The profoundly disgusting spectacle of so-called evangelical leaders fawning over an angelic-looking (eyes closed, hands folded at his belt) Trump at Mar-a-Lago last week was so repulsive to any thinking and/or genuine person of faith as to provoke an involuntary and spontaneous full omnidirectional gastrointestinal tract cleanse, requiring a swift replacement of a whole new outfit, from top to bottom.
Those hypocritical charlatans on that stage are the antithesis of genuine religious faith, as reluctant as most public officials, including authentic religious ones, may be to report that. So, of course, also are their stupefied followers.
They are Elmer Gantrys, snake oil salesmen, and con artists whose affinity to Trump is that he shares these traits with them 100 percent. They are all thieves with no legitimate claim to holiness or anything associated with a genuine appeal to the divine. These are just the kinds of Philistines that Jesus of Nazareth railed against according to the Biblical record.
To them, with their churches’ tax exempt status, religion is about conning people into coughing up big bucks, and for the likes of veteran fraud Jim Bakker, warning his suckers that they won’t get into heaven if they don’t support Trump.
They draw big crowds with their cons, because unsuspecting people, on the one hand, are looking for something that connects them and their human experience to the impossibly vast cosmos that this tiny planet spins around in. On the other hand, this fake religion lets their flocks off the hook, promising them eternal salvation for, well, almost nothing except their money.
It’s the cruelest form of con, trading money and obedience for salvation, and it’s a ruse that’s been around for a very long time.
Its grip on populations is so powerful because life, death and eternity are involved. So much so that the Catholic Church got Galileo to recant his “heresy” that the Earth is not the center of the universe on his deathbed. So much so that when U.S. Founding Father Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet, “Common Sense” and others credited with being profoundly seminal influences in the American Revolution, later wrote an anti-religious tract, “The Age of Reason,” that even his closest revolutionary allies, many who shared his views in private, dissociated from him such that when he died, only eight people showed up for his funeral (fortunately, Thomas Jefferson was one of them).
So today, our Enlightenment-grounded society finds almost no one in positions of major influence who will call out the heretical freaks on the stage with Trump last week, and their malevolence that their movement is contributing so deeply to the decline and fall of America.
They are not Christians. They are fearmongering sadists who wave Bibles around as the so-called “word of God.” They selectively choose phrases out of context to make their case, which all come down to saying, “Believe me and you will be saved. Don’t and you will be damned.”
In reality, the Bible is a collection of letters and tracts that the early church spent hundreds of years trying to compile to adequately reflect the authentic content of their faith. There was nothing holy about it, in and of itself. Faith is what mattered, the conviction that the Almighty was represented through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit followed on to animate and inspire the formation of a church.
True Christian faith as affirmed by the Bible, if I dare say as an honors product of a major graduate seminary, puts the focus on Jesus of Nazarus and what he said and did. The Sermon on the Mount and the parables were at the center of the way in which, according to this faith, God became manifest through him.
This Jesus of Nazareth embodied God’s love extended to the downtrodden and socially-reviled. It was a love that repudiated the hypocrites of his day who bore such a strong resemblance to the frauds on the stage with Trump last week.
Vast numbers of mainstream churches that share these views must step up and do more to speak this truth to power. Our salvation depends on it.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]