On Wednesday night, the front runner for the Republican nomination for president, an alleged adult man, tweeted an unflattering picture of his opponent's wife and insinuated that his own wife is hotter.
For the record, Donald Trump's current wife -- a woman 25 years his junior who used to take her clothes off and pose for pictures for money -- is his third, who he married after dumping his second, Marla, with whom he cheated on his first, Ivana, who, according to allegations in a sworn deposition, he once brutally assaulted.
There are other accusations, sure to be finally covered by the mainstream media during the general election, of Trump stalking and intimidating women who rebuff his advances.
By the way, he has never repented, apologized, or admitted that he did anything wrong. He laughed in God's face and said he does not need His forgiveness. He boasts of his adultery, happily recommends that other husbands leave their wives just as he did, encourages men to look at women as "pieces of ass," and advises them to "treat women like sh*t." And this is the man millions of Christians want to be president.
The shameful, morally unjustifiable support Trump enjoys among Christian voters and prominent Christian leaders like Robert Jeffress is considered one of the most confusing aspects of this election cycle. But it isn't all that confusing. Christianity has long been on the decline in the United States, and Donald Trump is just one of the many beneficiaries of its collapse.
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, holds up a Bible while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
There are other beneficiaries, of course. The porn industry, Hollywood, the Democrat Party, Planned Parenthood, the gay lobby, feminists, etc. A great number of nefarious forces have profited tremendously from the deserted churches and empty pews scattered across our nation. But, at the present moment, none of these vultures have feasted more greedily upon the decaying husk of western Christendom than Mr. Trump.
There have been many theories offered to explain how America is falling into the grip of a grotesque megalomaniac, pathological liar, clinical narcissist, and unrepentant strip club owner who talks openly about his desire to date his own daughter, but the decline of the faith is most certainly the biggest reason. Clearly, if America were still a nation populated by serious, observant, devout Christians, there is no way a man like Trump could launch a successful presidential campaign. If he did, he'd at least have to go to great lengths to hide the fact that he's a philandering goon and self-obsessed tyrant with an affinity for war crimes and Planned Parenthood. He'd have to put on a convincing act to distract us from his vindictiveness, his vengeful contempt for anyone who dares criticize him, and his utter disregard for the law, the Constitution, and basic human decency. But Trump makes very little effort to pretend he is anything but an insidious buffoon and petty despot. He's advertising the fact. He's campaigning on it, even.
It's important to realize that he isn't winning in spite of "Christians" -- he's winning because of them. This billionaire reality show character who funded liberal Democrats for decades, supported infanticide, and donated recently to radical gay activists, swept the "Bible Belt." He lost in Texas and Oklahoma, but won, sometimes dominantly, in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky and North Carolina. He claimed almost half the Christian vote in Florida. He lapped the field in Arizona, a state with about an 85 to 90 percent Christian population.
Trump lost by almost 50 points in Mormon Utah, but in Alabama, a state with significant Baptist and Methodist populations, he won with a bigger share of the vote than second and third place combined. In New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Florida -- majority Catholic states -- he clobbered the competition easily.
Recent attempts to minimize Trump's success among Christians have been rather pitiful. This article in Christianity Today trumpets the fact that Trump hasn't won a majority of Evangelical votes. He's only won about 40 percent of them. "Only" close to half of the Evangelicals in the country have so far supported an authoritarian leftist who calls for riots, encourages his supporters to assault protesters, mocks POWs and the disabled, tries to kick old ladies out of their homes so he can build parking lots, cuts deals with the mob, and commits financial fraud. "Only" 40 percent! Hooray!
Others have tried to find solace in the fact that the majority of Trump voters are not church-going Christians, but that begs the question: why aren't the rest of them going to church? It's not exactly reassuring that unchurched Christians so overwhelmingly outnumber and outvote churched Christians. It seems quite sad that we're reduced to justifying our failures by pointing out that most of us aren't going to church anyway so it doesn't count.
No matter how you slice it, almost every Christian group shares massive amounts of blame. A left wing demagogue running for the GOP presidential nomination should be subjected to enormous, humiliating defeats in every state, especially the "religious" ones down south. The vote totals across the "Bible Belt" ought to mirror what happened in Utah. Instead, Trump has enjoyed enormous, humiliating victories in Christian states, and that is nothing less than an utter disgrace.
Granted, we knew Christianity was dwindling in America long before Donald Trump came along -- the fact that abortion and pornography are both billion dollar industries in this "Christian nation" of ours ought to have been a major clue -- but his ascendancy puts an exclamation point on the sad tale. And that exclamation point may be the end of the tale completely. I'm not sure America can survive a Trump or Clinton presidency, and, if that's the route we choose, I'm not sure it wants to. Indeed, what we are witnessing now is not a revolution, but an act of national suicide. And millions of Christians have lined up at the poisoned punch bowl right along with everyone else.
