I Was Trump Trolled by an Evangelical

Left Behind and Other Reasons to Leave the Church Behind

An unholy alliance between church and state. Image by Adobe Stock.

I don’t think people have really thought through their digital content strategy and marketing messages when they are motivated to react to social media posts that they disagree with. When a brand is in free fall, people begin to panic.

Brave New Jersey, a movie about one of the original fake news stories.

Or perhaps not.

Here’s what happened to me recently. I posted an article that accurately summed up my reaction to the tarnished brand of the American Evanglelical Conservative Republicans.

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You by John Pavlovitz.

Then a member of a church community I had attended for several years, whom I hadn’t really spoken with for years beyond a cursory “Hello, how are you?”, decided to privately message me on Facebook.

Hi friend! Hope you’re well! I like to talk about this more one to one so hope you’re ok with me messaging you. I think a lot of how the left characterizes Trump is based on lies and slander! They bring up stuff from a decade ago. Is this current? No It doesn’t seem so. So why are left leaning religious people not forgiving and giving a second chance. What about redemption. He is for the unborn among many other good things. In the face of being a successful president they are giving no possibility for that. Only hoping for his failure. The black unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 40 years. The economy is booming. Women employment and equal rights are better than they have ever been under Trump. Have you considered listening to a conservative news station where the truth is reported ? Sheryl Atkinson wrote a book called “Smear”. She worked for CNN and was wire tapped and when they found out her conservative views she was fired. This is happening in education corrupt government, business and the media and Hollywood. We are now at the brink of finding out about the corruption in the Obama administration, it’s worse than Watergate. Obama was for the killing of the unborn, not Actually helping the poor or the black community unlike what is starting to happen under Trump.

When I thought about this after the fact, I realized that I had just been Trump trolled by an evangelical.

To give this Facebook exchange some context, we live in Canada. However, this evangelical had been so taken in by the well-documented onslaught of misinformation being widely shared through social media that she cannot help but regurgitate the same misinformation.

I have spent the past thirty years of my career as a graphic designer trying to understand communications and media. As a communications professional and a creator of media messages, I would hope that I have a good understanding of how things work, but, of course, not exhaustive.

So, I wondered, what would Jesus do? Based on the stories I have read, I remember Jesus being a radical and marginalized outsider, a very polarizing figure in the politics of his time. He was so polarizing, in fact, that he was sentenced to death for the capital crime of sedition against Caesar and the Roman Empire for leading people to believe that he was King of the Jews. If one considers mob rule as a democratic process, one could say that the majority called for his crucifixion. This might be a case in point to argue that democracy needs the rule of law and due process to avoid falling into gross injustice and self-destructive chaos.

A Pharisee came to Jesus at night to have a private discussion. But that discussion went viral when John wrote a book about it. The book was included in the Christian Biblical canon in 393 by the Synod of Hippo. The book’s canonization was confirmed under the authority of Augustine and the Councils of Carthage. Martin Luther agreed that the book should be included in his canon, Johannes Gutenberg printed the Bible, and the book is now in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling book of non-fiction.

According to reports from our own CBC, the onslaught of misinformation that Canadians are receiving from the USA was partly orchestrated by Cambridge Analytica through the weaknesses inherent in the algorithms created by Facebook. True to their mantra, “Move fast and break things,” the engineers at Facebook created these algorithms to help them win the platform war against Twitter, while at the same time disrupting the institution of the free press and the gatekeepers who filtered the information disseminated to the public. By monetizing the news, Facebook created an environment where anyone who had access to a digital device could create their own news, and inadvertently set the stage for the end of democracy in America and the fall of Evangelical Conservatives and the Republican party that represent their views and policies in the national arena of undemocratic politics. At least that is my reading of the situation: the majority of the people of the USA do not approve of the leader that they have. The opinion of the world is starkly against the current leadership.

My Response

I would advise against this strategy as a way to win friends and influence people, but I believe it accurately represents my point of view. I have a family of origin who have mostly rejected me based on my views about family, politics and religion. My emotionally distant, angry and authoritarian father has given me a poor model of what a Heavenly Father might be like. So, I react accordingly. I think that is why I react with such anger and vitriol over a message that seemed to come out of nowhere and became a subconscious reminder of a wasted childhood amid the onslaught of Christian media and the charismatic leaders and personalities that dominated our family life. So, do take this with a grain of salt.

I do not hope that Trump fails. He fails to represent basic human decency on a daily basis. And you fail to convince me that you are any different if you can defend him.

I thought I would just stop there, but the anger overcame my inclination toward restraint.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. However, I don’t think you are going to be successful in persuading me to agree with your point of view, if that is your intention.

