When Prayer Is Something Else Altogether

Jeremiah (detail). Michelangelo

Note from CM: I will moderate closely today. Mind your Ps and Qs.

• • •

Sunday’s event is a near-perfect embodiment of political evangelicalism in the Age of Trump: It blends Christian nationalism, the idea that the United States has a special place in God’s plans and Trump is God’s agent; social media, where it’s hard to separate the wheat of grassroots support from the chaff of Russian bots; and it has seriously irked Christians who say Graham and others have sold their souls for a mess of political pottage.

Daniel Burke

[Franklin Graham] has found his pearl of great price — the political welfare of Donald Trump — and has sold everything else to buy it.

Michael Gerson

I preached at a local church this past Sunday. Before the service, one of the women I know came up to me and asked me to pray specifically for President Trump in the service. She handed me a press release from Franklin Graham, beseeching Christians to make that Sunday a special day of prayer for our president, who “is under attack” and needs special spiritual protection “from his enemies.”

I have no problem praying for the president, along with all public leaders. In our Lutheran church, the prayers that are prepared for each Sunday always include a section in which we intercede on behalf of them, that they might have wisdom and work for justice and peace in our world. This is a clear N.T. instruction in 1 Timothy 2. So, when I led the pastoral prayer in this other church last Sunday, I prayed for President Trump by name and I prayed for our congressional representatives, our state and local leaders, and governmental leaders around the world, mentioning that we live in a time of political turmoil, and asking God to guide and help all of them.

I’m not sure if that satisfied my friend who had asked me to pray, but that’s the way I approached it.

I certainly did not approach praying for the president the way Franklin Graham called for pastors to do. That was not about prayer, but something else altogether. That was pure partisan politics. It represented the very opposite of the independent, prophetic stance the Bible calls God’s people to take. I can’t imagine Graham would have ever issued such an emergency bulletin to pray for President Obama, the Democratic-led House of Representatives, or anyone else with whom he disagrees politically.

For someone who says he believes the Bible, this is simply unconscionable. The prophets who spoke to kings and other leaders in biblical times did not represent their nation, nor were they cheerleaders for those in power. They represented God and his word alone. They did not assume, even though they may have believed in some fashion that God had “raised up” the ruler, that this meant he must be supported without question.

Michael Gerson, who is himself a person of Christian faith and one who has been severe in his criticism of evangelicals and their support for Trump, wrote that Franklin Graham’s appeal was pure promotion of the president and a betrayal of the gospel.

[T]he Rev. Franklin Graham’s recent declaration of a “special day of prayer for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump” on June 2 had a very different theological flavor. Graham made clear that the real purpose of the event was not to pray for the president, but to pray in his political favor. “President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family and the presidency,” Graham explained. “In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has.” The American Family Association described the day of prayer as a type of “spiritual warfare,” necessary because Trump’s many accomplishments “make him very unpopular with the Devil and the kingdom of darkness.”

Who are the “enemies” that Graham had in mind? Who represents “the kingdom of darkness”? The Democratic Party? Robert Mueller and the “deep state”? Never-Trump Republicans?

However the conspiracy against the president is defined, I suppose I am part of it. Having been accused of serving the Prince of Darkness, I feel justified in making a frank response.

In their day of prayer, Graham and other Trump evangelicals have used a sacred spiritual practice for profane purposes. They have subordinated religion to politics. They have elevated Trump as a symbol of divine purposes. And they are using Christian theology as a cover for their partisanship.

So: This is blasphemy, in service to ideology, leading to idolatry, justified by heresy. All in a Sunday’s work.

If you’ve been reading Internet Monk or my (former) Chaplain Mike Facebook page, you know that I have been unswerving in my opposition to President Trump — since long before the election, by the way — but that is NOT what this post is about.

This is about the ongoing syncretism of God and country in the U.S. through Christian nationalism, and about how Christians with public access like Franklin Graham are calling us to put our hope for divine favor in nationalism and partisan politics, then trying to cover it with piety and prayer.

I happen to think the Bible has a lot to say about that very subject. And nothing positive. Jesus himself stood in the long tradition of Hebrew prophets who stood face to face with rulers and confronted them with unvarnished truth, refusing to subordinate their faith, God’s standards, and the welfare of God’s people to political personalities, patronage, or policies. Like them, Jesus reserved the right to call Herod a “fox” when he deserved it.

I think the fox in this case is the one who’s licking Herod’s boots.

111 thoughts on “When Prayer Is Something Else Altogether

  1. Honestly, it would be easier to name something he’s done that I approve of…Yet, as I sit here, I simply cannot think of one single thing that I could say, “Well, that was nice.” You know, I didn’t approve of GWB’s policies, but I always felt that he was trying to do his best for the country. His family was lovely. He was a decent man. Donald Trump is a whole other anmal. He is a textbook narcissist, a pathological liar (10,000 lies and counting!), completely devoid of empathy, intellectually uncurious, lacking in any moral compass it appears…And, what’s worse, is that he’s brought a whole host of grifters and bad actors with him to Washington. Even after Trump is gone, we’ll be cleaning up the damage for decades to come.


