WHEN THE VICTORY of a political party becomes confused with the end of the world, society has a problem. Democracy, if it’s anything, is an agreement to surrender power without a fight. If an election ends with anything other than an uncomplicated re-confirmation of the status-quo, or the peaceful transfer of political authority, then democracy, like Elvis, has left the building. What remains inside the building is seldom pretty.
That President Donald Trump has refused to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the 3 November election bodes very ill for the American republic. At the very least, it signals his unshakeable conviction that he is politically invincible in a “free and fair” fight. It serves no purpose for Trump’s opponents to point out that, in a democracy, acknowledging the possibility of defeat is almost as important as accepting it. Trump is so certain that he speaks for the “real” America, that he “knows” he can’t be beaten.
Who is the “real” America? We all know the answer to that question. The real America is white. The real America repels “socialism” as naturally as water repels oil. The real America puts its trust in God – and in the special people He chooses to do His will. What’s more, we all know who Donald Trump does not count as real Americans. They are Blacks. They are Hispanic. They are Muslims. And, they include all those who challenge the idea that White, Christian, Capitalist America is an unequivocal force for good in the world.
It’s that idea of the United States being a “force for good” that holds the key to understanding the formidable threat to democracy which Trump has become. At the very heart of the President’s electoral coalition are the evangelical Christian churches who see the USA as God’s chosen instrument: the means by which the ancient prophecies contained in the Bible will be fulfilled. That’s why there are no more fervent defenders of the State of Israel than American evangelicals. Israel, they are certain, is destined, alongside the USA, to usher-in the great reckoning described in the Book of Revelation.
Unbelievers are often puzzled by the evangelicals’ unswerving support for Trump. How can they tolerate such a self-confessed sinner at the head of God’s chosen nation? Their two-word rejoinder: King David.
The ancient Israeli king was not a good man. David spied on Bathsheba as she bathed and was consumed with lust for her body. Her soldier husband, Uriah, he ordered into the front lines, thus ensuring his death, and making it possible for the Hittite’s wife to be enjoyed by her king undisturbed. Covetousness, murder and fornication! And yet, God loved David, and David loved the Lord. If God could overlook the sins of King David, then he will overlook the sins of President Trump. The Lord moves in mysterious ways!
Perhaps He was at work in the Republican Party-controlled state legislatures when all those voter-suppression laws were passed. Perhaps He was guiding the hands of Republican Governors when they signed the contracts tasking Republican Party-friendly companies with purging the voter rolls. Perhaps it’s His voice that speaks through the mouths of all those Fox News “journalists”.
You can’t be an evangelical Christian without believing fervently that God reveals his will through his chosen servants. That all human history positively snaps, crackles and pops with the electricity of His divine will. Right now, the evangelicals of America are looking at Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Christian who will turn America away from what she and her co-religionists regard as the sinful judicial decisions of the last 50 years. On their knees, with fervent devotion, they will thank God for his perfectly-timed decision to send Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the everlasting reward she so richly deserves.
The ancient Greek word apokalypsis, is best translated as “unveiling”. “Apocalyptic” thinking, therefore, is all about what you think you’ve been shown of the “End Times”. For the evangelical Christian, the showman, obviously, is God himself. For those Trump supporters who prefer not to live on their knees, however, the unveiling of hidden truths requires a slightly less supernatural agent. No worries, if God won’t do, then there’s always the anonymous “Q”.
God, or no God, if Trump loses, their world ends.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 2 October 2020.