Sheep Without A Shepherd

The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd. – Zechariah 10:2 (NIV)

To kickoff the January 6th festivities, an almost invisible President chose to bless the Washington marchers in an hour-long tirade. Like a pre-game coach pumping up the team, he exhorted his very fine people to press onwards to the U.S. Capitol. He laid out no specific objectives for them, although his remarks were prefaced by Rudi Giuliani calling for “trial by combat”, and his son directing a threat to non-supportive legislators that “we’re coming for you”.

One thing we can be thankful for: Donald Trump was either too clueless to orchestrate the assault, or lacked the requisite cajones, to personally lead his motley collection of followers from the front. After his speech, he headed back in his armor-clad limo so he could watch its consequences unfold at a safe distance on Fox. Not uncommon for the Great Liar, he made one more hollow promise: “I’ll be there with you” to march from the White House to the Capitol. Unlike his hero, General George Patton who truly “had a pair,” Trump predictably dispatched others do his dirty work, and once again led from behind. At the same time, he disowned his fawningly-loyal Vice President for not having “the courage to do what should have been done”.

This was what his “patriot” devotees considered as his Joan of Arc moment at the Siege of Orléans. America’s Savior being AWOL was like a grand fête which the guest-of-honor adroitly disinvited himself. They raised lots of hell, but without a visible leader or plan of action, the rampage – apart from several deaths – achieved little more than a drunken Buffalo Bills tailgate. After his no-show, the myriad arrests and negative reactions left a bad taste in some MAGA mouths. “[He] tells angry people to march to the capitol [and then] proceeds to throw his supporters under the bus,” one disciple groused. The sheeple were momentarily pissed that their shepherd ducked out.

I will spend every day fighting for Christian values!”  Derrick Evans, a West Virginia legislator, was describing his fitness for office, and being an upstanding evangelical was at the top of the list. “I don’t know where we’re going. I’m following the crowd,” he was quoted, while pushing his way through a Capitol doorway, presumably with the busload of folks he organized to travel to D.C.  

No less than the paranoid Stalin once remarked that “Hitlers come and go; the German people remain”. That axiom may not apply to Trump, who will soon transition to be ordinary citizen Trump. But he won’t go away, only more and more removed from view – like C.S. Lewis’s Bonaparte, living in a handsome mansion in the far distant reaches of Hell, relentlessly muttering it was someone else’s fault.[1]

Trumps come and go; the Trumpists will remain. At least for the time being, the diffuse movement is licking its wounds from so many defeats, giving a respite to external enemies as they turn inwards to devour one another. But a wounded beast is the most dangerous.

With or without Mr. Trump, the radical millenarian crusade will continue. “It is the need not of liberty but of servitude that is always predominant in the soul of crowds”, wrote Le Bon. “They are so bent on obedience that they instinctively submit to whoever declares himself their master.”[2] The people wander aimlessly like sheep lacking their shepherd. It is a certainty that in Trump’s footsteps, there will be another murdering Barabbas to choose over Jesus; another anti-Christ like Nicolae Carpathia for them to follow. And so many Christians will be deluded, while saying “I don’t know where we’re going. I’m following the crowd”. 


[1] Lewis, C.S., The Great Divorce (New York: Harper Collins edition 2001), 11-12.

[2] Le Bon, Gustave, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895).

You see if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money. – Old Man Potter, “It’s A Wonderful Life”

In 2020, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act established the Paycheck Protection Program, creating a $350 billion kitty of forgivable loans for small businesses. The intent was pandemic relief for recipients to keep workers on the payroll and stay open in the near-term. The massive bailout program was rushed out, and hidden in a veil of secrecy, with the Treasury Department declining to disclose how it spent the funds or who the PPP recipients were. Eventually, the recipients were revealed – but only vague dollar ranges instead of specific awards were published. For example, records show that a family-owned shipping business related to McConnell’s wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, received a loan somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million. Chao disavowed any connection to the business or knowledge of the loan, although the New York Times reported that in the past, she had repeatedly used her official position to bolster the business. Their net worth is estimated between $25 and $35 million dollars. Meanwhile, the slipshod administration of the loan program opened the door to massive fraud, waste and abuse, with the Government Accounting Office declaring “the limited safeguards and lack of timely and complete guidance and oversight planning have increased the likelihood that borrowers may misuse or improperly receive loan proceeds.”. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner received million$, along with many in their orbit – even a golfing buddy.