  2. I read National Vanguard, Stormfront, American Renaissance, ZeroHedge, and the Landover Baptist Forums.


  3. And I actually think that under such a broad definition, the Catholic group that Dana in a comment above called integralists would be included.


  4. Christians who believe that society, and ultimately the whole earth, should and will be governed according to various particular interpretations of Biblical law, and who take political steps to accomplish that goal. Dominionism is a catch-all phrase that is used to describe a number of different such groups, each with its own specific understanding and program. What they all have in common is that they intend to use political means to institute a theonomous society and nation.


  5. They are now in the process of taking away funding for legal representation, education, and recreation for the apprehended undocumented children. Imagine a five year old going before a judge without a lawyer, or not being given opportunity to play of doors and forget her situation for a little while each day. Sadism against children in the name of rule of law.


  6. a nation of ‘Christians’ would not tolerate the way the refugees are being detained and tormented whereas a nation of white supremacists posing as ‘Christians’ would have no trouble with it


  7. I would also say that the integralists are far more intellectually subtle and sophisticated than the Dominionists, though that makes the outcomes they seek somehow even more odious.


  8. its worse than that . . . . gangs, intimidation, girls forced into prostitution, children bullied and brutalized and when old enough forced to join a gang, bribes must be paid for any form of ‘protection’, and there is no where to turn and no one to turn to . . . it’s beyond ‘violence’

    who can blame people for seeking asylum especially if they have children ?


  9. I’d never heard that term before, Dana, but having just looked it up, yes, it fits the bill quite nicely. Thank you; it is a handy and accurate description of what I was referring to. And one of the outcomes that overlaps between it and and Dominionism is a that they support a resurgence of extreme nationalism (on the part of Dominionism I would say that this is a side-effect rather than an explicit goal).


  10. Even if they are breaking the law, that does not give us the right to that them like animals and purposefully break up families. Find me on reference from the New Testament that shows Jesus would approve of that. And besides which, their homelands are in terrible shape. Famine, economic depression, violence… what do you expect them to do? Sit on their hands and die?


  11. I didn’t know a thing about this. It does not surprise me, but it does make me sad beyond words, and a little angry, and very grateful I exited the evangelical circus years ago.


  12. Eyeore U mean the people willing to break laws and risk their children to get into USA like they did Nazi Germany , Commie Russia Commie China, Cuba etc. R u serious or putting me on?

    I will have Trump pray for you.


  13. Ask the people being detained and abused at the border whether or not the difference between us and the old European fascists is anything but academic.


  14. Hey Christiane, I know it’s later where you are, but one more thing…

    I’d make a differentiation between the Rushdoony-influenced hardcore Dominionists/Christian Reconstructionists and The Family – even though they may have related goals and similarly unscrupulous tactics. Besides that, the conditions Sharlet documented in his book have changed in the last number of years as people have become more aware of spiritual abuse, and the social climate in general is different.

    I happen to be personally acquainted with one of the married couples (now in their 80s and away from D.C. for +25 years) who were among those who started The Fellowship group in D.C. There’s not a Dominionist bone in them (nor are they anti-Catholic, btw). Their purpose in starting the group was not to wield power, but to encourage Christian legislators and others in the gov’t to pray and study the Bible together, so that they would be supported in their efforts to bring their ethical and moral sensibilities to their work for the public good, whatever that work was. Of course, as good Evangelicals they also hoped they could “lead people to the Lord”. What they wanted in the beginning was not power, but a benign influence. That was back in the day (only 40 or so years ago, but light years away from where we are now) when it was okay for a government employee to be a religious person, and there was still a modicum of consensus among and about Christians in this country – though dwindling and changing even then, with politics on the rise. Coe took the group in a vastly different direction – as often happens, he turned it into another personality cult.

    You have a great weekend too!



  15. The political establishment has welcomed Trump with open arms. The Republican-controlled Senate has acted as little more than Trump’s rubber stamp since he took office. The upper-class power brokers (business owners, the 1%) are thrilled with Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and his systematic destruction of the government’s regulatory oversight. They continue to pour millions of $$ into his re-election coffers. So really, the biggest opposition has come from the grassroots…people like me, who’ve protested and campaigned against an administration that seems counter to everything I believe in. We march, we write, we call…We do everything we can to stop him because he deserves opposition for his terrible, terrible policies.

    BTW, I believe Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy would beg to differ with your phrase, “this President has had the vile and vicious oppositioon of any president in my lifetime and perhaps history….”


