Jump from ‘The Bible Said’ to ‘Believe Me’ and ‘God Said Me’ – Baptist News Global
I admit the temptation to reject evangelical rhetoric of a political type as symptomatic of one or another particularly harmful pathology. There is also my own impatience with what I perceive to be the absurdity of the evangelical political messages delivered with confidence by people who seem to have made no discernible effort to determine contestability, nuances, ambiguities, partial truth and the lies of the majority contained in their words.
The tribe of evangelical preachers seems to share the imagination that Christianity at birth was as certain, as evangelical, as political as it is now. The perorations and tirades of these “court evangelicals” as they gravely and condescendingly inform me that I have lost my sanity and that my deepest theological convictions are irrational, that the God I adore is the product of my elitist imagination, and that I need to finally repent of my pagan, demonic, savage credulity.
However, I do not accuse them of hypocrisy or complacency. I also don’t think they are easily duped or insincere. They are very serious believers. Like Roderick Hart, in his work, Trump and us: what he says and why people are listening, I believe that evangelicals deserve to be considered politically, rhetorically and theologically. There have been compelling and intelligent answers to the question of how evangelicals and Trump came together – written by academics, journalists and cultural commentators. My point is that evangelicals, after decades in the laboratory of another world, a safe world that they created to nurture, develop and maintain their worldview, have succeeded in giving birth to a miracle of their own. own manufacture, Donald J. Trump.
Donald Trump is exactly the president the evangelicals wanted. Trump isn’t just attached to evangelicals; the two have become one body. It is about fear, anger and resentment. It’s about politics and theology, but it’s mostly about pragmatic evangelicals who wish to control what Yoder called “the handles of history.”
It’s about winning, the kind of bare-handed victory, without restraint. It is the story of the connecting lines, the fusion of styles, the similarities in rhetoric, the harmonious alliance of two entities of wealth and celebrity, and the potential destructive tendencies of this star alignment.
It is not a canon marriage, but it is a marriage that has produced political offspring, and since it involves a deeply moral and upright people, the evangelicals, it bears the title of The Immaculate Error: How Evangelicals Gave Birth to Donald Trump. It is an artificial insemination of at least a century to produce offspring: a hard and resentful man; a messiah anointed by conservative evangelicals, a man whose gospel centers on vengeance, a strong man to stand up to treacherous liberals.
“It is not a canon marriage, but it is a marriage that produced political offspring.”
This is not an attempt to prove a hypothesis or to suggest that an absolute causal relationship has been established. I suggest that the evidence points to Trump being the offspring of evangelical conservatives who, by becoming more and more secular, have finally produced a political prodigy who thinks and acts like them, but is not hampered by any religious qualms. Instead of being a collection of mannequins, evangelicals are organ players; Trump is their monkey. The confrontational, often offensive, exaggerated, whimsical rhetoric of preachers provided the seed that emerges from Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets.
Evangelical preaching lives in a crystalline sea of certainty. There is no suggestion or hint of probability, only the “it’s like that”. Flannery O’Connor, in Used to be, says, “The spirit serves best when it is anchored in the Word of God.” So there is no danger of becoming an intellectual without integrity. It would be helpful to evangelicals if they were so anchored, but in reality, they are only anchored in the black leather cover of the Bible – a symbol of literalism unrelated to the current canon.
Billy Graham usually sang, “The Bible says. Donald Trump often says: “Believe me. The words “God told me” are important in this kind of preaching. This language is a powerful means of persuasion for a people trained to regard the Bible as a literal truth and the pastor as the keeper of this literal truth.
Robert S. McElvaine, in The great Depression, says, “In believers’ calculation, ‘in fact’ is a phrase as light as an astronaut in space. Evidence that goes against the received Truth is thus revealed to be false. True believers prefer to say “the proofs be damned” rather than being damned by the proofs. There are no assumptions for believers. Blind faith wouldn’t be blind if it could see the facts.
