I was scooped up as a teenager in high school into the evangelical world by way of a campus organization known as Young Life. This occurred at a time when the hippie movement was rebranding itself as the Jesus movement. It was made attractive by its largely pure motivations, the promotion of human goodwill, peace and universal toleration and the like. It had a uniquely fresh appeal.
I don’t think the idea behind it was evil, though certainly some of the people involved were evil. But that’s true of any movement. But I do think the premise, in the hands of Homo sapiens, was inevitably corruptible. You cannot have an All Powerful Being as a premise without certain corrupting parallel ideas holding inevitable sway. If God knows better than you then what possible wisdom can we learn from “the world”? Mistrust of science isn’t just religion being corrupted by ignorance, it’s what religion is going to do by definition. It’s inevitable. Accepting a universe-creating “higher authority” as an axiom means that authority is always going to trump science, if you’ll pardon the expression. After all, what can Einstein say that the actual inventor of the universe can’t say better?
But how the evangelical got from there to a system of belief that is completely antithetical to its actual teachings remains a mystery to me. It’s hard to credit why a religion founded on love and toleration can be so full of hate and judgement. How the tender care for the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the widow, the orphan, can become a triumphant disdain for anyone who isn’t wealthy, how it went from the proverbial warning that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle, to an ethic that victim blames the poor, a “prosperity gospel” that insists that riches are proof of God’s blessing for a righteous life. It is a species of doublethink that would make Orwell gasp. It was more than enough to make me leave.
As philosophical gaslighting is their stock in trade, then it’s no wonder that a system of such breathtaking hypocrisy, when it looked around for a political ideology to marry itself to, chose the Republican Party as its bride. It is this Frankenstein marriage we have to thank for today’s Republican Party. It is that party and the corrupting influence of the evangelical movement we have to thank for Donald Trump. They have, in a stroke, given us the very antichrist they have spent the last fifty years warning us about.
And as if that isn’t enough, we find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pestilence that can only be described as biblical. It would be funny if it were not tragic. The American dream has become the nightmare of the world. The American evangelical’s disdain for science is no longer a theoretical threat, it’s an actual one. The world will never be rid of this coronavirus bug if Americans decide they can continue to go to church in unprotected, undifferentiated masses. We have to do this together or we will die separately. This time the future of the world literally hangs in the balance.
But evangelical arrogance and a government that enables it will not see reason. Donald Trump, who is not an evangelical but a cynical manipulator of that movement, will continue to exploit the evangelicals just as they continue to exploit him, in a death grip spiral that will destroy the planet if Donald Trump is given a second term. We must not let that happen. We are not voting for a political ideology this time, we are voting to save our very lives. That is why we must do the one thing the evangelical movement has never done, we must stand in unity against this evil and stop it in its tracks. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.