[Rushtalk] The Retribution for Evangelicals Who Sold Their Souls to Trump Is Coming / yes there is christian communism.

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at juno.com
Thu Nov 1 13:11:18 MDT 2018


  
The Retribution for Evangelicals Who Sold Their Souls to Trump Is
Coming 
Trump is arguably the logical culmination of some strains of right-wing
evangelical Christianity in America
History News Network 
October 14, 2018, 4:35 AM GMT 


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Pastors praying over Donald Trump (Photo: Screen capture)


This Advent season, while watching Donald Trump in front of a garishly
green-and-red banner which proclaims “Make America Great Again,” take
the opportunity to reflect on the Faustian bargain which allowed
conservative evangelical Christians to “Keep Christ in Christmas” while
seemingly divorcing Christianity from Christ. That Republican supply
side economics, exemplified by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s cruel tax
“reform,” contradicts Matthew 5:3 is clear. That Trump’s draconian
immigration policy, which involves splitting families apart, violates
the essence of Exodus 22:21 is obvious. And it shouldn’t have to be said
that the new nationalism, this new fascism, with its “blood and soil”
metaphysic, stands in opposition to the sublime universalism of
Galatians 3:28.

For those 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump, and more
troublingly for the profoundly inhumane, greedy, wrathful ideology that
he embodies, and who have seemingly forgotten their scripture, I have
another passage to remind them of: Matthew 4:10. Following the dark
Adversary who took Christ up “an exceeding high mountain, and she with
him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto
him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and
worship me.” And Christ, choosing to follow the small, humble, yet
sacred path, rejected the temptations of worldly power declaring, “Get
thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy
God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

America’s conservative evangelicals, however, have taken up that
diabolical offer. Witness the self-debasement of a man like neurosurgeon
and current H.U.D. secretary Ben Carson offering prayers for Trump last
December 19th, with the president “quipping” to the press that they
“need the prayer more than I do…. Maybe a good solid prayer and they’ll
be honest, Ben, is that possible?” Or when at that same meeting
Vice-President Mike Pence (one for whom we are perennially reminded of
his piety while he seemingly forgets Matthew 6:6) offered a master class
in saccharine sycophancy when he groveled to Trump with “Mr. President,
I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr.
President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting
every day for forgotten men and women of America… the forgotten men and
women of America are forgotten no more, and we are making America great
again.”

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Or if those examples condemn the powerful at the expense of regular
evangelicals, consider that 80% of white, self-identified evangelicals
in Alabama voted for the disgraced and disgraceful losing pedophile Roy
Moore. Presiding over this nightmare of abandoned principles (or perhaps
more disturbingly the embrace of principles that were always there) is
Trump himself, the philandering, vulgar, immoral New York real-estate
developer of seemingly no authentic faith who promised evangelicals that
“I am your voice.” The Public Religion Research Institute reported that
over the past five years the “percentage of white evangelical
Protestants who said that a politician who commits an immoral act in
their personal life could still behave ethically shot up from 30 to 72
percent. The percentage saying such a politician could not serve
ethically plunged from 63 to 20 percent.” The difference, it would seem,
is a certain Fifth Avenue resident who promised them that “If I become
president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store …. You
can leave happy holidays at the corner.” What easily bought faith! In
2017 all it takes for many right-wing Christians is to be taken to the
top-floor of Trump Tower, be shown all the kingdoms of the world, and
they’ll gladly prostrate themselves before an idol for a bit of temporal
power.

Christianity, by its own definition, is a countercultural faith, one
which stands in opposition to the things of this world while still being
in this world. But humans being humans the history of the religion is
replete with moments where Augustine’s City of Man has overwhelmed the
City of God in the heart of the believer. From Constantine’s usurpation
of the Roman Church to Henry VIII’s appropriation of ecclesiastical
power, Christians have been more than willing to sell their allegiance
for thirty pieces of silver. Trumpian Christianity is but one chapter in
a long lineage of hypocritical capitulation of principle to sovereigns
in the name of worldly power.

A supreme irony, for one of the most important aspects of the
Constitutional principle of disestablishment is that it preserved the
independence and sanctity of religious practice from the machinations of
a meddling state. But while there is a long custom of right-wing
evangelicals bellyaching about their perceived oppression (when such
calls for “religious freedom” are often really just a justification for
denying the rights of others) there are now no compunctions about
jumping into bed with the most manifestly irreligious of presidents in
modern history, for whom the only scripture is that of Norman Vincent
Peale’s prosperity gospel combined with an endlessly renewable faith in
himself, regardless of what reality dictates. 

There is an irony in all of this. Since the resurgence of politicized
evangelical Christianity with the ascendency of Ronald Reagan, many
apocalyptic minded conservative Christians made a sort of prophetic
parlor game out of conjecturing who the potential anti-Christ could be.
Figures from Hal Lindsey, to Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Jerry
Falwell often fingered world leaders or liberal politicians as being in
league with Satan.. An irony since if the anti-Christ is supposed to be
a manipulative, powerful, smooth-talking demagogue with the ability to
sever people from their most deeply held beliefs who would be a better
candidate than the seemingly indestructible Trump? Well I don’t believe
in a literal anti-Christ, and to accuse Trump of being one gives the
president far too much credit. At his core he is simply a consummate
narcissist with little intelligence and less curiosity, one who has
somehow become the most powerful man in the world. And that’s certainly
dangerous enough without invoking anything supernatural. Still, it’s
surprising that evangelical Christians, who for years preached about
such a figure, seem to lack the self-awareness to identify something so
anti-Christian in Trump himself. Or worse yet, they certainly recognize
it, but don’t care.

