Draining the swamp of American Evangelicalism

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been troubled of late. It’s all down to the storm on the western horizon and what seems (from this distance) to be an alliance between Christians and radical evil. Someone sent me a link to a video showing a posse of what were described as ‘Evangelical faith leaders’ praying for a certain President in the White House and, to be honest, I found it profoundly disturbing. I wondered (not without a pang of guilt) how many times one could sell one’s soul to the devil before it became the latter’s property.

This began a curious journey for me. The thing is, I like to think of myself as a fairly ordinary and intelligent person, but what troubled was I didn’t under it. How could Christians support someone like Mr T? I started doing some research to find out what the sycophantic posse of ‘faith leaders’ surrounding Trump really believed, and what their motivation was. This was a few months ago. As a result, I found myself holed up in my study like a medieval monk, being drawn (partly against my will, in some respects) into the murky world of American politics and right wing religion.

At first, it seemed that every stone I turned over revealed a can or worms (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors). I was shocked by the weird beliefs I uncovered. For example, Senator James Inhofe — Republican Chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works from 2003 to 2007 — believes that there is no need to worry about climate change. In his view, it’s all a hoax,  and God is looking after the climate anyway. But the worst thing was the number of seemingly intelligent people claiming to be Christians who were convinced that Mr T was God’s messiah. In short, they believed that a swamp is drained by pouring filthy water into it.

So I began writing a paper on the subject, mainly for my own benefit, to try and understand what was motivating these ‘Christians’. To cut a long story short, it is now a book of 50,000 words provisionally entitled, Draining the Swamp — a theological critique of the ethics of Trumpland. (I am currently looking for a publisher.)

I will post more here is due course — maybe a few extracts — but I just wanted you to understand one thing (which is fairly troubling).

The right wing Christians that are supporting the American President are doing so, not because they are temporarily using him as a lever to gain power, but for a more sinister reason: he reflects what they truly believe. As the New York Times observed:

It is not surprising that the contemporary leaders of the religious right are blasé about reports that Trump cheated on his third wife with a porn star shortly after the birth of his youngest child, then paid her to be quiet. Despite his louche personal life, Trump, the racist patriarch promising cultural revenge, doesn’t threaten the religious right’s traditional values. He embodies them.

This is explored in some depth by Nancy Wadsworth: it’s worth reading her article: ‘The racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump’. I am not going to expand on this now. All I want to say is this: do not be deceived into thinking that this ‘Christian’ support for Trump is a positive thing. It is not. As Jesus said, you can tell what kind of tree is in front of you by its fruit. The immoral fruit we are seeing on display in the U.S.A. (and, sadly, elsewhere in the world) is a major red light. We are, perhaps, witnessing the beginning of the end of Western Christianity as commonly understood. Whether this turn of events is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth and value moral integrity, it is time to speak out against this pervasion of faith. ‘Do not be deceived; God is not mocked.’

The new book explores this in some depth, but most importantly, ends with some very positive and practical advice on how to discern truth and become a positive change-agent. I’ll write more about this next week.