A MAGA-Defiant Military

Kevin Stitt is Governor of Oklahoma. He attends an Assemblies of God church in Tulsa. “Under vaccines, I believe in choice,” Stitt stated. This is a governor who named a state highway after Trump, blamed President Biden for a Chick-Fil-A sauce shortage, and who tested positive for COVID. “I was pretty shocked that I was the first governor to get it,” he said. A bigger shock was that the state was recording over 1000 new infections per day. Oklahoma rates in the top 6 States for death rates from coronavirus, and ranks 39th in terms of population fully vaccinated.

If one realizes that Gov. Stitt is not only a politician, but also the Commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, it’s not hard to understand that the Guard is at once a military element and a political animal.  And Stitt is using his authority to stick it to the libs.

The Pentagon has issued direct orders for all service members to be fully vaccinated. Active duty members have largely complied. Those hold-outs refusing are subject to punishment, out of which a number have been involuntarily discharged. The Pentagon’s orders applied to National Guard members as well, with only 40% of Oklahoma’s Army Guard vaccinated.

The problem is, the Pentagon does not command state National Guards, unless/until directed by the President. In ordinary drill status, Guardsmen take orders from their Governor. Through his commanding general, Stitt issued a directive countermanding the military vaccination orders. As if to solidly his showdown with Washington, he directed his attorney general to sue the Biden administration to halt its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Stitt was technically on solid legal ground. But in making MAGA points by his stunt, he seriously let his Guard members down. Refusers were essentially locked out of a State system which depended on Federal resources. To name only a few necessities: military schools needed to qualify in their jobs, Federal subsidies added to their pay, the award of Federal medals, and Federal recognition of their promotions. On a unit level, Federal assets on loan to the Guard, such as airplanes, tanks and weapons could be withdrawn. Making this a partisan point against Biden policy has a tremendous organizational downside.

I fully support the authority of the Governor under the constitution and Title 32 to govern his forces in Oklahoma,” the newly-appointed Adjutant General Thomas Mancino stated. (His predecessor, a vaccine proponent, was abruptly relieved of command. It may well be that he stood up for his troops’ well-being and got the chop). His more compliant replacement, Brigadier General Mancino, now finds his second star in limbo due to State intransigence. In one way or another, the quarrel will resolve itself in the Pentagon’s favor.

“It’s the fault of the elected officials,” one researcher said. “They are politicizing members of the military; this is almost unprecedented.”  The standoff has serious implications for good order and discipline, where one component thumbs its nose at the rest of the military. It harkens back to 1997, when the Secretary of Defense ordered the troops to receive an anthrax immunization to protect them from chemical weapons threats upon deployment. While the vaccine remained experimental, some 2 million U.S. military personnel received it. Some – including a number of National Guard personnel – nopted out, either by resigning or bearing harsh consequences for disobeying a direct order. There was no Christian MAGA Right to lobby for them then. Billy Graham was silent on the matter.

It is curious, then, that anti-vax became an evangelical cause; it never was so until it became an ideological marker of Trumpism.. A generation later, and with Christian nationalism in full tilt, Graham’s son took time off from saving souls to help rescue these poor soldiers from a diabolical Biden. Franklin wrote: “Oklahoma’s Attorney General John O’Connor is suing the Biden Administration over their Covid-19 vaccine mandate for the military and federal employees, saying that it “does not reflect the Land of the Free.” I must say that I agree with him… . The pandemic has given power-hungry government officials the opportunity to overreach into our lives—and they will just want more and more control.”

