I got this email earlier, from a more progressive Christian site that dares to engage with culture, and is popularly loathed as a result. And I laughed. Because there, in black and white, is naked evidence of the absolute paralysis that results from trying to adhere to evangelical Christianity while being … well, alive.
Relevant may be considered anathema to true fundamentalists, but it still employs a sly allegiance to evangelicalism, fundamentalism’s kid brother*. When I have more time, I’ll add links, but I have read articles over the years that essentially deny universalism; dare to suggest that drinking alcohol is okay, while affirming undeniably the evilsssss of ever being drunk; and ultimately conclude that while it’s not the MOST damning thing that fundamentalists claim, sex before marriage is, indeed, wrong.***
In addition, their articles routinely imply gender biases that are hopelessly outdated. In short, I saw this because I have taken to checking my junk mail folder when I am extremely bored, and I was, earlier. So, I saw it. And I laughed.
Why is Relevant publishing such an article? Because, in spite of its trendy articles on how God is not tied to a political party, its base is largely evangelical Millennials desperate to believe their secular friends aren’t really bound for hell, whose families are largely middle-class, white Republicans…and it’s hard to shit too far from where you grew up. Especially since we’re now, for the most part, college grads with some exposure to the real world, it’s a hell of a lot easier to dump blame for the world’s evils on Obama and to deny that there’s any institutionalized racism or that women still get the short end of the stick, ’cause golly gee, I just graduated, and I’m not making 70K yet!
(Oops; now I’m just quoting my younger brother. But I digress.)
In reality, the article details the very real struggle of Christians who don’t have their heads in the sand to figure out how a God they believe is sovereign and the Scriptures that say He ordains leaders and that people should respect them could have “let” someone like Trump win the nomination. They deserve kudos for not mindlessly falling in line, but at the very least, this event highlights a popular difficulty in faith: how do you reconcile the “evil” in the world with the idea that God controls it all?
There are a variety of ways that people respond to the sovereignty/injustice issue, but it’s one of the first things that really started to make me wonder if this whole setup was suspicious. On a bigger scale, it connects to terrorist attacks across the world. I don’t know what I am in terms of beliefs, but it certainly seems strange nowadays to “pray for Paris” when God didn’t see fit to prevent attacks or tsunamis or whatever in the first place.
This is where things get a little dicey. Since Relevant is SO damned connected to popular culture, even though they’ve done articles about bigger picture suffering, they are forced here to philosophize about something that seems pretty obvious to much of the secular world: Trump is a blow hard who knows how to work the media, and he tapped into an unattractive but vocal part of the population that is not only sick of “Washington insiders” but also naive and ignorant enough to believe that a man who has been a Democrat for years is suddenly a true Republican who will make their every wet dream come true if elected.
In other words, there are very practical, albeit unfortunate (in my opinion) reasons that Trump is popular. But for those who believe in an interventonist God who can’t keep a tornado or cancer from hitting one house but will keep it from hitting theirs–OR won’t stop it, but has something reaaaally important for them to learn from the pain in the process**–that’s not good enough.
Anytime you strain to fit a discordant event into a strict interpretation of religion, you find yourself scrambling to push reality’s messy, inconvenient shape into its sharp corners. Donald Trump’s ascent is a shining, shit-polished example of such a dilemma. And I am smiling, albeit in a bit of distress, because the scramble to grasp the WHY makes the struggle obvious.
The other thing that makes this difficult is the hypocrisy involved. Part of the reason people are freaking out so much is because it’s in the Reublican, and not the Democratic, Paty. When I was growing up, my Southern Baptist Sunday school teachers would acknowledge, with a strained smile, that Clinton was somehow God’s appointed to lead the U.S.–until he had an affair, that is. At that point, suddenly, all bets were off; he was “fallen” now, so screw Jesus’ own tendency to hang with adulterers and “sinners”; we could mock him now! We could call for his impeachment! Never mind that next president, who nearly bombed us into oblivion…
Trump flummoxes the Relevant crowd, who like to pretend to be trendy and with it and globalized, but are really just temperate moderates who find enough in their parents’ political background to keep them happy, and now face a narcissistic, sociopathic woman-hating, racist xenophobe who technically flies in the face of all of their secretly Millenial beliefs…well, they’ve got a decision to make. And they don’t like it.
Does God ordain a nation’s leaders, Relevant? Nah. ‘Cause, if there is a God, I sure hope he isn’t the kind evangelicals have painted into a corner…and would necessitate an article to tactfully tell you that no, you don’t have to vote for someone like Trump.
For your reference: The Offending Article–in its own words.. And, to be honest, if you’re actually looking to stay Christian and live in this world, Relevant has some decent stuff…just stuff that I can no longer hold to personally.
* Evangelicals let women wear pants, go to movies and work outside the home. Unfortunately, they also still believe that everyone who doesn’t believe just like them, for the most part, is going to hell. Awkward!
** An admittedly helpful way to view one’s own misfortune. Just hard to swallow when bad things happen to both Christians and non at about the same rate in countries where they aren’t martyred for their faith.
***while conveniently ignoring conflicts in the text that guides their beliefs, and the fact that women are treated as property for the most part, and that they ignore all the other wrongs labeled as evil in the Bible but accepted in our culture, like gossip and gluttony