Can we blame sin as our culture’s underlying problem?

The assertion by the white evangelical crowd that the culture has been lost to sin is worth examining as we attempt to process the disaster that has been Donald Trump. Moreover, if the culture is lost to sin, has it always been that way, or is this merely a contemporary phenomenon? And, if it’s only a modern-day problem, does the slogan “Make America Great Again” reference a period of time in which the culture wasn’t awash in sin? If so, when exactly was that?

In the world of televangelism, few things are as important (and telling) as fundraising telethons. For all the hollering about faith and how God will sustain them, these telethons are methodical, systematic, manipulative, and self-serving. Nothing is left to chance. Hot buttons are pushed relentlessly. Anything goes when it comes to raising money for rich Christian ministries, something I participated in as show producer, senior producer, and then executive producer of Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club during the 1980s. I was there during the height of the televangelists, before scandals ripped the genre apart, and I was there when Pat ran for President in 1988.

The theme of our telethons was always a variation of how the world was going to hell, because we had lost our Biblical guidance. Therefore, the solution was for viewers to give us the money to combat this through “outreach,” ministry, education, and action. I need to state clearly that this strategy was extremely effective, in part, because the culture wasn’t hearing this kind of message from its leadership. Although very old, the message seemed new, because it was on TV in easily-digestible form. The television rule for audio-video linkage was manipulated, so as to match our words about sin to pictures of calamity big and small. Consequently and for a season, we sat in the position of prophets calling down hellfire and damnation on the culture for its dreadful sins, and it’s a short path from there to blaming the sinners, a.k.a. those demon liberals.

We attributed this conflict to cause and effect without proof whatsoever. That gave us license to say anything we wanted about the culture and attribute it to the loss of Biblical “authority” in our society. In so doing, we completely dissed the blood that was shed on behalf of our rights to self-determination, and, frighteningly, rejected all of those battles as being of the devil.

Who knew that one day we would actually be taken seriously?

This is the underlying pretext for everything from the Christian Right, and it’s why people who have no business being yoked to the extremely wealthy find themselves supporting everything the group tells them to support. The most obvious is in the appointing of judges who pass the litmus test of supporting business owners in all matters regarding business. Moreover, when we hear the phrase “religious liberty,” we must translate that as white evangelical Christian liberty.

If we’re ever to truly understand what’s happened to us over the past four years, we MUST not be afraid to examine these kinds of questions in the light of day. This was modern journalism’s great failure in the run-up to the 2016 election, for reporters simply didn’t see it coming. It’s a cornerstone of the Trump phenomenon, so we’re simply unable to get to the truth absent the deconstruction of this critical influence. Is sin the culprit for which we all must repent, or is something else going on? We must examine it historically, but we must also consider basic Christianity.

Basic Christianity
There is no Biblical entry whatsoever — not even one — that suggests it is the mission of believers to force a non-believing culture to repent. The most oft-quoted Bible story concerning this comes at the end of Solomon’s rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, when God spoke to Solomon thusly:

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…” 2 Chronicles 7:13–14 (NIV)

In this statement, we learn a great many things. One, that God is the one who’s responsible for those cultural/natural events that believers find so discomforting. Two, the responsibility for these “punishments” is with the believers, not the unbelievers. Three, the land can’t be healed from these pestilences absent the repentance of those He holds responsible, namely those same believers.

Therefore, it’s beyond misleading to claim that God wants to heal the land from sin, so that the righteous can live in peace. Seriously, who do we think we are? Watching people of faith yell and scream about abortion, prayer in schools, and Christian liberty, all the while aligning themselves with the vast wealth of the few is a bastardization of everything that’s truly holy. Period.

This command to repent was directed towards God’s people, not the culture at large. It came at the end of a great accomplishment, which is when humans are most vulnerable to deception. Rather than pat them on the back for such a feat, Solomon called for the Jews to repent, which I’m sure shocked many. The only lesson here for today is that God’s people — if in fact they have won a battle against cultural sin — ought to be on their knees begging forgiveness rather than prayers of thanksgiving and celebration in the White House. The fact that they aren’t is a dead giveaway to the unrighteousness of their behavior.

These are modern-day Pharisees, for God’s book isn’t a message to the culture; it’s a message to individual hearts.

