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.

1920 — When the Rules All Changed

Image result for woodrow wilson

When I first discovered historian Christopher Lasch many years ago, I was stunned by his brilliant reading of the role of Woodrow Wilson in all the nonsense we deal with today in the worlds of politics and the press. Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 on a platform of “He’ll keep us out of the war.”

World War One was America’s chance to become a world (business) power, however, and Wilson knew this, so the trick became how to run opposing the war while at the same time preparing to enter the conflict. Wilson formed a group of advisors and thinkers — including influential newspaper publishers. This organization — The Committee for Public Information, also known as The Creel Committee was named after its leader, George Creel. The characters making up this committee was a who’s who of a new type of thinking, one that would change the rules for everybody 100 years later.

I’ve written much about these remarkable people whose good intentions have had a lot to do with today’s untenable government-press relations. Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, was a member of the committee as was Walter Lippman, the father of professional journalism. Volumes could be written about these two characters alone, but everybody on that committee shares the responsibility for what we have today. Bernays, a cousin of Sigmund Freud, used lessons from his Uncle to shape new ideas for marketing. Here’s just one of his famous quotes:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must coöperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

From “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays

If that sounds familiar, it should, but we must understand that this thinking is only 100 years old. Here are four Google N’Gram graphs about the use of certain thoughts in the books of our world. Note that these all show rising use in the wake of 1920:

Here’s the use of the word Propaganda in publications.

Here’s the phrase “Public Relations”.

Here’s one that works in concert with the above. Objectivity. It’s necessary for public relations to insert itself into journalism.

And finally, here’s what “Professional Journalism” looks like:

The other side of this whole “Right Wing News” fallacy is going to require something completely different, because in 100 years, we’ve gone from a government of the people to one of propaganda and self-interest of the few.

Somehow, we’ve got to find a way to put all this into the dust pile of the past. Maybe we should begin with technology that labels news as propaganda (regardless of the source) when such passes through our filters.

One thing is super clear, however, and that’s that this doesn’t work, not at all, for the country that our founders created.

Donald Trump’s Spiritual Problem

Donald Trump in prayer with his Christian advisors

The press is struggling with covering the split among white evangelical Christians over the editorial in Christianity Today (and a similar commentary in The Christian Post) calling for the removal from office of President Donald Trump. The struggle is not new, and those without knowledge can’t possibly understand what’s really going on here.

Disclaimer: This is not an Academic theological paper. Many books have been written about the subject, none from my pen. The views expressed here come entirely from my own research and experiences primarily as former Executive Producer of The 700 Club, Author of “The Gospel of Self: How Pat Robertson Stole the Soul of the GOP”, author of the 1988 television news series on religion in the Tennessee Valley (“I Believe”). and subsequent studies and writings on the subject.

In response to these messages from evangelicalism’s main editorial voices, Trump has scheduled a January 3rd rally (of course) called “Evangelicals for Trump” at a venue that’s a giveaway for anybody with an understanding of the split. The rally will be in Miami at the West Kendall Church, an “Apostolic” megachurch run by Pastor Guillermo Maldonado, a man calling himself an apostle. This church practices “the gifts of the Spirit” which includes speaking in tongues, interpretation of those tongues, dancing in the Spirit, prophecies, laying on of hands for healing, and words of knowledge and wisdom straight from the Holy Ghost. This is from Paul’s writings to the Church at Corinth during the First Century:

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:4–10.

These practices were limited primarily to primitive, smaller rural Pentecostal churches until the Charismatic Movement of the 60s counterculture spread “the gifts” to more mainline churches. Pentecost, the event found in the second chapter of Acts, is cited as the first example and forms the basis for such beliefs. Early Charismatic prayer meetings in the 60s and 70s would find folks from Catholic and mainline protestant denominations gathering together to worship God in such a manner, and the foundation created through these meetings led ultimately to the televangelists who practiced these “gifts” during times of prayer on television. Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, and many others bound themselves to this burgeoning growth. It seemed so new and fresh that people were drawn to the practice and demonstration of faith they viewed on television. The scandals that hit in the mid-80s were tied to these ministers. At the time, the most prominent, non-tongue-talking televangelists were Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham.

