Trump’s Evangelical toadies are destroying the Christian brand

From John the Baptist and Herod to Jerry Falwell Jr. and Trump is a very long fall.


In general, it’s been hard to raise much excitement over the Stormy Daniels story. OK, Trump had an affair with a porn star while his wife was home with a new baby. Ten years later, as the election approached, his lawyer paid six figures to hush her up. (And if you believe a Steve Bannon quote in Fire and Fury, she’s not the only one.) Assume all that is true: Does it change your opinion of Donald Trump?

I didn’t think so. As Shakespeare’s fool Touchstone says:

If you swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn: no more was this knight swearing by his honour, for he never had any.

Trump can’t lose his reputation for moral uprightness or even basic decency, because he never had one. The American public is well beyond being shocked by any new revelation about his character. A similar scandal about Obama would have been earth-shaking. But Trump? Not so much.

So if you want to get a story out of the Daniels incident, you need to widen your scope somehow, like ask where the money to pay her off came from, or look at somebody who still has a reputation to lose.

I think that’s why so much of the public outrage has shifted its focus from Trump himself to the self-styled moral leaders who defend him and the pitiful defenses they have mustered. The truly shocking thing about the Daniels story is the way that so many Christian leaders have been willing not just to debase themselves, but to spend down the moral capital of Christianity itself in order to protect the man they put in the White House.

Pious enablers. For Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, illicit sex is no more serious than golf — at least when Trump does it. “You get a mulligan,” he says. Presumably, this follows the mulligans he had already given Trump for all the women who accused him of sexual assault, or for his own bragging about assaulting them.

Franklin Graham, in a single interview, said both that “our country has a sin problem” and that Trump buying the silence of a porn star is not a big deal because the president isn’t expected to be “the pastor of this nation”. Robert Jeffress has been notably silent about the Daniels payoff, after defending Trump’s “shithole countries” comment two weeks ago: “I’m grateful we have a president like Donald Trump who … has the courage to protect the well-being of our nation.”

But the prize goes to Jerry Falwell Jr., who defended Trump by debasing the words of Jesus himself. CNN’s Erin Burnett had connected Stormy Daniels to the many women whose stories flesh out Trump’s boastful confession on the Access Hollywood tape, and then asked Falwell how many times Trump has to offend

before you say “This is a person who lacks character”?

In response, Falwell falsely claimed that Trump had “apologized” and “asked forgiveness” for his past wrongdoing. (If you’ve repented, you stop calling your accusers liars.) Then he asserted  that Trump is “not the same person now that he was back then”. (The Daniels payoff happened in 2016.) Then he capped his defense with this argument, which I’m sure Christian philanderers all over America are filing for future use:

Jesus said that if you lust after a woman in your heart, it’s the same as committing adultery. You’re just as bad as the person who has, and that’s why our whole faith is based around the idea that we’re all equally bad, we’re all sinners.

As I’m sure Falwell must know, the context of the Jesus quote was to call his followers to a higher standard, not the lower one Falwell is offering. What Jesus is saying in this part of the Sermon on the Mount is: Don’t just restrain yourself from murder, root out the anger and hatred in your heart. Don’t just avoid adultery, stop indulging your adulterous fantasies. Don’t just love your friends, love your enemies too.

But Falwell has turned Jesus’ message upside-down. Now it’s a blanket excuse for anybody to do anything, because everybody else is just as bad. If the thought of cheating on your wife with a porn star is already as bad as the deed, then why not just go ahead and do it? And if we’re all equally guilty anyway, then what basis does any pastor have to tell his flock to do or not do anything?

I’ve never been to Falwell’s church, but I guarantee you this is not a message he has ever preached from a pulpit. This is a special gospel that applies only to powerful men he has allied himself with, and whose approval he desires.

The truth-to-power tradition. But the Bible doesn’t offer a special gospel for the powerful; it points in the opposite direction. Moses doesn’t approach Pharaoh with praise and flattery, he announces plainly: “Let my people go.” The Prophet Nathan doesn’t offer King David a mulligan, he accuses David to his face and proclaims God’s judgment:

You had Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. You took his wife as your wife. You used the Ammonites to kill him. So warfare will never leave your house.

