Matthew 4:8-10: “Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to him, ‘All these things will I give you, if you fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”’”
As a presidential nominee Donald Trump said, “I alone can fix it.” Notice that he did not say that with the aid of God and the American people he would attempt to fix it. Trump positioned himself in place of God. Like Satan in the Matthew verses above, Trump was offering something to the American people that only God can accomplish, just like Satan cannot offer to Jesus (God) what is already God’s. Unlike Jesus who rejected Satan’s offer, the Republican Party — cheered on by a vast majority of self-described Christian evangelicals — accepted Trump’s offer. Despite many satanic signs to the contrary, way too many Christians bought the big lie.
Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
According to some counts, President Trump has stated or tweeted more than 30,000 falsehoods (lies) or partial falsehoods in his four years in office. It seems the frequency of falsehoods has increased with each year. Recently, he was visiting the border wall in Alamo, Texas, when he changed the amount of time in which the COVID-19 vaccine would be available at least four times in one sentence, each time being more exaggerated than the previous. He has a tendency to make up his lies as he talks. When he makes up a lie that he really likes, he usually and immediately repeats it at least two or three times. He also has some facial quirks that seem to reveal his untruthfulness.
1 John 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Trump has used various statements to suggest that he has not sinned. Trump has asked, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?” When asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump responded, “I am not sure I have; I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
2 Timothy 3:2-5: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”
The Apostle Paul is very clear in this letter. He states without qualification, “Avoid such men as these.” Obviously, to adhere to Paul’s admonition in these verses, one has to make a judgment as to the character and traits of an individual. We are not trying to decide whether or not a person is a Christian. Except for the religious right, most Christians seem to accept a person’s profession of faith in Christ as a sign of Christian identity. Be that as it may, Paul is very clear as he instructs Timothy as he goes about providing the ministry in the newly established church.
“As bad as Sept. 11, 2001, was, Jan. 6, 2021, was many times worse.”
Jan. 6, 2021, is a date that will be remembered by all who witnessed it in one form or another for the rest of their lives. As bad as Sept. 11, 2001, was, Jan. 6, 2021, was many times worse. Numbers of actual lives lost is not the metric here. Following 9-11, the country rallied together to respond to a radicalized and dangerous enemy from outside. Jan. 6 taught us that radicalized fellow citizens are willing to attack our government even when it is performing one of its most sacred functions that allows our constitutional form of government to proceed through a peaceful transfer of power. Even today, Jan. 14, as I write this, some high government officials are still telling the lies that Trump won the election.
When Jesus rejected Satan’s offer, notice that there was no attempt at unification. Why? Satan never was going to be willing to be subjugated to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Divisions cannot be healed in our land until those who are responsible for the division admit their errors.
You might say that everyone commits errors. This is true. However, the current crisis has been wrought by those who have been spreading the falsehoods of rampant voter fraud, even though all states have certified their electors and the courts have rejected any claims of voter fraud. Even now, there are many Republican leaders who refuse to accept the results of a fair and relatively error-free election. Like those who came to be baptized by John the Baptist, there was no need for them to be baptized if they had not repented as evidenced by their deeds.
Unification will happen only after those who have done the harm have repented as evidenced by their deeds. Otherwise, as Paul stated in the 2 Timothy passage above, many of these unrepentant and dangerous people should be avoided. This literally means that you should not follow them.
It is quite remarkable that those who have preached that “tolerance,” “liberal,” and “compromise” are bad words for many years now have fully embraced white supremacists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, alt-right, and conspiracy theorists — all of whom embody an increasingly violent intolerance of anyone who would dare be different, whether in physical appearance or in ideas.
Who would have ever guessed that wearing a mask for health reasons would be a political statement? Who would have guessed that believing that climate change is a reality would be a political statement? Who would have guessed that anti-intellectualism would become normalized in a society that has long prided itself on its world-class educational system? Who would have guessed that providing tax cuts for the super-rich would far outweigh any concern for the poor and needy?
“The evangelicals have preached for years that we are a Christian nation, at least in name only.”
One would not have to look far to see the stark reality that exists in America today. In that violent mob that shook America on Jan. 6 we saw a person with a shirt with the image of “Holy Bible.” After all, the evangelicals have preached for years that we are a Christian nation, at least in name only. We saw a person with a shirt with “Camp Auschwitz” and another with a shirt that said “6MWE,” meaning six million Jews killed weren’t enough. We saw the Confederate flag being carried through the Capitol. We saw the flag of Trump replace the Stars and Stripes. We saw the Stars and Stripes on a pole that was used to beat a Capitol policeman.
What we saw was the opposite of “law and order.” Yet, the “law and order” president was reported as being gleeful about what he was watching take place from afar after telling his adoring crowd that he was marching with them to the Capitol.
As the days go by, America will learn more about the events that led up to and encompassed that infamous day. Will we be willing to acknowledge the error of our ways and move forward to try to form that “more perfect union”? Will we acknowledge that there is no comparison between the reasons for the mostly peaceful protests of the Black Lives Matter movement and the insurrection that we witnessed on Jan. 6?
“Will we be willing to acknowledge the error of our ways and move forward to try to form that ‘more perfect union?'”
We witnessed a day when the intolerance espoused by the party of Lincoln became the tolerance for bigotry, lawlessness, hatred, violence and insurrection. The once great GOP has decided that working hard to promote the great principles of a conservative approach of governance is way too difficult a task and must therefore resort to seizing power by any means, even if it means cheating, strong-arming and violence. Now this same party shamelessly suggests that the opposition must tolerate this behavior in order to unify this great country of ours.
There are answers to our many problems. These answers are found in the Bible. Holding a Bible aloft as a sign of one’s beliefs does not replace the teachings that we find within its pages. While the Bible has become a form of idol worship for some, it needs to be opened, read and become an inward reality. May the Lord have mercy on our nation. We have fallen very far indeed.
Earl Chappell lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and has been a member of First Baptist Church of Norfolk since 1977.