Apocalypse Now: Why Republicans Are Destroying the World

“We’re heading into nut country today.”

John F. Kennedy to Jackie in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963

On the night of March 23, 1997, Marshall Applewhite prepared to achieve his life’s mission. As the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult, he had already supervised the successful “evacuation” of several followers. Now he would be the last of the chosen few to join the alien spacecraft trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet speeding past Earth.

As he mixed a lethal dose of phenobarbital into his applesauce, did he experience doubt? Did he wonder whether his psychiatrists had been right? Chances are, no worries clouded his blissful mind. He probably ate his poison and slipped the bag over his head with a smile on his face.

Americans were morbidly fascinated in 1997 by the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult. What makes someone abandon rationality, surrendering their personal agency to the point of death? Why would someone deliberately destroy their life in the pursuit of an unimaginably stupid concept? Instead of these questions, we should be asking ourselves why we find this behavior surprising at all. Cult logic is a powerful political tool, far more consistent with our biology than the contortions of Enlightenment Era reasoning. Destructive religious cults are as American as mass gun ownership, and their power warps our politics on a daily basis.

Cult Politics

Most of the world was baffled by the Trump Administration’s decision to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Sure, Republicans had been threatening to do this for two decades, but Trump was the first President sufficiently unconcerned to carry out this self-sabotage unilaterally, with nothing in return. It was a provocative statement, destroying the last remnants of US credibility in the Mideast peace process, signaling a new commitment to permanent enmity with the Islamic World. The US joined exactly zero other countries in making this puzzling move. What did the American people gain? Nothing, it was a pure loss for the US, and a dangerous escalation of tensions in the wider world.

So why did Trump do it? Beyond that one decision, why is one of the most unapologetically racist leaders in our history, a man lauded by KKK leader David Duke for his anti-Semitism, such an enthusiastic supporter of Israel?

Trump moved our embassy to Jerusalem to satisfy a crucial element of his base, and it isn’t Jewish voters. White evangelicals, the voting bloc consisting of roughly 20% of the national electorate and about 80% of the GOP’s remaining organizational leadership, cheered this step. They see how inflammatory and potentially disastrous this simple move could be, and that’s why they wanted it to happen.

Over the past generation, white evangelicals have embraced what can only logically be described as an apocalyptic death cult. They are unconcerned about Mideast wars, climate change, poverty or of course, racism, because each new disaster brings us closer to their religious fantasies of The End. Our powerful religious nutjobs, who utterly control the Republican Party, yearn for the day when they can look down on you from a living heaven while you suffer a world of unrelenting horrors. White evangelicals, through the Republican Party, are voting to make the apocalypse now.

Cult Logic

It would be a mistake to try to explain this death cult theology without a refresher on cult reasoning. When confronted with the firmly and passionately held End Times beliefs of someone like former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there’s a temptation to dismiss them as either mentally ill or stupid. Pompeo finished first in his class at West Point, then went on to earn a law degree at Harvard. He’s not dumb and he’s not crazy by any medical definition. And unlike much of the rest of the Trump staff, Pompeo isn’t a grifter. He’s there because he actually believes in some very scary stuff.

Pompeo’s beliefs, which we’ll explore later, sound crazy because they aren’t accessible through conventional reasoning. Cult logic doesn’t operate like rational or scientific logic.

Anyone with sufficient intellect and curiosity can independently discover that the world is round, or that clouds are composed of water vapor. One need not believe in anything to access that reality. It is empirically provable, demonstrable through the power of the scientific method. You need not possess any faith in Thomas Edison to access the power of electricity. You don’t have to say a prayer or conduct a ritual before flipping a light switch. It just works, whether you believe in it or not.

A multi-cultural democracy sits on a foundation of empirically provable data, things that work for everyone regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs. Scientific values developed in the Enlightenment Era make our democracy possible. Whatever religious, spiritual or fantasy beliefs any group of Americans may have, we can reach consensus on a shared public reality through an appeal to our shared experience of empirically demonstrable facts. That’s how we manage to live together without bloodshed despite vast differences in personal values. Cult logic does not operate this way.

Cult reasoning starts with a source of authority. It may be the teachings of a guru or pastor, a pamphlet, Mao’s little red book, or a series of YouTube videos. That authority is built around a revelation, something accessible only to those with the special virtue of faith. Revelations from this authority are often treated as a secret, only revealed after careful demonstrations of group loyalty. Reality in a cult is judged by its relationship to “truth” as defined by an authority. Unlike a lightbulb, or climate science, cult logic only works for those who believe in it. To everyone else, it is nonsense.

That’s why the beliefs of people like Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, and Rick Perry can seem nuts. These beliefs only make sense within the context of the wider cult. No one discovers these beliefs through independent testing or research, they are only persuasive after you’ve accepted the authority of the cult and its leaders. And out in the real world of evangelical faith, almost everyone inherits these cult beliefs through family. The really scary folks are the fresh converts, but they are thankfully rare.

A powerful obstacle to understanding this movement is its fundamentally unbelievable character. Evangelical beliefs about the End Times, as serious as cancer to those in its grip, are dismissed by those outside the movement as an insignificant fringe if they are ever engaged at all. These beliefs are simply too implausible to be taken seriously by those outside the mental framework of the cult. No one could possibly take this stuff seriously, yet they do.

End Times Dispensationalism

So what are these End Times beliefs that have converted much of the remaining Protestant establishment in American into a disastrous death cult? It’s complicated.

Christians have always believed that Jesus would one day return, but that belief started out vague, and grew steadily less important as this key event kept failing to occur. In first decades after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Apostle Paul believed that Jesus’ return was so imminent that people needn’t bother getting married. Naturally, that belief didn’t age well.

As time passed and Christians who initially thought themselves immune from death started dying, these young churches needed an explanation. New Testament writers offered a series of oblique pronouncements about an End of Days, but their attention gradually moved from the imminent return of someone who persistently failed to return, toward a focus on Heaven and the Afterlife.

One Biblical writer, influenced apparently by persecutions of Christians in the Second Century, wrote a psychedelic screed which came to be titled Revelation. To the extent that anyone can derive context or meaning from this rant, it seems to be directed squarely at the writer’s most hated targets, the Romans and the Jews. In it Jesus is said to condemn the unbelieving Jews as the “Synagogue of Satan” and their future torments are described with sadistic color. It also imagines a series of exquisite horrors to be vengefully visited on its other main character, Rome, at the End of the World.

The Book of Revelation barely made it into our New Testament canon and the Christian belief in Jesus’s return faded into a minor element of the faith. Down through the centuries, End Times theology flared up in times of plague, disorder, or mayhem, but it remained the playground of religious zealots and outcasts, never developed with much interest by conventional theologians.

Ask an American evangelical today about Armageddon or the End of the World, and you’re likely to hear a story gleaned from popular literature that descends not from the early church or the Bible, but from the colorful imagination of a 19th century English cultist.

After being seriously injured in a fall from horse in 1827, lapsed cleric John Nelson Darby began to write down the theology God had revealed to him. Most of his work was forgotten, and his teachings flopped entirely in Europe. However, one element of his cult mythology caught fire in the US, especially in the South. By crafting together bits and pieces of Biblical text like the disconnected words on refrigerator magnets, Darby invented a story of The End Times perfectly suited for the needs of slaveholder religion in the South. It was called Dispensationalism.

Darby taught that history was broken up into “dispensations,” periods in which different theological rules and realities applied. In this scheme, Jesus will return one day to establish his perfect millennial kingdom. Before this can happen, the world must experience a terrible dispensation, a seven-year cataclysm, which he called The Tribulation. This period of unbridled famine, disease, and sadism will be initiated by the political rise of a figure they call The Antichrist, who will act as a global dictator.

Ask an actual theologian about this, even someone at most Southern Baptist or evangelical seminaries, and you’re likely to be greeted with a dismissive eye-roll. And Catholics aren’t buying this garbage at all. “Serious” religious figures have dismissed this nonsense since it was invented, limiting its spread to the relatively ungoverned, atomized churches of evangelical faiths. Book-reading, seminary-trained theologians have as much influence over evangelical religion as establishment Republican leaders have over their party’s voters.

Over time, Darby’s core beliefs were developed to fit new circumstances, but the fundamental story that’s come down to us evolved as follows, with variations depending on which cult guru you consider authoritative.

The first half of Darby’s Tribulation will be relatively unremarkable. The second half will be a global bloodbath of Biblical proportions, culminating in a battle in the valley in front of the Megiddo hills, called Har Megiddo or in common English translation, Armageddon. Jesus himself will physically return to Earth at that battle like some celestial Gandalf and establish his new kingdom over the blood-drenched ruins of modern Israel and Palestine.

Certain events will precede the rise of the Antichrist, including the reestablishment of Israel as a homeland for the Jews…so that they can be utterly destroyed, and all “unrepentant” Jews can be ushered off to their rightful place in Hell. The exact events precipitating this apocalypse are a cultist’s playground. New gurus emerge with new theories all the time as the assumptions of previous prophets are falsified by unfolding events. The End of the World never disappoints, even though it never happens, because it lives in the realm of unquestionable faith and cult loyalty.

Now, you might imagine that people would want to avoid an outcome so dark and terrible, but Darby’s theology included a clever caveat. You see, at the outset of this period of misery and punishment all the good people, the faithful members of the cult, will be yanked away to heaven like happy little Hare Krishnas. Thanks to The Rapture, faithful believers will watch the Tribulation unfold from God’s skybox, looking down with satisfying schadenfreude as all those spiteful sinners who laughed at them get starved, tortured and murdered. In the most commonly accepted version of the death cult, all the believers are spared from the consequences of the End of the World.

Dispensationalism was a sacred invitation to destroy everything around us without consequence. It freed believers from the frustrating, tedious, spiritual labor of creating a better world in favor of a liberating nihilism and sanctified bigotry. Among Southerners, who had long struggled to retrofit a religion of liberation and brotherhood to serve the economic demands of a racist slave republic and then a Jim Crow terrorist regime, Darby’s death cult was like a magic key to a new political world. It arrived just in time to neutralize any religious urge toward social justice while Southern planters were reestablishing their post-Civil War dominance.

Belief in The Rapture encouraged an inversion of Christianity, in which all the powerful, difficult elements of traditional Christianity that encourage compassion, humility and positive engagement in the world are dismissed as irrelevant. The universe becomes a grand trash bag, to be used and discarded, with no hope of improvement. It produces a worldview in which goodness is defined-down to mere cult loyalty.

No individual action, no matter how repugnant, is bad so long as it furthers the aims of the cult. And any effort wasted on improving the world around you is practically a sin. The only worthwhile investments in public life are aimed at gaining new recruits and influencing politics toward the apocalypse. It was the purest spiritual distillation of American bigotry, narcissism, racism and greed. We have yet to confront its growth or its implications.