  16. I think the people you’re referencing, Robert, are called “integrationists”. They have different influences than the Dominionists, though the outcomes both groups seek to implement look similar.



  17. I don’t think there are a lot of NAR people with access to Trump; most of them are of the wrong economic and social class to have any political clout, esp in Wash. DC., and their following is small. Just because they are Trumpists doesn’t mean they agree with other Trumpists, or have the same goals in view, even if they all claim to be Christians.

    I don’t think those who currently have power and call themselves “conservatives” would be recognized as conservatives by those of my parents’ generation. My parents were lifelong Democrats, but they had plenty of Republican friends. They rarely got into political discussions except with close family members, and when there was the even rarer heated disagreement, nobody walked away in a huff thinking that the other person was evil.



  18. I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying, and I’m not trying to pick on Catholics. I’m just pointing out that certain aspects of bad religion, for instance how it shades over into ethno-nationalism, are as much a problem in Catholicism as in any other part of Christianity. These are problems of bad religion, and bad Christianity, rather than problems of Protestantism, Evangelicalism, or Catholicism.


  19. yeah, Robert, we Catholics are a bad lot . . . . inconsistent, all-over-the-place opinionated, frequently obnoxious, and almost always living at odds with the ideal Christianity of the saints, but He loves us anyway

    so Catholic advisors around Trump . . . . the evil Bannon, not sure he’s still ‘in the Church’ by his own confession, but God loves him anyway; assorted other bad hats licking the T’s boots and fawning in order to get a pat on the head . . . .

    BUT THEN there’s Pelosi, and Biden, and Chuck Schumer . . . oh wait . . . Shumer is Jewish, but that is a close enough cousin to the Catholics, so let him stay in the lot with all the rest

    Let’s face it, with two billion Catholics on this Earth, you will probably find some just about any where, including the Oval Office . . . . good grief, Robert F., the truth is as diverse as we are, we Catholics are bonded to the human race with all of its foibles . . . but God loves us anyway


  20. Eyesore. Are you seriously comparing the USA with what fascist nation? Wow a little over the top I would say. Shock jock talk give some facts or I will ask F Graham to pray for you and Trump


  21. And yet a number of the nationalist movements in Europe right now (Poland, Hungary, Italy) are being led by Roman Catholics who see a return to national identity rooted in Catholicism as an important part of their movements. Indeed, it is with these and reactionary bishops that Bannon is making his common cause.


  22. >I don’t think the Dominionists are in play among the people surrounding DT.

    I read recently that there are a quite a few influential post-liberal Catholic advisors in Trump’s White House, of the same stripe that are leading the way to illiberal so-called Christian democracy in Hungary (Viktor Orban), Poland, Italy (Salvini), and other places in Europe.


  23. “the demographics and changing society of America means that what is now called conservative in America has won the battle for a while but completely lost the war.”

    As was the case with the fascist governments in Europe. They eventually lost… but they caused much grief, sorrow and bloodshed before they were dragged kicking and screaming from the stage of history.


  24. I agree. There are definitely not enough beleaguered rural Americans to have delivered the Trump election, and many of his voters were definitely affluent and suburban.


  25. Hey Dana,

    thanks for responding

    you wrote, “For all their, uhm, oddities, the Dominionists at least have a religious reference point and supposedly want to see people brought to Christ.”

    I think at the core of the ‘leadership’ of all Dominionism and ‘Christian Reconstructionism’ is a desire for control and for authoritarian power. So I guess I see them differently.

    I do remember the term ‘Conservative Democrat’ and the Dixiecrats in the South! Yep, I’m that old. 🙂
    My father was a reserved conservative Catholic man. He passed about ten years ago. It would have really bothered him to see what is happening these days. I often think of my father when I hear the news, how he might have reacted.

    Times have changed. The word ‘conservative’ no longer means what it used to mean. I wish it did.

    Thanks again for communicating. Have a great weekend! 🙂


  26. If a leader of a denomination calls for an action or prayer I do not believe is needed or that is even wrong, what do I care. Pope Francis calls for many prayers and actions on issues that I do not politically or socially agree with, I do not get upset. President Obama went to a church headed by Rev. Wright for years, granted for political reasons, Rev. Wright called for actions evem Obama did not agree with but he stayed in the church, until politically he had to leave.

    Bottom line the evangelicals, the Catholics, the Jewish community, Muslims etc. all use their power to gain and keep a seat at the table. If Robert F. and AdamTW were not aware of the major push of Graham what impact does it have in the real world? They are usually aware of current events and if they were not aware than most Americans and evangelcals were not. That most here and perhaps most in the world do not agree with the Franklin Graham approach is good and proper for them .. That is the whole essence of freedom of speech and to some degree relgion.

