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Evangelicals and Their Public Displays of Religion

evangelicalism

My maternal grandfather, John, was a big believer in public praying. Every time we went out to eat with him, everyone within earshot knew we were Christians. John meant for his prayers to some sort of public masturbation — visible to all. I still remember how embarrassed I was when John went about establishing his Christian testimony. Once John was finished praying, permission was granted for us to begin eating. At least once during the meal, John would force our waitress to listen to his testimony and presentation of the Evangelical gospel. John was well-known for these verbal assaults — a man who loved Jesus so much that he just had to share him with everyone. (Please see Dear Ann.)

Tim Tebow, a former NFL player, is known for kneeling and praying during games. His behavior is popularly called tebowing. Evangelicals love the fact that Tebow would, on national TV before millions of people, pray to their God. Evidently, God wasn’t listening. Tebow washed out of the NFL and is now trying to continue his narcissistic dream as a baseball player. Other sports figures imitate Tebow on the field, giving the impression that their God is a former jock himself and a big sports fan.

Republicans are another group who is fond of public praying. Holding prayer rallies and offering up prayers at their convention, these members of the GOP — God’s Only Party — send their prayers to Jesus, asking for the destruction of Hillary Clinton, socialists, atheists, and any other group deemed to be unpatriotic, anti-American, and anti-God. Yet, despite all their prayers, it looks like Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. Millions of prayers uttered, and the best that God could do is Donald Trump?

Evangelical churches and parachurch groups — who overwhelmingly support the Republican Party — are also fond of public displays of prayer. It is Evangelicals who are behind the National Day of Prayer and See You at Pole, annual events meant to show the numerical significance of conservative Christianity. Many government meetings are opened with prayers to the Christian God, a reminder to everyone that America is a Christian nation.

Untold millions of Evangelical prayers have been uttered to God, asking him to put a Republican in the Oval Office.  Most Evangelicals wanted Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, or Mike Huckabee. These men proudly exposed their Jesus-approved genitals for all to see. Yet, when the primary dust settled, Donald Trump was the winner. Perhaps the Evangelical God has a wicked sense of humor, giving Evangelicals one of most unqualified candidates in American election history. Dear Lord, please help us elect a Christian president, Evangelicals prayed. What God gave them was a narcissistic psychopath who brags about sexually assaulting women and grabbing them by their pussies. Is Trump some sort of sick joke by God?

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to actually practice what Jesus said about public praying:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:1-8)

Instead of focusing on the external forms of religion, Evangelicalism would be better served if its followers focused on good works. Thanks to Evangelical support of Donald Trump and thirty-five years of warring against American culture, Evangelicals are widely known for vitriol and hate. They love to say, we hate the sin but love the sinner, but it is now abundantly clear for all to see that Evangelicals hate sinners too. Drunk with political power, Evangelicals arrogantly think that their religion and divine text should be enshrined as the one, true American religion. Their arrogance has put them at odds with Christians and non-Christians alike, 

In many ways, my grandfather John was a precursor of what Evangelicalism would one day become — in-your-face, my-God is-the-one-true-God, you-are-going-to-hell, I-have-a-right-to-harass-you-in-Jesus’-name Christianity. To those who only knew John as a devout, aggressive evangelizer, he was the epitome of what every Christian should be. However, many of his family members knew the other John — an angry, violent man who took out his aggression on his children and grandchildren, a man who lived a sordid violent life before Jesus, including sexually assaulting his young daughter (my mother). When confronted about his vile past, John pleaded the miracle sin-washed-away blood of Christ. Any sin before Jesus is forgotten by God, John said, expecting everyone else to forget too.

Most Evangelicals will ignore what I have written here, choosing instead to attack the messenger. In doing so, they show the world that their religion has little to do with the teachings of Jesus and everything to do with political power and cultural control. The moment Evangelicals said they planned to support Donald Trump regardless of his behavior, any hope of saving themselves was lost. Post-election, Evangelicals will lick their wounds, vowing to work harder to put God’s man in the White House in 2020. If Democrats regain control of the Senate and pick up seats in the House, Evangelicals will pray and preach harder, certain that God will hear them and grant their petitions. He won’t, of course, because the Evangelical God is a figment of Christian imaginations. The Evangelical God, as with all Gods, is of human origin. As is often (always?) the case, people craft God in their own images. Evangelicals have crafted a God that bears no resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. Does anyone seriously think Jesus, if he were alive today, would support the Republican Party and the orange-hair vagina grabber? Does anyone think Jesus would support Republican attacks on immigrants and the poor? Of course not.

It’s time for Evangelicals to reacquaint themselves with the Jesus they say they worship. Until they are willing to apologize for past sins and make restitution by concertedly helping those they previously marginalized, Republican Evangelicals can expect to continue losing elections and their grip on American culture.