When Pat Robertson decided to run for President, I had to make choices for who would play Pat’s role of news commentator on the show while he was off on his campaign, and I chose Chuck Colson, a brilliant and wonderful man who didn’t practice the gifts of the spirit. I loved Chuck Colson and felt a kinship with him that was rare. I was at core still a journalist with a modicum of skepticism about generally everything, including all that we practiced theologically via The 700 Club. In discussing this with Chuck one day, he told me a story from his experience with Robert Tilton, an extreme practitioner of speaking in tongues and words of knowledge while praying on his program. Tilton was later found by the press in Dallas to have questionable practices and financial dealings. Chuck Colson told me that Tilton had told him that Chuck needed to get into the same sorts of things, “because that’s where the money is.” Colson knew then and there that he wanted nothing to do with what Tilton was practicing. This observation explains much in today’s contemporary arguments about what does or doesn’t represent the faith. When all else is stripped away, the bottom line is often cash in the form of contributions to continue such ministering.

At The 700 Club, we practiced these gifts during prayer time, which was often at or near the end of the program’s first hour. I recall one focus group discussion about the program in which one man described it as “progressively subjective”. He didn’t care for the prayer segment. The program was shown to people with like/dislike hand-held meters that they could turn in one direction or the other, depending on what was being shown. By the time we got to the prayer segment, these meters registered at polar opposites, suggesting that the viewers either really liked or really disliked the segment with nothing in-between.

Here’s more from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” 1 Corinthians 12:28–30.

When Christians unfamiliar with these writings were first exposed to them, there was a boom in the growth and development of these practices, which is where we find ourselves today. This is how the pastor in Miami can identify himself as an apostle, while others just look the other way.

These “gifts” are offered to the public via the euphemism “full gospel”, and followers are drawn to the expression of emotions, including those which “prove” to practitioners a level of internal reality that is passionate and highly addictive. They feel special in the eyes of God and cling to what they view as Biblical validation via Paul’s and Mark’s canonized offerings. Here’s Mark testifying to what Jesus told the apostles after His resurrection, that they should make disciples of the whole world:

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Mark 16:17–18

Of course, most Christians don’t handle snakes to demonstrate signs and wonders, but some do. In the series “I Believe,” we attended services of a snake-handling church in North Georgia, and one statement by the pastor was most memorable: ““If you reach your hand into that box (of rattlesnakes), you’d better have faith.” In other words, these Christians practice an extreme — perhaps the most extreme — version of Christianity in the world today. And they are completely supported by scripture in so doing. Most people, however, feel that this is “testing God” and reject it as dangerous and unhealthy.

The point is where do you draw the line? Moreover, those already predisposed to “the full gospel” are more willing and capable of believing the more extreme examples of faith spoken of in the New Testament, and this is where Donald Trump finds his most ardent support. Hence, the meeting in Miami.

To be sure, not all of Trump’s support comes from full gospel practitioners, and many of his advisors are more conservative, like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Junior, whose support is more political than spiritual, but these differences in theology still are significant. Pastor Maldonado’s church is Hispanic, which also played a role in its selection by Trump, but the message of this church is no where near embraced by Christianity as a whole. That’s important.

In another place in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes “We are fools for Christ” (I Corinthians 4:10). These same ministers use this as a hammer to tap the minds of followers who would find discomfort with emotional displays of worship. If you’re not willing to be a fool for Christ, the thinking goes, then you lack the wisdom needed to be a “real” follower, and this is a divisive preaching that they believe separates them from others who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

In my view, the discussion about this in public is long overdue. History will record this time as one in which we dealt with expressions of faith as a people. It will be one significant aspect of Trump’s legacy, because he uses his affiliation with such to separate himself from others who occupied the White House.

There is, of course, much more to this story. The press, however, doesn’t have a clue, so for now, it’s a subject discussed mostly in secret.

That needs to change.

Dr. James Dobson’s Absurd Response to Christianity Today

As a regular critic of Christianity Today for its refusal to acknowledge the damage being done to the Christian witness by Donald Trump, I have to acknowledge its editorial calling for his removal from office over the evidence used to impeach him. This was a very brave admission of its own guilt, what I would call an act of repentance for the real mess that we find ourselves in today.

Most fanatical evangelicals who support this pathological liar struck back against the magazine over the weekend, and their unity is most fascinating, for it’s all wrapped around a straw enemy created by their own hyperbole. Chief of these critics is Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” fame. Mr. Dobson’s ministry puts him at odds with anyone who doesn’t view his definition of “family” as absolute, and therein lies the weakness of his argument against Christianity Today.

