-freedom message effectively, it should be no surprise that Sasse was the one to put the president’s remarks into constitutional perspective.

“Mr. President,” Sasse tweeted, “Are you recanting of the Oath you took on Jan. 20 to preserve, protect, and defend the 1st Amendment?”

 

[Mic drop.]

The tweet also contained a somewhat longer statement released by Senator Sasse. The full statement reads, “Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?”

Trump did not respond directly to Sasse, but later in the day, the president doubled down on his attack on the freedom of the press, saying in a White House press conference, “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it.”

Another tweet from the president on Tuesday night was even more specific. “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” the man sworn to defend the Constitution said.

 

As a refresher, the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” The Bill of Rights makes no exception for “fake news,” biased reporting or even outright lies.

FCC rules do “prohibit holders of broadcast licenses from broadcasting false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if the licensee knows the information is false; and the licensee knows beforehand that broadcasting the information will cause substantial ‘public harm.’” Stories critical of President Trump would not fall under this category.

As the president becomes increasingly bold in his attacks on the First Amendment, the big question for conservatives is where the other defenders of the Constitution are. The silence from other Republicans is deafening.

Ben Sasse Destroys Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer On Twitter

From time to time, there is a Twitter takedown that is worth repeating and sharing with the rest of the world. When the takedown in question is the utter rhetorical annihilation of an alt-right icon like Richard Spencer, the thrashing is even more delicious.

Richard Spencer, the recipient of the beat-down, is a white supremacist and one of the organizers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. that turned into a full-blown riot in August. Spencer was previously seen a few weeks after the 2016 election leading alt-right supporters in a Nazi salute and chanting, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” Suffice it to say that Richard Spencer is far out of the conservative mainstream.

In the other corner is Ben Sasse, the junior Republican senator from Nebraska. In three years in the Senate, Sasse has quickly emerged as a leading conservative thinker and outspoken defender of freedom and the Constitution.

The brouhaha started when Spencer called out “goober conservatives” on Twitter in a tweet that defended Russia from charges that it meddled in the 2016 campaign. So, sit back, make some popcorn, and enjoy Ben Sasse’s eloquent and impassioned response.

 

Sasse understands what the protesters on the left and the alt-right do not. That the best answer to offensive and radical speech is more speech. Good ideas, not violent force, should be used to destroy bad ideas.

Jim Acosta Could Learn A Thing or Two From Ben Sasse




The Statue of Liberty has had a busy couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago there was the much-discussed debate between Stephen Miller and CNN’s Jim Acosta. The latter, in a fit of unprofessional outrage, exposed his ignorance of history by invoking “The New Colossus” (otherwise known as the Statue of Liberty poem) in defense of a liberal immigration policy.

“The Statue of Liberty says ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer,” Acosta argued from his chair in the White House Briefing Room.



As was pointed out here and elsewhere, the construction of the Statue of Liberty had nothing to do with immigration, and “The New Colossus” was added to the statue decades later. Moreover, poetry doesn’t set immigration policy. The poem shouldn’t set immigration policy any more than the legend of Johnny Appleseed should determine agricultural policy.

Perhaps lamenting the politicization of Lady Liberty, Ben Sasse seized the opportunity to produce a short video on some true history surrounding the monument. Friday was the 128th anniversary of Americans raising $100,000 dollars to build the pedestal on which the Statute of Liberty stands. Like most things Sasse produces, it is an inspirational and unifying lesson about America.

 

Raising such a massive amount of money “demonstrates the power of volunteerism, which is the foundation of our freedom,” Sasse says. It wasn’t the federal government, a SPLOST, or a couple rich donors who paid for the pedestal, but tens of thousands of ordinary Americans voluntarily giving their hard earned money to a worthy cause.

As long as she stands, Lady Liberty rests “on volunteerism, on love, [and] on persuasion. Not force. That’s not the center of freedom.”

“As we think about the future of freedom in this nation,” Sasse concludes, “may the legend of the Statute of Liberty inspire us today to be united in generosity and support no matter how small our ability or our individual contributions might be.”

