Political Rhetoric in a Time of Christian Complicity
‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Matthew 6:21
With politics, rhetoric always matters.
When Adolf Hitler began to lead the Nazi party in the early decades of the 1900s, he crafted his policies to appeal to a wider German audience. It is in the appearance of inclusivity that ulterior motives bear fruition; so while the Nazis strongly believed in their supremacy, racial ideologies, and the dehumanisation of the Jewish people, they also aimed to raise pensions and improve employment. Decoy actions; always timely, often suspect. The Holocaust led to the murder of six million Jews and to this day remains one of humankind’s biggest atrocities. Hitler’s ‘positives’ kept single-issue voters in echo chambers when what should have mattered, was rhetoric.
While it may hypothetically be an unfair comparison to any current administration, symbolism is still propaganda.
In the United States, Black people comprise of 13% of the country’s fabric. Even though Black votes matter, it makes but mathematical sense for a businessman to want to pander to the White majority. Of this majority, White pseudo-supremacists fear their race is at peril while evangelicals fear loss of religious freedom, so it becomes but incumbent to satisfy the ideal.
With the former, symbolism takes effect in bipartisan actions like signing the First Step Act to seemingly favour incarcerated Black people while starkly failing to account for the years spent supporting White supremacists at rallies, encouraging ableism and violence, and discriminating against BIPOCs with housing and healthcare. Decoy actions, if there ever were any. With the latter however, the waters turn murkier; not only are there stark discrepancies in access to rights, but for the religious majority, God gets scapegoated through the muck. Have we ever collectively wondered how or why, after being bankrupt, accused of sexual misconduct multiple times, and impeached as President (all antithetical to Christianity), Trump still manages to hold far-reaching evangelical support?
Consider this notion: to the layman evangelical, the commandment is to proselytize; any means of spreading the Gospel holds validity. To the leading evangelist, under the garb of proselytism is a mission of greed. Most American televangelists preach pro-Trump propaganda not because he is a ‘Christian’, but because they understand what his presidency means for them — a continued amassment of wealth within churches that are tax-exempt. In preaching the prosperity gospel — a distorted version of the Bible that encourages blind faith and monetary donations made to the church with the expectation that the more one gives, the more one will receive — the fruit is money and not Christ. So who better really than a White businessman willing to get in bed with the majority to both lighten America into racial divide and coffer up the rich? Signing the First Step Act soon becomes agenda. The pedigree of evangelicals surrounding Trump should be proof enough of his solidarity — Joel Osteen, Jesse DuPlantis, Kenneth Copeland, Jim and Tammy Bakker…even Paula White, his very own spiritual advisor; extremely wealthy people who have used and abused religious credence to store treasures here on earth instead of in Heaven. When ill-gained revenue needs to be maintained at the upper echelons, exploitation is cheaply meted out in the name of Christ, and with a presidency that favours the wealthy, tax codes written in their favour is but an answer to prayer.
And that is why rhetoric always matters.
A consistently propagated distaste against the Black community is what had Black people drop by the millions to cast in their votes. They live the discrimination they face everyday because their voices are a muffled minority. A viable Christian stance would be to walk the talk in humility, uplift factions of the community that need assistance, reject the notion that one class is better than the other, and balance aid so everybody has an opportunity.
In a well-oiled democracy, access to equal opportunity, life, and religious freedom is a secular, collective right. It is but crass privilege to live like small actions from leadership don’t negatively affect the vulnerable. So to anyone arguing in support of Trump’s Christianity, remember what rhetoric does to people at large when you tithe Creflo Dollar for his Gulfstream jet, Kenneth Copeland and Jesse DuPlantis to fly first class so they stay away from the demons in economy class, and the Bakkers for their $125 coronavirus treatment.
And then maybe reconsider the depth of your faith, that regardless of who sits in the White House, God’s will will be done; but that it does not absolve us of our complicity.