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Fake News? Or Fake Faith?

A scrutinizing media is President Trump’s greatest threat because he is a documented pathological liar who has much to hide.  One would think that the demand for transparency also would come from one’s god, as religion requires soul-searching.  But Trump says he has “a great relationship with God,” and also “with evangelicals,” and has little need for forgiveness.  (“Trump on God: ‘Hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness,’ “ By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, June8, 2016)  So no demand for soul-searching from God or most evangelical Christians.

In fact, President Trump has fostered a symbiotic-like relationship with many white evangelical Christians especially, which is authoritarian in nature.  He is their “great White hope,” promising bans, barriers, bombs and bargains to make “America First” again – for them.  Finally, a strong white leader, who is not “politically correct” who tells it like it is, i.e., like “it” was for them and should be again.  “It” is authoritarian: seen in their unreflective, enthusiastic support of Trump’s verbal aggression against protestors and critics and countries, his lies about the (black) president he succeeded, his stereotyping of whole groups of people as The Other, his narcissistic anti-introspective self-adulation, and his ethnocentric promises to restore America’s greatness and superiority.

President Trump and his supporters are bonded.  Together in what often appears to be a symbiotic relationship.  With Trump falsely promising them great jobs, wonderful healthcare for everyone and “winning,” enthralling his audiences.  Spinning lies about himself and others that have become applause lines.  Branding his opponents with abusive name-calling to the delight of his supporters.  Spouting “politically correct” patriotic pronouncements about “American first” and its greatness that brings his supporters to their feet, clapping and roaring in unison.  Telling his base whom to hate, especially the media, with audiences, responding in lockstep, gleefully “booing” and “hissing” those reporters present.

President Trump’s symbiotic embrace of his base is revealed in a televised news conference in which he called the major media “the enemy of the American people” because of the media’s “dishonesty,” which “is out of control.”  Proof is when he watches television or reads newspapers and sees only “chaos” being reported.  But he knows that “this administration is running a fine tuned machine.”  (“Trump calls the media ‘the enemy of the American people,’ “ By Jenna Johnson and Matea Gold, The Washington Post, Feb. 17, 2017) So don’t believe all the “fake news” the media are falsely spouting about his “machine.”

Actually, the “machine” backfired early on when national security advisor Michael T. Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Pence about having a conversation with the Russian ambassador regarding U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia for meddling in the presidential election in support of Trump.  The “machine” continues to sputter in its attempts to replace Obamacare with, in Trump’s words, “a great health care plan” – a plan that is actually the real enemy of millions of the American people.  And the “machine” is now stalled, with emails disclosing Donald Trump, Jr. saying, “I love it” when a Russian government representative offered to share “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. (“Russian Dirt on Clinton?  ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said,” By Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, July 11, 2017)

These malfunctions demanded the “machine” receive additional religious tune-up.  Thus President Trump spoke at a Fourth of July Weekend faith and freedom rally, thrilling his evangelical supporters in declaring that America worships God and not the government, and that he is taking the power seized by Washington and giving it back to the people, and reminding his devoted audience that “the fake news tried to stop us from going to the White House,” and failed. (“ ‘I’m President and They’re Not’: Trump Attacks Media at Faith Rally,” By Michael Shear, The New York Times, July 1, 2017)

In addition, evangelical Christian leaders have come to President Trump’s rescue.  They responded to his invitation to join him in the Oval Office for prayer.  Thus we have photographs of faith leaders encircling Trump in prayer, with their hands on his shoulders and his head bowed.  What better way to transcend the catching of his son’s hand in Russia’s cookie jar than by surrounding himself in prayer with godly people.  As Johnnie Moore, one of the faith leaders present, said about the president: “He was as strong and focused as I have ever seen him.  He was entirely above the fray.” (“Trump seen bowing in prayer during Oval Office session,” By Dan Merica and Kevin Liptak, CNNPolitics.com, July 13, 2017)

Johnnie Moore, “a former senior vice president” at large evangelical Liberty University, was also quoted as saying about the evangelicals praying with President Trump: “We similarly prayed for President Obama but it is different with President Trump.  When we prayed for President Trump, we are praying within the context of a real relationship, of true friendship.” (Ibid)  Moore is not quoted as saying what he meant by “the context”.  Did it have anything to do with color?

Power is corrupting, as is access to power.  The evangelical Christian leaders’ blessing of a psychopathic president with Divine legitimacy is enough to lead one to ask, “Fake news”?  Or fake faith?

In time, reality and moral truth will catch up with President Trump and his administration.  Sadly, it will take the suffering he and his administration will inflict on many that will force them – and others – to confront his false promises, delusions of grandeur, pathological lies and destructive impulsivity.  In time, the evangelistic Christians’ “Faustian bargain” with Trump – giving up their moral integrity in exchange for his appointment of a pro-life Supreme Court Justice and his promise of “religious freedom” to discriminate against LGBTQ persons – will come back to haunt them and many other Americans.  Jesus’ warning is timely here: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothes, but inwardly are ferocious wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7: 15-17)

Scrutiny is the critical mission of the media in the service of democracy.  Similarly, soul-searching is a major emphasis of religious faith.  Self-scrutiny that leads to integrated self-understanding, which, rather than casting the first stone, enables people to open their hands in empathy and solidarity.

Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His newly published book, The Minister who Could Not Be “preyed” Away is available Amazon.com. Alberts is also author of The Counterpunching Minister and of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review of the book in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.  

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