Mental Illness Versus Religious Performance

When the president talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he’s not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the president talks to God?

– “When The President Talks To God”,           Bright Eyes

“When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’”. Ever since Jesus began his ministry, religious fervor has been mistaken for mental illness. Physicians in the 19th Century ascribed many cases of mental illness to religious “excitement”. Nowadays, psychiatrists simply prescribe pills. Even so, psychologists struggle to find the dividing line. The Scientific American suggests even mental health professionals must frequently rely on conclusions based on observable behaviors.

In the Miracle of the Swine narrative mentioned in all three Synoptics, Jesus calls forth a “legion” of demons from a Gerasene man living among the tombs. Psychiatrists would diagnose the man’s pattern of self-mutilation as suggesting schizophrenia spectrum. Christians, on the hand solidly place this as demon possession, with the “legion” of demons crying out, saying, “What business do you have with us, Son of God?”

“You talk to God, you’re religious. God talks to you, you’re psychotic.” So goes the old saying. But not if you’re religious. Or at least a charismatic Christian, following a tele-preacher who acts as a conduit for the “Spirit of God”.  Especially those COVID-19 denying faith-healers whose Anointed Word from God has killed many of their own flocks, by claiming the people of God “have dominion and authority over COVID-19”. Including self-proclaimed “prophetess” Kat (Jesus-loves-dessert-in Heaven) Kerr who broke Satan’s lie that Biden had become president, by laughing it off in the Spirit.  She’s the same nut job, among other wacky prophecies, dispatched “1000 Special Ops Angels” to ensure Trump would get reelected. It’s just a smidgen of her spiritual looneyness that JoeMyGod takes a deep dive into.. And evangelicals – for which faith detached from reason plays well – keep nodding their heads in approval.

Søren Kierkegaard was spot on when he observed that “in paganism the theater was worship – in Christendom the churches have generally become the theater.” The best televangelists are accomplished thespians, knowing they are the lead performers acting in a religious theater.  It doesn’t matter what pours forth from the performer’s mouth – however toxic – so long as it keeps God’s people entertained. Is it performance art, or mental illness?

Ever since the Moral Majority days, an evangelicalism founded on racism has spilled over its self-righteous banks to put a voodoo curse on Others they don’t like.  In a recent pro-Trump rally, the crowd cheered as a “prophet” declared that the “Angel of Death” is coming for named Democrat politicians by the end of the year. Kill the Gays! Kill the Abortionists! Now the dam is bursting into society at large: Kill the Librarians! Kill the School Board! Kill Election Officials. Kill the FBI!  Kill the George Floyds!  Kill George Soros globalists!  Or whatever Demon-Du-Jour St. Tucker of Carlson anathematized the evening before. These are the divine commands they are receiving loud and clear now. Of course, it’s rarely been translated into criminal action – excepting Jan. 6th – but the imprecatory rhetoric is rampant throughout an evangelicalism bent on smiting its perceived enemies.

It gets deadly serious when the National Leader hears divine voices. People by and large adjust to presidents who formulate policy by personal gut feeling, or just plain lie about their inner motivations in executing it as they see fit. What about a foreign leader with claims to righteousness and to revenge, and who hears the audible voice of God?  Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Ayatollah, Putin?  Surely they were demon-possessed – or at least delusional. What about an American president?  

George W. Bush, for example. “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did.” Bush was not elected; he was ordained to carry out God’s commands, taking the leap from seeking to obey God’s will to embodying it as earthly redeemer. Bush claimed his anointed position obviated accountability to any mere mortal. “I’m the Commander – see, I don’t need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the President”. Those close to Bush were spooked by his “sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do”. As Gary Wills noted, “the conviction that we might benefit by removing Saddam is not the same as believing that God wills it – except in George Bush’s mind.” Cal Thomas ascribed Bush’s dangerous arrogance to individuated religious feelings, which “supplant objective truth and make the individual a high priest unto himself.”  Meanwhile, estimates of total fatalities in his contrived Shock and Awe against Iraq vary between 800,000 and 1.3 million.   

