Evangelism in America

The first part of the First Amendment to the Constitution relates that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Our founding fathers intended through this phrase to create a wall of separation between church and state, and Thomas Jefferson confirmed as much in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. But nowadays, self-styled evangelicals seem more than willing to fuse the faith of religion with the tawdry world of politics. And politicians actively court this conservative and mostly rural voting bloc.

Evangelism originated in the writings of the four authors of the New Testament Gospel. Those authors were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The doctrine that emerged maintained Jesus Christ as Savior, and the Bible as the only rule of faith. The adherents to this doctrine refer to themselves as Christians, or “born again Christians” ―evangelicals, one and all.

An August, 2017 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 62 per cent of white evangelicals continue to support  Donald Trump, knowing full well that this man spews forth more filth than any sewage treatment plant can handle, and more lies than any person can count. The political role models for this wayward flock appear to be Congressman Steve King and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The presidency of Donald Trump reveals the shining temple of evangelism as a sanctuary for liars, bigots and hate-mongers. But this is not exactly a new development. Nobel Prize for Literature winner Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) caused quite an uproar in the evangelist community when he published the novel Elmer Gantry in 1927. In the novel, protagonist  Gantry begins his career as a greedy, philandering Baptist minister who turns to evangelism and becomes the leader of a large Methodist congregation. Along the way, Gantry encounters fellow religious hypocrites Mrs. Evans Riddle, Judson Roberts, and a romantic interest, one Sharon Falconer. Like modern evangelists, Gantry is often exposed as a fraud, and yet is never fully discredited.

One of the recognized hotbeds for evangelical activism is Iowa’s fourth congressional district. It is a magnet for conservative office seekers every presidential election cycle. It is also a largely a rural district, and is represented by Republican Steve King, who has been a member of Congress since 2003. The controversial Congressman set off an avalanche of criticism when he used his Tweet app to say, “civilizations can’t be restored with someone else’s babies.” During an interview with CNN three days later, King doubled down on the racist comment, saying he “meant exactly what he said.”  King’s comments were retweeted by white nationalist David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, along with “God Bless Steve King.” Onward Christian Soldiers, so to speak.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was never comfortable with the lies the administration trotted him out to dispense on a daily basis. This was obvious on the very first day of his job when he was charged with grossly inflating the size of the crowd on Inauguration Day. On the other hand, his horse-faced successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, proved to be a very accomplished deflector and liar. It was suggested by faith-based commentators that her belief in God, and the election of Donald Trump as “God’s will,” gave her supreme confidence to stand at the podium before the White House Press Corps and pass out facts that she knew were false.

These evangelists have already reserved their place in heaven, but it would seem their Savior has a grim outlook on liars, not to mention a different idea of an eternal resting place.  In the words of Jesus Christ, recorded in the gospel of St.John 8, verses 42-47:

42. If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43. Why do ye not understand my speech?  Even because ye cannot hear my word.  44.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do:  he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth; because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.  46. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47.  He that is of God, heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

Alas, the spirit of Elmer Gantry is alive and well in the evangelist movement.

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