The Rushmore Report – Is Facebook Really Biased?

After two days of Congressional hearings with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, American perceptions of the power of social media became clear. After 2012, Democrats and the media celebrated President Obama’s Facebook campaign strategy. But in 2016, with the Donald Trump election, Facebook became a malignant ghetto of “fake news” and inappropriate election manipulation.

Congress is right to ask how Facebook’s massive popularity could lead to clear violations of privacy and manipulation of our political process. But there is more to discuss. Questions of bias and censorship demand answers, despite the reticence to seek those answers from the political left.

The grilling by Republican senators was classic. Ben Sasse (Nebraska) asked Zuckerberg how he defines “hate speech” (which Facebook pretends to ban), noting that many young people find the First Amendment to allow for “hate speech.” Zuckerberg offered no legitimate response.

Ted Cruz (Texas) zeroed in on the hard evidence of Facebook demonstrating a “pervasive pattern of political bias,” citing Facebook’s actions to keep major conservative stories off its “trending” topics for readers. As evidence, Cruz pointed to Facebook’s shutting down of the “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” page. Two dozen Catholic pages have been blocked, as well.

To his credit, Zuckerberg replied, “I understand where the concern is coming from because Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place.” Just acknowledging that reality sends shock waves down the spines of Democratic legislators, who predictably avoided the subject of bias in their softball questions.

Cruz was relentless in his questions. He asked if Zuckerberg had ever heard of a Planned Parenthood page being taken down. No. How about a MoveOn.org page? Nope. Any Democratic candidates’ pages? No, again.

Bias complaints from the right usually fail to acknowledge the balance provided by such outlets as Fox News. But as a monopoly, left-leaning Facebook has no competition, which is why it is important that the social media giant play things down the middle in an apolitical way – or at least openly admit who they really are.

The Rushmore Report – Awesome Christian Quotes by U.S. Presidents

Historians disagree on how “Christian” America was and is. One thing is for sure. Throughout our history, our presidents have often stood on biblical principles. You don’t have to take my word for it. Consider some of these direct quotes from some of our most popular leaders. Their words speak for themselves.

George Washington – “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”

John Adams – “We recognize no sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”

John Quincy Adams – “The Bible is the first and almost the only book deserving of universal attention.”

James Monroe – “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.”

Andrew Jackson – “My most fervent prayer is that the Almighty will overrule all my intentions and actions.”

Abraham Lincoln – “I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book upon reason that you can, and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man.”

Grover Cleveland – “All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ result in the purest patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship.”

Theodore Roosevelt – “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”

Calvin Coolidge – “The foundation of our country is the Word of God.”

Herbert Hoover – “The study of the Bible is a post-graduate course in the richest library of human experience.”

John F. Kennedy – “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

Ronald Reagan – “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

George H. W. Bush – “We asked for God’s help; and now, in this shining outcome, in this magnificent triumph of good over evil, we should thank God.”

George W. Bush – “Each day millions of our citizens approach our Maker on bended knee, seeking his grace and giving thanks for the many blessings he bestows upon us.”

The Rushmore Report – How Religious Are Liberal Senators?

A Democratic member of Congress has urged progressives in politics to “bring their faith to work” and be more open about their religious beliefs. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma were recent guests on the Church Politics podcast, where they shared their views on politics and religion.

Coons explained that he was concerned that many Christians in the progressive movement were not being open about their beliefs. “I am concerned, frankly, that more and more Democrats feel embarrassed about or uncomfortable with sharing anything about their faith and how it connects to their service,” said Coons.

He continued, “Some of the most progressive members of the Senate, members I’m very close to, don’t ever talk about how it was their experience of faith, when they were children, that motivated them to get into public service and politics in the first place.”

Coons added that he thought “many of their constituents would be very surprised to hear their deeply held religious views and how in particular the radical justice that the Gospel focuses on is really what motivated them to be involved in service in the first place.”

Coons’ comments came in response to a report released last July by Pew’s U.S. Politics & Policy department, which found that 36 percent of Democrats in general and 44 percent self-identified liberal Democrats believe that churches’ impact on society is negative.

“Liberal Democrats are about as likely to say the impact of churches and religious organizations is negative (44%) as they are to say it is positive (40%). By two-to-one (58% to 29%), more conservative and moderate Democrats say churches have a positive, rather than negative effect on the country,” noted Pew in their 2017 report.

The report also found that “majorities of both conservative Republicans and Republican leaners (75%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (68%) say churches and religious organizations have a positive impact.”

The podcast interviewed Coons and Lankford not long after the two senators were announced as being the co-chairs for the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast, the annual event in Washington, D.C. that features a large number of prominent political and faith leaders from across the world.

