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).

One Thing I Didn’t Miss This Election:

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s continued rise in national political influence. Jerry was AWOL during the time he would have been most useful to Trump – during the November general election. His face would have been spread across Fox News and its many imitators, pronouncing the evangelical doctrine of Trumpism. But that was not meant to be.

It’s amazing the power of a glass of “black water” can have. Soon after photos of Jerry aboard a yacht emerged with his hand around a woman’s (not his wife) midriff and zipper at half-mast, he resigned as President of his dynastic empire, Liberty University. There’s much more to this story, and Falwell denied any monkey business. Suffice it to say, casually embracing a woman on a yacht with pants undone – well, it was perhaps too suggestive of Presidential candidate Gary Hart, who in 1987 was snapped with Donna Rice sitting on his lap on the yacht, Monkey Business.

Well, there was some sordid sexual content involved in the scandal as well. Maybe harmless antics as defined in the secular world, but allegations with a pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, that would besmirch Falwell’s reputation among evangelicals. “He enjoyed watching,” the young man alleged, confessing a years-long liaison with Falwell’s wife, while the husband was looking on approvingly. That’s not the story Falwell himself tells. In fact, he accused the 21 year old of extorting him and his wife with “outrageous and fabricate[d] claims”, and demanding money from them.

It’s a typical he said-she said story that would have ended there, except that Liberty University “moved quickly” to support and act on Granda’s allegations, which Falwell alleged destroyed his reputation. Falwell filed suit against his own university for defamation of character.

Anybody can file a lawsuit, alleging anything including the kitchen sink in the complaint. The meat and potatoes come during discovery, when something called evidence enters the picture. Depositions sworn under oath become important features. The truth typically comes out when people are being stupid and lying; they go to jail. Falwell withdrew his suit before it came to that steep step of truth.

I don’t know the facts; there is so much secrecy surrounding the evidence that no one will probably ever know the truth. But I’m a lawyer sitting on 40 years of experience, and a client doesn’t withdraw a suit sua sponte without a compelling reason. I wonder whether Falwell worked a deal with Liberty. Experience says, when you’re mudwrestling, even the winner comes out dirty. Not speaking specifically to this case, but an unforced withdrawal agreed as in the best interests of both parties usually means some sort of undisclosed benefit exchanged hands.

Of more curiosity to me is Falwell’s reticence to sue Granda for defamation of character. It’s all there; he has been most public in assertions which are no doubt injurious to Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s reputation as a committed Christian. And yet, there is inexplicable reserve from the lawsuit-prone former President. Perhaps in the spirit of Jesus, he is turning the other cheek in forgiveness. Sometimes, silence is the best way to let someone know they did you wrong. On the other hand, silence can speak volumes. Either way, I really do not miss the silence of Jerry Falwell, Jr.

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,”

The Greatest Years Since Jesus

Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

According to Fox & Friends, the Trump administration has beenthree of the greatest years since maybe Jesus walked the Earth with his ministry”

Here’s what people are saying about his Christ-likeness:

I think I am a great moral leader.” – Donald Trump

Voting for Trump is voting Christian values: “For a Christian, it’s who they are as a person, what they believe, and how they act (in other words, their fruit) that’s important.” – Ken Ham

I found a very caring man. I found a man who had more integrity than most people that I had encountered. A compassionate man.” – Paula White-Cain

Trump is a soft-spoken, kind man. “He watches Christian television: Kenneth Copeland, Jim Bakker, Paula White-Cain and others.” – Kenneth Copeland

I believe he has moral character and that he is a man of God.” – a New Jersey evangelical

Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Trump has “a heart of compassion and love”. – Sid Roth

In all likelihood never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime.” – Michelle Bachmann

“President Trump and Vice President Pence are the most Christian acting political leaders of our lifetime. However, Biden and Harris are the most Satanic candidates in USA history.” – American Christian Voting Guide