America is in the throes of a political and social crisis at the heart of which is a powerful but distorted brand of evangelical Christianity.
The crisis is personified, of course, in a patently unwholesome president who, according to a Washington Post fact checker, has told 6,420 lies since he was inaugurated. The most dangerous lies are those President Donald Trump tells against immigrants and refugees. Having launched his political career with a birther conspiracy and campaigned with attacks on immigrants, Trump is using nativism to consolidate his political base of support.
How else do we interpret his threats against the 14th Amendment that corrected the Dred Scot decision and secured the right of citizenship for every person born in this country? What does it mean that Trump has reduced the U.S. refugee quota from the norm, ranging between 80,000 and 100,000 refugees welcomed each year, to a historic low of 30,000? How should America interpret Trump’s desperate midterm turnout strategy, mobilizing the U.S. military to the southern border to keep America safe from a caravan of poor and desperate migrants?
Tragically, some evangelical leaders like Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas have been all too willing to baptize this nativism as a new brand of Christian nationalism. Regardless of political affiliation, this should concern all Americans.
It clearly concerns President Emmanuel Macron of France. This week on the world stage, at the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, President Macron played the prophet’s role when he schooled Donald Trump about the difference between patriotism and the kind of nationalism that Trump promotes that twice destroyed Europe:
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying ‘our interests first, who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values. I know there are old demons which are coming back to the surface. They are ready to wreak chaos and death. History sometimes threatens to take its sinister course once again.”
The real crisis is not Trump. It is our collective inability to censor him, a Congress unable to check him, a politic base so easily seduced by him and, especially, an evangelical religion so co-opted by Trump that it can offer no prophetic witness to challenge him.