Someone should ask Franklin Graham how a “woke” military mandate to vaccinate against Covid-19 is any more tyrannical than requiring some 16 other inoculations to protect the troops and defend the American people. When I entered the service, my left arm felt like a pin cushion – but it was needed to be world-wide deployable. Especially ask Graham why, given the US death toll from Covid-19 has passed 800,000, with more than 200,000 of those deaths occurring after vaccines became available. A number of military members have lost their lives – the majority in the Reserves or National Guard. Graham has never served in the military, much less having been told by anybody what to do. It’s a different ballgame in the military; you do as your superior orders. Jesus encountered this, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.” (Matthew 8:9)

Perhaps evangelicals like Graham and Stitt fight this vaccine mandate as the devil trying to attack true Christians. If so, we have met the enemy and they are us.

Christian Dominionist Politics and the National Guard.

You may wonder, what a blog about Jerusalem hath to do with Rome? I was a career officer in the Air National Guard – a JAG to be specific. This is an area near-and-dear, in which I have considerable experience. My fear is that the military is becoming more vulnerable to MAGA/QAnon/Christocrats – like Mike Flynn. Flynn, the retired soldier who once swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, now was advocating a military coup. The hero of  pro-Trump tele-preachers, the former general stood before John Hagee’s church to declare that America must have one religion under God. Presumably, the Christian nationalist one.

Trump loyalists are pervasive throughout the military. “We’re not talking about half a dozen people. We’re probably talking about thousands across the Department of Defense.” Of course, military members are also citizens, with differing political views and voting patterns. As Flynn himself asks, “will having a pro-American set of beliefs and using the word ‘patriot’ get you labeled a domestic terrorist?No, but fomenting a rebellion will.

6 states have National Guard forces that could rival a foreign army. In terms of the Air Guard, several states have more military aircraft than many countries. The question is, why does a peacetime State need combat-ready planes? To fend off attacks from neighboring hostile States? But there are legitimate missions to perform – disaster relief and wildfire suppression, drug interdiction, aero evacuation, coronavirus-related missions and quelling civilian disturbances. But National Guard soldiers and airmen spend most of their time at home base, training to be combat-ready for “when the balloon goes up” – mobilization in time of war. A relic from the Cold War, this force of almost 500,000 part-timers is largely under-utilized during peacetime, although certain elements have been busy performing domestic operations, including border controls along the southwest U.S.

Governors, who under Title 32 are the commanders of their state National Guard, in the past have seen their state military as a political play toy. Seven Mountains Christians seeking to rule the political mountain have found their darling in Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. To kick off her stint as Governor, Noem held a public prayer meeting in which one speaker declared Jesus to be “the Lord and King of South Dakota”.

In 2021, presidential aspirant Noem ordered her National Guard to deploy to the southwestern border. The campaign was – oddly enough underwritten by a private donation from a MAGA billionaire – with critics saying it “set a troubling precedent in which a wealthy patron can effectively commandeer U.S. military might to address private political motivations.” One reservist lawyer commented that “it looks like those soldiers are working for the billionaire or for the donor.”  Claiming ignorance, the Commander of her National Guard said he didn’t know about the financing, adding his troops were “not for hire”.

The message I have received is clear: this deployment is working”, Gov. Noem stated. Meanwhile, deployed leadership ran amok, with a mission ill-defined. Even if the troops had some concept of their job, equipment needed to perform it was withheld. Many slept on concrete warehouse floors. Weeks of endless boredom staring into a vacant desert, performing mindless tasks, living without electricity or showers, and eating MREs even over holidays meant morale sunk to the bottom. Soldiers were getting into trouble with the law, and party-spirit reigned as bored-stiff soldiers binged on alcohol and drugs. One Alabama National Guardsman got busted for trying to buy a kilo of pot. Sexual harassment and discipline problems were rife. Some deserted, others died in alcohol-fueled crashes. “We are literally the biggest threat to ourselves down here,” one deployed officer commented.  

Like the Fourth Crusade sent off on a mission from God, the Tex-Mex adventure met an inglorious, drunken end without defeating any enemy except itself. But turning her military into an instrument of MAGA ideology did brand-building wonders for a woman quickly moving up the ladder of possible 2024 GOP presidential candidates.  Her military foray was definitely not “small beer”, but for her career it was not small potatoes either. And as we shall see in a following post, hers was not a singular instance of governors translating their Dominionist beliefs into military action, with the aim of ruling America as one theocracy under their version of God.  

