For the better part of three years, the religious right has worked overtime to warn us against raising our voices, keyboards and phones against Donald Trump. Their explanation? The opposition to Trump is being driven by the devil himself. Seen in this light, it’s very likely Trump’s otherworldly support among white evangelicals is inflated. After all, if publicly opposing Trump is likely to make people think you’re possessed–especially if you live in a congested red area–it’s easy to see why you’d keep your head down while keeping your MAGA hat on.
Let’s not beat around the bush. This is a bullying campaign wrapped in the cross. If there was any doubt that this campaign has become completely removed from reality, it may have been erased on Monday morning. The yeomen at People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch discovered that a few days earlier, a prominent televangelist insisted that many of Trump’s foes are possessed by demons. And he did so mere hours after the most damning testimony to date in the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Pentecostal televangelist Perry Stone has been a mainstay on Christian television for two decades. He has only veered occasionally into hard-right hankering. But when he does so, he does so whole hog. For instance, last year he told Jim Bakker that he had evidence that it was the Democrats, not Trump, who crawled into bed with Russia. No, this isn’t snark. Watch for yourself.
Stone claimed that a whistleblower had a tranche of 64,000 emails that supposedly proved the Democrats were working hand in glove with the Kremlin to tank Trump–and it was due to be released very soon. Well, more than two years later, that supposed whistleblower hasn’t come forward–most likely because he doesn’t exist.
But last week, Stone left little doubt as to how willing he is to bow and pray to the orange god the religious right made. On Thursday night, during his weekly prayer meeting at his church, Omega Center International in Cleveland, Tennessee, Stone told his flock that the devil is working overtime to attack Trump–and that many of his critics show clear signs of being possessed by the devil’s minions. Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Soon after the broadcast started (there were some 12 minutes of ads before Stone went live), Stone discussed reports that 325,000 witches were planning to put a hex on Trump. To Stone’s mind, it was evidence that “Satan hates this man.”
Supposedly, the devil knows Trump is “delaying the spirit of anti-Christ,” as opposed to the Antichrist himself, because of Trump’s support of Christians in the Middle East and his unabashed support of Israel. Stone argued that as a result, “the adversary’s kingdom is shaken.”
Stone then claimed that he’d never seen as many demons in one place as he’d seen in Washington. He claimed that you can look at some of Trump’s critics and tell they’re possessed.
As an example, he cited House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, one of Trump’s biggest gadflies and a major player in the impeachment inquiry. Stone claimed that the very mention of Trump’s name causes Schiff’s eyes to “grow big as saucers,” and makes him look like he is “having a seizure.” He believed that other Trump foes were the same way; to his mind, it was clear that they were “not normal” and had “given themselves over to reprobate minds.”
On the surface, this is standard religious right agitprop. For the better part of three years, the religious right has insisted that the devil is playing Trump’s foes like violins. But the rub is when this aired.
A little over 48 hours earlier, Bill Taylor, the acting U. S. ambassador to Ukraine, told a House committee that Trump was directly involved in an effort to hold up military aid to Ukraine unless Kiev opened an investigation into Biden. The thought that the president of the United States would be personally involved in such outrageous behavior had even the most hardened lawmakers gasping in shock and disgust.
What is more, just four days before that, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney crassly admitted that there had indeed been a quid pro quo in Ukraine–and tripped all over himself trying to unring that huge bell. Watch CNN’s coverage here.
And yet, in the face of all of this, Stone is still willing to say that Trump’s foes have all the earmarks of being possessed. And he is willing to do so with a straight face. It would have been bad enough that he was willing to do so after Mulvaney crassly admitted to behavior that, by any reasonable standard, amounts to a high crime.
But to do so in light of both Mulvaney’s statement and Taylor’s testimony is staggeringly tone-deaf, even by religious right standards. It’s inconceivable that Stone wasn’t aware of either event. After all, Mulvaney’s statement dominated the headlines of the previous weekend and Taylor’s testimony had dominated the 48 hours before his prayer meeting.
Stone claimed that he wasn’t trying to exalt Trump; indeed, he urged Trump to clean up his mouth. But in the same breath, he suggested that Trump critics may be possessed, even in the face of some of the most damning evidence that Trump grossly abused his power. If that doesn’t amount to exalting him, what does?
Here’s a news flash, Perry. A lot of Christians, including charismatics and Pentecostals like you, know this country was swindled three years ago. And we’ve been praying for the swindle to be exposed. And if you believe that’s a sign we may be possessed, it’s only fair to wonder if you’re worshiping Jesus or Trump.
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