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It is at once completely unsurprising, but also completely shocking.
During Holy Week, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R.-Ga., was being interviewed after a rally she held in New York City to protest the arraignment of Donald Trump. In the interview, she declared: “President Trump is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today … Jesus! Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government.”
And there it is, yet again, clear as day.
The firm belief of far-right Republicans that Donald Trump is a God-anointed messianic figure, sent to save America from the wicked agenda of the Democrats to destroy our “traditional values” and establish a godless, anti-Christian government.
These words are not hyperbole. These words are not a caricature. This is what millions of Americans actually believe, and it is absolutely remarkable.
In this moment, I can’t help but think back to the famous Left Behind series of books written by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, which were required reading for every evangelical youth. The books interpret the apocalyptic symbolism of the book of Revelation for our modern world, painting a fictionalized portrait of the events evangelicals believe really will happen around the Second Coming of Christ.
One of the primary storylines is about the rise of the Antichrist, a suave and compelling world leader who deceives the masses — including most Christians — into believing he is the God-anointed messiah who alone can lead the world into eternal peace. The twist, of course, is that he is Satan incarnate, and his real goals are to bring about the destruction of humanity.
Every American evangelical has heard this story or seen the movies. Most American evangelicals believe this story is biblical and thus is likely to reflect exactly how the Antichrist will rise and the world will end. And yet, remarkably, millions of American evangelicals have placed their entire hope in a man who is far less suave or righteous than the Antichrist in Left Behind, whose life and values literally fly in the face of the most basic teachings of Christ.
Why? Because he has effectively played on their fears, promising them he will restore their privilege, returning our country to the mythical “good old days” when white Christians held all the power. And 75 million of them have willingly jumped on board, worshipping a man who could not be less like Jesus.
Last year, Donald Trump was arrested on 34 charges of falsifying business documents to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels, a porn star with whom he allegedly cheated on his wife. The hush money was necessary not to harm his chances of winning over his base, which once called themselves the “Moral Majority.” And nearly all of Trump’s so-called Christian supporters rallied around him, declaring this trial a “witch hunt,” defending his innocence despite the fact that he has a long and noted history of cheating on his wives, boasting about sexually assaulting women, and using his money to silence his accusers.
Twitter was abuzz with pastors, worship leaders and other Christian celebrities decrying this “dark moment” in our history when the man they believed God appointed was being “unjustly” arrested — just like Jesus.
Over the past week, I have tried to engage in conversations with people in my life who support Donald Trump, and over and over again, I’ve found myself dumbfounded. They do not care about Trump’s moral character. They do not believe he is guilty of this or just about any crime in the past — even those he’s admitted to. They really believe, deep in their bones, Trump is a messiah, our last great hope, and that all the opposition leveled against him is nothing more than a Satanic attack on God’s man.
This has reminded me of the power of mixing religion and politics. Throughout history, when political leaders can convince people they have a divine right to rule, there is virtually nothing they cannot do. History also suggests it’s virtually impossible to shake people out of their stupor until it is too late.
With Trump’s arrest being construed as an unjust persecution, in the same vein as the crucifixion of Christ, it seems certain there will also be a powerful resurrection of Trump and his movement. And his second campaign for president and, God-forbid, his second term as president, will almost certainly spell the end of American democracy as we know it.
Thankfully, there are still more Americans who see through Trump’s unjust and un-American values, who understand someone with his character and temperament must never be allowed to serve as president of the United States ever again.
But Trump is banking on the rest of us growing weary, wavering in our resolve to oppose his campaign, being unable to unite around our common values to support a candidate who can beat him. We must not prove him right.
We must not lose hope in the vision Jesus actually cast of a world where the simple act of loving our neighbor creates a more just and equal world for us all.
This is truly an apocalyptic moment, and we must use all the collective energy we can muster to push against the damning politics of Donald Trump.