NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – U.S.A.
With respect to religion and/or spirituality, I am a devout believer in the God of Irony. As testament to my faith, behold the present-day, oddly coifed idol of Christian Evangelism and Pentecostalism—an American president who proudly prostitutes a code of decency given unto the world two millennia ago by a Nazarene carpenter of note.
During an earlier once-upon-a-time—June of 1998, actually—some of the biggest machers of American Christendom assembled in Salt Lake City, Utah, to adopt a “Resolution on the Moral Character of Public Officials.” It reads:
[W]e, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention…affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders…and that we implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character…and that we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity, and the highest character.
But then, how to explain national polling that reveals overwhelming Christianist support for Donald J. Trump (eighty-one percent among white male evangelicals, according to the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute)?
Contrary to the public man envisioned by elders of the Southern Baptist Convention, Mr. Trump is a self-admitted sexual assailant and defendant in a slew of credible rape accusations, adjudicated fraudster, habitué of Bankruptcy Court, patently obvious liar, notorious deadbeat, and serial adulterer (partial to a certain blonde pornographic film starlet who obliges his desire for a spank on the fanny with a magazine featuring himself as cover-boy).
—NOTE: Any day now, Mr. Trump will be impeached by Congress for his criminal withholding of $400 million (€363.5 million) in military aid to Ukraine, an American ally under territorial invasion by the Russian army, in return for sleazy political benefit to his reëlection bid next year here in the United States. Impeachment will surely render a most merry Christmas in America.
Do “God’s people” have eyes to read clerical instruction? Ears to hear men and women of the cloth? Hearts to hold piety and honor?
Within the foregoing Southern Baptist resolution text is a loophole—in italics that are mine—to provide a glide path from probity to practicality. Hypocrisy, like putrid floodwater, will find its way. Yea, verily, onward Christianist soldiers, marching in the cultish cause of Donald Trump, forty-fifth president of the U.S. of A.
Call it Cult 45.
Latest among the holy soldiers is Rick Perry, one-time governor of Texas, two-time loser as a Republican Party presidential candidate, and outgoing energy secretary for the Trump administration. Mr. Perry—a political conservative, ardent Christianist, and apparent spokesman for God—used the occasion of a November television interview to declare Donald Trump “the chosen one,” affirming Mr. Trump’s previously stated view of himself as a mortal ordained by Our Lord in Heaven to deliver America to the Promised Land.
“God has used imperfect people all through history,” Mr. Perry informed his TV audience. “King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. And I actually gave the president a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago, referencing biblical heroes accused of everything from adultery to murder. “And I said, ‘Mr. President, I know you said you were the chosen one. You were right.’”
* Lyrics to the ballad of Hillsong Church, a Pentacostal movement launched in Australia with branches in New York and principal cities throughout the world. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was Mr. Trump’s guest at a glittering White House banquet in September, an event that Mr. Morrison insisted, albeit unsuccessfully, should include attendance by Hillsong founder Brian Houston, under fire back in Sydney for failing to alert police to allegations of child rape by the church pater familias.
Columbia University Professor Todd Gitlin has puzzled mightily over what would seem at odds: delirious support from evangelical Christianists—theoretically, America’s foremost proponents of the merciful, righteous, and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ—for America’s most powerful criminal and most sordid sinner. As he put it in a recent essay for Salmagundi Magazine, the international quarterly on politics and art, the professor explained Christianist fervor for the man he calls “God’s bad boy”—
The…evangelicals were, and continue to be, practical. They are of this world. They know what they are doing.
One way religious voters could embrace Trump was [to] grit their teeth, swallow hard, invoke lesser evils, and allow that they were making the most of an imperfect world. What they are angling for is protection—protection of their faith…[including defense of] the right not to bake a cake for a gay couple, [favoring] religious schools, and so on. ‘The faith’ in this context is institutional: it is the church.
In this spirit, many—perhaps most—supporters of Trump practiced politics conventionally. They cared about consequences. They reasoned their way to conclusions. …Evangelicals wanted a winner. [Trump] pursued them relentlessly, and the opportunistic majority came over to his side. They would go with the flow of the [Republican Party] vote, for their support was, in the end, instrumental—a means to an end. They were more render-unto-Caesar than imitation-of-Christ.
As I would put it, the sociological phenomenon at issue qualifies as capital-I irony, per my orthodoxy. Or perhaps something darker, as it were.
Racially speaking, the Christianist segment of American society is near lily white. Lily white and not-so-secretly trembling over what many in their ranks, if not most, call the onrushing “Great Replacement.” By which they mean a calculation by the U.S. Census Bureau: by the year 2040, the nation’s demographics will be majority-minority.
Nothing strikes more fear into the historical American class system than the prospect of black and brown folks outnumbering white folks—doubtless outgunning them, some say. Donald Trump is a celebrated white racist who employs numerous white racists—most prominent of late, Stephen Miller as chief White House speechwriter, a Nazi admirer whose Jewish family has disowned him.
Messrs. Trump and Miller make liberal use of the labels “liberal” and “illegals” and “anti-Trumpers” for those who would replace the good Americans—white, bible-believing, “patriotic” Christianist Republicans.
Everyone who shows up for Mr. Trump’s reëlection rallies, those disturbing echoes of Adolf Hitler’s big productions in Nuremberg back in the horrid day, is in on the gag. Everyone knows the real words that scream through and through the limited thoughts of those assembled for the joy of hate: “niggers,” “kikes,” “gooks,” “beaners,” “slants,” and “towel heads.”
To counter the horrid day in which we live, with Mr. Trump and Cult 45, I have come here to New Orleans, the fabled “Land of Dreams.” Here to beseech the ghost of Marie Laveau (1801-1881). I shall beg the late Creole voodienne, midwife, and herbalist to cure what ails the suffering soul of Trumpian America. I shall bring to her mausoleum at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in the city’s French Quarter—La Vieux Carré—the customary tributes of gris-gris: chicken bones, flower petals, cat teeth, clothing soaked in perspiration, fingernail clippings and hanks of human hair. By the side of her mausoleum, I shall chant an ancient voodoo plea for deliverance from sin:
Papa Legba nan ounfò mwen!
Atibon Legba nan ounfò mwen! Alegba Papa nan ounfò mwen!
Ou menm ki pote drapo nan Ginen! Ou menm ki pote chapo nan Ginen!
Se ou menm k a pare solèy pou lwa yo.
All this. And why not? As opposed to the white Christianist province, my mission to the resting place of a black lady infidel is harmless.
Now let us pray for the miracle of resurrecting a code of decency espoused by that Nazarene carpenter of yore.
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag