The Perfect Storm: COVID-19, Conservative Evangelical Christians, the Economic Crisis, and Donald Trump

The Perfect Storm: COVID-19, Conservative Evangelical Christians, the Economic Crisis, and Donald Trump

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Published:
April 29, 2020

"And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.Matthew 24:6–8 (KJV)

At the time of writing this essay, I am quarantined by COVID-19, living the prophecy of Matthew 24, and experiencing a new economic decline of the American empire.1

COVID-19 has affected the world’s capitalist economy, and the communist state capitalism in China, and its allied countries. However, what characterizes this crisis in the United States is that it is more serious than the economic crisis of the Great Depression in 1930, and the recession of 2008. The latter caused a global food and energy crisis, the threat of a worldwide recession, as well as a credit-mortgage crisis and confidence in the markets.2

But in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, the figure of President Donald Trump is particularly striking. His role in this crisis, his attitude, his personal ideological positions, his strategies.

A few weeks ago journalist Nicholas Kristof predicted that the President was taking the nation to its worst scenario. Dr. Anthony Fauci, epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Deborah Birx, advisor to the White House working group for COVID-19, agreed.3

Kristof envisioned more than two million Americans killed by the new coronavirus, nearly all mourned without funerals. Many dead, because hospitals would be too overwhelmed to adequately treat heart attacks, asthma, and diabetes-related complications. He predicted that the economy would sink into a depression, since fiscal and monetary policy is ineffective when people fear going out and businesses close, and that tens of millions of people would be unemployed. Regarding the vaccine, he visualized that it would be somewhat distant, that the immunity of those who have recovered would be short-lived (because reinfection could happen), and the coronavirus would join seasonal flu (every year) as something recurrent.

Thank God that the President — perhaps fearing such apocalyptic chaos, heeding his political or medical advisors, fearing he would not be reelected, or possibly impeached based on the 25th Amendment — rectified his strategies to fight the virus and lift the economy, although his personality continues and will continue to be controversial.

Gone is his stance against the sanitary measures of epidemiologists and the scientific health community in the U.S. and the world, the threats to raise the norms of social distancing because "the remedy is worse than the disease," the devaluation of the virus — saying that it is a common flu which only affects the old, and that these should be the ones to be isolated, and the comment that he never agreed with the isolation — that this idea came from the doctors and that if it was up to them they would close the whole country, among other such stances.

Trump had considered lifting the quarantine and social isolation measures with restrictions on trade, workers, travel, and industries, on April 12, 2020, Easter Day, the day of the resurrection of Christ. "I want the resurrection of America, that day." "I want the churches full," he said in an interview with Fox News.

Why did the President want the United States "open and ready to start the day of Christ's resurrection"? Is this a coincidence?

Trump's support for his cause has largely depended on the support that conservative evangelicals have offered him in the United States. He won the election with the support of 81% of White, Pentecostal, Neo-Pentecostal, Independent, and Adventist Evangelical Christians. This constituted 26% of the electorate in 2016.4

In the midst of this crisis, which may affect his reelection, Trump has already begun reaching out to evangelicals, seeking their support. That is the context of his recent statements about the "resurrection of America." They are the fifth column. Gallup polls suggest that 51% of the population think that he does not have the qualities to lead the nation in this crisis, however the conservative sectors of the political and Christian Right do not abandon him, they do not speak out against his administration as President, and they support it by 49%.

Why this support?

There are some factors responsible for the Trump phenomenon in the United States, which are the cause of his emerging figure in the Republican and Conservative Evangelical Christian Right, which has been developing for years.

To this we must add that other conditions are emerging, such as the COVID-19 crisis and the current crisis of the economy in the U.S. and in the world. Together, they are the perfect storm so that in the United States and in the world, the geopolitical, economic perspectives, financial markets, democracies, civil liberties, and relations between states and governments are restructured. In the not too distant future, a post-coronavirus new order will emerge in the United States (with or without Trump) and in the world. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State of the United States, warned in The Wall Street Journal on April 3, 2020, that the world economic ruin that is looming post-coronavirus will alter the world order forever.5

The factors responsible for the Trump phenomenon in the United States:

1. The religious and the political have been increasingly uniting for years in view, patience, and consent of evangelical Christians, undermining the separation of Church and State.

The separation of the Church and State is based on three aspects. And we are quoting from Pastor Marvin Moore:6

1. “Religion and government must operate separately. The church cannot control the government and vice versa, even one and the other cannot be told what to do in their respective spheres. They are independent and interdependent.”

2. “The government cannot give financial subsidies to religion, pay the wages of pastors or Church employees, or finance the legislation of religious doctrines.”

3. “The laws of the State will be based on secular moral principles, instead of being based on the moral principles of some religion, some Church or sacred book in particular.”

The intention of the founding fathers, who wrote the Constitution in America, was to prevent religious persecution in the new nation with the support of a civil government. An experience that was known in Europe carried out by Catholics and Protestants.

That is the context of the first amendment: "Congress may not make any law that adopts a religion as official, or that prohibits the free exercise of it."

It is not about atheism. It is the recognition of the existence of both spheres independently of one another, that the government cannot sponsor a particular religion, that religions must develop without government interference or promotion.

