The evangelical community has been coming in for a lot of criticism in recent months, much of it from religious leaders and conservatives. They seem to be unmoved by the president’s constant berating of Muslims, people of color, refugees, Jews, gays, and any others who are not typically associated with the evangelical community. Actually, make that the white evangelical community, more than 80% of whom voted for Donald Trump. Only about 20% of non-white evangelicals did so, according to the Pew Research Center.
Have Evangelicals Sold Their Souls?
The appeal of Donald Trump to white evangelicals was the subject of a recent op-ed piece by Michael Gerson, a Republican and a conservative who is a regular contributor to the Washington Post. Under the title Trump Evangelicals Have Sold Their Soul, Gerson writes, “The problem with Trumpism is not only the transparent excuses it offers (and requires others to accept) for shoddy and offensive behavior. As I argue in the Atlantic , the deeper issue is the distinctly non-Christian substance of President Trump’s values. His unapologetic materialism. His tribalism and hatred for “the other.” His strength-worship and contempt for ‘losers,”’ which smack more of Nietzsche than of Christ.” Gerson’s article in the Atlantic is hard hitting, detailed, and well worth reading.
Gerson suggests the embrace of Trumpism by evangelicals may have short-term gains but long-term consequences.
“[P]ublic influence eventually depends on the persuasiveness of public arguments. And close ties to Trump will eventually be disastrous to causes that evangelicals care about. Pro-life arguments are discredited by an association with misogyny. Arguments for religious liberty are discredited by association with anti-Muslim bias. Arguments for family values are discredited by nativist disdain for migrant families. The damage radiates further. Trump evangelicals are blessing the destruction of public norms on civility, decency and the importance of public character.
“And the ultimate harm is to the reputation of faith itself. The identification of evangelical Christianity with ethno-nationalism and white grievance is a grave matter. Evangelical Christians hardly distinguished themselves during the civil rights movement. Some used Christian academies as a cover for continued segregation. Getting this issue wrong again would be particularly damning in a nation — and in Christian churches — growing inexorably more diverse.”
Behind The Pulpit? The Koch Brothers
No one begrudges anyone the ability to practice their religious beliefs in any way they see fit. It’s built right into the Constitution. What is objectionable is when someone tries to cram their religion down someone else’s throat. What most people don’t realize is that the rights protected by the first ten amendments carry with them an implied right from speech, religion, guns, and so forth. Just as you have the right of free speech, so do I have the right not to be forced to listen to what you have to say.
Scratch the evangelicals who are parading around the corridors of power in Washington, DC, these days and you will find many of them are backed by the Koch Brothers. No one knows if either one of those old crocks attends church on a regular basis, but they have latched on to the evangelical movement and embraced it in a cynical attempt to solidify their political power.
Fossil Fuels And God
At this point, I am going to stop and suggest — no urge — you to read an article on this topic published last September by Splinter entitled How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God. “Conservative groups, funded by fossil fuel magnates, spend approximately one billion dollars every year interfering with public understanding of what is actually happening to our world,” the article points out.
Many people have a hard time understanding why Scott Pruitt, who now heads the EPA, can be so vehemently opposed to climate science that he has deleted the reams of information on the subject that used to reside on the EPA website. Can anyone actually be that clueless? The answer is yes, they can, if they are embedded in the web of ideological deceit spun by the Koch Brothers. Here’s an example.
God Will Save Us
Last May, Congressman Tim Walberg told his constituents that, while the climate may be changing, they don’t need to be concerned. “As a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us, and I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, He can take care of it.” And Shazam! There you have it. No need to worry about climate change because God holds the world in the palm of his hand and there’s no way He will allow any harm to come to the world He created. So sit back, rape and pillage the Earth to your heart’s content. God’s got your back.
Ralph Drollinger is an evangelical minister who has insinuated himself into the DC power structure by holding weekly Bible studies for members of Congress. During these sessions, he preaches that social welfare programs are un-Christian and agitates for military action against Iran. (If you are having trouble remembering the passages in the New Testament that advocate for armed conflict as a way of spreading God’s love, you’re not alone.) In December of 2015, he expressed his desire to shape Donald Trump into a benevolent, Christian dictator.
