Michael Spencer’s Prophetic Words Personified
Read “What I Saw at the Jericho March,” by Rod Dreher
Note from CM: During these last few weeks here at Internet Monk, I will be writing posts that focus on a few of the primary themes we’ve focused on over the years, giving my latest thoughts and perspectives on them. We start today with an update on what Michael called “the evangelical circus,” a religious culture of shallow spectacle that he thought would “collapse” within ten years after he wrote his most famous posts. In other words, in these days.
In my view, American evangelicalism, especially with regard to its political alignments and public postures, has moved into areas of craziness (greatly accelerated by Trumpism) that even Michael could not have foreseen. The following article by Rod Dreher describes a movement that is characterized by the worst of gnostic dualism, religious nationalism, New Apostolic Reformation theocratic views, dispensational eschatology, and pentecostal enthusiasm. To be sure, there are many, many faithful evangelical churches that are quietly going about their business and helping people in their faith. But the public leadership of the movement and a broad endorsement of Trumpism, conspiracies, and a zero-sum approach to public life has drawn many even less fanatical evangelicals into a heightened culture war that is ugly and dangerous.
Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes. Evangelicals will become synonymous with those who oppose the direction of the culture in the next several decades. That opposition will be increasingly viewed as a threat, and there will be increasing pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society.
The investment of evangelicals in the culture war will prove out to be one of the most costly mistakes in our history. The coming evangelical collapse will come about, largely, because our investment in moral, social and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. We’re going to find out that being against gay marriage and rhetorically pro-life (yes, that’s what I said) will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith.
• Michael Spencer – 2009
Can I get a witness?
Yes, we most certainly can, because Rod Dreher was willing to subject himself to six hours of the mania that has overtaken the public face of American evangelicalism. Dreher writes about watching Saturday’s “The Jericho March” in the article linked above, and if each successive paragraph of his piece doesn’t make your mouth drop a bit wider and cause your head to shake with a growing dread that the inmates have taken charge of the asylum, then I don’t know what to say.
American evangelicalism is a mess. It may not have “collapsed” exactly, which is the word Michael Spencer used eleven years ago. However, it has clearly taken the “evangelical circus” (another of the iMonk’s descriptors) to levels heretofore unimaginable. If people like Eric Metaxas and others whom Dreher observed at the “Jericho March” in Washington on Saturday are at all representative of today’s evangelical culture, then we can stop singing “Send in the Clowns.” They are here, and they are running the show.
The “evangelical mind” — always a concept on the edge of being an oxymoron — has fallen clean off the cliff. Note some of these descriptions from Dreher’s article:
- “It was a Trump rally by Christians (and sympathetic Jews) designed to mimic the Biblical story of the Israelite army ritually marching around the walled city of Jericho, blowing the shofar, and watching as God demolished the city’s defenses, so the Israelites could conquer. The idea of the Jericho March is that the true believers would circle the corrupt institutions of the US Government, the ones promulgating the hoax that Trump lost the election.”
- “Festivities began with a large American-born Israeli man whose website is Shofar So Great, who says he received a blessing from his Orthodox rabbi to break Shabbat so he could fly to Washington and blow the shofar at the Jericho March, because it’s that important to support Donald Trump….Then he blew a special red, white, and blue shofar made especially for You Know Who. He referred to it as the ‘Trump Shofar.'”
- “He was followed onto the stage by a woman in a Women For Trump t-shirt, who praised “Yeshua ha Mashiach” — Jesus the Messiah — and sang the Star Spangled Banner.”
- “‘Hallelujah’ is American for ‘praise the Lord!’” said Eric [Metaxas].”
- “‘When God gives you a vision, you don’t need to know anything else,’ said Eric, who then asked people to use the price code ERIC when they buy a MyPillow.com product.”
- “Next came the MyPillow king, Mike Lindell. He spoke about all the prophetic visions and dreams he had about Donald Trump.”
- “Metaxas came onstage after Lindell spoke, and told the crowd that the president’s helicopter, Marine One, would soon be hovering above the crowd. It was a Felliniesque moment: Trump descending from on high to bless the mighty throng. ‘Praise God!’ says Metaxas. ‘Thank you Jesus! God bless America! … That’s not the Messiah, that’s just the President.’”
- “A man who is one of the founders of the Jericho March — I didn’t get his name — took the stage to explain how it came about. God poked him in the side one night as he slept, waking him up. ‘God said it’s not over,’ the man told the crowd. Then God showed him a literal vision of the Jericho Marches. Then God introduced him to a woman — standing there at his side — who had had the very same vision!
And what shall I say of the Colorado priest who prayed down heaven to deliver America from demons? An opera singer singing “Ave Maria”? Convicted and pardoned criminal Gen. Michael Flynn announcing that the people will decide this election, not the courts (what was he hinting at?) — after first testifying to how MyPillow gives him the best night’s sleep? Arch-conservative Archbishop Vigano proclaiming, “Trump is a holy crusade!”?
And on. And on. And on.
Manic spokesman and batshit crazy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars infamy brought the rally to a climax: “‘GOD IS ON OUR SIDE!’ he bellowed. Then: ‘We will never bow down to the Satanic pedophile New World Order!'”
There’s more, but I’m worn out just reading through this litany of brainless idiocy.
In summary, here is the impression Rod Dreher (Christian, conservative) had of the evangelicalism on display Saturday:
They are saints, charged by God to fight the pedophile Deep Staters, the Marxists, the Democrats, those who doubt Trump and who stab him in the back. They will create heaven on earth. I heard it myself from the stage at the Jericho March.
…Yes, it is bonkers. All of it. But you would be wrong to make fun of it and blow it off. This phenomenon is going to matter. Divinizing MAGA and Stop The Steal is going to tear churches to bits, and drive people away from the Christian faith (or keep them from coming in the first place). Based on what I saw today, the Christians in this movement do not doubt that Trump is God’s chosen, that they, by following him, are walking in light, and whatever they do to serve Trump is also serving God. They have tightly wound apocalyptic religion to conservative politics and American nationalism.
“We have to align our spirituality to our politics,” said [one] speaker today. Notice that she didn’t say “align our politics to our spirituality.” Politics determines spirituality.
In my view, and according to Michael Spencer’s prescient pieces forecasting evangelicalism’s collapse, this has happened because the “spirituality” itself was suspect in the first place.
A “spirituality” that has no respect for tradition and is not historically informed.
A blatantly syncretistic “spirituality” that is more nationalistic than anything else.
A “spirituality” that has a deficient understanding of what the Bible is and what it’s for.
A “spirituality” that has more in common with gnosticism than with orthodox Christianity.
A “spirituality” that is incapable of recognizing its cultural captivity.
A “spirituality” whose gospel is a message of hyper-personalized faith, understood primarily in terms of morality, that gives birth to an “us” vs. “them” view of the world.
Most of all, a “spirituality” that has no place for Jesus and no recognition of Jesus as the central shaping force in faith and practice.
One thing is clear. There was no Jesus at the Jericho March.
And where Jesus is absent, the circus thrives and grows ever more bizarre.