A number of evangelical Christians tell us that Donald Trump’s presidency is heaven sent, which indicates that they know God’s will and can even speak for God. In reality, they are using God to gaslight their followers and other citizens into believing that Trump’s presidency is divinely ordained – as is their own calling.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, a Southern Baptist, said, “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think he wanted Donald Trump to become president . . . And I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of things people of faith really care about.” A doubting Muslim from Minnesota, Rep. Ilham Omar, responded in disbelief, “God has a strange sense of humor.” (“Rep. Ilhan Omar Reacts to Sanders Saying God Wanted Trump Elected: ‘God has a strange sense of humor!’” By CNSNews Staff.com Staff, Jan. 31, 2019)
Like Rep. Omar, writer Andy Ostroy was skeptical of Press Secretary Sanders’ divine discernment. He tweeted:
Hey @PressSec…do ya think “God” also wanted #Trump to be a pathologically- lying, sexually-abusive, foul-mouthed, bullying racist serial philanderer who mocks disabled people, attacks the Pope, cages kids, steals an election & betrays his country? –Andy Ostroy (@Andy Ostroy), Jan. 30, 2019)
Don’t think about Donald Trump’s divisive narcissistic autocratic personality. His campaign manager Brad Parscale certainly doesn’t. In fact, he testified to Trump’s divine calling on Twitter: “Only God could deliver such a savior to our nation, and only God could allow me to help. God bless America.” (“The sanctification of Donald Trump,” By Andrew Restuccia, POLITICO, 4/30/2019) It is about evangelicals “help[ing] – and being helped.
Many Republicans and evangelicals share Brad Parscale’s belief. “A Fox News poll released earlier this year found that 45 percent of Republicans believe that God wanted Trump to be president;” and “that figure is even higher among evangelicals”. (Ibid)
The belief that God wanted a man such as Trump to be president actually reveals these evangelicals’ own biblically-legitimized, gas-lighting, authoritarian tendencies. As journalist Katherine Stewart writes, “The supposed paradox of evangelicals backing such an imperfect man” is misleading. “What we don’t get is that Mr. Trump’s supposedly anti-Christian attributes and anti-democratic attributes are a vital part of his attraction.” Stewart says, “Today’s Christian nationalists talk a good game about respecting the Constitution and America’s founders, but at bottom they sound as if they prefer autocrats to democrats. . . . Of course,” she states, “there are those on the Christian right who have made a show of holding their nose while supporting Mr. Trump to advance their aims of stacking the Supreme Court or ending abortion. But,” she adds, “we are kidding ourselves if we think continuing support for him is purely transactional.” (“Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus,” The New York Times, Dec. 31, 2018)
Ms. Stewart reports attending “dozens of Christian nationalist conferences and events, and concludes, “The Christian nationalist movement today is authoritarian, paranoid and patriarchal at its core. They aren’t fighting a culture war. They’re making a direct attack on democracy itself. They want it all.” And Trump “satisfies their craving.” (Ibid)
“They want it all” – for themselves. Their goal is to gain enough political power to impose their assumed God-revealed biblical truths on society. They are self-gaslighting authoritarian power seekers – who are about right belief, not just behavior.
Many authoritarian-disposed evangelical Christian leaders are using God to gaslight Americans on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidency — and of their own authority. One such leader is Rev. Franklin Graham, who offered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration and is one of the reported evangelical pastors who are “spiritual advisors” to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Graham held rallies in 50 states to whip up evangelical votes. He did not directly endorse Trump, but was clear about his preference. Reported also: “Graham has defended the president on television and social media through the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., the crackdowns on immigrants and refugees, the Stormy Daniels scandal, and the slur against Haiti and Africa.” (“Billy Graham Warned Against Embracing a President. His Son Has Gone Another Way,” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, Feb. 26, 2018)
In an interview with The New York Times, Rev. Graham said, “People say that the president says mean things. I can’t think of anything mean he’s said.” He continued, “I think he speaks what he feels . . . I think he’s trying to speak the truth.” Graham stated “that Mr. Trump’s victory was evidence that ‘God’s hand was at work.’” Why? Because, as Graham said, “Mr. Trump has delivered for evangelicals on every issue – from abortion, to religious freedom to vowing to abolish the Johnson Amendment that inhibits churches from endorsing politicians.” He added: “In my lifetime, he has supported the Christian faith more than any president that I know.” And he rationalized Trump’s blatant psychopathic behavior, arguing, “There’s a difference between defending the faith and living the faith.” Then this whopper: “He said the media has lied about Mr. Trump, but when asked whether Mr. Trump has told any lies, he said, ‘I don’t know of any.’” (Ibid) Here is a classic example of self- deluded gaslighting.
