Nel's New Day

October 14, 2018

Persecuting Evangelicals Play the Victim Card

Evangelical Christians are expressing their dismay with the “grotesque caricature” of their faith as they worship Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), a viciously cruel man who ridiculed the victim of sexual assault so that he could “win” and has a long history himself of sexual assaults, even during his three marriages. At a meeting on the campus of conservative Wheaton College, leader Doug Birdsall lamented that the term “evangelical” has negative associations, including its connection with racism and white supremacy. He would like to see the term used for “a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus’ work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.” Instead, “evangelical” refers to a selfish, power-hungry political movement that takes the side of the devil to be victorious.

In 2008, John McCain described evangelicalism as “agents of intolerance,” and that image has only worsened in the past decade as 80 percent of self-identified evangelical voters support DDT. Thus the image has become the reality as this 80 percent overlook any of DDT’s sins for political expediency. Little has changed since Jerry Falwell’s time of the Moral Majority that was also devoted to political control; it’s just become far more obvious—a distressing position for evangelicals who want people to think that they are Christians, i.e., “like Christ.” Following the Bible, evangelicals concentrate not only on caring for the poor and oppressed but focusing on the Old Testament’s calculating self-centeredness and self-preservation despite evangelicals’ anti-Semitism.

While evangelicals fight their representation at the same time clinging to its manifestation, they falsely play the victim. In a recent survey, white evangelical Christians in the U.S. see themselves experiencing more discrimination that Jews, Muslims, atheists, Latinx, and blacks. No one is burning their churches, beating them up, and taking away their rights, but they claim victimization. Their churches and wealthy leaders aren’t taxed, they get federal funding for Christian schools and repairs of churches, and they control of politics, yet they claim to be victims. At the same time, unarmed black youth are killed, LGBTQ people are exempted from jobs and housing, women are denied reproductive rights, Muslims are physically persecuted, Latinx legally in the country are being deported—the list goes on and on.

Alan Nobel, professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, writes about privileged evangelicals using the Bible to support their persecution complex of victimization. From the beginning of Christianity, believers emulated themselves as persecuted, just like Jesus was, in their glorification of suffering caused by outsiders. The victimized evangelicals operate just as DDT does in bullying others. One young man was told how to behave if he caused a car accident. He should immediately yell at the other person to put them on the defensive. “Maybe the police will believe you,” the young man’s father told him. Republicans falsely attack everyone in their craving for control.

Those who present themselves as being wronged can never see that they are also committing wrongs. They also stop the ability to improve situations by becoming helpless victims. Evangelicals who believe themselves to be victims cannot accept that they strike out at others first; instead they believe only that their faith causes any hardships they face, expecting persecution whether it doesn’t exist.

Evangelicals also get assistance from their belief in an all-powerful God, typically blaming a population such as the LGBTQ community, for all disasters—9/11, hurricanes, etc. The latest blame-game came after Hurricane Michael’s devastation across five states from the Florida panhandle to Virginia. To blame this time, according to Christian “prophet” Mark Taylor, are the Democrats, who are so powerful that they created this destruction because Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court.

A semi-secret evangelical society, the Council for National Policy (CNP), are hoping that Kavanaugh will reduce their imaginary persecution by achieving their goal of a theocracy and protect the “religious liberties” that they think is under attack in schools. Members at the celebratory even included Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas; recently retired U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley; former senator and former president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint; pollster and man who teaches Republicans to twist words to their benefit, Frank Luntz; and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), striver for House Speaker who allegedly did not report the sexual molestation of athletes at Ohio State University.

A new film, Trump Prophecy, is pumping up DDT’s religious image in an adaption of a book co-authored by Mark Taylor, who claimed that he received the message from God in 2011 that the presidency is divinely ordained. The movement, called Independent Network Charismatic (INC) Christianity, believes that anyone who condemns DDT and his election are Satan’s servants. Its leaders, called “apostles,” are popular independent religious entrepreneurs with close ties to such politicians as Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry. INC seeks “to bring heaven or God’s intended perfect society to Earth by placing ‘kingdom-minded people’ in powerful positions at the top of all sectors of society.” DDT has cited Norman Vincent Peale, who believes in pro-Christian nationalism (aka white supremacy) and the INC beliefs, as his “major religious influence.”

INC is patterned after the 19th-century New Thought movement that led to the prosperity gospel—religious faith leads to material wealth. The popularity of evangelical Christianity developed when immigrants caused Protestants to lose their control over schools and ability to teach religion in taxpayer public institutions. They tried to institute an amendment proposed during the Civil War to put evangelical Protestant language in the U.S. Constitution, including references to God and Jesus while declaring the Bible “the supreme rule for the conduct of nations.” Like Jeff Sessions, Justice William Strong wanted public acceptance of evangelical Christianity and warned that the Constitution must be made “explicitly Christian” to keep his religion from being “obliterated.”

Fortunately, Strong was opposed by the minister Washington Gladden, religious editor of the New York Independent. Although the publication was evangelical, it did not endorse government support of the religion and argued for “equal footing” instead of special protection. Gladden wrote that a religion that need government protection had no right to exist:

“If our Christianity is of such a flimsy texture that nothing but a constitutional amendment will save it, the sooner it is obliterated the better for the land.”

When Christian leaders began to understand that support for the amendment was a sign of weak faith, they refused to back the Christian amendment. They began to understand that demands for special treatment were averse to both U.S. and Christian values. The United States will be destroyed if a group with this belief does not oppose the evangelical control of the federal government.

Evangelicals may be of help to keep democracy: evangelical Christians who oppose DDT are on a cross-country bus tour to break the GOP control of Congress in the upcoming election. Believing that GOP legislators fail to advocate for Christian values, the “Vote Common Good” bus tour is headed for over 30 congressional districts in 14 Midwestern and Southern states with the hope that Democrats can unseat GOP incumbents. Minneapolis pastor Doug Pagitt said:

“What we’re doing is trying to give courage to people whose hearts are already opened, whose beliefs have already shifted, to say that they can vote and act according to their own beliefs.”

Participants compare the rallies to “revival” meetings with Christian authors, ministers, and activists. They preach voting for issues of concern to Christians such as immigration, health care poverty, and care for the environment. Vote Common Good website encourages people to vote “with religious, racial, and gender minorities” and against policies and politicians who “promise special privileges for any religion, including our own.” Arkansas pastor Robb Ryerse said that he thinks “people are more important than party.” The organization’s support for the Democratic Party is tied to this year’s goal—to shift congressional power away from the GOP as “a reaction to the policies, actions, and tone of the Trump administration and Congress in recent years.”

Nuns on the Bus is also holding rallies during the month of October. I wish both of these efforts luck in overturning the movement to ignore Christian teachings.

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