    I do , like Graham , believe this President has had the vile and vicous opposition of any President in my lifetime and perhaps history. The political establishment and press has “resisited” Trump from electon night on. Graham and the others have been given much real ammo to load into their Trump is being attacked unfairly . Use to be an old saying, God protects drunks, babies and the United States of America, it just shows that Americans that believed USA was blessed by God is not a new thought. American is not a theoracy , not a Christian nation but is still , barely, a nation of Christians.

    However for all the angst and worry , the demographics and changing society of America means that what is now called conservative in America has won the battle for a while but completely lost the war. It will be a brave new world. Graham will have as much influence as the Amish community in a few years or even less than the CNN religous reporter, who must have a lonely job.


  27. Check the link anonymous posted above. The difference between the two groups is nowhere near as stark as you may wish, unfortunately.


  28. Sheets is an out and out dominionist. He believes Christianity has the right, and the mandate from God, to impose “Christian” laws and morality on all of society, by force if necessary.


  29. Christiane,

    I don’t think the Dominionists are in play among the people surrounding DT. For all their, uhm, oddities, the Dominionists at least have a religious reference point and supposedly want to see people brought to Christ. The people Eeyore is talking about are simply about grabbing and wielding naked power, as far as I know. They are not true conservatives in the pre-Reagan/culture war era understanding of the word.

    There are plenty of conservatives with a moral center (some Evangelicals among them as well) who are wringing their hands over DT and the direction of the current Republican Party, but have been shut out of both major parties and have no platform from which to speak, unless they happen to be columnists in major publications. (I know you’re old enough to remember that now probably extinct species, Conservative Democrat…my parents were that).



  30. Dutch Sheets said, “We must realize that we are God’s governing force on the earth, which have been given keys of authority from Him to legislate from the spiritual realm.”

    Sheets has also maintained that both the Department of Justice and the FBI are trying to destroy Trump’s presidency, a belief also recently espoused by the Rev. Franklin Graham. “We will operate in our kingdom authority while there, breaking the back of this attempt to render President Trump ineffective,” Sheets wrote in early February on his blog at dutchsheets.org. “We will decree the exposing and failure of all attempts to sabotage his presidency. We will release favor over him, enabling him to accomplish everything for which God sent him to the White House — including the turning of the Supreme Court! President Trump will fulfill all of God’s purposes for him.”


  31. when it comes to mixing politics with Christian Dominionism,
    there is a history that goes back to Doug Coe and his group, ‘The Family’:

    “Sinclair Lewis’s novel, It Can’t Happen Here published in 1935 tells the story of an American President who systematically strips the constitution of its democratic powers and becomes a fascist dictator. The belief that it can’t happen here is as much an icon of American mythology as the American Dream.

    But there is another icon that is also steeped in the American mythos and is actively at work to ensure that it can indeed happen here even while proclaiming that it cannot. Jeff Sharlet, author of the controversial book: The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power tells of a religious cult that is at once all American and also a dangerous religious movement that will, if allowed to prosper, dismantle what we have called American Democracy and replace it with a theocracy more powerful and perhaps even more regressive than the Taliban”



  32. But again, as I pointed out below, in this case the base is outrunning the national “leadership”. They’ve lost control of the train.


  33. “Some conservatives – not all, by any means, probably not even most – hijacked Trump’s popularity and are using him”

    That may have been their intention. But the irony is, now most of them are either out in the political wilderness, or cravenly pandering to him out of fear of the Republican voting base that is utterly loyal to him. Those conservative “leaders” spent decades whipping up that base – and lost control of it. Now they’re tied to the back of the rampaging beast.


  34. I doubt they will overturn R v W because they will lose an issue to stir up the base. The promise to overturn is just a carrot on the stick and will remain that way. If they wanted to ban abortion they could have done it during the the time the Republicans controlled all three branches of government in 2017 and 2018. But for them it is only a powerful issue to stir up the culture wars and get out the vote.


  35. Well in the old Soviet Union opposition to the state ideology was considered a real mental illness too. So one needs to be real careful about this I think. For myself, I am highly against fundamentalist theology but there seems to be danger in characterizing those one disagrees with as mentally ill.


  36. People who have known him for a long time are unanimous that his presidential bid in 2016 (after having talked about it for years) was his attempt to revitalize “The Apprentice” and force NBC to renew it and offer him a larger salary.

    This will go down in history as one of the biggest cases of Unintended Consequences of a Publicity Stunt.

    Right up there with the one about an American newspaper hoax (for the ratings) sparking The Boxer Rebellion in 1900 China.


  37. When we look back at this period of history, I think we’re going to recognize that if Trump accomplished nothing else, he at least managed to hold up a mirror that forced us to look at the truth about ourselves.