I could go on and on about Presidents who were utterly unqualified, or otherwise psychologically and spiritually impaired. But cut to the short and say Donald Trump wins the prize. “Against his staff’s warnings about dictator Kim Jong-un, Trump boasted their personal “love letters” assured international peace. Despite that North Korea continued unabated at delivering a nuclear missile to “hit and wipe out” the American mainland. “Only I know”. Donald Trump didn’t ask Americans to place their trust in each other or in God, but rather in himself alone. I Alone Can Fix It. According to Trump’s psychologist niece, the former President is mentally ill with an attention-seeking Messiah complex.  Theologian  Diana Butler Bass agrees. “The King of Israel? The second coming of God? He thinks he’s Jesus. That’s where we are.”  His dangerous attempts to hold on to power after he lost the 2020 election almost convinced his cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. It had the opposite effect on millions of his “Let’s Go Brandon” followers, with many expressing their willingness to die for him. It becomes a shared psychosis, arousing a “similar pathology in the population that creates a ‘lock and key’ relationship”.

Oh, I can’t tell if he is a crook or a religious fanatic,” declares one of Sinclair Lewis’ characters in his political novel, It Can’t Happen Here. The man is listening to the nomination of presidential candidate Buzz Windrip. Supported by both fundamentalist Christians and large corporate interests, the cunning Windrip ultimately wins the election, and proceeds to transform America into a dictatorship. Is Trump an attention-seeking, Bible-fumbling performance artist, or is he certifiably insane? Either way, it appears our country is life imitating art at the whims of another wrong hero. One, like the deranged “precious bodily fluids” character in Dr. Strangelove, who has his finger on the nuclear button. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Ps. 118:9). Sadly, Trump will keep his crowds entertained until the final curtain falls – directly on top of all of us.

Die Juden sind unser Unglück

There was a time when evangelicals just whispered the “J” word. Now, Trump has given license to say whatever bigoted stray thought that escapes their closed minds.  Take for example, QAnon Christian, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who blamed California wildfires on a space laser controlled by “Globalists” – code word for the Rothschild banking firm. And Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who a motley collection of MAGA cultists see as a nefarious mastermind of international conspiracies. It was impetus enough for a Florida man to deliver a pipe bomb to the Soros home. “Soros was the one behind everything,” an acquaintance  recounted him repeating. “He was the one buying the whole Democratic Party, he was the epicentre of what is going wrong in the United States of America.”

Blame the Jew. “The truth is”, writes Seth Cohen, “there is only one sordid reason for why attacks on George Soros are constantly trending, and it is not because of his money or his politics. It is because he is Jewish.”  He shares that blame with Jews who “control” Hollywood, the media, banking and finance. The usual suspects: Janet Yellen, (Jewish Secretary of the Treasury) and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs Chairman). Otherswho don’t have your good in mind.” “I stand with the Christians worldwide not the global bankers who are shoving godlessness and degeneracy in our face,” fervent evangelical Wendy Rogers recently scapegoated. Her solution: build more gallows for these traitors.

Last November, I posted The Problem With Judaism: All The Good Jews Live In Israel  which identified Soros as the personification of Jewish blame for the moral collapse of Western civilization. (For Donald Trump, who claims American Jews are disloyal, as with a wide assortment of Christian Zionists, Israel-loving is “a different story.”)  “Most churches in America today do not think they are anti-Semitic. Many churches allow small attacks on Judaism that make larger attacks more likely”. Evangelicals blithely imprint Soros, a Holocaust survivor, while pretending the ugly trope is not an ambiguously disguised reference to Jews as a whole.

There was always anti-Semitism in evangelicalism. One can recall Billy Graham candidly speaking with President Nixon, unaware that he was being recorded. The Watergate tapes reveal Graham’s personal feelings about his Jewish “friends”:  ”They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country”. Things have changed since. They’ve taken an extreme turn for the worse. And evangelical churches are a hub for radicalization. Forget that passé right-wing mantra, Judeo-Christian heritage. “We have to have one religion ” Mike Flynn spouts as he traverses the country speaking at churches.

Anti-Semitic Beliefs Grow Among Evangelicals, reads a Forward headline. Take for example, popular right-wing pastor Rick Wiles of Florida (a state where anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 50%). Wiles called the attempt to impeach President Donald Trump a “Jew coup”. He went on to claim Jews will “kill millions of Christians.” Perhaps he took a cue from Hitler-loving Trump himself, who outright threatened U.S. Jews to “get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel – Before it is too late!” “We are called to be at odds with any religion that does not acknowledge Jesus as the Prince of Peace,” another Florida pastor declared. Or take celebrity convert Kanye West’s threat to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”. These are not outliers in an evangelical church disfigured into a politically-influenced identity cult. “This is not an aberration in behavior. It is the default.”

What to do? Firstly, Christians should verse themselves in what St. Paul commands: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good”, and “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12). Secondly, determine you will love and pray for them, regardless. Thirdly, reclaim the Gospel from those kidnapping the faith, watching out “for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” (Romans 16).