It’s a wonderful story, and it’s beautifully told by Sasse. The senator’s story, perhaps inadvertently, raises an actual connection between the Statue of Liberty and immigration.

Much of the history Sasse recounts centers around Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of the New York World who spearheaded the effort to raise the money.

Before growing his media empire and lending his name to the most prestigious award in journalism, music, and literature, Pulitzer was a Hungarian immigrant. He came from a successful family who provided him with a superior education, but Pulitzer sought opportunity in America after his father’s bankruptcy left his family in poverty. Arriving in Boston at the age of 17, he immediately joined the Union Army. He fought in a unit of mostly German immigrants under General Sheridan. After the war Pulitzer became an American citizen and sought opportunity in the West. In St. Louis he would begin to build his media empire.

Pulitzer is one of the great immigration success stories Americans have long admired. Both sides of the immigration debate could appropriate Pulitzer to serve their own ideological ends. Liberals could hold him up as an example of how mass immigration has served the country well. Pulitzer did not learn English until he’d been in the country a few years. Conservatives could point out that Pulitzer is a case study in why we should favor immigrants from Western countries who have the background and education that would lend to their success and assimilation in America.

What both sides should strive for, however, is to base their arguments on actual history. Remember the purpose of the Statute of Liberty. Remember Lady Liberty’s pedestal. Remember the story of Joseph Pulitzer. Remember “The New Colossus”.

Remember that history can inform, challenge, and inspire us as we struggle with the issues of the day.

Remember some sources, like a biased journalist or a Facebook meme, will twist history to serve their own emotional and ideological ends.

As Harry Truman once said, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”

Matthew Nussbaum of Politico Provides Yet Another Example of the Press Undermining Its Own Credibility

I do not know Matthew Nussbaum, but according to Twitter he is a White House reporter for Politico. Last night on Twitter, I noted that the national political press is itself complicit in undermining its freedoms and privileges. The press has given President Trump and others ample evidence of its biases and allowed others to make the case the press is not objective, but agenda driven.

Nussbaum put up two tweets that are relevant to this:

and then this one:

Does he not know how the Senate and the process works? Does he not know that the majority of votes in the Senate are not really partisan votes? Does he not understand that Ben Sasse is more conservative than those other Senators and his votes are a reflection of his conservatism? Notice the “as Trump wants him to” bit. Does he presume Sasse, a man who refused to endorse or support the President right up through the election is suddenly a Trump yes man in the Senate? Has he considered Sasse actually has his own convictions or is reflecting voter wishes? You would not think Nussbaum has considered those from his tweets.

Ben Sasse voting to name a post office really is not aligning himself with President Trump. But if Ben Sasse votes to name a post office and the President signs it into law, that’s data going towards Nussbaum’s 93.6%. Ben Sasse standing up to the President on Venezuela, Jeff Sessions, the budget, etc. sets him apart. Likewise, I would assume Nussbaum would realize that a lot of the President’s agenda that Sasse and other Republicans are opposed to would never even make it to a vote on the Senate floor.

Then there are the nominations, that also go to that 93.6% number. Did Nussbaum really expect Sasse to vote against Gorsuch or other nominees? And let’s use McCain as a comparison. Part of the reason Nussbaum can use people like McCain against Sasse is because McCain is actually more moderate than Sasse and opposed repealing Obamacare. Yes, that means McCain stood up to the President, but then both Sasse and McCain promised to repeal Obamacare and one of them lied to their voters. Hint: it wasn’t Sasse.

What Matthew Nussbaum’s tweets reveal is that he does not know as much about the political process as he might claim and that he also, as a White House reporter covering the President, lacks respect for Sasse for not standing up to the President he covers. At least I think that is the most obvious interpretation of his tweets.

That Matthew Nussbaum, who provides national political coverage of the White House for a reputable news organization, would tweet those two things hints at both his biases and his obliviousness to Washington’s processes. It suggests an open liberal bias that taints his coverage. He ignores that Sasse is standing up to the President consistently on big issues that define a Presidency.

