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Dennis Priebe

Post-Trump Lessons

We have come to the end of a fascinating four-year period in U.S. history.  I think it is important to think about what has transpired, so that we can learn from it.  My focus will not be about the political lessons we might learn, but about what we need to know as we face what may well be the imminent end of “life as usual.”  We have been talking about how the lamb will come to speak as a dragon for a long time, and we may be closer to that time now than we realize.

One year ago, in December, 2019, an amazing article appeared in Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of the evangelical world, established by Billy Graham and others for conservative, Bible-believing Christians.  Mark Galli, the editor-in-chief, began his article with these words, “Politics is not the end and purpose of our being….Politics does not dominate our homepage….We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders on both sides of the political aisle.”

Notwithstanding these explanatory words, his next comments were startling.  “The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see.”  Galli then quoted from an editorial he penned in 1998, when Clinton was being impeached.  “’The President’s failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation….Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.’  Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president….

“That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.  To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve.  Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior.  Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency.  If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come.  Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

“We have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump….[But soon] the whole game will come crashing down.  It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel.  And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.”

On December 20, this editorial was noticed by The New York Times.  They noted that white evangelicals were the cornerstone of Trump’s political base and “their leaders are among his most visible and influential supporters.”  Of course Trump lashed out at Christianity Today, calling it a “far left magazine.”  He claimed that “no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself.”

“Because they are a third of the Republican base, Trump needs white evangelical Protestants to get elected,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute.  “And because white evangelicals see themselves as a shrinking minority, in both racial and religious terms, they need Trump.”

The Times article opined that “the middle is disappearing in American Christianity, just as it is in politics.”

Evangelicals who are troubled by the president’s conduct said they feared that he had done long-term damage to their cause.  Peggy Wehmeyer, a journalist and writer, wrote, “The word evangelical has been sullied in a serious way.  I don’t like to call myself that anymore.  What has really troubled me from the beginning is why can’t people say on the one hand, ‘We love what he’s done on religious liberty, abortion, and the economy.’  But on the other hand say that ‘As Christians whose allegiance is to Jesus Christ, his behavior is despicable’?”  She added, “You can support this man’s policies, but if the witness of this church is going to survive, you must speak out against sin.”

Evangelical leaders actually stated that that they had to vote for the lesser of two evils, and that Trump was acceptable because of abortion and his defending Christianity, and his support for Israel.  Thus evangelicals were willing to overlook his character flaws.  Jerry Falwell, Jr. said that they elected a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief.  Christian activists have adopted the “one foot in sea, and one on shore” approach, which is headed for the medieval ditch of church-state abuse.

Conservative evangelical Christian leaders have been among Donald Trump’s most fervent and loyal supporters.  National Public Radio reported the following on January 19, 2021.  In a conversation with conservative activist Charlie Kirk on December 9, Christian author Eric Metaxas said he did not care about the overwhelming odds against any effort to overturn the election of Joe Biden.  “What’s right is right,” Metaxas said.  “That is so wrong.  We need to do absolutely everything we can….We need to fight to the death, to the last drop of blood, because it’s worth it.”  Three days later, Metaxas was the emcee at the Jericho March in Washington, where he and others implored God to keep Trump in office.  “We are here because we know He is the God who does real miracles when His remnant cries out to Him in humility and love,” Metaxas said.  “We are here to cry out to the God of heaven to ask Him to have mercy on the greatest nation in the history of the world.”  A rally organizer, Robert Weaver, told the assembled crowd that God had appeared to him in a vision after Biden’s election victory and told him, “It’s not over.”

Pastor Darryl Knappen said in a January 9 Facebook message to his Minnesota congregation, “It was pastors who led the way in colonial times to encourage our country to shake off the totalitarian regime of the king of England.”  Knappen said from his sanctuary, “I was tempted today to wear my black robe today and cover up my AR-15 beneath it….I would be part of that movement back then, and I may be part of that movement today.”

Speaking at the Jericho March prayer rally, the founder of the OathKeepers militia group, Stewart Rhodes, told the crowd he hoped Trump would use the Insurrection Act to “drop the hammer” on his opponents.  “If he does not do it now, we’re going to have to do it ourselves later, in a much more desperate, much more bloody war.”  Among the flags at the rally was a big yellow banner that said, “JESUS SAVES.”  The same banner was seen again in the crowd that assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  One of the leaders of the invasion of the Senate chamber, Jacob Chansley, actually asked the rioters to pause and join him for a moment of prayer to God.  “Thank you for allowing the United States to be reborn,” Chansley said.  The rioters, many of whom had quietly removed their hats, erupted in a cry of “Amen!”

