The Evangelical Profit Inversion Trumps All

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
The following excerpt is from an article discussing the radical post-WWII cultural inversion of American evangelical Christians. From the time of the formation of the evangelical 'Low Church' movement, the so-called Awakening, till then, Evangelicals were told to remain separate from the secular world, including from engaging in such as politics.

This was indeed consistent with the original imperial Roman formulation of Christianity to pacify the messianic Jews and to control the slaves of the empire. That is, "slaves, obey your masters," and "masters, be kind to your slaves."

But such as Billy Graham, who began his famous Crusade across America launched a major change. Graham was especially prominent in all this for the aspect of inverting the proscription against involving oneself in politics, as he became a close intimate of every single President of his tenure in power. He was also very ecumenical with the Catholics as he would always send lapsed Catholics over to a Catholic table so they could returned to the proper flock. I wonder if he got any rebates?

This is all about what human shepherding is about. We used to wonder how good Germans could be turned so quickly onto Hitler, now we're finding out right in front of us.

A lot of coastal liberals have been shaking their heads at Evangelicals these days.

How, they ask, could over 80 percent of white Evangelical Christians have voted for a vulgar, boastful, sexual-abuse-bragging serial adulterer married to a former nude model? Let alone the race-baiting, the Biblical ignorance (“Two Corinthians”), the fraud, the tax-dodging, the cheating of business partners, and the promise to bring back torture.

The usual answer – which I provided here a couple of weeks ago – is the Supreme Court, which several well-known evangelical leader trumps any other concerns Christians might have with the now-president-elect. Between the Court and Mike Pence’s leadership on social issues, white Evangelicals are focused on their core issues. And besides, maybe Franklin Graham was right that Trump found God during the election season.

But Ken Blackwell, one of the leaders of Trump’s domestic policy transition team, epitomizes the most important factor at all: the recent marriage between extreme laissez-faire capitalism and extreme social conservatism.

A lot of media coverage has focused on Blackwell’s anti-LGBT record, which indeed is impressive, together with his extreme ‘pro-life’ views and anti-Black-Lives-Matter editorials. But what’s interesting about Blackwell is how those hard-right social views dovetail with the extreme economic conservatism of some of his team’s picks, like Goldman Sachs’s Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, or Steven Pruitt, the anti-EPA crusader set to head the EPA. How can the same person advocate for a Christian nation and a hyper-capitalist paradise?

Blackwell is a former secretary of state of Ohio, and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, which sits toward the extreme edge of the Christian Right. But his main areas of focus are tax reform, supply-side economics, and small government. His book Rebuilding America: A Prescription For Creating Strong Families, Building The Wealth Of Working People, And Ending Welfare, argues that the social safety net – welfare, Medicare – undermine the "rugged individualism" that makes families and communities strong.

This is not a novel argument, of course – but it is new to see it made by a conservative Christian. For over a century, Evangelicals listened closely to what Jesus had to say about money – and none of it was good.

Examples? Jesus preaching that “It is easier for a camel to get through the ‘Eye of a Needle’ than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” for example. (The "Eye of a Needle' isn’t literally the eye of a needle, but a gate of Jerusalem so narrow that camels’ packs would have to be unloaded in order for them to get through.) Or throwing moneylenders out of the Temple. Or telling his followers to get rid of their possessions, leave their families, and join his radical, messianic, mostly-celibate sect. Not settle down, not have kids, not make a living, and definitely not get rich.

During the Great Awakening, preachers taught exactly what Jesus taught: turn on (to Christ), tune in (to the Gospel), and drop out of capitalist society. This was a rejection of the so-called “Protestant Ethic,” which, as sociologist Max Weber famously theorized, justified worldly pursuits. But it dovetailed nicely with 19th and early 20th century populist mistrust of bankers, cities, capitalism, and coastal (i.e. New York and Boston) elites. Sound familiar? ...