April’s post is brought to us by another dear and highly regarded member of NazToo: Sam Jean. The son of two Nazarene Pastors, Sam is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College and the Boston University School of Law. Sam practiced entertainment law for two decades before turning his pursuits to Real Estate and political consulting. Sam is living his best hippie life in Southern California.
I am AFRAID of 80% of Evangelicals.
There. I said it.
It feels liberating to say it out loud. I thought I would be sadder about it.
Please forgive me.
I have started at the end.
Buried the lede.
Let me go back to the beginning.
Past may just be prologue.
It was in college that I first saw the face of Evangelicalism.
I wasn’t scared then. While all of it wasn’t my cup of tea, there was a consistency there I could follow. Besides, some of my best friends were Evangelicals.
I went to class with them, I ate with them, I lived in dorms with them, I went to church with them. We engaged in lively political, theological and philosophical discussions. We supported and encouraged one another. Even though I sometimes saw flashes, sparks, hints of something else — something that made me feel uneasy, I was never afraid.
As the years passed that feeling of uneasiness turned into what philosophers, sociologist, and even theologians sometimes call “alienation.” While I still called many Evangelicals my “friends,” I knew I could never be part of the new Evangelical movement.
I’ve buried the lede again.
Given a conclusion.
Let me back up again.
As my college years came to a close, I watched Evangelicals justify racism, sexism, homophobia, unregulated capitalism, destruction of the poor in the name of God. I watched them judge who was and who was not a “Christian” based on political beliefs. I watch them encourage persecution as they lamented their own persecution.
I must admit, it made me bitter. But I didn’t give up hope. I recalled some of the wonderful experiences I had with Evangelicals and longed to return to the comfort of that camaraderie.
In my first year of law school, Bill Clinton became President much to the consternation and ire of Evangelicals. Mr. Clinton was apparently a cad, a serial adulterer, and a womanizer. I learned a long time ago that “moral human beings” live in an “immoral world.” Politics was often the living embodiment of that dictum. I never expected perfection, especially, moral perfection from my politicians. Studying history does a fairly good job of laying one’s heroes open and bare.
The Evangelical casus belli against Clinton rang something like this, “Bill Clinton is morally unfit to be President. As a Christian, I cannot in good conscience vote for him.” When Clinton was exposed for having an affair with a young intern and lying about it, all the Evangelicals’ concerns about Clinton were seemingly vindicated. The “I told you so” chorus sang in perfect harmony.
Clinton was impeached.
It was time to right the ship.
Evangelicals helped usher in the Bush II era with glee. Now we had a truly “Christian” President. Someone morally fit to hold the Presidency: Someone who was going to recapture the morality that had been lost and bring back integrity, respect, and honor to the White House. After 9/11 Evangelicals ran straight into the waiting arms of the hawkish wing of both parties.
Evangelicals loudly and boisterously supported an unjust war.
After all, someone had to pay.
Evangelicals loudly and boisterously support torture in the name of safety.
After all, someone had to pay.
Evangelicals supported unfettered, uncontrolled and unrestrained capitalism and war profiteering.
After all, someone always gets paid.
The Bush II presidency ended in disaster, scandal, and ruin. The war in Iraq propped by false intelligence and the desire of Republicans and Democrats to “out patriot” each other left Iraq a mess. Domestically, our underregulated financial industry wrecked the economy. As the 2008 election loomed, the conventional wisdom was that the party favored by Evangelicals was in trouble.
But then, Obama came along and Evangelicals found a new political foil to demonize. I watched Christians stoke conspiracy theories, bear false witness, exhibit blatant racism and promote incivility. I watched Evangelicals challenge the “Christianity” of a man who regularly attended church and openly spoke about his relationship with Jesus Christ. His crime wasn’t only that he wasn’t a Christian, but he was a … Muslim. A double-agent of that other murderous religion sent to destroy America. A claim that even John McCain silenced in a town meeting during his own campaign due to the outrageousness of the allegations.
All this materialized before the election. I hoped things would improve after the election.
I was wrong.
During Obama’s Presidency, I observed Evangelicals loudly accuse Obama of being an abortionist, a socialist and unrepentant liar. I watched Evangelicals circulate conspiracy theories about Obama and his family. I watched them caricature Obama and his wife as primates. I watched them hang him in effigy. I watched them explicitly and emphatically state that he wasn’t really an “American.” All the while loudly proclaiming their love for God and country.
My feeling of alienation grew.
My hope faded.
The seed of my fear of that 80% of Evangelicals was birthed.
Having grown up in the tri-state area, I have long been familiar with the real estate baron, Donald Trump. I know his history of successes and failures. As a lawyer, I have negotiated leases for clients in his buildings. My mentor lives in a Trump property in Florida. Clients have been guests on his television show. When he burst onto the political scene with his the demand for Obama’s birth certificate and his lie that he had sent in a team to Hawaii to uncover the nefarious events surrounding Obama’s birth certificate. I assumed he wanted attention. I never imagined he would actually get it.
When Mr. Trump became one of a legion of candidates vying for the Republican nomination, I laughed. Surely the Evangelicals who dominated primary voting had better “Christian” choices. There was Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Pataki, Jindal, and Graham.
They picked Trump.
Have I mentioned that 80% of Evangelicals scare me?
Even after his vile, racist, sexist, xenophobic attacks, 80% of Evangelicals voted for Trump.
Of course, they had their reasons:
The Supreme Court.
A desire to make America “great.”
I asked them about Trump’s “moral fitness.” For them, anyone was more morally fit than Clinton. Moreover, all the awful things Trump had done and said, especially, regarding women were before he was a Christian.
80% of Evangelicals deny being racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Muslim. They point to their missionary work or their black, gay, or Muslim “friends.” They blame these accusations on political correctness run wild. The thought police. Snowflakes.
80% of Evangelicals scare me.
I’ll tell you why.
80% of Evangelicals scare me have been corrupted by a virulent form of politics. The politics of hate. The politics of deceit. The politics of patriotism. The politics of capitalism. The politics of hypocrisy.
They support the insupportable.
They defend the indefensible.
They preserve what should be destroyed.
The “moral unfitness” arguments used against both Clintons don’t apply to Trump. The politics of hypocrisy.
Truth is malleable. Lies are acceptable as long as the candidate says he is what you want him to be.
The politics of hate. Creating scapegoats of the “Other.”
Worshipping at the altar of country. The politics of patriotism.
Deregulation as long as taxes get cut. The politics of unfettered capitalism.
80% of Evangelicals have demonstrated that they live by bread alone. They tempt the Lord their God. They have thrown themselves from the highest mountains in order to gain a seat on the Supreme court. And for whom? A narcissistic, egomaniac who viciously attacks the morality, integrity, and honesty of others while engaged in a lawsuit to silence an adult entertainment performer for having an affair with him. This is the best “Christian” they could find to inhabit the White House?
I would be less afraid of them if they showed some of that consistency I remember from my college years. But, they haven’t. He is even more popular in the circle of the 80%. If the election were held today, they would vote for him again. He is an instrument of God. An imperfect but necessary figure who deserves our understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. They will continue to support him because they have been corrupted.
I have never been afraid of conservatives, but 80% of Evangelicals scare the hell out of me.