    And torpedoed the cozy arrangement about stacking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade that the GOP has been using to string along the Christian vote for the past 30+ years. They could have strung them along for an entire century if Trump hadn’t gone and actually DID it.


  38. When it comes to Prophetic Witness, remember the difference between False and True Prophets:

    The False Prophet tells the King what the King WANTS to hear.
    The True Prophet tells the King what the King NEEDS to hear.


  39. I think David Platt handled an awkward situation very well.

    Most of the blog coverage I’ve read agrees with you.

    Platt got surprised by a sticky situation, had to handle it as best he could, and pulled it off.

    And the usually bombastic Trump was uncharacteristically quiet and passive onstage.

    I wonder what private conversation Platt had with him backstage.


  40. I agree with the people who point out that Donald Trump is a symptom.

    It’s very clear where his concerns lie: getting ratings (focus on numbers). People who have known him for a long time are unanimous that his presidential bid in 2016 (after having talked about it for years) was his attempt to revitalize “The Apprentice” and force NBC to renew it and offer him a larger salary. Some conservatives – not all, by any means, probably not even most – hijacked Trump’s popularity and are using him, but he’s deeply in “de Nile” about being used because of his own insecurities and ego.

    Our current political tribalism is another symptom.

    It behooves us to do some soul-searching about what’s underneath those symptoms.



  41. Franklin Graham is NOT a man like his father.

    There’s a reason “Rags to Riches to Rags in Three Generations” is a folk proverb in both English and Chinese.


  42. Don’t worry.
    There’s another Trump Adoration Day coming up on July 4.


  43. I would like to have an open mind about this, as we are instructed to pray for those in authority over us. But there is prayer, and there is “prayer”.
    I’ve been attempting to reconcile a “special day of prayer” with protecting President Trump from his “enemies.” People are encouraged to pray a combination of hedge-of-protection prayers for him, and imprecatory prayers against his enemies(?). Its not up to me to diagnose Franklin Graham’s motives; but I am also instructed to discern. After 2016, there was the mid-term election and Franklin’s Decision America focused on cities where Republicans needed support. The choice of name itself reminds me of the “I Love America” rallies Jerry Falwell Sr. ran in the 1970’s: political evangelism. And then there is the encomium variety of prayer that Paula White offered, “History will record the greatness that you have brought for generations.” She meant the President, not God. Franklin was at that White House dinner; the news showed him having a good chat with Kenneth Copeland. I see “prophets” and “profits”, but am looking in vain for prophetic witness here….
    While praying for our leaders, we should be praying for more Mark Hatfields, speaking truth to power like he was lead to do with Nixon at the 1973 National Prayer Breakfast. Jerry Falwell, THAT is what growing a pair really looks like.


  44. As for your second question re: right-wing material… I do monitor First Things, NR and the Bulwark on a regular basis. Anything to the right of them is… well, just nuts.


  45. I’ve read Ann Coulter’s stuff. OMG

    Obviously she is a professional instigator, paid well to be a strident harpie who stirs the pot,
    but a lot of people take her straight,

    same with Hannity and whats-her-name Ingraham


  46. in Billy’s day, a union man could get a salary that saw his kids through college and gave him a pension, but without strong unions people are at the mercy of greedy corporations and the only ‘profit’ is going to stock holders and corporate heads who get enormous golden parachutes for keeping the ‘workers’ in their ‘place’

    after a while, even that greed gives way to moving a company overseas for even cheaper labor, a move paid for by tax payers and this is STILL going on


  47. > And probably some people on the progressive side are facing similar choices

    No. People like to try to see it that way; but the Progressive side really works differently – internally – than the Conservative side.

    First, “Progressive Christianity” is a whisper in the wind. On the Conservative side Evangelicalism is a Power Bloc. On the Progressive side that simply isn’t true.

    Second, Conservatism is inherently solidarity oriented, Progressivism is oriented toward Diversity. There will never be the same level of internal agreement which one can clearly see regarding Priorities – – – and Priorities are more important than Values or Ideology. People can agree on W, X, Y and Z; but if we disagree on if X or Z are more important, that matters.

    Progressivism is a m-u-c-h larger tent than Conservatism; and many of the tribes therein are small. Within just my own city there are easily fifty progressive groups whereas Conservatives break down into 4 – 5 pretty strong affiliations: [CofC/Fiscals, Libertarians, Evangelicals, White Supremacists, and Paleos]. Aside from the Libertarians the Conservative factions have remarkable cross-loyalty, they are very slow to critique each other publicly. The Progressive groups on the other hand will pitch each other under the bus without batting an eye.


  48. I highly doubt Al Jazeera counts as “pushing the imperial narrative”. 😉 It’s not like any mainstream US news outlets actually cover Latin America anyways. :-/


  49. “The liberals where the Methodists and Anglicans, and interestingly enough, the Catholic church.”

