One of the hardest things to watch is the Religious Right getting played as suckers by con men who know what song to play to get them to dance. I think most of them are really well-meaning people whose faith is important to them. The problem comes when they let these wolves slide into their sheep’s clothing and carry them off to their own peril.
Watching people like Donald Trump and Roy Moore tout themselves as Christian missionaries to Washington D.C. makes my stomach turn. It reminds me of the episode of the “Andy Griffith Show” when Aunt Bee wasn’t feeling well and she fell under the spell of a traveling salesman.
Colonel Harvey brought his special “elixir” to Mayberry. Before long, they are singing “Toot Toot Tootsie goodbye” buzzing on that elixir. Unfortunately, when it happens to people in the Religious Right, there is no good guy Sheriff Andy Taylor to come perform the raid, save the townsfolk from their pending hangover, and send the bad guys out of town. Perhaps we would be better off if Deputy Barney Fife were still around to roust these wolves out of the flock.
These bad guys put down roots and use their elixir of pro-life and pro-gun legislation packaged in faux piety to gain power and keep it.
One of the worst examples of this is Franklin Graham. Franklin is the son of Billy Graham who basically served as the nation’s pastor for many presidents. He rarely let his own political thoughts become the focal point. He brought spiritual advice and guidance to leaders who would accept it.
His son is a two-bit huckster who basically runs a political action committee that fleeces well meaning people in the name of his father and brings shame to the faith community with his words and actions.
Graham recently tweeted that “Never in my lifetime have we had a @POTUS (President of the United States) willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like @realDonaldTrump. We need to get behind him with our prayers.”
That is preposterous and offensive on so many levels.
When Graham says that about Trump, not only is he obviously lying, but he is elevating the man who likes the book of “Two Corinthians” over a man — Jimmy Carter — who is literally a Sunday School teacher and has had a hand in building dozens of houses for Habitat for Humanity after he left office.
In contrast, Trump has five children by three wives and has admitted on tape to an untold number of girlfriends, mistresses and failed attempts to have more of each. Graham was referencing the same man who had two Presbyterian — the denomination he claims as his own — ministers in his office and told them how great he did among evangelicals in the election. The ministers had to remind the president that Presbyterians aren’t considered “evangelicals.”
“You’re all Christians?” asked the President whose values most impressed Graham?
The ministers assured him that Presbyterians were, in fact, Christians. That had to be a relief to a guy who allegedly is one.
Even Barack Obama, who was not raised a Christian by any standard, had more of a life of faith after his marriage than Trump. If you remember back that far, one of the many controversies Obama faced were controversial statements by the pastor of his church. Trump avoided that by never attending a church — much less one with a controversial pastor.
Graham isn’t even pretending to be the son of Billy Graham or a child of God anymore. He is the adopted son of the Republican Party. His religion is now shaped by his political beliefs instead of those roles being reversed.
When Jesus confronted Pharisees for similar actions, He called them “whitewashed tombs” because they were “apparently clean outwardly, but filled on the inside with dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” In fact, Jesus paints a pretty accurate picture of today’s Religious Right Republican leaders in the entire chapter of Matthew 23.
The problem is that hucksters know if they can say the words the religious voters want to hear, fact checking won’t be a problem.
At a recent Roy Moore rally in Alabama, Steve Bannon railed against Mitt Romney for “hiding behind his religion” — Romney is a Mormon — to avoid service in Vietnam. He blasted him because not one of his children has served the country.
“You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam,” said Steve Bannon — who was speaking to Romney, a man who served as a missionary, in comparison to Roy Moore — who is alleged to have had inappropriate sexual contact with a 14-year-old while he was in his 30’s and who reports show started dating his current wife while he was 38 and she was a 23-year-old woman who was still married at the time.
The same crowds cheering these attacks on Romney blindly and ignorantly support a president who hid behind bone spurs in his heels to avoid service in Vietnam — not exactly Rambo’s little brother — and whose children have never served anything but their own self-interest.
Roy Moore has made a career of pretending to be a religious warrior for political gain. He fought for Ten Commandments statues and against same sex marriage. He even wrote curriculum that encouraged keeping women out of politics.
Despite all of the allegations against him, Moore mixed up the right elixir and got the president and the Republican Party back in his corner.
He tells crowds that people in Washington D.C. are scared he is going to bring their Alabama values to the swamp. The truth is, many of the well-meaning people falling for his schtick have Alabama values.
Moore does not.
But like many before him, Moore will try to frighten people with scary stories about brown-skinned foreigners and vow to fight against abortion and the crowd will sing and dance after chugging a little more of this magic elixir.
Supporting Trump in 2016 and Moore in 2017 is proof that the Republican Party has sold its soul and received nothing in return. Some in the party like Mitt Romney, Sen. Jeff Flake, and Sen. Ben Sasse are trying to keep the party from coming completely off the rails. So far, their efforts have fallen short. I hope they don’t give up and cede control to the dark side of the party.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.