Michael Gerson’s Jeremiad

Students of early American history will recognize the term jeremiad, a favored form of sermon delivered by Puritan pastors of the time. Wikipedia tells us that a jeremiad is “a long literary work lamenting the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective.” The term comes from the prophet Jeremiah, who catalogued Israel’s fall from fidelity and warned of the horrible judgments to come.

I wouldn’t apply the term “invective” to the recent, lengthy essay in the Washington Post by Michael Gerson, but I would definitely  call it a jeremiad.

Gerson is best known as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, and as a devout Evangelical Christian. Along with other intellectually-honest Republicans, he has been appalled by Donald Trump, and like other genuine Christians, disheartened by the embrace of Trump by those who claim the Evangelical label. He is especially distressed by the fact that “much of what considers itself Christian America has assumed the symbols and identity of white authoritarian populism.”

Gerson’s essay is long, and it is definitely worth reading in its entirety. This post cannot do it justice. He begins by recognizing that many conservative religious people feel disrespected and defensive, and believe that their values are under assault by government, big business, media and academia.

Leaders in the Republican Party have fed, justified and exploited conservative Christians’ defensiveness in service to an aggressive, reactionary politics. This has included deadly mask and vaccine resistance, the discrediting of fair elections, baseless accusations of gay “grooming” in schools, the silencing of teaching about the United States’ history of racism, and (for some) a patently false belief that Godless conspiracies have taken hold of political institutions…

The political alignment with MAGA activists has given exposure and greater legitimacy to once-fringe ideas, including Confederate nostalgia, white nationalism, antisemitism, replacement theory and QAnon accusations of satanic child sacrifice by liberal politicians.

Gerson acknowledges the influence of population density and the rural/urban divide on patterns of belief– and the political reality that America’s electoral mechanisms skew in favor of geography over population. But his essay is mostly concerned with the damage MAGA Republicanism is doing to Christianity.

Strangely, evangelicals have broadly chosen the company of Trump supporters who deny any role for character in politics and define any useful villainy as virtue. In the place of integrity, the Trump movement has elevated a warped kind of authenticity — the authenticity of unfiltered abuse, imperious ignorance, untamed egotism and reflexive bigotry…

Conservative Christians’ beliefs on the nature of politics, and the content of their cultural nightmares, are directly relevant to the future of our whole society, for a simple reason: The destinies of rural and urban America are inextricably connected. It matters greatly if evangelicals in the wide, scarlet spaces are desensitized to extremism, diminished in decency and badly distorting the meaning of Christianity itself — as I believe many are.

To grasp how, and why, it’s important to begin at the beginning.

Gerson follows that sentence with a lengthy history of Jesus’ background and teachings- his preaching against religious hypocrisy, his welcoming of “social outcasts,” and a “future age in which God’s sovereignty would be directly exercised on Earth.”

What brought me to consider these historical matters is a disturbing realization: In both public perception and evident reality, many White, conservative Christians find themselves on the wrong side of the most cutting indictments delivered by Jesus of Nazareth.

Christ’s revolt against the elites could hardly be more different from the one we see today. Conservative evangelicalism has, in many ways, become the kind of religious tradition against which followers of Jesus were initially called to rebel. And because of the pivotal role of conservative Christians in our politics, this irony is a matter of urgency.

He follows those paragraphs with an indictment of Christian Nationalism, concluding that

Evangelicals broadly confuse the Kingdom of God with a Christian America, preserved by thuggish politicians who promise to prefer their version of Christian rights and enforce Christian values. The political calculation of conservative Christians is simple, and simply wrong.

Gerson goes on to list numerous ways in which that calculation is wrong–and dangerous to democracy.

As I said at the outset of this post, this is a lengthy essay. It is also and obviously a product of considerable distress over the political grievances that have distorted and displaced authentic faith. As he concludes, “It is difficult for me to understand why so many believers have turned down a wedding feast to graze in political dumpsters.”

Gerson’s jeremiad puts him firmly within the camp of those of us who have been warning Americans about the dangers of Christian Nationalism–and reminding them that Christian Nationalism is very different from actual Christianity.

I admire Gerson’s attempt, but somehow I doubt the Christian Nationalists will listen.


  1. Prof K closes with:I admire Gerson’s attempt, but somehow I doubt the Christian Nationalists will listen.

    I agree. They will NOT listen to Gerson or anyone else.. We will not educate them or convince them they are wrong. But perhaps we can defeat them at the polls. Lets hope so.

  2. The two posts today have more in common than appears on the surface. They are both about manipulation and control. Some would call it oppression.

    As a journalist, I always ask why…

    In the USA, we are controlled by an oligarchy. So the question is, which oligarchs are controlling the Christian Nationalists?

    Another way to ask the above question is, “Who needs their votes?”

    This is where yesterday’s post is important – the media industry is propaganda and manipulating targeted markets like conservatives or anti-government. Who funds the anti-government movement?