    I had to smile when I read that, Klasie.
    Most people don’t realize this about the Catholic Church which is devoted to ‘social justice’ as a moral issue deeply rooted in the Holy Gospels of Our Lord. It is said that soon Steve Bannon will come to Italy to disrupt and attempt to destroy Pope Francis’ work. Supposedly Bannon is using the child abuse reasoning for this move, but the truth is that Francis is not a friend to the alt-right or to white supremacy, and I suspect greatly that Bannon is on the move for reasons tied to Francis’ social justice support. While Francis is in this world, Bannon will not rest. ‘Strangely’, was a good word, Klasie. It is strange, isn’t it? I agree. And I am thrilled to hear it. 🙂



  50. Corruption is mixed up in it. The unelected president is neck-deep in bribes and awash in EU baksheesh, yet even with abysmal polling numbers he seems hell-bent (choice of words deliberate) on pushing this unpopular agenda.

    I’m not surprised it hasn’t made a ripple in the stream coming from your panopticon. The imperial narrative of personal “liberation” (autonomy) going from triumph to triumph suffers no rivals. My sister-in-law, though, is neck deep in it and sends us videos and broadcasts from Evangelical TV.

    You strike me as someone who needs to get out of your neighborhood more. I read The Nation, Daily Kos, and Mother Jones frequently. Do you read any ‘right-wing’ material?


  51. Here I see no split, but increased solidarity in the church [which, interesting, people describe as “divisiveness”].


  52. I spend my young adulthood among Evangelicals. And I completely failed to understand them; although it is obvious now.

    Also sad.


  53. This reminds me so much of the South Africa I grew up in, back in the eighties. Christian Nationalism was the ethos, preached from many a pulpit and government office. There it was the conservative/fundamentalist side of the church that worshipped the State, and the liberals that fought against apartheid. Conservative implies Reformed, Evangelicals, and to a remarkably lesser extent, Pentecostals and similar. The liberals where the Methodists and Anglicans, and interestingly enough, the Catholic church.

    What is interesting though is that part of the final decline of apartheid was the growing split in the Dutch Reformed Churches – and when the NG Kerk, the main Reformed denomination, started questioning apartheid, its fate was sealed.


  54. > Even people whose own lives are quite secure may still be viewing the
    > world as a scary place,

    So this. It is as fascinating as it is frustrating. Many of my coworkers, economically successful suburbanites, view the world as perilous – teetering on the edge of anarchy. While spending weekends at their lake houses playing with their boats.

    > people whose lives are difficult may still be approaching the world from a basic attitude of trust

    The disadvantaged urban neighborhoods in my city are some of the happiest places.

    > someone who is constantly exposed to a news source that reinforces that “the world is
    > dangerous” perspective is going to shift farther and farther in that direction over time

    Yep, and they will select that news source as anyone suggesting otherwise [myself included] is being absurd.


  55. ” . . . Jesus reserved the right to call Herod a “fox” when he deserved it.
    I think the fox in this case is the one who’s licking Herod’s boots. ”

    “We think of Him as safe beneath the steeple,
    Or cosy in a crib beside the font,
    But He is with a million displaced people
    On the long road of weariness and want.

    For even as we sing our final carol
    His family is up and on that road,
    Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,
    Glancing behind and shouldering their load.

    Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower
    Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,
    The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,
    And death squads spread their curse across the world.

    But every Herod dies, and comes alone
    To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.”

    (Malcolm Guite, ‘Refugee’)


  56. I grew up among evangelicals and I find this all very sad. They bought a pig in a poke in a misguided attempt to curry favor and they’ve shamed and destroyed themselves.


  57. Their true allegiance has certainly been made plain to outside observers. Inside… there’s still large waterflows from a major river in Egypt. :-/


  58. It really comes down to a psychological difference in how people perceive the world. Conservatives tend to think that bad things that happen – violent crime, kidnapping, “home invasions,” etc. – are the “truth” about a dangerous and threatening world, whereas liberals see the world as generally safe and those events as exceptions to the rule.

    That mindset isn’t always a reflection of someone’s personal situation. Even people whose own lives are quite secure may still be viewing the world as a scary place, and even people whose lives are difficult may still be approaching the world from a basic attitude of trust. And, those mindsets can change – for example, someone who is constantly exposed to a news source that reinforces that “the world is dangerous” perspective is going to shift farther and farther in that direction over time.

    Meanwhile, violent crime in the US is near an all-time low, and many of the ways that people respond to fear – e.g. by owning guns – statistically bring more danger into their lives than the threats that they are trying to defend against. But decisions based on fear are seldom rational.


