American Evangelical Protestants have been mocked before, and many times for reasons less than noble. However, sometimes the criticism is deserved, since this particular Christian sect has a long history of being both ignorant of history as well as proclaiming its own knowledge of being the historical church established by Christ in spite of massive theological errors, inconsistencies, cults of personality, and most importantly, no clear authority on faith and morals or point of reference where a final decision can be made. “God told me” is rarely an excuse, and yet most will see themselves as an exception to this rule if asked because of the refusal to accept authority other than wanting to be, for lack of a better phrase, their own pope. As a result, not only theological chaos ensues, but it can also lead to political manipulation by even the most well meaning of people.
An interesting example of politics and evangelicalism crossing in an unhealthy way just happened again, for while he is not the first ‘pastor’ to do this when it pertains to Trump, now the famed Franklin Graham has declared, according to Newsweek, that the Republican representatives who voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment have done something akin to betraying Christ.
Evangelist Franklin Graham compared 10 members of the GOP to Judas Iscariot on Thursday after they voted to approve President Donald Trump’s second impeachment.
Graham, the head of the non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse, has been a longtime supporter of Trump’s presidency. Rifts between the evangelical community and Trump have developed after recent events, including a January riot at the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s impeachment in the aftermath of the riot at the U.S. Capitol did not change Graham’s support of the president, leading Graham to draw parallels between Trump’s impeachment and the betrayal of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible.
“Shame, shame on the ten Republicans who joined with @SpeakerPelosi & the House Democrats in impeaching President Trump yesterday,” Graham tweeted. “After all that he has done for our country, you would turn your back & betray him so quickly? What was done yesterday only further divides our nation.”
Graham elaborated on his opinion in a Thursday Facebook post, detailing why he believed Trump was actually impeached.
“But the House Democrats impeached him because they hate him and want to do as much damage as they can,” Graham wrote. “And these ten, from [Trump’s] own party, joined in the feeding frenzy. It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that [Democratic House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”
Trump made strong inroads into the conservative Christian community. In January 2020, he launched a coalition called Evangelicals for Trump. A number of evangelical leaders announced their support for Trump, with Graham saying in December 2020 that Trump would “go down in history as one of the great presidents of our nation.”
After Trump was widely found to complicit in inciting the Capitol riot, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) decried Trump. “The mob at the Capitol was provoked by leaders, including President Trump, who have employed lies and conspiracy theories for political gain,” the January statement read. “Evangelicals are people who are committed to truth and should reject untruths.” (source)
At this point, I do not really care what happens with Trump, not because I hate the man, but because his dishonesty caught up with him. Trump is a morally problematic man, but an immoral leader does not mean a necessarily awful one, and given the conditions, if Trump stuck to his promises, even if only 10%, he could have fundamentally made the country a lot better, and he likely would have not just won the election from votes, but would have the political support to sustain a real investigation by the courts into voter fraud.
But not, that is not what happened. Trump instead chose to have a temper tantrum. 57,000 tweets later, they were all deleted, and this was all he really had to show for his presidency. That, and billions for Israeli aid and billions in weapons deals to continue to facilitate the starvation and mass murder of the Yemenis while the world looks away.
I’m not saying that Trump is perfect. I’m not saying he could do everything. What I am saying is that, love Trump or FDR or not, Trump had a chance to perform a real FDR-type “new deal” in the US, and he could have really helped people and truly written himself a place into history for the good. Instead, his obsession with his own ego is destroying him, and he will probably go down as an utter fool. Meanwhile, the country continues to decline.
Then there are persons such as many Evangelicals and their leaders who are placing political trust in Trump, who complain about (sometimes historically dubious) events with the Catholic Church that happened centuries ago, or criticizing priests, but will give a saint’s pass to Trump and his behavior and compare his story to that of the Messiah, and then not only refuse to seriously criticize him, but will call those out who criticize and want Trump gone as traitors to God.
This is not religion. This is at best heretical behavior, and more in line of unhealthy behaviors found in a cult than in religion. However, this is the state, largely, of American Christianity, where it has become a political cult of personality tied to nationalistic impulses instead of something greater. It is no wonder then that as a trend, Christianity in the US is continuing to decline, because who wans to worship an idol, be it orange or golden?