Motivated by irrational fear and anger, Christians have embraced an all-out antipathy toward education and science, turned their churches into a “moral freak show,” and taught that “Donald Trump is the second coming of Jesus Christ,” according to a seven-member panel on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
During an extended discussion on Monday regarding the cultural currents rippling through American churches, former Bush family speechwriter Peter Wehner blamed Christians’ rejection of secular-progressive zeitgeist on their anger, resentment, and collective inferiority complex.
“A lot of people of the Christian faith — not all of them, but enough to be concerning — they’ve been roiled by grievances, in anger, feelings of dishonor by the elite culture. Some of that has been warranted, much of it has not,” he said. “That’s been around and brewing and growing for decades.”
“There’s an almost existential fear among many people on the Christian Right about … progressivism and the Left,” Wehner told MSNBC. The problem stems from “a fusion between fundamentalism and evangelicalism,” which he called “two very distinct and different things” before conflating them with each other and virtually all Christianity.
“Fundamentalism is characterized by, kind of, legalistic spirit, by an anti-intellectual approach, an anti-science approach, and a Manichean view, a view that the world is divided between children of light children of darkness. That altogether has created a dangerous mix, or cocktail, in the evangelical world, and they have so wandered away from the core message of Christ and the Gospel,” he said without evidence.
Citing Jesus’ words condemning one of the churches in the Book of Revelation, Wehner said Christians’ unjustified “anger” caused them to “wander away from what the Bible calls their ‘first love,’ from Christ” and use their faith “as a cudgel.” He also asserted that the influential Southern Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas “disregarded the Sermon on the Mount” when he supported Donald Trump in 2016.
Wehner concluded that, because of evangelicals’ “awful witness,” young people are “wandering away from the faith — because they see this moral freak show, and they don’t want anything to do with it.”
“It is a freak show,” repeated host Joe Scarborough, before grousing that Christians read stories from “Chinese cults that run conspiracy websites,” presumably a reference to The Epoch Times. “Let’s not fall to the stereotypes that these are people who live in shacks like off at the end of some dirt road.” The list includes “people with advanced degrees that I’ve known my entire life,” who have “fallen in, and they believe that Donald Trump is the second coming of Jesus Christ.”
He went on to say that evangelicals have become deeply embedded in “legalism” concerning “abortion. The legalism is around gay marriage. The legalism is around Critical Race Theory. … That is not the definition of the Gospels.” He failed to mention that each of these issues constitutes an ancient Christian biblical teaching and an inseparable component of the Christian moral code.
The panel — which also included Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast, MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, and David French of the Never-Trump website The Dispatch — came as battles within religious denominations increasingly center around how Christians should respond to politicians who violate 2,000-year-old Christian teachings yet claim to be “devout” members of the faith. The nation’s largest Protestant church, the Southern Baptist Convention, last week concluded an annual meeting that highlighted conservative themes, and the U.S. Catholic bishops are considering whether to excommunicate politicians like President Joe Biden who enable the abortion of unborn babies.
The legacy media’s caricature of evangelical Christians as oafish naïfs and hayseeds dates back decades. The media swooned over former President Jimmy Carter after he wrote in his 2005 book Our Endangered Values that “fundamentalists” are “authoritarian males who consider themselves to be superior to others” and “have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women.” They believe “they are right and that anyone who contradicts them is ignorant and possibly evil … They are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even physical abuse against those who interfere with the implementation of their agenda.”
Similarly, The Washington Post has dismissed evangelicals as unthinking armies controlled by pulpit-pounding puppet masters. “The strength of fundamentalist leaders lies in their flocks,” wrote Michael Weisskopf in February 1993. “Their followers are largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”
To its credit, the Post retracted the statement the next day, adding, “There is no factual basis for that statement.” We’ll see how long it takes until “Morning Joe” follows suit.
You can watch the first part of the segment below:
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