From Civil War to Civil Rights

Darby’s ideas were picked up in the 1880’s by a struggling frontier hustler named Cyrus Scofield. A Confederate soldier and deserter who roamed the Midwest after the war, down on his luck after a series of attempted scams had been busted, Scofield found Jesus, or at least the opportunity that Jesus presented, during an 1879 St. Louis crusade by the evangelist DL Moody. He organized his first church just a year later in St Louis, but his reputation for corruption and rumors about the family he abandoned dampened recruiting and revenue. Like so many struggling con artists before him, he improved his luck by leaving his home community and reestablishing himself in Texas.

In Dallas, Scofield finally found success, building what became an early prototype of the mega-church. Empowered by a mythological Confederate pedigree he invented for himself (he’d actually been born in Michigan), Scofield set about shaping the core of Darby’s End Times ideas into a Confederate Lost Cause narrative. He joined the United Confederate Veterans group in Dallas, presided over the unveiling of new Confederate monuments, and spoke repeatedly about “the Negro problem” in their community. United Daughters of the Confederacy, at a Decoration Day event in 1904, offered Scofield a medal for his “valor” at Antietam, apparently unaware of his desertion.

From his Dallas pulpit, Scofield did more than anyone else to spread Darby’s End Times mythology among fundamentalist congregations. Though he lacked any formal education and had never been a church member prior to his “conversion,” in true American style he established himself as a cult guru, calling himself “ Dr. Scofield” and building a reputation on his fiery End Times preaching. The Dallas Morning News printed his sermons, replete with references to Confederate exploits and the glory of the Lost Cause. He traveled extensively through the US and Britain on speaking engagements. But most of all it was his Scofield Reference Bible, an annotated guide to the scriptures, which my grandmother was still reading in the 1980’s, that cemented Darby’s original mythological invention into Southern culture.

Scofield found success by congratulating the wealthy and comforting the comfortable, a feat made easier by the slaveholder religion of white evangelicalism and the new innovation of End Times theology. He preached that democracy and a corrupt, lying press would bring about the reign of the Antichrist. As the first twinkling of industrialization stirred in Dallas, he railed against labor agitators and social reformers.

It was in the pages of his Bible reference that I first learned of “Ham’s Curse,” a Southern theological explanation of supposed innate black inferiority descending from the sin of one man. The same book described Catholics as pagans and suggested that the Roman Church was the “Whore of Babylon” from the Book of Revelation. But Scofield undertook a racial innovation of his own with remarkable consequences.

Scofield began to preach that the Jews were a specially-blessed race, with a key role to play in Jesus’ return (prior to their eventual annihilation, of course). It was Scofield who paved the path down which Jews in the South could become some asterisked version of “white.” Along the way, his theological innovation created the strange dynamic we still see today, in which virulently racist white religious nuts, perfectly comfortable tormenting little brown children from “the Mexican countries,” are also fanatically attached to Israel and oddly enamored of everything Jewish. This seems like a curious carve-out from Scofield’s otherwise bigoted universe, but it fits with his over-arching concern, and the central premise of slave-state evangelicalism – protecting the interests of wealthy patrons.

Though the Jewish experience in Texas was old and diverse (there was a Jewish soldier at the Alamo), the Jewish community Scofield knew in turn of the century Dallas was relatively urbane and affluent. Scofield built a venture-pastor business on his ministry to elites, and the only Jews he knew were part of that elite.

The great waves of 19th European immigration to America were never more than a trickle in the South. Jews Scofield knew in Dallas were from merchant families with broad national and even international nodes, some including Confederate veterans. In Southern cities, affluent Jews held a special place, frequently among the most educated, traveled and cultured members of society. Many were like the Dallas retail entrepreneur, Alex Sanger, relocating to Texas to extend an already successful family network. In short, Scofield is unlikely to have ever in his life encountered a Jew who wasn’t his social better, and he built his life, business, and theology around serving the needs of his social betters. Within the context of Scofield’s world, his curious racist “exemption” for Jews makes sense, though it set evangelicals at odds with a wider Southern racist world for the coming decades.

This spiritual moonshine of backwoods batshit theology and self-congratulating racism percolated quietly through Southern life through the first half of the 20th century. Fundamentalist believers like my grandmother, who became enamored with this stuff in the 1920’s, took the meaning of The Rapture to a predictable extreme. Why bother with any involvement in public life if your efforts were meaningless, and the only real reward was in Heaven?

Evangelical dispensationalism was the perfect opiate for lower income whites in an exploitative, racist system. Like most of the fundamentalists of her era, my grandmother had no interest in politics. I’m not sure if she ever cast a vote. Fundamentalist theology delivered all the value its donors needed by simply keeping the poor white folks quiet. That wouldn’t last. Eventually, the wealthy rentiers who dominated Southern politics would need this racist mass moved to action. When the real white apocalypse approached, even these supposedly passive observers would be moved to frenzied activism.

The threat of desegregation brought Armageddon to white Southerners’ doorsteps, ending the political passivity of fundamentalist congregations. Republicans from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon had fumbled through efforts to appeal to Southerners, but Republicans simply couldn’t crack the code. Though they gained some ground in Presidential elections after the 1964-65 Civil Rights Acts and they managed to persuade some established Southern politicians to switch parties, Republicans had virtually no presence on the ground in the South for two more decades. It was pastors, not politicians, who built the machine that would convert dyed in the wool Southern Democrats to the GOP. And it was the logic of the apocalyptic death cult that would help them translate a discredited “segregation forever” into the politics of the culture wars.

The Evangelical Death Cult Enters Popular Culture

Evangelical death cult theology was popularized for mass audiences starting in the 1960’s by TV and radio preachers like Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Hal Lindsey, who had trained in the Dallas Theological Seminary that had sprung up in the wake of Cyrus Scofield, wrote The Late, Great, Planet Earth, in 1970. It was a best-selling fictionalization of Scofield and Darby’s apocalyptic mythology, which was turned into a 1974 prime time television special with more than 17 million viewers. In the show, Lindsey “suggested” that the Tribulation would come in the 1980’s, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel, belief my grandmother shared. As part of a broader national frenzy for cults, the occult and apocalyptic art, the evangelical death cult became a mass cultural phenomenon.

As federal pressure rose on Southern pastors in the late 70’s to desegregate private “segregation academies,” preachers trained in the apocalyptic language of the death cult finally mobilized their congregations toward a massive party switch. Starting in the Reagan Era and culminating with the rise of George W. Bush, the believers in the death cult first became the dominant force in evangelical religion, and then came to control the Republican Party. Starting in the Bush II years, open death cult enthusiasts like Attorney General John Ashcroft began to occupy a few positions of national political influence. A cult that just a generation before had eschewed any involvement in politics or popular culture was now placing adherents in the President’s Cabinet.

Still, why should any of these people have cared in the least what happened in the culture around them? It may be impossible for anyone outside the cult mindset to appreciate this crucial wrinkle, but it’s the last piece of the puzzle for understanding the political impact of the death cult.

Who Actually Believes This Crap?

So, is this death cult a niche belief of a few weirdos, or are there really millions of people who believe in this bizarre garbage? I have some bad news. Probably about half of Trump’s voters in 2016 were motivated at least in part by their apocalyptic beliefs. And basically every member of Trump’s administration who isn’t in it for the grift, and a few like Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt who are, believe in the teachings of the evangelical death cult. Thanks to some adaptations in their theology over the past few decades, death cult enthusiasts have developed an unshakeable grip over the wreckage of the Republican Party.

By the early 90’s, Dixiecrats who’d flooded into the empty Republican infrastructure in the South were joining forces with evangelical believers elsewhere in the country to overwhelm the GOP establishment. Wealthy death-cult entrepreneur Pat Robertson, staged a semi-serious run for President in 1988, actually winning the Iowa Caucus. Newly activated evangelicals torpedoed the reelection campaign of George HW Bush in 1992. They didn’t reject him because he raised taxes or failed to deliver on abortion promises. Death cult believers came to hate George I because he uttered a single hated phrase, “New World Order,” and pursued a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that terrified apocalyptic evangelicals.

Neither George Bush, nor any of the relatively sophisticated, educated people in his administration could have known this, but the evangelical nuts on which the new GOP coalition depended had been using the term “New World Order” to describe a future global dictatorship which would “soon” be established by the reigning Antichrist. Between the use of this triggering phrase, and Bush’s pursuit of newly potent international agreements, death cult enthusiasts began to see him as a threat. Bush’s support among evangelicals collapsed, costing him the ’92 Election, a fate his son would carefully avoid.

But wait, why would death cult enthusiasts care at all? Once they had successfully blunted civil rights reforms, what interest could they retain in the wider world?

This may be difficult, but try to place yourself in the shoes of a death cult believer. You know that the terror of the Tribulation is coming any day now to smite the shiznit out of all those filthy unbelievers (who are coincidentally almost all non-white). But how to you know you won’t be “left behind” after the Rapture? I mean, you know you won’t be left behind because you go to church and you’ve be “born again” and all that jazz, but do you really know?

All of these people are harboring their fears about the things they’ve done, the things they don’t talk about. Pressing down their skeevy desires and secret actions until they all walk around looking like Mike Pence, they know of a hundred unrevealed reasons why God might abandon them to the torments of the Antichrist. Sin-stained death cult believers need a backup plan, and that plan is America.

Death cult entrepreneur, Tim LaHaye and his co-writer Jerry Jenkins, encapsulated these evangelical fears into an updated revision of End Time theology with their 1994 novel, Left Behind. He would expand the story to twelve books which would make him a multi-millionaire, selling 80 million copies before launching a series of campy films based on the series. For a sense of scale, it’s estimated that Oprah’s Book Club recommendations resulted in only 55 million books sold. If you’ve never heard of the Left Behind series, then you don’t know what a quarter of American voters are reading, and that’s a problem.

LaHaye sits squarely in the racist tradition of Scofield, having attended the militantly segregated Bob Jones University in South Carolina. His wildly anti-Catholic bigotry got him kicked off Republican campaigns until he became a key advisor to pastor Mike Huckabee, father of Sarah Sanders Huckabee, on his 2008 Presidential run. LaHaye has a particular obsession with homosexuality, as often happens in…certain circumstances. He managed to write an entire book on the subject in 1978 without, of course, any first-hand personal experience.

Through LaHaye, the death cult theology got a reboot with a reinforcing shot of old tyme Southern racism and a new focus on nationalism. His story is focused on some nice white people who failed to get picked in the holy draft of The Rapture. Finding themselves “left behind” his very white characters, sporting 70’s porn-star names like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams, convert (a little late) to the true faith. Holed up in the center of what’s left of righteous America, they form a ‘Tribulation Force’ to oppose the internationalist Antichrist. There’s even a token black character in the fourth book. He dies, of course.