Elijah doesn’t go to King Ahab and say, “Hey, don’t sweat it, everybody worships a false god now and then.” His message was unequivocal.

I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.

And finally, John the Baptist, at the cost of his own head, tells King Herod that it was wrong to take his brother’s wife. Like Falwell, he could have said, “You know, everybody has imagined doing the same thing, and that’s just as bad.” Maybe that would have gotten him an appointment to Herod’s But he didn’t.

Nowhere in the Bible does a prophet say: “Maybe if I soft-pedal God’s message so that it fits what the King wants to hear, he’ll keep me around and I’ll be able to get godly judges appointed. Wouldn’t that do more good in the long run?”

But that’s precisely what today’s Christian leaders do, or at least the white evangelical ones.

“Just shut up.” I’m not the only one who has noticed this. I think former RNC Chair Michael Steele spoke for a lot of people when he requested that leaders like Perkins and Falwell “shut the hell up”.

I have very simple admonition: just shut the hell up and don’t preach to me about anything ever again. After telling me who to love, what to believe, what to do and what not to do, and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter, the grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter, the outright behavior and lies don’t matter — just shut up! They have no voice of authority anymore for me.

Steele is coming out of a political worldview, but you can also hear the sorrow in his voice. This isn’t just about Republicans and Democrats any more, it’s about Christianity, a religion that he cares about.

Remonstrance. It’s also about Christianity for John Pavlovitz, the former youth pastor of a conservative megachurch in Charlotte and current youth pastor of the more liberal North Raleigh Community Church (whose web site says “We believe Christianity is worth saving“). On his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said Pavlovitz posted “White Evangelicals, This Is Why People Are Through With You“. He argues that worldly power and white identity politics have replaced Jesus as the center of the white evangelical message:

They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

He points to evangelical leaders’ demonization of President Obama, “a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity”.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

But with Trump, everything is different.

With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

And why?

They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it. They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

Not just one incident. Christians who want to hang on to Jesus and his message have been writing similar remonstrances to their white evangelical brethren for some while now. In November, when white Evangelicals stood by Roy Moore in spite of multiple credible accusations of his predatory behavior, and in spite of (or maybe because of) his long history of anti-gay bigotry and putting Christian partisanship above the rule of law, Miguel De La Torre responded with “The death of Christianity in the U.S.“.

To save Jesus from those claiming to be his heirs, we must wrench him from the hands of those who use him as a façade from which to hide their phobias — their fear of blacks, their fear of the undocumented, their fear of Muslims, their fear of everything queer.

Evangelicalism has ceased to be a faith perspective rooted on Jesus the Christ and has become a political movement whose beliefs repudiate all Jesus advocated.

De La Torre’s article looks further back, to “Evangelicalism’s unholy marriage to the Prosperity Gospel” and those who “remained silent or actually supported Charlottesville goose steppers because they protect their white privilege with the doublespeak of preserving heritage”, as well as Christian leaders’ support for Trump in the 2016 election. “The Evangelicals’ Jesus is Satanic” he writes, and concludes by urging the followers of this perversion of Christianity to “get saved”.

Trump’s election was the occasion for mournful remonstrances like “Life After Evangelicalism” by Rachel Held Evans. Evans, who has taken refuge in the Episcopal Church after finding the conservative Christianity of her youth unsustainable, wrote to those Evangelicals for whom the election was a wake-up call.

There’s an op-ed out every minute urging the bewildered to get out of their bubbles and get to know some Trump supporters, but you don’t need to do that, do you?

These are the people you worship with each week, the people whose kids hang out with your kids, the people who brought you a chicken casserole when you had surgery, the people you call with good news, the people you’re now wishing you’d spoken with more bluntly, more honestly.

They aren’t strangers to you, are they? But suddenly, you are a stranger among them.

And she offers them hope that Christianity itself isn’t dead yet, even if their own Christian community has abandoned or marginalized them.

