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Prepare Ye the Way of the Theocrat

This is the first draft of Chapter 4 of my manuscript tentatively titled End This Wicked Marriage. Constructive criticisms and suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

One Man’s Fear Plus Millions’ Lack of Discernment Brought Acceptance of Autocracy.

Prior to 2016 I could not have imagined a theocracy ever taking hold in the United States of America. Back then I would have heartily agreed with the following assessment by Joe Carter in First Things magazine:

When this issue [American theocracy] was in the news in 2007, I noted in National Review Online that more than half of American evangelicals are either Baptists or nondenominational groups that don’t even want a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church. Why would we want a theocracy?

But that was when I still had faith in the American electorate and the American election process. Back then—when an American theocracy still seemed unimaginable—Donald Trump being elected to the office of President of the United States also seemed as unlikely as finding a square-edged rolling pin in a master chef’s bakery. Donald Trump could no more prepare and propel the nation to peace and prosperity than that square-edged rolling pin could prepare a proper pie crust. But he could prepare much of the nation for a theocrat by first persuading them to embrace an autocrat.

The Shocking Incongruity

That a man like Donald Trump could set the stage for an American theocracy would initially seem beyond implausible. The man’s life was a decades-long documentary of all the behaviors a theocracy normally would oppose. In a strictly enforced theocracy, Donald Trump never would have been elected president; he likely wouldn’t have survived much past his teen years. So how could this man whose lifestyle has for so long so blatantly contradicted everything theocrats—and Christians in general—claim to revere become a sort of John the Baptist for an impending American theocracy? How could he be the voice of one crying in a willfully wayward wilderness? How could Donald J. Trump be the one to make straight—or even jagged—the way of the imminent and preeminent Theocrat?

Donald Trump prepared America for a theocracy by normalizing—for more than a third of Americans—an American autocracy.

Donald Trump prepared America for a theocracy by normalizing—for more than a third of Americans—an American autocracy.

While many factors played into the making of Trumpocracy USA, chief among them, as I mentioned in chapter 1, are the gullibility, hypocritical double standards, and appalling lack of discernment among white evangelical Christians. Take all the transgressions for which evangelicals excoriated President Clinton during the 90s and double them and you have the life of Donald J. Trump. If, prior to the 2016 presidential primaries and Trump’s candidacy announcement, one had surveyed white evangelicals regarding the character traits least desirable in a president, the list would have been a spot-on description of Donald Trump. He was everything evangelicals would not have wanted in a leader. Indeed, during that 2016 campaign, Al Mohler, the Southern Baptist leader I quoted in chapter 1, openly stated, “If I were to support, much less endorse Donald Trump for president, I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton.” However, as the 2020 campaign got underway, Mohler recanted; he endorsed Trump. And there is no record of him apologizing to Bill Clinton. But that was then and this is now.

The Turning Point

Yes, Trump was everything evangelicals would not have wanted in a leader—until Jerry Falwell Jr. turned evangelical morality upside down. On January 26, 2016, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the ultra-conservative evangelical Liberty University, shocked evangelicals—and much of America—by endorsing Donald Trump for president. Prior to that date, most pundits expected Falwell—heir to his father’s “Moral Majority”—to endorse Ted Cruz, a fellow evangelical who had a long and affable history with Falwell and his university. Falwell’s seemingly strange reversal remained a mystery until Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer,” spilled the beans following his conviction for lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws.

Cohen’s conviction and imprisonment broke his loyalty to his manipulative client. Free of that Trumpian domination, Cohen revealed—among many other sordid secrets—that he had brokered a deal in which Falwell endorsed Trump in exchange for Cohen making evidence of the perverted activities of Falwell and his wife vanish. In other words, Falwell was blackmailed into endorsing Trump. And that endorsement opened the floodgates of endorsements from prominent evangelical leaders. Before long, Trump had the enthusiastic backing of nearly every recognized evangelical leader in the nation. To the few who resisted or objected, the many replied, “We’re voting for a president, not a pastor.” (A far cry from their declarations during the Clinton impeachment hearings.)