If anything, Christians can learn a lesson from House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, who recently invoked a new committee rule against “batsh** crazy” legislation (in this case, from Lauren Boebert) from proceeding. “I’m sorry. We’re not doing this”, he declared. “We’re not doing this. I’m not going down that road. I’m not going to be part of any effort to legitimize people who are f*cking lunatics”.

Unless our opposition is vocalized and actualized, evangelical Christians will be facing the same fate as German pastor Martin Niemöller described under the Nazis:

… Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Calling James Dobson. Are You There…? Hello…?

For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. (Acts 26:26)

“I simply can’t in good conscience be a party to putting any of them in power, because I believe they’ll do irreparable harm to our country.” James Dobson in 2008 on electing McCain, Clinton or Obama

Years ago, as a young church-going parent, I listened to James Dobson’s tapes on Christian child-rearing.  Until I realized the futility of his advice to break children’s wills by bullying them with authoritarian parental control. Abuse doesn’t lead to redemption. From there, the child psychologist increasingly misapplied his media hold over millions of evangelicals for his own skewed political purposes. Confident in his role as Spiritual Daddy, he parleyed his combative fundamentalism to become a partisan kingmaker.

Bill Clinton “will never stop lying”, Dobson pronounced in 1998. His “disregard for morality is profoundly disturbing to me.” Clinton, he maintained, “is the only one in American history, to my knowledge, who has been specifically applauded for his deceit…  Character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it.” Again: “We are facing a profound moral crisis — not only because one man has disgraced us – but because our people no longer recognize the nature of evil. And when a nation reaches that state of depravity – judgment is a certainty.”

Fast forward to today, where Dobson runs spiritual defense for Team MAGA, including its pathological leader. He’s a man who remained stumm about Trump’s sexual infidelities, his cheating, his profanity – despite supporting “those who will lead the country righteously, honorably, and wisely”. And he’s a man who claims the 2020 election was stolen, because of “the overwhelming volume of evidence”.  

You might say Dobson is a hypocrite. But Dobson, like so many of his pious sisters and brothers in Christ, is not a religious phony. Dobson has spent his entire career telling others how to structure their lives. He, like the Pharisees, takes pride in narrow-minded “our-way-or-highway” religiosity. You’d think this witness for the Truth would have the discernment to distinguish right-ness from righteousness. Thus, he’s not a hypocrite when playing by his own interpretation of the rules. But you can know all the rules – and when to break them – all in a Christianity bereft of the teachings of Christ. And because, as Dr. Dobson put it, “our people no longer recognize the nature of evil”.  

“If there’s no meaning in it,” said the King in Alice in Wonderland, “that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn’t try to find any.” Evangelicals “talk good sense about wisdom and morality, at least until a Bible opens up. Then, suddenly, we are incapable of holiness,” writes Bart Gingerich. It becomes a free-for-all antinomialism. This isn’t just that they’ve been ignorant, which implies lack of knowledge. They hold false beliefs while knowing they are untrue, which implicates deliberate sinful intent. As Jerry Falwell, Jr. once explained, “we can argue about theology later after we save the country.”

As the disgraced Falwell himself personifies, the Moral Majority has never been about personal morality. At least from “our” side. That’s why you’ll never see Dobson condemn a dreadful person like candidate for Georgia governor, Herschel Walker. Character DOES matter, as Dobson once believed. Now, its just delivering political results. “All that talk about how leaders must exhibit personal morality was forgotten in favor of a ruthless pragmatism they make no effort to conceal. They just want to win by any means necessary and worship power for power’s sake.”

And just as Dobson led thousands into the front door of churches, he’s now pushing thousands out the back door. Hello, Dr. Dobson, are you listening to the door slam on their way out? Wonder why the evangelical church is withering? To paraphrase Dobson, when the church “reaches that state of depravity – judgment is a certainty.”

Behold, A Man In Whom Is No Guile.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Matt. 3:2

You’d have to live under a rock to miss the contenders for Georgia senator. The incumbent Democrat, Rev. Raphael Warnock is pitted against Trump-endorsed Herschel Walker. It’s that season when the airwaves are rotten with campaign ads, and here in Georgia it’s no exception. Walker has made it a toxic race where his are primarily attack ads – very few concentrate on his own accomplishments.

