Some trust in chariots

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Christians, especially evangelical believers, seem to be repeating the same mistakes when it comes to politics. We keep believing that the hope of the nation relies on selecting the right political leaders. Back when I was a young voter, evangelicals turned to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat from Georgia, as their standard bearer.

Carter had a great deal going for him. He was approachable, had a lovely wife, was a graduate of the Naval Academy, was a former Navy officer, was a Baptist, taught Sunday School at his church in Plains, GA, was a businessman, had been a governor, and was a Southerner — which to many, meant he was a product of the Bible Belt. He was an evangelical himself.

His opponent, President Gerald Ford, had an uphill battle to fight. He was appointed to the Vice-Presidency, not elected, and was linked to the embarrassing presidency of Richard Nixon. After Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, the resignation of the sitting President (which made Ford an un-elected President), and Ford’s subsequent pardon of Nixon, the country was ready to move on. Carter won and the church was expectant.

But Carter faltered. Americans were taken hostage by the Iranians and languished for 444 days and all attempts to release them failed. Carter authorized a rescue attempt, but it failed miserably, and eight American servicemen were killed. Then there was the gas crisis and long lines at the pump, and, in the next election, which Carter lost, evangelicals turned their hopes toward a Republican.

Ronald Reagan was elected, with evangelical support, and even won a second term. But the evangelical evaluation of Reagan was mixed. He was a stronger leader than Carter, was personable, restored much of America’s lost credibility, was an excellent communicator, but never quite lived up to evangelical expectations.

He had his own scandals, such as the Iran-Contra affair. If evangelicals hoped that the President would reverse Roe v. Wade, they would be disappointed. And then there were the rumors that Nancy Reagan participated in seances in the White House.

After Reagan, evangelicals never returned to the Democrats. In 1988, a large proportion of evangelicals supported Pat Robertson, CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Robertson also gathered in a vast number of charismatics and Pentecostals, as he, himself, was one. Support for Robertson was fervent with many formerly active church members seemingly exchanging their loyalty to the church (if my own experience as a pastor is any indication) for involvement in the political process. Robertson ran into some early trouble when his claim to be a combat Marine in Korea was found to be suspect. In any event, he received just 9% of the primary vote and lost out to George H.W. Bush.

From the time of Reagan to the present, evangelicals and charismatics have, for the most part, pinned their hopes on the Republican nominee. Evangelicals have become, for Republicans, what black voters are to Democrats — a vote they can count on without having to deliver much as long as they give lip service to the cause.

The larger church is, itself, divided. The liberal churchgoers tend to support Democrats because that party is liberal. Conservatives trend toward the Republicans because of conservative policies. Over time, the parties (and churches) have gotten farther and farther apart to the extent that there is now a great divide and the polarization in the church and nation is as significant as it has even been.

The policies of Hillary Clinton were so unacceptable to religious conservatives that evangelicals, charismatics, and Pentecostals (the “ECPs”), who previously would have never considered a thrice married, bombastic, bullying, candidate of questionable moral and ethical values (as seen by some), voted for Donald Trump in droves.

While most of the ECPs would approve of the majority of the Trump policies, a great many also privately cringed at some of the rhetoric, actions, attitudes, and Tweets of President Trump. “I just wish he’d stay off Twitter,” was a refrain heard continually over the past four years.

However, ECP believers were, by now, so invested in Trump that silence reigned, except among themselves. Why? Because the alternative was seen as so much worse.

Now, of course, that which ECPs have feared has come upon them. The Biden-Harris team and the sweep of the Democrats of the White House, the House of Representatives, and Senate (whether one believes there was corruption in the voting process or not, this is the reality), is the nightmare of conservative Christians. For decades, they have put their trust in leaders who were the most like them. And herein lies the problem.

Some pundits have accused ECP’s of idolatry when it comes to President Trump. While I do not agree with that assessment, it is easy to see why that would be said.

In this past election of 2020 some charismatic/Pentecostal “prophets,” several of national stature, boldly stated that “God told them” that Trump would be elected to a second term. Even after the election results were known, some of them doubled down and insisted that God had promised them.

Well, they were wrong, as it turns out. Their “prophecies” were false. One, Jeremiah Johnson, has had the courage and integrity to admit it, repent, and apologize. Most others are, thus far, simply silent, hoping, I suppose, that people will forget. The election is over, the courts have ruled, and the Congress has certified the electoral ballots. All that’s left is the inauguration.

Have the ECP’s learned anything? Since evangelicals, charismatics, and Pentecostals are known to be Bible-believers, they should have known for all these decades that believers are warned not to put their trust in man — any man.

By way of reminder, consider these verses: Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” The Old Testament is filled with accounts of hopeless situations where the people are told to trust in God alone.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Psalm 118:8-9. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Psalm 146:3. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. And I could go on and on. But, hopefully, you get the point.

Christians are never — ever — to put their trust in, and pin their hopes on, a man or a party, whomever the man (or woman) and whichever the party. Not the Republican, the Democrat, the Socialist, or the Communist parties.

