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Sunday, July 22, 2018
The presidency of Donald Trump has created unavoidable moral dilemmas for a distinct subset of Christians who are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly evangelical and more uniformly pro-Trump than any other part of the American electorate.
In poll after poll, they have said that Trump has kept his promises to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, fight for religious liberty, adopt pro-life policies and deliver on other issues that are high priorities for them.
At the same time, many have acknowledged the awkwardness of being both self-proclaimed followers of Jesus and the No. 1 champions of a president whose character has been defined not just by alleged infidelity but accusations of sexual harassment, advancing conspiracy theories popular with white supremacists, using language that swaths of Americans find racist, routinely spreading falsehoods and an array of casual cruelties and immoderate behaviors that amount to a roll call of the seven deadly sins.
The predicament has led to all kinds of reactions within the evangelical community, from a gathering of pastors in Illinois described as a “call to self-reflection,” to prayer meetings with Trump in Washington, to hours of cable news reckoning in which Southern Baptists have taken the lead.
The megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress has declared that Trump is “on the right side of God” and that “evangelicals know they are not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president.” Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, said the only explanation for Trump being in the White House was that “God put him there.”
Jewell Killough, 82, had not yet heard anything to dissuade her from believing that Trump was being used by God to save America. “Oh, I feel like the Lord heard our prayers and gave us a second chance before the end times. I think they are trying to frame him,” she said, referring to the unflattering stories about the president.
By “they,” she meant liberals and others she believed were not only trying to undermine Trump’s agenda, but God’s agenda for America, which she believed was engaged in a great spiritual contest between good and evil, God and Satan, the saved and the unsaved, for whom God had prepared two places.
There was Heaven: “Most say it’s gonna be 15,000 miles wide and that high,” Jewell said. “We don’t know whether when it comes down how far it will come, if it’s gonna come all the way or if there will be stairs. We don’t know that. But it’s gonna be suitable to each person. You know that old song, ‘Lord, build me a cabin in the corner of Gloryland?’ See, that’s not right. It’s not gonna be you have a cabin over here and I have one over there. It’s gonna be suitable to each person. So, whatever makes me happy. I like birds. So outside my window, there will be birds.”
And there was Hell: “Each person is gonna be on an islandlike place, and fire all around it. And they’re gonna be in complete darkness, and over time, your eyes will go. And worms’ll eat on you. It’s a terrible place, the way the Bible describes it.”
Terry Drew, who knew and agreed with Trump’s position, and knew that supporting him involved a blatant moral compromise.
“I hate it,” he said. “My wife and I talk about it all the time. We rationalize the immoral things away. We don’t like it, but we look at the alternative, and think it could be worse than this.”
The only way to understand how a Christian like him could support a man who boasted about grabbing women’s crotches, Terry said, was to understand how he felt about the person Trump was still constantly bringing up in his speeches and who loomed large in Terry’s thoughts: Hillary Clinton, whom Terry saw as “sinister” and “evil” and “I’d say, of Satan.”
“She hates me,” Terry said, sitting in Crum’s office one day. “She has contempt for people like me, and Clay, and people who love God and believe in the Second Amendment. I think if she had her way it would be a dangerous country for the likes of me.”
“Obama woke a sleeping nation,” said Linda.
“He woke a sleeping Christian nation,” Sheila corrected.
Linda nodded. It wasn’t just Muslims that posed a threat, she said, but all kinds of immigrants coming into the country.
“Unpapered people,” Sheila said, adding that she had seen them in the county emergency room and they got treated before her. “And then the Americans are not served.”
Love thy neighbor, she said, meant “love thy American neighbor.”
Welcome the stranger, she said, meant the “legal immigrant stranger.”
“The Bible says, ‘If you do this to the least of these, you do it to me,’ ” Sheila said, quoting Jesus. “But the least of these are Americans, not the ones crossing the border.”
They were praying for God to save them. And God sent them Donald Trump.
“I believe God put him there,” Sheila said. “He put a sinner in there.”
