The Grief of Evangelicals

While three days now following the 2020 presidential election, the dust hasn’t yet settled. Joe Biden already has won the popular vote. But with several states still tabulating, the electoral count is yet to be totaled – although Biden is on track to be sworn in next January 20th. Reasonable people are willing to see an orderly process following the rule of law. That means Donald Trump does the opposite; for such a time as this he files frivolous lawsuits against Biden-claimed States. His firehose of lies seeds doubt throughout his cult with fictions regarding corruption of mail-in ballots – but only where it hasn’t benefitted him.

Watching the reactions of evangelicals – using that term loosely – to this election, what comes to mind is how they are dealing with loss. In her 1969 book, On Grief & Grieving[1], Swiss psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identified five emotional stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Just as there is no typical loss, hers is not a tidy framework; emotions overlap. The Kübler-Ross construction is helpful in seeing how evangelicals struggle with the reality that The Anointed One is their single-term president:

Denial: Defeat had not penetrated their cognitive dissonance; even their best and brightest remain in denial. It would contradict God’s own will to allow something like this happen. “The Lord, our God, has sealed this election in the heavenlies,” claims Michelle Bachmann.  Charisma News calls for prayer to help the president, who is called for such a time as this, to cross the finish line. Some charismatic apostles have released angels to secure the election process. Just as many false prophets have gone out into the world, angelic reinforcements have come from as far as Africa to hand Trump the victory.

Anger. When somebody must be to blame, the search for culprits is always successful. And it’s best to start looking in your own backyard. Traitors at home poisoned the well. We’ve been stabbed in the back – the Dolchstoß – by defeatists in our midst.  These are our November Criminals. It’s perennial troublers of Israel like Jim Wallis. It’s the Never-Trumpers like Mark Galli. It’s people like Mark DeMoss who are disfellowshipped – or John Piper – who are dropped like a hot rock. Or voluntary exiles, like Napp Nazworth. Most of the guilt is laid on lazy, lukewarm Christians who just didn’t pray hard enough to get results. They are phony Christians, because supporting President Donald Trump “is a test whether you’re even saved.” Then there are the usual suspects: the Demon-crats, the God-hating Deep State, the biased media, and ad infinitum in ever-increasing circles. Blame issued to everyone – except themselves. Few will ever progress beyond this second Kübler-Ross stage.

Bargaining: Intercessory prayer has been around as a coping mechanism since Abraham bargained with God over Sodom and Gomorrah. God is not only hearing our prayers, but great power is being released because of our continued intercession. We’ve seen this play out with prayer warriors camped out at election offices. We need all hands on deck with deep intercession, especially for Pennsylvania because there is a spirit of death hanging over this state.

Depression: Few will admit this Kübler-Ross stage. Donald Trump is a winner. We are winners. We are overcomers. Victory sums up the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you’re depressed, you don’t have to “manage” it; you can annihilate it by reading the Bible and praying in the Spirit. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” A normal response to frustration and anxiety is to repress it by lashing out; Kübler-Ross doesn’t a suggest a linear framework; emotional states overlap, and this root of bitterness can resolve itself in anger; including taking vengeance.

“If Joe Biden is named the victor in the 2020 election, it will mean the first coup in American history has succeeded.” It is a seditious effort by an antichrist government to sabotage the President, so Romans 13 can be thrown out the window. Egged on by Trump’s rhetoric, anger may intensify over the next few days, especially with Donald Trump shouting fire in a crowded theater. Get your guns ready for the impending civil warfare, one Media Christian advises. Another overtly recommends hanging them from gallows in Trump ties. He echoes the many Sunday pew-sitters who shout “lock her up” at Trump rallies.  More level-headed evangelicals have denounced violence from either side. In the sort of benign complicity described by Hannah Arendt, Franklin Graham and many others warning that the Democrats are coming to  “take your guns”, simply muse by casually suggesting that a civil war might happen.

Acceptance: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Trumpists look to a Resurrection Run in 2024. “You shall without fail recover all,” prophesies Paul White. Trump may vacate the White House, but he will live in the hopes and hearts of his cult followers. In whatever direction his future lies, he will monetize it, counting on a loyal Christian media to perpetuate his greatness. A Washington Post article draws ideological parallels to the Lost Cause myth:

Just as former Confederates relied on the press and popular culture to disseminate their myths, we might expect cable news outlets and right-wing websites to perpetuate his charges of “rigged elections.” MAGA and Trump flags will fly on private property along major interstates or highways, just as Confederate battle flags do today.

Michael Brown notes the chorus of charismatic prophets would be humiliated in a Trump loss. “Blaming it on the devil or fraud in stealing the election would seem immature or an excuse.” As with the prophets of Baal, “they were in an ecstatic frenzy, but there was no sound, no answer, and no response.”[2] Without a note of shame, one Charismatic wacko has already backtracked by spiritualizing her Trump triumph prophecies. What she really meant was a “landslide” of revelations.

Others have written this off as a moment of demonic false victories. God isn’t happy with what is going on right now. But in their Manichean view of the world, he’ll just have to wait his turn. Come 2021, people will be “forced to listen to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will be forced to reckon with the force of prophecy”.

But for now, people are asking, “What happened to your God?”

[1] Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth and Kessler, David, On Grief & Grieving, New York: Scribner, 2005.

[2] 1 Kings 18:29

One thought on “The Grief of Evangelicals

  1. I don’t know that the Republicans have gotten beyond denial yet, and worry that they are planning something truly sinister for January. We better buckle up and keep paying attention. This is looking more and more Eastern European by the day.


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