C.S. Lewis, one of the most popular Christian authors of modern times, once wrote a wry classic called The Screwtape Letters. The book purports to be a series of letters from a senior devil named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter in the world, on how to secure the soul of his “patient”—the human being who has been assigned to him.
Wormwood bungles his assignment. He not only allows his patient to become a Christian, he allows him to progress so far into Christianity that there is no longer any hope of removing spirituality from his life. “Very well then,” harrumphs Uncle Screwtape, “we must corrupt it.”
Screwtape suggests that one way of corrupting the patient’s faith is by luring him into what he calls a “Christianity And” state of mind. “You know,” he tells Wormwood, “Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform.”
If Wormwood can just work his patient into a “Christianity And” state of mind, says Screwtape, the “And” part will wind up neutralizing the Christianity without the patient even realizing it. Screwtape concludes: “Once you have made the world an end and faith the means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”
Those Evangelical Christians who haven’t yet signed over their souls to Donald Trump—and those who already have—should draw back for a moment and think long and hard about what Lewis is saying.
There’s nothing wrong with Christians voting their consciences at election time. The mischief arises when they fall into the trap of “Christianity And”—in other words, when they put politics first and Christianity second.
What are the Christian grounds for supporting Donald Trump? There aren’t any. Trump is a man who, by his own admission, has never asked God for forgiveness. He’s laughably ignorant of the Bible. He’s made a fortune from gambling casinos and the kind of riotous living that goes with them. He’s shamelessly racist, sexist, nativist and hedonistic; to say nothing of being unscrupulous, vindictive, malicious and petty into the bargain. He is also one of the most egregious exemplars of the sin of pride currently preening himself on public view.
Evangelicals are supporting Trump more or less because the alternative is letting Hillary Clinton appoint as many as three justices to the Supreme Court. Most of them would probably not be so crass as to say so openly. Perhaps it would be better if they did. They would do themselves less harm if they made it clear that they were supporting Trump only because they view him as the lesser of two evils.
Instead, some Evangelicals are trying to repackage him as one of their own. I recently read a bizarre interview with Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and a leading social conservative. Dr. Dobson claimed to have it on good authority that Trump has “come to accept a relationship with Christ”—whatever that means. Dr. Dobson was hazy about the details. “I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long,” he told the interviewer. He went on to say that Trump was now a “baby Christian” and for that reason Evangelicals should “cut him some slack.”
Dr. Dobson has a Ph.D. I wonder if he knows what cognitive dissonance is.
Insinuating that Brother Donald is a covert believer who is not quite there yet will only make Evangelicals look ridiculous—or worse. Columnist Michael Gerson, an Evangelical who wrote speeches for President George W. Bush, put it this way: “In legitimizing the presumptive Republican nominee, evangelicals are not merely accepting who he is; they are changing who they are. Trumpism, at its root, involves contempt for, and fear of, outsiders—refugees, undesirable migrants, Muslims, etc. By associating with this movement, evangelicals will bear, if not the mark of Cain, at least the mark of Trump.”
And the penalties for substituting “Christianity And” for Christianity itself may not be limited to bearing the mark of Trump in this life alone. As Screwtape writes to Wormwood from the depths of the Inferno, “I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”
Hal Gordon, who wrote speeches for the Reagan White House and Gen. Colin Powell, is currently a freelance speechwriter in Houston. Web site: www.ringingwords.com.
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