The good news is that Jesus is already on the margins. Jesus is already present among the very people and places our president-elect despises as weak. When we stand in solidarity with the despised and the suffering, Jesus stands with us.  We don’t have to abandon Jesus to abandon the unholy marriage between Donald Trump and the white American Church. In these troubled times, a prophetic resistance will certainly emerge, made up of clergy, activists, artists, humorists, liturgists, parents, teachers, and volunteers committed to partnering with and defending “the least of these.” I found my faith again in the margins—through the Gay Christian Network, for example, and among fellow doubters and dreamers who limp from their wrestling with God

A long time coming. A great religion can’t be corrupted overnight. To those who have been following more closely, evangelical abandonment of the Sermon on the Mount in favor of white identity politics is old news. Michele Goldberg relates some of the history, beginning with Jerry Falwell Sr.’s pro-segregation sermons in the 1950s. (I would have gone back further, to the Christian defense of slavery. That’s what put the “Southern” in Southern Baptists.)

“When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line,” he wrote, warning that integration “will destroy our race eventually.” In 1967, Falwell founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy — later Liberty Christian Academy — as a private school for white students.

What galvanized Falwell’s commitment to politics — and that of 1970s Evangelicals in general — wasn’t abortion, the cause usually cited, but the IRS’ denial of tax-exempt status to segregated schools. [1]

In the 1980 election, Falwell’s Moral Majority supported America’s first divorced president, Ronald Reagan, largely erasing the previous stigma of divorce. [2] Goldberg quotes historian Randall Balmer:

Up until 1980, anybody who was divorced, let alone divorced and remarried, very likely would have been kicked out of evangelical congregations.

Bending its “family values” to accommodate Trump, she says, is nothing new.

Trump has simply revealed the movement’s priorities. It values the preservation of traditional racial and sexual hierarchies over fuzzier notions of wholesomeness.

“I’ve resisted throughout my career the notion that evangelicals are racist, I really have,” Balmer told me. “But I think the 2016 election demonstrated that the religious right was circling back to the founding principles of the movement. What happened in 2016 is that the religious right dropped all pretense that theirs was a movement about family values.”

She concludes:

it seems absurd to ask secular people to respect the religious right’s beliefs about sex and marriage — and thus tolerate a degree of anti-gay discrimination — while the movement’s leaders treat their own sexual standards as flexible and conditional. Christian conservatives may believe strongly in their own righteousness. But from the outside, it looks as if their movement was never really about morality at all.

The price. For Americans who grew up before the advent of the Moral Majority, or before evangelical leaders became so nakedly partisan, Christianity largely retains an aura of wholesomeness and goodwill. But for younger Americans, this is vanishing. The 538 blog produced this graphic from data collected by the Public Religion Research Institute. Among Americans above 65, 26% consider themselves white Evangelical Protestants, nearly 80% identify with some form of Christianity, and only 12% say they are unaffiliated with any religion. But for those 18-29, 38% are unaffiliated, 53% are Christians of some sort, and only 8% are white Evangelical Protestants.

In 1987, 23% of white Evangelical Protestants were over 65, while almost as many, 20%, were 18-29. But by 2016, the 65-and-older cohort was dominating the 18-29s, 30%-11%. The Barna Group finds that among those born since 1999, 13% identify as atheists, compared to 6% in the general population.

In the prologue of her latest book, Rachel Held Evans recalls an attempt to explain younger people’s disenchantment:

Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity.

Authentic can be a hard word to define, but I can tell you very quickly what authentic Christianity isn’t: a set of soundbites that prop up a morally bankrupt president because of the favors he promises to Christian leaders and institutions.

The price of the corrupt bargain made by Perkins, Graham, Jeffress, and Falwell — what they have traded for their White House access and Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court seat — is the destruction of the Christian brand. Say “Christian” to a young adult, and the word-association you’re likely to get back is “hypocritical” or “judgmental”.

Columnist Michael Gerson (a never-Trump Republican) sums up:

When presented with the binary choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I can understand a certain amount of anguish. But that is not a reason to become sycophants, cheerleaders and enablers. Politics sometimes presents difficult choices. But that is not an excuse to be the most easily manipulated group in American politics.

The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.