The National Prayer Breakfast event is derived from weekly prayer meetings that members of Congress hold.

Lankford talked about the value of those weekly prayer breakfasts on the podcast, saying that they allow for building relationships across partisan borders.

“It’s a very private time and it’s a time that’s reserved just for senators. So there’s no other staff there. There’s no outside entity. It’s just senators and former senators that have the opportunity to be able to sit down and be able to talk about how we are really doing personally,” explained Lankford.

“That does change the dynamic of the conversations. When you get to know someone, their background, what drives them, who they are as a person, you get to know more about their family, and it does affect you. It is very easy in normal political life to demonize an individual based on how they vote and you just try to create a persona that’s not real. This is trying to be able to move beyond the persona.”

About the Author

Michael Gryboski writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – How Billy Graham Changed My Life

Billy Graham was, with C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s most influential figures in evangelicalism. I never had the honor of meeting Lewis, but I did know Billy, who died last week at 99. He changed my life.

I first met him on my grandmother’s porch in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1985. In her 80s, she was frail but sharp. They sat together and Billy held her hand while talking about the Bible. Later she described it as one of the most peaceful days of her life.

Soon after, I had my own personal encounter with Billy. As I wrote in Decision Points, he asked me to go for a walk with him around Walker’s Point. I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind. He asked about my life in Texas. I talked to him about Laura and our little girls.

Then I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for awhile – that reading the Bible might help make me a better person. He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: one should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace. It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick.

Shortly after we got back to Texas, a package from Billy arrived. It was a copy of the Living Bible. He had inscribed it and included a reference to Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach. His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk – and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit. That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years.

I was also fortunate to witness Billy’s remarkable capacity to minister to everyone he met. When I was governor of Texas, I sat behind Billy at one of his crusades in San Antonio. His powerful message of God’s love moved people to tears and motivated hundreds to come forward to commit themselves to Christ. I remember thinking about all the crusades Billy had led over the years around the world, and his capacity to open up hearts to Jesus. This good man was truly a shepherd of the Lord.

Perhaps his most meaningful service came on September 14, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, I asked Billy to lead the ecumenical service at Washington National Cathedral. It was no easy task. America was on bended knee – frightened, angry, uncertain. As only Billy Graham could, he helped us feel God’s arms wrapped around our mourning country.

“We come together today,” he began, “to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that he is ‘the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.'” God comforted a nation that day through a very special servant.

In a difficult moment, Billy reminded me – and all of us – where we can find strength. And he helped us start to heal by offering three lessons: the mystery and reality of evil, our need for each other, and hope for the present and future. “As a Christian,” Graham said at the 9/11 service, “I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come.”

A final story: One night while dad was away on a trip during his presidency, mother and I had dinner at the White House. Eventually we got to talking about religion and who gets to go to heaven. I made the point that the New Testament says clearly that to get to heaven, one must believe in Christ. Mother asked about the devout who don’t believe in Jesus but do God’s work by serving others. She then took advantage of one of the benefits of being first lady. She picked up the phone and asked the White House operator to call Reverend Graham.

It wasn’t long before his reassuring Southern voice was on the line. He told us, as I recall, “Barbara and George, I believe what is written in the New Testament. But don’t play God. He decides who goes to heaven, not you.” Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.

Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart. We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loved so much and served so well.

About the Author

George W. Bush served as the 43rd President of the United States.

The Rushmore Report: What Marco Rubio Is Doing that Is Driving His Critics Nuts

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has long confounded his critics. He is an unabashed conservative in the ultimate swing state. He is pro-immigration, but in a way that supports border security. His star shines brightest among young Republicans who are likely to dominate the national stage for the next 20 years. But there is one thing Senator Rubio keeps doing that is driving his critics nuts.

Marco Rubio has a Twitter page, and he knows how to use it. Every day, he uses this platform to promote Biblical principles and family values. Specifically, he tweets verses from Scripture, mostly Proverbs. And the people with nothing better to do – at the Freedom From Religion Foundation – are demanding that he stop.

While other politicians might respond politically, that is not Rubio’s style. He insists, “I’ll continue to do it. If they don’t like it they don’t have to follow me on Twitter.” He continued, “Faith is the single biggest influence on my life, and it’s a positive influence.”

In late August, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, America’s largest atheist organization, charged that Rubio is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Attorney Andrew L. Seidel wrote, “It appears that you began tweeting the Bible in mid-May and have been doing so regularly ever since. This is not an errant Bible verse or two, but more than 60 Bible verses in three months. That’s enough verses to tweet the entire Book of Jude twice.”

