Put Not Your Trust in Princes: Televangelist Warns of Civil War

Ready for a horrifying 80s flashback, kids?

Jim Bakker is back. He’s the disgraced televangelist from the 80s, who once hosted the PTL (Praise The Lord) Club, and was best known for A) a sexual encounter with his then-21 year old secretary, Jessica Hahn in 1980 (she claims she was drugged and raped; he claims it was consensual), and the resulting scandal that caused him to step down in 1987, or B) the nearly 5 years in prison he served for fraud and conspiracy.

Bakker now has another show, the Jim Bakker Show.

No, I don’t know why.

Is he reformed and repentant of his past? He says he is, so maybe he is.

Anyone, no matter their past, no matter their deeds can find grace in the arms of a loving Father God. That is the whole and the hope of this great faith we have.

Jim Bakker, however, because of what he was and what he did represents one of the earliest examples of how televangelists may not always be the best example of Christianity, or godly leadership to the world.

His actions make him the mold by which other televangelists have come to be judged by through the years. It would seem that true repentance would not only require an honest, open confession of his wrong, while seeking forgiveness from not only God, but the people who were harmed by his actions.

And it would require a show of repentance, a changing of his heart to remain humble and trustworthy. The spotlight is not where he belongs. Rather, he should be seeking to do good behind the scenes, rather than taking his new act public, and possibly further harming the witness of the Body on a wide scale.

However, his latest remarks show there is very little repentance and still a lot of damaged ideological thought in his heart.

Namely, Bakker has turned to the Church of Trump, and in his recent remarks on his show, seems to promote Christians taking up arms against their fellow Americans to defend Donald Trump.

In speaking of possible impeachment of President Trump, Bakker said:

“If it happens, there will be a civil war in the United States of America. The Christians will finally come out of the shadows, because we are going to be shut up permanently if we’re not careful,” he said on “The Jim Bakker Show” in a clip highlighted by Right Wing Watch.

“God says faith without works is dead. We have to do things, God has been standing with me, and I don’t know about you, it’s time for preachers like you, you’ve been doing it, to stand up and shout out,” Bakker told a pastor on the show.

I don’t know who the guests were on the show, but watching them nodding in agreement to this crazed, ungodly suggestion is appalling.

I don’t get what Bakker’s angle is, here. Is shedding blood in protection of Trump a high order of the Body of Christ?

How did an unrepentant man like Trump, who said during his run for the presidency that he’d never asked God for forgiveness, because he’d never needed forgiveness become the new messiah, worth killing and dying for?

Trump is not the church. By his declaration of no need for God’s forgiveness, he’s not even part of the Body of Christ. He is part of the world. The hope is that with all those faith “leaders” surrounding him, something rubs off on his spirit, but so far, we’ve heard several of those leaders say it’s not happening. They’re beginning to walk away from his council on faith, with one saying there are deep ideological divides between he and Trump. Another has said that while they pray for the seed of the Word to take root in Trump’s heart, they’ve seen no evidence of it.
Yet, Jim Bakker is calling for Christians to rise up in arms to defend the idol that many in the evangelical community have made of Trump, all because they felt a little evil was better than the bigger evil of Hillary Clinton.

Evil is evil. There is no “big” or “little.”

Romans 12:21 AMP“Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Bakker’s suggestion shows a heart steeped in the ways of this world, and not representative of faith in God.

Defending Trump is not defending the Church Body. Instead, he’s promoting division, and painting a frightening picture of Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, willing to take up arms for political purposes.

But he’s defending Christians!

No he’s not.

The Word of God has already told us to expect difficulty in a wicked world. We overcome by patience, endurance, and holding fast to our faith – not by armed conflict.

We overcome by being a light in a dark world, showing our love.

And we do not fear what the world brings, because perfect love casts out fear.

Somebody get this message to Bakker. He’s not being salt and light in the world, and it is a further blemish on the reputation of Christians that we just don’t need.

Does the Prosperity Gospel Explain Trump’s Success with Evangelicals?

The British magazine The Economist published a story purporting to explain Donald Trump’s continued success among evangelicals — 80 percent of white evangelicals who regularly attend church approve of his job performance according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center — by relating it to American adherence to the “prosperity gospel.” Is there any truth to this idea? Let’s take a look.

