Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

The Odd Couple

trump-and-evangelicals.jpg

From this humble writer's perspective, the president's week-long - and as yet ongoing - jaunt to Europe has been a disastrous embarrassment.  From giving terribly mixed messages about America's future relationship with its NATO allies to making the ludicrous claim  that "Germany is a captive of Russia," giving distinctly bipolar  opinions of British P.M. Teresa May and actually keeping the Queen of England waiting and then walking in front of her, '45's time in Europe has, so far, been more risible than Monsieur Hulot's Holiday.  . . . And mind you this is even before his sit-down with that satanic old pro Vladimir Putin. You can bet your bottom dollar (or ruble) that Putin will be as fully prepared and disciplined as a Trappist Monk, while the POTUS likely be just winging it, seeking to rely on his country club charm . . . which will likely be as potent or useful as a Pomeranian at a dog fight.  One would think - and indeed, might hope - that the week's blunders,  buffoonery,  lies and utter mortifications (added to so many others over the past year-and-a-half) might result in a demonstrable erosion of his vaunted political base.  But no; as of earlier today - 48 hours after a dozen Russian intelligence agents were indicted by the Justice Department for cyber-hacking in the 2016 presidential election - 45's standing with his base is holding steady . . . and with one group in particular: deeply conservative white fundamentalists and Christian evangelicals the two are not synonymous). 

          Prosperity Gospelers Cheering On  Their Messiah

         Prosperity Gospelers Cheering On  Their Messiah

Despite 3 marriages and numerous affairs, an all but total lack of religiosity (beyond the rhetorical), ignoring the Biblical dictum to "Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God," and  gleefully embodying all seven deadly sins  '45  is still supported and lionized by better than 80% of white American Evangelicals men . . . and women as well.  Talk about an "Odd Couple!"  In light of how stridently united America’s white Evangelical Christians are in their abhorrence of the Clintons and Barack Obama for their “immorality" and "hatred of all things Christian," this critical subset of the president's political base has all but defied Donald John Trump and actually thank Jesus for his being elected. The question is "How can this be?  What do white Evangelicals see in him that causes them to utterly ignore his sins and vulgar language, his lies, hard-hardheartedness and braggadocio ("I am a very stable genius") his utter disregard for anything but wealth . . .?" 

It certainly is not his religiosity.  For despite having some notable evangelicals  and fundamentalists in his employ - V.P. Mike Pence, A.G. Jeff Sessions and Press Sec. Sarah Huckabee Sanders spring to mind - the POTUS has shown himself to be a religious illiterate . . . both in word and in deed. Back during the 2016 campaign, CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Trump about his being audited by the I.R.S.  Unbelievably, the Republican nominee responded, “I’m always being audited by the IRS, which I think is very unfair… maybe because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian and I feel strongly about it.”  His evangelical supporters likely stood up before their television sets and cheered; their man had "come out" as a 'strong Christian'!  And yet, this was the same guy who bragged about the size of his genitals during a presidential debate and once said he would date his then 24-year-old daughter if they weren’t related.  Then too, there was the time '45 was asked whether he was "more of an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy?"  His answer?  “Probably equal, I think. It just an incredible…the whole Bible is an incredible…”  At this point, he started talking about how he jokes that his own book The Art of the Deal is only his second favorite book.

So what is it about '45 and his white evangelical/fundamentalist base?  What is it they see in him that keeps them so thoroughly in thrall?  Could it be his full-throated opposition to abortion?  His support for unfettered access to guns?  His opposition to same-sex marriage or permitting Muslims - and other non-Christians and people of color - from entering the United States? His support for funding charter (read: religious) schools at the expense of public schools?  His disbelief in the findings of climate scientists or his unwavering support for Israel (a.k.a. "The Holy Land" in evangelical parlance)?  How about his historic tax cuts which will put millions into the pockets of multi-millionaires and ultimately add trillions to the federal deficit?

                                                 Joel Osteen and D.J.T.

                                                Joel Osteen and D.J.T.

Believe it or not, the answer may just have something to with the latter issue: tax cuts.  Although the Christian Bible (Matthew: 19:23-24) states "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,"  despite this, there are millions upon millions of God-fearing, Trump-supporting Christians who live, act and vote as if Jesus' words had never been given voice. Strange, no?  Welcome to the world of the prosperity gospel which gives '45 a sort of diplomatic immunity regardless of his many, many carnal sins and transgressions. The "Prosperity Gospel" teaches that the rich are rich because God has blessed them and the poor are poor because God is punishing their immorality.  Prosperity theology is common among white Pentecostal fundamentalists; Pastor Joel Osteen, for example, is a strong proponent. Although the Houston, Texas-based evangelical never officially endorsed his presidential campaign in 2016, Osteen described Trump as a “friend of our ministry” and “a good man.” (BTW: Osteen's Houston-based Lakewood Church has nearly 45,000 members.  His services are seen in more than 100 countries; his net worth is in the neighborhood of $50 million and he and his wife Victoria live in a 17,000 square foot mansion. I don’t hold any of this against him . . . just wanted to let you know that preaching the Prosperity Gospel does pay pretty well.) Osteen is certainly not the only person preaching this gospel; other "superstars" include  Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Rick Warren  and Paula White, to name but a few.)

Sometimes people equate right-wing libertarians with right-wing evangelicals.  In point of fact, they have very different views in some respects. While many libertarians combine extreme fiscal conservatism with socially liberal views on abortion, porn, marijuana and same-sex marriage, the prosperity gospel crowd combines extreme fiscal conservatism with a disdain for all those things—although the ultra-rich are so adored in prosperity theology circles that Trump’s evangelical supporters are quite prepared to overlook his sexual history. To prosperity theologisers, Trump wouldn’t be so rich if he didn’t enjoy God’s stamp of approval. 

During the eight years of his presidency, Barack Obama was detested by the Christian right and proponents of the Prosperity Gospel, despite the fact that he had a much longer history of attending church and obviously knew a lot more about the Bible than his successor. Obama had obviously led a much more clean-cut life than Trump, but to the Christian Right and proponents of prosperity theology, none of this mattered one iota.  Right-wing white evangelicals equate Donald Trump with money and power—and therefore, their understanding of Christian morality— while equating Barack Obama (and indeed, very nearly all Democrats) with socialism and giveaways for poor Americans they consider freeloaders . . . people whose very poverty shows what God thinks about them.

Prosperity gospelers seem to have found their messiah in '45.

I have to wonder what  the good Lord has to say about it.

Perhaps "הזוג המוזר" ("The odd couple")

543 days down, 930 days to go.

Copyright©2018 Kurt F. Stone