So Jerry Fallwell, Jr. (president of Liberty University), one of evangelicalism's first and most enthusiastic endorsers of Donald Trump, was interviewed on NPR on Thursday.
INSKEEP: What have you heard from other evangelical leaders about supporting Donald Trump so early and so strongly?
FALWELL, JR.: You know, it was funny that rank-and-file evangelicals were ahead of all the leadership.Great. If that's true, it's way, way worse than I than I'd thought.
[FALWELL, JR., cont.]: They saw for decades conservative Republicans had made promises to them on issues that were important to Christians and conservatives when they were running for office. But when they won, they didn't keep those promises.When did you ever think they were going to keep their promises to you? When did you ever think that making this country "more Christian" was really at the top of their priority lists? Oh wait—for a long time, I know. So I guess the better question is: Why? WHY did you ever think that?!?
And wait—wasn't Jesus always having to remind people that His is a spiritual kingdom and not about the politics of the day?
John 18:36: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”Also, the phrase "kingdom of God" appears 54 times and "kingdom of heaven" 31 times in the Gospels alone (of the New International Version).
So...maybe—I'm just going out on a limb here—maybe Christians shouldn't trust political leaders to make this country more like, say, themselves...and should instead focus on the spiritual kingdom, perhaps by fulfilling the first and second greatest commandments, the ones on which all "the law and the prophets" hang? Just a thought.
For anyone listening in who may not be familiar enough with the Bible to know, here are the two greatest commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (from Matthew 22:37–40)Love God and love your neighbor. That's it. And in case anyone wondered who his or her neighbor was (so they could get away with making certain people not their neighbor), Jesus told an entire parable to clear up that one.
[FALWELL, JR., cont.]: And I think, you know, like the song by The Who "Won't Get Fooled Again," I think they just decided no more. We want somebody who maybe makes mistakes and maybe sort of talks off the cuff and may not get it right all the time, but at least he's not bamboozling us.Noooo, Trump's not bamboozling you at all. Not even one tiny little bit.
INSKEEP: Is his personal life or any candidate's personal life relevant to you?
FALWELL, JR.: Well, I think Jesus said we're all sinners. When they ask that question, I always talk about the story of the woman at the well who had had five husbands and she was living with somebody she wasn't married to, and they wanted to stone her. And Jesus said he's - he who is without sin cast the first stone.Um...No. If you're going to use stories from the Bible—the book you supposedly believe to be the most sacred of all—and if you're going to use them on a national program, and if you're going to use them to, of all things, justify your support of probably the most unChristian* presidential candidate in American history...at least get those stories right.
There was a woman at the well. And she had had 5 husbands. But a) no one wanted to stone her, b) Jesus talked to her about spiritual stuff—He didn't try to get her elected to public office (there's a ginormous, important difference), and c) Jesus talked to her even though she was both a woman and part of an outcast ethnic group. (Think about it.)
The one about whom Jesus said, "he who is without sin cast the first stone" was the woman caught in the act of adultery, for which a bunch of religious establishment dudes wanted to stone her to death. And...oh yeah, she was, like, a totally separate person.
[FALWELL, JR., cont.]: I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I'm impressed by that.Oh, so you’re impressed by a man who disrespects women, mocks the disabled, and stereotypes people based on country and religion (rather than, say, welcomes the stranger as the Bible says to do)? (And those were just the examples that sprung to mind. We both know there are more.)
* * *
If Trump has done anything "for" us, it may be that he revealed the true nature of many evangelicals (and a lot of other people in this country). As Jonathan Merritt put it in an excellent piece for The Atlantic (emphasis mine):
Evangelicals are acutely aware of their waning cultural influence and shrinking share of the population. These religious leaders care about their principles, yes. But they care about something else even more: power. While not every evangelical leader is enthusiastic about Trump, many are starting to express warm feelings toward the candidate.I really believe that rather than causing misogyny, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia among his supporters, he has merely exposed it. He has somehow "given people permission" to bring all that ugliness out into the open. As bothered as I am by Trump, I'm bothered even more by the fact that he has supporters—and enough to have actually won presidential nomination.
* * *Back to Jerry. Does he represent all evangelicals? Certainly not. (He doesn't even completely align [politically] with his own brother, who happens to be the pastor of their late father's church.)
But he represents a lot of them. Trump met with 1,000 or more evangelical leaders last month, and he received plenty of praise from them, as well as endorsements from many who once vehemently opposed him. (Source: Merritt's piece, linked above.)
So—I am speaking here to Jerry and to those evangelicals he does represent:
Dudes, your hypocrisy has finally come out.
There had to be at least a strain of this hypocrisy there all along if this—THIS—was ever going to be a result.
Are you proud of yourselves?
Because I'm pretty sure that Jesus is not.
*I've got a newsflash for ya: Being a Christian is not required to be a good president. It's not even required to be president at all. It's possible for a person of another faith or even—gasp!—of no faith to be principled enough, to have all of the right qualities, and to make an excellent president. It really, really is.
P.S. The title of this post is paraphrased from Jon Stewart's epic, not-to-be-missed takedown of hypocritical conservative media and Republicans.