What White Evangelicals and Christians I Once Knew Taught Me About Faith in the Trump Era

This is a hard post to compose, but its something that I have been meaning to do for a while. The Trump era was painful, chief among it was being at the receiving end of bullying, abuse or seeing such disturbing hypocrisy. Today’s post is about Steve Papez, Chad Hart and Josiah Jenkins and his family. Its about people in ministry I once looked up to who showed me who they really were these last few years. In this case the bridges have been burned and they will never be rebuilt. And with that I find peace especially with leaving such people in my wake. 

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” 

Marcus Aurelius

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

Proverbs 26:11 NIV

My former Milwaukee Metro Campus Crusade for Christ Director Steve Papez

This post is going to be an emotional one for me to do. Likewise its also going to be a hard article to do. But the fact of the matter is that this is a post that I need to do. As there is much to get off my chest. Recently in the Washington Post and other news sites I read something incredibly sad, that led to this blog post being written. Adam Kinzinger is in the House of Representatives representing the 16th district in Illinois. He is also, as John Fea writes, an evangelical Christian. He was one of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after he incited a riot that left 5 dead on January 6, 2021. In the Post, Adam reflected on how his evangelical family disowned him. Who had disowned him? His own father and some of his cousins. In a letter they accused him of “working for the devil.” The specific way the Congressman quoted it in the Washington Post is as follows. Kinzinger is, “in the Devil’s army,’ he’s ‘coopted,’ and he is ‘not doing the work of the Lord.’ His disownment came from a certified letter his Dad sent him.  

I went through something similar in different forms. Or in 2016 and beyond dealt with some incredible behavior. Then in other instances people I once looked up to, and admired showed me who they really were, and also their hypocrisy. What happened I never imagined would happen. It stunned me and I didn’t see any of this coming, which made it all a million times more emotionally painful. The situations I encountered were traumatic and helped drive me away from faith after re-entering it. And it led me to realize the deep regret I have over being involved in religion. The relationships I am writing about below are permanently fractured. What led to the end of the relationships is that I was not a Trump supporter. These relationships will never be healed. And the fact of the matter is why would I want to engage with them anyhow? In many ways it would be like a woman who had an eye socket broken, and who is bloodied and bruised going back to her domestic abuser. 

Cru’s Steve Papez of Milwaukee Area and His Hypocrisy on Racism. Plus His Attacking a Man on Social Media Who Was Deeply Ill

When I lived in Milwaukee I was involved in Campus Crusade. The Marquette chapter I planted, as I was the first guy involved. This happened from 2000 until 2003. My Crusade director was Steve Papez. Steve spoke about a lot of things that I never heard before. For example, he told me about how it was sinful that Milwaukee so segregated. He worked at reaching people in the inner city and also at the University of Wisconsin -Parkside. Steve and his wife also adopted from Africa two daughters Rachel and Rebecca.  After a profound faith crisis I later went back to Steve Papez and asked for forgiveness for my behavior at the time. That took place in 2013. 

In the Donald Trump era I saw a different side of Steve Papez. It was a side that I could never have foresaw. Tribalistic, bully,  who defended Trump’s behavior and racism. On social media I had to deal with Steve’s trolling and people would ask me, “who is that guy?” It shocked many when I told them. In January of 2018 news came forward that Donald Trump called Africa and the Caribbean shitholes. He also implied that what came from those countries were also shit as he stated he preferred people from Norway. Steve Papez on social media defended Trump’s racist comments. And something else happened that was even more troubling for me.  There was a gentle man, a kind man who was well known from my high school community in Fresno, California. His name was Henry Gutierrez and he was best known for documenting and taking picture of the football program at my high school. I knew him from my football playing days. When Henry saw Papez’s behavior he challenged him as a minister and asked if he should be talking that way as a minister or ministry leader. Papez tore into him in a way that shocked Henry. He later sent me a private message about Steve Papez’s behavior where he also said, “David I’m with you on your insight into Trump. It’s a sad day when you can’t post anything without his supporters coming after you. Trump will get his comeuppings soon enough, I hope. Keep up your posts.” Now here is the other thing that also happened. Steve tore into a man who was very ill. I didn’t realize how ill, but I knew he was allegedly waiting for an organ transplant. But Henry would die shortly after that in April of 2018. And his impressions of evangelicalism no doubt came from Steve Papez. What led to me blocking Steve on social media is when I pointed out that if Trump was calling Africa a shithole, then what did that imply of his adopted daughters Rachel and Rebecca? They came from Africa after-all. I couldn’t believe the same man who talked about racism in Crusade so worshiped his Lord and Savior Donald Trump that he would throw his own family under the bus. Steve revealed to me why he is a fraud, charlatan and someone who is lost. 