Will the Evangelicals, charismatics, and Pentecostals continue to make the mistake that is now some decades old? Or will there be repentance for putting people and/or party in the place of God? Time will tell. It might not have been idolatry, but it has come pretty darn close.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

17 COMMENTS

  1. Just for fun.
    Without once touching upon the analogy made about leaders who are simply not well liked but very accomplished, we have found ourselves in that place Rod Serling described to us a half century ago. Pundits attacking or deriding authors of opposing viewpoints demonstrating how much easier it is than actually making their own points.
    Surely our education system can do better.

    • Mike – That’s a capital idea. Imagine refraining from calling your constituents with whom you disagree “stop signs,” and “icons of punditry” in favor of actually making a logical argument for or against the idea being debated.

      I like it! Can it take place on this blog or only in “The Twilight Zone” or “Night Gallery?” Let’s give it a try!

  2. Sure is entertaining reading the same rhetoric from those icons of punditry quick to point out the slightest of foibles while neglecting to point out anything of consequence accomplished by those they wish to excoriate. Since I will not waste effort on arguing with stop signs, I’ll merely point out that of the thousands of WWII veterans who served under George Patton literally despised Old Blood and Guts in uniform, but bragged loudly of their service in their later years.
    Let us now sit back and experience our next chapter.
    Happy New Year!

        • Doug, the US troops in the European theater for WWII were fighting against the fascist dictatorships of Benito and Adolph, who believed in a one-party, totalitarian control of their country while seeking a larger land grab, no? As for the “original” antifa comment, no not really, there were many a citizen and the opposing political party against the marches of the Black-shirts and Brown-shirts in those countries.

          • Doon, you are correct in a broad brush way. However, to peel the onion a little further, you may find the fact that Italy and Germany were fascist states was not why we collectively with allied nations fought them. It was the threat they imposed, as was Japan. If Russia, China, India, or a composite of Muslim nations, try to impose their will on us, we will fight them as well. It was the same with England during the American Revolution and War of 1812.

            As a personal confession, many today will accuse my father of having been fascist; he was not, though he was a racially bigoted, ultra-conservative, dues paying member of the John Birch society, son of a Jewish mother, and Christian He survived after being twice shot down during WWII and fought to protect us against all enemies, “foreign and domestic.” He didn’t care who the enemy was. Though I don’t agree with my father’s political and some social ideologies, I have served over three decades in the Army and I learned that it is not so much as to what we fight, it is a matter of what we protect.

          • Doug, here’s another layer (onion). The US did provide significant “aid” to the Allies for some 15 months prior to entering the war, in what was called the Lend-Lease program. This was designed to serve as America’s “interests,” without having to enter the war. As for the last part of your comment(s), I can relate to that as well. I do hope however that those that did (or do) serve our country, that it’s really both – to that what we fight for or against and what we also protect.

    • Instead of making a rational argument, Mike King (as usual) posts ad hominem attacks. Rev. Epps opines, “I pretty much believe that nearly all politicians are tainted with corruption.” I have no evidence of any corruption with Mr. King, but obviously, logical argument is not his strong suit. His comparison of Trump to Patton is bizarre as Trump’s Cabinet can’t abandon him quickly enough.

      Mr. King can sit smugly in his imagined superior position. That sure beats having to present rational rebuttals.

    • Actually, Rev. Epps, your silence over the last four years about a president devoid of morals and even the slightest evidence of civility speaks volumes about your complicity with him. I see you have recovered your critical tongue quickly on the eve of Democrats occupying the seats of power. I suppose you and your deity can identify evil from only one side of the aisle. At least you are up front with your biases.

      • Actually, I was pretty silent during the Obama years as well but it seems that you folks on the left tend to ignore that. I pretty much believe that nearly all politicians are tainted with corruption, especially those who have made a lifelong pursuit out of it. In That regard, I am no respecter of political parties.

        • I agree completely, the parties serve corporate interests. I encourage you to look into socialism as a potential solution to the issue our nation faces. Despite what you might have heard socialism has a long history in the US, a lot coal miners in West Virginia were socialist until the Pinkertons and cops shot them at the battle of Blair Mountain.

        • Nice attempt at a dodge, Rev. Epps. Unfortunately, you already played your hand above on this blog by calling the new administration “radicals.” Just openly embrace your inner Trump instead of tiptoeing around it. It will be cathartic.

  3. Where was this warning 4 years ago when Donald Trump was caught bragging about grabbing women by their genitals? His braggadocious personality literally spitting in the face of everything your holy books teach. The literally embodiment of the 7 deadly sins on display every night across every news channel. The ECP’s were well aware of who this man was and still sought to promote him to the highest leadership position in our country.

    This opinion piece looks to place blame on the followers for trusting man instead of god (“they should have known”) but it is the leadership in the church who is to blame. People of your ilk Mr. Epps, trusted leaders in their congregations who don’t have the spine to call out the “princes” when their flocks are running toward them. Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen and the like seeking profit and influence instead of humility and grace.

    You and the followers of your religion have no excuse for supporting this man and the hypocrisy of it all is why your religion is hemorrhaging followers. Nothing left but extremists contorting faith to gain power. Anything less than a full-throated admonition from the church leadership of Trumpism might as well be an endorsement for Trump.