That should not come as a surprise, given Walker has no political experience. More to the point, however, is that there is little virtuous to say about him. Other than he was a popular football star, if that counts. On the football field, he was a superhero. On his private playing field, by published accounts, he was a violent serial philanderer, domestic abuser, and deadbeat dad. Asked if he has ever spoken to any of the mothers of his children, his answer was “why do I need to?” Oh, I forgot to mention he professes to be a staunch “family values” Bible-believing Christian.

And Walker is a habitual liar. “He’s lied so much that we don’t know what’s true”, his own campaign staff admitted. A fictitiously-inflated business record, outright fabrications about being an FBI agent, claims that he graduated from college in the top 1% of his class – when he never obtained a degree. You know, just mere trifles anyone might not remember about their past. Oh, and that he failed to mention he pointed a gun to his former wife’s head and threatened to kill her. Or, that he kept secret – even to his own campaign –three undisclosed children born out of wedlock with various women on the side. There might have been more – but he reportedly paid another girlfriend (or more?) to have an abortion. Walker claimed he had no idea who this woman could be, a denial which was undercut by further reporting that she also had a child with him.

One might suppose all that would put the kibosh on pro-lifers’ support. But predictably, “Family Values” evangelicals merely doubled down.  “Walker’s Christian Fans Unfazed By Abortion Revelations”, a Politico article announces. This follows on a “prayer warriors for Herschel” campaign stop at First Baptist of Atlanta, where the preacher invoked God’s blessing for him to win. “So, we thank you that we can support our fellow conqueror, our brother, our friend, the one that we are praying for today.”.

In fact, the revelations of his private life spurred a vote of confidence by record-setting influx of donations, as most evangelicals dismissed the allegations as October surprise hit-jobs. Including Walker himself, who swore he didn’t do any of it. “They want you to confess to something you have no clue about.” And yet, without confessing these as these hidden sins and repenting, he pronounced himself forgiven “by the grace of God.” It’s somewhat akin to the story in Genesis 18 where Sarah lied and said, “I did not laugh.” “Yes, you did laugh”, the divine visitor replied. You put on a show for other people, cleverly thinking “no one’s gonna know.” But God knows. It nevertheless doesn’t matter to Walker. He pulls out some pages from O.J. Simpson’s book, If I Did It, to say, “And if I knew about it, I would be honest and talk about it, but I know nothing about that.” He then deflects to that old saw that “I’ve been born again”, so I have protection against everything.

“The left will do whatever they can to win this seat,” Walker said. “And I told you when I got in this race I’m gonna win this seat.” Funny how projection works. “I always hoped the influence was such that whether we were out in public or on the field,” long-time Dallas Cowboys coach and evangelical Christian Tom Landry once said.” We conducted ourselves in such a way to show Christian traits.”  Landry never allowed winning override his personal dignity and Christian virtue.  Sadly, our current world is bereft of men and women of similar honor. Who are hailed are those with dubious character, those utterly unqualified as leaders, or otherwise psychologically and spiritually impaired.

You might think this is a hit piece on Herschel Walker. He’s merely a bit player in the ongoing Christian Nationalist wet dream. And with a career of severe head injuries, is an ill man to be pitied and cared for. The real villains in this story are the evangelical leaders/grifters unable to accept the Truth and who foist him up as a Jesus-level hero. You know, those who condemn the sins of those on the “opposing” team. And yet turn a hypocritical eye away from their own. I recall Jesus saying many things against people for whom nothing matters more than raw power.

Frankly, I’m voting for Raphael Warnock on his record and Christian ethic.  If power-hungry evangelicals are willing to overlook their own candidate’s  total lack of a personal moral code for the sake of controlling the Senate, shame on them. They may win this election, because he’d be elected by Christians regardless of what Jesus said. But they are stone-cold losers. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

The Christian Breitbart

Because he appears repeatedly on this blog, it may seem I have knives out for Dr. Richard Land, SBC honcho and Christian Post executive editor. He’s an unabashedly loyal Trumpist culture warrior. He also an erudite and seasoned religion professor. Which is why I wonder why the most inane bullshit spills from his Christian brain onto the opinion pages of the Christian Post Breitbart.  That he and his Christian news website have turned rabid MAGA is not my random personal delusion. In 2019, longtime political editor Napp Nazworth was quit-fired after opposing a strong Trump-supporting editorial. He likened the Christian news website to the far-right website Breitbart. “We are now on Team Trump”, management told him.