Anglican Priest Chad Hart and Recalling His Comments on Character and Bill Clinton and Later Hypocrisy

Then there was another situation that haunted me. It also showed deep hypocrisy which often goes along with faith. I knew Chad Hart from college in Montana and he eventually became an Anglican Priest, today he is in Wisconsin. In 1998 when Bill Clinton was impeached over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Hart often commented about how character was important. He often spoke with me about how Bill Clinton had no character, and asked why was Clinton a Southern Baptist? As I often heard at the time character was deeply essential. Fast forward to 2016 and suddenly character was irrelevant. I remember when Chad asked in a message, “But what about the Supreme Court?” It was an early version of “But Gorsuch.” Grabbing pussy, having affairs with porn stars were all okay for Chad if you got a conservative on the Supreme Court. The flip flopping on character had an even darker dimension. Years prior in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon Chad, if I recall correctly, worked in the mortgage industry. And he and his girlfriend, who would one day be his wife dealt with a  dark sexual harassment situation at work. Allegedly her boss whose family owned the company if I recall correctly was sexually harassing Danielle. The sexual harassment was so bad that they eventually left the company. Now here is the question that ate me up. And it comes from a guy who learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the United States military. How does a person who goes through that kind of trauma, turn around and justify or excuse that kind of sexual harassment behavior in another individual? Wouldn’t logic dictate that a person who went through that would be much more sensitive to the topic of sexual harassment? Again, “But Gorsuch.” Chad Hart’s hypocrisy in this area was awful. It remains some of the worst hypocrisy I saw from a “man of the cloth.” It helped me to realize that he a fraud. And like others in this post Chad was another person I once sought forgiveness from in 2013 after a faith crisis at the time. But today its clear to me that he views religion as a means to obtain power. For Chad religion is about political power and nothing more. 

Josiah Jenkins and the Joe Jenkins Family (Today of Jenkins Restorations), Plus Wooded Hills

Joe Jenkins pastored Wooded Hills Bible Church in Wisconsin when I came along. I got to know the Jenkins family well during my time at Wooded Hills. When I was a grad student at Marquette, out of kindness they even invited me over to their home for Thanksgiving knowing how far away from California. At Wooded Hills I also played softball with Josiah and the Jenkins family. And after a faith crisis from 2009 until 2013 like others in this post I approached Joe and his wife Ruth for forgiveness as well. I actually met them at a Bob Evans in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the time. And like some of the other situations above I was caught flat footed by the Christian nationalism that would come from the Jenkins family. In late November of 2016 for being a Rubio voter Josiah Jenkins screamed at me through social media to fuck off. It really shocked me because it was the first time personally from a person, or family that did ministry where I encountered such behavior. But the warning signs were there and I never acknowledged them. Perhaps that was due to my cognitive dissonance at the time. But Josiah’s behavior came when the Joe Jenkins family worked for Jenkins Restorations, which according to some of my research allegedly likes to extol their Christian faith as a company. 

When I got involved in Wooded Hills there were rumors going on about the Jenkins family. Josiah, who was the pastor’s son allegedly was sleeping around a couple of years prior and it raised issues about the pastors house not being in order. For me today, it shows that the Bible can not be used the way it is by many fundamentalists. They often preach and say one thing, and then do another. Now let me also say that today I really don’t care who fucks who. But when the pastor’s son is acting like that it begs the question should the pastor be in ministry? For Joe Jenkins I would say no.

There was a lot of behavior from Wooded Hills that shocked me. I had some people like Bob Hennis who sent me a message calling me a liberal and questioning my faith at the time and then shunning me. Being a Marco Rubio voter at the time was not good enough because I did not worship Donald Trump as their Lord and Savior also.

Recalling Maya Angelou’s Wise Words

Maya Angelou is an American poet who was born in St. Louis and who published a number of works over the years. She died in North Carolina in 2014. She coined the phrase, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Those words today carry a heavy meaning in a way that was never realized previously. Donald Trump brought out the worst impulses of people as a malignant narcissist. He actually allowed evangelicals to be racist and to embrace their hate of other people.  But during the Trump era many people showed themselves to be who they are. They showed Steve Papez to be a racist. An Anglican Priest to be actually be about power in the end and not at all about faith. They allowed the son of a minister to be cruel because at his heart, that is who Josiah actually is. So when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And in the last few years I saw who many people are during this dark period. 

How Would Steve Papez, Chad Hart and the Jenkins Reacted if They Were in Germany in the 1930’s/1940’s?

