The Evangelical Christian/Donald Trump Phenomena is Ranked as the Top Religious Story of 2017; Plus Chris Stroop on Evangelicals and Authoritarianism in Playboy, University of Virginia’s Charles Matthews on White Evangelicals Living in Fear in the Washington Post

The top religious story of 2017 is the relationship between evangelical Christians and Donald Trump. Charles Matthews a religious studies professor writes an article for the Washington Post on how white evangelicals today are governed by fear. Chris Stroop writes a solid article that is published in Playboy that analyzes the Roy Moore loss in Alabama. Plus another article again in the Post looks at evangelicals in Alabama and the culture wars. 

 

The predominant strain within contemporary American white evangelicalism is patriarchal and fundamentalist, with its roots found among Southern slave owners. During the early Cold War, government and business interests worked together to promote American faith as a counterpoint to official Soviet atheism, and these evangelicals built up powerful institutions in the 1970s and 1980s, emerging as the Christian Right we know today. Today’s conservative evangelicals are forcing Christian school kids, like I once was, to learn young earth creationism as “science,” usingschool choiceto advance this #ChristianAltFacts agenda.”

Christopher Stroop in Playboy 

“When we’ve reached a place where good Christian folk think it’s a matter of major theological principle not to sell pastries to gay people but are willing to give pedophiles a pass, I think it’s safe to say that American Christianity today — white American Christianity in particular — is in a pretty sorry state.”

Charles Matthews 

“There are many factors — historical, social and political — that have helped shape white American Christianity into what it is today. But when it comes to keeping us away from the core truths of our faith, I suspect this one error is key: Christians today seem governed by fear. Theologians as well as psychologists will tell you that there is a spiritual peril in acting out of fear and a sense of danger. Fear drives us into patterns of “reasoning” that are far from reasonable, but more akin to reactionary patterns of cause-and-effect. And fear moves us away from the core of Christianity — love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love,” says the first epistle of John.” 

Charles Matthews 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

John 18:36 NIV

There have been several recent articles examine the issue of evangelicals and politics. I want to merge them into one post today for people to read and discuss. Two of them come from the Washington Post. Chris Stroop’s article is in Playboy and generated discussion on Twitter. But it was the article from the Religious News Service that led to this post. 

 

The Evangelical Relationship with Donald Trump is the Top Religious Story in 2017

Recently the largest organization of religious news polled their journalists and asked a question…what is the top religion story in the United States in 2017? All the journalists from all walks of life inside the faith and outside responded to that question by saying the top religious story is the Evangelical Christian phonomona with Donald Trump. That belief probably came from how the situation with Donald Trump has influenced both domestic and foreign policy. For example domestically you had the Supreme Court issue influenced in both the appointment of an associate justice and the Department of Justice arguing and defending a Colorado baker who discriminated against a gay couple. In foreign policy you have the U.S. embassy being moved from Tell Aviv, Israel to Jerusalem. That was also done out of Evangelical Christian influence.  This is being reported in the Religious News Service and you can read the article in, “‘Trumpvangelicals’ top religion journalists’ poll.”

 

Why The Wondering Eagle Occasionally Tackles Politics 

Let me break down evangelicalism as I interpret it. On one side you have the Neo-Calvinist movement. In this camp you have Sovereign Grace, Acts 29, Sojourn Movement out of Louisville, 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition and other like minded parties. As I see it Neo-Calvinists are not into the political scene as much. They approach politics differently and are not in the culture wars. The exception might be Al Mohler. Russell Moore breaks the mold in a lot of ways. Now in another camp you have the charismatic movement and the Third Wave crowd. In this camp you have organizations like Vineyard, Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer, and publications like the Elijah List and more. This camp is very into politics and the culture wars. I saw this first hand at Wooded Hills Bible Church outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In this camp faith is married to politics. All you have to do is look at the Kansas City International House of Prayer to see how. Here you have people praying for the end times to be ushered in. When Obama was president sections of this camp thought him to be the anti-Christ. I am not kidding as I write this. In this side of faith you have prophecies and people who believe God intervenes in elections for his will. Outside this camp you have the non-charismatic Baptists, mainstream evangelicals who while not charismatic are very much into the culture wars. There are a lot of Southern Baptists who are motivated by the issue of the support for Israel,  Supreme Court, gay marriage, and other social issues. Many conservative Baptists have merged the culture wars and faith into one system, and they are inseparable. Now the question to ask is where does one belong if you don’t fit into any of these camps? What do you do if you reject the charismatic movement? What do you do if you reject Neo-Calvinism because of the authority issues and how it makes the problem of evil worse? What do you do if you believe the Christian faith should be apolitical and you don’t want to be a part of the culture wars? Where do you go, what do you do?

