I recently posted my concern about a secret group of national religious leaders exercising what I consider unreasonable influence on the Trump Administration. That prompted one of my readers to claim that I obviously hate Christians. So one of two things must be true here: either I did a really poor job of expressing my concern and the basis for it, or perhaps my critic has some agenda of his own.
To clarify for my challenger friend: I DO NOT hate Christians. I respect the moderate practice of all faith traditions. The key operative word there though is “moderate”. My criticism was directed at national evangelical Christian leaders advising the Trump Administration. My specific complaint is that they are doing it secretly in violation both of the spirit and letter of the law. Federal law requires public disclosure of the activities of all outside advisers to the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.
I am particularly offended that no public records are kept of these sessions, who participates, what issues are discussed, any recommendations made to the Administration, and/or actions taken as a result. That is all required by law. We only really know these interactions even occur because of bragging by some participants about the unusually strong advisory influence they have over the Trump Administration.
The especially troublesome part is that these “advisors”, people like Ralph Drollinger, Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell Jr, and others tend to be religious extremists who do not represent mainstream Christian thinking or broader American values. In fact mainstream Christian organizations claim to be locked out of access to the Administration.
These evangelical leaders with the strong influence are generally wealthy and powerful media savvy televangelists who command a large loyal but naive following. They promote an ultra conservative agenda that represents intolerance and contempt for anyone who does not accept their worldview. They use the Bible as a weapon. They take scriptures singly or in selective combinations out of context to promote an ideology that is foreign to most moderate Christians. Though they are more sophisticated in their strategy, messaging, and tactics they are the Christian equivalent of ISIS and al Qaeda.
Everything is either “black or white” to these self-appointed authorities on Christianity. Their extreme dogma generally opposes government involvement even in providing a social safety net for economically disadvantaged or poverty stricken human beings. They are critical of government enforcement of equal rights with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or even against religious intolerance and bigotry. They are especially anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Mormon. Nevertheless they claim Biblical authority to speak for everyday evangelical Christians who apparently are easily sucked into their political agenda.
I do not paint all evangelical Christians with the same brush. I feel certain that most evangelicals sincerely try to live in accordance with the message of love and service so eloquently laid out in the Bible I read (yes, I do read the Bible). I know many are not swayed by, but are actually put off by, the extremist ideology of these national evangelical leaders who purport to speak for them.
At the same time I fear the silence of sincere moderate Christian believers. It seems to me their silence is enabling the extremists and endangering our democracy. I suppose most feel helpless to challenge these powerful evangelical extremists. Sadly that is the same way moderate Muslims seem to feel helpless against their extreme religious elements. But silence is effectively an endorsement of that intolerant dogma. I can’t imagine why true Christian don’t say enough is enough and speak up against these “false prophets”, but they don’t. At a minimum that seems Un-American, if not actually Un-Christian.