I was sent away to religious schools when I was young. There was some form of service every day. Divinity was a mandatory class. And during school breaks, I was deposited once weekly at the local church for a maintenance dose of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I mention this only to establish that, while the Church and I have since parted ways, the Bible loomed large in my youth. And I was inculcated in all things mainstream Christianity had to say about faith and morality — with a special emphasis put on attending to the poor and needy. Also addressed was the qualifications for leadership.
On that subject, Paul had this to say in a letter to Timothy.
The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money.
He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not two-faced, not given to excessive drinking, not greedy for gain.
Paul reiterated the qualifications for leadership in a letter to Titus
An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who cannot be charged with dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be blameless as one entrusted with God’s work, not arrogant, not prone to anger, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain. Instead he must be hospitable, devoted to what is good, sensible, upright, devout, and self-controlled.
It’s a clear message and comports with the teachings of Jesus. But the qualifications are completely and cynically ignored by the evangelicals in their promotion of a hedonistic, money-grubbing, arrogant, intemperate, undignified, multi-married buffoon.
None more so than Pastor Robert Jeffress. Here’s his philosophy
“Evangelicals knew they weren’t voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump. We supported him because of his policies and his strong leadership.”
It is conservative evangelicalism’s core hypocrisy that while they claim biblical literalism underpins their philosophy they also literally ignore the Bible.
And Jeffress, in an interview with Fox News, makes it perfectly clear that in his estimate Trump’s sins are irrelevant to his suitability as a leader.
“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”
It’s one thing to say that you don’t believe the accusers – or that a man has a right to due process. (Trump’s favorite ‘outs’). But Jeffress bulldozes through those niceties to reveal the cynical expedience of his position — the Bible be damned.
How can he square his support for the unChristian Trump with his supposed adherence to all things biblical? He can’t. And that points to the essential truth of today’s conservative evangelicals. They are not a religious movement. They are a political faction. Their Bible isn’t an instruction manual. It is a blunt tool to accumulate power.
Robert Jeffress has long been a political gadfly. He has no core value beyond “just win baby”. In 2012, he dismissed the Mormon Mitt Romney as a cult member, until his boy, Rick Perry oops’ed himself to failure. At that point, he became a Mitt man in hopes of defeating the thoroughly biblical Barack Obama.
In 2016, he was a Ted Cruz cheerleader. Then on Ted’s political demise, he threw his support to the least Christian man to run for President since we started keeping score. Without shame or hesitation, he embraced the biblical illiterate as his standard bearer. No Trump sin was too large to be expiated — while no Clinton sin was too small to avoid damnation.
This perversion of Christianity doesn’t stop with leadership selection. The poor get knocked down. The foreigner is scorned and spat on. Christ’s demand that his followers shed their wealth is dismissed and the ‘prosperity Gospel’ is created from whole cloth.
Conservative evangelicals support the transfer of wealth to the already wealthy. They despoil God’s creation. They despise the ‘least of these brothers and sisters’. They answer violence with violence. And value war over peace. Jesus spoke no word of nationalism – his was the Kingdom of Heaven. Evangelicals are America Firsters and clutch the symbols of white supremacy.
Conservative evangelicals have wandered so far from the tenets of Christianity that if Jesus were to return today they would dismiss him as a swarthy, foreign socialist.