The entire story of redemption is corrupted by the actions of this religious group, for Jesus Himself refused to call for back-up when He was taken to the cross. Spiritual warfare takes place outside the confines of our senses “under the sun,” but these self-centered warriors view the battles as among each other, right here within the whole of creation.

Why is the press unable to argue this? Rationalizations include it’s too complicated, it’s hard to be neutral, and there’s no consensus to fall back on. This is a blight on the practice of journalism, one that has been used to manipulate people and the press itself. There’s no fence to ride here.

Setting Aside History
In their zeal to advance THEIR religion, white evangelical Christians have disregarded the history behind that which we as a nation hold dear. In many of these events and instances, blood was shed — sometimes a lot of it — and lives were sacrificed in order to make these rights worth keeping. However, these elitist representatives of God that we have today think THEIR way is the true path to righteousness and that nothing else matters. It is with haughty, self-centered goals that these people piss all over the sacrifices of history as if they never mattered in the first place.

We fought a civil war over racism, unity, and the extent to which states within the union can try to distance themselves from the rest. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty, and immigration became the bedrock of our fledgling economy. We fought the First World War to spread our thoughts and ideals of freedom to the rest of the world and to protect our rights at home. We went through a Great Depression and came out on the other side determined to protect the poor and the afflicted from ever suffering again due to the lack of basic necessities. We determined that the market for liquor was so strong that we ended prohibition, because that market led to violence and death in the government’s efforts to press an alcohol-free society. We fought the Second World War to again preserve our freedoms in the face of fascism and its intolerance for personal rights. We helped dismantle Communism. Add to these the efforts to secure women’s rights, labor rights, civil rights, gay rights, and even the “rights” of our planet itself. It’s easy to understand why opponents of the current administration are not only opposed to shoving all of this aside but appalled and infuriated at the mere suggestion. Who knew we’d have to fight all of these battles again?

Governmental regulations of businesses, such as environmental mandates, didn’t just suddenly appear in a vacuum. These were hard-fought victories for all of us, as we tried our best to advance not only our culture but the human race in total. Did this burden the business interests of the country? Of course, but it had long ago been determined that they helped foster environmental concerns and human rights violations in the first place. There is nothing inherently righteous or evil about Capitalism. It’s an institution of humankind, and profit can be a highly selfish motive for cultural behavior.

This is now all being set aside by the good intentions of the few, and that is the real tragedy of our current dilemma. Add to this the idea that foreign leaders are willing participants through subversion, and we have very real dangers to consider. It is a real slight-of-hand to incite disputes among us when the truth is that we are not our real enemies. There are others who want what we have and will do anything to disrupt the unity that we struggled so dearly to gain and protect.

Adverbs like forward and backward are used to describe culture but only by those making self-serving judgments as to its governance. Both are pejorative and ineffective descriptors, because cultures don’t actually do any moving. There is only the present. Sure, there’s history and there’s the future, but we can’t do anything about either. We only have the present, and that’s where our efforts are best presented. We must always guard against those who will direct us to the future, for such is a license to deceive.

So, let’s go back and repeat our central question: Is America so corrupted by sin — especially the sins of those atheistic liberals who want to destroy the church — that only a revival of religion (specifically, white evangelical Christianity) will solve what ails us? I’d argue strongly that the answer is no, but even if there’s a grain of truth to it, the correct spiritual response is prayer, not political action.

Today, there are those who think the world is going to hell due to Trump and his cronies pressing absurd demands based on their beliefs in absolute certainties. Those who pointed to corruption of the culture have now themselves become the real corruptors, and it’s going to take more than our votes to sort it all out.

Honestly, we’re going to need the chaos of Life to fix this terrible mess, and that’s exactly what I choose to see happening today. To paraphrase George Carlin, if we’re going to have a disaster, make it so big that we destroy everything and have to start over.

Even so, let it be.

The Five Reasons White Evangelicals Will Vote for Trump in 2020

In the recovery community, we are often admonished to “play out the tape,” which means to consider where a decision will lead BEFORE making said decision. This is often life-altering wisdom for people who tend to simply react without thinking. Given the conservative wins in the U.K. elections, any thinking that Americans are just dying to vote Trump out is poppycock, and the GOP has done an outstanding job of painting the Dems into a fallacious socialist corner.