Now, The Economist is hardly the first publication to make this connection: Paula White, who is associated with the prosperity gospel movement, prayed at inauguration. This sparked stories about how the movement explains Trump’s rise and election. In addition, Forbes, The Washington Post and Time all explored the connection. Now it is the Brits’ turn.

The article makes two main points: the first is that Trump speaks like a prosperity gospel preacher. Essentially, he speaks or “confesses” success.

In an address to graduating students at Liberty University on May 13th, Mr Trump promised his audience a “totally brilliant future”, and said that his presidency is “going along very, very well”. He ascribed both happy observations to “major help from God”. Lots of believers credit God for success, but Mr Trump went further. He described an America in which winners make their own dreams come true. He hailed a 98-year-old in the audience whose death by the age of 40 had been predicted by experts. He praised strivers who speak hopes aloud, ignoring doubters, and growled: “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic.”

The Economist is hardly the first to draw a line between this and the positive thinking and speaking of not only White, but others, who range from Joel Osteen to Norman Vincent Peale. At a minimum, it is familiar to many white evangelicals; it makes Trump seem like one of them.

But there is another, more specific connection that is often made. In the words of The Economist, the fact of success is often taken as a sign that one is “favored by the Almighty.” Joel Osteen’s followers know his formula for life works because he has a huge house and a beautiful family. Creflo Dollar’s does because he has a private jet. Trump has all these things as well. Is he, too, favored?

Of course, the prosperity gospel takes many forms, from merely a strong focus on biblical promises of provision to literal chants that are supposed to make money show up on your doorstep. Trump doesn’t really fit either of these categories, but there are two interpretations into which he could.

The first is, again, the positive thinking and speaking school. Trump talks positively about the future (“We’re going to make America great again”), he speaks endlessly about his wealth and, lo and behold, he is indeed wealthy and successful. Though most people would interpret the causality as running in the opposite direction — wealth first, then talking about wealth, with a little ego thrown in — not to mention the fact that he inherited a lot of money, Trump certainly isn’t where he is today by being negative and pessimistic.

The second school is actually part of a larger Protestant tradition. It is the idea that success, particularly in regards to wealth, is an indication of personal virtue. While some who adhere to a prosperity gospel adopt an extreme version of this, the more toned-down secular American gospel can be seen in the adage that if you work hard, you’ll be rich.

Even this is a simplified proverb derived from what German sociologist Max Weber termed in 1904 as the “Protestant Ethic.” Weber was attempting to explain the prosperity and stability of capitalist economies in Europe, America and elsewhere, arriving at the still heavily disputed thesis that Protestant (especially Puritan) values of hard work, thrift, even pursuing a “calling”, are most well-suited for capitalist economies.

Though it is a controversial thesis, the virtues associated with the Protestant Ethic were not attempts to get rich, but simply to follow biblical commandments against sloth, waste and the like. The end-result of riches became an object only later. In America, it became particularly pronounced. America became particularly prosperous as well, perhaps lending credence to Weber’s argument.

However, worldviews based on such virtues can have dark counterparts, some of which are the topic for another time. Of relevance here is the logical fallacy that if hard work and thrift are virtues that make one rich, then anyone who is rich must possess these virtues. If these virtues are elevated over all others, then they are seen as the best indicators that someone a good person. Obviously, this is often not the case; people can become wealthy by underhanded means. Sometimes the difference between a middle- and upper-class person might be simple luck. Yet the idea persists.

Though the prosperity gospel is surprisingly mainstream, with some 17 percent of American openly identifying with it, I suggest that this secular gospel edition, complete with its logically fallacious dark side, extends the influence of the idea that rich people must be good people. It is no less absurd than the opposite idea — that rich people must be Scrooges or dishonest — but that is no reason to doubt that it animated a significant number of American voters to vote for Donald Trump, anymore than that the cartoonish “rich are crooks” narrative animated Occupy Wall Street.

DR Radio

DR Radio: Election Special Edition

In this edition of Dead Reckoning Radio, we go all out on our 2016 Election coverage. We talk about the reasons for voting, “throwing away” your vote, the candidates on the top of the ticket, and the nature of down-ballot voting. Note: We experienced some technical difficulties during the first commercial break but the audio *does* correct after a few minutes.

For full show notes or to subscribe to the podcast, visit our site.