Other friends of Trump made out like bandits – and evangelicals were especially keen on cashing in on free government money to the tune of $17.3 million. Joel Osteen’s megachurch received a $4.4 million check. Members of the President’s evangelical advisory board were exceptionally well-rewarded for their loyalty, with Paula White’s ministry receiving between $150,000 and $350,000, and Robert Jeffress’ church getting between $2 million and $5 million. Prestonwood Christian Academy, associated with Trumpist Jack Graham, received between $2 million and $5 million – but reported zero jobs being retained. There were numerous other ministries tied to the President that reaped a financial bonanza.

Like Daystar Television Network’s Marcus Lamb, who bought a Gulfstream V just two weeks after receiving a $3.9 million PPP loan. Ostensibly an operating expense to spread the Gospel, Inside Edition reported it was used like an airborne RV for family beach vacations. Lamb’s organization denied using the PPP loan to buy the luxury aircraft, although hastily repaid the loan.

There are so many questions here that nobody is asking. What did America buy with this bailout? Should taxpayers be obliged to underwrite debt-free ministries with plenty of cash to maneuver? These figures are so gargantuan that one questions why such an immense budget? Like the ministry leaders pulling down million dollar salaries – can’t they cinch up their belts a bit to keep the lights on, like most American households are forced to do. And why, oh why, are they considered too big to fail?

In 2008, when General Motors desperately needed financial aid to continue, the government authorized emergency loans to continue paying bills and making payroll, but tied strings to the bailout. GM would have to go through a bankruptcy reorganization, auction off assets to raise cash, reduce management ranks and cut executive pay. The CEO was ousted, shareholders like me were left penniless, and a new company emerged from bankruptcy to continue making the same old crappy cars.

The point is, if you are too big to fail, you should nevertheless pay a price for surviving on the public dole. The government doesn’t operate on grace, and everyone else shouldn’t be forced to keep a bunch of religious goofballs living the high life. The government had the leverage that Chuck Grassley wished he had in his 2008 investigation of tax-exempt religious organizations. Maybe we would have seen some genuine reform of tele-vangelism. Instead, we got shafted by people who shoot pool with some employee here.

I could have ended there, but can’t resist this apt quote about virus relief from Mitch McConnell: “Socialism for rich people is a terrible way to help the American families that are actually struggling,”

Old Men Yelling At Clouds

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.

Gott Mit Uns

God Is Not Finished With Donald Trump. “He sees his claims of fraud as driving up donations – there’s nothing behind it beyond greed. Trump is using the moment to raise money.” Michael Cohen, a man who knows a thing or two about @RealDonaldTrump, surmises that Trump’s post-election misbehavior is all about keeping himself foremost in the minds of his followers and shaping public opinion in his favor. And, of course, making money off of it. Like his Election Defense Fund, a misleading but lucrative revenue stream intended to fund his post-presidency political apparatus. The Washington Post reports that there is no account associated with the so-called Fund, and most money goes to a new Super-PAC he recently set up. “He’s a brilliant thinker,” writes Paula Furr-Knight-White-Cain, “who tends to walk several steps ahead of the masses.” She could have added, “… and the courts”.

Operation Valkyrie; except without Tom Cruise. Prophet Dutch Sheets says it was revealed in dreams that “Valkyrie” was the demonic code name for the operation to steal the election. He put out a 24/7 prayer call – along with his donation plea – declaring his strategy would cause Valkyrie to fail. Perhaps he never saw the film by the same name, where the good guys used an operational plan to remediate the failure of an evil German government. Seems like quite an ironic inversion to me. Meanwhile, Prophet Rev. Dr. Sheets is making an “Appeal to the Supreme Court of Heaven”. You see, if facts go against your prophecies in “the natural” (translation: the real), you always have the supernatural, where you can simply make things up.  “It is God’s will for Trump to win this, not Biden,” he insists, a month after the election. Look for wacky charismatics pretending Trump really still reigns supreme, but in Heaven where sorry, you can’t see it. For the next four years, get ready for denying there is no President Biden, only a usurper like his former boss.

Gott Mit Uns. You would think that an erudite evangelical who wrote a sloppy book to pose as the world’s foremost authority on Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have better sense than to state that “God is with us”. Seriously? At the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, I have to remind people this motto was embossed on Nazi belt buckles. That God sides with nationalistic groups and their politically-radicalized churches is a recurring historical theme, most notably to me being the “white man’s country” of former South Africa, and its elevation by the white supremacist Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, which supplied the mythical theo-political foundation of the Afrikaner identity. What evangelicals really need to be asking themselves is, “are we with God?” If they were serious, they would hear God’s answer is “No. Repent from your sinful self-pride.”.

