Many of you have seen Peter Wehner‘s piece at The Atlantic titled “Are Trump’s Critics Demonically Possessed.” Wehner is responding specifically to Franklin Graham’s appearance on the Eric Metaxas radio program. Watch (or if you can’t see the tweet, click here.)
Just for the record, here is the pertinent part of the video:
Metaxas: “It’s a very bizarre situation to be living in a country where some people seem to exist to undermine the President of the United States. It’s just a bizarre time for most Americans.
Graham: “It’s almost a demonic power.”
Metaxas: “I would disagree, it’s not almost demonic. You know and I know that at the heart it’s a spiritual battle.”
Graham: “It’s a spiritual battle.”
Here is a taste of Wehner’s piece:
There are several things to say in response to the Graham-Metaxas conversation, starting with the theologically distorted and confused charges that were leveled by Graham and amplified by Metaxas. They didn’t make the case that Trump critics are sincere but wrong, or even that they are insincere and unpatriotic. Instead, they felt compelled to portray those with whom they disagree politically as under demonic influences, which for a Christian is about as serious an accusation as there is. It means their opponents are the embodiment of evil, the “enemy,” anti-God, a kind of anti-Christ.
There is no biblical or theological case to support the claim that critics of Donald Trump are under the spell of Satan. It is invented out of thin air, a shallow, wild, and reckless charge meant to be a conversation stopper.
Just ask yourself where this game ends. Do demonic powers explain opposition to all politicians supported by Graham and Metaxas, or to Trump alone? Would they argue that all Christians (and non-Christians) who oppose Trump are under the influence of Satan? What about when it comes to specific issues? Should we ascribe to Beelzebub the fact that many Americans differ with Graham and Metaxas on issues such as gun control, tax cuts, charter schools, federal judges, climate change, the budget for the National Institutes of Health, foreign aid, criminal justice and incarceration, a wall on the southern border, and Medicaid reform? Are we supposed to believe that Adam Schiff’s words during the impeachment inquiry are not his own but those of demons in disguise? Were the testimonies of Ambassador Bill Taylor, Fiona Hill, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman truthful accounts offered by admirable public servants that badly hurt the president’s credibility—or the result of demonic powers?
Eric Metaxas has responded to Wehner’s piece on Twitter. Since Metaxas blocked me a long time ago I cannot embed the tweet here, but others have shared it with me. It reads:
This article is PREPOSTEROUS. It claims I’ve said opponents of Trump “are under the spell of Satan ” and other truly zany things. I’ve written lots on this president & why I support him, but Mr. Wehner doesn’t seem overly interested in nuance. #slipshod
Metaxas should listen to his own radio program. I am guessing that he will say there is some kind of difference between claiming Trump’s opponents are guided by a “demonic power” (as he said to Graham on his show) and claiming that Trump’s opponents are “under the spell of Satan” (which he said in the above tweet). But I see no difference. Neither does the average Trump-supporting evangelical. And neither does any right-minded person. Metaxas can’t take a huge sum of money from Salem Radio (one source says he is worth $7 million) to pander to the Trump evangelical base and then claim, when intellectuals call him out on his use of words, that he is being misunderstood. I might add that he has tried this before. This is a man who knows that the Trump base butters his bread and yet still craves to be accepted as a New York intellectual–a man of “nuance.”
Ever since Trump has been impeached there has been an uptick in spiritual warfare language coming from the Christian Right. If Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is correct, and Trump is indeed “the chosen one,” then opposition to the “chosen one” must mean opposition to God. By claiming that Trump’s opponents are influenced by demonic forces, Metaxas and Graham are implying that Trump is on the Lord’s side. And why do they believe that Trump is on the Lord’s side? Because he is president of the United States. And why is the POTUS always on the Lord’s side? Because Romans 13 tells us that we must submit to government authority because such authority comes from God. (See more of our Romans 13 posts here). Moreover, America was founded on Christian principles and Trump, through his Supreme Court appointments and defense of religious liberty for evangelicals, is restoring America’s Christian heritage.
If you believe all these things, as Metaxas and Graham obviously do, then of course you will see American politics today in terms of spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12 has now founds its way to the center of American political discourse.