False Shepherds

False Shepherds January 10, 2018

False shepherds

Steve Wiggins wrote in a recent blog post:

The modern Evangelical movement no longer adheres to the teachings of the carpenter from Nazareth. The issues on which he spoke plainly and repeatedly have been relabeled as “liberal” and therefore evil. If you can keep the Jesus brand, eviscerated of its core beliefs, you can gather a bloc of dupes who’ll flush their own healthcare and financial wellbeing simply because sheep will follow any shepherd. Ironically, the Bible itself warns of the dangers of following false shepherds. None of that matters anymore. And those who joined the group because of that Bible wonder now who they really are.

Click through to read the rest of the post, in which he pinpoints an irony in the fact that conservative Christians adamantly warn about the dangers of false teachers. They never seem to entertain the possibility that their favorite teachers who tickle their ears might be precisely the sorts of people the Bible warns about.

Derek Penwell also wrote about Evangelicals and apocalypticism in the present political climate, including a provocative challenge to liberals and progressives. Here is an excerpt:

Apocalypticism, a kind of eschatology concerned with the end of the world, is usually a cry for help from those who feel like they have no hope of digging themselves out of the hole they’re in (think Revelation, also known as The Apocalypse of John). Because people feel like they have no agency to change what’s wrong with the world, apocalypticism is a desperate desire for some power to come and vanquish foes and put things right. If you feel powerless to change your situation, the apocalypse sounds like relief, a vindication against adversaries you can’t defeat on your own.

The rich and powerful don’t cling to threads of an apocalyptic desire for deliverance. Because why would they? Deliverance from what? If you’re already safe, if you feel like you have some control over your situation, the apocalypse promises nothing for you but disruption and chaos—which is something to be feared, not embraced.

It’s the poor and powerless, the oppressed and afflicted who hang on to the faint strands of hope that apocalypticism promises—because they’ve exhausted confidence in their own ability to make meaningful change. Consequently, if change is to be had, it will have to come from somewhere outside themselves—from somewhere or something with the promise of strength to defeat the foes of those too beleaguered or helpless to do it themselves.

That’s why, I suspect, Donald Trump remains popular among two distinct sets of people: 1) those who long for a kind of savior, and 2) those who profit from people desperate for a savior. The first group sees people like me as the enemy, liberals and progressives who make fun of them and whom they believe (have been convinced?) are the source of their powerlessness and alienation from cultural respectability. The second group cynically plays on those resentments to rig the system that allows them to retain wealth and power. The first group deserves our empathy, the second group our contempt…

Click through to find out where he goes from there. See too the post by Hemant Mehta about a pastor who said that Evangelicals who don’t support Trump simply don’t take the Bible seriously!

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  • John MacDonald

    From what I’ve seen of Evangelical churches, there seems to be a strong emphasis by the pastors on the flock sewing financial seeds into the ministry so that they will receive a much larger divinely supplied financial windfall in return. This seems to fly in the face of Jesus’ words in Mark where Jesus says “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).”

    • John Kuykendall

      It is sad and ironic that Evangelicals are following people who are trying to build a bigger needle so they can get through.

  • I agree with the analysis of why people embrace apocalypticism. I’m an apocalypticist. However, I was not taken in by Trump. I saw through his sheep’s clothing from the start. My “savior” was Bernie Sanders. He seemed to be one of the few honest politicians who really cared about the poor and wanted to change things to make life better for them. But we didn’t get Bernie. Let’s hope Jesus comes back real soon.

  • arcseconds

    It doesn’t seem as though Trump voters are any more poor or powerless than anyone else. Genuinely poor people were if anything more likely to vote for Clinton. They also managed to vote in a President that they seem to strongly approve of, who pandered to their predjudices at every opportunity — that doesn’t seem like genuine powerlessness to me.

    An example link, but there are plenty of analyses like this:

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/9/15592634/trump-clinton-racism-economy-prri-survey

    They do, however, feel as though they have been marginalized, and show a considerable amount of cultural and racial anxiety.

    A lot of people feel this kind of hand-wringing about poor white people being misled is an outrage and we should call them what they are: angry racist bigots who in the last few years had a small taste of what genuinely marginalized people have experienced for centuries and they don’t like it one bit — and instead of improving their empathy with the marginalized, they want a wholesale return to white heteronormative hegemony, and knowingly voted in a bully who looked like he would do exactly this.

    Furthermore, they say e.g. why should a poor black person, or a trans person, or a Muslim, or anyone who considers themselves a
    friend or ally of such people extend any sympathy or understanding to such people? It’s asking them to be sympathetic and understanding towards their oppressors.

    This of course contributes to the current climate of political warfare and almost complete lack of mutual respect. Over a third of voters still approve of Trump, so apart from any moral concerns we might have of how to treat individuals we don’t agree with, there’s a pragmatic concern with how outright hostility and alienation between two such large groups is going to shake out in practice.

    But I think we have to be honest about who we are asking to sympathize with whom, here. And it’s not educated costal (white? male? probably comparatively wealthy at any rate) liberals sympathizing with powerless, helpless, hopeless poor people.

    • Thanks for your strong voice being articulate!! I am especially grateful to find these things you wrote because they help my vision of the truth to be clearer.

      //They also managed to vote in a President that they seem to strongly approve of, who pandered to their predjudices at every opportunity — that doesn’t seem like genuine powerlessness to me…A lot of people feel this kind of hand-wringing about poor white people being misled is an outrage and we should call them what they are: angry racist bigots who in the last few years had a small taste of what genuinely marginalized people have experienced for centuries and they don’t like it one bit — and instead of improving their empathy with the marginalized, they want a wholesale return to white heteronormative hegemony, and knowingly voted in a bully who looked like he would do exactly this…Over a third of voters still approve of Trump, so apart from any moral concerns we might have of how to treat individuals we don’t agree with, there’s a pragmatic concern with how outright hostility and alienation between two such large groups is going to shake out in practice.//

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/613f1953a5bbc94b09e34f5df07fa48079f8ccbb4e0f28e70e9ef99494d667e8.gif

      • arcseconds

        Just to be clear, I do nevertheless think we need to try to understand where they’re coming from (just as we do for anyone) and try to reach them if we can. That level of bigotry and resentment is good for no-one, and if we can reduce it it’ll be better for everyone.

        That is also what the author of the article I linked to supports, here is another

        https://www.vox.com/identities/2016/11/15/13595508/racism-trump-research-study

        Ignorance has no small part to play in this. e.g., from the first vox article I linked to above:

        Trump supporters also tended to live in racially segregated areas, particularly those that were not especially hard hit by trade or immigration

        This is also something that was found with Brexit voters: Brexit was most popular in areas that had been least affected by immigration.

        If everyone you know personally is white, then it’s easy to think as all of those brown people as being the threatening Other.

        Ignorance can be overcome. This has already happened to a considerable extent with same-sex marriage: people began to see this less as some bizarre paradoxical parody of marriage promulgated as part of a sinister Gay Agenda, and more as a real obstacle to domestic happiness of real people just like them. And the vox articles I’ve linked to have examples of this kind of dialogue.

        (And there is actually a fair bit of casual bigotry floating around against white rural people.)

  • arcseconds

    Also, the people who join actual apocalyptic cults and similar are not necessarily any poorer or less powerful than anyone else, either. Harold Camping had several engineers and a mathmatics major in his followers (and was an engineer himself).

    http://religiondispatches.org/a-year-after-the-non-apocalypse-where-are-they-now/