The Court Evangelicals and “Vessel Theology”


Vox writer Tara Isabella Burton has coined the phrase “vessel theology” to describe the evangelical supporters of Donald Trump who believe that he is a new King Cyrus.  Here is a taste of her piece: “The biblical story the Christian right uses to defend Trump“:

While Cyrus is not Jewish and does not worship the God of Israel, he is nevertheless portrayed in Isaiah as an instrument of God — an unwitting conduit through which God effects his divine plan for history. Cyrus is, therefore, the archetype of the unlikely “vessel”: someone God has chosen for an important historical purpose, despite not looking like — or having the religious character of — an obvious man of God.

For believers who subscribe to this account, Cyrus is a perfect historical antecedent to explain Trump’s presidency: a nonbeliever who nevertheless served as a vessel for divine interest.

For these leaders, the biblical account of Cyrus allows them to develop a “vessel theology” around Donald Trump, one that allows them to reconcile his personal history of womanizing and alleged sexual assault with what they see as his divinely ordained purpose to restore a Christian America.

“I think in some ways this is a kind of baptism of Donald Trump,” says John Fea, a professor of evangelical history at Messiah College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “It’s the theopolitical version of money laundering, taking Scripture to … clean [up] your candidate.”

This framing allows for the creation of Trump as a viable evangelical candidate regardless of his personal beliefs or actions. It allows evangelical leaders, and to a lesser extent ordinary evangelicals, to provide a compelling narrative for their support for him that transcends the mere pragmatic fact that he is a Republican. Instead of having to justify their views of Trump’s controversial past, including reports of sexual misconduct and adultery, the evangelical establishment can say Trump’s presidency was arranged by God, and thus legitimize their support for him — a support that has begun to divide ordinary evangelicalsand create a kind of “schism.”

Read the entire piece here.

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