When the news broke of Russian interference in the presidential election, Franklin Graham responded with a widely panned tweet asking “Do you think it was the Russians interfering with the election or was it God?” I don’t understand the mystery of how God interacts with our world. I refuse to be a closet deist like many of my fellow mainline Protestant ministers who try to argue that because God is the ground of all being, he doesn’t get tangled up in any of the details. On the other hand, I’m never going to say that God must have had a valid reason if a terminal cancer patient dies despite our most fervent prayers.
I am intrigued, however, by the case of Donald Trump. The Bible says that God raised up Pharaoh so that God’s power might be made known through the wrath he pours out on Egypt (Exodus 9:16). Romans 1 talks about the way that God “hands over” sinners to the consequences of their debauchery.
What if God did in fact raise up Donald Trump as a means of pouring out his wrath on the religious right who have been blaspheming his name for the past three decades? What if the next four years will be the political Chernobyl that completely destroys the political power of the religious right forever? Sometimes the perfect punishment is to get exactly what you ask for and lose the easy life of complaining and raising gobs of money to oppose the guy from the other side who’s in charge.
Amidst all the election drama back in 2012, I received what I think was a prophecy while reading the parable of the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5. It’s a story about a wild man who lives in the tombs shrieking and carrying on because he’s demon-possessed. When Jesus asks him his name, he says, “Legion, for we are many.” The legion of demons begged Jesus to be cast into a herd of pigs, who were immediately driven into a furious stampede that caused them all to drown in a nearby lake.
I think the evangelical church today is like the Gerasene demoniac. We’ve been shrieking in the tombs of culture war with a louder and shriller pitch every year. But the louder and uglier it gets, the more the eyes of the next generation are being opened. The only thing growing more rapidly than evangelical megachurches are the ranks of post-evangelicals who are done with church. The best way to create post-evangelicals like me is to raise us evangelical. The more fundamentalist you raise us, the more likely we’ll be divorced and atheist by the time we’re 30.
It’s not just people in my generation. My whole family of once reliable Texas Baptist Republicans has been pushed further and further to the left over the past three decades. Why? Because despite their conservative values, they have been completely alienated by the ugliness of fundamentalism.The evangelical church is being exorcised of our demons as Jesus casts them into pigs, that is people who have lost any veneer of Christlike qualities, like the naughty boys who get transformed into donkeys in Pinocchio. People like Fred Phelps, Franklin Graham, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza, Ann Coulter, Matt Walsh, Tomi Lahren, and Steve Bannon. These pigs are hitching themselves to the wagon of the religious right and stampeding furiously toward the lake of fire. And now Donald Trump, the biggest pig of all, has taken the reins himself. Maybe God has anointed him to finally pull the whole herd off the cliff so that the rest of humanity can be saved.
One thing I continue to share in common with many of my fellow evangelicals is a longing for apocalypse. I want to see a catastrophic enough political Chernobyl occur that the Reagan age of golden shower economics and ghastly hypocritical moral sanctimony will finally end and an utterly discontinuous future will emerge. I’m sure conservatives could come up with a different way to describe the apocalypse that needs to rescue us from the awful, never-ending impasse we seem to be stuck in. I’m sure there are liberal elitist Hollywood pigs racing to the lake of fire along with Donald Trump.
Regardless, we desperately need an exorcism as a nation. We need some kind of Girardian climax to explode so that we can all repent in dust and ashes to become kind, humble people on the other side. We need to be broken utterly. It seems like a lot of the people who supported Trump just wanted somebody to go in and break everything so we could start over. While I’m certainly not down with the racism and misogyny that got so many cheers at his rallies, I am absolutely in solidarity with the apocalyptic longing.
I want our demons to be cast out so we can stop shrieking in the tombs. I want a cataclysmic enough shift to occur that the outrage industry will never sell another book or have another viral blog post again. I would rather see realization and repentance take place without a political train-wreck, but if the pigs have to throw themselves into the lake of fire for the church to be saved, then so be it.
If you’re interested in detoxifying your Christianity, please check out my book How Jesus Saves the World From Us.
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