Christians like Evans, De La Torre, and Pavlovitz may be working hard to undo the damage the Trump toadies have done to the Christian brand. But it will be an uphill battle. For more and more Americans — especially young Americans — the word Christian itself is stained. Describing an idea, an institution, a speaker, or a political position as Christian no longer evokes a open, accepting attitude in American listeners. Quite the opposite, it puts more and more of us on edge; it signals that something dodgy is about to be presented, something that justifies existing oppressions, something self-serving, self-righteous, and quite likely hateful.

White Evangelicals would like to attribute this stain to the slanders of a hostile secular culture. But outsiders could never manage such a feat. The stain comes from the leaders that so many Christians have chosen to follow.


[1] At the time of Rowe v Wade, abortion was actually a debatable issue among evangelical theologians. Only after a political anti-abortion movement started to take off did opposition to abortion become a cornerstone of Evangelicalism. The religion did not lead the politics, it followed.

[2] Those who claim that the Religious Right holds true to traditional Christian principles will often cite its opposition to abortion and gay rights, as if these issues had been central to Christianity in any other era. Both abortion and homosexuality existed in Jesus’ time, and yet you will search the gospels in vain to find any mention of them; he appears not to have been all that concerned about them. Certainly he does not condemn either in terms that are nearly so direct and unequivocal as what he says about divorce in Matthew 19:

Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

It is currently beyond the pale for Evangelical churches to accept non-celibate gays and lesbians, ostensibly because they persist in their sin without repentance. But divorced-and-remarried couples are equally persistent in what Jesus described as adultery, and they are welcome.

As with Trump and Reagan, standards are infinitely flexible if a church likes you, but strict and literal if it doesn’t. The Bible has nothing to do with this.

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Comments

  • Kaci  On January 29, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Honestly, if a politician is just unfaithful to their spouse, that doesn’t concern me. It might reduce my personal respect for them, but I don’t see it as affecting their policies, so it’s not my business as a voter. And I would be fine with a church saying “Yes, this person is a sinner in their personal life, but their policies towards the marginalized in our society are more likely to beneficial, so we consider their personal sins to be between them, their family, and God.” It’s the hypocrisy that’s really the problem for me, that other people who commit other “sins” are not given the same grace.

  • Trackdude  On January 29, 2018 at 10:45 am

    I think it’s hilarious because Moses really is a ‘fake news’ figure in that there’s no archeological evidence for Moses or for the exodus out of Egypt.

  • Bill Camarda  On January 29, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    In 2010, David E. Campbell and the really well-known sociologist Robert D. Putnam published American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, a fascinating data-driven look at religion in America. They discovered, among other things, that Americans have sorted their religious attitudes by their politics. There used to be large numbers of very devout Christian liberals and very secular Republican conservatives. No more — and what struck Putnam most was that politics was driving the religious change, not vice versa. Or, as he put it at the time, “I couldn’t believe that people were shaping their beliefs about their eternal souls based on how they felt about Bill Clinton, but that’s what we found.”

    Lately, I’ve often felt that these Christian conservative evangelicals are behaving as they are because deep down inside they don’t truly believe they are following any kind of mighty God. It’s their very weakness of faith that makes them build up golden idols like Trump. But I think that deep-down widespread disbelief explains a whole lot of what we see related to religion, politics, and society, not just the behavior of white evangelicals. (For example, as your PRRI chart points out, mainline Christian churches that are doing a lot of socially progressive things are taking a nearly equal beating.)

    Also as per your chart, there’s an explosion in the numbers of young “unaffiliated.” I’m secular, and many of my secular friends applaud this. I don’t, because I think it’s also of a piece with a broader “unaffiliation” with all the institutions and community groups that hold society together.

    Yes, sure: it’s about loss of faith in the “Bronze Age Old Testament God” of wrath and jealousy that seems to motivate the Falwell Sr.s and Dobsons of the world. But it’s also about loss of faith in each other, in our neighbors, in the institutions our ancestors and parents built, and in ourselves as individuals. It’s the kind of loss of faith that causes societies to collapse and fascists to take control. I don’t have the data, but I’ll bet “unaffiliated” with respect to religion correlates pretty closely with “unaffiliated” with respect to civic engagement.