9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I’m involved in a writing workshop class held at my local Adult Ed center. The class has some very polished writers, some pretty un-polished writers, and the rest of us, in-between; the one thing that unites us is that we are all trying to improve, and we support each other with constructive criticism. Very positive group.

    One of our classmates has cognitive issues, and seems to function mentally at a lower level than the average person. However, he’s trying hard, and showing real improvement. We give him lots of encouragement, just about everyone there is part of his fan base. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a really nice person.

    But. All of his writing is about his newly-found relationship with Jesus. This appears to be a Good Thing for him right now; he’s been led away from dabbling in drugs. He’s not attending a church, but he seems to be being taught the Bible by someone with an Evangelical bent. So I fear for him, I fear that someone will manipulate him and put the Fear of God into him and distress him. So far it hasn’t happened yet, or so it seems.

    I don’t know him well; we’ve only had four class meetings together. But my heart goes out to him and I want to help. No idea how, without inserting myself into a situation that it might be much more helpful to stay out of. And I’m certainly not going to challenge his beliefs. They seem innocent enough at the moment, and give him a great deal of comfort.

    Still, throwing the situation out here, because you commenters strike me as wise people. I apologize that it’s slightly off-topic, but only just, I think.

    • Avatar
      Geoff

      Karen, it’s maybe less relevant what I have to say as I’m based in the UK. Even so, I do have an element of empathy with your situation.

      My sister in law is an African Muslim, and wavers between massively devout and seemingly couldn’t care less. She’s very young, half my brother’s age, and pretty well unreachable in terms of meaningful interaction. My brother lives and works in Nigeria, which makes me a main point of family contact, as the rest of the family live here, in the UK. There are five children, all living in the UK, and some of them are very confused. It’s a big concern, especially to my niece who is twelve. She frequently asks me questions about religion, and her biggie is ‘uncle Geoff, are you a Christian or a Muslim?’ She’s asked me this frequently, and I’m never sure how to guide her. I don’t want to ride roughshod over her mother but, at the same time, I can’t let her continue in her confused state. The poor kid is struggling to adjust to life in England after having lived most of her life in Africa.

      So my answer has become to tell her that there are other choices, not just Christian or Muslim. Initially she responded with ‘oh yes atheist, that’s what my dad is’ so at least she knows. I’ve tried, with three of the children anyhow, to get them to think through their opinions and not just be told what to believe. The biggest point scorer was when I asked simply ‘who made god?’, very simplistic, but it hit a chord with the children. I’m steering a difficult course, as I could easily antagonise their mother, but I feel morally bound to do something. I suppose the one thing I haven’t done is to try and force my worldview on them, rather make them think. That’s what I like to believe anyhow.

    • Avatar
      JR

      I think Geoff has hit the nail on the head – get people to think through their opinions. We don’t like it when christians force their beliefs on others but challenging people to think and ask questions about what they believe is not forcing your views on them. I am happy for christians to do this to me and I think they should let me do it to them. If he is sharing his opinions you have every right to share yours.

      The difficulty is if this person has special needs. I don’t feel qualified to say what affect doubts / questions will have…

      And I know it is controversial to say this on this blog, but there are some genuinely kind and caring christians out there. I know loads. And while they may believe things that are horrific there is a disparity between what they believe and how they act. Some of the tjings they teach may give him comfort. They may genuinely care about this guy and be the only family and friends he has. (A very simple minded / mentally ill person from a troubled background is very sacrificially looked after by christians I know) You can’t take that away from a vulnerable person without offering him something in its place.

      The question is: is it better to live a happy lie or a miserable truth? You and I may choose a miserable truth every time but is that what this guy would want? That said he has the right to hear the real facts about religion and make that choice for himself.

    • Avatar
      Melody

      I would say that as long as it seems to be a good influence in his life I would keep things the way they are. I agree with JR that believing in a happy lie is not necessarily a bad thing. But I would keep attention to him in case that changes.

      He doesn’t need any fearmongering in his life, so when it goes more into that direction, perhaps you could say something. Not to make him doubt but more to give a different perspective. Like Geoff says, make him attentive to the fact that there are more opinions than his friends provide him with, that there is grey in between the black and white, that other Christians might have different views on the subject. Something like that. More of a focus on the tolerance that can be found in the Bible rather than on the more nasty bits.

      I met a woman not too long ago who believed that her faith in God had saved her from a drug addiction. I kept being torn between thinking; you did it all yourself, you should give yourself credit and realizing that for her it was a huge support. In the end, I didn’t say anything about it, but my heart did bleed a little as she does want to find God’s will for her life and I know what a difficult and pointless search that can be. But I also feltl that her journey wasn’t mine, and that to sort of challenge the support that religion gave her could be devastating too. So I do think it is very tricky.