This time concerns Land’s op-ed of August 26th, “The Mar-a-Lago raid: A constitutional ‘tipping point’?” Land criticizes the “very general and controversial search warrant” executed by the FBI, accusing the government of “trampling the Fourth Amendment”. In fits of partisan hyperbole, he excoriates the government as acting like a banana republic, and suspecting the FBI of planting evidence. “How do we as Americans step back from this dangerous political precipice?” Answering his rhetorical question, Land says “it is up to the people (that’s all of us, folks) to hold all three branches of our government accountable to keeping the guarantees specified in our Constitution.”

Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, former presidents are required to give all White House and presidential records back to the federal government when they leave office. Keeping such records on private property such as Mar-a-Lago is a violation of that Federal law. Evidence of storage of documents and materials related to national security was compelling enough – including a number of sworn cooperating witnesses. A pile of boxes – with some 300 highly classified pages – casually stashed a basement stairway. What does Dr. Land not see there about “holding all three branches of our government accountable”? This material wasn’t Donald Trump’s personal property any more than a soldier can hang on to his GI-issued assault weapon after he leaves the Army.

Land suggests that if the Federal Government can get away with abandoning the constitutional rights of a former President, who is safe from abuse? Well, thankfully there are limits to 4th Amendment rights to privacy. Otherwise, the (extensive) list of SBC ministers and church workers accused of sexual abuse – including child pornographers – would have remained hidden from scrutiny and never seen the light of day. And just as in the search for child pornography on convicted Christian Josh Duggar’s computer, there was evidence convincing enough for a Federal judge to issue a probable cause to believe the illegally mishandled documents at Mar-a-Lago contained some of America’s most sensitive secrets.

I agree with a commenter to his piece, who wrote: “I’m a conservative, born again Christian, but I’m disgusted by what I just read.  There were certainly a few valid points, but they were lost in the drivel.  This article is not just stating a view – its ignoring glaring facts in its writing and shows cult-like endearment to our former president.  It’s disturbing.”

This is what happens when MAGA Christian activists decide they are experienced Constitutional lawyers. The facts suggest Dr. Land should drop his screed about Trump’s  Fourth Amendment rights being violated, and just go with the “How Dare They Mess With The LORD’s Anointed”. Because facts are not important for Breitbart Christians. And because for them, the Divine Trump is not bound by the rules intended for lesser humans. Like self-proclaimed “prophet” Robin Bullock reporting that God is very upset about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago: “God didn’t like that. It didn’t sit well in Heaven.” Kick it up to the heavenly courtroom of God if you don’t like how our democracy works down here on earth.

Too Big To Fail

“I think everyone should be upset about this and, again, Joe Biden is off the rails,” spouted Christian spite-witch Marjorie Taylor Greene. Biden should be impeached after the decision to forgive student loans, she huffed. Her outrage reflects the attitude of many evangelicals: “It seems outrageous to me that any President has the power or authority to cancel legal contracts with the stroke of a pen,” a representative commenter replied to a Christian Post article.

In contrast, evangelicals didn’t complain about the CARES Act PPP, the SBA-guaranteed small business loan program.. In fact, some 50% of churches with more than 200 members applied for a “loan”, with “evangelical leaders tied to President Donald Trump and megachurches tied to scandals pulling in some of the largest payouts”. COVID-19 was a financial bonanza for evangelicals. And they all knew it, replete with secret phone calls from the White House, being “walked through how to obtain emergency funding from the government. Participants in the calls prayed together and thanked officials for ‘blessing’ them with the opportunity to receive millions in taxpayer dollars, even without being tax-exempt or meeting requirements necessary for non-religious organizations.”

Joyce Meyer Ministries, was approved for a $5 million to $10 million loan; Robert Jeffress’ First Baptist Dallas, a loan between $2 million and $5 million; Willow Creek church, between $5 million and $10 million. Despite the intent of PPP to save jobs, the church decided instead to keep the money and cut 92 staff positions. James Dobson’s Family Institute was forgiven $668,549. Mike Bickel of IHOP got $2.5 million. The Crouch dynasty Trinity Broadcasting helped itself to $3.3 million. The American Family Association, a designated hate group, managed to pull $2 million. Steve Furtick wangled $3.6 million, even though his church ended 2019 with a cash surplus of $26 million. Jimmy Swaggart got $2.6 million. Even convicted felon Jim Bakker got into the act, receiving some $400K. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all exposed – some 400 evangelical ministries and churches – and in the open on the Trinity Foundation website. What happens afterwards – what they do with the money – is locked behind IRS rules protecting churches from transparency in some very opaque finances.

