Some mighty astounding things have happened in my sixty-nine-plus years on planet earth.
I was not quite three years old when Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double helix structure of DNA, the building blocks of life. It took another 50 years of work identifying and mapping all the genes in the human DNA.
In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at college, the United States landed a manned spacecraft on the moon. “One giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong famously said, and we all believed it. We watched in amazement five more times.
Pittsburgh was my home in 1989 when English scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. This launched the Information Age and is now the primary tool billions of people around the world use to connect on the Internet.
For a scientific layman like myself, these advances in technology and science have involved the most mysterious and amazing of feats. But none of these—or any of the others I could list, like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the smart phone—approach in mystery and amazement the one great fact of our political and religious life as Americans: the fanatical endorsement by Evangelical Christians of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
I am still dumbfounded by this unimaginable reality.
How could my people—those who loved me, and educated me, and taught me to pray and sing and follow Jesus—find in this man the God-ordained leader of our time?
For the first 72 years of his life, he swindled more money out of more people, engaged in more marriages and more affairs, and lied more times to more people than an entire congregation of church folk. He bragged about it and announced that he had never needed nor sought forgiveness. He could not identify or quote a single verse of the Bible.
In other words, he was the very epitome of sin and sinners that every evangelist who ever took the pulpit in our churches held up as the model of those on their way to hellfire.
Then, in 2016, they elected him president of the United States; and by “they” I mean the people who flock to the churches that are full of white, evangelical Christians. It stunned all of us—not necessarily the fact that he was elected, but the reality of who put him in office and support him to this day.
I’ve tried to discern what they see in Donald J. Trump that makes them talk of revival—of a Third Great Awakening—and I will name these four things: appointing anti-abortion judges, supporting people who are anti-homosexual, implementing Israel-only policy, and embracing the rhetoric and policy of White Christian Nationalism.
One of their leaders, Texas evangelist James Robinson, released a 16-minute video this week in which he endorsed the network of conservative Christian ministers who pray with the President and travel with the President and advise the President; and then he says this:
“I believe every positive thing that is happening … is an answer to the prayers … of the remnant, those who have eyes to see and ears to hear…. It is a miracle of God, and if we keep praying … we can witness the greatest spiritual awakening in history and [Trump] … will be used by God for the blessing and benefit of this nation … and the church will become more like Jesus ….”
Robinson and his religious kin must look past a great deal to find in Trump the anointed one of God.
Trump ridicules people, hides his financial records, turns away refugees, opens public lands to corporate interests, deletes rules that protect consumers and voters, lowers taxes on the rich, demeans other countries and ethnic groups, drives up the national debt, ignores the poor, endorses dictators, supports racists, seeks to eliminate health insurance, conspires with foreign governments to push his political fortunes, uses personal property for official business, stonewalls Congress, lies to the American public, demeans the press, undermines investigations, and caters to his supporters rather than leading all of the American people.
It is hard to find a single episode from the life and presidency of Donald J. Trump that inspires people to say, “That so reminds me of Jesus.”
This is the greatest mystery of my sixty-nine-plus years of life and learning: that Christian people in America find in Donald J. Trump the God-ordained man who, they are convinced, is effectively leading lead our nation to be more like Jesus.
I shake my head in unbelief and mutter the prayer of the faithful, “How long, O Lord, how long?”