The spiritual warfare rhetoric heats-up as court evangelicals go deeper into panic mode.

SamuelRodriguez-a

Samuel Rodriguez, court evangelical

Donald Trump is trailing in the polls and the court evangelicals are praying for a miracle. Many of them see the 2020 election as a spiritual battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. And if you have been in a coma for the last five years, you may be surprised to learn that the “forces of God” are on the side of Donald Trump, the former host of The Apprentice.

As the election gets closer, and the court evangelicals become more desperate, expect to see more and more outrageous appeals to God, providence, Satan, and a host of other twisted theological (if you can call them that) assertions for the purpose garnering votes.

For example, last week Robert Jeffress’s said that the only evangelical Christians who will vote for Joe Biden in November are those who have “sold their soul to the devil.”

James Robison is the latest court evangelical to invoke the evil principalities and  powers at work in undermining Trump’s re-election bid.  Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch recently brought to my attention a Robison interview with fellow court evangelical Samuel Rodriguez. Mantyla posted this clip from interview:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/445564244

You can watch the entire interview here.

Watch Rodriguez at the 2:28 mark. He says:

It seems right now that the church is following culture. Culture is saying right now do jumping jacks and the church is doing jumping jacks. The culture is saying repeat the following mantra and the church is repeating the following mantra. The culture is saying everyone go like this [Rodriguez puts his hands over his eyes] and the church is playing peek-a-boo. We are called to be the head and not the tail….We are following instead of leading.

This is ironic coming from a guy who carries water for Donald Trump. Trump says do jumping jacks, and Rodriguez jumps. Trump says, “Make America Great Again” and Rodriguez repeats the “mantra” over and over and over again. When Trump lies, cheats, demonizes his enemies, and promotes all kinds of unjust policies, Rodriguez has his hands over his eyes playing “peek-a-boo.”

Listen to Rodriguez closely here. He talks about the church as an institution with the potential to transform the culture and then quickly shifts to defending the American flag. The church, he says, needs to “stand up” and defend America. Sorry, but this is not what the church is called to do. Watch Rodriguez move seamlessly between Christianity and American nationalism as if there is no tension between these two belief systems.

Then Rodriguez says this:

The church needs to stand up, stop drinking the Kool-Aid, and stop being silent because you’re more afraid of political correctness and the number of followers than speaking the truth of the Gospel of Christ with love. That’s my message and I’m sticking to it.

Interesting. If this statement was presented to me without any context or sourcing, I would probably say “Amen.” But my training as a historian will not allow me to read this without understanding who said, it, when he said it, and why he said it. The key here is not what these words are saying, but what these words are doing. And we can’t understand what they are doing without context. This is what I mean by reading and thinking like a historian.

Rodriguez gets Robison fired-up. Robison claims that the court evangelicals have entered the court and proclaimed biblical truth to Donald Trump. I don’t know what goes on when the court evangelicals meet with the president. All I see are photo-ops. But let’s not pretend that the court evangelicals are speaking truth to power. The only time they speak publicly is when Trump says something about abortion, religious liberty, Israel, or the Supreme Court.

Robison’s claim that he has “never played partisan politics” is disingenuous. Have you ever read his website The Stream or listened to one of his editors, John Zmirak, on the Eric Metaxas Show? Robison is an agent of the Christian Right. And let’s remember that the Christian Right is a political movement.

At the 7:30 mark, Robison says that everything was going well in America under Donald Trump until “Satan…went ballistic” and brought the pandemic and racial unrest. He claims that Satan “stopped the progress that was being made because we were glimpsing a spiritual awakening….” Rodriguez responds by saying “it is not a coincidence” that the coronavirus and anti-racism protests have come in this “limited span of time.” He adds that the “Enemy” was upset that the “Lamb’s agenda was advancing” so Satan “released the krakens” on America. Notice how the “Lamb’s agenda” is reduced to pro-life politics and religious liberty, which Rodriguez thinks is all about governors closing churches.

Rodriguez also takes credit for criminal justice reform. He seems to suggest that no one in American politics had thought about criminal justice reform until he said something to Jared Kushner about it during a White House dinner.

When American historian Richard Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style of American Politics” I don’t think he imagined any of this.