In LaHaye’s story, the old Pope was raptured because he secretly believed in Protestant theology. The replacement Pope forms an alliance with the Antichrist, because of course he does. Jews in the story are good if they convert and become solid white folk. The rest are screwed.

LaHaye’s vision of The Tribulation is dominated by a laundry list of right wing racist villains. The NAACP, the ACLU, women’s and civil rights groups, environmentalists, and of course Planned Parenthood, join forces to tear down any vestige of true white religion, replacing it with rationalist godlessness.

The quiet message behind the stories is that death cult believers who think they might be “left behind,” which is basically all of them, should see red-state America is their sacred redoubt. Believers must not only hasten the catastrophic events which will herald the apocalypse, they must do it in a manner that preserves white America as a militant backwater, insulated from global events, just in case. Believers need guns, survival gear, and lots of twenty-gallon jugs of space food to help them ride out the disaster approaching for non-whites, and for all those candy-assed, latte sipping white people in the godless cities. If you think people don’t passionately believe in this garbage, then you’re smoking political crack.

For white nationalists in America, Left Behind has replaced The Turner Diaries as their theological touchstone, and along the way it has allowed them to go mainstream, or at least flyover-country-mainstream. Left Behind is fundamentally the same story as The Turner Diaries, influenced by the same evangelical death cult tradition, with the same white heroes and exotic foreign villains, but cleaned up just enough to reach bookstore shelves in Kansas City, though maybe not Boston. In the world of the American evangelical death cult, godlessness is whitelessness, and whitelessness is the definition of the apocalypse.

Does the Left Behind series and its accompanying wave of white nationalist apocalypse porn matter?

John McCain’s most potent ad of the ’08 campaign darkly depicted Obama as “The One.” Mainstream commentators universally missed the subtle but deliberate reference to the Left Behind series. Death cult believers recognized the reference and the apocalyptic imagery, sparking a reaction so strong that LaHaye and Jenkins had to issue a press release stating that they “don’t think Obama is the Antichrist” and the comparisons are “probably” overblown. I mean, probably, but who really knows for sure? Popular right wing radio host Chris Baker described Obama as “the Nicolae Carpathia candidate,” the name of the Antichrist in the books. Soon, McCain began to be confronted with strange outbursts from lathered up racists at his rallies and he never knew why.

Republican politicians are getting better at using death cult imagery to translate white fears into a racist political bloc. The rest of America is largely oblivious to this subculture, to our great, consequential detriment. You can’t understand why white evangelicals describe a wholly corrupt politician as their Messiah without reference to this bizarre mythology. The evangelical death cult is why we can’t have nice things.

Trumpocalypse

No one in either party with any concern for their reputation, ethics or future was willing to serve in the Trump Administration, apart from a handful of figures like James Mattis and Rex Tillerson who foolishly believed they could blunt the damage. This power vacuum presented a perfect opportunity for death cult enthusiasts, whose influence had previously been stunted by their bizarre beliefs.

Formerly a minor Congressional figure from Kansas, Mike Pompeo, who has spoken publicly about his belief in the Rapture has now served as CIA Director and Secretary of State. Segregationist hero Jeff Sessions became Attorney General. Rick Perry, who earned a “D” in a class at Texas A&M called “Meats,” took on the normally brainiac role of Energy Secretary. Death cult guru, Ralph Drollinger has brought this core of believers together into an unprecedented cabinet-level prayer group. The only people in the Trump Administration who aren’t there to steal the silverware are working to realize the white nationalist apocalypse.

The difference between this administration and the Bush and Reagan Presidencies is that the inmates are running the asylum. Trump has no politics or policies. So long as he’s free to loot, he has no interest in what his evangelical minions do. He’ll move the US Embassy to Jerusalem or call Kim Jong Un a great guy as long as the check clears. However, as frightening as these very powerful members of the death cult might be, their power comes from the base.

News media was obsessed for months after the 2016 Election with a search for understanding. Who were these “forgotten” people who chose to support the most patently incompetent Presidential candidate in modern times? As in the aftermath of the Heaven’s Gate suicides, the media wanted to know who was eating this poisoned applesauce.

Gallons of ink poured out to record the semi-coherent ramblings of “down and out” Great Lakes residents, but the story remains incomplete. Unemployment rates in key battlegrounds like Erie County had been declining throughout the Obama Era while a boom economy took shape. Hints of the racism and religious batshittery seizing Republican voters was edited out or relegated to the margins. Educated people with long exposure to our big coastal cities and the wider world simply could not grasp what was unfolding.

In Strangers in Their Own Land, sociologist Arlie Hochschild wrote of her experiences ‘walking among them,’ using techniques from anthropology to understand what drove Louisiana voters toward such destructive politics. Somehow she missed religion entirely. None of these Trump whisperers explored Republican voters’ beliefs about the end of the world. It probably wouldn’t matter if they’d asked, because the answers statements would have been as garbled and meaningless to non-believing ears as an hour of whale songs.

None of the Trump whisperers ever bothered to talk with Republican Stephanie Borowicz, who had narrowly failed in her 2016 challenge to the long-time Democratic state legislator from central Pennsylvania’s 76th District. Borowicz would go on to take that seat in a second 2018 campaign. She gained notoriety this year for a particularly bigoted opening prayer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, but Borowicz is still not famous for her most dangerous beliefs. To understand why white, racist religious nuts are drinking poisoned Kool Aid, you need to understand Stephanie Borowicz and her voters.

Borowicz is a transplanted Southerner, educated in a California “university” run by the Assemblies of God, the same evangelical, Dispensationalist denomination I grew up in. She was propelled into office on the strength of her experience as a preacher’s wife and on the bigoted religious rhetoric she was selling.

Why are the most religious people you know so enthusiastic about a racist professional criminal in the White House? Why are the most loudly pious people you know entranced by white nationalism? Why would people charged with loving their neighbor care nothing whatsoever about climate change? And most confusing of all, why are the most racist people you know such passionately uncritical supporters of Israel? The evangelical death cult of End Times escapism is the answer. You can see the political movement driving apocalyptic Republican policies in a single Facebook post for Borowicz.

Remember, Borowicz was running for a state legislative seat. Her prospective job had nothing to do with foreign policy. There’s only one reason to blow that Jerusalem dogwhistle – to identify herself with the death cult and activate their support. That dynamic explains why Republicans all over the country, even in places where the death cult has little power or reach, feel compelled to at least feign support. Evangelical cultists are the backbone of Republican electoral power. And these people love Donald Trump. They love Trump because he supports their vision of an isolated, white nationalist America, and they believe they need that white nationalist bolthole to survive the imminent apocalypse.

Scroll Borowicz’s Facebook feed and you’ll be treated to a lot of God, American flags, Israeli flags, and guns. Lots and lots of guns.

Going all back to Cyrus Scofield and his generous compassionate ministry to Dallas’ wealthy Christians, evangelicals have always had a close relationship to the rentier class. That disinterest in making the world a better place is reflected in the day to day political choices of leaders like Borowicz and their death cult disciples. Thanks to Darby’s theological invention, the evangelical death cult is free from any concern for social justice, fairness, rights, or the betterment of mankind in any form. In fact, the better things get, the farther they grow from their cherished doomsday. Trump is the perfect expression of their white racist hopes for the world, which is no hope at all.

They say that you become what you hate. White evangelical Americans fear an Antichrist who is a charismatic charlatan, claiming religious authority while only interested in his own power and enrichment. He will appear to have been destroyed, then emerge unharmed from seemingly unrecoverable damage. They claim he’ll be greeted as a Messiah and worshipped as a god, while the fools taken in by his lies ignore his crimes. He will present himself as a great friend and protector of Israel. He will speak blasphemies and his followers will put his mark upon their foreheads. Perhaps best of all, the Antichrist will be enabled by a “false prophet,” a holy man who causes others to follow him. White evangelical cultists have built an American President out of their model of the Antichrist and they don’t even see it.

Apocalypse Now

Few prominent American political figures showed their faces at the opening ceremony for the American Embassy in Jerusalem, but two Texas TV preachers delivered public prayers at the event.

Robert Jeffress inherited the pulpit at First Baptist in Dallas from the segregationist firebrand, WA Criswell. Jeffress practically worships Trump, publicly dismissing concerns about his adultery, embezzlement and frauds. He even fashioned a “Make America Great Again” hymn. Jeffress is an enthusiastic death cult believer, celebrating the move of the US Embassy as inline with Biblical prophecy. Mitt Romney minced no words over the choice to honor Jeffress at the event, “a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Jeffress’ fellow Texas venture-pastor, John Hagee, enjoys a similar heritage, blending bigoted religion with right-wing politics from his lucrative pulpit in San Antonio. Hagee, who is slightly crazier and considerably less housebroken than Jeffress, nonetheless deserved his star role in the ceremonies. Jeffress was there primarily as a reward for his loyalty to Trump. Hagee, on the other hand, played as much of a role in the embassy move as the Kleptocrat prominently seated in the front row, Sheldon Adelson. Over decades Hagee has forged close ties between death cult enthusiasts and right wing Israeli politicians, with help and funding from Adelson, building the broad public pressure that facilitated the move.

And tagging along on the trip was Trump’s “pastor,” a slow-rolling personal train wreck and full-grown Honey-booboo of TV preachers, Paula White. All three of these religious grifters were there to congratulate their new Messiah on his holy wisdom, while staying in the comfortable and lucrative wake of his approval.

Global leaders warned of the dangers of this US move, fearing it could limit America’s capacity to prevent a catastrophic conflict far beyond containment. Hagee and Jeffress agree entirely. They have lobbied for the relocation of the US Embassy precisely because they think it might trigger the apocalypse, the destruction of Israel, and the eternal damnation of unrepentant Jews. American Evangelicals aren’t just praying for the apocalypse, they are working to make it real.

Evangelical Christianity in modern America is, like the Taliban or the Nazis, a deep-seated bug in the software of liberal democracy, a fundamental human glitch wired to destroy our plans for a better world. Tens of millions of evangelical voters are praying for nothing with the passion and commitment they bring to their dreams of the apocalypse. Practically no one outside the movement believes they take these destructive ambitions seriously, and a precious few within the movement are open to the slightest sliver of doubt. Like the Taliban, this is a political force beyond negotiation, which we will either confront and defeat, or continue to ignore while they destroy the democratic experiment.