“Buried in the evangelical conviction that this is a war is the psychology of treating the enemy as less than human. “
In the minds of evangelicals, they are a tribe besieged by an invading secular and liberal enemy. They feel trapped, belittled and belittled. Perhaps they are suffering from forms of post-traumatic shock resulting from at least 100 years of war with modernists and liberals. Buried in the evangelical conviction that this is a war, there is the psychology of treating the enemy as less than human.
For example, participants in Trump rallies project Democrats as pedophiles, as agents of sexual slavery, as murderers. Jeff Charlet, in a lengthy interview with a Trump supporter at one of these rallies, learns that the Clintons are killers. The term used by the Trump supporter is “Arkan-cide”.
David Livingston Smith recounts the processes by which we reduce human beings to being animals, demons, enemies. Nowhere does this tendency manifest itself as in war. Propaganda from countries at war focuses on portraying the enemy as a bunch of animals, worthy only to be killed. “The great chain of being,” says Smith, “continues to cast a shadow over our contemporary worldview. It is also a prerequisite for the notion of dehumanization, because the very notion of subhumanity – of being less than human – depends on it.
Donald Trump is part revivalist Billy Sunday, part antagonist J. Frank Norris, part televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr., and part preacher of the prosperity gospel. If Billy Sunday is a religious vaudeville; J. Frank Norris, Barnum and Bailey’s Circus; and Falwell Sr., the televangelist; Donald Trump is the secular revivalist / televangelist. It is the culmination of evangelical faith minus faith. It combines revival rhetoric with declination messages; he demonizes a wide range of enemies with a stubborn certainty that would have made Sunday proud. It combines wealth and Christianity. Donald Trump is the world’s most famous lay evangelist. I admit that I don’t love Trump as much as all the evangelists of hell and damnation who disrupted my childhood dreams.
“Donald Trump is part revivalist Billy Sunday, part antagonist J. Frank Norris, part televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr., and part preacher of the prosperity gospel.”
When Trump somehow won the presidency, a group of evangelicals gathered in a New York City ballroom were screaming and some were crying. “It was as if God had answered our prayers and the impossible had happened,” said Steve Strang of Charisma magazine.
Strang is the Founder and Pioneer CEO of Charisma Media and was elected by Time magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. It has been featured on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBN, James Dobson’s “Family Talk” and many Christian outlets. Steve’s latest book is called God, Trump and the 2020 election, and he said, “We had a new president: a stranger whom we thought God had raised up to get the United States out of its comfortable slide into globalism.”
It was a reminder that Eisenhower saw his victory as a national mandate for a revival: “I think one of the reasons I was elected was to help lead this country spiritually,” he said. “We need spiritual renewal.
Conservative Evangelicals Celebrated come out of the cold, come back from intellectual exile, political defeat and decades of abusive accusations of being a bunch of fools. They now felt not only their usual righteousness, but also their good. Never overlook the power to “feel good” when it comes to evangelicals.
Trump tapped into the insatiable desire of evangelicals to “feel good” rather than being humiliated by the civic morality of gay and immigrant rights and abortion rights.
Donald Schaefer maintains that “feeling good” is the product Trump sells to his supporters. Schaefer offers a visual metaphor that I find illuminating for evangelical leaders: Pepe the Frog, a frog character with a human body created in 2005 by cartoonist Matt Furie. Pepe, “unfazed when confronted, clears away any embarrassment with a stoner smile and a breezy catchphrase,” “Feels good man.” Shaefer says, “Pepe’s smug but clumsy hanging dog routine has become the perfect emblem of the (evangelical) approach to politics – a refusal to be humiliated. Pepe’s shtick is to deflect every attack with a shrug. His smiling contempt for all efforts to shame him became theirs. “
Rodney W. Kennedy is currently acting pastor of the Emmanuel Freiden Federated Church in Schenectady, NY, and a preaching instructor at Palmer Theological Seminary. He is the author of nine books, including the new Immaculate error, on how evangelical Christians gave birth to Donald Trump. This chronicle is taken from his latest book.
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