Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Unwinding the spell

If there's one thing I understand least about the whole sad spectacle of the Trump administration, it's the fact of his being embraced so warmly (and staunchly) by evangelical Christians.

Okay, I see how they'd have been put off by Hillary Clinton's pro-choice stance.  That, for many of them, is a real non-negotiable.  But most of these people are the same ones who call themselves "values voters" -- who, for example, pitched a fit when Bill Clinton got a blowjob while in office.  And somehow, these same people are able to look past Trump's serial adultery, admissions of sexual harassment if not outright rape, continual lying, and unwavering focus on money (the love of which, I seem to recall, the bible calls "the root of all evil").

In fact, they are able to look past all of this so much that just last week, Trump was the commencement speaker at Liberty University, which shares with Bob Jones University the moniker "The Buckle on the Bible Belt."  Liberty University was founded by Reverend Jerry Falwell, who also founded the Moral Majority back in the late 70s, and it's run today by Falwell's son, Jerry Jr. -- who called Trump "a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again."

So Trump gave a speech that talked up how wonderful and religious he was, and how he'd Make America Great Again, conveniently glossing over the current horrific chaos he's led our government into during the last few weeks.  Here is an excerpt:
Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures.  Does that sound familiar, by the way?  Relish the opportunity to be an outsider.  Embrace that label.  Being an outsider is fine.  Embrace the label, because it’s the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference.  The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead...  As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what is in your heart...  In America, we don’t worship government.  We worship God.
At this point, I'd have leaped up and shouted, "Define we, buster!"  But apparently most of the Liberty University graduates simply smiled and nodded -- in fact, one of them commented afterwards that Trump had given a "kickass speech."

Not everyone was so positive, however.  Twitter erupted in a storm of tweets, many of them from Christians who are outraged by the fact that a man whose most outstanding characteristic is embodying all Seven Deadly Sins in one person has somehow become a spokesperson for the political arm of evangelical Christianity.

Here are a few of the most acerbic comments:
  • Funny that Trump is speaking at Liberty University, a religious institute of higher education, since he is neither religious nor educated.
  • "Trump’s ‘Christian faith" is the worst of his lies.  There isn’t a shred of Christ in him.  Liberty University should call him out, not welcome him.
  • Trump speaking at Liberty University — two words his very existence shits on.
  • In Trump's Liberty University commencement speech, he'll explain how to grab 'em by the cat parts and then become president.
  • With Trump University and Liberty University degrees, you can be a preacher with a casino and three wives and date your daughter.
  • Trump at Liberty University: Lie, lie, lie until you succeed.
Which is it exactly.  The only conclusion I can come to is that people like Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Jim Bakker, and Ralph Reed are supporting Trump for one reason and one reason only; they're rich, powerful men, and under a Trump presidency they're convinced they'll become richer and more powerful.  In other words, they don't give a rat's ass for values or morals, and never have.  All they care about is expanding their own empires, and they believe that hitching their wagon to Donald Trump will further that aim.

Which is kind of pathetic, because it means that they share another characteristic with Trump: the capacity for bald-faced lies.  They have their congregations, followers, and listeners hoodwinked into thinking that they are actually committed to moral behavior.  And somehow, they've succeeded in that deception, given the fortunes they've amassed (mostly due to contributions from their flock), and the power they wield in the religious world.

Lie, lie, lie until you succeed.  The same as Trump himself.

I keep hoping that the truly moral Christians -- which, I believe, are the vast majority -- will wake up and recognize the man they're following for the egomaniacal, sociopathic narcissist he actually is.  But there, we have the sunk-cost fallacy working against us; so many of them have put so much time and effort into supporting Trump and seeing that he got elected president, that to backpedal now would be agonizing.  

But I don't see any other way that our nation can get out of the slow-motion train wreck it's currently involved in.

The whole thing puts me in mind of a quote from C. S. Lewis, from his book The Great Divorce:
I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.  A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.  Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good.  Time does not heal it.  The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power' -- or else not.


  1. I feel like it's a cult status. I want to know what would make them change their minds--and yet, I don't.

  2. It IS cult-like, isn't it? You know what my mom said to me the other day? "You're going to have to eat your words about Trump after he finally creates world peace."
    I nearly died laughing, but she was quite serious, and went on to tell me that he was putting the Chinese president in his place, and he was going to have the middle East sorted out soon, and he might actually be the president to create lasting world peace.
    I'd ask her what she's smoking, but my parents don't even keep beer in the house. This is your brain on Fox News, people.