For the better part of four decades, the religious right has worked overtime to brainwash Americans of faith into voting for virtually any schmuck with an “R” next to his or her name. As the story goes, the Democrats are anti-Christian and anti-God at best and outright atheist at worst. In this world, “GOP” might as well stand for “God’s Own Party.”
This trend has ramped up to ridiculous levels in the Donald Trump era. Even in the face of the almost daily outrages coming from this White House, the nation’s so-called moral guardians have continued to bully the country into bowing and praying to the orange god they helped make.
Nothing, it seems, is enough to convince the religious right from breaking the Faustian deal it made with Trump soon after he locked up the Republican nomination. Not his nepotism. Not his boorish and bullying behavior. Not his continued degrading of women. Not his abuse of power. No, no–all that matters to them is that Trump promised to give them what they wanted on abortion, marriage equality, and the courts.
To hear the religious right tell it, God hacked the election for Trump, not Russia. Therefore, opposing Trump is tantamount to opposing the Almighty. That’s why that as bad as Trump’s numbers are at this point, a good argument can be made that they’re inflated. When you hear this kind of talk on a weekly basis, chances are you keep your head down–especially if you live in a state where Trump still walks on water.
A particularly revealing example of what’s been coming from far too many pulpits over the years came last Sunday from one of Trump’s most rabidly loyal religious right supporters. He claimed that if you don’t vote for Trump, you’re not really representing your Savior.
Hank Kunneman has become one of the more obnoxiously rabid generals in the Trumpvangelical Army. Kunneman, who co-pastors Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha alongside his wife, Brenda, made a name for himself for his high-profile misses on how the impeachment push would play out. He claimed that it would “boomerang” back on the Democrats, and tried to spiritually “hush” the inquiry.
Kunneman, like most of Trump’s hypercharismatic supporters, would have us believe that the opposition to Trump is nothing short of demonic. Just in case anyone missed it, he drove that message home further this past Sunday. He warned his followers against opposing Trump, and explained that it’s not a good idea to vote for a party that is basically atheist. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
To those Christians who were thinking of staying home out of distaste for Trump, Kunneman thundered that doing so was tantamount to a vote for “the party of the non-religious.” Besides, he said, a candidate’s personality shouldn’t matter as much as “what they’re doing” and “what they stand for.”
Kunneman told his flock that when he goes to the polls, “I’m going to go in there and represent Jesus.” He then made it pretty clear that representing Jesus meant voting for Trump, a man who has supposedly “mentioned God” more than any president in recent memory, and who is “fighting for the church” more than any other president. Those gains, he said, stand to be reversed under “the party of the non-religious.”
For Kunneman, there’s really no decision to make. He’s already told Jesus that even if Trump isn’t saved, “he sounds like a friend of yours,” so he’s getting his vote. He then wagged his finger at Christians who aren’t sold on Trump–especially those who are even thinking about voting for Joe Biden.
Does Jesus, who is the king of our kingdom, does he want you to put a checkmark next to somebody who is an atheist?
After dishing out red meat about how Democrats want to take prayer out of the schools and expand transgender rights, Kunneman asked if this was what Jesus wanted. His answer–“hell no!”
Kunneman wasn’t even trying to be subtle. As far as he was concerned, the Democratic Party is an atheist party, so it doesn’t deserve the vote of any Christian. Um, Hank? So you’re telling us that it doesn’t matter, for instance, that Trump is pushing for schools to reopen, and coronavirus be hanged? So you’re telling us that it doesn’t matter that he blows racist dog whistles? So you’re telling us that it doesn’t matter that he condoned violent resistance to efforts to flatten the curve? And on, and on, and on.
If Kunneman is telling us that we shouldn’t vote for Democrats because they’re supposedly atheist, then he’s calling evil good and good evil. Word to the wise, Hank. You might want to read Isaiah 5:20. God doesn’t look too kindly on this.
History will not be kind to Kunneman and other preachers who are still bullying their followers into supporting Trump. They risk facing the same infamy as the tailenders who used their pulpits to defend segregation. Maybe not in 2021, but someday, Kunneman and other Trumpvangelicals will face a reckoning. And it won’t be pretty.
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