When I was in college and grad school I majored and studied modern European history. I actually did my graduation essay at Marquette University on a period of the Weimar Republic. When I researched and read about the Third Reich I often wondered, how could many German Christians support the Nazis and embrace fascism? I wrote about this topic last year in, “How White Evangelical Christians of the United States Never Learned From the Christians of Nazi, Germany.”  The least few years helped me understand that as well. Bonhoeffer wrote as to how Christians in Germany distressed him greatly. I would look at it from this perspective in many ways. I think it could be argued that many Christians in Germany in the 1930’s lacked faith or had it very much misplaced. And I think the same take aways could be applied to Papez, Hart and the Jenkins. They were never about faith and they misled and deceived others in the process. And I was one of the people who was fooled. But I would also suggest that in the end it also shows what happened when people lack principle and character. And this blog would suggest that neither Steve Papez, Chad Hart or the Jenkins have character. But there is another dimension that is frightening as well. Its about how quickly some people can turn on humanity while professing Christ simultaneously. Today I can see it clearly. Its Germany in the 1940’s and the Holocaust is ongoing. Loaded trains of Jews are heading to concentration camps for planned extermination. And as the Jews are inside an execution chamber at a place like Auschwitz or Chelmno the Zyklon B is dropping and the Jews are screaming inside the showers. Naked and frightened. They are struggling to breath as they are being killed and clawing at the concrete walls leaving their fingernail marks. (Yes you can see this today inside some of the concentration camps.) And while all this is playing out I can see Steve Papez saying, “But the Nazis have closed the gay cabarets in Berlin.” Or I could see Chad Hart saying, “Look at how the Nazis preserved family values.” Or Josiah Jenkins saying that I or others don’t have faith because we don’t support the Third Reich. Its chilling to write this but today I can see it clearly. 

Closing Thoughts on a Difficult Post 

I re-entered faith in 2013 and then I had to deal with the effects of Christian nationalism in 2016 and beyond. After my efforts to be a peacemaker and seek forgiveness from so many its was be-wildering, and painful to then have people in ministry positions question my faith. The biggest fool in this post is myself, David Bonner. The fact that I listened to some of the people above preach, lead retreats and paid attention, or teach me. Well the second time I was taught. And you taught me well. Faith is a lie. It means nothing and is a means to an end to obtain other goals. I was a fool to look up at those above and even to have gone to their churches or ministries. As I have pushed back from faith I will also never set foot again in another church or support another Christian ministry. I learned my lesson. And even though articles are popping up like the one Martin Griffith did in the Sacramento Bee the other day, (You can read this at, “Martin Griffith in the Sacramento Bee On How Trump Supporting Evangelicals Need to Repent (Hint…They Won’t Which is Why Evangelicalism is Broken) I’m not going to be played again. People of faith don’t own their mistakes. And they never will. But what they did was so painful that I never want to engage with them again. Adam Kinzinger’s disappointment in his family as they cut him off resonates with me. I started to experience similar behavior or such bullying or hypocrisy that years prior I never could have imagined that the Steve Papez’s Chad Harts, or the Josiah Jenkins could have acted that way. Well now I know. And for my mental health after their behavior I also have this to say to them as well. 

Go fuck yourself, and for the remainder of my life don’t contact me again. One of my regrets is even having once met you or even considering you friends, “family” or more. And again I was the fool. But the way that it happened I am committed to making sure it will never happen again. And it will not. 

5 thoughts on “What White Evangelicals and Christians I Once Knew Taught Me About Faith in the Trump Era

  1. Thank you for the frank and honest post David.
    The thing that strikes me most is that you (generic you) do not have to sign onto any of the bullshit that fundagelicals sell in order to believe in and follow Jesus of Nazareth.
    I got whirl-pooled into the Calvary Chapel cult as a young Army vet just out of the VA hospital (Vietnam era), and it took me almost 15 years to extricate myself.
    Believe me David, you are not alone.

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    • During that time and place (SoCal, early Eighties), there Could Be No Salvation Outside of Calvary Chapel. Literally.

      Calvary Chapel DOMINATED the Christianese AM airwaves, with back-to-back half-hours of Calvary Chapel after Calvary Chapel after Calvary Chapel. (Different cities, same message.) New Calvary Chapel plants popping up like Starbucks on every corner. Calvary Chapel Pastors(TM) – especially PastorChuckSmithCalvaryChapelCostaMesa (all one word) – were in-demand as Christian Celebrities. Even “Non-Denominational” Churches and “Fellowships” became Calvary Chapel Clones with different names (“ME, TOO!”). Calvary Chapel Bots WITNESSING and blasting down any dissent or attempts to reason with barrages of Bible Bullets on full-auto — “SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!” The rabid anti-Catholicism of PastorRaulReesCalvaryChapelWestCovina (“Show Me SCRIPTURE(TM)!”), literally impossible to exaggerate. Pin-the-Tail on The Antichrist, Rapture Any Minute Now, Don’t Be Left Behind!!!

      Through all this, the vibe of Hal Lindsay crossbred with Jack Chick. Nothing I could put my finger on and say “AHA!” (or that could withstand the automatic return barrage of Bible Bullets), but a general vibe that Calvary Chapel distilled down and concentrated everything that could go wrong with “Biblical Christianity”.

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  2. Pingback: At This Point the Emphasis Needs to be the Deconstruction of Evangelicalism. If You Stay an Evangelical Christian Despite the Constant Scandals and Problems I Would Honestly Question Your Faith | Wondering Eagle

  3. Pingback: Twitter Thread: Being Disappointed With Evangelical Christians in the Trump Era | Wondering Eagle

  4. I couldn’t believe the same man who talked about racism in Crusade so worshiped his Lord and Savior Donald Trump that he would throw his own family under the bus.

    No, pass them through the fire as burnt offerings to Moloch-Trump.
    “HE IS LOOOOORD!”

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