    Who funds and manipulates the “establishment oligarchy?”

    And yes, there is overlap like the MIC/IC/Surveillance and financial oligarchy.

    The Evangelicals and Patriot Groups (which I would fear more now) are easily manipulated by Koch and his dark network (funded the January 6th participants).

    Will the additional IRS agents go after the dark network of money put together by Koch and other billionaires like DeVoss and Bradley?

    Hopefully, the IRS remembers who cost them thousands of jobs over the past several decades and come out thirsty for revenge. And would love to see the IRS rip through all the nonprofits involved in political activities. This would eradicate a large faction of these anti-government groups.

  3. “What brought me to consider these historical matters is a disturbing realization: In both public perception and evident reality, many White, conservative Christians find themselves on the wrong side of the most cutting indictments delivered by Jesus of Nazareth”.

    I don’t need to read his long piece because it all seems to be summed up in the single sentence above. But what I find mystifying is that it took the rise of MAGA-fascism (aka WCN) and its thug leader to come to a realization that he SHOULD have seen before he declared himself “born again”. There is absolutely nothing new in his “disturbing realization”….white christians as a general category have been on the wrong side of Jesus for MILLENNIA .

    That he simply didn’t call out WNC for being fake Christians with evil intentions says all I need to know about the windy Mr. Garson.

  4. If Jesus were to return to earth today, the WCN might just crucify him again. When they discover that he isn’t that blue eyed, chestnut haired fellow in all the pictures, but is a swarthy, curly black-haired Jew it’s a good bet they won’t be inviting him to dinner.

  5. Organized religions v. God are an age-old problem. Jesus loved everyone and is the messenger of inclusvity. He eternally ‘pushed the envelope’ to reach out to outcasts.
    Hope springs eternal that more of us (Christians and non-Christians) will embrace Jesus’ powerful example of loving others.

  6. Peggy,
    just woke up, thanks,really woke me up. still,laughing. but sad that the christians would find a way to distroy him again.
    If the so called prayer breakfast is every week in DC with legislatures sitting side by side discussing
    the weeks ballyhoo, obviously they all just laugh at the people anymore and how they get up tight from thier quotes and news faces. if the said legislatures were to sit again in front of the news orgs and social media ongoings while in civilian status would they be still smiling. somehow after being elected seems to,for the most,not all, policy decorum be damn,and the idiots elected me under false pretense. if said party,RNC wise delibertly allowed this shell to be given honors to darken the halls of congress,(lets face it,ya dont get to run because you yell louder)then they are without a god. carry on as you seek blessings from your prayer breakfast buddies while you plan and devise ways to shutter the people you represent. all in the name of christi-hanity

  7. “…the authenticity of unfiltered abuse, imperious ignorance, untamed egotism and reflexive
    bigotry…” Oh, do we have, here, the portrait of a malignant narcissist? Have these pious people modeled themselves after the closest thing to their mythical Antichrist to have come along since Hitler offed himself in his bunker?

    I have to agree with patmcc, they will not listen, because in their pious wisdom, they “know”
    that their view of the world is the only right one. Attacking Gerson will be the only response

    they will be able to envision.

  8. In my opinion, so-called Christian Nationalism has absolutely nothing to do with true Christianity. Those people are members of a Nazi-like group that may or may not attend church services, but have never paid attention to Jesus’ words written in the New Testament books.

    They have never cared about anything but personal power and their belief that they have the right to create the rules everyone else must follow. They view themselves as having the right to behave as they wish and are above following any rules they demand others must follow.

    Basically, they are despicable people. Hillary was being generous when she referred to them as a ‘basket of deplorables’ 😉.

  9. Jesus was a maniacal loser. A worthless POS. A poser needing an audience. He should’ve been nailed. Jesus is not coming back. He was a mere mortal that suffered from megalomania, and probably syphilis .Too bad the SOB became a martyr. I wish the world would accept this,but religious and political fiction is in so much demand. Btw,I have not seen any god within the frames of the Hubble’s images. Religion is bogus. A fiction.

    Jesus can take his cross and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Besides,we need the space to nail the next martyr.

  10. Peggy – perfect

    I am reminded of a saying from the ’60s
    “Two thousand years ago there were these bearded outsiders. They were called ‘radical’ and ‘Christians’ and were thrown to the lions.
    Today there are bearded outsiders. They are called ‘radicals’ and ‘hippies’ and are being thrown to the ‘Christians’.”

    A bit hyperbolic, but given today’s “MAGA Evangelical Christians” ….

  11. The problem we are facing is not so much as how or what Christians are doing because Christianity has several sects in it, but what is the beauracray doing in between elections that is raising the attention of so many independent churches to become politically motivated.
    How are the schools teaching our kids, how much does it cost to get our kids to school and can I afford to feed and clothe my children.

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