Why Christians Cannot Trust Trump: It’s Called ‘Integrity’

If Christians who meet him in person decide to support Trump, I pray for them. But the stretch is just too far for me because the country needs a leader with a wholeness and coherence of personality.

Donald Trump had a really big meeting with many Christian leaders Tuesday. Some of the attendees were people I really, really respect for their solid faith, conviction, and trust in Christ. Franklin Graham, Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Kelly Shackelford, and Tim Wildmon were among those who attended at the meeting.

Wildmon is president of the American Family Association, one of the most powerful cultural forces for Godly living in America. After the meeting, he sent an email to AFA members describing the experience.

On a personal note, I met several people who have known Donald Trump personally for several years and said he is not the brash, arrogant, sometimes rude person he appears to be on television. I will say without the media cameras in his face, he was pleasant, relaxed, funny and more thoughtful.

I have heard this again and again. “The Donald” and the private Trump are two different people: A Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing. Though I’d be glad to deal with the Jekyll side of Trump–the charming, listening, sober man who says things to indicate he is engaged in the conversation–the Hyde is still a problem.

And it’s a biggie for me.

One of the most basic principles I’ve always taught and lived by when running businesses or my own family life is integrity. The word has two meanings. The first is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Of course, Trump fails that test in his public, private, and business life. But we, as Americans seeking a leader, and as Christians in the knowledge we are all sinners, can forgive these failures. God knows we lived through eight years of Bill Clinton and he’s still a nice guy.

The second definition of integrity is a bigger issue: “the state of being whole and undivided.” That means the public and private personas are integrated, as in the same. You get what you get. “Let Trump be Trump” isn’t necessarily true when he’s in a private room surrounded by pastors. You won’t likely hear him say “F**k free trade” in that venue (I know, that’s true of a lot of people).

But you won’t hear Trump blow his dog whistles to racists, or rabid anti-Semites, or ultra-nationalists in that venue either. You’ll hear him engage, listen to questions, be gracious, funny and relaxed (all the things Wildmon wrote).

Let me offer an extreme example: I trust President Obama’s intentions more than I trust Trump’s.

I dislike Obama’s policies. I dislike his approach to government, social problems, crime, and economics. I would probably dislike him in person if we engaged in a policy discussion. But from everything I’ve read, the public Obama and the private Obama are the same. The man has a wholeness of character–he’s got the second definition of integrity. Sure, he lied about his positions on a variety of issues, but he’s the same liar in private as he is in public. Therefore I can trust in his reactions; Obama never surprises me.

Trump’s views on so many issues have so dramatically changed, and the chasm between his public persona and his private self is so great, that he stretches far beyond “politician grace” that frequently makes us hold our nose while we support a candidate.

Wildmon hints at the charm and pleasant Don Trump winning him over.

I think it was admirable and honorable for Trump to meet with Christian leaders. He is not our enemy. I believe he has instincts that are reverent and patriotic. He’s 69 years old and remembers an America that was once a great country but has lost her way. But he also comes from a very secular world and that way of thinking is a part of who he is. In some ways, he strikes me as an enigma, a man still searching for spiritual answers in his life. But that’s just my opinion. I will say this, he is listening to some great men of God that I have a lot of respect for, and that’s a good thing.

If Christians who meet him in person decide to support Trump, I pray for them to maintain discernment and presence of mind. But the stretch is just too far for me and a majority of Americans who realize the country needs a leader with a wholeness and coherence of personality.

In the end, it comes down to trust. If I can’t see what Trump is really thinking, versus what he’s saying to “win” something, I can’t trust him. And neither should you, because the man will certainly surprise you in a very disappointing way.

Trump Trashes Southern Baptists

Donald Trump finally crossed a line he’s held short of until there was nobody left to offend. He went after Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Moore has consistently written of Trump’s moral failings, his lack of repentance, humility or Godly character as disqualifications for office. At least for Christians to support.

But now with the nomination all but in hand, Trump believes he doesn’t need conservative Christians to take on Hillary. In fact, the general election will be decided by liberals, atheist libertarians and alt-right nativists. There will be no place at the table for many Christ followers.

As one pastor said last summer, if we elect this man to the White House, Christians will get everything that is coming to us.

For his part, Moore maintained his Biblical stance in his response.