So, let’s examine his response in order to glean our own understanding. His entire pro-Trump passion is built around a figure who doesn’t exist in reality, namely any potential Democratic opponent. “The editors didn’t tell us,” he writes, “who should take his place in the aftermath.” He then goes on to list the attributes of this “replacement,” most of which are completely blown out of proportion. Dr. Dobson is a staunch believer and practitioner of the “only way” theology, and he’s long been a leader in the baking of bias into the political realm of conservative Christians. Here are his beliefs regarding ANY opposition to the President, namely that the only choices would be:

  • Pro-abortion — There is no such thing, for pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion. As someone who knows the truth here, let’s just say that this issue brings in more money to white evangelical coffers than any other, because these people have done a great job of confusing the issue of choice with the killing of “babies.”
  • Anti-family — This means the nuclear family with working dad, stay-at-home mom, and straight children. It doesn’t even begin to acknowledge other family arrangements and their needs for support from us all.
  • Hostile to the military — This disguises Trump’s use of the military for extorting “protection” money from our allies abroad. A Pentagon funded by increasing the federal debt is not pro-military, and we’ve learned from history that making war as a defense against others making war against us can have drastic consequences, especially when politicians insert their own personal agendas. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to read the exploits of Richard Nixon in 1968.
  • Dispassionate toward Israel — This, of course, references anyone who acknowledges the war crimes perpetrated on the Palestinians in the name of Zionism. To Dr. Dobson and his cronies, God Almighty brought Israel back into being to usher in the return of Jesus Christ. This is hardly a basis for unilateral and unquestioning support of a foreign power like Israel, to whom we “give” $10 million each and every day to “defend” itself.
  • Supports a socialist form of government — This is the real straw man of 2019, for Republicans don’t argue anymore with Democrats; it’s “Socialist Democrats,” which are just a breath away from Communist Democrats. Oh please. Fascist Republicans believe they can falsely claim anything as long as it moves the electorate in their direction or keeps them there. Dobson’s “Christians” are especially gullible in this regard.
  • Promotes confiscatory taxationOMG. All taxes are confiscatory, but it’s a big word he can use to obliterate the reality that Trump borrowed $2 trillion and gave it to the wealthy — many of whom give big resources to these white evangelical ministries.
  • Opposes school choice — This is the language of Zion term used to destroy public education in the name of segregation. The argument is that Christian parents (families) shouldn’t be forced to send their children to school with such obvious sinners as the poor and the afflicted for fear it might rub off on them.
  • Favors men in women’s sports and boys in girl’s locker rooms — This would be laughable if it weren’t for the real fears such a statement engenders in his “Focus on the Family” followers. It’s amazing how these people shun human progress in the name of self-service by always selecting worst-case “possibilities” rather than admit that their bias is showing.
  • Promotes the entire LGBTQ agenda — To Dr. Dobson and his ilk, this is a buzzword for what they deem to be sexual sins, on which they cannot give an inch, lest they be called hypocrites. Amazingly, however, story upon story of such escapades within the church continue to make headlines every week. Christians need to clean up their own messes before taking such a pharisaical position against the publicans of the world. Here’s the truth: the LGBTQ community has more in common with the Jesus of the Bible than His own followers do. But again, this is a threat to Dr. Dobson’s narrow view of family, so he must spew hatred rather than love.
  • Opposes parental rights — Wow, parental rights, eh? God said to “honor your father and mother,” not march in lockstep to their madness. This, again, points to Dobson’s ministry, and he needs this to be believable, because it means money to his 501c.3. In the age of the internet, this is a remarkable statement of such preposterous accusation that it’s hard to even respond without sounding deliberately off-putting. Nobody opposes parental rights, but common sense reveals the danger of rigid rules that only serve to isolate children, leaving them unprepared to participate in the tapestry of modern life.
  • Distrusts evangelicals and anyone who is not politically correct — As if the trust of evangelicals ought to be a given. Here we have a group trying to practice societal isolation in the name of God’s will, and yet they have the temerity to complain about distrust! Notice that Dr. Dobson lists the group as part of a bigger group that opposes so-called “political correctness.” This is deliberately designed to take advantage of legitimate debate over personal issues and make it into one that serves his constituency.
  • Trump fights for religious liberty and the Bill of Rights — Here the phrase “religious liberty” is interpreted as “Christian” liberty, which is actually not liberty at all but rather “license” in the name of Christianity. Lawyers use the term to project their own beliefs on others rather than read the establishment clause for what it really is — which is the opposite of what the fundamentalist evangelical community wants/needs it to be. In supporting a President who caters to their every whim, these are the only ones attempting to rewrite history to suit their needs, and it’s all going to collapse on their heads one day.

