Demagogues for Donald Trump
An article by Adelle Banks of Religious New Service (RNS) announced, “Conservative Christians criticize progressives’ ‘destructive’ agenda.” A group named American Evangelicals released a broadside on the election: “A Call to Repentance & Renewal: An Open Letter to Christian pastors, leaders and believers who assist the anti-Christian Progressive political movement in America.”
As Ms. Banks notes, the letter purports to be non-political: “We are not here endorsing or denouncing a political candidate.” But they denounce Hillary Clinton. While they may think they are being clever by not explicitly mentioning Donald Trump, it’s not very hard to figure out that by denouncing one candidate in a two-man race, they are supporting the other.
This is a wild, rambling rant, smearing traditional social gospel groups like Sojourners, political groups, social groups, and others, and then tying the pieces together with the usual conspiracy involving international bankers, represented by George Soros. I will focus on the politics.
Their charge against Clinton: “When Hillary Clinton stated during a 2015 speech at the Women in the World Summit that religious beliefs ‘have to be changed,’ she was openly declaring war on Christian believers and the Church.” First, of all, saying that religious beliefs have to change is hardly a declaration of war against Christianity. The pope and others do it all the time.
But this charge is actually an old smear. Jeb Bush used it over a year ago, and Ms. Banks includes a link to Politifact’s refutation. These were Clinton’s words, in context:
- "Yes, we’ve nearly closed the global gender gap in primary school, but secondary school remains out of reach for so many girls around the world.
- Yes, we’ve increased the number of countries prohibiting domestic violence, but still more than half the nations in the world have no such laws on the books, and an estimated one in three women still experience violence.
- Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth.
- All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”
Clinton was talking about issues facing women around the world, including health, education, and domestic violence. This is only a war on Christianity if you believe that Christianity requires that women be unschooled, subject to domestic violence, and denied modern medical treatment. Not only are the charges groundless, they were refuted long before American Evangelicals wrote this letter. But these are men and women of faith. They are not concerned with facts.
They present a litany of other charges. The first, and most sensational, charges liberals with creating “a growth industry trafficking in human baby organs and body parts – funded and defended by the Democratic Party.” This is a familiar smear of Planned Parenthood. Hillary and the Democratic Party are assumed guilty by association. This smear has also been repeatedly refuted (e.g., here). It is another example of the “big lie” doctrine American Evangelicals and their colleagues favor. It previously helped them shut down ACORN, a voter registration group (here). It’s one of their traditional values.
Recent Economic History
American Evangelicals accused the liberals of “Doubling of our national debt, economic stagnation and increased welfare dependency.” They apparently forgot it was the administration of George W. Bush that gave us the financial catastrophe that crippled the world’s economy, and further that the U.S. economy is outperforming its peers.
Regarding debt, recall that President Clinton handed George Bush a large and growing budget surplus. Bush immediately turned it into a large and growing deficit. Vice President Cheney proclaimed: “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter,” and American evangelicals said “Amen!” They had no problems with deficits until Obama took office, at a time when deficits were brought on by the (near) depression and the need for stimulus.
Regarding economic stagnation, American Evangelicals once again lost track of the facts. The Bush administration presided over a loss of private sector jobs. Despite a nearly 10% increase in population, there were fewer private sector jobs at the end of the Bush administration than at the start. This is by far the worst record in modern history. The subsequent ‘liberal’ administration oversaw strong growth in private sector jobs, despite the deep economic downturn.
What would Jesus do?
While American Evangelicals purports to speak for Jesus, they don’t cite any of his teachings. (Apropos of nothing, they quote John14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Not only is it irrelevant, Jesus never said it.) But Jesus often said that the Golden Rule is central to achieving righteousness. Yet this basic principle of morality makes no appearance in the American Evangelicals’ screed. Nor is it evident in Donald Trump’s words or deeds.
In Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus says “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (v40). Salvation depends on helping the poor. Donald Trump, American Evangelicals, and the right-wing always want to cut funding for the poor. They promise that tax cuts for the rich will make the poor better off. Even though that has repeatedly proven false, they still have faith.
When is the last time you’ve heard an evangelical talk about mammon? Jesus had lots to say about it. For example, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matt. 19:24). Also, “You can't serve both God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24). But Trump boasts of serving mammon all his life.
Throughout most of its history, Christian leaders often said, “Money is the root of all evil.” At some point in the second half of the 20th century, they stopped. The gospel of prosperity took over, either implicitly or explicitly. Christian leaders serve mammon. American Evangelicals contradicts the most basic teachings of Jesus – and does so in the name of Jesus.