      I sometimes miss the support that my religion gave me myself, so to challenge it to someone who hasn’t asked for that in the first place…. It’s different if someone shares their doubts or has questions about things.

      My advice would come down to keep an eye on him in case things do get harmful, but don’t intervene (too much) at the moment.

    • Avatar
      Brian

      Hi Karen the rock whisperer, What is always lacking in somebody willing to fall into woo-woo is genuine human contact that speaks to them as they are, as they truly are, a person. It seems to me that is why people go for the woo, because they are in despair about the way they are out-of-touch with life. I try to focus on that person as they are, really listen and connect and not change or save them, just be with them in as real a way as I can. I do not rage or whisper against religion or drugs or fashion sense, just really try to listen. Human connection is a possibility and sometimes a great gift. I think the young fellow is lucky to have a sensitive heart nearby (yours) and I suspect he sees that already in your sessions. Writing groups are often quite revealing about the participants and the subject matter chosen is a way-in to hear. I have done writing workshops with students and as the mentor I take away obsessional subjects to help the writer stretch… to this young fellow I might say I want him to write something about a family member that comes from memory and then see if he is able to let go just a bit from his Jesus adoration.. I admire your caring.

    • Avatar
      Randy

      Karen the great thing here is your compassion and concern for this person. I’m still in the evangelical world but I’ve adopted a stance to not make everything I say about faith systems. I’m not looking for opportunities to share my faith on unsuspecting people. I do see the good things that can happen with those who adopt Christianity because I work in jail ministry through my local county detention center. Faith based programs are the best at helping people overcome addictions and reducing recidivism rates according to statistics.

      But I have a fear for the men I work with that find faith. I worry they will end up in a church that harms them. I warn them about such things, but ultimately let them make their own decisions about this. I encourage them to think and ask questions and never be part of a “sit down, shut up, listen and believe” group.

      It is natural for us to want to express our beliefs to others. My goal is to live in peace with other faith systems. That means everybody will not believe the way I do. My goal is not to convert everybody to my form of belief. My goal is to love and encourage others and hopefully bring some peace into this crazy world. I think when you step into the deeply personal area of religious belief you can quickly alienate somebody, especially somebody that you do not have a close relationship with.

      I’d say the best action is to get to know this person, be a friend to him, then if he encounters problems with his faith system you have gained his trust. Perhaps the door will open naturally for you to discuss your beliefs and his. I’d say the goal should never be to persuade him to change his beliefs, but perhaps to let him know our society has many people with many different beliefs and that’s an okay thing.

  2. Avatar
    Brian

    Bruce, I think this blog entry is quite remarkable and certainly trust that you are correct in suggesting that the Donald will certainly not be president. I still fear that his being on the White House doorstep could lead to a horrid surprise come election day… He is doing everything he can to harm himself and that is very very attractive to evangelicals, to the disenfranchised, to men and women who are carrying a lot of pain that needs unloading.
    In the USA, the law protects hatred in religion and somebody can stand on the street with a megaphone and call others names and condemn them publically. This is called love by a believer, tough-love that is necessary to reach the ‘lost’. Steven Anderson feels that Christians who would never practice tough-love are sissy types and don’t follow the KJV as he does, word for word. His masturbatory thrusts into righteous anger at the pulpit are a bit boggling to observe but his audience is in the hundreds on Sunday and people do seem to appreciated being harmed in this peculiar way by a man who carries such venonmous hatred for homosexuals that any new observer at his church might think that the whole point of the KJV is to attack same-sex attraction and wish those who feel it violence and death.
    My family is punctuated with these oral jerk-offs and it is embarrassing to me. I sometimes sing out loud in the car, alone, really let’er rip but I would never imagine forcing somebody to actually hear me at this. This is not the case with those empowered by Keeeericed. They are not only willing to pull it out in public but they get more and more aroused when someone reacts in shock and disbelief! They just love the harm done.

    • Avatar
      Troy

      When you have Republicans like Paul Ryan cutting Trump off to minimize damage it is a near certainty he won’t be elected. This attempt at damage control is to keep Democrats from winning the Senate and House of Representatives. With a Democratic Senate the Supreme Court goes liberal, though not “for a generation” as Republican whiners suggest, but at least for the near term. With a Senate and House, Hillary could get something done and have a record to run on re-election. But I digress.
      Trump is not a smart man, not a bad (off the cuff) orator and cunning are how he got to where he is now. We need not fear Trump, but I do fear what I’d call a smart Trump. Such a demagogue might actually get in.

  3. Avatar
    khughes1963

    It’s interesting to Evangelical support for Trump fracturing on gender lines. Some Evangelical women are objecting to Trump’s overt misogyny, and they are correct to do so. To me, it is fairly obvious that Trump is the P.T. Barnum of the GOP, but his base is still out there and will continue to cause trouble and encourage more wannabe demagogues.

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