Is nothing sacred? Having co-opted and discredited the Republican Party and the conservative movement, Donald Trump is now attempting to discredit the Christian church. Or rather, by mixing faith with partisan politics and embracing the notion that Trump won the 2020 election, some prominent members of the Christian church are undermining the church’s witness.
For evidence, look no further than this Saturday, when former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn (who recently shared a message calling on Trump to declare “limited martial law” and hold a new election) will give his first post-pardon speech at something called the Jericho March in Washington, D.C. Aside from Flynn, the roster includes other prominent MAGA names like Mike Lindell (the MyPillow guy), Eric Metaxas (a radio host who punched a protester and recently said, “I’d be happy to die in this fight”), Ali Alexander (formerly Ali Akbar), and C.J. Pearson. Afterwards, the crowd will converge on the National Mall for the “ROAR” prayer rally. Marches will take place simultaneously—and I’m sure wholly by coincidence—in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Arizona.
Christians have every right to be involved in politics, but this is not people of faith gathering to defend the right to life or to support civil rights but, rather, Christians gathering in support of overturning a free and fair election. “America is under attack by corrupt forces trying to silence our voices and our vote,” says a video on the Jericho March website. “Just as the Israelites circled the walls of corrupt Jericho, so will we peacefully march, pray, fast, and protest until the walls of election fraud and corruption crumble. Jericho March was born of a vision from God. We are calling on patriots and people of Judeo-Christian faith to march around their state capitals every day…”
I am thankful that they promise these marches will be done “peacefully,” but consider the imagery and the implications. They are clearly saying that to be on the side of Trump is to be on the side of God. Likewise, they are saying that the political institutions that want to follow the Constitution and the rule of law are tantamount to the wicked city of Jericho—whose walls came tumbling down. (That part wasn’t so peaceful.)
Of course, this event is merely the latest example of a disturbing trend. For some time now, NeverTrump conservatives like David French and Peter Wehner have been warning that “the Trump-evangelical alliance has inflicted enormous damage on the Christian witness in America, particularly among Millennials and Gen Z.” And for some time now, Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. have beclowned themselves and ruined their reputations via their servile support of Trump. But what we are witnessing now is next-level stuff. “The stolen election narrative is becoming a new religious phenomenon,” warns author and blogger Rod Dreher, an Orthodox Christian who writes about religion, culture, and politics for The American Conservative.
Indeed, some Christians are attempting to intercede—to use the power of prayer and faith—to miraculously and supernaturally give Trump a second term. In one video, former Rep. Michele Bachmann prays: “Would you deliver these races in Georgia, O Father? Would you deliver various local and state races, Father… and O God, I personally ask, for myself, Michele Bachmann, Lord, would you allow Donald Trump to have a second term as president of the United States?” At least she was asking. In an attempt to supernaturally overturn the election, televangelist Kenneth Copeland performatively laughed at the notion that Biden would become president (this was after the AP called the race for him).
Copeland was attempting to actualize his preferred result (for more on this, see my column on the power of positive thinking). He moves in mysterious ways. But what if, despite the prayers and confessions of faith, Trump doesn’t pull off another miracle? What does that say about Christianity? The word of faith? Is the lesson that prayer actually doesn’t work? Is the lesson that faith is phony?
As a believer, I won’t let that be my takeaway. Instead, this will be one of those Garth Brooks’ “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers”-type situations. After all, who’s to say that it’s the will of God for Trump to be president? (Indeed, you could certainly argue the opposite.) My faith runs too deep to be undermined by flawed humans. But what about someone who isn’t already a believer? Doesn’t the behavior of these Christians make it less likely that a serious person will take Christianity seriously? Besides, should Christians really be this focused on politics, anyway? Indeed, as we approach Christmas, wasn’t the story of Jesus, at least in part, about how people of his day were too focused on a political savior to imagine that the Lord would come to us as a helpless baby in a stable? As Dreher warns, this Trump worship is tantamount to idolatry.
Don’t get me wrong, politics matters. As a conservative, I have long warned that embracing Trump risked undermining things we believe in—that his association would tarnish a respectable conservative philosophy that goes back to Edmund Burke. But as important as public policy is, politics is temporal. If a young person rejects conservatism because Trump has tainted what was once a serious and legitimate worldview, that’s a shame, and it could have serious ramifications for our nation. But if a young person chooses to reject Christianity because its association with Trump has made it seem ridiculous—well, the stakes (if you believe as Christians do) are eternal.
This association is especially likely to turn off certain types of people. First, the educated who use critical thinking. As Michael Gerson recently wrote, “When prominent Christians affirm absurd political lies with religious fervor, nonbelievers have every reason to think: ‘Maybe Christians are prone to swallowing absurd religious lies as well. Maybe they are simply credulous about everything.’” The second type is young people. “We Christians are not holding on to our adult children,” Dreher told me. “If young people come to think that to be a Christian means to give oneself over to idol worship of a political figure or a political cause—whether it’s on the left or the right—then Christianity will be discredited.”
But hey, at least we got some tax cuts and judges, right?