Despite Protestant evangelicals’ claims of being free of centralized, top-down religious control, the vast majority of congregants then fell in lockstep with the evangelical celebrity endorsers. How could all those prominent leaders—Falwell, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, Greg Laurie, and thousands more like them—be wrong?

Then, when others—especially other evangelicals—questioned the majority evangelicals’ burgeoning support of a candidate whose life violated nearly every evangelical tenet, those supporters stiffened their necks and doubled down on their dedication.

From Support to Idolatry

As support for Trump grew among evangelicals, it began to transform, particularly among subsets of evangelicals known as Pentecostals and Charismatics—the tongues-speaking, faith-healing factions—and from there back again to more sedate evangelicals. Donald Trump was no longer just an acceptable conservative candidate; he was God’s chosen one; he was a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus (as referred to in chapter 1). With that narrative established and increasingly celebrated by most evangelicals, there was no turning back. To admit any faults from their new messiah would be to unravel the entire evangelical ethos. If Trump is wrong, then most prominent evangelicals do not hear from God. If Trump is wrong, then “ungodly” people are better judges of character than are “God’s people.” If Trump is wrong, then evangelicals lack “spiritual discernment,” and that deficiency would leave nearly the entire evangelical movement standing spiritually naked before a world full of amused “infidels.”

If Trump is wrong, then evangelicals lack “spiritual discernment,” and that deficiency would leave nearly the entire evangelical movement standing spiritually naked before a world full of amused "infidels.”

So the binary “reasoning” referred to in chapter 2 took hold. It goes something like this: “We know secularism is demonic, so anything and anyone that opposes that perspective is godly. And since secularists oppose Trump, then he has to be God’s chosen one, and nothing will move us from this certainty.” Obvious, objective facts that refute that certainty are, then, dismissed as Satanic deceptions. The more facts countering Trumpisms presented, the stronger and deeper becomes the resolve of the faithful. Donald Trump becomes, then, the answer to anything secularists—a term used broadly by Trumpist evangelicals—espouse. Donald Trump has become a de facto god to the majority of white American evangelicals.

But for all the messianic charm Trump exudes to his smitten devotees, he is a mortal—an obese 74-year-old mortal who will be nearing 78 and in even worse health when the next election season begins. His time will pass. Meanwhile, in the waning days of his presidency—as he desperately attempts to find some way to hang on to power—Trump continues to use his power to punish his “enemies” and reward his loyalists. Here’s an example of that nefarious symbiotic relationship, as reported in Politico:

Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to spend millions of university dollars on Republican political causes followed an executive order by President Donald Trump directing the Internal Revenue Service to avoid whenever possible investigating religious organizations veering into politics.

Trump issued the order in 2017. The following year, under Falwell’s leadership, the university directed more than $3 million to conservative organizations. In 2019, it created a think tank that purchased Facebook ads featuring Trump’s image and the slogan “Pray For Our President,” produced a podcast that amplified Trump’s claims of a stolen election, and recently staged a strategy session for the 2021 elections that featured only Republican politicians.

From Autocrat to Theocrat to…

On November 3, 2020, enough reasonable Americans voted to halt the official crowning of Donald Trump as America’s first monarch, leaving the majority of the 74 million Americans who voted for him seething at the “certainty” that the election was rigged and their messiah robbed. “God would not allow a ‘demon-inspired liberal’ to defeat His chosen one,” they fumed. (Apparently the Almighty couldn’t override the alleged fraud.) So the nation will see protests—both peaceful and violent—throughout the Biden administration. And when the next presidential election cycle begins in 2023—if violent protests have not already irreparably shattered the union—the theocrats will be ready.

The next would-be autocrat will no doubt have Trump’s ability to agitate and activate aggrieved fundamentalists, but he’ll do so without Trump’s dissolute baggage. The new autocrat will be a theocrat, and evangelicals en masse will again be duped, but this time with a fervor that even Donald Trump could not generate. The evangelicals’ new messiah likely will be, ironically, the one they’d long been conditioned to dread—the Antichrist.


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