Harlan Sanders and Chicken Colonels

Recently, headlines have focused on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call to create a Florida defense force separate from the National Guard. The Florida State Guard would be under his exclusive control, “not encumbered by the federal government”. Concern was raised that the move was a wannabe dictator establishing a Praetorian Guard with loyalty solely to himself. While DeSantis’ aggressive MAGA track record imputed a nefarious intent, the uproar was, at least TBTG for present, an over-reaction.

Federal law recognizes peacetime state defense forces and some 22 states have some sort of independent state military structure. The New York Guard, for example, is an unpaid volunteer force serving at the direction of the Governor. Among other duties, the force can be melded with the National Guard in state emergency support and disaster missions.

My experience with state defense forces is that they are civic-minded individuals who either long to put a uniform back on, or had some condition preventing them from putting one on in the first place. In traffic court one day, representing a client, I appeared before a judge with Strabismus, where his eyes didn’t align with each another. It was a disability preventing his enlistment. But there he was at the Armed Forces Week Military Luncheon, in the uniform of a New York Guard captain.

There are varying requirements to join a state guard, but from what I’ve seen, the major prerequisite is connection. You need politically-trusted references to join. State guards are small, cadre-sized units top-heavy with high rank. It’s a way for the governor to reward loyalty with a shiny military uniform. In a similar way, some 13 states award civilians the honorary title, “Colonel” – as in Col. Sanders or Col. Tom Parker.

These are what in NATO we called “chocolate soldiers”; pretty harmless in combat. But on the cultural battlefield, these influential lawyers, business people, teachers and otherwise noteworthy individuals could be a force to be reckoned with. Put to use under a Christian nationalist like Noem of South Dakota or Stitt of Oklahoma, these chicken colonels could become a formidable military resource pledged to do a theocratic governor’s political bidding. In 2015, Gov. Abbott used his Texas State Guard to spy on Navy SEAL/Green Beret joint training exercise, which was taking place in Texas. Fueled by alt-right disinformatia, Abbott was convinced it signaled an  imminent federal takeover of Texas and subsequent imposition of martial law. It gave him spit-and-polish creds to his ultra-nationalist followers. To sane people, however, it looked like a poor satire of The Mouse That Roared. “It doesn’t take an intelligence expert to see that Trump Republican Greg Abbott calling the Texas National Guard on the U.S. Military was downright idiocy,” a Texas Democratic leader remarked.

But it put a seed in fellow MAGA Governor DeSantis’ grandiose mind. As CNBC notes: “It’s yet another sign that the Republican Party is willing and ready to round up military forces in order to execute its radical visions for America.” Instead of chasing windmills, maybe these soldiers’ duty time would be better off drinking beer and enjoying a military issue of Colonel Sanders’ 11 secret herbs and spices.

The Dog Did It.

Farts. There’s nothing more embarrassing in polite society than issuing a malodourous southward blast. The age-old ploy is to blame your outburst on someone else – a dog is most convenient – in your immediate vicinity.

Since the fall of Kabul, lots of farty people have piled onto President Biden for the ensuing chaos. A loud voice in that frenzy was Richard Land, a pope within the Southern Baptist Convention, doyen of evangelical Trump politics, and executive editor of the Christian Post. Recently, his hate-filled outburst directed at President Biden, “AFGHANISTAN:  A name that will live in infamy”, appeared on his click-bait site. That wasn’t enough for him; he took the curious step to have a Christian Post staffer publish an editorial covering his own editorial.

