classic tale of Dr. Faustus has been told and retold in many forms. It
is one of those universal cautionary tropes which, when you think about
it, appears all over the place in literature, movies and song. The
trope basically centers on an ambitious man who is dissatisfied with his
place in life. He believes he deserves more: more respect, more power,
more influence. Spotting that the man is vulnerable to temptation, a
demon appears and offers the man a deal: he will be given all he desires
in exchange for his soul. The man makes the deal and gets what he
wants, though it never quite works out the way he anticipated.
Eventually he realizes the foolishness of his deal with the devil, but
alas it is too late.
We see this tale writ large in current
events here in North America. Conservative Evangelical Christianity has
been on the decline in the U.S. It has been losing not only adherents
but also influence in the public sphere. The response of Evangelicals
to this sociological trend has, sadly, often been to circle their
wagons, curse the darkness and lash out (against gay couples ordering
wedding cakes, against Muslims and the spectre of "Sharia Law", against
Starbucks, against immigrants, against those who say "Happy Holidays"
instead of "Merry Christmas," etc.).
But the demon's deal came
this election season when--in exchange for a conservative Supreme Court
justice who might help restrict abortion and provide legal protection to
discriminate unfairly against others under the guise of "religious
freedom"--81% of white conservative Evangelical Christians voted to elect as
their President a crass congenital liar who not only lacked the
experience, qualifications and temperament for the job, but who had a
long track record as a serial adulterer, a sexual predator, a business
fraud, a thin-skinned revenge-driven narcissist prone to casting insults
(often very publicly via Twitter); and a promoter of greed, racism,
torture, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, religious discrimination, mob
violence and general crudeness.
81% of white Evangelical
Christians chose a man who promised to take away people's medical
coverage, to punish women who have abortions, to cast out immigrants on a
massive scale, to ban people entry into the U.S. based upon their
religion, to force members of certain religions to register with the
government, to take his critics and rivals to court, etc.
percent of white conservative Evangelical Christians decided to bind
themselves to a man who's words and deeds are not simply un-Christian,
but are anti-Christian; antithetical to the teachings and values of
Jesus. Not to mention the most unpopular President-elect in U.S.
history--who seems to stand a good chance of ending his Presidency
For now, Trump is beginning to deliver on his
promises. Evangelicals are beginning to get action. Time will tell to
what degree their agenda goals will be satisfied. But the price has
been paid nonetheless; the white conservative Evangelical soul was sold,
and in a very public transaction. They are winning their battles and,
in so doing, will lose their war. Any Evangelical claims to moral high
ground can now be dismissed in a single word: Trump.
There is a
growing defensiveness among white conservative Evangelicals as the true
and inescapable cost of their deal with the demon begins to become
apparent. They ask us to "get over it" and to stop with the 24x7 social
media postings about the Trump administration's continuous stream of
blunders and kerfuffles and injustices. They rail as a chorus against
the "mainstream media." They mock the unprecedented protests and civic
actions against Trump. They defend the indefensible claims of Trump and
Conway and Spicer about crowd sizes and illegal voters and other
"alternative facts." And, of course, they cast themselves as the
victims ("it's such an easy part, and you know how to play it so well"
sang the Eagles).
The decline of Christianity in the U.S. will
continue to accelerate, as those outside the church--particularly young
people--watch and take note of the shenanigans. The credibility of white
Evangelical Christianity has been trashed for generations to
come--perhaps irrevocably. But they got their Supreme Court justice.
The deal was struck. The die is cast. The devil will have his due.