John Fea on How Evangelical Leaders Responded to Bill Clinton’s Impeachment Process

John Fea wrote a fascinating op-ed in the Washington Post in September. It dealt with how evangelical leaders responded to Bill Clinton’s impeachment and how some helped him. In the wake of tonight’s historic impeachment this blog wanted to push Fea’s article. 

“It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play.”

Lt Col Alexander Vindman

And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us

Luke 1:76-78 NLT 

United States Capitol at night.

Tonight for the third time in American history a President was impeached by the House of Representatives. A while back in the Washington Post, John Fea  a history professor from Messiah College on Pennsylvania who writes a solid blog and also authored “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” wrote a solid op-ed in the Washington Post. In the op-ed called, “How evangelical leaders surrounded Clinton during the last presidential impeachment process.” John Fea writes as to how evangelicals reacted to Donald Trump’s impeachment process and Bill Clinton’s. The double standard is quite obvious as you will read for yourself. Tonight after what has occurred this blog wanted to add John Fea’s article to this blog’s archives. Its especially appropriate. Oh and if you want to read a review of John Fea’s book you can do so in, “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Fear, Lust for Power and 81%. A Look at John Fea’s “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump


If Congress impeaches President Trump, his strongest defenders will be the white conservative evangelical leaders who voted for him and continue to support him.

A group I call the “court evangelicals” — ministers or religious nonprofit leaders who regularly visit the White House and urge Trump to promote a pro-life, religious liberty (as they understand it) and pro-Israel agenda — are expected to offer the president prayer, consolation and supportive tweets.

Franklin Graham, one of those court evangelicals, tweeted earlier this week: “I wish President Trump’s enemies would give it a rest. For two years all the American people heard was collusion. Not true. Then accusations seemed to come out of the woodwork by various women. Then all we heard was impeachment. Now it’s the whistleblower claim.”

Other court evangelicals have been silent about Trump’s abuse of power as revealed in his phone call with the president of Ukraine. Many of the evangelical leaders who support Trump have chosen instead to praise him for his recent U.N. remarks about religious liberty and his decision to skip a forum on climate change.

Last time around, Bill Clinton, the last president Congress impeached, didn’t have the kind of support among conservative evangelicals that Trump enjoys. The Christian right levied a constant barrage of attacks at Clinton, a pro-choice Democratic president who had been accused of sexual misconduct.

Graham, in a 1998 Wall Street Journal op-ed written in response to Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, skewered Americans for succumbing “to the notion that what a person does in private has little bearing on his public actions or job performance, even if he is the president of the United States.”

Other evangelicals, who praise Trump as God’s anointed instrument to reclaim America as a Christian nation, went even further in 1998. Gary Bauer, who is president of an organization called American Values that often promotes Trump’s policies, was president of the conservative Family Research Council during the Clinton impeachment. He chided Clinton for lying about the Lewinsky scandal: “Day after day, children hear adults saying that it doesn’t matter if the President lied.” Character, he preached, “is destiny.”

James Dobson, one of the architects of the modern Christian right, told his followers that he was “alarmed” at “the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior even after they suspected, and later knew, that he was lying.” Dobson, who was part of Trump’s evangelical advisory council during his campaign, claimed in 1998 that “you can’t run a family, let alone a country, without [character]. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world!”

In 1998, many mainline Protestants, Catholics and progressive evangelicals agreed with Graham, Bauer and Dobson. Bill Clinton’s deceit and moral failures damaged the country and, perhaps more importantly, damaged his relationship with his spouse, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea. As culture warriors, the Christian right reveled in his depravity.

As a Southern Baptist, Clinton knew that he had sinned and needed to repent. He knew he needed people in his life to hold him accountable and provide counsel as he worked toward the restoration of his fractured relationships and through the consequences of his deceit. He turned to different evangelical leaders to help him through this process. Tony Campolo, a sociology professor at evangelical Eastern University in the Philadelphia area and an ordained Baptist minister who shared Clinton’s commitment to social justice, met with the president on a regular basis during the impeachment crisis and its aftermath.

In a 2004 interview with PBS, Campolo said Clinton called him on Labor Day in 1998 and said, “I’ve made some terrible mistakes and I’ve messed up my life. Will you help me?” Campolo occasionally visited the White House in the early years of the Clinton presidency. He said their conversations usually revolved around ways to address the moral issues facing American society. But after the Lewinsky scandal, their regular Bible studies and prayer sessions focused much more on personal morality and spiritual renewal.

Gordon MacDonald, an evangelical megachurch pastor who had also served as the chairman of the board of the Christian nonprofit World Relief and president of the campus ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, had an idea what Clinton was going through.

He had fallen from his perch of evangelical leadership 11 years earlier after an extramarital affair. MacDonald described the period of repentance, confession and renewal in “Rebuilding Your Broken World.” Clinton claimed he read the book twice.

MacDonald told the ABC news show “20/20” that during an evening at the White House, he “spent several hours with a deeply broken man, a deeply sorrowful man. We don’t talk politics, we talk about this man and his deeply personal walk with God.” MacDonald also said he demanded Clinton confess his sins and “avoid all excuses and rationalizations” for his behavior.