Land’s article is a J’Accuse! directed at the “collection of buffoons and pretenders has just presided over a national humiliation”. Meaning, an “incompetent'” President Biden and his foreign policy “boobs”. Yes, the abrupt pull-out was more like doing a runner than an exit strategy. But Afghanistan was a venture doomed from the start, with successive Presidents tossing it to the next guy like playing Milton Bradley’s Time Bomb. The years went by with successive generals promising victory and painting a rosy picture of the progress they’ve supposedly made.  Even Tucker Carlson admitted that the American people had been lied to for twenty years by commanders passing off their failures as progress. Americans themselves got bored and distracted, and you’d have been hard-pressed to see Afghanistan as headline news for the past decade or more. Even Congress gave up paying attention to the money-pit war.  Observing an empty Senate chamber, Sen. Lindsay Graham lamented, “I remember when all these rows were full with people carrying bags and everybody was hanging on every word about Afghanistan.” By 2015, Afghanistan had become another Forgotten War. Soldiers went to a place that made little sense to them, among people who didn’t want them, and who often tried to kill them for being there. Many – like my son – came back with a Purple Heart and PTSD to a country disconnected from that  sideshow so far removed from their everyday lives and experience.

The realities emerging from the protracted outcome were much different from those promised at the outset to be swift and crushing victories, with the war no longer resembling the objectives we originally sought to achieve. We no longer fought an endless war because we should, but because we could. Except we couldn’t win it. Knowing this, Trump cut a deal with the Taliban to reduce military personnel to bare bones. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State  glad-handing the “gentleman” Taliban leader over the Doha surrender agreement, sabotaged the Kabul government, and released 5,000 jailed fighters on good faith. Arty McDeal really cut a pants-ripper loose on that one. But instead of drawing attention to his flatulence, The Christian Post continued to give fawning praise to the evangelical political leader – and presidential wanna-be.

All the attention given over to how we left Afghanistan covers over the odiferous way we stumbled into a forever war. In the Afghanistan blame game there are plenty of windbags, all of whose farts don’t smell. Like Richard Land. To what started out as a punitive mission not unsimilar to chasing Pancho Villa’s cross-border raiders, he blessed the cannons to turn it into a holy crusade. America is no exception to the truism that nations carry their deities into battle with them. And evangelicals pack their soldiers off to war like missionaries with guns. Land re-worked the Just War theory to construe godly arguments for “why not” war.  “The question is not if God is on our side, but if we are on God’s side,” Richard Land was quoted as saying about the Iraq invasion. “Then, with a wink of the eye, Land added, ‘But I think God is on our side in this one.’”[i]  Of course, committing the evangelical god into making victory happen had help from a President with a Messianic certainty of what God told him to do.

After 20 years, there have been more than enough farts stinking up our air, but too few people owning up to the ones they made. I think Richard Land should feel shame – and do some serious repentance – for his own stinky contribution . Then again, maybe his dog did it.


[i] Michael P. Melon, Yet You Would Not Return to Me, Xulon Press, 2004, p. 193.

Onward Christian Terrorists

“The attack on Washington?” Rayford said, craning his neck to talk to the officer. “Washington, D.C.?”

One prediction the Left Behind tag team of LaHaye and Jenkins got right – unintentionally, by the way –features in their 1996 installment, The Tribulation Force. (I’ll summarize the plot so you don’t waste your time). Our born-again hero has a growing awareness that he is working directly under the honest-to-goodness Anti-Christ. The antagonist, U.N. Secretary-General Nicolae Carpathia, having largely succeeded into hood-winking the religions of the world to unify, is well on his way to One World Government – starting with disarming America for world peace. The U.S. President is opposed, and enlists the well-armed “patriotic militia forces” to resist. Carpathia responds:

“If we accomplish what I have proposed, do you really think a bunch of zealots running around in the woods wearing fatigues and shooting off popguns will be a threat to the global community?” Yet, their President character whispers a warning to the righteous hero: stay away from Washington.