Drollinger also teaches that climate change caused by humans is impossible in light of God’s covenant with Noah after the Flood: “To think that man can alter the earth’s ecosystem– when God remains omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent in the current affairs of mankind — is to more than subtly espouse an ultra-hubristic, secular worldview relative to the supremacy and importance of man,” he wrote recently.
“Throughout the history of the church, people have always found ways to use God and scripture to justify empire, to justify oppression and exploitation,” says Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, an organizer with a pro-environmental Christian group Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. “It’s a convenient theology to hold, especially when we are called to drastic, difficult action.”
The Cornwall Alliance
Using funding from Koch Brothers front organizations like the Heritage Society and the Heartland Institute, the hard-line conservatives have banded together in what is called the Cornwall Alliance, formerly known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. In 2013, it published a manifesto called Resisting The Green Dragon. In it, the group says, “False prophets promise salvation if only we will destroy the means of maintaining our civilization. No more carbon, they say, or the world will end and blessings will cease. Pagans of all stripes now offer their rival views of salvation, all of which lead to death.”
The organization that would eventually become the Cornwall Alliance began in 1999 as a project of the Acton Institute, which has received millions from Donors Capital, Donors Trust, the National Christian Foundation, and private foundations controlled by the Koch, DeVos, and Bradley families. (See chart below.)
The Alliance supports what it terms A Christian Worldview Of Economics. Here is a prayer in support of that policy that has been posted on the Cornwall Alliance website:
Dear Father in Heaven,
We pray that trade and business across the globe would flourish. We pray for the leaders of the countries and various international institutions who decide economic policy. Please give them wisdom and let them uphold an economic system that is not restrictive.
We also pray for an abundance of energy that will support the growing economies of the world.
We ask You to help people understand the importance of conventional and clean energy sources like coal and nuclear to the developing nations of the world. Lord, let Your wisdom guide the decision makers in academia and governmental institutions.
We pray this in Jesus name,
As Splinter puts it with deliciously understated irony, “As luck would have it, the Christian World View of Economics is avowedly business-friendly.” Watch the video below for an example of the propaganda the Koch Brothers-funded anti-environmentalists are creating to persuade the faithful.
Republicans Know Better
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island tells Splinter he knows of at least a dozen Republicans in the Senate who accept climate science and want to take action, but feel they can’t do so for fear of the political reprisals. And they have reason to fear for their political lives. Bob Inglis was a Congressman from South Carolina who dared buck the Tea Party movement — another Koch Brothers funded campaign designed to consolidate their hold on Congress. The Tea Party found a patsy who was willing to shut up and toe the party line to oppose Inglis in a primary.
Outspent by a wide margin by his opponent, Inglis lost the primary and his seat. The lesson has not been lost on other members of Congress: Do as we say or we will punish you. Where once we had political leaders who wrote books like Profiles In Courage, America’s political leaders are now marked by their profiles in cowardice.
Whitehouse tells Splinter, “A guy who has given full-throated defenses of coal has told me privately, ‘Coal is dead. We know that. We’re just trying to figure out how to move on.’ Meanwhile he keeps on talking about coal. Members of Congress are afraid of the people they represent, but they’re terrified of the activists within their own party, because that’s who takes you out in a primary.”
The most prominent climate denier in Congress is Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the infamous “Senator Snowball” who is the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. During a book tour in 2012, he told a Christian radio show, “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” In 2015, he was honored by the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation with their Political Leadership on Climate Change award. Former staffers who worked with Inhofe are now liberally sprinkled throughout Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
The We Get It! Campaign
In 2008, the Cornwall Alliance created another organization called We Get It! that attacks climate science based on evangelical interpretations of the Bible. According The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by journalist and historian Frances FitzGerald, the We Get It! campaign was funded in part by Koch Industries.
Among its primary tenets are these pronouncements: “Our stewardship of creation must be based on Biblical principles and factual evidence. We face important environmental challenges, but must be cautious of claims that our planet is in peril from speculative dangers like man-made global warming. With billions suffering in poverty, environmental policies must not further oppress the world’s poor by denying them basic needs. Instead, we must help people fulfill their God-given potential as producers and stewards.”