Funny how all these good Christian folks, greedily sucking at the government tit, had no second thought about helping themselves to hard-earned public taxpayer money. And many of them ran some very impressive balance sheets. Along with stashed personal wealth galore. Like the late multi-millionaire and anti-vaccine televangelist Marcus Lamb’s Daystar Network, which took $3.9-million, and turned it around to buy him a multimillion corporate jet. It took an outcry generated by an investigative journalist for Lamb to cough the PPP funds back up. Not like they suffered to meet payroll like struggling mom-and-pop small businesses. Or, the black-owned businesses, which received a paltry 1.9% of loans.  The design was politically maneuvered as a set-up to reward loyal Trump soldiers for their godly obesisance.

And so we return to Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose own business had loans worth $183,504 forgiven. “At the stroke of the pen”, her government indebtedness was expunged. No hypocrisy there, nosiree bob. And these are shofar-blowing zealots for the Lord who adore the Old Testament, reveling in God’s command to murder all the gays.  Yet none of these ram’s horn blowing capitalists ever mention the Israelite Year of Jubilee, which came every 50th year, being a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to who owned it (Leviticus 25:1-13).

The hypocrisy is palpable. It should outrage any American taxpayer. Especially a Christian, who disagrees with financially supporting a church or ministry “too big to fail” he/she otherwise shuns as heretical or sham. Meanwhile, thousands of former college students are struggling through an uneasy job market, inflation, and tuition loan repayments. One only needs point to the bait-and-switch Trump University, where “the billionaire had made enough money for himself. Now, he would put his famous brain to work for the little guy“. God cares for the little guy. For glutinous Trump and Taylor Greene, the little guy just gets in the way of the trough. Jesus instead says the little guy is too small to fail my love.

Let’s blow a shofar for student loan forgiveness! 

Saying The Silent Part Out Loud

We are constantly reminded of the holiness of televangelists – by themselves. Like Kenneth Copeland, whose spiritual purity would be sullied if he took a commercial flight in “a long tube with a bunch of demons”.  Whenever I board a plane and head back to the cheap seats, all I see is a bunch of entitled white people in first class – just the demographic Copeland would feel comfortable with. But because this man of God is creeped out to be around normal (lesser) humans, he needs his own private business jet – together with a hangar full of holy spare airplanes.  And how about the divine extortion scheme run by Paula Cain, where she informed her members to sign over their January paychecks to her. Or bad things would happen to them.

“The nondenominational megachurch has made it easier for charlatans, or those who simply seek autonomy, to shelter themselves from accountability”, according to Ministry Watch. Nobody has been watching these scam-vangelists for so long that they have convinced themselves of their invincibility. And so they grow bolder in explaining how it really works.

“I’m not worth your McDonald’s money? I’m not worth your Red Lobster money?” A pastor was haranguing his “broke” congregation because they did not buy him the luxury watch he wanted. “You know I asked for one last year. And here it is all the way in August and I still ain’t got it”, he scolded.  At least he is a truth-teller in admitting that the prosperity church is nothing more than a counting house. The greed no longer hides behind Jesus’ robes.

Likewise, the Christian Extremist Right feels secure enough now to show their cards. It’s been alluded to, hinted at, or implied – but finally now, they confirm it. According to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, “we were a nation founded upon, not the words of our founders, but the words of God because he wrote the Constitution.”  Now they have made the jump to decree that the words of the Constitution are “God breathed” – dictated word-for-word in Kynge Jaymes Englyshe, free from error and infallible in all respects. The Holy Spirit controlled the anointed Founding Fathers, just like with the verbally, plenary inspired Bible. Odd then, that the Constitution sounds more like a product of Freemasonry that nowhere mentions the word “God”. Funny, if it is inerrant, as Scripture supposedly was, I don’t recall the Bible having to be amended 27 times. Truth is incontrovertible; it doesn’t evolve. Nevertheless, our Constitution has been now officially decreed a further Word of God.

Holy War must be waged by a divinely-anointed Leader. While the Constitution makes provision for a President, it says nothing about his (her) divinity. Yet Right-wing pastor/MAGA cultist Shane Vaughn declares that “Donald Trump carries the prophetic seal of the calling of God: Donald Trump is the messiah of America.” Vaughn is no outlier; he reflects core covenants of the Christian Right. For many, Trump is the second coming of God. Jesus our Savior gave his life for America, and Trump our Chosen One – the new man of sorrows – sacrifices his own every day for us. A billboard in Georgia proclaimed For Unto Us A Son Is Given  , taking the text from Isaiah 9:6 and applying it to the heaven-sent Trump in bold letters. We no longer have to read between the lines – they are being open and honest about an autocratic Christian States of Amerika.