They could have been writing about January 6th, 2021. A collection of self-declared vigilante organizations – Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters and less-glorified street gangs – were leading the siege. And Franklin Graham can lie all he wants – it would be out-of-character for him not to – but evangelical Christians were among the mob forcing its way inside the House chambers. “We love you and we thank you, in Christ’s holy name we pray.” There may not be a self-styled ‘Christian’ militia, but armed Christians permeate these private armies. “God is not on the Democrats’ side,” said a rioter who kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door. “And if patriots have to kill 60 million of these communists, it is God’s will.”

Slowly, America is waking up to the fact that these are not just “a bunch of zealots running around in the woods wearing fatigues and shooting off popguns”. Especially, given that Donald “good people on both sides” Trump’s campaign underwrote the January 6 rally organizers to the tune of $2.7 million. “Be there, be wild,” the now-disgraced former President cheered.

I am a former National Guard officer – a JAG, to be specific. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I know a thing or two about militias under the Constitution.  I know enough about the so-called Anti-Klan laws – now codified as 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 – 1986 – to recognize a civil conspiracy to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights. I don’t think many evangelicals are involved; maybe it was the same in Klan days. But almost all Southern white folk supported the night-riding vigilantes. Evangelicals today should ask themselves, how much further down into the Tribulation Force do they want to sink? All its hateful malevolence is unfolding right before our eyes, and I’ll be blogging about it for the foreseeable future.

Nurseries of Sedition

There are any number of examples through history where millenarian Christianity fused with secular rebellion. Like Thomas Müntzer, Luther’s religious antagonist, who led the German Peasants’ War.[1] Or the antebellum Southern churches, which “led by their ministers, have gone heart and soul into the rebellion and the war against the Government.”[2]

The phrase Nurseries of Sedition became known during the English Civil War era to describe Dissenters whose aim was “not to spread the Word of God or the imitatio Christi, but with great caution and stealth” to support those intent on overthrowing the government.[3] The most radical among them made up the Fifth Monarchy movement, whose “millenarian convictions, combined with an assurance of divine sanction for their use of military and political means to bring down earthly governments and establish the reign of the saints to usher in the millennium.”[4] Funny thing about spiritual warfare: the fight is usually more visceral than supernatural.

“Christians should rule the world,” says Dominionist Michele Bachmann. Her hero is proto-culture warrior and fervent anti-abortionist Francis Schaeffer, whose son quoted him calling for “the violent overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed.” Politics, for many evangelicals, is an apocalyptic, zero-sum struggle. Whether you’re a radical Atomwaffen devotee of accelerationism, or a Tim LaHaye-indoctrinated Dispensationalist, or a Dominionist/NAR/INC/Christian Reconstructionist immanentizing the eschaton, dismantling democracy is a small price to pay for a government of White supremacy, preferably theocratic. Secular and sacred sedition have the same goal: domination. We answer to a higher authority to get holy revenge. Don’t believe me? Try this: Let’s count Christian ministers who’ve advocated death for gays.

Evangelicals from across America hopped on a plane or bus to travel to the Washington “Save America March,” to have the president’s back as he has had ours. Many of their churches encouraged them to do so, some even hiring busses. “The name of God was everywhere during Wednesday’s insurrection against the American government,” writes Emma Green for The Atlantic. Like the January 6th Jericho march, whose organizer framed it as “denouncing any and all acts of violence and destruction”. Yet, the organization’s website listed skilled incendiaries like Mike Flynn, Mike “My Pillow’ Lindell, Eric Metaxsas as speakers that day. “I didn’t incite anything,” protests another speaker, convicted felon Ali Alexander. “The lord says vengeance is his, and I pray that I am the tool to stab these motherfuckers,” the Christian activist also said, which seems to be a slight contradiction. Giving a platform to these radical Christianists was like carrying lit matches into a gunpowder factory. Metaxsas boasted he was prepared to shed blood for Trump (although it conveniently turned out to be other peoples’). Also on their webpage was a large photo of Donald L’état, C’est Moi Trump with the caption, Be There, Be Wild.  This didn’t exactly have the makings of pious, law-abiding Christians being uplifted at a Billy Graham Crusade.

