In our fuzzy American sentimental folklore Christianity was once associated with kindness. Not anymore. Evangelicals embraced Trump and Cruz. End of story.
Both men are symbols of hate and stupidity in equal measure. They are to politics what the president of Gordon College is to education: a man who will be remembered for writing to President Obama to ask to be allowed to discriminate against gays in the name of religious freedom.
When we hear the word evangelical now, we don’t think of Jesus but of Wheaton College going to court to deprive women of insurance coverage for contraception.
Islam may be forever be tagged with Islamist brutalities but today the word association with evangelicalism brings to mind images of Jerry Falwell Jr., asking students to carry loaded guns on campus and his endorsing the braggart/fool/fascist Trump.
Evangelical Christianity is now a despised and feared “brand.”
Evangelical flagships such as Wheaton College and Christianity Today magazine are now perceived by younger people (if they think of them at all) as akin to the KKK, Taliban and ISIS and/or that crazy uncle everyone in the family is embarrassed by because he belongs to some right wing militia.
Trump/Cruz and the 2016 Republican Party has driven the final nail into the evangelical coffin. Game over. One reason Hillary Clinton is going to win, and win big, is because many Americans will be voting against the evangelicals.
The Republican Party realized that Evangelical Christianity could be a valuable acquisition. As I describe in my book WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace my family helped this slide to the religious right along.
After my family and other religious right activists sold the soul of the evangelical movement to the Republicans, others took advantage of the paranoid rage we’d stirred up. The Tea Party, talk radio, Fox News and dark money spent by the Koch brothers pushed the evangelicals further into the abyss finally given a face by Trump. The not-too-bright evangelicals were bought and paid for at the GOP that played to their fears, racial hatreds, and above all, sense of being victims.
As in any story about selling your soul, Evangelical leaders largely got what they bargained for as they cashed in on access to power. Billy Graham loved to get his picture taken with presidents. Today Franklin kowtows to a fascist in hopes of clinging to relevance.
The Evangelical brand is so tainted at this point that Russell Moore, a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said that he will no longer call himself an “Evangelical Christian,” thanks—he implied—to association between Evangelicals and Trump.
Humanist commentator James Croft correctly notes that Trump is what Evangelicalism, has become:
The religious right in America has always been a political philosophy based on bullying, pandering, projecting strength to hide fear and weakness, and proud, aggressive ignorance. That’s what it’s been about from the beginning. Trump has merely distilled those elements into a decoction so deadly that even some evangelicals are starting to recognize the venom they have injected into American culture.
As the former evangelical and psychologist and ever-perceptive observer Valerie Tarico writes:
The Evangelical brand problem is much bigger than Trump and his candidacy or the morally-bankrupt priorities and theocratic aspirations of fellow Republican candidates Cruz and Rubio. Evangelicals may use the name of Jesus for cover, but even Jesus is too small a fig leaf to hide the fact outsiders looking at Evangelical Christianity see more prick than heart.
Tarico says this is what the Evangelical brand looks like from the outside:
Evangelical means obsessed with sex….
Evangelical means arrogant. Wheaton College put Evangelical arrogance on national display when administrators decided to suspend and then fire a professor who dared to suggest that Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same God.Evangelical means fearful and bigoted…. They have urged that Latin American refugees be sent home so that we can build a wall across the southern border before they come back.
Evangelical means indifferent to truth. Evangelicals refuse to acknowledge what is obvious to everyone else, including most other Christians—that the Bible is a human document woven through with moral and factual imperfections.
Evangelical means gullible and greedy. From televangelists and Prosperity Gospel to adulation of Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand, Evangelicalism faces the world as a religion of exploiters and exploited—both of which are hoping to make a quick buck.
Evangelical means ignorant. The only way to protect creationism is to keep people from understanding how science works and what scientists have discovered.
Evangelical means predatory. Evangelical missionaries prey on the young and ignorant.
Evangelical means mean... shaming and stigmatizing queers, making it harder for poor women to prevent pregnancy, blaming rape victims, diverting aid dollars into church coffers…
All that was needed to complete this sorry picture in the thinking decent public’s mind regarding evangelicals as cosmic losers and dumb and mean as a brain-damaged pit bull was… TRUMP/CRUZ.
And these evangelicals are the people still telling the rest of us Americans – as Franklin Graham does – that it is they who have the moral high ground and moral answers to offer. With enemies like this Satan needs no friends. And we all now know that evangelicals hate Jesus. They now follow a leader who offers to punch people in the mouth at his rallies if they disagree with him.
Just how bad is Trump? Watch this 3 min Video where I answer him
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
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