Press this issue and you’ll hear howls of religious discrimination. Anyone should be allowed to run for office in this country, regardless of their religious beliefs. Voters and journalists should be able to inquire about those beliefs, and the potential impact of those beliefs on policy. If voters want the leadership of members of the Heavens Gate, or Jonestown or even the Manson Cults, then those members should be free to serve. But no one in our system should be allowed to impose their religious beliefs through force of law, and no one should be excused from answering questions about their values. Our system survives on our willingness to base public policy on reason and empirical reality rather than our manufactured cult realities.

Say what you will about the Heaven’s Gate cult members, but at least they were only interested in their own suicide. The evangelical death cult in its modern form is mixing up their poisoned applesauce for everyone.

Related post: Why is White Evangelicalism So Cruel?

81 Comments

  1. Excellent article, as usual, and comments worth the time to read as well.
    “Rust Never Sleeps” – zealots don’t go way, nor grifters; evil comes in many varieties, trying to make sense of them is understandable if one is the least intellectually curious, but if the effort is to convince them to act differently, it will be a failed exercise for a volume of reasons. You point out that you are either in the cult of believers, or not. Don’t share the kool-aid beliefs? Outsider! Blasphemer! Reason with them using facts? These are articles of faith, or beliefs, by definition not founded in fact. The country is full of “mouth breathers” as well – no need for serious cult membership – pick your party like your favorite sports team, don’t bother to think about or understand issues, just go team! Religious beliefs not defined as one of the cults? I was raised a Catholic – 16 years of parochial education – Want to have a serious discussion about faith? Sit down with a Jesuit. Same conversation with the average “cafeteria Catholic”? A waste of time – they pick and choose what they want to believe to match their political leanings. One thing unique to Catholic faith is the infallibility of the Pope – literally, not figuratively, the voice of God on earth. One might suggest Trump was a simple test of faith for Catholics – he certainly represents the seven “Mortal/Deadly sins” (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, etc.) while Pope Francis has written extensively on immigration, climate change etc. – a simple choice, right? Apparently not. So Catholics aren’t crazy cult like zealots, (one might say these aren’t Christians at all) yet this religious cult aspect is certainly imho the most toxic part of the toxic stew that threatens our very existence today. What is more powerful than speaking for GOD! That said, I’m not sure how unraveling the pretzel logic of the insane cultists and their evil cohorts will save us.
    I think some assume logic, reason and the basic good in people will eventually prevail; some imagined a tipping point to the good with Obama, when that proved to lead to exactly the opposite. Many are hoping (or praying) that it will come in 2020… Millennials and a coming minority majority will save us? I would so like to believe that, but with the tilt of SCOTUS, gerrymandering, Citizens United, and election interference to outright election fraud, I think we may have already lost. Climate change won’t wait either. I’ll go down fighting it though.

  2. This article plays a bit against Chris’ theme that the insane are trying to create their version of a white nationalist paradise as a hedge against not being one of the few chosen for Rapture. I am sure even these psychopaths recognize that they will need to eat, and bees are kind of important in that regard.

    Like I said many times, the nation and the planet cannot afford to let politics alone dictate the direction the next few years take.

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/06/politics/honeybees-study-usda-donald-trump-budget-cuts/index.html

  3. So it hit 90 degrees in Anchorage a couple days ago.

    If someone was lighting fires all around your home, with you in it, and kept telling you “This is normal”, you would put a bullet in that person, and the police would simply shrug, and say “nothing to see here”.

    Why are we waiting on extinguishing the fires and the arsonists? You think the planet can wait another 2, 5, or 10 years?

  4. The Atlantic:
    “Part of the answer is their belief that they are engaged in an existential struggle against a wicked enemy—not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran, but rather American liberals and the left.”

    The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/evangelical-christians-face-deepening-crisis/593353/?utm_term=2019-07-05T10%3A00%3A17&utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_medium=social

    1. “Many evangelical Christians are also filled with grievances and resentments because they feel they have been mocked, scorned, and dishonored by the elite culture over the years.”

      In response they latch on to Mr 7DeadlySins with all his obvious unfitness, therefore validating that scorn, mockery, and dishonoring.

      I have zero respect for these evangelical Trumpkins. The less contact I have with them, the better. That doesn’t mean I wish harm on them, or that I’d support taking away their civil rights. It does mean that I don’t want them having any power over others who believe differently. I oppose them getting the political and social dominance they crave, because they are not worthy.

      1. Evangelicals see no hypocrisy with their religious beliefs and choices. Their “pure” worlds are insulated from critical self-judgement through blind allegiance to dogma and promotion of self interest. They are, in fact and actions, the antithesis of the religious tenets they profess. They sully Christianity. Unfortunately for our country, they have learned how to use the political process to promulgate their mission.

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/07/donald-trump-evangelical-supporters

  5. Thankyou EJ and Mary for your posts. My thoughts follow:

    RE: Trump’s Salute to America
    My personal thoughts are that this entire spectacle is JINGOISM. I am as patriotic as anyone, but there is a difference between over the top spectacles and real patriotism. A real patriot does what is required to support his country, whatever the cost, when there is a true need. He or she supports all members of society and takes care of their needs and ensures that there is equity in opportunity, in speech and the opportunity to vote, that there is an equitable opportunity for an education and to live a good life. Thomas Jefferson summed it well when he wrote:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are Instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    A true patriot strives to uphold these ‘self-evident truths.’ To do that over-the -top displays of military might, and excessive displays of patriotic symbolism are not required. This ‘Salute to America’ is inappropriate at a time when so much needs to be done to secure Jefferson’s ‘self-evident truths.’ A true patriot will also attempt to correct injustices his nation might practice and to criticize his nation when appropriate.

    I speak as a non-combat veteran who served in a combat zone and wore his county’s uniform. I find it inappropriate that a man who has prided himself on doing as little as possible for his nation over his entire life, has consistently paid as little in taxes as possible, has consistently failed to pay debts, and has cheated people whenever possible, organized this event and intends to star in it. All to satisfy he need for constant adulation. Furthermore, he avoided service by means of a fraudulent medical exemption. He engaged in collusion with a foreign power to influence an election and will do it again. This man is as far from being a true patriot as possible.

    In so far as paying tribute to the men and women of our military, that is poppycock. Those military personnel would much rather have the day off and enjoy with their friends and family. They certainly do not want to wear a dress uniform and the spend the day preparing to be on a grandstand, behind a man who refused to wear his country’s uniform.

    Personally, I would rather pay tribute to the men and women of the military by personally respecting them, their service and by saying thank you when I can. I generally identify myself as a veteran as well. Marching or attending a home-town parade is always appropriate. Voting and supporting adequate services, medical care and educational opportunities for the veterans and active duty military is appropriate. I also prefer to pay personal respect to those who have served in combat by any means appropriate. I respect the symbols of our nation, such as the flag, but there is no need to wrap myself in it.

  6. EJ

    Happy National Day to all the residents of the American Republic.

    It’s not easy to be proud of one’s country when one’s country is committing abhorrent acts. However, one can work to make one’s country a better place in future, both for its own inhabitants and for the rest of the world; and to me, this is what true citizenship entails, regardless of whether one happens to have the relevant documentation or not.

    When schoolchildren in the 2090s have history lessons about the current day, I hope it is said to them that there were some who did the right thing.

  7. I read about half the Left Behind series. The first three books are middling quality sci-fi, what if it had been released after Harry Potter would be called Young Adult, as the genre generally concerns typically Mary Sue and Gary Stu average Joes (with porn-like silliness of their names) who find out that their average normal life was actually hiding their specialness as behind the scenes greater and much more interesting world’s exist, to which they belong, and from which they learn to do powerful and adventurous things as they go along learning the rules to the new reality they’re privy too. After that the authors were misfortune enough to get famous, which caused them to expend entire chapters or more in preachings and prayers and hiding cool fantasy shit like mountains falling from the sky and plagues of death hornets “outside the bunker” while the main characters proselytize.

    I think that, “I was special and selected the whole time — it’s just that society kept me average” is a key part of the narrative that compels people, whether on escapist fantasies, spiritual beliefs, or ideologies. Just as libertarians actually believe they can transact and choose everything with full information if left with no social guardrails, Silicon Valley apostles actually believe they’ll upload their brains to float about in Dyson Spheres until the full entropic decay of the universe. NRA members actually believe they can hold off the United States and other militaries with their little handguns and Dinsdale here talks as if he can pop off some Republicans like James Bond rolling through a setpiece dispatching mooks with a PPK. It’s the same reason we enjoy superhero movies — wouldn’t it be neat to get bitten by a spider and effectively be able to fly through the canyons of the city? No more worrying about traffic, except at such points when you’re hiding your exceptionalism from normies so they don’t try to stop you.

    (It’s always the other exceptional and powerful people who are the villians. You see they ABUSE their power, get it? I personally would use it RESPONSIBLY. Vote me as President and I’ll get in there and sort all this shit out. You see what we have here is a failure to communicate.)

    Combine that compelling personal desire to get special credit for being awesome with the well documented social desire to belong and be recognized as a part of community, it’s no surprise religions can end up creating the sort of narratives that leads you to expect a ride on a comet or a floating sphere of protection while you watch the firework display of angels blasting jet fighters with laser vision from the best seat of the house.

    That last sentence? That was actually written in this Left Behind-like knock-off book handed out by street preachers who told me “Left Behind means well but got the details all wrong.” To be fair, in a match up between LaHaye’s vision and those freaks, I’ll go for the freaks, because I’d rather watch aerial laser battles than sit in a bunker while the fun stuff happens outside — all other things being equal in that apparently I just gave to give myself over to Jesus and I won’t have to suffer a bit.

    “Religion” did not cause the actress from whatever that TV show is to conscript other women to willingly brand and humiliate themselves in cow udders for some sex cult run by yet another long haired spiritual guru. A combination of our innate feature to be approved of and the always ticking need to feel like you’re promises something good gets people to believe all sorts of shit, spiritual or otherwise. When outsiders confront you, it’s because they stand to lose. Better to keep them away from talking to you, limit your interaction. You’re better than them anyway.

    (Who here believes they’re more educated and knowledgeable than other people, and that other people need to stop muddying up the discourses with their insolent wrongness, which you find yourself increasingly having to filter or block out from information feeds to stop from infecting you with bad moods, for which this website allows a bit of clarity and relief, an intellectual Oasis in the Internet desert.

    Not you? Nonsense, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. Hi, Cult of Political Orphans. Don’t take it the wrong way, it’s just what people do.)

    This is a global phenomenon too, nothing special or unique about Americans doing it. Check out Aum Shinrikyo sometime, now THAT was an impressive death cult. Even American Exceptionalism isn’t exceptional, though the Southwest creates a perfect sort of geographical laboratory for cult growing due to its prevalence of very open, isolated and uninhabited land without the cold winters the Northwest and Midwest would have that would wipe a cult out. The best American cults seem to start in Texas and then grow in size and organizational coherence until you reach the Scientologists in California.