God was using Trump just like he had used the Apostle Paul, she said.
“Paul had murdered Christians and he went on to minister to many, many people,” Sheila said. “I think he’s being molded by God for the role. I think he’s the right man for the right time. It’s about the survival of the Christian nation.”
“We are in mortal danger,” Linda said.
“We are in a religious war,” Sheila said.
“We may have to fight and die for our faith,” Sheila said. “I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, we will.”
“God does not want you to kill on your terms, he wants you to kill on his terms,” pastor Crum had concluded in his sermon. “So let’s promote Jesus in life. Let’s not kill. Unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
The above sections - and the comments below - were taken from a very, very long article that can be read in its entirety HERE.
marceline - These wretched, hateful, primitive people are going to get the rest of us killed.
humphrey mcgee - Or, to take the optimistic view, these backwards goobers will die off over the next 50-100 years, and evolution will continue its march toward rationality.
2004_discovery - Shaking my head so much it hurts. This article is the sole reason why education should be our highest priority in America along with health care and health education. Insert the world Allah and Islam or Yaweh and Judaism in this article with the words God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and Baptist or Christianity and you will see ignorant parallels where people justify lots of bad things in the name of god and religion.
yankee on left coast - Evangelical Christianity is a way to avoid personal responsibility since one is urged to believe "God wants it this way." Dangerous, magical thinking in a world that has gotten too big with too many complex systems for many folks to parse.
sane southerner - These Christians in name only are, in order of importance:
1st - a member of their white racist tribe (can you say Republicans).
2nd - an American longing for some imaginary utopian Norman Rockwell past that only existed in their white racist mind.
3rd - a fake Christian anxious about being admitted to a made up glorious American consumerist vision of heaven.
These poor delusional souls can be found in large numbers in rural southern states. I know, because they are my neighbors.
BaronSiegfried - The self-serving rationalizations and hypocrisy shown here is staggering. This is why the young are rejecting this cult's warped worldview by the literal millions. If Christianity dies away, it will be because of Christians, not any outside attacks. The fact that the Christian base has attached itself so firmly to Trumpism tells me that they have utterly and completely rejected the wisdom and teachings of Jesus (who I rather like, BTW) and have embraced Mammon.
As more and more of Trump's sins and guilt are revealed, his 'Christian' base will cleave more and more to him. There is nothing that Trump can do or anyone can say that will cause them to leave his side. The worse his sins, the more they will forgive him. If he betrays his country, he's doing it for 'renewal', or to prepare us for the End Times. There is literally no limit to the rationalizations they will espouse.
The next gens see this. And they despise it. So, they walk away in disgust and revulsion. There are churches closing up all over the country, where there are no longer enough worshipers to keep them open. This isn't 'the work of Satan'. This is pious hypocrites, bigots, and smarmy grifters being seen for what they are by people who no longer drink the Kool-Aid or nibble the crackers. The decline of Christianity is entirely self inflicted. Christianity isn't under attack. It's simply fading away as a result of its own sins: the wages thereof is death.
There will always be Christians. But as their numbers dwindle, their power dwindles with it. In just a few decades, Christianity will merely be another eccentricity indulged in by the elderly, the credulous, and the con artists. But as arbiters of public morals or values? As a force to direct public policy? They have already surrendered that position in the former, and are failing miserably in the latter.
Joeinil - A town of wasted minds in a region of the US that is full of towns like this one. Barry Goldwater, in his later years, when confronted by this mindset tried to warn the Republican Party that they were making a Faustian bargain. Barry, you were right.
MBachorik - Amazing. Members of the congregation believe that Trump was put in the White House by God but then refuse to apply the same to President Obama. Oh yeah, HE was put there by Satan. It all comes down to bigotry, belief in lies spread by Limbaugh, et al, abortion, and guns - every moral question can be rationalized away.
jpsebasti - These people show the same level of denial that alcoholics and drug addicts do. Karl Marx was right about religion. Mid-terms are approaching people. Attend to your civic duty and purge the swamp.