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Post-Prayer Breakfast Depression

Now that we’ve had time to digest the bitter theological hash Trump served-up at the National Prayer Breakfast, it is important to note that he is NOT an aberration. Rather, he is the logical conclusion of the rise of American Evangelical Christianity. That’s why they have embraced him like a vice grip, looking past his many apostasies to see the supernatural hand of God at work … and the celebrified personification of their predatory prosperity gospel in action. But his greed, his selfishness, his judgmental vitriol and his belief in his own divine right to anything and everything is not just an inheritance of recent vintage. It is the garish, grotesque end of an unbroken line of American Protestant theology that justified wholesale theft, bore false witness as it wantonly abrogated treaties and, ultimately, rubber-stamped the brutal ethnic cleansing of American Indians from their homes and their rightful place on this Earth.

It is the same theological tradition that justified slavery and rape and torture … and then embraced Jim Crow as part of God’s natural order. It is also the theology that said poverty was the sign of God’s deserved punishment and, at the same time, copious wealth was the obvious Sign Of Election™ to God’s Kingdom. And it is the theology of American Exceptionalism that fueled the messianic growth of American Empire around the world.

This theology had been in retreat over the course of the last hundred years. But Trump is its long-awaited savior. They thought it was going to be Reagan. It wasn’t. They hoped it would be Bush, but he bungled his divine right. Now they have their Holy Warrior … the perfect televangelical avatar of contemporary Christian hypocrisy and, at the same time, the predictable inheritor of a tradition that turned “the ends justify the means” into the gold-plated rule of a God who relishes the opportunity to punish those who transgress his chosen few … and rewards those who relentlessly gather riches unto themselves.

Perhaps that’s why they’ve elevated Trump to demi-god status. He is living proof that their version of the Lord not only rewards those who reward themselves at the expense of others, but his presence in the Oval Office and on the dais at the National Prayer Breakfast shows that they need not worry about their own sins and transgressions. Unlike Jesus, he hasn’t been sent to absolve them of their sins. Trump’s “Good News” is that absolution is for suckers.

This piece first appeared on Newsvandal.

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JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal“.

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