I woke up yesterday morning to find that the loathsome Reverend Pat Robertson was dead. I went to bed, having learned that the former president of the United States, the darling of white Evangelicals and American right-wing Catholics, has been indicted for seven federal crimes including a violation of the espionage act. Those were the bookends of this particular Thursday. People were reminiscing about Robertson’s dehumanizing views on queer people and women as I got up. In the evening they were anticipating Donald Trump dying in prison.
I saw people sharing stories about vulnerable older relatives donating large sums of money to Pat Robertson because they thought it would make the Lord bless them– that Prosperity Gospel, which is a heresy against the actual Gospel. Of course, Trump’s bilked a lot of people out of their money as well, promising a different kind of salvation. He promised to save the Religious Right from not being the top dog in America, the ones who get to make all the choices on behalf of everyone else.
Today, the Trump indictment has been unsealed. We all see the photos of the classified documents stacked in boxes in a gaudy marble bathroom under a crystal chandelier. This is a man who had absolutely no regard for honesty, for the rule of law, or for anybody’s safety. The indictment is shocking; his behavior is almost comical in its dishonesty.
That makes seventy-one felonies that the former president is under indictment for, counting the state crimes in New York and the federal crimes in Florida together. And, of course, he’s been proven in a court of law to be a sexual abuser. And the American Christian Right thinks he’s being persecuted, because they can’t admit they’ve been had. They’ll follow him to the grave. I didn’t believe this was the case once upon a time, but I do now. There is no persuading them.
I’ve been mulling these events for the past twenty-four hours, thinking of what I could possibly say.
Is there anything I can say that I haven’t already said?
Haven’t I been denouncing this nonsense for seven years?
I’ve written so many, many things about American Christianity. And when I say that, I don’t mean just being a Christian who lives in America; I mean this bizarre brand of Christianity that is American. This unlikely truce between the stuffiest Catholics who don’t even believe that more modern Catholics are Catholic, and the Evangelical Christians whose theology is fundamentally opposed to Catholic theology. The mundane wishful thinking of the Prosperity Gospel peacefully co-existing with the tawdry martyr complex of traditionalists. The wealthy televangelists. The Catholic priests and laymen honking alt right talking points on their podcasts. The fearmongering and stochastic terrorism against marginalized people. The Christianity which is all about finding an enemy, scapegoating them, and hurting them as hard as you can. The Christianity which is ashamed of Christ, because Christ didn’t fight His enemies. Christ meekly surrendered and died. American Christianity is all about power.
American Christianity takes only one line from the Gospels, and it’s not one of the lines in red: “All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”
I wonder how many people have been driven away from Christ, because of American Christianity.
One day, not long from now, Donald Trump will be in prison or dead from old age. American Christianity will move on and find another idol. But I don’t think they should ever live down this disgrace.
The one good thing about this era of American Christianity, is that we can see them clearly for what they are.
They are people who worship power and powerful men.
They have nothing to do with Christ.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.