Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and GOP Arrogance

The April issue of “The New Republic” features an article by Sarah Posner entitled, “Amazing Disgrace–How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?”

Posner offers further analysis of the Southern Baptists and their current effort to “purge” themselves of one miscreant, Russell Moore, who dared to bring a dissenting voice to their group think on Donald Trump.  Posner quotes Richard Spencer, himself an alt-right leader, declaring how that the evangelicals as a group have been totally duped by Trump, declaring, “Trump has shown the hand of the GOP…(that it)…is a white person’s populist party.”  Posner declared that the “white evangelicals” were the key to Trump’s victory and argued that Steve Bannon carefully courted them during the campaign, knowing that without them his cause could not compete against the progressive left.  Bannon told Posner last July that “If conservative Catholics and evangelicals ‘just want to focus on reading the Bible and being good Christians there is no chance we could ever get this country back on track again.’”

Even Richard Schenk, a leader of conservative evangelical Christians recognized how that his group had sold their soul to the devil in supporting Trump, exposing an evangelical culture “that doesn’t know itself.”  This lack of “self” awareness, or meta-cognition, has kept them from recognizing just how foolish their support of Trump appears giving his egregious affront to everything that the teachings of Jesus represents.  This lack of awareness reflects a very human tendency to opt for an opportunity for power even in the arena of spirituality, even if that “opportunity for power” is an in opposition to all they purport to hold dear.

A core dimension of the evangelical Christian tradition is the “us” vs “them” paradigm best illustrated with the attitude of, “I’ve got it” and “most of you don’t”.  This exaggerated emphasis on drawing distinctions between “me” and “thee” overlooks the teachings of Jesus which sought to put Grace on the table in an historical moment when the “letter of the law” of the Old Testament was being overly emphasized in his culture.  Jesus recognized that the religious establishment of his day was paying too much attention to that “us” vs “them” or “right” vs “wrong” paradigm. It is no coincidence that the Trump administration’s first significant action was to start getting rid of people “who don’t belong” by moving fast on the immigration issue.  The Southern Baptist Convention is mirroring that impulse to “clean house” of all dissent or difference.  “If people aren’t like us, let’s send ‘em packing!  We don’t want difference of opinion.  We don’t want diversity, we want unity!” And if you are so arrogant as to assume that you have an objective grasp of what “truth” is, then you can feel empowered to take this position, and even take comfort in the illusion that, “God is leading us.”

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