    • weeklysift  On January 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

      I keep expecting younger people to come up with some new way to satisfy the kinds of needs that led previous generations to church. Maybe I’m not well enough plugged in to see it, but for whatever reason, I’m not seeing it.

      As for what conservatives really believe, it’s hard to know. Polls can’t tell us, because probably the very last step in losing your faith is to tell a stranger that you’ve lost your faith.

      • Larry Benjamin  On January 30, 2018 at 12:24 pm

        I’m not sure those were “needs” that brought previous generations to church so much as habits and the desire to avoid trouble.

  • Roger  On January 29, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    This is by far the best in-depth analysis of this important issue that I have seen. Thank you for this outstanding work. And here’s a relevant quote from Garry Trudeau. In one Doonesbury cartoon, a chaplain asks two friends,

    “So can you explain Trump’s evangelical supporters to me? What are they thinking? Trump’s a twice-divorced, non-churchgoing ex-casino operator – the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins! Pride? Greed? Heck, those are core brand values! Envy? He attacks his betters every day! Lust? He’s a womanizer who says he wants to date his own daughter! Gluttony? He’s all about bloat! Wrath? No one is angrier!”

    “Sloth. You forgot one,” says a friend. “So one for seven? That’s the bar now?” (Trudeau, Yuge! p. 106.)

    – Rev. Roger C. Schriner

  • Bobby Nobis  On January 29, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    This is not the moment where the Christian “brand” suddenly loses its cachet. That’s been happening since long before now. In fact, pretty much any time that “brand” has been broadly popular, it’s been corrupt in one way or another. But I really want to speak to this:

    “Christians like Evans, De La Torre, and Pavlovitz may be working hard to undo the damage the Trump toadies have done to the Christian brand. But it will be an uphill battle.”

    When people like De La Torre and Pavlovitz (I haven’t read Evans) do what they do, they’re not working to bring about a return to a somehow more authentic gospel. They and many others on the political left, are advocates of mixing progressive ideology with Christianity in a way that uses Christianity to make something that’s actually opposed to the teachings of Christ. When you say, as innumerable progressives say, stuff like, “Both abortion and homosexuality existed in Jesus’ time, and yet you will search the gospels in vain to find any mention of them; he appears not to have been all that concerned about them,” you’re claiming that Jesus, because he didn’t specifically mention a thing, cannot have intended to proscribe it. In fact, he did speak to the issues of abortion and homosexual behavior when he said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus was very hard about this stuff, and the Gospels are replete with references to people leaving him because of the hardness of his teachings.

    Progressives who are not Christians, but who choose to identify with Christianity, want to remake the message of Christ into something that IS a better brand for our time and place. Evangelicals who pretend that divorce and remarriage, rampant greed, addiction to crappy entertainment, neglect of the poor, etc., are just fine with Jesus, are their mirror image in one sense, and the end result is also false and bad. We want to rationalize what we believe about Christ with our politics and cultural expressions; this is just a natural human thing to do. But Jesus brought the discomfort like nobody else. If you follow Christ, your politics are subordinate to that relationship, whatever they are. If you try to mingle the latter in the same cup with Christ, you’re in danger of making something new and gross. Jesus spat.

    The truth is, Christ isn’t someone who makes a very good admixture in an amalgam. The gospel is the power of God to save people from sin, and it needs no external source of power, like politics, to do what it alone can do. The cultural materials mingled with the gospel, especially in the prosperous West, regardless of their political DNA, are all but bound to make false, or at best to obscure the message and the practice, and to make the life on offer that much harder to take up.

    • Larry Benjamin  On January 29, 2018 at 7:43 pm

      I have to say, even as an atheist who wants nothing to do with any religion, it’s obvious that much of the criticism of religion, especially fundamentalist Christianity, is more interested in pointing out the blatant, self-serving hypocrisy of many of its followers, than in building any kind of “authentic” progressive religious movement. These people, and I include myself in that number, are criticizing from the outside, and are using people like Pavlovitz and de la Torre to make their point.