    It’s interesting that below there’s a lot of pushback on this “actually believes”ness of Ameristan. Ask many of the doubters if they feel ISIS actually believes what they say in those crazy snuff porn videos they release, and few would say, “Ahhh, you’re being a bit extreme, that kinda sounds like conspiracy theorist stuff.” For the most part it’s best practice to assume a person believes what they say they do, and then look at what they get for it. Rarely will you find a person who is knowingly lying — more often the conflicts between their actions and their beliefs, and the paradoxes and logical fallacies of those systems, boil down to cognitive dissonance or and lack of intellectual interest or concern far faster than actively lying to achieve an end. 45 is one of the most active and practiced liars you can find and it’s far more likely the dude actually believes God’s on his side far sooner than he doesn’t believe so but lies about it for the Evangelical vote.

    1. Daniel, religion is one of the worst social constructs man ever created. Far far more damage has been done “in the name of god” than good has ever come from it.

      Has some good come from religion? Of course. Something has to be used to keep the masses in check.

      If there was no religion and people realized that this 70-90 years is all you have, there would be rioting in the streets and the rich would be dragged from their beds. People facing abject poverty would not be thinking “If I am a good person, I will go to a better place in the long run, so I better not steal food from the street vendor or kill that sociopath that just sent my job to Mexico so he could get a 1 million dollar bonus, in case I mess up my chances to get into Heaven.”

      But when you balance that against all the lovely things that religion has brought us, like human sacrifice, the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and more recently, everything Chris has detailed, well, religion is a huge net loss.

      We would be mining asteroids and have many massive space based telescopes plumbing the depths of the galaxy and universe already (Hubble is crude toy compared to what is coming) if the Church had not set back astronomy more than a century when they repressed Kepler and Galileo’s work, among others, for so long. And don’t get me started on stem cell research. Religion has a track record as long as its existence for repressing science, since most of it goes against religion’s power base.

      Yes, humanity would be far far better off if all religion was wiped off the planet, and kids were taught critical thinking at an early age.

      Oh, and a completely unrelated note, nice to see that evil triumphs again, and the tyrant managed to get one of his appointees “randomly selected” to hear his tax case in the Washington appeals court. Of the 15 judges on the District Court for the District of Columbia, 4 are Trump stooges. So, he beats a 27% chance. Not that it matters. It will go to SCOTUS eventually and they will cover for the tyrant. It will just take longer now, as this stooge will delay a decision it as long as he is told to.

      1. I’m not sure we’re capable of surviving in a healthy mental state without either religion, or some substitute by another name. What I’ve seen developing around us as organized Christianity enters its death spiral is a galaxy of “non-religious” people improvising their own religions out of scraps of broken culture they find in the debris-field of the former church.

        Frustrated by the stupidity of End Times enthusiasts? Wait ’till you see what the post-religious religion of the anti-vaxxers has in store for us. My vegan friends remind me of the most starry-eyed, disturbing people I knew as a kid in our evangelical church.

        We are wired for vision, something that appears to be our unique evolutionary niche. We create in our imaginations worlds that don’t yet exist, out of materials that aren’t there. Then, in many cases, we leverage those visions to make those imaginings real. Every real thing around us that improved our world, from a polio vaccine to the house in which you live, rose from the same mental functions that make religion work, that capacity to imagine something, and inhabit the world created by our imagination.

        Don’t like religion because it involves the belief in things that aren’t empirically real? What’s real about a nation, or a company, or a community, or even a family? Think about all the rituals we use to bind ourselves into these notional, conceptual structures, just like our religions.

        We are religious creatures whether we want to be or not. Whatever frustrations we experience from defective, dysfunctional religions, we’d best not lose sight of our fundamental need for these structures.

      2. I’m an artist. I make things that start as an idea, a vision, perhaps.

        Every time I make something that started as an image in my head, I am bowled over that I can do that. It’s a great feeling.

        Let’s make art our religion. We can all be gods.

      3. Chris, humanity are social creatures. It is in our DNA to be gather in like-minded communities for survival. And yes, that drive has created rituals like marriage, religion, nation-building.

        Humanity would be lost if they could not gather in tribes. But religion is one of those rituals that is a product of that DNA. It is one ritual we can can live without, if it was replaced with something else, like say, a global effort to colonize space.

      4. “Fully Automated Luxury Space Communism” is the meme for people who think we’ll develop enough automated labor and cheap energy that jobs will cease to be a social requirement and we’ll no longer use money to exchange or track store of value. A major step through the process is a universal basic income, until even that becomes inefficient. Other major steps involve completely losing need for carbon energy sources, instead using carbon for computing and storage (i.e. the Diamond Age).

        It’s just a fun way of talking about technological post-scarcity. The ‘Queer’ part was added later to imply that it’s also for everyone to be and identify as they chose with no social constraints.

        You’ve written articles that indicate to me that you believe jobs will cease to be required for most dispersal of resources, oil will lose its value, code will eat away labor, and a UBI is an efficient method of giving everyone shares in the overall wealth of society, and you care about fully representative pluralism, so, you are somewhere in the neighborhood of the Fully Automated Queer Luxury Space Communists.

      1. I know little about Mormonism too, so I am probably just being a judgmental jerk, but my mother filled me in with a long rant after her colleague insisted she read the book of Mormon.

        So in the early 1800s this dude named Joseph Smith got kicked out of the East Coast and travelled to Utah where he dug down and found missing religious texts of the Bible, which he of course set to work recording in his book and which don’t exist in any physical form any other person has ever seen. These texts proclaim him knower and missionary of the God of the two testaments, corrects a few errors of the earlier text, adds a few details, and enabled by religious law men to take multiple wives but women can only take one husband because of course they can’t. Heaven is an actual planet devoted exclusively for the True Believers and no one else, there can only be some hundreds of thousands of True Believers on that planet so it’s a very exclusive, prestigious club, and if you’re black you can’t be a member.

        On that last statement: Mormonism states that sins literally burn flesh, so black people are literally stained with sin. Sinners can’t go to Heaven, so it follows that black people can’t go to Heaven. They can join Mormonism for some sort of on-Earth conscience relief but nothing they can do to any level of purity will ever grant them admission. They’re shot out of luck.

        Inverted is the Armageddon endtimes and related stuff of our current discussion. In Mormonism, it is foretold that eventually Mormons will be granted full governance of Earth — in addition to having a spot reserved in Heaven. It is the Mormons’ duty to actively seek positions of governance in order to fulfill this directive. So it turns out that Mormons tend to be good business and political leaders. Since the grand majority of people they interact with cannot possibly, mathematically, chill in heaven with them, they don’t really have to expend undie effort proselytizing Mormonism to people they work with or whatever. So it’s very easy for them to hang around being normal while trying to fulfill their spiritual contract to take over the world.

        But for the True Believers it’s the usual culty social ordinance stuff. No looking at boobs, except the boobs you own and only for the purpose of populating your fine, privileged seed to take over the world. No bad language or diverse opinions. I’m blanking on whether they have dietary restrictions. Women should be super duper adoring and supportive of their men. I’m blanking on whether women get to go to Planet Heaven.

        I apologize for my facile and handwavy manner of talking about all of this but from my perspective, a lot of these Christian sects all blend together.

      2. Women get into heaven to make celestial babies. Even their version of heaven sounds horrible. Eternal childbirth. No thanks.

        Joseph Smith was a grifter who wanted easy access to very young girls and power. Similar to Plumpy in the WH.

      3. There’s supposed to be a ban on coffee and tea. Not on caffeine, curiously enough – just those two drinks. Total alcohol ban as well. Apparently the latter at least works, evidenced by Utah’s absurdly low rate of drunk driving deaths.
        Missions (2 years for men and 1 year for women) are heavily encouraged for young adults.
        The Mormon church has changed theology to satisfy political realities at least twice. They ended polygamy so Utah could be a state, and allowed blacks to have full membership once the Carter administration threatened their tax exempt status.
        Fascinating as it is horrifying

  8. I was born and raised into a strict Southern Baptist family (Sunday school, church twice on Sundays and once on Wednesdays!) and so this is an interesting read. Until I was in my late teens/early 20s, I firmly bought into the Salvation and End Times stories. I do agree with your “cult” framing. To be honest, one of the hardest things to do in my adult life has been to figure out where I belong without that religious identity, even though I firmly set it aside more than 15 years ago and am now agnostic. I’m pondering the “death cult” term and the fact that people are trying to bring the Apocalypse. That doesn’t really resonate with me, but it could be due to the fact that I was very much still a kid and I think I’ve blocked a lot of memories. I remember as a child pondering why God would send people to hell if they had never been taught about him. I just didn’t think that was fair, and I never really got over that issue. Besides the lack of fairness, it became clear to me over time that no Evangelical really cares about making it a better world for all – just a better world for “believers.” That translates to a lot of hypocrisy. Honestly, it’s pretty hilarious – they have invented a process where if you know the secret of being “saved,” you’re automatically in, but everyone else is a sinner who is only worthy of time if you are trying to convert them. Sorry for my rambling response, but I do plan to give this some thought. I imagine this must be a pretty overwhelming read for people without background knowledge, so props to those readers who waded through :).

    1. Fairness became an issue for me, too. Catholic school, daily mass for 8 years. I remember taking one of my grandmother’s old prayer books to mass one day. It noted that to despair is to sin.

      Seemed absurd to me. I thought, Why don’t you just kick’em when they’re down.

      I cannot see how religion is good for us.

  9. Lots to digest in this post. I may have more comments later.

    Presently my major comment is that using the cult approach to developing an understanding of the current Republican Party and much of the Evangelical movement is exactly the approach that Eric Hoffer utilized in his approach to understanding communism, nazism and other mass movements – “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements”, published in 1951. He wrote several other books, but that was the seminal one. I long ago concluded that much of the Evangelical movement is largely a cult.

    Thanks for incorporating the historical need for development of a religious belief system, that supported slavery and white supremacy into a short history of the modern Evangelical movement.

      1. This is why we have to knock on doors to turn out the nonvoters. It’s why Democrats need to nominate someone worth knocking on doors for. It is research-backed that if rank-and-file leftists campaign, Republicans have no chance. They can’t do anything about it. Pew studied nonvoters from the 2012 election and found they preferred Obama 59-23 over Romney. I can’t imagine that anything has happened since to change that ratio much.

        The ideology talked about here is exactly what I heard in diluted form for 3 1/2 years in Amway. I think if I had been better at the business I would have been invited to insider meetings where I would have heard exactly what Chris writes hwre.

