It may take a while sometimes, but most people can spot a phoney. And they want nothing to do with them. That describes the sad state of contemporary “evangelicalism”. They see wealthy telepreachers billing themselves as financial deliverers and tricking ordinary people to send in their hard-earned cash – some so brazen as to start a new year off by demanding the January paycheck or face consequences from God. They see the hypocrisy of evangelical leaders, most recent being a Trump sycophant and high-living Christian university president accused of sexual ‘games,’ and self-dealing.
They see preachers tell their congregations NOT to get vaccinated against COVID-19, because “that’s what Satan wants.” Or COVID-19-denying preachers dying, giving Holy Spirit immunity, or even shout “Hallelujah” when their church is ravaged by COVID. They hear lurid accounts of ballot-stuffed suitcases in Georgia, thankfully “caught” by Rudy Giuliani. The allegations were debunked as ridiculous – and the only thing Giuliani actually caught was a case of COVID virus. They may have seen him testifying (accompanied by what suspiciously sounded like him squeezing out a few farts), and then trying to shush his wacky “star” witness. They hear a Presidential advisor shouting an incantation of “victory, victory, victory, victory”, sounding more like a demented sorceress than a charismatic prophetess. Even Rush Limbaugh admitted Trump supporters are coming across as ‘kooks‘.
That is what the empty shell of evangelicalism looks like today. Trump didn’t invent Trumpist ideology – he simply was the opportunity for fringe politicians and fringe religionists to usurp the mainstream. “And this ends up feeding doubts about religion itself,” notes David Gerson. People see evangelicals standing with racists, white nationalists, homophobes, and misogynists, and ask themselves, “is Christianity a faith I want to be associated with?” More and more people have answered “no”, including many who voted with their feet walking out the church door. Some churches are happy to see them go, like one that uses a detailed questionnaire to see if you’re a perfect enough Christian to worship with that select few. Others just discard large swaths of humanity as “unsavable” – meaning those “who are politically or socially liberal and should be eschewed”. Where is Jesus of the Gospels in that? Who, by the way, can be expected to believe the truth of the Gospel from Franklin Graham’s mouth when it is so crammed with bullshit about Trump?
Trump scores an “A” for truthfulness on the American Christian Voting Guide. Fred Clark, who writes as Slacktivist, asks rhetorically whether Trumpism is harming the evangelical witness. No, he answers himself. “It is your witness. The entirety of it, for all the world to see. And that message is coming across loud and clear.” The inmates believe Trump is the embodiment of truth, and they are running the insane asylum. And the mentally unstable can’t understand why droves of perfectly normal humans are exiting their bogus Christian brand in disgust. For them, it is the unifying message of Christ. To everyone else, its clear that truth no longer matters to them. “It’s bearing false witness against President Trump to say he seeks to divide us,” evangelical professor Wayne Grudem comments. We didn’t need him to divide us, our white American Jesus has been doing it pretty well already. Looks like that Jesus has finally succeeded. And it makes our faith look like Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds.
If you are an evangelical looking to bail out, I can only say I don’t blame you. But hang in there. Find someplace that is not a Patriot Church and still preaches only the Gospel. Our Wheaton concert band went on many regional tours, and we overnighted with honest, decent Christian families through “fly-over” America. I often think of ta particular church in rural Kansas, and how wonderful the people were. And I pray that they’ve remained the same. My advice is, look for a non-political congregation – they’re out there. Try the ELCA or the Evangelical Covenant churches. There is a loving home for you to recover your wounds and heal.