He is providing President Trump ample ammunition with which to further attack the press as political and motivated by partisan politics. He has allowed others the ammunition to attack the press as oblivious.

I really am increasingly convinced Twitter is not a good thing for supposedly objective reporters to participate in unless they can truly figure out how to demonstrate their objectivity.

Senate Republicans Should Stop Making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good

Whenever conservatives oppose an establishment Republican measure, the establishment always replies that conservatives are making the perfect the enemy of the good. But now the GOP establishment is doing that. Instead, they should stand with President Trump and do the right thing — repeal Obamacare now, effective January 1, 2018, and spend August working on a replacement.

The Senate GOP is bogged down on a variety of competing proposals for their Obamacare replacement, none of which actually repeal Obamacare. Repealing Obamacare was their core promise. In being bogged down in the details, the odds are the GOP will not actually do anything.

The easiest, most logical solution would be to repeal Obamacare now. Then the GOP can work out a new plan through the next few months. They will have a ticking clock to January, which will necessitate action. They will be able to bring Democrats to the table and, should the Democrats refuse, blast them for their unwillingness to finally do what Barack Obama would not do — come up with a bipartisan solution.

Likewise, repealing Obamacare would excite and energize the GOP base. The party leaders have promised repeatedly to repeal Obamacare and their present plan does not do that. Frankly, the GOP could repeal Obamacare tomorrow and put it back in place on Monday and most of the base would seal clap that they kept their promise. Heck, the GOP could create a Singaporian or Swiss style healthcare regime and it would still be more free market than their present proposal.

This ongoing desire to get the perfect repeal plan is preventing the GOP from doing anything else. There is no wall. There is no tax reform. There is nothing to advance President Trump’s agenda.

The President is right. The GOP should repeal now and replace later. They should stop making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Ben Sasse Brilliantly Weighs In On Trump-Vs.-The-Press

Sometimes I wonder if Ben Sasse tires of being the smartest guy in the room. The Republican Senator from Nebraska always seems to have the right things to say and delivers it in just the right way.

This time, Sasse has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s ongoing war with the media. He appeared on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union to discuss Trump’s attacks on various elements in the media. He shared his thought that the president’s words and actions damage America’s view of a free press:

“I mean there’s an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust,” Sasse told [Tapper].

He went on to remind viewers that our First Amendment freedoms are interdependent:

“The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment. And you don’t get to separate the freedoms that are in there,” he told Tapper.

“And you don’t have religion without assembly. You don’t have speech without press. We all need to celebrate all five of those freedoms, because that’s how the ‘e pluribus unum’ stuff works,” Sasse continued.

Brilliant, once again! It’s easy (and presumably fun) for Trump to go after “fake news” and pick at the low hanging fruit of the media, but when he lobs attacks on those who are doing their job well or makes wholesale digs at the press in general, he’s only making himself look bad.

As my colleague Susan Wright said over at Red State:

The majority of mainstream media is depressingly left-leaning. And yes, it’s understandable that some in the viewing public may have reached their limit with being talked down to by some of the liberal elites that make up America’s press rooms. The public has options, however. They can change the channel. They can even rant among themselves, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

For a Republican president, just to take the job is to put themselves in the line of fire. The difference, however, is that they know it ahead of time, and their emotional state is on firm enough ground that they can stand above the fray. They don’t get down in the muck with the leftist media. They just burrow into their work and be about the business of governing.

But Donald Trump is different. He gives them fodder for their abject hatred of him, and it doesn’t seem to occur to him that every second of coverage of one of his ridiculous anti-media tweets is a second of coverage that doesn’t look at what his administration is actually accomplishing. This isn’t the kind of Donald-Trump-is-different that made him attractive as a candidate.

I wish I could get what people are saying when they say that Trump doesn’t take any crap, and that’s why he won the election. There’s a difference between not taking crap – and I’ll admit that I love when he gives back what the left dishes out – and being a jerk.

Maybe one day Trump will learn the difference between the tweets that make him look bad and the tweets that highlight the good things he and his administration are getting done. When he does, a lot of conservatives will breath much more easily.