  10. man chris you sent me down a rabbit hole … I had to google and find this from 2013:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/02/americans-obama-anti-christ-conspiracy-theories

    “The study revealed that 13% of respondents thought Obama was “the antichrist”, while another 13% were “not sure”

    “The survey also revealed that 28% of people believed in a sinister global New World Order conspiracy, aimed at ruling the whole world through authoritarian government. Another 25% were “not sure” and only a minority of American voters – 46% – thought such a conspiracy theory was not true.”

  11. Chris, I had a lot on my plate this morning, but saw you had a new posting. I could not know what a long read it would be. And, yet, I felt exonerated by your piece. I have felt for quite some time that the Evangelicals have taken over the GOP to bring about their End Times. In my circle of friends and families I count atheists, Jews, Presbyterians, Catholics and non-denominationals. None of them take me seriously on this issue. Some of the Christians feel I malign their beliefs when I talk about this subject. I ask them if they believe the things you so carefully laid out and they say, “Of course not!”

    So, your article speaks loudly to me and backs up my arguments with hard facts and insights. As you can see by the comments already posted, folks are resistant to this logical explanation of why we are where we are. To me, it makes perfect sense. I grew up in a fundamentalist environment with prophecies about “blood on the moon” signaling the return of Christ. Scary to a 12-year old!

    I had hoped these people would age out of the influence role. However, I failed to account for the successful indoctrination that these cults practice.

    As I read your piece, however, I tried to imagine how a reader who is not familiar with your history or breadth of knowledge, would view it. And, I have to agree with RHOU. That is the pity. We have come to the point in time, when calling out a cult is seen as crazier than the cult itself. Have the End Timers achieved success after all?

    Thank you for the long read. I needed it.

  12. It took me nearly a decade to put this piece together, mostly because of a problem that still hangs over it. How do you write about a dangerous cult without sounding crazy? And unfortunately, it may not be possible.

    Anyone who wrote with urgency about the Heaven’s Gate cult prior to their mass suicide, especially if they tried to include that possibility in their account, would have been dismissed as alarmist and biased. Imagine if that organization had a sizable organized political presence. No one would have dared to write about them at all.

    If this account sounds extreme, then accept this challenge. Find errors, other than the grammatical glitches that always accompany my work.

    Thing is, when you stick to demonstrated reported facts, you find a world of Republicans influenced by evangelical theology and evangelical voters, who are actively pushing policies that are destructive in almost every measurable, factual way.

    If this account is incorrect, then how exactly?

    1. Please don’t take the comments on this thread as a sign that your account is judged as incorrect.

      It is just so far from the world that I live in and grew up in, that it presents a challenge.

      Yes I read the comments about King Cyrus, etc. but I always believed that all of this is just a bunch of power hungry, racist, white guys manipulating the masses, contriving words in the bible, to justify their support for a candidate they in reality know is a buffoon and won’t bring them any closer to heaven. But I grew up in Europe, and your post was the first time that I read that evangelicals might actually want the world to explode as soon as possible …

      I guess the thing is that we always try to process things in some logical way. It is easier to understand that Alex Jones is a brilliant, scrupulous guy who doesn’t believe a single word of the bullshit he says, but is making millions by selling survival gear and miracle juices than to comprehend that he he actually believes that Trump is the messiah …

      And so naturally we gravitate to the theory of “a bunch of white old racist guys that have found a way to enrich themselves and a way to cement their power, by making up stuff that they know the masses will believe while they sit in their mansions and laugh about how stupid their followers are”. The idea that they might just be as crazy as their followers and would be willing to “take the poison themselves” had so far not entered my mind and that to me is a lot SCARIER, which is why the initial reaction might be to try to be ignorant about it …

      1. Understood. You touched on something really interesting and important here – how many of these cult leaders, like say, Pat Robertson, actually believe this stuff? It’s a really complicated and troubling question, especially since we have no real way to be sure. And by what means does a belief system with no original connection to racism or bigotry absorb and internalize those values?

        If, as an idealist who believes in something, you start to experience power and influence, there’s a certain cynicism that inevitably sets in. Whether your cause is Christianity, The Rapture or Communism, once you make the transition from mere advocacy to the exercise of power, compromises have to be made. And if in your rise you gained a great deal of power over people who are either wildly credulous, or have been molded into an authoritarian mindset, the opportunity to abuse those people for personal purposes become so extreme that only the most monkish leaders can resist.

        As those compromises are made to enhance power, the most efficient and successful compromises involve bringing the group into line with prevailing culture. If the culture in which you operate is wildly racist then you’ll face a lot of pressure to align with that racism. If you principle aims have nothing to do with racial or social justice, then embracing the racism of the culture around you will be as natural as breathing.

        I’m pretty convinced that most of the 1st generation evangelical entrepreneurs actually believe their own bullshit. They went along with the racism either because, like Pat Robertson, they were pretty racist from the beginning, or because they just don’t care and it makes it easier to thrive. The 2nd generation characters, the heirs to the family business like Falwell Jr and Graham Jr, are mostly just spoiled rich kids looting the family store. They’ll say and do whatever will get them an invitation to the White House or a new jet.

        Do these evangelical entrepreneurs “want” to destroy the world? Maybe, maybe not. Will they lift a single jeweled finger to restrain their followers from destroying the world in their name? No.

      2. Chris, I think that last paragraph in your response is probably the best summary for this topic.

        I have thought about it for a while and my own conclusion is that we probably have four categories of “Evangelicals”.

        There are those like Steven’s pastor (i have met many of these myself), that appear to be people devoted to making the world a better place and living Christian values. Their republican support is primarily based on abortion but even they are starting to doubt their choice since nothing else aligns with any of their true Christian values.

        Then there are the grifters (e.g. Falwell Jr and Graham Jrs ) that may not believe in anything but as long as they feel they personally benefit from it, they will just keep it going. They are most likely unaware of the dangers their enabling is presenting and even if they are aware, they probably just don’t give a shit. (this also perfectly fits trump)

        Then we have the racists / white supremacists, the ones that don’t believe in much religiously but just don’t want to see brown people around here and hear “para espagnol marke dos” and that are primarily worried about those foreigners coming to take their jobs and their social security. They become evangelicals because they mix well with the other types and feel like this is the main group that will advocate in their interest.

        And then there are the true crazies that you describe very well in the article, the ones that really want to blow up the world.

        I understand why you focused on last group, because it is barely ever talked about and unknown (as it was to me), most political discussions, articles, op-eds, etc. are focused on the first three types.

        But if you ever think about rewriting / publishing this post, maybe by making these general classifications in the beginning and then zooming in on the crazies, will make it easier to process instead of coming across as “all evangelicals wish the world ends soon”.

    2. Chris, on the contrary, I found your piece as logical and rational as can be, with maybe one point needing clarification. Did you mean to say that even though these evangelicals welcome the Eschaton, they rejected Bush I in ’92 because they feared they and America ‘weren’t ready’? Meaning that they weren’t in charge yet, and wouldn’t be because Bush I never really embraced them? And that now they’ve embraced Trump as their Messiah because he’s made it clear that he’ll let them do whatever they want? That makes sense to me. And it also provides the explanation for why they never elevated Bush ll the same way, even though he was far more ‘one of them’: there was just enough rationalism and professionalism left in the Republican party to keep the nuts mostly away from the levers of power. Their eight years out of power burned that away.

      1. Nice catch, and honestly I’m not sure I understand it.

        My grandmother’s generation of fundamentalists (she came up before they started trying to rename the movement) really wouldn’t have cared. Thing is, though, they were mostly poor, isolated from the world, and fairly powerless. Their disinterest in politics rose in large part from their wider impotence as “white trash” in a corrupt, exploitative system.

        The idea you find developed in the Left Behind books, that America has some special role in the Apocalypse as a refuge or outlier, seems to have emerged late (70’s or 80’s) with the pivot toward political activism that accompanied the counter-civil rights movement. It seems to explain why evangelicals in the 90’s were horrified by the prospect that Bush would usher in the hated New World Order and make the US a part of that satanic scheme. I don’t know. Asking these folks for theological consistency may be unrealistic. At the core, they don’t like the Antichrist, so anything associated with the Antichrist is bad, even if they should welcome it as a sign of The End.

        Add to this idea the persistent and darkly hilarious worry of many evangelical Christians that they might be “left behind” in the Rapture, and the need to carve out some American hiding place perhaps makes more sense. Bush’s welcome of the New World Order would threaten that hiding place. That’s a later innovation, something my grandmother and her generation never talked about, but it’s a crowd-pleaser, so it gets added to the stew.

        This shit ain’t rocket science.

  13. I agree with RHOU that this post wouldn’t have made a good first impression.

    However, as I was reading it I was reminded of a conversion I was having during the Gore/Bush election.

    It was reasonably friendly, but cut short when it was explained that they know Bush would be a bad president and probably bring about the end-of-times but they were going to vote for him anyway.

    I had nothing to say after that.

    I have also noted that others have suggested the Trump is similar to other “Biblical Leaders” with inherent faults.

    In short, I agree that rational arguments won’t persuade a large portion of Trump voters.

    depressing

    1. Religious voters are openly comparing Trump to the Persian King Cyrus. Why? It seems like no one in our universe of established journalism understands what they’re talking about, or the reference they are making to the first non-Jewish figure in the Bible to be described with the word ‘Messiah.’

  14. I am a member of an Evangelical church. When I started going to this church over 40 years ago it was white southern as could be. But it’s leaders never bought into the bigoted nonsense that many other churches at the time preached.
    We were welcoming to any and all. The first time we got a chance to demonstrate that was when we had a mix couple start to attend our church. They were comfortable with us. Other churches they were not.
    Today we are a very diverse church, truly looking like our City which is a minority majority community. About a third Black, a third Hispanic, and the rest White with a smattering of other ethnic groups. Many of our members are mix couples. This all where Dixie once was strong. That culture in our area is dying out.
    So what do you call churches like ours? Yes we believe in the return of Jesus. But the emphasis is being busy doing good to people and preaching the Gospel while we have time. Either before Jesus returns or we die and go to Him.
    My pastor and quite a few members voted for Trump because of the abortion issue. But I think many realize now they were had. Including my pastor. Many of the associate pastors think like me and I am pretty sure they did not vote for that grifter.
    Because I and others who think like me, really try to live Holy and demonstrate our love with deeds not words we have influence. My view is people make errors in their thinking but can be reached. Even in White Evangelical churches there is a battle going on for the soul of the church. I know Chris you do not believe in Revelations but most of the Churches wrote about there were in serious error. Jesus rebuked them. Only two of the seven Churches were not rebuked. These people in error I am not giving up on. A few can be turned and saved.
    I used the parable of the sheep and goats a lot because this was directed at the Church. The true mark of being one of God’s elect is love in my opinion. Just saying some words is not what salvation is.
    And thinking you can speed up God’s time table or help Him along is foolish ignorance. Remember the story in the Old Testament of Ishmael? That trying to help God along was and still is a disaster.
    I made my living in the lab and using chemistry to manage complex chemical processes. I actually used the scientific method to solve problems in creative ways that no one before had used.
    But I have seen the supernatural too. Things science can knowledge as happen but no explanation. Healing, knowledge, information unexplained reveled and things changed in the material world both people and things. As I have aged I have become more and more aware of how profoundly ignorant I am.
    The Gospel is an invitation not a forceful coercion. Even in the Church there is plenty of room for diversity. I am appalled at the attempt to circumnavigate the First Amendment to coerce others into a religious view and life style. That was common when those Amendments were written. The rub is which religion or view becomes the state religion force on all others. So the central law of the land forbids that.
    Don’t put all of us in the same basket. Remember that White Evangelicals you wrote about are a minority of us Christians overall.

