Friday, February 03, 2017

The Deal

The 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.

81% 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 ignominiously.

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.




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