I occasionally have this nightmare that the Christianity practiced around me is normal while I am the dystopian one. God blesses the greedy; God loves a holy hunger for worldly power and domination. Evangelicals are finally saying the silent part out loud. The truth is out, but it doesn’t look like the Truth I know.  That Truth left the building some time ago.

It Will Take God To Fix Franklin Graham

I hate to keep bringing up the favored son of Billy Graham. I wish he’d quit blocking the view of Jesus, but it seems Franklin Graham never wants to get out of the way. Like his Facebook post of earlier today:

“Former President Trump has called for the immediate release of the unredacted federal warrant related to the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home. I agree, why not release it and let the American people decide? Then, if it reveals that former President Trump has done something wrong, he will have to answer for it.” As far as your speculating whether he “has done something wrong” – that ship sailed when he first began instructing aides to pack up top secret documents he planned to steal and take with him to Mar-a-Lago.

Franklin, there’s a slight problem with the transparency you demand. Namely, a national security risk, possibly involving nuclear secrets or the identity of government spies.  Closer to home, Trumpworld is in a panic because it looks like there’s a mole in their midst. They’d love an unredacted warrant to find which insider ratted him out. Things have changed since 2016, when protection of classified information was a Trump priority: “In my administration, I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information”. 

And things have changed in Franklin’s world too. At his ordination service in 1982, he told the congregation, “I will proclaim the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world wherever I go in connection with my work. My whole purpose in my ministry is to tell others about Jesus Christ through the avenues which He gives to us.” Today it seems Graham has forsaken that first love. Graham’s purpose now is to extol the greatness of Donald Trump.

Franklin, the one thing most people excepting yourself, know, is that Trump is a lying crook. It’s about time you unhitched your wagon from that fallen star. Your sycophancy belittles you and opens the people of God to ridicule and scorn.

You say, “it will take God to fix the DOJ”. Why not take that advice yourself? “Remember then from where you have fallen. Repent and do the deeds you did at first.” It will take God to fix Franklin Graham.

Un-Presidented

No one could have missed this week’s lead story. A typical headline reads: FBI’s unprecedented search of Trump’s home stirs Republican outrage. It didn’t take long for the evangelical crowd to get in on the act. Conservative Christian leaders denounced the search as political persecution. Among the first to jump in was Franklin Graham. Graham’s fiefdoms – BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse – do worthy evangelical-ly works. Personally, he is an ass.

“I have no idea what was in former President Trump’s safe” he began, “but if the government thought there was something there that belonged to them, they certainly could have asked for it.”  Well, the government had. Several times. Franklin, why did he remove classified documents from the White House in the first place?  There also was a subpoena that went ignored. After negotiating with Trump, they eventually were given a cache, but not the lot. Still refusing to give the stuff back, Trump kept these under padlock. Franklin, why didn’t he hand them all over months earlier?

If Franklin could have kept from wetting his pants to get in front of the cameras, he might have learned that some of the classified documents Trump kept in his basement pertained to nuclear weapons. Secrets only shared among a very select few, and under highly controlled conditions. The search also focused on potential violations of the Espionage Act.

Trump has been egregiously unfit in handling state secrets. Signals intelligence – the most closely guarded secrets – including intelligence-gathering on Iran, was routinely mishandled by Trump. In 2017, the CIA had to extract its highest-level agent within the Russian government when Trump blew his cover while bragging to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. And then, the time he boasted to reporter Bob Woodward about a nuclear weapon “Putin and Xi have never heard about before.” Loose Lips Sink Ships, a WW II security maxim went. And Trump’s lips are some of the loosest. One journalist observed, “I never thought there was anything left that Trump could do that could shock me. But THIS? He took nuclear weapons and signals intel documents to his goddamn golf resort?”

Like a common Al Capone, Trump invoked the 5th amendment some 440 times relating to his dodgy business practices in New York. This is the same man who once mused, “if you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” “I don’t think the President is sitting there behind the desk trying to make up lies,” Franklin Graham once said of him. Meanwhile, a criminal fraud and tax evasion prosecution in NY is finally proceeding against the Trump Organization. Trump is on the cusp of making his status of organized crime gangster official. Trump once bragged he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any voters. Ever-adoring Franklin included among them.