For Franklin Graham, it is about the imposition of assumed biblical truths, not the documented lies of a psychopathic president. It is about gaining power over people, not the give-and-take of participatory democracy.
Another true believer in President Trump is gas-lighting Pastor Robert Jeffress, who spoke at Trump’s inauguration and is among his top evangelical advisors. As reported, Jeffress “led a ‘Freedom Rally,’ during which he praised Trump as God’s choice for America and a church choir sang a hymn with the lyrics ‘Make America Great Again,’ which is now available for pastors to download for their own worship services.” (“Trump’s top evangelical ally: God supports bombing North Korea,” By Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, Aug. 9, 2017)
What a gaslighter! When President Trump threatened to devastate an aggressive North Korea “with fire and fury like the world has never seen, ”Pastor Jeffress “biblicalized” the president’s existential threat. “When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers,” Jeffress said, “the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary – including war – to stop evil. In the case of North Korea,” he continued, “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.” (Ibid)
Following is Pastor Jeffress’ authority in Romans 13: 1-6:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. . . . Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority Is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. . . . For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. . . . They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment to the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
Here Pastor Jeffress’s weaponizes The Bible by proclaiming it is the literally true word of God – a dangerous tendency of power-seeking biblical literalists. If one can use the Book of Romans to justify “tak[ing] out Kim Jong-Un,” one can also use select Bible verses to prevent abortions of even rape and incest victims and imprison doctors for 99 years for providing abortions. One can use certain biblical passages to discriminate against LGBTQ persons — as the recent General Conference of The United Methodist Church has continued to do. And with enough political power biblically-bound Christians can deny the civil rights of these deemed The Other and even criminalize homosexual behavior. With political power, evangelical autocrats can use select Scriptural teachings to impose Christian beliefs and practices on non-Christians to try to “make America Christian again.”
And one can use biblical beliefs to lie and invade other countries, as “born again” President George W. Bush did with Iraq – with the support of a high majority of white evangelical Christians. So beware of the Trump administration’s building of a “deterrent force” against a “threatening” Iran. Romans 13: 1-6-believing evangelicals, like Pastor Jeffress and Rev. Graham, are waiting in their pulpits for God’s handpicked president to lead them to “harvest” more Muslims for Christ.
Such evangelicals have found American invasions a tried and true way of fulfilling Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 28: 18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And America’s political war mongers have found such Christians to be very accommodating “subjects.” When in Romans . . .
And when in Israel. Secretary of State George Pompeo, while visiting Israel, used President Trump’s assumed divine anointment to gaslight U.S. foreign policy. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pompeo was told the biblical story of Persian Queen Esther’s influence on the king that “saved thousands of Jews from being killed.” He was then asked, “Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised up for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” Pompeo, a reported member of a conservative evangelical Presbyterian Church, replied, “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.” He then commented on Israel’s history: “To see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains.” He concluded: “I am confident that the Lord is at work here.” (“Pompeo says ‘it’s possible’ Trump was sent to save the Jewish people,” By Rebecca Morin, POLITICO, March 22, 2019)
What kind of a “Lord is at work here?” The Human Rights Watch’s 2019 World Report tells a different story about Israel’s “democracy.” Following are excerpts:
The Israeli government continued to enforce severe discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; restrict movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip; and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Israel forces stationed on the Israeli side of the fences separating Gaza and Israel responded to demonstrations for Palestinian rights on the Gaza side with excessive lethal force. . . . Israel continued to maintain more than decade-long effective closure of Gaza, exacerbated by Egyptian restrictions on its own border, with Gaza, limiting access to water and electricity (households in Gaza received power between four and five hours a day on average during most of the year) . . . . Israel also restricted access to medical care and educational and economic opportunities. Israel authorities continue to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and discriminate systematically against Palestinians and in favor of settlers, in providing services, allowing freedom of movement, and issuing building permits, among other actions . . .
“As a Christian,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gaslighted the Palestinian people out of existence.
Chief of the gaslighters of Americans is President Trump himself. At the 2018 Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, Trump said, “This country is doing better than it’s ever done before, economically . . . Just remember: What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening. . . . Just stick with us,” he continued. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news’ . . . repeating a favorite attack of his while pointing to where members of the press were gathered.” (“Trump: What you’re seeing in the news ‘is not what’s happening,’” Justin Wise, TheHill, 7/24/18)
President Trump’s greatest threat is a scrutinizing media exposing his countless lies. Thus he wants Americans to believe his alternative reality, and not what they are seeing on television and reading in the newspapers. At his many political rallies, and in his constant tweeting, he repeatedly says the media are “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” It is assumed that a major purpose of his many rallies and constant tweets is to repeat his lies often enough so that people will question their own reality and begin to believe – and support – him. His intent is the same in constantly saying, ‘NO COLLUSION! NO OBSTRUCTION!’ in response to the still sealed un-redacted Mueller Report’s focus on his campaign’s alleged ties to Russian influence on the 2016 election.
Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy was about gaslighting Americans. In his acceptance speech, he asserted, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” He wanted to nix Obamacare, promising, “You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it’s going to be so easy.” (“’I Alone Can Fix It’ Becomes ‘It’s Not My Fault,’” By Jonathan Chait, nymag.com/intelligencer, Aug. 25, 2017) He could make that promise because, “Nobody knows health care better than Donald Trump,” he said. (“18 Confusing Things Donald Trump Has Said About Health Care,” By Politico Staff, POLITICO, July 20, 2017)
What Americans got were tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and more money for a bloated Pentagon. Some 27 million Americans remain uninsured. Fortunately Obamacare is insuring nearly 20 million. But the reported “number of uninsured increased by more than a half a million in 2017.” (“Key Facts about the Uninsured Population,” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Dec. 7, 2018)
CNN has a video on “All the times Trump said he was the best dealmaker and everyone else sucked at dealmaking.” (Sara Burns, www.youtube.com) The video’s bottom line: Trump declared, “We don’t make great deals anymore, but we will once I become president.”
President Trump led everyone to believe had made a “great deal” with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un in the interest of peace. After returning from their summit in Singapore, Trump tweeted, “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day before I took office. . . . There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” (‘TRUMP’S DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR ARE NOW WHITE HOUSE POLICY,’ By Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair, July 2, 2018)
Eight months later the second summit between Trump and Kim Jung-Un failed to produce progress toward peace. Trump’s self- assumed “force of personality“ and “consummate dealmak[ing],” the “beautiful letters” he received from Kim, and even Trump saying, “we fell in love” were not enough. Trump refused to reduce sanctions, and Kim refused to fully dismantle the North’s nuclear weapons. Thus the report: “In the end, Mr. Trump flew back to Washington with nothing – no agreement on a peace declaration, and no ban on producing more nuclear fuel – meaning the North’s arsenal will keep expanding while the two sides argue. (“How the Trump-Kim Summit Failed: Big Threats, Big Egos, Bad Bets,” By David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, The New York Times, March 2, 2019) How safe do we feel now that Trump is in office?
Then there is Iran. In 2015, President Obama signed a nuclear arms treaty with Iran, with five other participants — Great Britain, France, Russia. China and Germany. As reported, “On Aug. 31 , the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed for the eighth time that Iran continues to comply with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) . . . known as the Iran deal.” Trump railed against the deal as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into . . . and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it. Believe me.” (“The Myth of a ‘Better’ Iran Deal,” By Colin Kahl, Foreign Policy, Sept. 26, 2017)
The “consummate deal maker” proceeded to withdraw from the Iran deal, calling Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.” His bewildering explanation: “To insure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal.” He also “put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country.” (“Trump claims he’s thwarting Iran. He’s not.”), By Alex Ward, Vox, Feb. 5, 2019)
A chaotic President Trump went from bad to worse. In response to reported “unspecified” intelligence showing that Iran plans to attack Americans in the Middle East, the Trump administration has deployed an aircraft carrier strike force and bombers to the Persian Gulf. Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” He did not specify what he considers to be a threat or a fight.” He then went on Fox News and revealed more of his irrational, destructive behavior: “I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons.” (“Trump vows to bring about ‘the official end of Iran if it threatens the US again,” By Alex Ward, Vox, May 20, 2019) That is what President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal was accomplishing.
“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think he wanted Donald Trump to be president.” “Only God could deliver such a savior to our nation.” “In my lifetime he has supported the Christian faith more than any president I know.” “He praised Trump as God’s choice for America,” and “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jung-Un.” “I am confident that the Lord is at work here.”
For all people of faith, the soul of God is at stake here. Are they going to allow certain evangelical Christians to gaslight God on behalf of President Trump’s dictatorial rule – and their own authoritarian aim of controlling other people’s lives with their own biblical interpretations?
Do people of faith want to transform God and the world into their own Christian likeness, or transform themselves into the likeness they share with every other human being? Is God a projection of a need for biblical certainty and power over others? Or, does God represent a universal ethic that reveres all people as members of one human family –with no proselytizing strings attached? Is God about authority over others, or the authenticity of others? In the final analysis, is God about biblical obedience, or loving one’s neighbor as oneself?