For you to be persuasive would require the ability to listen. It appears you are only reacting to something that I recently posted on Facebook, yet you have not proven any sense of curiosity about my point of view. If you had taken the time, you could have read everything that I have written over the past year to understand my story. If you are really that interested in a relationship, you will have to start there.

By defending the indefensible, I honestly have little curiosity about your point of view about a man who didn’t want to be president, but merely viewed his candidacy as an opportunity to increase his own fame, wealth and power. Surprised by his own success, he has taken every opportunity to undermine the press, science, education, law, net neutrality, democracy, civil discourse, social unity, international diplomacy, global peace, physical well-being, mental health, spiritual discernment, and basic human decency. He has white evangelicals, the new Pharisees, wrapped around his finger, and they blindly follow to their own folly. This will result in the fall of Christendom, and its end cannot come soon enough. It is a toxic, patriarchal, authoritarian social construct that is responsible for the evil that has overwhelmed this world for the past 1,500 years since the unholy alliance between church and empire initiated by Constantine. Trump is merely the most recent manifestation of a hollow and corrupt narrative that has run its course.

I am truly sorry that you have been taken in by this charlatan, but I am not likely to change your mind.

None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.

I will leave it to Isaiah and Jesus to speak truth to power.

Consider the word of God given through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah‬ ‭1:13–17‬ ‭MSG‬‬

And consider the words of Jesus:

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭23:1–13, 15‬ ‭MSG‬‬

If you think that Trump has been raised by God to usher in the New Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple, then you have misread scripture.

Acts‬ ‭7:48–53‬ ‭MSG‬‬

If you truly care for my soul, you will take the time to listen. Start here:

Reacting to what felt like an disingenuous appeal to friendship in the form of a personal attack and invasion of my personal space, I added:

When you have finished reading this article, continue with the rest. Otherwise, you will know nothing about me, and will have failed to demonstrate a commitment worthy of referring to me as friend. It took Jesus three years wandering the Judean countryside before he called his disciples friends.

The democratization of media is giving voice to a more authentic spiritual point of view that brings hope for the recognition and practice of one new humanity, which is the hope Paul expressed in his letter to the Ephesians. Brad Jersak is in the UK, speaking of the corrupting effect of power on the Church, while expressing a hope he found in the Anabaptist traditions that champion the poor and the immigrants:

She continued to debate me, so I responded:

I’m afraid our points of view have diverged. I don’t buy the “lesser of two evils” argument, nor do I understand the brand of Christianity that can rationalize Trump. I’m really not interested in a debate. It would be a fruitless exercise.

I checked out the links that you provided and after a little research concluded that they are biased toward a point of view that is of little of intellectual merit.

I am sorry if I come across as harsh and unfriendly. Jesus didn’t go easy on Pharisees.

You automatically assume that I am a Democrat. No, I am Canadian. I have more anti-American and anti-capitalist leanings. If I would subscribe to any sort of label, I might be an environmental socialist. I don’t subscribe to any political party. Politics is such a sordid business. I just assume that the majority is usually wrong. That is my reading of the scriptures. We all crucified Christ, and we would likely do it again.

I am sorry if you had an intention to renew a friendship. At the time that we lived in the same neighbourhood and our children played together, we shared more in common. Responding to a post that accurately represents my views on the “great rationalization” of evangelical Trump fanaticism by trying to engage me in a debate completely misses the point. You have already indicated that you are not interested in listening by your response.

I believe that your Trump fanaticism is akin to telling me that you are a Nazi. For that reason, we are not likely to be friends. I am firmly on the side of the resistance. You have chosen to be on the wrong side of history, in the same way the national church of Germany chose to align itself with Hitler. Trump has forced people to choose sides. I choose to align myself with an approach that may be more akin to Bonhoeffer’s rejection of authoritarian, fascist, nationalist religion.

It is a shame that you have made such a poor decision and I would hope you change your mind, at which point we could be friends. But I cannot abide evil masquerading as religion, even if it is ignorance by defaulting to the ideology of your chosen social identity. I have rejected that particular social identity because it is spiritually and intellectually untenable.

I am sure that you mean well, and your intentions are good. However, I believe your position to be extremely harmful to the future of the church and dangerous for the future of our species and the planet.

If you choose to continue supporting evil, I will have no choice but to call you out for being complicit. Jesus called out those who in his day were complicit with evil by calling them white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.

He could forgive us because we didn’t know what we were doing, but we crucified him just the same.