A trained lawyer himself, Rubio has only continued the practice in the face of such criticism. He recently posted Proverbs 18:2, which says, “Fools take no delight in understanding, but only in displaying what they think.” That didn’t go over particularly well with his critics.

In July, Politico posted an op-ed suggesting that Rubio only tweets the “Republican” parts of the Bible. Rubio’s response was classic. He tweeted, “Proverbs is the Republican part of the Bible? I didn’t know that Solomon had yet joined the Republican Party when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs.”

Will Senator Rubio continue to uphold Scripture and tweet Bible verses? Yes. And will the nutwings at the Freedom From Religion Foundation continue to whine about it? Of course they will. After all, what could be more offensive than quoting the timeless words of the wisdom of Solomon, that great old Republican King of Israel?

The Rushmore Report: Attacks on Religious Liberty in U.S. Up 133% in Five Years

A new report by a prominent religious liberty advocacy organization claims that there has been a 133 percent increase in domestic “attacks on religious liberty” in the past five years and about a 15 percent increase in attacks on religious liberty in the last year. The First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group, released its annual report, Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America.

The report highlights cases reported in the last few years in which Americans have had their religious liberty rights infringed or “attacked” in one way or another – either in the public arena, military, schools, or even within church walls.

The report highlighted a number of cases, such as one involving a woman who was ordered to stop praying in her home by police officers, another involving a high school football coach punished for praying at midfield, and that of a military veteran who was ejected from a military retirement ceremony for referring to “God” in his speech.

The First Liberty report comes after the social conservative advocacy group Family Research Council released a report in June that stated that there has been a 76 percent increase in religious freedom violations and a 114 percent surge in documented hostility toward Christian views on marriage and sexuality over the last three years.

About the Author

Samuel Smith writes for The Christian Post. He can be followed on Twitter: @lamSamSmith.

The Rushmore Report: Which Presidents Were the Most Religious?

Consistency is something of an American tradition – at least as far as our presidents are concerned. Forty-four individuals have served as Commander-in-Chief. (Grover Cleveland held two non-consecutive terms.) They came from 18 states, have all been male, and almost all claimed to be Christians. Only three were religiously unaffiliated: Jefferson, Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson. But who have been our most religious presidents?

Six stand out.

Jimmy Carter

Famous for being a Baptist Sunday School teacher, Carter is recognized as the first “born again” president. Prior to serving, Carter took a missionary journey in which he knocked on strangers’ doors and said, “I’m Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer, and I’m here to talk to you about Jesus Christ.” Carter read the Bible and prayed daily throughout his time in office, yet he would ultimately be rejected by the emerging evangelical right.

George W. Bush

This second-generation president was one of the most comfortable when it came to talking about his faith, as he courted religious leaders, and used overtly religious language to justify policy decisions. Bush once famously remarked,”I believe God wants me to be president.” So intense was his spiritual fervor that Steven Mansfield concluded, “Whatever else the presidency of George W. Bush imprints on American history, it will at least have granted the nation an opportunity to rethink the role of religion in public life.”

William McKinley

A proud Methodist, McKinley avoided drinking, swearing, and smoking. He was a regular church attender while in office and according to eyewitnesses was quite an enthusiastic hymn singer. He also believed that the government had a duty to spread both democracy and the Christian religion abroad. McKinley’s last words before death were reportedly, “Goodbye, goodbye all. It’s God’s way. His will, not ours, be done. Nearer my God to thee, nearer to thee.”

James Madison

President Madison was a faithful Episcopalian who signed a federal bill to appropriate funds for Bible distribution. Madison served on the Congressional committee that established and selected Congressional chaplains and he encouraged all public officials to openly declare their faith. Later in life, Madison retracted many of his beliefs – arguing that government-paid chaplains and president-led prayers were unconstitutional. But he is still one of America’s most religious heads of state.

Abraham Lincoln

Though he often struggled with faith and even doubted the divinity of Jesus Christ, Lincoln often utilized religious language and quoted the Bible in public speeches. Many of Lincoln’s friends attested to his personal conversion, but Lincoln never explicitly declared it. He was not a formal member of any church, but only about a quarter of Americans were in 1860. Even still, Lincoln’s faith has been intensely felt among Americans since the time of his presidency, perhaps due to the conditions under which he served.

James Garfield

President James A. Garfield was the only clergyman to serve as Commander-in-Chief. He was lauded for his skill as a preacher, and he learned Greek in order to better understand the New Testament.

About the Author

Jonathan Merritt writes and blogs on issues pertaining to faith and culture.

