A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a column by Michael Gerson, examining the reasons for and consequences of Evangelical Christians’ embrace of Donald Trump. Gerson himself is a conservative Republican, an Evangelical Christian who served as speechwriter for George W. Bush; he has been a consistent critic of both Trump and those of his co-religionists who have enabled and supported Trump.
Gerson wrote that Trump’s “naked attempt to overturn a fair election”– despite testimony by Republican state officials rebutting charges of “rigging,” consistent rulings from Republican-appointed judges, and even the rejection of the Big Lie by Big Liar Bill Barr of the Justice Department– ” has driven some Trump evangelicals to the edge of blasphemous lunacy.”
“I’d be happy to die in this fight,” radio talk-show host Eric Metaxas assured Trump during a recent interview. “This is a fight for everything. God is with us. Jesus is with us in this fight for liberty.”
Elsewhere Metaxas predicted, “Trump will be inaugurated. For the high crimes of trying to throw a U.S. presidential election, many will go to jail. The swamp will be drained. And Lincoln’s prophetic words of ‘a new birth of freedom’ will be fulfilled. Pray.”
Just to be clear, Metaxas has publicly committed his life to Donald Trump, claimed that at least two members of the Trinity favor a coup against the constitutional order, endorsed the widespread jailing of Trump’s political enemies for imaginary crimes, claimed Abraham Lincoln’s blessing for the advance of authoritarianism and urged Christians to pray to God for the effective death of American democracy. This is seditious and sacrilegious in equal measure.
Actually, I think it’s less “seditious and sacrilegious” than bat-shit crazy, but then, I’m not religious. (Or tolerant of manifest stupidity.)
Gerson’s concern is that the embrace of what he terms “absurd political lies” gives us nonbelievers every reason to conclude that Christians are prone to swallowing equally absurd religious lies as well. As he says, if we encountered someone who sincerely believed in the existence of both the Easter Bunny and the resurrection of Christ, “it would naturally raise questions about the quality of his or her believing faculties.”
Gerson wrote his column about these concerns before CPAC unveiled the “Golden Calf”–a gold statue of Donald Trump. I can only imagine his reaction to that sacrilege.
I am not making this up. As Vox describes it, the biblical story trended on Twitter after someone involved in the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wheeled out a golden statue of Trump, evidently to cheers from conference attendees.
The snarky sub-head read “Apparently CPAC attendees missed the part of the Bible about the Golden Calf.”
The Golden Calf is one of the most famous stories in the Old Testament. The Israelites, newly freed from Egyptian slavery, have a crisis of faith while God is speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai. They melt down the golden jewelry to construct a physical god — a statue in the shape of a calf — to worship in place of their abstract, invisible deity. It’s a story about the allure of idolatry, how easy it is to abandon one’s commitments to principle in favor of shiny, easy falsehoods.
Gerson agonizes over the behaviors exhibited by his fellow Evangelical Christians, because he realizes that those behaviors are likely to repel reasonable people. The “Golden Trump/Calf ” proves his point; it encourages–actually, it practically demands— the mocking and dismissal of these particular believers as just another cult.
Gerson acknowledges that a need for faith in a “higher order” doesn’t make that faith true, but he insists it doesn’t make faith false either.
So how do we decide? If Christianity were judged entirely by the quality of Christians, it would be a tough sell.”