Oh! Listen, there’s an odor in there and I didn’t do it.” In My Point…And I Do Have One, Ellen Degeneres describes exiting a stinky airplane restroom and having to explain that the smell was there already. I feel embarrassed like that when people refer to “evangelicalism”, or rather the sociopathic free market religion it has become. I didn’t make the stink, but I have to live with it. I refer to those who seem comfortable in their own sanctified odor while calling out the farts of everyone else.  “We confess the sins of our country as proxies,” prays Michele Bachman. Proxies represent someone else. The self-narrative as the high priestly-class of America holds evangelicals back from admitting any sins themselves. National sin is the problem of other people; Christians are the good guys. Because sin has been externalized – so the argument goes – they are ordained to purify the rest of the nation. “But who,” wrote Solzhenitsyn, “if not we ourselves, constitutes society? This realm of darkness, of falsehood, of brute force, of justice denied and distrust of the good, this slimy swamp was formed by us, and no one else”.[i]


[i] Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr, From Under the Rubble, New York: Bantam Books, 1976, 117.

You Broke It, You Own It

November 3, 2020. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Tomorrow is the beginning of the end of a national travesty. It’s a fresh morning for the least of these: the poor, the immigrants, those afflicted by the epidemic, climate change, racial or gender injustice, to name a few.

Trump’s insistence on a round-the-clock spotlight on himself has seen to it that the election is a referendum on himself. We have not voted on America so much as on a needy Donald Trump. It’s also a referendum on an evangelical Christianity that anointed him King of America. Evangelical media outlets have been puffing a Trump landslide and dissing Biden as demonic, ramping up a spiritual offense against the forces of evil seeking to win the election. If you followed Charisma News – not that you would ever want to – you would see the firehose of prophecy pouring forth, announcing Donald Trump’s anointed victory lap:

  • Hank Kunneman Prophesies Donald Trump Will Win 2020 Presidential Election
  • Trump Win Will Be Third of My Recent Prophecies to Be Fulfilled, Prophet Jeremiah Johnson Says
  • Sid Roth Predicts Trump Will Be a ‘2-Term President’
  • R. Loren Sandford Prophesies Trump Will Be Re-elected by a Wider Margin Than Expected
  • Prophetic Word: Trump Will Fulfill the Lord’s Will for US, Israel
  • Spirit-Filled Pastor Prophesies, ‘We’re Headed for the November Surprise’

They’ve made a huge investment in Donald J. Trump, except their trades are made in spiritual currency. Trump loses the election; they lose their moral credibility. They may not be on the ballot, but they likewise own the result. Perhaps that is why so many Media Christians embrace Trump. He’s come out of as many bankruptcies as they have. “I blow the wind of God on you.” Kenneth Copeland, another Luftballoon, last April executed judgment and declared COVID-19 destroyed. This is November, and here in the real world, Dr. Deborah Birx warns the pandemic is entering its most deadly phase.

Many evangelicals laugh these pronouncements off as performance art; the stock-in-trade of religious hucksters. Many others are nevertheless enticed by prophecies that are “a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.”[i] When I hear these false prophets come up short on their prophecies, I marvel that they are never held accountable. I always wonder, did God fail you, or did you fail God?  That question isn’t even an afterthought with this crowd.

Losing is never easy. Not for me, it’s not,” says Trump. Neither is it for failed prophets, who never admit they’re wrong. Like a TV serial, each episode ends in a dangling cliffhanger which resolves itself in the next episode, and so on. One might assume there is some benign complicity on God’s part; he’s like the Divine parent who lovingly watches his kid get an occasional hit, but usually strikes out. There’s always the next game, Son.

I, for one would feel I made a total ass out of myself for fabricating words in God’s mouth, let alone a legacy littered with failed divinations. And then there’s the Bible, which condemns one speaking presumptuously in the name of God to death.[ii] That would seem to be quite a negative incentive. On holidays, whenever we went into a gift shop, I always hovered over the kids in fear they’d touch something we would be forced to buy. And just like Trump, these false prophets never pay for the things they break. They won’t own this one either.


[i] Jeremiah 14:14

[ii] Deuteronomy 18:20