Evangelicals Duped and Deceived

There is a much more distressing and ultimately utterly tragic reality than conservative evangelicals imagining that they can change a nation through political persuasion. Republicans seek "the Christian vote" not because they actually care about true Christian principles but because they want power. Most conservative evangelicals, e.g., Franklin Graham, Al Mohler, and Roman Catholics like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly seem to have amnesia of the failures of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition.

There is a must-read book (I quote from often) that each and every conservative evangelical needs to purchase: Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson. The authors chronicle the state of American culture prior to the advent of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority to its downfall during the era of Bill Clinton throughout much of the 1990s. Cal Thomas reminds us:
You can't apply the principles of a kingdom not of this world to a kingdom of this world [cf. Jesus' own confession at John 18:36]. The purists want to apply the principles of a kingdom that knows no compromise to a kingdom that is all about compromise. . . . [What many conservative evangelicals do not understand is] that where politics is about power, the Christian faith is about truth. Whenever you try to mix the two, power usually wins, at least for the short haul.1
So, when a conservative evangelical does not understand how a regenerate Christian can vote for a Democrat, because Democrats are typically pro-choice, and abortion is murder, what the individual is revealing is that he thinks change can be induced by the power of politics. This is a perversion of the Gospel. Yet, he also tragically neglects to consider that 20 years of Republican presidents (Ronald Reagan for 8 years, George H.W. Bush for 4 years, George W. Bush for 8 years) did not result in the overturn of Roe v Wade. Abortion has still been legal: the GOP effected no change. Nearly 10 million babies were aborted under 20 years of Republican presidents. What of your vote?

But  real change is not derived from politics; change is derived in one's nature by the grace of God. If you want to change the opinion of someone you do not accomplish this task through enacting policies. But there is an even more sinister nature to the notion that true Christians are to vote Republican and pro-life: manipulation. Cal Thomas quotes Henri J.M. Nouwen to the effect that "power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life."2 Cal Thomas then adds: "Registering people to vote and persuading them to vote a certain way on issues and for certain candidates is one way power can be used to manipulate."3 This practice is rife in conservative evangelical churches and among evangelical leaders on social media.



Interestingly enough, this method of manipulation actually originates from conservative evangelical leaders and politicians who are conveniently yet deceptively controlling the social narrative. Cal Thomas grants an example from his days with the Moral Majority movement of Jerry Falwell. Ask yourself if you detect any similarities with the late Jerry Falwell's methods and the methods of GOP leaders and conservative evangelicals today, as I noted in the previous post, titled "Religious Liberty contra Jesus":
If you were to do a content analysis of the fund-raising [fear-based and manipulative] letters of the Religious Right, you would discover that they are all basically the same, regardless of the organization. First, they identify an enemy: homosexuals, abortionists, Democrats, or "liberals" in general. Second, the enemies are accused of being out to "get us" or impose their morality on the rest of us or destroy the country. Third, the letter assures the reader that something will be done: We will oppose these enemies and ensure that they do not take over America. Fourth, to get this job done, please send money (and the letter often suggests a specific amount).4
This method was employed nearly 40 years ago; and the same method was used in both political and religious organizations as they demonized Democrats and propagated Republicanism. The same methods are used today by political and religious individuals and organizations. The entire Trump campaign and many within the remaining Religious Right are using every single element noted above (and this book was published nearly 20 years ago). Evangelicals: you are being duped and you don't even realize it; you are being used for the obtaining of political power; and if you think that a Trump GOP presidency is going to restore America to some idealized 1950s June and Ward Cleaver and quasi-Christian utopia then you are far more deceived than even I imagined.

Political might does not make right and the Religious Right is still, after all these years, after one failure following another failure, blinded by political might. Trump and some conservative evangelical leaders are playing upon your fears and manipulating you into a vote. These individuals know exactly what to say in order to sway your feelings, giving you a sense that "a pro-life vote" is the only option for the true Christian, and they are masters of spiritual, emotional, and psychological manipulation.

If you want to see change in this country, or in your community, then pray, love, and serve the destitute and marginalized (as did Jesus). Spend your money locally. Don't speak at people, but with people, knowing that God loves those with whom you may disagree. But, first and foremost, spread the Good News of the Kingdom. God loves, saves, and can melt hearts. Trump and the GOP cannot "make American great again." They will fail if they try. Only Jesus Christ is capable of making any nation great. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ -- the power of God for salvation to everyone, Jew or Gentile, who will, by grace, believe in Christ; for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. (Rom. 1:16, 17) The Gospel of Jesus changes hearts and minds, not the GOP, not political power and policies.

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1 Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 49.

2 Ibid., 53.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 54.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.