Kristin du Mez, a historian at Calvin University, said, “Because the dangers are so great and the stakes are so high, that often will require violence.  It’s violence for the sake of righteousness, violence to achieve order, violence to bring peace and security.”  Pastor Darryl Knappen said, “There is a need in every one of our localities to have individuals, patriots, who are ready to arm up and be a part of a citizen militia to protect our freedoms.”  He noted that he was in church, speaking in front of the cross.

We have wondered how a Christian-based republic will turn into the dragon of Revelation.  Maybe we are watching that unfold before our eyes.  Moral compromise in the apostolic church led directly to the use of force to compel compliance to the majority view of what God’s will was, and the Dark Ages was the result.  We are well on our way to repeating that part of history.

A CULT OF IGNORANCE?

Here are some striking points from various studies in America regarding lack of civic knowledge and basic facts about political affairs:

Sixty-four percent of Americans can’t name the three branches of government or describe what they do.

Most Americans don’t know which party controls Congress at any given time.

Half can’t meaningfully describe the difference between liberals and conservatives.

Fifty-four percent cannot name a single Supreme Court Justice.

Only a bare majority can name even one basic purpose of the Constitution.

Fifty percent feel newspapers should not be allowed to publish stories without government approval.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public school students. (“Anti-Intellectualism and the ‘Dumbing Down’ of America,” Psychology Today, July, 2014) These were some of their findings:

Seventy-seven percent didn’t know that George Washington was the first president, or that Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Three percent of the students passed the citizenship test.

This kind of ignorance about basic facts in regard to living in a constitutional republic breeds an increasingly apathetic citizenry which can easily lead to demagogic political leadership.  Complacency breeds forgetfulness.  It can easily lead to complete obedience to an authority figure.  It is closely tied to the belief that some groups are superior to others.  These groups tend to talk only to each other, and only listen to their chosen authorities.

LESSONS

We were told 1900 years ago that the new experiment of a lamb-republic would actually come to speak as a dragon-persecutor.  We are now living at the very edge of the fulfillment of these ancient prophecies.  We were further informed 100 years ago that the ones who would lead the way in this dark descent would be religious leaders professing to be the moral voice of those who believe in and worship an almighty God, exactly what happened in the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  The ones to fear in this end-time scenario would not be the atheists, the Communists, the scientists, the radicals leading society into immorality, or secular politicians.  All of these groups will play their part in pushing religious leaders to take drastic steps to restore some semblance of morality to our societies.  It is these religious leaders (in the United States, the Protestant-evangelical leaders) that will feed off the fears and the desperation and the anger of a deteriorating society, and will propose the solution that worked “so well” in the Middle Ages.  Church-state union, with the state carrying out the desires of the controlling religious voices, will be seen as the only answer to a collapsing world order.

In the United States, the lead will be taken by the evangelical, conservative, Bible-believing churches.  These are the ones who believe fervently in the soon coming of Christ (through a secret rapture), the restoration of Israel as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, a final conflict of Israel with the forces of evil, and a millennium of peace on earth with Christ as Supreme Ruler.  They will lead the way in uniting with a rejuvenated papacy, and forming a deadly connection with spiritualism in false prophetic visions and miracles and supernatural demonstrations.

Right now, all Seventh-day Adventist eyes need to be wide open to what is happening all around us.  We have become very comfortable with evangelical theology, especially on gospel-salvation issues.  We have also been listening to strident conservative-evangelical voices informing us of how to restore the United States to its moral high ground and greatness.  Evangelical theology and evangelical politics have become the greatest dangers facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and our blindness to these two aspects of Satan’s final efforts to deceive the “very elect,” may well cause this movement to “appear to fall.”

If it were not for the prophecies of 1900 years ago and the prophecies of 100 years ago, I would be very discouraged and even depressed about what I see in the “movement of destiny” right now.  But I take courage in the promises of God that this movement will not fall; that the faithful ones will soon receive the seal of God and will survive the “time of Jacob’s trouble” without even one sin marring the characters of the 144,000.  God’s magnificent plan to restore peace to the universe will succeed triumphantly, and He will have a “multitude” of witnesses to be His first-line defense against sin ever raising its ugly head in a perfect universe for all eternity.

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