    1. I feel you.

      I wanted to include in this piece an explanation of why you only find these beliefs in evangelical churches, but as you can see it is already miles long.

      The loose, highly diverse, and highly charismatic (attached to a personality) nature of charismatic denominations like the SBC, Assemblies of God, and the thousands of unaffiliated churches, means that there’s no one to rein them in. Catholics don’y buy this stuff at all, first because it was invented in a highly bigoted, anti-Catholic environment, soaking up tons of material Catholics would never accept, but more importantly because Catholic churches operate in a tight hierarchy, with some fairly educated, well-read and professional people acting as filters. Same for the Episcopals, Methodists and so on.

      You needed two environmental conditions for this theology to catch hold – racism, fear and independence. So you end up with a theology that finds its most fertile ground in the Jim Crow South and the lower Ohio Valley, and almost exclusively among the denominations that fail to exercise any meaningful message discipline on its extended (and often very isolated ) nodes.

      On the other end of the spectrum, that same loose model can produce churches like yours, and major progressive religious figures like John Pavlovitz. But, like any other human environment left poorly tended and largely fallow, it mostly it ends up reflecting the worst in the human character. The evangelical model is a fertile playground for aspiring cultists, so mostly it produces charlatans competing to make serious untaxed $$ while earning the fawning praise of masses of desperate admirers.

      If you build it, they will come, and the evangelical model is built to spawn cults.

      1. We had healing services all the time growing up. On a related note, I saw my first exorcism at age 13, at kid’s camp. I should note this was not some tiny little backwoods congregation. It was the second-largest church in SE Texas at the time, a region with 300,000 people and a congregation of roughly a thousand. It’s lost some of its heft over the years and gotten a lot weirder (yes, weirder), but it still exists.

        http://www.icathedral.org/

        “Healing” is interesting. I saw lots of people “healed” of everything from spinal problems to cancer. It would be a mistake to dismiss the concept entirely. The connection between mental and physical wellness is so complex and poorly understood, that medical researchers have had to develop an entire process to account for it. Double-blind trials are an effort to weed out the persistent placebo effect, in which a patient’s belief in the efficacy of a medication influences medical outcomes.

        That said, there’s an old adage, “The road to Lourdes is littered with crutches, but not one wooden leg.” Nobody ever gets healed from something obviously disprovable. I actually mentioned something like this when I was about 12, and much of the church went to a local convention center to see a performance by a traveling “healer.” My comments were not well-received, and in the interest of not going to hell I shut my mouth.

        That brings me to a very sad story.

        There was a kid in our youth group who was paraplegic. These healing services were brutal on him. I can hardly even describe this without getting sick, but everybody wanted to be the spiritual hero who healed him. And when it failed, it was his fault for not believing. No one said that to him, but we said it over and over in sermons about the power of faith and he absorbed it. He was tormented and I have no idea what happened to him after I left town. I’ve never even heard anyone mention him. What that church did to him with their “compassion” and their bullshit “healing ministry” was straight-up torture. He haunts me.

      2. Dinsdale:
        I have heard stories like what you described by reliable people but not seen them. I can only vouch for what I personally have seen. Here are some of them. I have prayed for one of my pastors once who had a bad ulcer. He was healed. In Haiti I prayed for a team member who had twisted her ankle and she was healed. During that same mission trip one team member fell down a mountain and broke her thigh bone. This was pointed out by one of the nurses with us as it happen. The leader also a RN nurse in the field with out using ex-rays set her bone correctly after prayer. She thought this was done but told me after we got her to the hospital it would be confirmed. She told me that was supposed to be impossible. It was confirmed.
        In one of the villages we gathered on a mountain looking to the sea and worshiped and sang. Angles sang with us, you could hear them coming from the sea side. It was not an echo.
        The bus we were riding had a busted radiator when it ran over a pot hole. Big holes in it. Some members were inspired to pug the holes up with chewing gum. It worked until we were done with our mission.
        Once a word of knowledge was given about exactly what I was thinking. The person giving it had no idea that had been done. It was a correction for me. There are other events like that in my life.
        Pretty plain stuff. Other people I think are reliable have seen much greater things. I really do not care to argue about if God exist or if He does why is he concern with us. My job is just to testify. You can believe it or not.

    2. Stephen, what leads you to believe that at least some of the members of your congregation who voted for Trump are feeling that that may have been a mistake? I ask because the degree to which that might be true has serious implications for the survival our nation.

      On a separate but related point, I understand your plea to not be lumped in with Trump supporting evangelicals. As a nominal Catholic and sort of a believer, I don’t like broad brush smears either. But this touches on something that’s been on my mind, and that’s what seems to be the abyssmal failure of evagelical Christians of good conscience to call out the corruption that’s taken hold of a lot of evangelical Christianity. And unfortunately I feel that the Catholic Church in America has failed similarly. We may not have bought into the same theological corruption, but we haven’t disavowed it either, loudly and publicly. Even worse we as a group bear culpability for Trump because we allowed ourselves to make common cause with those evangelicals over abortion, gay marriage, etc., giving them cover and respectability.

      1. Very true. having grown up in Europe I am always amazed how different American Catholics are from European Catholics. In Europe many of my Catholic friends are supporting organizations like Caritas that focus on humanity, human rights, etc. They speak up for refugees and constantly preach about how Jesus stood for taking care of the poor, etc.

        Some Catholics I know here in Houston (mostly Vietnamese), were posting Hillary with devil horns, were cheering Trump and complaining how Obama was purposefully denying asylum to Christian refugees from Syria …

      2. Amazing essay, Chris, as always.

        Having been raised as a Catholic in an area of New Jersey (Monmouth County, specifically) where one could be forgiven for thinking the entire United States is majority Catholic, I am not as certain that Catholics don’t fall for this bullshit.

        Now, I am not saying they believe this particular evangelical end of times stuff, but way too many Catholics of my acquaintance are just fine with Trump to this day.

        I just traveled to New Jersey to visit a close friend I’ve known for 36 years, who despite being raised in WASP evangelical circles is quite anti-Trump himself. But his friends from Toms River in Ocean County, New Jersey, were all but screaming at me that Trump was a great President and being relentlessly persecuted by the “deep state” for no good reason. These folks were mostly but not exclusively “white” men, and with the exception of one Jewish doctor they were all Catholic, I believe.

        Now, maybe it’s just that Ocean and Monmouth Counties are the last bastions of crazy Republicanism left in New Jersey, but this left me shaken. I had previously thought these friends of my friend were decent if not sane, and now I am unsure on both points!

        All this brought me back to the casual racism expressed far too often in my high school years when I attended Christian Brothers Academy, an all-boys private Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers of St. John Baptiste De La Salle. The Brothers would engage in it, my schoolmates would engage in it, and the lay teachers would engage in it.

        Last anecdote and then I’ll be done — I had a good friend from this school, Shawn, who fought very hard to overcome the prejudice that had been literally fed to him with his mother’s milk. One time I was at his house talking about the evils of the Nazis (I was a teenage geek who talked about such things, boy was I ever popular!) and I’ll never forget what Shawn’s pious Irish-Catholic mom said to me: “Eric, I’m surprised you’re so pro-Jewish after all they’ve done to your people.”

        The racism/anti-Semitism duopoly expressed by Shawn’s mom is one I’ve witnessed in way too many other Catholic households, but never more vitriolically expressed by her.

        I wish I was making up this craziness in the Catholics I know, but it’s all too real and it drives their support for Trump and the GOP more generally over the last 50 years or so.

      3. Daniel:
        Generally the cruelty of Trump and his not having any fruit except bad fruit is having an effect on many Evangelicals. A large portion of my pastor’s congregation sees things like we do. If you drill down very few Evangelicals are totally against abortion. Allowing them for health of the mother, many in rape and incest cases. I have been pointing out that if government gets involved to stop abortion then they can also mandate them. China is a good example of this. Trump has cemented me into the choice crowd. I can see down the road what happen to the Hebrews in the Bible happen to us. Remember Moses’s story? The Egyptians tried to prune the growth of the Hebrew minority by killing male infants off. I can see Trump’s white nationalist trying to solve the demographic problem for them by mandating abortions for black and brown babies. I hate abortion too but do not want the government involved with this decision. We need to do things to make it as easy as possible for a woman not to make that decision. But if anyone has the power to decide this it should be the mother.

      4. Eric,

        Ah, the White Catholics…

        Obviously, this whole thing about End Times stuff in the US has had no meaningful pull on Catholics. And on the whole, White Catholics are are far less interested in Trump than their Protestant evangelical cousins. But…

        Among white “ethnics,” which is such a great, loaded term, racism has always been a rite of passage into whiteness. It was never as deep, as persistent, or as defining as for whites in the South, but it was strong and it lingers in pockets.

        It didn’t take the Irish long to figure out that if they wanted to survive here, they had to carefully distinguish themselves from black people. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds in retrospect, and they ended up killing a lot of black people to make their point. The Irish draft riot in 1863 was so bad, it may have prolonged the Civil War by forcing Lincoln to divert units from the pursuit of Gen. Lee after Gettysburg. They killed thousands of blacks in New York City before the army could retake the city.

        A lot of Catholics from recent immigrant groups who are old enough to have memories of their immigrant ancestors (like the Drumpf family) are wildly racist. It got worse as they grew affluent. However, their racism feels very ‘performative,’ like the rest of the habits they inherited to prove how American they are. I come from a place soaked in cruel, racial violence. These people seem like they’re posing, acting out to demonstrate what good, respectable white people they are despite the lingering accent. They also seem to be some of the most foolishly overt Trump supporters in the North, the kind of tacky bastards who show up to “nice” restaurants in their MAGA hat and a cigar.