As I have hopefully demonstrated the fact of the matter is that many parts of evangelicalism are involved in politics. They have married the concept of faith and politics into one movement. Now I would also suggest that those evangelicals who have done this have created a new movement or faith system. A quasi political party/religious organization is the end result. That article by the Religious News Service highlights why politics should be written about from time to time. The Neo-Calvinist and Charismatic movements will generate stories and news. And this blog will write about, next month we are going to look at a disturbing story involving a Neo-Calvinist church. But to be a blog and totally ignore the way evangelicals are reacting to Donald Trump and then claim to write about evangelical issues would be flawed. It would mean that you have no interest in writing about the top religious news story of the year. And how responsible is that in the end? If one is committed to truth, one should pursue truth no matter where it goes, no matter the issue. To ignore these issues I believe would be flawed, and this is why from time to time this issue will occasionally be looked at.

 

Charles Matthews – How White Christianity is a Movement Based in Fear. Is this a New Faith System? 

Charles Matthews is a professor religious studies at The University of Virginia. He has published a number of books on the topic of religion including, “Evil and the Augustinian Tradition“, “Understanding Religious Ethics“,”A Theology of Public Life” and he co-wrote “Prophesies of Godlessness Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present Day.” He recently wrote an article that analyzed white evangelical Christianity in the 2017 time frame. He paints a dark picture of modern evangelicalism, and its quite bleak. White evangelicalism has become a threat to itself. Evangelicals seem to live in their own world and imagine their own problems. The war on Christmas is one such topic. He also looks at how evangelicals have reacted to a case before the Supreme Court where a bakery denied serving a gay couple; then he compares that with white evangelicals embracing an alleged child molester in Alabama. Evangelicals struggle with knowledge, learning and understanding. In addition their movement has become one that is based in fear. All white evangelicals seem to know how to do is live in fear of gays, Muslims, immigrants and more. You can read Charles article in  The Washington Post, its called “White Christianity is in big trouble. And it’s its own biggest threat.

I deeply appreciated this article quit a bit. I liked what Charles had to say about fear. For me is seems as if many white evangelicals live in fear of the world around them. It makes me wonder how many lack faith in the end. From where I stand in some of what I observe it seems as if many evangelicals do nothing but fear. Fear secular gay marriage. Fear entertainment.  Fear Hollywood. Fear public schools.  Fear science. Fear neighbors and those in their neighborhoods. Fear immigrants. Fear those in other faiths such as Islam. Fear mainstream Protestants. Fear, fear, fear, fear..seems to be how many evangelicals operate. What happened to love driving out fear? What happened to love being core to the faith? Since evangelicals have kicked faith to the curb and replaced it with fear the question must be asked…are they even Christians? Are we actually seeing the Christian faith or another belief system? Or are they following another gospel as Paul warns in Galatians? I wish every evangelical could read Charles Matthew’s article and reflect on it. Its a hard read but if you are going to be committed to truth one should always face it.

 

Christopher Stroop in Playboy – What Roy Moore Loss Means for Evangelical Christianity 

I have written about Christopher Stroop before. You can read about his #Emptythe pews movement inChris Stroop’s #EmptyThePews Movement Takes Off on Twitter.” Recently in Playboy Chris Stroop wrote an article that analyzed what Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama means for evangelical Christianity. In Chris’s article he points out how white evangelicals actions are tied to their roots as being slave holders in the south. Roy Moore revealed that evangelicals have become too authorterian in their nature. He also points out that evangelicals do not hold their own accountable. He compares and contrasts what Democrats did with sexual harassment recently while evangelicals embraced Roy Moore while he was dogged by allegations of child molestation. You can read the entire article in Playboy. Its called, “What Roy Moore’s Narrow Loss Says About Evangelical Christianity.”