By voting for Trump, I believe the American church is crucifying Jesus all over again, because Trump has no interest in doing anything for the least of these when he is seeking to be the greatest. America the Great is Babylon, Christendom is the evil empire. Trump is the Great Deceiver and the American church is his whore.

The Bible is not a book of rules and prophecies of what is to come. It is a record of all the mistakes we have already made if we divide over gender, tribe, class, race, geography and religion, and a warning about what happens when we build empires to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few people.

I try to be a student of history, and that is the way I see this narrative playing out. History repeats itself because humans cannot help but make the same mistakes.

I’m not the only one outraged by Trump and his followers.

The last thing we would want to see is the dangerous American evangelical mindset bleeding into Canadian politics and civil discourse.

She responded with an article by Greg Boyd, apparently without reading to the end.

I responded:

I love Greg Boyd. He’s right.

At the same time, he makes this point:

“There is one more thing that needs to be addressed, however. Whether or not you believed there were reasons for voting for Trump that outweighed the possibility that his Presidency might legitimize some people’s racist, xenophobic, homophobic and/or misogynistic attitudes, the fact remains that his status as President elect is having just this effect.”

That’s the dangerous part.

The early warning signs of fascism, courtesy of the US Holocaust Museum.

She took offense to me calling her a Nazi and a Pharisee. Then I responded:

I didn’t call you a Nazi. You are not a Nazi. Neither are you a Pharisee. But I am making comparisons to an approach to political involvement that has dangerous implications.

I am baffled by Christians who think that the road to salvation can be paved for a nation by taking political power by any means necessary, even if it is by voting for a candidate with character and values antithetical to the ones you are trying to champion.

From what I recall, Greg Boyd does not vote to avoid collusion with Caesar.

She continued to debate. And I responded:

I don’t put too much faith in people or institutions. My family, all Bible-believing Christians have rejected us and tend to ignore us. For us, a lot of Christians are users.

But, I suppose apologies are in order. I’m sorry I called you a Nazi and a Pharisee. I still think the Christian nation of America has a long track record of being the most effective and successful terrorist organization in the world, with countless military incursions into foreign nations and countless dead to account for, all in the name of God and country. And Trump is responsible for increasing spending on the military-industrial complex. Christians are very worried about the unborn, but the living are expendable.

I’m not sure what you wanted to accomplish here. Mark Zuckerberg is right. Facebook is not good for people. It brings out the worst in us. And it has been weaponized to turn us against each other. Sorry for being a jerk. But the point of reading that article that I wrote was to point out that I can be a jerk on Facebook. I’m sorry you missed the point.

A Facebook Apology

A Reckoning

Business, media, communications and design professionals agree that something needs to change.

Another Way

There is another way to hold on to humanity in a way that is redemptive, inclusive, and loving, but it might require giving up the labels that people cherish so dearly, such as white, American, Evangelical, Conservative, and Republican.

Economically, the data would suggest that the adherents to these labels have chosen to be on the wrong side of history.

Spiritually, the rise of the “nones” will result in a continuing loss of power and moral authority for the older generation of political conservatives and traditionalists.

The changes will not mean the end of faith and spirituality. The opportunity for different voices to be heard will open up space for people to question, to experiment, to observe and learn to have a stronger grasp on reality and our place in the world.

Intellectually, brain science teaches us that the negative attitudes and fears that toxic cultures generate are the enemy of invention, creativity and love.

Perhaps, even Elitist, Liberal, and Democrat have had their day as well. These binaries obscure the fact that we are all human and that we all need to share this planet together. And we have work to do.

What is the Church anyway?

What did Jesus mean by using the word “church”, as it has been translated? The ekklesia is a term referring to the people who have agency to make decisions within a group of people, the polis. I thought the message was this:

His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace…

One New Humanity

I think when the church that we grew up in ceases to represent us anymore, I think it might be safe to move on.

Moving On

Learn Something

What can I learn from this Facebook exchange? I think it’s time for me to leave behind the anger and animosity, repair some relationships and resolve some differences as best I can, then to get on with the work I have to do. I have a debt to pay, and the only thing it can be paid with is love.

Go from your country, your people and your father’s household…

To Peter, the one he had called to lead his sheep, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me Satan.” I’m sad to say, I think that is what we need to say to the leaders of the American Evangelical Republican Church and their followers. They have made their bed, but I don’t know how they’re going to lie their way out of this one.

Enjoy the Journey

But there is life and joy on the other side. It just might not look like what we expected. If there is anything that the original disciples learned after they saw all their dreams die on a cross, a completely unexpected and new reality awaits on the other side of the dark void of fear and death.

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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