The Rushmore Report: Jesse Jackson – ‘Trump Not Going to Heaven’

Imagine that a white conservative religious leader had said that President Obama wasn’t going to heaven. Imagine that, say, Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell, Jr. said Obama “would not qualify to get into Jesus’ kingdom.” Well, that’s exactly what Rev. Jesse Jackson just said about President Trump. That deafening silence you hear is the response of the mainstream media.

The civil rights activist said this week that the Electoral College “must come down,” and then warned that President Trump may have trouble making it into heaven because of his views on immigrants.

Jackson said that Trump demands people “speak English, be qualified and have a job skill,” The Daily Wire reported.

“Jesus would not qualify to come into Trump’s country, and Trump wouldn’t qualify to get into Jesus’ kingdom,” Jackson said, going on to quote the Book of Matthew’s passage about helping the underprivileged.

Jackson also called for reminders of the Confederacy to be removed from public view, adding that “the statues must come down.”

It’s not clear why these so incredibly offensive statues never registered a complaint from Rev. Jackson over the past 60 years of his public life.

We live in amazing times. A leading religious leader can say the sitting president of the United States isn’t going to heaven, and no one says a thing. Had a conservative, evangelical leader said the same thing about President Obama, they would be criticized from within their own ranks, not to mention the outrage we would hear from every late night comedian and pundit on every television network.

But it is okay for a black liberal religious leader to do this. And no hate speech is off limits, so long as Mr. Trump (or his family) is the target.

The most prominent civil rights leader and black religious leader of the past 50 years just said, essentially, the president of the United States is not going to heaven. And it’s not even reported by the mainstream media.

This is not the American I grew up in.

The Rushmore Report: Hillary Clinton’s Pastor Compares Her Election Loss to Jesus’ Death on the Cross

After Hillary Clinton suffered a devastating loss in the 2016 presidential race to Donald Trump, her longtime pastor compared her loss to the death of Christ on the cross. Rev. William S. Shillady, who currenlty serves as executive director of the United Methodist City Society in New York, told CNN that Clinton leaned on her faith in the wake of her political loss, and compared the loss to the death of Christ.

Shillady says Clinton is considering opportunities in the church, including lay preaching, a long-held tradition in the Methodist Church. He said, “I think she is going to look at occasionally doing that [preaching] and sharing the good news without it being a politically charged environment.”

The pastor added, “She is very comfortable in the pulpit. It’s something that comes naturally to her, and she knows the Bible. That’s why I think she’d make a great preacher.”

But it is the comparison to the death of Christ that is baffling. Shillady says her loss was “so devastating” that it “might have been comparable to what the disciples experienced when Jesus died.”

He continued, “I woke up that morning [after the election] and it felt like maybe what the Apostles experienced on Good Friday. Their leader, master, and savior was dead and gone and they didn’t know what to do.”

I don’t know the pain of losing a presidential election I was expected to win. I’m sure it is traumatic. But to compare the loss Clinton suffered, and the grief of her followers to the death of Christ on the cross and the grief of his followers is a bit much. For one, Hillary didn’t die. Second, if her pastor’s metaphor is accurate, those who considered her their “leader, master, and savior” really need to aim a little higher.

The Rushmore Report: Who Attends Weekly White House Bible Study?

To the horror of Americans for Freedom from Religion and other far-left groups, many in the Trump Administration are gathering once a week for group Bible Study. A report by the Christian Broadcasting Network confirms that many of those in the weekly group are high-ranking government officials. While the practice is not unique to this administration, the criticism has reached unprecedented levels.

Regular attendees at the Bible Study include Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdue, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also attend the meetings when their schedules permit.

The sessions are led by Ralph Drollinger, a former NBA basketball player who turned to the ministry after his injury-shortened career. He also leads two Bible Study classes per week on Capitol Hill for members of the House and Senate. For his part, while he does not attend the Bible Studies, President Trump has requested, and receives, weekly notes on each lesson.

This is not the first administration to host weekly Bible Study groups. Under the blessing of former president George W. Bush, his staff held a weekly Bible Study and prayer group. Often, ordained minister and Attorney General John Ashcroft would lead the studies.

There are no rules against studying the Bible in a federal building, though the U.S. government issued guidelines in 1997, titled “Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace,” that stresses the importance of supervisors being careful to not press employees to participate in any way.

“Because supervisors have the power to hire, fire, or promote, employees may reasonably perceive their supervisors’ religious expression as coercive, even if it was not intended as such,” the guidelines say. “Therefore, supervisors should be careful to ensure that their statements and actions are such that employees do not perceive any coercion . . . and should, where necessary, take appropriate steps to dispel such misperceptions.”

Is it a good idea for top-level government officials to gather for weekly Bible Study and prayer on government grounds? In 2017, I can’t think of many ideas I like more.