  59. I remember Bush One and how he was so popular when he was elected . . . then the economy crashed, my husband’s job went with it, and ours and every third house around the lake were up for sale and Bush One lost the second term election . . .

    reality does make a difference . . . except we are dealing with something else here that is a matter of deeper concern for me than our economy and that is where we are and who we are morally as a nation, and I am worried deeply and at times weeping over the plight of innocent people in our country who are being made to suffer in inhumane ways.

    The horror of the plight of the border children and little ones breaks my heart. We will in time come to know just how dreadful it has been for them and I hope we will repent the hell we are putting them through, especially the littles who have no way to defend themselves. For those among us in this country who realize that this is a moral wrong of epic proportions, let us not be silent or be intimidated into silence . For those who have no compassion for the suffering of children, we can only pray, but they are as Ted has so wisely said, best left to the hand of God for their own healing. We all await God’s mercy. The shadow will pass.

    I fear for our military young men and women. They are our national treasure. They are at risk as lions for lambs and I am already grieving for the terror to come. They will pay the worst price for the whims of capricious unstable people. My son, my nephew, my niece, you are the gold and silver of our family. May God protect you now.


  60. When we look back at this period of history, I think we’re going to recognize that if Trump accomplished nothing else, he at least managed to hold up a mirror that forced us to look at the truth about ourselves. In particular, he has helped conservative Christians to discover whether their primary allegiance is to Christian morality or to conservative ideology. (And probably some people on the progressive side are facing similar choices, but among progressive Christians most people already recognized that neither political party was really serving the cause of Christ.)


  61. The news I’ve seen out of Peru hasn’t hinted at any outrage over social imperialism. Lots of outrage at the corruption, certainly…


  62. There is nothing inherently wrong in Franklin Graham’s call for prayer. It’s up to us to second-guess his motives, and we could be wrong.

    In 2016, the year leading up to the election, Franklin Graham went on a 50-state tour to rally prayer for our country, and this was said to be non-partisan. My former pastor went to the rally here in Maine, and he too believed it to be “non-partisan.” But again, it’s up to us to second-guess Graham’s motives.

    On November 10, 2016, immediately after Trump’s win, Graham said this on his Facebook page. It would take a lawyer to insist that Graham was non-partisan:

    Hundreds of thousands of Christians from across the United States have been praying. This year they came out to every state capitol to pray for this election and for the future of America. Prayer groups were started. Families prayed. Churches prayed. Then Christians went to the polls, and God showed up.

    While the media scratches their heads and tries to understand how this happened, I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.

    Certainly God’s hand was on this. Romans 13, after all. But sometimes God’s hand is in giving us up to our own sins, as in Romans chapter one.


  63. I think David Platt handled an awkward situation very well. Very odd the way the president and the White House handled the Day of Prayer, and it does look like a last-minute attempt at the White House to cash in on Franklin Graham’s day of prayer for the president. How could they not have heard about the occasion beforehand? I mean, the president showed up late, nearly unannounced, to an afternoon service, in golf clothes. And then they tried to put a spin on that.


  64. https://www.walkjesus.org/single-post/2019/05/29/Pray-for-the-President

    My thoughts when Franklin Graham first posted about the “Day of Prayer”. Now that it’s done with, I think that David Platt, the pastor at McLean Bible Church where the President showed up with no notice for said prayer, did the best he could (https://thewayofimprovement.com/2019/06/03/david-platt-of-mclean-bible-church-responds-to-trumps-visit/). This whole “event” has distressed me and made me glad, yet again, that I’m not part of the Evangelical circus any longer. Yet, it makes me so sad. And I’m sure Jesus is also sad. Thank you for your work on this, CM.


  65. In Peru especially, but in South America generally, there has been a movement afoot to indoctrinate schoolage children into the tenets of the Sexual Revolution. Why, and from whence I have no idea, but my wife claims it is being funded “by the Europeans” through UNESCO. Since Peruvians, speaking broadly, lack our particular Anglo-Saxon propaganda skills for dressing up dead rat as Sunday dinner, the effects of introducing into the curriculum of fourth and fifth graders graphic explanations of the mechanics of gay sex has been seismic. The President of Peru is very close to losing his seat over this, something I wish would happen in Venezuela.

    The growing Protestant minority, now estimated to be over one-third and mostly Pentecostal/Charismatic, has been at the forefront against this top-down imposition of The Ideology of Gender (ideologia de genero), but the conservative Catholics haven’t been far behind. The way I interpret it is that whoever is promoting these policies has been trying to implement in a matter of years what has taken over a generation to do in the US; first you get the cool kids on your side, then you get them to sneer at the rest.

    And yes, the protests have taken the form of prayer meetings. Very large prayer meetings of hundreds of thousands.


  66. Contrary to mythos a very large share of Trump’s base is affluent and suburban.

    Even with the Electoral College there are not enough beleaguered rural Americans to deliver state wide elections to anyone.

