When we boil down all the assorted examples of how evangelicals have sold themselves to Donald Trump for 30 pieces of silver, one word summarizes it all: Hypocrisy.
Call it irony. Call it opportunism. Call it greed. Call it a thirst for power. Whatever the motivation, the end result is one of the greatest examples of hypocrisy ever seen. And shining brightly through the chasm is the denial of a foundational teaching of Jesus of Nazareth: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The religion of Trumpism teaches followers to stick it to the other guy before he gets you. It teaches followers to accuse others of the very things you are guilty of to deflect attention from your own wrongdoings. It teaches followers never to back down, never to be bothered with the truth, always to be on the offensive.
Trump and his misguided followers are the creators of witch hunts, yet they insist they and their idol are the victims of witch hunts. How can anyone not see the irony here?
Remember those Trump rallies where he led the adoring crowds in chanting “Lock her up!” as an accusation against Hillary Clinton? So that wasn’t a witch hunt, but grand-jury indictable evidence against Trump is a witch hunt?
This is the very definition of hypocrisy.
And now we turn to Tennessee, which has become the talk of the nation. House Speaker Cameron Sexton — who is a member of Central Baptist Church in Crossville, Tenn. — allowed the partisan expulsion of two Black Democrats last week because they dared to protest that the speaker would not allow discussion on how to address gun violence.
The Southern Baptist speaker appears to be more concerned with avoiding any meaningful debate about gun violence — just days after six people were murdered in a private Christian school a short drive from the Tennessee Capitol — than with the fallout from perpetuating one of the greatest partisan overreaches in Tennessee history.
“And then he had the audacity to compare the three Democratic representatives who spoke up to the insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”
And then he had the audacity to compare the three Democratic representatives who spoke up — remember, the white one was not expelled — to the insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
From an editorial in the Nashville Tennessean: “He deigned to compare an event that resulted in $30 million in property damage, five deaths, nearly 1,000 arrests, the threatened lynching of former Vice President Mike Pence, and members of Congress sheltering in a secure location, to an event that, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, was ‘peaceful’ and resulted in no arrests or property damage.”
I’ve tried to find evidence of Speaker Sexton being equally critical of those Trump-loving protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol that fateful day, but so far I’ve found nothing.
Such double standards are not new, of course, but sometimes they make return appearances in even more ironic forms.
Take a bill currently pending in the Texas Legislature, for example. SB-1515 would require a poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments, at least 16 inches by 20 inches, to be “conspicuously” visible in every classroom. The bill also would require that public schools accept any donations of Ten Commandment posters. And if the school gets extra copies, they must donate them to other schools and not discard them.
Evangelicals have been trying to get the Ten Commandments posted on classroom walls for decades now, believing this will mysteriously solve all problems in public education. Yet this sectarian wish has been ruled unconstitutional time and time again.
If they want to post the commandments in schools, the very people who worship Donald Trump as their political savior should take a yellow highlighter to the first and second commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an idol.”
The very people who claim God is directing their hatred of gays, lesbians and transgender children should take a yellow highlighter to the third commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
The very people who love to eat at restaurants and go shopping and play in sports leagues after they go to church should take a yellow highlighter to the fourth commandment: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”
The very people who supported separating migrant children from their parents at the border and who refused to grant citizenship to Dreamers — whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally — should take a yellow highlighter to the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother.”
“The very people who refuse to talk about ready access to assault weapons should take a yellow highlighter to the sixth commandment: ‘You shalt not kill.”’
The very people who refuse to talk about ready access to assault weapons should take a yellow highlighter to the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder.”
The very people who believe Trump is being persecuted for paying off a porn star to keep their affair a secret should take a yellow highlighter to the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
The very people who have been willing to overlook Trump’s corrupt business practices should take a yellow highlighter to the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal.”
The very people who refuse to acknowledge the worldwide damage done by Trump’s voracious lies — including about the 2020 election — should take a yellow highlighter to the ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness.”
The very people who have gerrymandered districts in every state they control in order to retain power that would not otherwise be theirs should take a yellow highlighter to the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet.”
To demand that public schools post the Ten Commandments when your religio-political agenda violates every one of them is nothing less than hypocrisy.
Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. He is the author of the new book Honestly: Telling the Truth About the Bible and Ourselves.
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