I don’t wish to engage the “No True Scotsman” fallacy; conservative
Christians presumably arrived at their faith and their conclusions for
their own reasons, and the fact that I disagree with them on a litany of
issues theological and political, from abortion to taxes, does not
invalidate the legitimacy of their own faith. But there is something
undeniably strange and supremely hypocritical in seeing the embarrassing
spectacle of religious leaders bow to such a spiritually illiterate man,
a moral midget. Jerry Falwell Jr., cognizant enough of the disjuncture
between personal piety and support of Trump but apparently not cognizant
enough to avoid uttering inanities like the following, has compared the
president to King David. That is to say that he acknowledges Trump’s
copious personal failings (and steadfast refusals at contrition for any
of them) but sees the president as a tool of the Lord meant to enact
Christian policy, and so it behooves evangelicals to support him. One
imagines that whatever makes it easier for the good Rev. Falwell to
sleep better at night, but perhaps he is the sort of man whose sleep is
untroubled, for hypocrisy has a handy ability to cleanse the conscience.

Currently evangelical Christianity in the United States is certainly
still classifiable as a flavor of orthodox Nicene Christianity. But it’s
not like there isn’t precedent for the church to contort itself to the
heresies of a totalitarian regime. Consider the promulgation of an Aryan
“Positive Christianity” in the Third Reich, in which all Jewish elements
of the faith were expunged, and the gospels rejected in favor of a
deadly and noxious blood-and-soil ideology, where the “Fuehrer is the
herald of a new revelation.” This consolidation of all the Protestant
denominations of Germany featured no Apostle’s Creed, or Nicaean, rather
only allegiance to the state, a complete capitulation to the Prince of
this World and an ascent to the temptation upon that desert mountaintop.
We must remind ourselves of such compromises, bargains, and contracts as
a perennial threat to the inner life of the faithful. While there is
certainly no corollary to such a phenomenon in the United States today –
yet – one must be vigilant and on guard to those like Rev. Falwell who
see no blasphemy in comparing a president to the Anointed One.


Trump is arguably the logical culmination of some strains of right-wing
evangelical Christianity in America, from the political theology of
dominionism to the hermeneutics of presuppositional apologetics, dogmas
which see no inconsistency to rendering all to a Caesar whom they have
declared to be a Christ. We may have yet to see the arrival in the
United States of a type of powerful, theocratic, fascistic Protestant
Falangism enabled by the opportunism of a Trump, and which makes the
traditional Christian Right look positively liberal. And with the global
rise of the new nationalism there is a disturbing degree of
collaboration between rightest religion and racist ideology, from the
Orthodox mysticisms of those in the Kremlin who follow the crackpot
historian Aleksandr Dugin to Stephen Bannon who wishes to preserve his
understanding of Christendom not because all of us are children of God
but because only some of us are white.. Christianity, when allied to the
powers of the world, has a way of promulgating distinctly anti-Christian
beliefs. Do not read me as hyperbolic, the threat is global, powerful,
interconnected, and real. When 60,000 Polish fascists marched in
November, promoting a Poland without Muslims and Jews, they chanted “We
want God” – a phrase from a speech delivered in Warsaw by Trump earlier
that year.

Nazi “Positive” Christianity was countered by the resistance of the
Confessing Church, the underground network of pastors and parishioners
who operated in opposition to the glorification of worldly power as
represented by the regime. One of the greatest of souls and theological
intellects was the Confessing Church minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
martyred by the Nazis at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in 1945. Witness
to the rise of compromised fascist Christianity in his own country, he
aptly diagnosed the equivocations and capitulations some Christians were
willing to make in order to sup at the table of power, but he also
understood that from a theological perspective there should be nothing
surprising about this. He explained that for “evil to be disguised as
light… is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional
ethical concepts, while for the Christian who based his life on the
Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.” But even
while acknowledging the fundamental wickedness of that evil, Bonhoeffer
stood in opposition to it, and lived a life testament to that gospel.

So, this Advent, if you’re looking for a bit of the promise of that
first Christmas consider this: whenever some persons trade their faith
for the treasures of this world, elsewhere a remnant of true faith
always seemingly endures. A faith that answers power with mercy, hate
with love, a shout with a whispered prayer.

It’s written that nobody can serve two masters, even as many
evangelicals seem content to try and serve God, Mammon, and darker gods
aside. But a compromised faith, a tainted faith, an implicated faith can
only flourish for so long, and genuine faith can never be extinguished.
Writer and scholar Burke Gerstenschlager writes for our current moment
that “In the midst of Propaganda and Gospel, we must resist … with love
where there is hate. Resist with kindness where there is abandonment.
Resist with grace where there is cruelty. Resist with justice where
there is impunity. Resist with knowledge where there is ignorance.
Resist with truth where there are lies. Advent is our season.” For if
Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church provide us any Advent succor it’s
this: even at the darkest of hours when faith seems all but extinguished
a faint light can still glimmer so that we may see. And to those
implicated, those collaborators, those who’ve traded faith for power,
and those who chant “We want God” – consider that you should be careful
what you wish for. God may be precisely what we get.

 

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