    The economic plight is very real. But now that lots of data has come in, settled, and been sorted; it seems clear this was a cultural election more than an economic one.


  67. The lack of knowledge and reflection in Evangelicalism is so frustrating.

    Billy Graham: “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.”

    It takes more than rose colored glasses, it is a serious editing of history. Evangelicalism has been a well funded agent of The Right from the beginning; there has been nothing subtle about this relationship. How can the lack of any commentary on it by Evangelical leadership be taken as anything other than an endorsement? And now here we are.

    It may be an upside that at this point the leash is in plain sight? Maybe we can finally cut it?


  68. And on top of all this, they have to reckon with a culture that no longer blithely assumes the same things are OK that many of them take as (God-)given. And the racial demographics are shifting under their feet.


  69. Agreed. Evangelicals mostly look at Graham Sr. through rose-colored glasses. But he set an example that Graham Jr. just followed through to it’s logical conclusion.


  70. When I heard the announcement for a special day prayer for Trump, I was troubled. I have many friends who are Trump enthusiast and embody the Christian nationalism ideology.

    Unfortunately, there is much ado about Trump among many evangelicals and this hype of “lets pray for Trump” as you well said is a distraction that leads away from the heart of the Gospel. This is a serious concern when Christian leaders promote political ideology as Biblical integrity.

    I’m glad to see that there are voices speaking up and addressing the contradictions.

    Thanks for this post CM,


  71. Like Robert, I must hang out in all the wrong places. I never heard a word of this and wonder if you would have heard if not for receiving the flyer. To me it’s much ado about nothing and I will stay happily ignorant of all this crap.


  72. For many Americans the so-called American Dream in this “land of plenty” has stalled. They are working harder than they’ve ever worked, they are holding down more than one job, they are paying more for things then they ever have, their livelihood and lifestyle, such as it is, can be swamped and overturned on the basis of one catastrophic illness, they don’t have anything like adequate savings for retirement, in fact, 40% of them don’t have enough money saved to pay for a $400 unforeseen/emergency expense! For many Americans, things are indeed desperate.


  73. Franklin is the next logical step from his father.

    1972, B. Graham, Nixon, & H.R. Haldeman; speaking of Jew’s control of the media, Mr. Graham: “””“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,””””

    They have the same affiliations, and draw funding from the same coffers (Sid Richardson, Oiltown? Paul Saber?)

    B. Graham repented in later life, but his son is walking the path of his father.


  74. Same, I was unaware until I bumped in the furor yesterday (Thursday).
    It is strange, as we’ve been here for awhile.


  75. there are thousands and thousands of ‘true believers’ in Trump which is a symptom of something that is desperate in ‘the land of plenty’

    why so much desperation?


  76. I wonder why no prominent Christian leader has ever called for a National Day of Prayer for our enemies, however we may define them, personally or nationally. We don’t seem to spend much time praying for our enemies, even though Jesus gave us that command. Maybe we as the gathered church should start.


  77. Gee, I’m really glad that I missed any word of this Franklin Graham sponsored “Special Day of Prayer” for the president on June 2. I never heard anything about it or of its existence until this morning in this blog post. I guess God was smiling on me.


  78. An unmoderated response to this would, I suspect, involve a lot of swearing.
    I am fortunate not to be a Christian in the US, not because Christians are being persecuted (hah!) but because to be known to be a Christian in the US would be to thought to be something like Franklin Graham, and I would be ashamed. Even here in the UK the taint sticks to an extent, but it is not so bad. Franklin Graham is a “scandal” in the old fashioned sense of behaviour that encourages sin and brings Christianity itself into disrepute.
    In Europe in the 1950s Christianity enjoyed a revival, and churches were fuller than they has been for a long while, and chances in the Franklin Graham mode built up right wing “Christian Democrat” or similar parties on the back of it to seek political power. These enjoyed a temporary heyday and dominated politics across Europe for a time, then crashed and burned, and when they did they largely took Christianity in Europe with them. The US is, for once, behind the trend, but I suspect you are now seeing the same thing there. (You are conforming to stereotype by doing it faster, bigger and more garishly, though.)
    If Christianity is true, then it will survive, however. Ours is a resurrection faith, and perhaps needs to die to its sins in order to be born again. Perhaps when Franklin Graham’s version of Christianity implodes, and their (sadly worldwide) influence fades, recovery can begin. It’s nice to see e.g. the Democrat candidate Pete Buttigieg* displaying a Christianity that is poles apart from Franklin Graham, so people know it’s out there, and there are plenty of seeds (such as websites like this one) from which a renewed Christianity may grow.
    *Disclaimer: It’s not my election, I’m not saying anything about his candidacy and other (and from what I have seen potentially excellent) candidates are available, it’s just nice to see someone putting out there a different version of Christianity from the Franklin Graham kind that gets all the airtime.


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