Hi and welcome back! We must stop the presses today. Y’all, for a while now I’ve been referring to Donald Trump as evangelicals’ golden calf idol. That said, I could not have possibly imagined that someone would make an actual golden statue of Donald Trump to wheel into this year’s Monsters’ Ball, CPAC (Conservative Political Action Convention). That ostentatious statue has become the butt of jokes all across the internet, and for good reason. But it reveals something desperately important about evangelicals: their complete lack of self-awareness. Today, let me show you how evangelicals could end up in a political party that casts a literal golden calf idol of their metaphorical golden calf idol, and how none of this mockery will matter in the end.
The Story of the Original Golden Calf Idol.
We find the story of the Golden Calf Idol in Exodus 32. During the Exodus of the newly-minted Israelites, Moses went up on the mountain to commune with Yahweh. During his long absence, the people get really impatient. So his brother Aaron (their high priest) told them to give him all their gold jewelry. He melted down this jewelry to create a golden calf idol with it. The next day, the people got up and worshiped it. Aaron presided over “a feast to the LORD.”
Earlier, Yahweh had spoken strongly against making idols of any kind, especially of silver or gold. The first two items on the Ten Commandments involves not worshiping idols or other gods.
But here they were — doing both.
Their revelry annoyed the evil godling Yahweh. Moses talked him out of destroying them, though. When Moses returned to his people, he melted the golden calf back down. Then, he ground it to gold dust, scattered it on his desert-bound people’s water source (you heard me), and made them drink that water. Then, he demanded that his loyal people slaughter the disloyal ones — at their god’s command, natch:
He told them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each of you men is to fasten his sword to his side, go back and forth through the camp from gate to gate, and slay his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’ ”
The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people fell dead.
Afterward, Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for service to the LORD, since each man went against his son and his brother; so the LORD has bestowed a blessing on you this day.”
Of course, this slaughter didn’t fully mollify the Mad Blood God of the Desert (MBGD). He still sent a plague on the remaining loyalists for their worship of the Golden Calf Idol. But it helped a little.
This story illustrates how seriously Yahweh took idolatry back then.
Evangelicals’ New Golden Calf Idol, Donald Trump.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2021.
A couple of days ago, William Turton offered this now-viral video on his Twitter account.
(It’s all over the place, but I’m nervous about potential copyright infringement. So I’m not linking it directly here. If my editor says it’s okay, I’ll add it to the post later.)
In the video, we see a statue of Donald Trump dressed in American-flag-style beach shorts, garish red sandals, and an unkempt coat with a loose necktie. The statue’s body is made of something that looks like very shiny gold. It stands on a rolling cart.
People shout in pleasure as two men wheel their statue past mostly-unmasked CPAC convention-goers. A woman begins to sing something gospel-sounding. A man behind her shouts, “TRUMPTRUMPTRUMPTRUMP!” One guy marvels, “That is so cool.” Either he or someone else begins to chant, “Four more years! Four more years!” Thankfully, nobody takes him up on it and he trails off sounding a bit sheepish.
Later on, Turton shows a picture of the statue in its resting place at one of the convention’s booths. Now, we can see clearly that literal goddamn Golden Calf Idol Donald Trump is holding a copy of the Constitution in one hand (a document he neither understands nor respects in real life) and a star-topped magic wand in the other. Hey, if you’re gonna break the biggest rule in Judeo-Christianity, why not break the one about sorcery too?
People pose next to the Golden Calf Idol with pride. Turton says one woman declares that it is her “boyfriend.”
Remember, Donald Trump’s main fanbase is white evangelical Christians. These folks were present in great numbers at CPAC. This group represents both his largest and his most fervent fanbase. He might despise them, but he needs them.
However, not one of the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ cheering his golden calf idol statue seem to disapprove of a literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol being wheeled past them and set up with obvious pride at a convention that itself has been largely devoted to gaining buy-in for a 2024 Trump presidential campaign run.
The Fallout Over the Literal Goddamned Golden Calf Idol Trump.
Donald Trump himself appears to be very pleased with seeing himself remade as a literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol for his white evangelical Christian fanbase to worship. His former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said his onetime boss now “believes ‘he’s a God,'” according to Newsweek. That story tells us something everyone probably already knew well about our previous Narcissist-in-Chief:
Cohen said Trump needs adulation and screaming supporters in the way most humans need oxygen to breathe. [. . .]
“He really enjoys the cheers of the crowd. Now it’s even more interesting because of the artist that produced that gold Donald,” Cohen said Saturday, reacting to photographs showing hundreds of CPAC attendees posing alongside a golden Trump statue. “Now, he actually thinks he’s a god, like a pagan god, people are lining up down the hallway in order to take a photo with a stupid-looking pagan idol of Donald.
“You will get a packed CPAC house of people that will come there simply to take a photo with the pagan Donald or to see him speak and to continue to spread these horrific sort of comments which he’s been doing now for more than 5 years.”
Well, yes. Narcissists do indeed tend to believe their own self-marketing. And while anybody tends to like compliments, narcissists turn their faces to adoration like a sunflower tracks the sunlight every day.
And I wonder if any narcissist in history has ever gotten quite the kind of treatment that Donald Trump got this weekend from his TRUE CHRISTIAN™ fans.
Mockery Abounds About the Literal Goddamned Golden Calf Idol.
