Let’s hope we can end it, before it ends us
✎ Wayne K. Spear | February 6, 2018 • Politics
MICHAEL GERSON SAYS that the gag reflex of Trump-supporting Christian leaders is “entirely gone,” but think about the things American evangelicals have been swallowing from these so-called leaders, not only for years but decades. And not only swallowing but hungrily imbibing, as well as underwriting with outlays of their precious income. Televangelist con-artistry and snake oil salesmanship. Bigotry from the pulpit. A “Prosperity Gospel” which despises the poor, and which lobbies the government accordingly. A mean and self-promoting cult that not so much prays for the sick and the elderly, as preys upon them.
I could keep going, but you don’t need me to. The long list of televangelism’s crimes and depravities has been well publicized, but none of this seems to have harmed the racket. Now that I’ve typed this sentence, I can’t but think of another crook and his well documented crimes, and how the stupid and credulous nonetheless threw in behind him. It gives me a horrible shiver to think that everything which is true of evangelical and especially televangelist Christianity is true also of Mr. Trump: the authoritarianism, the menacing bluster, the incoherent and impossible promises of rewards to the faithful, the love of money, the magical thinking, the incessant appeals for donations, and above all else the self-promotion on the backs and bank accounts of the duped. Trump and the evangelicals, in other words, are using the same playbook, and for the same ends. So, yes, they’re happy to take it, and happy to swallow, too.
It would all be simply ridiculous if it weren’t dangerous. Trump has weighted his cabinet with religious extremists, and he receives regular counsel from them in the form of a Faith Advisory Council, a rogue’s crew of bigots and hypocrites and money-grubbing sycophants. We’ve yet to know where they will steer him, but the prospects are not happy. As I write these words, Michelle (Earthquakes Are Punishments of an Angry God) Bachmann is seeking guidance from the Almighty on whether to seek the vacated congressional seat of Al Franken, but whether or not she wins, Bachmann will continue to exert a bad influence. The other news which got my attention this week was a video of Trump advisor Gloria Copeland, whose advice is not to get a flu shot but, instead, to inoculate oneself against sickness with the Word of God.
You can be confident that Ms. Copeland and her husband (also advisor to the President) get the flu shot, no matter what they counsel others. Kenneth Copeland Ministries is a do-as-I-say scam of the familiar televangelist sort, by means of which the Copelands have become fabulously rich through the fleecing of a flock. Some years ago their anti-vaccination propaganda led to a local outbreak of measles, as this “Jesus heals” nonsense so often does. Partly as a health precaution, the Copelands avoid contact with the unwashed masses, and Mr. Copeland himself once described commercial airline travel as “getting into a long tube with a bunch of demons.” He flies in a $3-million private jet purchased with the money of his congregants. Like every faith-based scam—ISIS or Hamas, Hezbollah and Qaeda—the foot soldiers are expected to carry the burden and to take the bullet, while the leaders amass their fortunes. (It’s true that Osama bin Laden and Yasser Arafat lived frugal lives, but make no mistake: extremism is a money-making operation.)
We’ve reached the point at which no one can be under an illusion, unless of course it’s an illusion of one’s willful choosing. President Trump’s administration is nothing more, but also nothing less, than the giant con and tax-avoidance scheme of every palace-and-botox Word-of-God blowhard. I repeat, the same playbook and the same end. This is why the President’s bottomless narcissism catches its reflection in fellow-travellers such as Paula White, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell, Jr., whose ignoramus followers constitute his base and best hope of political survival. At home these charlatans promote themselves by peddling stupidity and hatred, and abroad their end-of-times fantasies threaten the survival of our species. War in the Middle East? Nuclear holocaust? Well, well, it’s all in God’s plan, and whatever we might do to this world, the Lord will supply us another. Have faith, and let the End Times roll. The American Taliban has arrived, and let us hope we can put an end to it before it puts and end to us.