Also in his comments, Graham – the dual-hatted/double-dipping religious magnate –expressed concern over news that the IRS plans to increase by 87,000 new personnel. You know, the agency that has utterly failed to enforce U.S. tax code provisions known as the Johnson Amendment, which prohibit churches from politicking on behalf of a candidate for public office. Christian organizations and politicians would love to see that disappear, opening the floodgates of “dark money”. And it just so happens that BGEA has received IRS designation as a §501(c)(3) “association of churches.” It draws a convenient veil of opacity over the organization’s finances, including disclosure of executive compensation.

Perhaps a concern about intensified tax scrutiny is his non-profit, Samaritan’s Purse – which finished 2021 with over $1.2 billion in net assets. One expert commented it generates “a profit margin that rivals the best companies.”  Funny, I thought it was a non-profit organization!  Senator Chuck Grassley once tried to shine a little daylight on self-dealing by tax-exempt televangelists, but it fizzled amidst protests of religious persecution. He learned government touches the third rail when messing with religious finances.  And assuming Trump is in the White House instead of jail in 2 years, any financial shenanigans by Christian organizations will never see the light of day.

If I summarize the above, is that Donald Trump and Franklin Graham need each other. They both have things to keep hidden.

God’s As$hole

No. I’m not referring to G-d, who is ineffable and utterly holy, bless His holy name. We humans are created in his image. But God is Creator, not a created being but spirit. And God doesn’t possess an anus, any more than He has other human anatomy, like a belly button.

In his controversial book, Naked Lunch, 60’s beat author William Burroughs told a story about a man’s asshole taking over speaking for him. It talked constantly, day and night in a “sound you could smell”. The man got fed up, futilely telling his ass to shut up. “It is you who will shut up in the end, not me”, the anus responded. “Because we don’t need you around here anymore. I can talk and eat and shit”.  The brain could no longer give orders anymore, and eventually died. I make the connection; the analogy is apt for today’s evangelicalism. Lots of celebrity evangelical “leaders” talking out their ass. And the body is dying.

The Apostle Paul applies a “body” metaphor to the church in 1 Cor. 12, noting that “the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty”.  Except today, “the decay from the top of the evangelical pyramid has left a stench so thick it’s hard to take American Christians seriously.” The Best And Brightest Voices of Evangelicalism™ are God’s as$hole, commandeering the entire body. It’s a target-rich environment. My Gosh, there such an engorged rectum in the body of American evangelicalism, its hard to mention only but a few.

Like the late Bernhard Ebbers,  CEO of WorldCom, who served 12 years of a 25-year prison sentence following a $11 billion “accounting discrepancy”, which was actually widespread fraud perpetrated by  dodgy accounting methods. It was the largest corporate fraud case in American history. Some 20,000 employees lost their jobs and shareholders lost about $180bn. Ebbers reportedly had told members of his Baptist congregation, “more than anything else, I hope that my witness for Jesus Christ will not be jeopardized”. The congregation gave the unrepentant Christian a standing ovation. WTF?

Another example: Nebraska State Sen. Mike Groene. He seems nice. The senator is a dedicated evangelical churchman. Meanwhile, his laptop was discovered with some 50 clandestine photos he took of a young female staffer. You know, innocent close-ups of her body parts, to which he took the time to edit and add titles. One was labeled “legs.” Another was labeled “rear tight.”  Asshole is as asshole does.

When asked, “do you think you did anything wrong?”, Groene replied, “I don’t believe so. I apologized. I did not apologize because I thought I did something wrong. I just apologized, because in their view, I had offended them.” Groene apparently escaped criminal prosecution by resigning his legislative office. He then went full-on persecution mode.  ‘I was like Jesus Christ’.  WTF? His wishes for the real victim: “he hopes [she] loses her job in the Legislature”.  

And finally, another Toxic Christian, Alex Jones. “He is a God-fearing Christian…and right now he needs our support,” said fellow professing Christian, Roger Stone. Jones, who comes from a Christian fundamentalist background, runs the wacked-out hate network InfoWars – what he terms a “Christian ‘self-help’ platform”. His perpetuation of lies that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax wound up– at least for now – in a $4.1 million judgment to the parents of a shooting victim. He was blind-sided in court, after swearing he had no pertinent emails – not even using email. Unknown to him, his attorneys goofed by forwarding voluminous phone records to the plaintiffs, exposing his perjury. Meanwhile, Jones filed bankruptcy against his own company, having devised a secured debt against it by another company under his control. Many legal experts see it as a veiled attempt to seal off his assets.

The sound you could smell”.  I could go on and on about asshole Christians. But I couldn’t stand the stench.