      However, this should not obscure the fact that if anyone is responsible for destroying the Christian “brand,” it’s people like Falwell, Graham, Perkins, and their ilk, and not their critics either from inside the faith or outside of it.

    • Moz of Yarramulla  On January 29, 2018 at 10:04 pm

      The line about fulfilling the law is just as empty as any other bible quote. The NT explicitly opposes much of the old – for example the requirement to kill adulterers that Jesus implicitly revoked (cast the first stone).

      But if we assume for a moment that you’re serious… from that you must obey the Jewish dietary laws, and their rules about cutting hair, since those are biblical laws (using the Nicean expurgated, modern bible). I’ve never met a Christian who does those things, and can find very few references to such people. From that I have to say that yours is an extreme minority position.

      And even then, the prohibition on “lying with man as with woman” is one of a long list that covers a whole range of things. It would make more sense to get upset that it’s hard to buy non-mixed clothes and especially shoes (most contain both fur and fibre), or the promiscuous sale of shellfish to Christian people (it is very hard to avoid non-Kosher seafood if you eat seafood at all).

      • Bobby Nobis  On January 29, 2018 at 11:18 pm

        The NT dispenses with those aspects of the OT law that are fulfilled in Christ, but not with the moral law. After the resurrection, anyone can worship God anywhere, at any time, and there is no longer any need for the ceremonial laws that had necessitated all that priestly and physical infrastructure in Jerusalem, and as the apostles especially would make clear, no religious reason to keep eschewing shrimp, nice haircuts, penises in their natural state, and cotton-poly blends, among other things, unless failing to eschew those things would cause others to fall into sin. Too, the Church, unlike Israel, is a worldwide tribe, not bound by Israel’s unique governmental structures.

        The moral law, on the other hand, Jesus retained and explicitly amplified; he treated it as though it must apply to everyone everywhere, all the time, and he drove deep into the heart with it so that everyone would have to acknowledge the impossibility of that kind of perfection, and the need for grace.

        There. I did your homework for you. You’re welcome. Your assignment is to re-read the bit about casting first stones, because you’ve entirely missed every single bit of what’s going on there. You need help finding it?

      • Moz of Yarramulla  On January 29, 2018 at 11:47 pm

        Bobby, I’m saying that the sanctimonious “I alone have the divine inspiration” stuff is what puts people off, and combined with hypocritical behaviour (are you writing with loving kindness … hmm) convinces so many people that Christianity is nonsense. If you can explain that again with references and without the patronising tone it’d be much easier to deal with, and I will have a solemn response.

      • Bobby Nobis  On January 30, 2018 at 10:45 am

        We’ve gotten way off-topic Moz, and for all I know, you’re just a troll. But I’ll roll with it for one comment, I guess, because it seems to need to be said.

        I assumed that this material is familiar to you already, since you take the position of a knowledgeable critic here. Maybe I was wrong to make that assumption. Clearly, you’re already familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery, so you require no citation for that. I suggest that you re-read it, and pay closer attention to what Jesus actually says. In no way does he imply that adultery is no longer worthy of death.

        Jesus the moral law amplifier: Matthew 5. Starting in verse 19 and following. This is where Jesus teaches the impossibility of keeping the moral law. Nobody but a perfect person could do this, and that is why we must have the un-earned, unmerited free gift of grace to be saved from sin and be reconciled to the one who made us and gives us life. This sermon is also where Jesus teaches most clearly that adultery, for one, is still worthy of death, and that the issue of all sin, and this one in particular, is terribly serious. See Matthew 5: 27-30.

        Peter the Kosher Killer: Acts 10:9 and following. Eat all the fried shrimp and baked lizards you want! If you keep reading in this bit, you get to a secondary point, the worldwide tribe thing. Read it. It’s when the worship of God most explicitly goes all multiculti.

        Some guy, the ritual sacrifice abolisher: We don’t know who wrote this, but Hebrews 7:26 and following gets into the idea that Jesus, when he was tortured to death by the Romans because he’d pissed off the Jews by claiming to be God (John 8:58), made the perfect sacrifice for all sin forever. To continue to offer ritual sacrifices after this event is no longer necessary. That’s why we limit our burnt offerings, at least here, to the work we perform in the summers at our grills.