So, rather than answer with specificity the arguments raised in the Christianity Today editorial, Trump’s Christian Right is spouting their opposition to a being of their own making and description. The problem, of course, is that none of it is real.

There simply is no person or group that represents what Dr. Dobson opposes, and that’s the truth.

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.

The Bible made me do it

The Cape Henry Landing by English artist Stephen Reid

One of the great political mysteries of the 21st Century is how and why certain members of the have-nots will support the haves regardless of the evidence that they and their families would be better off in opposition. Opposing the greed of the rich seems a no-brainer. The two groups have virtually nothing in common, so either the haves have done a sensational job of manipulating the working poor, or there is something taking place that observers seem unable to observe.

Firstly, there’s the belief among this group of mostly Christian have-nots that their hope is in God, but Biblical reasoning posits a political system that believes the poor should pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it. This is accompanied by the idea that if you give a poor man a fish, you’ve fed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. The fallacy of this concept, of course, is in its practical execution, for it assumes an unlimited supply of fish and resources required to make this a reality. Ours is a world of limited resources, and when I take extra fish for myself and my family, I’m acting out of greed, not love for my fellow humans.

Secondly, this is supported by the writings of Paul to the communities of the burgeoning local church in the First Century, including especially one verse from his first letter to Timothy. Chapter 5, verse 8:

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NIV)

A good preacher can heap coals of fire on the heads of parishioners by taking this out of context and presenting it as a stand-alone command of God. It seems a logical idea until the words of Jesus are applied, “The poor will always be with you.” One must assume, then, that Biblical followers are doing a lousy job of teaching people to fish. Harping on the poor to take care of their own is hypocrisy gone-to-seed, no matter how justifiable it may seem.

Therefore, in a world of limited resources, hoarding such for one’s own gain is reprehensible in the big cultural picture. Despite this, these Christians cling to conservatism, mostly because it fits this particular Bible verse. Mix in a little abortion, gender, sex, and religious freedom, and it doesn’t matter if their party exists solely to support the wealthy.

This verse, however, is part of a bigger matter that Paul was discussing with Timothy, who raised the issue of care for widows in the church. Apparently (we don’t know, because we don’t have Timothy’s original letter to Paul), the church was having difficulty separating widows who were deserving of care from those who weren’t. Think of it as a matter of welfare for the poor, and here we have the contemporary division between liberal and conservative thinking expressed 2,000 years ago. If we take the time to actually read and study this, we come to a place where Paul actually separates church governance from the basic tenets of Christianity. He judges some widows as undeserving and presents others as “the real widows.” In verse 16, he writes what could be a plank for the GOP:

“If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”

The remarkable admission that the church is fiscally burdened by this puts the statement into the uncomfortable category of the practical versus the faith, for God is certainly not burdened by some widows seeking care. I don’t know enough to make the claim that this is idolatry, but as long as this portion of Paul’s letter is used to justify disrespect for the poor today, it flies in the face of the actual red words in the New Testament. Such followers need to be called on it.

What’s even worse is that these believers use this statement in their response to governmental aid for the poor today. Paul’s writings are addressed to the church, not the government. Moreover, when this fundamental belief is mixed with abortion, genderism, transphobia, homosexuality, and religious freedom, it’s easy to miss that the wealthy really only want for themselves.

Two other thoughts. One, if people really thought about Donald Trump’s election phrase — “Make America Great Again” — they’d realize that the good things of the melting pot days included strong labor unions and their core support for working men and women. Two, this leads inevitably to the conclusion that license on behalf of the business community is not what ever made America great. This worship of the businessman or woman is the core of Trumpism and a blight on those who labor on their behalf. Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t appointed to the Supreme Court, because he was pro-life; he was given the job because he passed the right wing litmus test of being 100% pro-business, a.k.a. the wealthy.

Finally, the press today is going to have to find a way to feel comfortable and confident arguing religion during the 2020 campaign. I support the Christian Democrats of America, because theirs is an ignored voice in the public square, and that cannot continue.

May you be so moved, too.