Eric Metaxas Doubles-Down on His Belief That Those Who Oppose Trump are “Demonic”

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Last week on the Eric Metaxas Show, Franklin Graham said that the efforts to impeach Donald Trump were “almost a demonic power.”  Metaxas, the conservative pundit and court evangelical, responded with these words: ” I would disagree, it’s not almost demonic.  You know and I know that at the heart it’s a spiritual battle.”  When conservative writer Peter Wehner challenged Metaxas in a piece at The Atlantic, Metaxas said that Wehner’s piece was “PREPOSTEROUS.”  Get up to speed here.

If you have the time, listen to Metaxas yesterday on his radio show.  In an interview with conservative writer John Zmirak, Metaxas complained that Wehner and others misunderstood him.  He says:  “[Franklin Graham] did not say that everyone who opposes this president is demonic, he didn’t say anyone who opposed this president is demon-possessed–he said the opposition to this president is almost demonic.  In other words, there is a spirit that is so angry, it’s like people have given themselves permission to hate….”

I am not sure how Metaxas is saying anything different here. How can opposition to the president take place without people?  If the opposition is demonic, then the people promoting the opposition must also be under demonic influences. I am not sure what kind of semantic word-game Metaxas is trying to play here.  Perhaps I am one of the people Metaxas describes in this interview as “theologically ignorant.”  Maybe those two theological degrees from an evangelical seminary, including a course on spiritual warfare called “Power Encounters,” were all for naught.

In fact, by the end of the interview Metaxas doubles down on his previous comments and affirms again that those who strongly oppose this president and want him impeached are under the influence of “demonic forces.”

Here are some other highlights from the episode:

  • Metaxas suggests that liberal philanthropist George Soros may have been behind the negative tweets he received from his affirmation of Graham’s “demonic forces” comment.
  • Metaxas complains that no one defended him on twitter after the conversation with Graham.  Hmm…. I wonder why?
  • Metaxas says Wehner’s article and all the other negative articles about him on this issue are “fake news.”
  • In a particular’y rich exchange, Metaxas and Zmirak, diehard Trump supporters, claim that they are the defenders of “honesty” and “truth.”
  • Metaxas is upset that Wehner called his Dietrich Bonhoeffer book “slipshod” in its accuracy and scholarship.  Wehner is right.  The book has been strongly criticized by nearly every major Bonhoeffer scholar.
  • Metaxas cries about political partisanship, implying that he is somehow above the fray.  This is coming from the man who referred to Hillary Clinton as “Hitlery Clinton” and said in Wall Street Journal article that if evangelicals didn’t vote for Trump “God will not hold us guiltless.”
  • Finally, Metaxas says when you allow lies to spread “you are part of the problem.”  Again, this is rich. At last check, The Washington Post has counted over 13,000 lies and false claims made by Metaxas’s man in the White House.  Who is part of the problem here, Eric?

Metaxas: Peter Wehner’s Article in *The Atlantic* is PREPOSTEROUS

Metaxas

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.

Does The Evangelical Belief in “Spiritual Warfare” Explain Ted Cruz?

Cruz 2

I think Laura Premack, a professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire and a historian of global Pentecostalism, may be on to something here.  In a piece published today at Boston Review she argues that Ted Cruz’s “political brutalism” (to quote David Brooks) may be informed by the evangelical belief in “spiritual warfare.”

I think this just might explain Cruz’s inability to see the world in a nuanced way.  For example, when Cruz talks about destroying ISIS or Planned Parenthood he speaks with a rage and a fierceness that makes it sound like he is at war with the worst forms of evil in the world.  Perhaps he sees his potential presidency as spiritual crusade–a means by which to purge the country from sin and the devil.

Here is a taste of Premack’s excellent essay:

When I arrived at Lindy’s, Cruz was inside, looking casual in a blue sweater and no tie and speaking to a battallion of cameras, fuzzy microphones, and notepads.With reporters cramming the floor, few spots inside the small diner could have remained for the locals Cruz was meant to meet and greet. I slipped in the backdoor.

After the press let go, I edged close enough to catch Cruz’s eye amid the throng of camera phones. He turned my way. This was easier than I expected. We shook hands, and I asked, “What did you think of the Brooks piece in the New York Times?” David Brooks had just written a widely read column, “The Brutalism of Ted Cruz,” which argued that, despite his popularity with evangelical Christians, Cruz is in fact profoundly unchristian, embracing a “pagan brutalism” of belligerence and hate rather than the Christian virtues of mercy, compassion, and grace. If Cruz was surprised by my question, he didn’t let on. Oh, you know, he said. “It’s the New York Times.” He shrugged with his eyes: what do you expect.

I thought Brooks had missed something important, and I wanted to know if Cruz agreed. What Brooks had discounted was the possibility that Cruz’s “fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach” was not unchristian at all but may in fact rest on a core commitment of evangelical doctrine: spiritual warfare.

“Does the logic of spiritual warfare explain what Brooks sees as your brutalism?” I asked.

Cruz didn’t blink. “I believe in Ephesians,” he said. “We need to put on our whole body armor.” He has said the same thing to supporters and campaign volunteers—the “strike force,” as he calls them. I continued, asked if we always need to be on the lookout for the Devil, if spiritual warfare explains what’s going on in this country. “This nation is under attack,” he answered, “and it’s only going to get worse.”

Our time was up. “God bless,” he said to me, and he seemed to mean it. Then he moved on to the next camera phone.

Read the entire thing here.