        Chicago was the first place I’d ever been where I encountered anti-Semitism. Catholics, who missed out on Scofield’s pro-Jewish appeal, seem not to have gotten the memo on how WW2 was supposed to snuff out discrimination against Jews.

        By the way, you see some similar “performative whiteness” from newer Asian-Pacific immigrants, especially the Vietnamese, who for years were trying to line up with the Republicans. A lot of older Asian immigrants have some ideas about race that would scared KKK members.

        It’s a big complicated picture out there, but still nobody is quite as enamored with Trump and racism, on such a nearly universal scale, as white evangelicals.

    1. I often hear people explain that evangelicals are Republicans because of abortion and it makes me laugh. Billy Graham in 1968 explained that he supported “planned parenthood” in answer to a question about abortion. The SBC openly endorsed a basic right to an abortion for years leading up and following the Roe decision. A poll of Baptist Sunday School teachers in 1970 showed that more than 70% of them supported a basic abortion right. Nobody gave a damn about abortion until the issue became tied into a broader scheme of racial protection after the Moral Majority organized the fight to protect segregated church schools.

      There’s not a single word in the Bible on the subject. It was never an issue of any interest from pulpits. To the extent that a few politically active evangelicals were interested in the issue, they had been in favor of abortion rights, like prominent Baptist minister and raving segregationist WA Criswell, pastor of the powerful First Baptist in Dallas.

      I can tell you what happened, because I was there. In 1982, a man named Morris Sheats came to our East Texas church with the highly controversial message that we should register to vote and support Republicans. He was running for Congress in the Texas Panhandle as a Republican. This was volatile because most of the members of our large, charismatic church had been apathetic about politics, and ALL of those who were politically active were still Democrats, though they supported Republicans for federal offices.

      But our church had a white private school which was starting to boom thanks to the terror of forced busing, which had started in our town in 1980. At that point there were still active IRS enforcement actions underway against white “segregation academies” in the South (they would soon be canceled by Reagan) and people were scared. Our pastor was EXTREMELY uncomfortable letting a political figure stand in what he considered “his” pulpit, but the threat to the school was too serious to ignore.

      Almost 20 years after the Civil Rights Acts, trying to mobilize a white audience by openly appealing to racism would have been a short walk into a national buzzsaw. Sheats gave us a long screed about abortion, including graphic (and false) depictions of its horrors. To cement the image, he referenced End Times threats, combined with mentions of China’s forced abortions, to imply that the antichrist would use women’s rights and other horrors to make abortion a tool of the soon-coming dictatorial state.

      So, you manage to mobilize an extra 600 new voters, most of who would have otherwise been Democrats, who will bring their racist programming with them. You protect your little white schools, along with the money and more importantly the power that they deliver, without having to mention the hated negro at the root of the whole operation even a single time.

      Why do you hear so much about abortion from evangelicals? Because it became their proxy in the “culture war” for the culture they are really fighting to protect.

      1. Thank you for such a clear and precise explanation of this worldview. I’m very familiar with it, having been raised in the Plymouth Brethren, the group started by John Nelson Darby. I remember that my parents initially thought that legalized abortion was a good thing. There was a young woman in our assembly (they don’t call them “churches”) who had to leave town because she became pregnant out of wedlock, and certainly my parents felt that if abortion had been available to her, she could have stayed.

        However, if memory serves, there was another step in the wholehearted acceptance of the anti-abortion position on the part of evangelicals. This was recounted by Frankie Schaeffer, the son of Francis A. Schaeffer, the evangelical leader. Sensing a need for a major focus to energize their base, they were planning on going after divorce. However, they wanted to support Ronald Reagan, who was himself a divorcé. I believe it was Frankie Schaeffer, a new father, who proposed abortion as the focus. Randall Balmer describes this in his book, Thy Kingdom Come. Catholics, of course, were delighted to have an additional ally on their side, and evangelical activists benefited from being able to claim to speak for a much larger and more diverse population of people they could call just plain “Christians.”

        One other thing: before Weyrich, Schaeffer the elder, Falwell, etc., decided to unite them, there was a somewhat fuzzy but unquestionable distinction between evangelicals and fundamentalists. Evangelicals were generally more liberal, usually better educated and less likely to be biblical “literalists,” i.e., they allowed for some allegorical and poetic interpretations of biblical text. Once Falwell and his ilk started using the less loaded term “evangelical,” it became the general term for the movement.

  15. Chris, I have been reading every article you posted since 2013. If it hadn’t been for all those very methodical, intellectual, factual, etc. posts, and this was the first post of yours I’m reading, I would have dismissed you as “oh this must be the liberal version of Glenn beck”… Peddling a bunch of conspiracy theories that just sound way too made up to be true.

    But do you really know that all evangelicals believe this stuff? I always thought the televangelists were grifters themselves, just playing their base and getting rich doing it. That’s why I assumed they go along with trump, grifters united….

    And I have met evangelists here in Houston where some I have written off as racists hiding behind religion but others that from my interactions appear to be true believers in the values they talk about and the main thing holding them back from voting democratic is abortion, which I can at least rationally understand how they arrive at their conclusion. (seeing it from their side: protecting babies from being killed justifies voting for an adulterer, sexual harasser and grifter ). I absolutely don’t agree with it, but I can somewhat follow the logic…

    What you just posted is way out of any grasp of logic for me to follow or understand. As said it sounds like the stuff Glenn Beck would draw on his insane chalk boards that Jon Stewart would make great fun of.

    I’ll be thinking about this, trying to figure out how to process all of this…

    1. This is key:

      “But do you really know that all evangelicals believe this stuff?”

      No, I don’t. It would be really great if that was something journalists and commentators asked people like Pompeo and it would be great if we understood the meaning in their answers. We don’t, because we’ve come to live in separate worlds.

      Funny thing is, I grew up thinking my little religious community in East Texas was weird and isolated because of these patently bizarre beliefs. Then I left, and discovered that this theology was almost universal among white Protestants I met in the South. What really unsettled me was hearing people mention this stuff in Republican local political meetings.

      So, I don’t have an individual census of all the people who buy this stuff, but I have this. I see how evangelical Republicans respond to questions about climate change or general social welfare. I see what Republicans specifically say about issues like moving our embassy in Israel. I listen to the reasons I hear from Republicans for dozens of policy choices, recognizing as many other don’t the language and symbols they reference.

      And it leaves me to think that it might be better if the rest of the world understood what was in art works like The Left Behind Series. It might be good if we asked Republicans some questions about these things and actually understood their answers.

      1. As one who has lived and worked in evangelical circles all over California – Calvary Chapels with 10,000 people in them, Southern Baptist churches, Presbyterian Churches, Biola Univ, Azusa Pacific Univ., Western Seminary, evangelical camping ministries of Mount Hermon, Hume Lake, Forest home… plus Cedarville university in ohio where this was the topic of a course I took on eschatology, the professor was from Dallas Theological Seminary which influences evangelicals EVERYWHERE… This stuff is explicitly believed by probably 60% of the people I interacted with, implicitly believed by another 30% and quietly resisted by probably 10% or less. It was so rare for me to meet anyone who had a different view of the end times. Many attenders and financial supporters in the pews don’t know what they believe, but their pastors have been trained to fall in line behind these doctrinal points. I would say it’s all fracturing quite a bit right now, but that’s contributing to the panic, because there isn’t really a way for them to save face, there’s no easy transition out of spending 40 years of your life fully invested in this stuff.

  16. Chris, that is an exhausting read. It would have been better if you could have found a way to cut it into two posts.

    But there are a couple takeaways:
    1. The Taliban you mention are zealots, but the U.S. tried to wipe them out of existence before trying to negotiate with them, which of course, will be total failure. Oh, and if I am correct, most surviving Nazi leaders were killed outright or sentenced to long bits at Nuremberg.
    2. Religious fanatics, particularly death cultists, can’t be reasoned with, only killed.

    You still think that any elections in 2020 and 2022, if there are any, will divert the U.S. from the iceberg it is barreling towards?

    1. Dinsdale: We can out vote the fanatics. We are on the crusp of becoming a minority majority country. When the oldest of us die off that will happen. It is already a reality for children in their generation. The state of Florida is almost there. Only people over 70 slightly give whites the majority. The attitudes of the coming generations are going to be different from the older generation. More tolerant and more open to logic and reasoning. They are questioning our economic system and the corruption of the corporate world, government and religious organization. Even some old people are having eyes opening up. For instance I am study the history of the sugar industry in our country. It mirrors the tobacco industry. I am now very open to a heavy tax on sugar because of it’s very bad health effects it has on people in the high quantities we now consume it.
      We will get there I believe by ballots not by bullets.

      1. Stephen, sorry, but no. You cannot outvote the fanatics, the bigots, the stupid. Popular vote, maybe. But that is all. SCOTUS ensured that last week when they made it a free-for-all with regard to gerrymandering.

        Even if you are correct regarding “winning with demographics”, those demographic changes you are discussing take time, a lot of time. You seriously believe that the country and planet have another 5, 8, or 10 years for those population changes to occur?

        BTW, have a look at the greatest population growths, by state.
        Know what states have had the largest spikes and will gain more congressional seats?
        Utah, Texas, and Florida. Now, Utah is essentially a non-entity when it comes to congressional seats, but the other two, they win big when the next congressional seat modifications come.

        You know who are going to get those seats thanks to gerrymandering? Hint: It won’t be Dem’s.

      2. Dindale in Florida in 2010 we passed The Fair District State Constitutional Amendments over overwhelmingly. The Republican state legislation try to ignore the Amendments.The Florida league of Women Voters sued to enforced that new law. The courts took the redistricting from them. As a result several prominent Republican Congress critters lost their seats. It is not a sprint but a Marathon. We will get there.

      1. Great article. I’ve been watching with horror for most of my adult life as Dominionists bent on Armageddon have been trying to grab power in the US, but when I discuss it with people for years it’s been dismissed.

        A few years ago I was watching Ghostbusters for the first time in like 20 years, and at some point Egon is talking about the guy who designed the building in the first movie:

        “After the First World War, Shandor decided that society was too sick to survive. And he wasn’t alone; he had close to a thousand followers when he died. They conducted rituals up on the roof, bizarre rituals intended to bring about the end of the world, and now, it looks like it may actually happen.”

        It’s stuck in my mind since then as my primary description of the republican party and the goals of it’s evangelical masters. I’ve been watching on the side for years as they have been doing their best in the middle east to trigger Armageddon, and it’s as clear as day that they really are a death cult.

        They want us to fear “Islamic extremism”, but as nasty as that set is, none of them are literally trying to bring about the end of the world.

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