So, playing out the tape is an important exercise as we look ahead to November of 2020. White Evangelical Christians are likely to vote once again for Mr. Trump, because they simply cannot ignore five issues that matter above all. These, they are taught, are framed by what they believe to be absolute truths supported by faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ. Their view, quite frankly, is that they live safe from the ravages of sin within the culture, and they want everybody else to find what they’ve known in their personal histories.

It’s not the economy, although that issue may be huge to others. White Evangelicals profess that God is their provider and that His provision is their back-up plan in the event anything ever goes “wrong” under the sun. They don’t worry so much about shit happening or bad luck or bad timing or bad planning as they do striving to stay on the path of wholeness and prosperity.

It’s not global warming, because these people trust that God has it under control and that the evidence for global warming is all science, which is at enmity with Christianity at core anyway.

It’s not Trump’s behavior, because Biblical history includes stories of reprobates used by God for righteous purposes. So important are their core issues that as long as Republicans give them what they want, the President’s personal behavior is irrelevant, even if it matches that of the world’s oligarchs. Therefore, it’s not about the President’s pathological lying, self-centered governing, obstruction of justice, or any other political issue, as long as he maintains the rudder on the “right” course for these matters.

Here are the five issues that opposition cannot possibly overcome:

  1. Everything’s fine with them. Contrary to those with real evidence that Trump is turning the U.S. into a global laughing stock or destroying America as we know it, these Christians are just fine. Their lives are quite contented with the path of the right, for theirs is the Gospel of Self. Why should they want change when they look around the holiday table and smile at how things are just fine for them and their loved ones?
  2. Individualism. This is the Christian fundamentalist idea that everyone is responsible for themselves and their families. It’s a New Testament mandate to these Christians, a view that God has prospered them for taking care of their own. Therefore, the poor who are seeking hand outs from them are seen as vulgar thieves.
  3. Abortion — The litmus test for Supreme Court justices isn’t abortion; it’s their views on capitalism and business. That these candidates favor the pro-life perspective is a convenient justification for advancing the interests of business while leading “Christian” voters to the high moral hill which they are then directed to keep at all costs. Pro-life’s opposition is funneled into a “pro-death” pigeon hole that accompanies statements that the pro-choice perspective is actually pro-abortion. It’s amazing to me that such people — normally highly intelligent and successful people — can buy into this without question. “We finally have a President who’s on OUR side.”
  4. Religious Freedom — This is in reality a ruse to combat any aspect of gender fluidity, the core of which is homophobia. It’s not that these Christians have anything particular against those who practice such (as opposed to being born with it), but they don’t want their families being exposed to what they view as sin. Hence, they want the “freedom” to be intolerant towards those whose alternative lifestyles might draw their children or grandchildren away.
  5. Absolute allegiance to Israel, regardless of its behavior. There are simply no questions to be asked here, much less answered, because to these Christians, God was behind the re-creation of Israel in 1948, because He’s getting ready to usher in the return of Jesus Christ. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, his determination that the illegal settlements are actually legal, the abandonment of Syria, and the rejection of Obama’s Iranian deal all work to support the end times theology of the white evangelicals.

Nothing else matters, for the end justifies any means necessary, and Trump appears to be delivering to this particular flock. These are all talking points that the faithful have heard from their leaders for decades during the rise of the Christian Right. Hence, their determination that Trump was sent by God to restore the land that He gave to their Christian ancestors. Each of these issues is used to demonize opposition, because opposition is tagged as unrighteous and therefore, their points are freely dismissible as an argument. This leaves believers out on a dangerous limb of their own making, and they’re not about to ask for a ladder.

However, playing the tape out leads to a place where we must ask what comes next? It’s here where those who protest this establishment of religion must be wise, for there most certainly will be a “next” if this continues. These folks will reason that God has blessed their efforts, so the message will be to press on. They will demand Christian prayer in public schools. Moreover, everything they consider cultural sin will be challenged: tobacco, alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), and especially sex and everything that makes up the industry of adult entertainment.

It may lead to nothing, if they’re defeated in November. More than likely, however, they won’t view it as a loss and will simply continue to press these issues over and over again. Sorry, folks, but this is not a political fight. It’s the same old horrific religious bias we’ve been trying to set aside for centuries. This battle rightly belongs with the church, for the real struggle is for the narrative that best represents what it means to be Christian.

Right-wing fanatics have seized the brand for now, but if history is any guide, it thankfully won’t last. We would be tragic fools, however, to not let our voices count today.