So I was working on a post about Roy Moore — the disgraced former judge and slavery enthusiast facing multiple, credible accusations of child-molestation who stands poised to be elected the next U.S. senator from Alabama, thanks to overwhelming support from that state’s white evangelical voters. But then I got distracted.
I got distracted by President Trump’s decision to start tossing lit matches into the tinderbox of the Middle East by announcing that the U.S. recognizes the West Bank city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. So I started writing about that, and about how it’s driven by, and being celebrated by, the very same bloc of white evangelical voters who make up Roy Moore’s base of support. But then I got distracted again.
I got distracted by this: “Oklahoma preacher arrested with racist prostitute in massage parlor bust.” This is the Elmore Leonard/Frank Peretti mash-up I didn’t even realize I’d been waiting for. But it’s also a story that ties together all the threads connecting all that other stuff about Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Jerusalem, and the Last Days.
We should clarify here that the preacher was not arrested as a patron of the racist [alleged] prostitute, but as her business partner/employer. This isn’t a preacher-busted-at-massage-parlor story, it’s a preacher-[allegedly]-owned-and-operated-massage-parlor story.
Walter Eugene Brazington, Jr., an “apostle and prophet” for the All Nations Evangelistic Team, is charged in Tulsa County with attempting to “encourage, induce or persuade women to become inmates of a house of prostitution.”
The 55-year-old preacher used the same phone number for his ministry and to recruit women for the house of prostitution he operated under the guise of a massage parlor in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, police in that community disclosed.
Following an undercover investigation, police arrested Brazington late last month, identifying him as the “operator” of the massage parlor, one of several he has owned in recent years. Tiffany Ann Roach, 40, who worked at the establishment, also was arrested.
Her Facebook page includes images related to white supremacy, including “White Girl Pride” and references to “88” — code for Heil Hitler.
Please don’t mistake me here as saying that the Apostle Brazington is somehow “typical” of white evangelical preachers. He very much is not. Most white evangelical preachers are not also (allegedly) the owners and operators of multiple massage parlors that operate as fronts for prostitution. Nor are the owners and operators of most such massage parlors also white evangelical preachers. The double-life that Walter Eugene has (allegedly) been living is anything but typical.
We say that Walter Eugene Brazington is a preacher, but that he is only alleged to be a pimp. That’s because the latter is a crime and the former is not. We can observe and identify his status as a preacher on our own, but whether or not he has also “encouraged, induced or persuaded women to become inmates of a house of prostitution” is something the courts will have to decide. We can accurately say he has been accused of the latter, or that police say he is suspected of it, but his guilt or innocence has yet to be determined on this matter.
Thus we describe him as a preacher and an alleged pimp, even if the details of the story make it easier for us to think of him as a pimp and, therefore, only an alleged preacher. That, at least, is how we Christians are inclined to think of him — how we want to think of him. Surely if he was spending half of his double-life running massage parlors as fronts for prostitution, then he can’t have been in any way sincere in the other half of his life where he worked as a revival preacher, Pentecostal “prophet,” and “Bible prophecy” evangelist. It’s certainly more comfortable for us to assume that — to think he is only an alleged preacher who was, in reality, nothing more than a cynical, Gantry-esque grifter.
And that’s entirely possible. It may very well be that Brazington developed a fluent mastery of white evangelical language and culture for no reason other than to prey on believers for financial gain. It may very well be that his “All Nations Evangelistic Team” was nothing more than a counterfeit imitation of the tens of thousands of similar white evangelical “ministries” it emulated.
But there’s a sense in which that doesn’t matter. If it is a counterfeit, it’s a nearly perfect counterfeit — one otherwise indistinguishable from the thing it pretends to be. If he’s a fraud, then he’s a fraud whose genuine customers went away genuinely satisfied. (The customers of his All Nations Evangelistic Team revivals, I mean, I can’t speak to the relative satisfaction of his other set of customers.)
Brazington seems to have compartmentalized his (alleged) criminal life from his (alleged) ministry, but his (alleged) example seems to highlight that these two sides of his double-life are not as incompatible as it might seem.
Yeah, it’s true that the vast majority of Brazington’s fellow white evangelical ministers and ministries would unambiguously condemn operating or patronizing a massage parlor/brothel. They would consider that an unacceptable sin — precisely the sort of obvious and intolerable sin that the white supremacy of Ms. Roach is never regarded as. Just like Brazington, they’re perfectly comfortable allying themselves with white supremacists in service of some larger purpose. Their Christian nationalism is wholly compatible with her white nationalism, and doesn’t skip a beat when encountering her white supremacist views.
Or when encountering Roy Moore’s white supremacist views. Or Jeff Sessons.’ Or Steve Bannon’s. Or Richard Land’s. Or
Donald Douglas Wilson’s. Or Donald Trump’s.
And a theology that can comfortably accommodate that is a theology that can easily be made to accommodate anything else. Including Brazington’s (alleged) double life.
This is because the white evangelical Christian nationalism (or just “white … nationalism,” for short) that Brazington preaches is designed specifically to accommodate the sin of white supremacy. The mechanism in this design is universally adaptable. It can be used to accommodate, minimize, dismiss, excuse, or even to bless any sin.
Ten years ago I got a lot of pushback whenever I spoke of this in such categorical terms — “universally,” “any.” Surely there must be limits. I would usually concede the point, even though the model didn’t allow for that.
The whole point of Satanic baby-killers, after all, is that they are a superlative evil — the superlative evil. By definition, the Satanic baby-killers are worse than anything else, and therefore anything else can be minimized and accepted as Not As Bad As the Satanic baby-killers. That is how the model works. That is it’s purpose. It is absolute and categorical.
But surely its application has to have some limit, right? I mean, like, if they attempted to apply it to endorse an actual child-molester or something, right?
I thought that was right.
I was wrong.
This is what has been so disconcerting over the past year and a half — the realization that this model, for those in its grip, can be made to excuse absolutely anything.