In his memoir, Clinton specifically mentions Campolo and MacDonald as two of three pastors he asked to counsel him for at least once a month for an indefinite period. (The third pastor was Philip Wogaman, a Methodist.)

Like the Old Testament prophet Nathan who confronted King David for committing adultery with Bathsheba, Campolo and MacDonald entered the president’s “court” as pastors — Christian leaders charged with the task of calling out sin and facilitating spiritual healing.

It’s hard to imagine something similar happening should Congress impeach Trump. The evangelical leaders he surrounds himself with are flatterers who are not likely to confront the president’s sin. They need Trump to continue to deliver on their agenda. I imagine most of them will affirm Trump’s belief that he has “done nothing wrong” and perhaps offer a lesson about the demonic forces seeking to undermine his presidency.

But even if the court evangelicals speak truth to power by confronting Trump for his failures of character, their words would probably fall on deaf ears. Unlike Clinton, who acknowledged his life was a mess and cried out for spiritual help, Trump, for all the lip service he pays to God, has denied any need of forgiveness in his life.

 

8 thoughts on “John Fea on How Evangelical Leaders Responded to Bill Clinton’s Impeachment Process

  1. Dude (or anyone wanting to set this record straight)…what crime did Trump commit? Clinton clearly lied about getting a BJ, and the liberals never got over it. So what crime has Trump done that we can look back 20 years from now and say “yeah, that’s like the time Bill Clinton lied about coercing a subordinate woman employee intern into providing sexual favors for him, much like what he was accused of many years prior to other victims that started the 4 year investigation into his shady business dealings and sexual exploits leading to his impeachment”. I’m just curious. Someone please clue me in!

    Like

    • Ronary..with an email address of kimjongil@gmail.com. lts clear you’re here to troll. The testimony of State Dept employees and even his own appointees reveal the scope of corruption. I wonder what would happen and how Republicans would react if the Ministry of State Security in China offered to help Democrats win.

      Like

      • Nah man, not a troll. First comment thread I read here was trying to dox people, which tells me “be extra careful with this crew”. I just comment on what I disagree on, a troll would be what Russia did, which brings me to your question…

        Russia didn’t help Trump win. At least directly, and that’s clear if you people actually read reports and investigations instead of regurgitating BOLMs (blogs-of-like-minds). I’ll educate you and your readers though: Russia was only out to sow discord on social media, with the end goal to divide out country and wreak havoc on our way of life. They unfortunately were fairly successful because the left is so chock full of idiots that you can’t help yourselves other than to spew hate for those that oppose your views. We can’t live in a normal society these days because people with childlike views of the world eat up what they’re fed from subversive sources like Russia. Russia knew this and took full advantage. They didn’t care who won, the election meddling was a social media campaign that continues to manifest itself through morons thinking they colluded with Trump and fixed election machines. People like your commenters here fall for it hand over fist, exactly as the Russians wanted.

        As far as China etc etc, until you people give me anything, ANYTHING substantial beyond a typica liberal “JUST GOOGLE IT” response, I give up. Show the evidence of wrong doing because I not only watch the news, I read actual documents referenced and follow boring straight to the point coverage like CSPAN to formulate my opinions. I’m convinced you people are nuts at this point because all I get is “ha ha, just look it up, the proof is all over” to my questions…….yet, it’s not. Serious question, not trolling at all: what crime did DJT commit that is worthy of office removal, and what official investigative report can you point me to outlining such charges. I’ll pre-emptively answer the easy response to my question: what specific statue of criminal law do the articles of impeachment reference.

        Here’s my prediction for $64,000: neither you, nor your lefty readers, can provide anything other than silence, a dismissal of me for not reading enough MSBC, or attacking me personally as a troll. Prove me wrong.

        AND ITS RONERY NOT RONARY. Come on Eegal, at least spell my name right!

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  2. religious liberty (as they understand it)

    Shouldn’t that be “religious liberty (for themselves and themselves alone)”?

    AKA
    “Are they God’s Chosen? Are they God’s Chosen?”
    — Gordon Dickson, “Soldier, Ask Not” (1964 Hugo Award), pivotal flashback scene

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can always tell when people are detached from reality by how they create their own alternate reality and then proceed to be outraged by it.

      ItS tHE EvaNGeLIKaLz!

      The “muh evangelicals” outrage only began after player 2 (Trump) had entered the game which says all it needs to say about being manufactured bullshit.

      Like

      • You mean alternate reality like “TRUMP IS LOOOORD! THE TWEETS OF A GOD, NOT OF A MAN!”?

        In just this past week, I have had to endure lectures of Trump’s Great Genius in pulling out of Syria (entirely to flush ISIS out of hiding so they could be destroyed — “something completely ignored by the Librul Media”) and Trump’s March to Triumph via Impeachment (sticking it to all the Screaming LIbrul Snowflakes who thought “Impeachment” meant that Hillary would become Prez). Add to this the likes of King Cyrus/Trump Prayer Coins, and there’s enough Alternative Facts and Alternative Reality to go around.

        What is the cost of lies? Its not that we will mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that, if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories?
        — HBO’s Chernobyl opening soliloquy

        Like

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