We're team players, at least.
I've thought a lot about all of this, and If I had to point to the two cancerous trends in Christianity that have most enabled the Trump scourge, I'd say they are as follows:
1. The compartmentalizing of faith.
Trump's Christian groupies often remind us that it's OK to support a moral degenerate because we aren't electing a "pastor in chief," which is a bit like saying it's OK to marry an adulterous dead beat because otherwise you'd have to marry the Pope. A ridiculous way of looking at things, obviously.
You can still apply your faith to your politics without advocating the installment of a religious monarch. But these Christians have quarantined their faith into one small section of their lives, which means, in their minds, they need not apply it to politics, just as they need not apply it to their professional lives, their sex lives, their family lives, or any other part of life that doesn't come with a giant "RELIGION" sign attached. Jerry Falwell explains the logic this way:
"You have to choose the leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor. We’re not voting for pastor-in-chief."
The Bible says leaders in the church ought to be sober minded, self-controlled, loyal to their wives, respectable, honest, dignified, and not greedy or quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3). Falwell says a president or king ought not share these qualities, suggesting that our country would be better served by an out-of-control, greedy, undignified, disloyal, dishonest, shameful lout. This is the sort of unhinged reasoning that seems suddenly compelling when you've convinced yourself that faith is ought to play no role in the non-religious parts of your life.
The truth, however, is that we're called to be Christians everywhere: in church (if ever we accidentally stumble into one), at work, at home, on the couch, in bed, at the Post Office, etc. We are Christian in all scenarios, including and especially in the voting booth. We should act according to our Christian values in every situation, and doing so in "non-religious" circumstances does not mean we're trying to establish some kind of 12th century theocracy. Jerry Falwell damn well know this. The average Christian Trump voter may not know it, but their pathetic ignorance of their faith is their own fault.
For many years, Christians have made distinctions between their faith lives and the rest of their lives. Slowly, over time, what constitutes the former contracts into nothingness while the latter expands and takes over everything. Today, as a result, many of us have no faith life at all. We tried to find a neat and tidy little corner for it, but the corner became so cluttered with so many other things that we were forced to throw our faith in the garbage to make room. And now we wish to make a proudly unrighteous billionaire president, and we justify that choice on the grounds that our voting habits aren't included in the faith part of our lives, which is a part that doesn't really exist anymore.
2. The "Prosperity Gospel."
The other cancer in Christianity that makes the faithful vulnerable to men like Trump is the pagan heresy known as the Prosperity Gospel. For the uninitiated, this is an absurd and dangerous apostasy mixing New Age self-help mottos with mildly Christian language. It teaches that God will bestow good health, financial fortune, and other temporal blessings on those who think enough positive thoughts and donate enough money to Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar. A "service" at a prosperity church is basically indistinguishable from a Tony Robbins personal empowerment seminar, except Robbins is a little taller than Joel Osteen, so that helps you tell them apart.
In my experience, Osteenites are very likely to be Trumpites. Osteen himself has praised Trump as a "good man," which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Prosperity adherents believe that Earthly wealth, fame, and power are the rewards of faith (you know, because all those poor folks in third world countries just aren't trusting God enough), so Trump is basically a demigod by that measure. And that's exactly how many of Trump's fans view him.
Every Trump fan is a Prosperity Gospel devotee to some extent, even if they aren't familiar with the term or the particulars of the doctrine. They worship power and "strength," they're enamored with wealth, and they believe a man's accumulated riches are a sign of his personal virtue. Of course, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the correlation is more likely to go the other way, but again, these are largely not people who involve the Bible in their lives.
I should note that there's nothing wrong with being successful, but it's hard to believe Jesus would be too impressed with a billionaire who brags constantly about his money and flies around in a gold plated helicopter. The Book of James has quite a lot to say about a guy who could feed an African village for ten years with the money he spent on the diamond chandeliers in his Manhattan penthouse or the gold faucets in the marble bathrooms of his private jet, and much of it has to do with his riches rotting away and his flesh being eaten in the eternal fires of Hell. In other words, the Bible isn't overly impressed with obscenely wealthy men who hoard their riches and flaunt their fortunes.
But the Prosperity Gospel has blinded many hearts to this truth and convinced them that greed and arrogance are graces bestowed by the Holy Spirit. And now Donald Trump will reap the benefits of their blindness, before he dies in a few years and his own riches rot away. He may not believe in Heaven or Hell, but, when the time comes, he'll be subject to judgment all the same. Perhaps he'll try to strike one of his famous deals, but I imagine he'll quickly learn that the Lord God does not negotiate.
And let's not forget we will all face our own judgment as well, whether we like it or not. Maybe then we can explain to God why we chose to hand our nation over to tyranny.
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