We Get It! is enthusiastically endorsed by James Inhofe, who says in a statement, “The We Get It! declaration speaks for me, and I believe it speaks for the vast majority of evangelicals, who are as tired as I am of being misrepresented by people who don’t bother to get their theology, their science, or their economics right. Consequently, they put millions of the world’s poor at risk by promoting policies to fight the alleged problem of global warming that will slow economic development, and condemn the poor to more generations of grinding poverty and high rates of disease and early death.”
What the Koch Brothers and their minions have done is to cynically insinuate themselves and their desire to continue profiting from fossil fuels into the core beliefs of the evangelical movement. Writing in the Washington Post last year, Lisa Vox said, “When scientists began sounding the alarm over climate change in the 1980s, conservative evangelicals, who had been somewhat accepting of environmentalism in the 1970s, became convinced that the Antichrist would use the fear of climate change to seize power.”
God And World Order
Remember Congressman Tim Walberg? Vox goes on to say, “For Christians like Walberg, globalism is the most dire threat to the United States, not rising oceans and more powerful hurricanes. Just as conservative evangelicals opposed arms treaties during the Cold War, they see environmental pacts, like the Paris agreement, as paving the way for a charismatic world leader to form a global government and begin the seven-year Tribulation that precedes the Second Coming of Christ. Hal Lindsey in 2015 denounced climate change as a scam ‘being used to consolidate the governments of the world into a coalition that may someday facilitate the rise of the Antichrist.’”
So what can we learn from all this? Look at the chart above. Notice how many names that are prominent in the Trump administration appear in that graphic? Look to see how many of the organizations funding the politicization of the evangelical movement are connect to, affiliated with, or controlled by Charles and David Koch.
It’s fine with me if people want to believe the End Times are near and are thrilled to think they may be part of The Rapture. Whatever floats your boat and helps you get through the night. But when a group of grumpy old men wants to leverage that thinking to get a death grip on political power in America and force their vision on every American and, by extension, much of the rest of the world, that is something that gets my Irish up.
Money Is The Key
The root of the problem is simple economics. For generations, US tax policy has favored the rise of so-called think tanks. Whether they are left-leaning, right-leaning, or centrist, money donated to them can be deducted by the donor and is not treated as taxable income to the organizations who benefit. In essence, it’s little more than a money laundering scheme.
Let’s be clear. These groups aren’t doing “research.” They are lobbyists — paid professional persuaders whose job is to convince elected officials to do the bidding of their donors. Citizens United is the key. That decision by the US Supreme Court took a broken system and weaponized it, turning it into an Exorcet missile aimed straight at the heart of democracy. What we are witnessing is nothing short of the overthrow of the US government by an internal rather than an external enemy.
Domestic Terrorists Run Amok
People can prevent the theft of their country by these domestic terrorists, but first they must acknowledge the threat and take appropriate action at the polling booth. They say there are three kinds of people in the world — those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. Most of us will never be part of the first group but we can choose not to be part of the bottom tier.
This article is not meant to demonize white evangelicals. It is intended to demonize the Koch Brothers and their ilk. It is meant to promote a discussion, one that gets us talking to each other rather than past each other. Beliefs are hard things to argue against, but if we refuse to listen to each other, there is no hope of preventing the United States from becoming a Kochtocracy.
The most delicious irony of all would be if the Koch Brothers turn out to be the Anitchrist evangelicals fear. Wouldn’t a real Antichrist dress himself up in the trappings of a true Christian to seduce the faithful? Food for thought.
The Kochs are drunk with power and their thirst for more is unquenchable. Evangelicals have played a major role in empowering these people and they can play a major role in stripping them of it How? By refusing to give them their votes. What keeps Republicans in Congress from voting their conscience is the threat of losing their seat to someone who will swear fealty to Koch Industries and its anti-democratic policies. That threat only works if single issue voters like evangelicals continue to vote as they are told rather than thinking for themselves.
It is time to make America great again by returning it to its roots — a pluralistic society that respects the rights of all citizens. That was the promise that set America apart n the beginning and it is America’s only hope of continuing to be a beacon of freedom in the future.