Chris hits on some important points. One of the reasons why many parts of evangelicalism is profoundly sick is because the movement is very authoritarian. Many evangelicals can’t think independently for themself. Seriously if you listened to people like C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, or Ken Ham, is Donald Trump or Roy Moore that far off? If you are going to listen to someone who threatens to beat someone up, and calls women penis homes then supporting someone who boasts of grabbing someone’s pussy is not far off. The issue of authoritarianism is deeply troubling as its become worse with the passage of time I would suggest. In regards to white evangelicals and racism, we all know that evangelical church services remain deeply segregated. The SBC is founded on the policy of slavery. They have repented of it, and yes they rebuked the alt-right at the last SBC convention. But the issue of race seems to hang over the convention. 

 

Taking Up the Christian Banner

Again in the Washington Post Stephanie McCrummen writes an article that offers a window into another aspect of the evangelical culture wars. In the small town of Glencoe, Alabama, the marriage of evangelical Christianity and the state is revealed. The waving of Christian flags from government and business highlights how many fundamentalists view the United States as a Christian nation. For many it appears they can’t divorce the concept of faith vs. control of government and the culture wars. It helps understand why so many evangelicals loved Roy Moore. You can read this article in “Taking Up the Christian Banner.” 

 

13 thoughts on “The Evangelical Christian/Donald Trump Phenomena is Ranked as the Top Religious Story of 2017; Plus Chris Stroop on Evangelicals and Authoritarianism in Playboy, University of Virginia’s Charles Matthews on White Evangelicals Living in Fear in the Washington Post

  1. An outstanding post, Eagle.
    I blog over at SBCtoday and I have run into some situations that are similar to what is in your post. . . . . . the fearfulness, the demand to ‘know where I stand’ (I didn’t cooperate with this bullying, so it got worse) . . . . the incredible sucking up to Trumpism by some of the commenters and of course Roy Moore, the horror of Roy Moore . . . .

    I am almost certain that there are forms of emotional and mental illness that seek out far-right ‘christianity’ and latch on to the various phobias . . . . there seems to be a very great need to ‘point the finger’, to judge, and to disrespect any whose faith does not line up with the new Republican religion now being formed (may God help us).
    Not all commenters on SBCtoday are like that and I must credit the administration for removing some particularly vicious comments,
    but there is much discussion along the lines of the evils of ‘social justice’ (I am a social justice Catholic), and the hatred of the intellectuals who escaped Germany during Nazism and came to our country (this is a conspiracy theory called ‘Cultural Marxism’ that looks a lot to me like anti-semitism directed at a group called the Frankfurt Insititute for Social Research. At first, I thought this theory was anti-semitism light, but soon the full venom of it hit me and I was amazed that the commenter had brought this subject to SBCtoday . . . . I have confronted the commenter but had no reply . . . . well, maybe after the holidays, there will be some response.

    Any how . . . great post, Eagle . . . well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. n foreign policy you have the U.S. embassy being moved from Tell Aviv, Israel to Jerusalem. That was also done out of Evangelical Christian influence.

    Don’t forget the recent Twitter dog-whistle about “no longer afraid to say Merry Christmas”.

    And the new income tax code removing deductions for state & local taxes (which translates to a $1-2k tax hit for me and probably a similar one for you) while vastly increasing the marriage and child deductions (if you’re 20+ Kids & Counting, no problem — “the system works Just Fine!”) If that doesn’t say “Quiverfull”, you tell me what does.

    All you have to do is look at the Kansas City International House of Prayer to see how. Here you have people praying for the end times to be ushered in.

    Because they don’t plan to be around for The End, but beamed up just-in-time to catered box seats in Heaven watching the show. Like 50-yard-line luxury suites at the Super Bowl.

    Now the question to ask is where does one belong if you don’t fit into any of these camps? What do you do if you reject the charismatic movement? What do you do if you reject Neo-Calvinism because of the authority issues and how it makes the problem of evil worse? What do you do if you believe the Christian faith should be apolitical and you don’t want to be a part of the culture wars?

    You will be Purged with all the other Traitors and Thought-Criminals, of course.
    Have Fun In Eternal Hell!

    One of the reasons why many parts of evangelicalism is profoundly sick is because the movement is very authoritarian. Many evangelicals can’t think independently for themself. Seriously if you listened to people like C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, or Ken Ham, is Donald Trump or Roy Moore that far off?

    Wouldn’t “Fuehrerprinzip” be closer than “authoritarian”? “Authoritarian” can cover a lot of ground, but “Two Plus Two Equals Five” is pretty high up the spectrum.

    Or even “Totalitarian” at the very top end… “It is not enough for you to obey Big Brother, 6079 Smith W. YOU MUST LOVE BIG BROTHER.”

    Actually, the Christianese Trump-worship is what really gets me. (Are they mistaking him for a Pastor/Apostle because of similar behavior and attitude?) Just like those who receive the Mark of the Beast in bad Christian Apocalyptic fiction, where Taking the Mark instantly causes a total personality change into Total Blind Loyalty — “Who is like unto The Beast?” (Move over, MiniTrue & Room 101…)

    In my time in-country, the above was regarded as Absolute Fact, History Written Word-for-Word in Advance including the total blindness to everything happening in Revelation — the Rapture, the Plagues, the obviously Supernatural Craziness going wild. (“What? Everything’s Perfectly Normal. Who is Like Unto…”) This was explained with a smug “And God Shall Send Them Strong Delusion, That They Should Believe a Lie.” Well, these same smug Real True Christians are now acting just like those with The Mark.

    Or is all this just the dynamic of True Believers in the latest Mass Movement That WILL Change The World?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer
    (See “Part 2: The Potential Converts”)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have NO DOUBT that the overt attacks on the FBI and the DOJ by Trump and associates indicates that Trump is afraid of being exposed, so these attacks offer a way to get the ‘base’ ready in case the truth does come out so that the ‘base’ will ‘defend’ Trump from the charges against him.
      I mean, if Trump was innocent, why all the fuss? He would be thrilled to have someone as competent as Mueller investigating, so Trump could be exonerated.

      The attacks are a form of interference with the investigation and are most definitely attempts to foster illegal responses from ‘the base’ if Trump is found to be guilty of cooperating with the Russians. That seems to me like treason, when the President and his cohorts are stirring up his ‘base’ to not believe what is found out by the nation’s stellar law enforcement agencies.

      And the other red light? too many Russians abound in the whole story . . . Russians were all over the place with the Trump people, my goodness! And why all the denials and lies?

      Something is being hidden.

      And Trump does NOT want Mueller to continue the work to bring the truth into the light . . . . definitely a constitutional crisis if Trump interferes directly against Mueller and the investigation, in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eagle and Headless,
        what do you both make of the comments of ‘Barbara’ over on SBCtoday concerning the extremely anti-semitic conspiracy theory about ‘cultural Marxism’ and the Frankfurt School?
        I wonder if ‘Barbara’ will respond to my requests for follow-up?
        SBCtoday is currently in limbo for the holiday break.

        Liked by 1 person

      • As to the ‘religious’ dog whistles, Trump is being advised about what to say that gets the ‘base’ going:
        ‘the attack on Christmas’ is not something that Catholics recognize, and after all Christmas is a Catholic holy day, adopted casually by fundamentalists in a way that seems shallow in its perception of the depth of meaning of that feast day. ‘Christ’s Mass’ was never under attack in Catholic eyes, except maybe there was some sadness about all the materialism, but Catholics are also great shoppers and spenders so we couldn’t complain too much.

        I think the issue among the ‘christian’ far right was that ‘Happy Holidays’ DID respect the other celebrations that go on at this time of year, and fundamentalists are not ones to respect anyone who believes differently from their own fundy stuff. Hence, the fundies turned ‘Merry Christmas’ into an attack phrase against other peoples who celebrated Kwanza (sp?) or Hanukkah. Sort of an ‘in your face’ kind of disrespect, yes. It gets old, this disrespect, but it seems that ‘hubris’ is what keeps fundamentalists going. Humility? They think it is weakness.

        Enough of my ranting. Hope you had a great Christmas. One day, may we be free of all the Trumpism that plagues our land, if only Dems will come out and VOTE. They did in Alabama, much to my surprise, so I have hope for 2018. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • …so these attacks offer a way to get the ‘base’ ready in case the truth does come out so that the ‘base’ will ‘defend’ Trump from the charges against him.

        As in Into the Streets with Assault Rifles, Armbands, and Tiki Torches for their LORD?

        Like

  3. Yep. You got it right, Headless. Take a look at DT and his suggestion of ‘Second Ammendment solutions’ during the campaign last year:

    He’s not above this sort of thing, is he? And his followers are dumb enough to bite.