“The people who stormed that Capitol, the people who killed that police officer, were not a part of the kingdom of God, as some people claimed; they were a part of the kingdom of Satan,” Robert Jeffress stated. For once, this spiritual blowhard for Trump got something right. But many came from churches – probably a horde from First Baptist of Dallas as well. The Kraken comes in various flavors – evangelical being one of the most popular. “The day was peaceful,” writes the My Pillow Guy, “with police letting people in to both the Capitol grounds as well as to the Capitol itself, with some scuffles as the police tried to control the crowds so they would enter safely.” The trouble-free and non-violent First Amendment expression of civil disobedience peacefully resulted in five deaths.

Evangelicals who sit lovingly through Sunday church – probably including a number from Jeffress’ own – jumped the barriers and raged through the Capitol like a pagan horde. Pastor Caleb Cooper, a self-described “young firebrand revivalist,” recounts his exhilaration at being among the hordes of righteous Christians that invaded the Capitol. “The patriots were innumerable. They filled the top platform of the Capitol, with a sea of people extending down the stairs and into the courtyard and beyond. Over the crowd, I saw American flags, Trump flags and Appeal to Heaven flags being carried past the barriers and making their way to the top as the crowd began to sing the National Anthem and shout ‘USA’.” Meshawn Maddock, prominent Trumpist from Michigan, is proud to proclaim, “I’m a Christian and I believe that God qualifies the called.” She organized buses headed to the protest. The hometown paper reported that she and her husband joined a Facebook group which openly discussed civil war.

I don’t fault the pastors of a hundred thousand churches across America trying to keep their flocks together amidst a pandemic and political partisanship, both of which are out of control. I accuse the politically radical media Christians. Like Charlie Kirk, the college dropout that manages the Falkirk “think tank” – and who launched more than 80 busloads of Trumpists aimed at the Capitol. “This attempted coup,” writes Hemant Mehta, “could not have happened without the active participation of Christian Nationalists who have been brainwashed into thinking they’re victims of persecution by pastors who will never admit their role in this tragedy.” He’s not exactly right, but well on the way. Of course, there are Christian Nationalist/QAnon pastors – many of them – and he points to one in Minnesota who says Trump must enact martial law. But that is a man who “shepherds” in a black robe with an AR-15 strapped on. These blind folks feed a false Gospel to a blind congregation.

 “America’s problem is not political. It is religious fanaticism,” writes Frank Schaeffer. I don’t always agree with Schaeffer, but he is spot-on saying the “White evangelical delusion problem” is the enemy of democracy. We saw that in action on January 6th, as evangelicals essentially blessed the cannons. We’ve seen it intensify over the past four years, serving Donald Trump – the Cyrus President – as their new savior.

The riot, noted The Atlantic, was “a Christian insurrection”. I wish there some happy note to conclude on, but don’t see an end to it. Not until the various Christian media despots either repent or are deposed. “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” These evangelical fixtures are nurseries of sedition – against the government which they are to pray for and to submit to, but more importantly, against the Jesus of the Gospels. I pity a future of evangelical Christianity largely left in their hands.


[1] “Now if you want to be true governors, you must begin government at the roots, and, as Christ commanded, drive his enemies from the elect. For you are the means to this end. Beloved, don’t give us any old jokes about how the power of God should do it without your application of the sword.” William C. Placher, Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Vol.2 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1988), 29.

[2] Robert Livingston Stanton, The Church and the Rebellion (New York: Derby & Miller, 1864), 245.

[3] Jason McElligott, Fear, Exclusion and Revolution: Roger Morrice and Britain in the 1680s (Farnham: Ashgate, 2006), 193.

[4] Warren Johnston, Revelation Restored: The Apocalypse in later Seventeenth-Century England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2011), 15

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,”

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.