        About those penises…Paul tells some ancient Celts who lived in Turkey to stop chopping off their foreskins if they don’t want to. You can read all about it in Galatians 6. Circumcision now is inward, spiritual, not genital. I think we can all agree that that’s an improvement.

        Is that helpful?

    • weeklysift  On January 30, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      I think Bobby Nobis is equating two groups that are very different. I’ve never heard anyone claim that Jesus told them to be gay or have an abortion. No one is trying to use his authority that way. But I’ve come across many Evangelicals who claim they’re following Jesus when they claim that homosexuality stands above other sins, or that abortion is murder, when Jesus said nothing of the kind.

      I suspect I speak for most progressives when I say that Bronze Age morality needs to be updated. I think we’re pretty open about that. I look at the gay and lesbian couples I know, for example, and see no reason why they shouldn’t marry if they want to. The difference between their relationships and mine with my wife (of 33 years) escapes me.

      What’s different about so many Evangelicals is that they claim Bronze Age morality doesn’t need to be updated, but then they update it for certain favored groups, like divorced people, without admitting what they’re doing.

  • Jeff M  On January 29, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Speaking as a Christian minister, I would prefer that we specifically NOT work to resurrect the brand. Instead, let’s pour that energy into serving neighbors in need and protecting the vulnerable (both politically, and by any other means), and let the brand chips fall where they fall.

    • weeklysift  On January 30, 2018 at 9:21 am

      I think if all Christians did as you suggest, the chips would fall somewhere good. Hosea Ballou said, “A godly life is the strongest argument you can offer the skeptic.”

      • Jeff M  On February 5, 2018 at 1:52 pm

        Thanks for the quote; I love it!

  • Moz of Yarramulla  On January 29, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    I have to say, my departure from any semblence of Christian faith was driven by two things. My father abandoned his family and in response the church my mother was an elder in drove her out, explicitly because he divorced her. I was maybe 10 at the time and the sudden shift was shocking. Later there was a gay panic at school and the Christians (teachers and students) were suddenly very keen on violently suppressing any hint of same-sex attraction. That cured me of any respect for Christians or Christianity. In about 1980. This stuff isn’t new.

  • Bob Doolittle  On January 29, 2018 at 11:52 pm

    I wish you hadn’t resorted to name calling by used the word be “Toady” in your otherwise excellent article. It guarantees I cannot get any Trump supporters who otherwise might be swayed by this article to read it.

    Do we not care? Are we resigned to our echo chamber and no longer attempt to reach outside it? Have we managed to convince ourselves that “those other guys” are entirely impervious to reason so there’s no point in trying? If so, we are doomed. But I don’t think so. Sure there are a core of blind supporters. But there are more people on the margins than we seem to imagine these days.

    You make a compelling argument. Shouldn’t we make a minimal attempt to argue with those who need to hear it? Leading with inflammatory name calling is not likely to do so and does not enhance your message.

  • weeklysift  On January 30, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Part of the evangelical defense system is a hyper-sensitivity to criticism. The title is an if-the-shoe-fits situation (as was Clinton’s “deplorable” comment). There’s no reason why an evangelical Trump supporter has to assume he or she is being called a toady. I’m specifically calling out Falwell and a few others. But if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.

    It’s striking how many Trumpists applaud what they think of as his plain-spokenness and lack of political correctness when he talks about other people. But they are appalled when anyone who talks to them fails to handle them gently.

Trackbacks

  • By Saving Jesus | The Weekly Sift on January 29, 2018 at 11:26 am

    […] week’s featured posts are “Trump’s Evangelical toadies are destroying the Christian brand” and “The Shutdown, DACA, and Immigration: Where We […]

  • […] Evangelical toadies are destroying the Christian brand and The death of Christianity in the U.S. […]

  • By We Are all Nixonians Now | The Weekly Sift on March 12, 2018 at 10:34 am

    […] I wrote “Trump’s Evangelical toadies are destroying the Christian brand” back in January, mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress hadn’t yet weighed in on […]

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