    Like

  4. Eagle,

    You continue to ignore the abortion issue when discussing politics.
    For many Christians (evangelical, main-line, or otherwise, and
    also among many people of other faiths), abortion, the killing
    of innocent children, continues to be a primary moral issue, and
    remains a driving force behind the way many vote. HRC’s radical
    stance on late-term abortions torpedoed her among Christians of all
    walks, to the point where it overrode most other considerations,
    which is something you continue to avoid speaking to, disingenuously
    so, IMO.

    Until you acknowledge this massive elephant in the room,
    your one-sided political posts don’t have much credence
    in my estimation, and you’re guilty of misrepresenting why
    many people voted the way they did, while casting aspersions
    and projecting motivations on to those who voted differently
    than you.

    I respect your stated reasons for the way you voted.
    If only you gave the same respect to those who voted otherwise.

    One thing I find odd about the most recent election cycle
    is the vitriol aimed not at the politicians, but the people
    who voted for them. “libtards” “trumpettes”, etc.

    This is not a laudable thing.

    In another recent post, you brought up the Christmas WW1
    Truce of 1914. Alas, when it comes to politics, we could
    all learn a thing or two from that.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hello ‘ejj’ and Eagle,
        I hope considerations of the sacredness of life are done in the wider context. Too often the fate of the unborn is selected out of the wider context and we see political manipulation of the issue with a disregard for how it is that the life of the unborn IS sacred in the context of ALL life being sacred . . . . then what happens is that politicians use the narrow issue to their advantage, all the while ignoring the wider context of the sacredness of all life from conception to natural death.

        For me, the ‘abortion issue’ taken out of the greater context is a shallow attempt for politicians to gain power and also be involved in some pretty heinous treatment of ‘born’ life. . . . we had a governor in my state who campaigned on the ‘abortion issue’ and won, whereupon he then tried to shut down funding to our state’s biggest children’s hospital with the largest neo-natal intensive care unit facilities . . . turned out he was a crook who was thrown out of office and managed never to have to do jail time. . . .

        it takes all kinds . . .

        be careful for the politicians who advocate for the unborn but then support dreadful cuts to programs that nourish and protect living children . . . it isn’t too hard to see the manipulation involved, no.

        Good to talk about the abortion issue: good to talk about the need for sex education among teenagers, to talk about the social needs that encourage women to carry to term and deliver a healthy child . . . and extremely good to understand that many women don’t WANT to abort their babies, but when they are desperate, they see that as THE option . . . . they need other POSITIVE options and that discussion is a HUGE part of ‘the abortion issue’

        some thoughts 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Christine, for what it’s worth, I’m pro-LIFE at *all* stages, euthanasia, etc . I’m also against the death penalty, which puts me at odds with most conservatives. At least I’m consistent.

        I believe that there are many many reasons people vote certain ways, and while NO human candidate is perfect, one often votes for the “lesser of the evils”. To cast aspersions on those of the “other” side is often disingenuous and unfair, and there were plenty of people I know who just couldn’t look at HRC’s many issues, the late-term abortion issue being chief, and pull the lever for her.

        Sorry Eagle if that doesn’t match your narrative, but for many, that’s their truth.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello ejj,
    Thanks for responding. I am aware that some ‘anti-abortion’ candidates are flawed and people know it and yet they will support those candidates regardless of how flawed they are . . . . as in the Roy Moore fiasco. But my point is that politicians will say one thing to get elected and it doesn’t come from the heart and therefore they have no intention of following through,
    not that another law condemning abortion would make abortions cease . . . . far from it, the abortions would continue but be bloodier, septic, and more deadly to women. I think the ANSWER to ‘the abortion issue’ is for people to HELP PREGNANT WOMEN WHO ARE DESPERATE, not threaten them with punishment should they choose to abort their baby. For me, it is a definite social issue that asks of us what would we want in the way of help if we were the ones who were desperate.

    Easier to ban abortion (and cheaper), but not as effective as responding to the cares, concerns, and needs of the pregnant woman who is troubled and considering abortion as ‘a way out’. Why has this not found a place as a topic among the conservative far-right in Christian communities? Likely because it is expensive, it asks for people to step up and contribute and work for better situations for women in trouble so that these women can carry their babies to full term and deliver a healthy child. It’s a ‘messy’ solution. No finger-pointing. No judgement. No threats. Only an active loving-kindness towards frightened desperate women in crisis.
    What are your thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

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