Monday, October 3, 2016

It's October Now, and Facebook (for Some of Us) Enters the "I Believe in Jesus, How About You?" Pre-Election Phase

Like clockwork, the calendar turns to October and in election season, we enter the "I believe in Jesus, how about you?" stage of the presidential campaign. Well, we do so in my Facebook circle, at least. Since not everyone lives in the milieu dominated by white bible-belt evangelicals in which I live in central Arkansas, with cousins from that milieu connecting to me on Facebook, the point I'm making here may require an explanation.

I have seen this Facebook folderol — "I believe in Jesus, how about you?" — play out now in several election years, as the U.S. deliberates about a presidential choice. In the last presidential election cycle, a little over a month out from the elections, my Facebook feed began to be plastered with confessions of faith, pictures of Jesus and pictures of Mitt Romney, some of them superimposed on each other so that white Jesus was hovering in the background over white Mitt's shoulder smiling to beat the band. Many of the photos had white Jesus and white Mitt holding adorable children of several different colors: Jesus (and Mitt) love all the children of the world.

Accompanying them were slogans and chatter about about how this is a holy nation founded by white Jesus to be a light to the nations, and it's in serious moral decline and we need savior politicians over whose shoulder Jesus hovers to restore the nation to God. Translation: I'm a Christian and so, of course, I vote Republican.

If you're a Christian, you'll do the same.

Those living outside the bible belt may not understand that all this pseudo-evangelical language about Jesus this and bible that is really encoded political speech. Those living outside the swath of the U.S. in which it's taken for granted by 80% of white evangelicals that "Christians" will, it goes without saying, vote for the Republican candidate when the elections come around may not understand that the confessions of faith — "Share this if you believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and to save everyone who believes in Him" — is really political speech. 

It's not about religion at all. It's about the coming elections and the Republican candidate and voting for the candidate God has anointed to save the land.

This time around it's about, God help us all, Donald Trump. And I could not be more embarrassed for the sake of my cousins who are falling over each other in the past several days to share their confessions of faith in Jesus Donald Trump on Facebook. Like clockwork . . . . Like those little figurines who perform with touching punctiliousness for us over and over as the glockenspiel strikes its hour in Munich's Marienplatz, doing what they're programmed to do with utter faithfulness . . . . 

As some of our African-American evangelical friends were saying yesterday as Steve and I discussed all of this with them over a meal, when church people behave this way, can it really be any surprise that many younger church people have now become the "nones and dones," as my friends tell me their church circles are naming this trend? "They're done with the church and they're now nones. They're not going to come back."

And who can possibly blame them for making this decision, when this blatant idolatry that will anoint even Donald Trump, for God's sake, as a divinely appointed political savior is the kind of witness — "I believe in Jesus, how about you?" — to the gospels provided by many of our churches? Especially in the most churched part of the country, its bible belt, where eight in ten of the most active members of white churches plan to go to the polls next month and pull the lever for Donald Trump . . . .

P.S. I actually am a little glad some of my cousins have chosen to unfriend me on Facebook during this election season, when I made my views about Donald Trump known. I'm happy I haven't had to spend too much time this time around blocking out photos of Donald Trump and white Jesus holding babies while American flags wave in the background.  

The photo, which I've shared previously, is by Mark Walheiser of Getty Images, from a Trump rally in Mobile, Alabama, in August 2015.

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