As I posted earlier today, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council criticized my recent Washington Post piece. In the course of the critique, he made his own biblical argument against my “court evangelical” idea.
John Fea, a professor at Messiah College, took aim at the president in a Washington Post column earlier this week called “Trump Threatens to Change the Course of American Christianity.” He starts by labeling the White House’s religious base as “court evangelicals,” his term for “a Christian who, like the attendants and advisers who frequented the courts of monarchs, seeks influence through regular visits to the White House.” When I hear the phrase “court evangelicals,” I think of Scripture’s Daniel, Joseph, and others who brought their faith into the presence of the king — people who God strategically placed to influence leaders for the benefit of an entire nation. But Fea doesn’t mean it as a compliment.
I am getting some nice feedback on Perkins’s use of these Bible characters.
Here is one comment I received:
I find it fascinating that Perkins references Daniel, a captive in a hostile government’s court and Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers as forerunners to today’s evangelical sycophants. Neither chose to live in the court of the king but rather had the experience thrust on them. Daniel didn’t kowtow to the norms of the kingdom but rather and put his life on the line for what he believed was right before his God. Daniel spoke truth to power with words and actions.
Here is another:
…Daniel and Joseph didn’t set out to gain power or turn the government to make Egypt/Persia worship Jehovah. And neither Daniel nor Joseph (or Moses, Nehemiah, etc.) gave their bosses the impression that they were blessed. No sycophantic praises sung in those courts.
Daniel also offers the single most important prayer of repentance found in Exilic literature, then counseled non-resistance to imperial violence; bizarre, though I guess it fits for their Babylonian sensibilities which led many of these CE’s to describe DT as Cyrus
The Cyrus comparison is interesting. Richard Mouw referenced it in his recent post at Religion News Service titled “Comparing Trump to two biblical kings.”
And even if we discount Trump’s professions of religious faith, we still have the Cyrus example to consider. The Persian ruler was one of the few pagan rulers in the Bible to get high praise. The Bible even refers to him as God’s “anointed” servant….
And what we know about King Cyrus is that he purposely undid the brutal policies that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, instituted against the captive Jewish people, a minority group in his kingdom. The prophet Daniel had given clear instructions to Nebuchadnezzar about what God required of a pagan ruler: “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away from your sins by doing what is right, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged” (Daniel 4: 27).
But Nebuchadnezzar refused to listen, and instead he engaged in some self-aggrandizing boasting: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4: 30). So, as the biblical story goes, God punished Nebuchadnezzar and later raised up Cyrus. And Cyrus got it right.
Mouw also writes: “… is [Trump] living up to the standards set by the pagan King Cyrus?… The time is ripe now for evangelicals to conduct a job performance review in this regard. I have my Bible handy whenever Mr. Trump’s evangelical supporters are ready to get started!”
The Cyrus example was also brought to my attention recently by a pastor of a church affiliated with the Charismatic Movement. Apparently the prophecies of a man named Kim Clement (he died on November 23, 2016) is getting a lot of traction among charismatics and, according to this pastor, may be behind some of Trump’s support in this community. As the story goes, Clement predicted a Trump presidency in 2007. Read all about it here. (Bill Gates is also part of Clement’s prophetic message).
Another charismatic leader, Lance Wallnau, has made direct references to Trump as Cyrus. Glenn Beck’s new website The Blaze covered Wallnau’s views here. Wallnau posted this video to his Facebook page in October 2015. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network also covered Wallnau.
Many of these charismatic court evangelicals follow a Facebook page called “The Elijah List.”
We need to do more work here, but I wonder how much these prophecies have influenced some of the Court Evangelicals. I am sure there are scholars out there who are working on this community. I would love to hear from them.