All over the internet, people are talking about the literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol that white evangelicals are 100% okay with. Commentators seem torn between their concern and their giddy glee over seeing this ultra-religious group that keeps trumpeting and braying about their Jesus-ification doing something so obviously and deeply antithetical to the direct commands of their god.
- The Hill: Lists disapproval of influential politics-minded Twitter users, but doesn’t go into much editorializing.
- Vox: Made direct comparisons to the Exodus myth. Also mentions that not only do white evangelicals fully approve of a literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol of Trump, but want either Trump for 2024 or else one of Trump’s lackluster, lackwitted spawn.
- Raw Story: Touches upon the authoritarian upbringing of white evangelicals as the reason for their unthinking, unflinching allegiance to Trump — and their delusional, reality-denying worldview. Warns against “ghetto-izing” this group or downplaying their numbers or commitment.
- Market Watch: Relays some especially-clever Twitter mockery.
But y’all, this is hardly the first time we’ve ever seen evangelicals ignore their god’s direct commands.
Every time they try to thread the needle of Prosperity Gospel, they’re completely flouting the rules laid down by their supposed savior. Every time they screech about immigrants or act racist, mistreat workers and commit sexual hypocrisy, they’re ignoring Jesus’ direct, unequivocal rules.
Really, they’re past masters at reconciling their own behavior with their stated beliefs.
So in a lot of ways, them worshiping a literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol is hardly the very worst thing they’ve done this year.
That Quintessential Evangelical Characteristic.
This story, to me, is important because it captures white evangelicals’ most basic and essential characteristic:
Their utter lack of self-awareness.
White evangelicals are utterly incapable of viewing themselves from the outside. Their worldview, their conceptualization of themselves within the greater tapestry of humanity, is beyond solipsistic: it is a black hole of self-interest and ego that collapsed in on itself a long time ago. As a result, white evangelicals are absolutely not capable of seeing themselves as others see them, and certainly cannot be made to care about such things.
We’ve seen this trait many times before, but not quite in such a glaring and obvious way. We’ve seen their self-pity and inability to gauge their feelings of being hard-done-by against the greater racism and xenophobia they display to other groups. That tendency applies to their personal lives as well, when they refuse to accept that their personal witness actually isn’t something they get to dictate to others.
So they feel no shame whatsoever at what the world (as they charmingly refer to denizens of Reality-Land) would think of a literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol being wheeled through their special Trump-worship convention. It doesn’t even occur to them to wonder about what this idol will do to their credibility in future days.
Instead, they only revel in glee at seeing it, and they flock to pose next to it and express romantic feelings for it.
The Problem of Wingnuts.
I link this mindset in white evangelicals to the Problem of Wingnuts generally:
Nobody can rein in a wingnut. Their entire worldview is self-determined. They view the world only from the lens of ego. Their beliefs are not only subjective but informed only by personal revelation. Worse, the Bible is poorly-written. Wingnuts can use it to support literally any belief imaginable.
Thus, if a wingnut has decided that Jesus approves of something they’re doing, nobody can change their mind. They recognize no other authority than themselves — except for those above them on their self-assessed ladder of power.
They follow their few chosen authorities because their views align. The wingnut might listen if one of those authorities shifts in belief. More likely, though, they’ll leave that ladder for a better fit. Their leaders know it, too. They wisely only to try to push wackier and weirder extensions of the wingnut’s current beliefs.
A wingnut recognizes no valid external or objective mechanism for criticism, no valid external or objective process for self-introspection, and no valid external or objective way to examine themselves for fault or their beliefs for correctness. Literally all they have is how they feel about a given topic and how well an input accords with their overall body of existing beliefs.
And then, along came Donald Trump: a craven, crass showman who understands his fans far better than they could ever understand themselves.
Worshiping a Literal Goddamned Calf Idol.
So yes, of course evangelicals worshiped a literal goddamned Golden Calf Idol at CPAC this weekend. Of course. They don’t recognize what they’re doing as worship, either, that’s clear. I’ve seen not one single evangelical leader speaking out against this shocking hypocrisy. And I don’t expect to see one going there, except maybe the few on record as already opposing Trumpism. (Faithwire seems to fall into that mindset; they tut-tutted over the whole thing as insufficiently Jesus-y while utterly missing the point about how it could possibly be that evangelicals who officially hold the same stated belief still fall into Trumpism.)
Long, long ago (I’m talking perhaps centuries ago, but it’s come to a head in the past few decades), their Dear Leaders ripped out white evangelicals’ ability to self-assess their behavior. It’s quite obvious why they needed to do that. The flocks wouldn’t follow the orders coming down the pike if they valued credibility.
Instead, they learned some simpering, preening substitutes for credibility. They learned performative piety and considered it just as good as the real thing.
And the flocks learned all these substitutes well, elevating them to the place of the real deals.
I wonder if, in coming years, this incident will be mentioned in history books as one of the many visible signs of Christianity’s slow dribble to irrelevance.
I hope so. It deserves to be there. It’s one of the biggest and most shocking signs of a dysfunction that many of us recognized long ago. And as such, it deserves a little mention in that inevitable history book.
NEXT UP: So who’s actually surprised that Madison Cawthorn, the golden child of the Republican Party, has turned out to be a sex pest? We’re not. See you for it tomorrow! Then on Monday, LSP. On Tuesday, we’ll get back on track with the myth of the virtuous reason — provided toxic Christians don’t veer us off-course between then and now.
Y’all, our. Dance card. Is. FULLLLLLL.
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