Pastor Moore explains it very well on page 115 of his book, Could it Really Happen?, (translated into Spanish by APIA Editorial as ¿Será que Podrá Pasar?):

"The State should protect the freedom of religion to teach, persuade, and evangelize. But in no way should the state be involved in acts of public worship, or should it finance some of these activities. This is what is meant by the expression separation of church and state.”

However, politically speaking conservatives, and conservative and authoritarian evangelical religious congregations, through their leaders, have united to a greater or lesser degree, since the 1960s, to defend the Christian faith. This has translated into presenting candidates and programs based on these conservative principles in the elections. Those conservative and authoritarian Christian leaders are "waiting to enter" to "politically bring the nation to God" and the political right agrees to review the separation between Church and State.

God's people are not oblivious to that fact. Ben Carson, a recognized Christian and a member of Trump's cabinet, has publicly held positions that suggest he believes in the union of Church and State. Through his My Faith Votes website, he has gradually distanced himself from his congregation and from that position expressed by the founding members of Adventism: separating the Church from the State.

In Puerto Rico (PR), Christian sympathizers of the union of Church and State openly express their points of view on their radio stations. This is common in primary, or electoral, times for evangelical or evangelical political candidates with political aspirations. In both cases they receive, as a general rule, the support of their Churches, except for honorable exceptions. In fact, in Puerto Rico, a Christian evangelical party, the Dignity Party, has just registered and believes in the union of Church and State. They describe themselves as "a people's movement that seeks political power to bring about beneficial changes in Puerto Rican society in the short and long term."

2. Republicanism and Protestantism have made a "holy alliance."

In an exclusive interview with "The Brody File" Donald Trump has said that he wants to see Christian pastors speak bolder from the pulpit because as he sees it: "the church has to have more power." "We are going to protect the Christian faith like never before." "Our faith in God will guide us to unity again." “A Christian America.” “They have taken a lot of power from the church. I want to return power to the church... Christianity is really being cut; little by little they are removing it.” “I am a Christian, I am a Protestant, I am a Presbyterian, I believe that Christians in our country are not treated properly." "I am the chosen one."7

It is a fact that with that rhetoric, the President has seduced more than one evangelical Christian. By appealing to religious discourse, he gains support and allies to win the elections and lay the foundations for a "Christian America."

I recently traveled to the State of Nevada. While there I visited with some Latin American Christian friends, including a pastor. The common denominator: they all supported President Trump and the Republican Party and its platform, they were against Obamacare, they believed that the Democratic Party would cause a moral decline, a decrease in religious freedom, the erosion of traditional family values. On the contrary, Trump and the Republican Party represented the defense of the faith, Christian morality, religious freedom, the sanctity of life, families and strong marriages.

That was one of the reasons for Trump's victory. Evangelicals, conservative and authoritarian Protestants, believe that the Republican Party and President Trump represent the defense of biblical morals and values.8

So, it should come as no surprise that they have developed an alliance. Trump's religious political agenda through the Republican Party is appealing to conservative Christians and vice versa. Interesting for others is that the Republican Party has been diluted, and has submitted to the authoritarian leadership of the President.

3. There is a new interpretation of the belief that freedom of conscience must be safeguarded:

This religious political alliance between Trump’s Republicanism and conservative authoritarian Protestantism has done ideological-political-religious work that has undermined another fundamental belief and clause in the people of God: freedom of conscience.9

The result has been an emphasis that the freedom of conscience of that authoritarian conservative Christian moral majority must be safeguarded through the Government. They interpret that the Christian religion is already majority and hegemonic. The government is not and should not be opposed. As far as Christianity can be institutionalized, even more, as the politically correct religion in the United States. To those who think in this way, it does not seem to matter if one is, or will be in the future, imposing on non-believers other religions and Congregations of Faith, religious values, ​​or ideas of that authoritarian Christian majority, whether conservatively, subtly, or by force.10

Religious freedom has always been a capital issue for Adventists. Pastor John Graz, former Director of Religious Liberty for the General Conference, has publicly said that the matter has been considered a biblical principle, the result of God's love.11

This position coincides with official General Conference documents stating that the Seventh-day Adventist Church advocates for religious freedom for all people and for the separation between Church and State.12

Pastor Graz in the cited work has said:

"Seventh-day Adventists believe that anything that can threaten freedom of conscience comes from the devil, not from God." “No one, neither the Church nor the State (government) has the right to force anyone to adopt a religion, to change their religion, to remain in it or not to profess any religion.” “In order to better protect freedom of conscience, the Church and the State (government) must remain separate. One has direct responsibility for souls, the other for the good order of society.”13

4. Nationalism is gaining more and more followers in North America:

President Trump, in his vision for a great America, and with a Christian morality, has created among the Protestants a "chauvinistic" nationalism.14

Unfortunately, the rejection of secularism, ignorance of the history of social thought, misunderstanding of historical, political, social processes, render susceptible to indifference, confusion, fear, anti-communism, demagoguery, and chauvinistic nationalist political rhetoric.15

To this we must add that within the people of God (including Adventism) there is a generation oriented to identify with institutions, very resistant to change, with a firm commitment to traditional Christian values: family, nation, school, church, and free enterprise. Anything against that is a "far left conspiracy."16

In this context, Trump presents himself to the nation as the “champion” — a crusader of traditional Christian morality which defends these conservative values tooth and nail, and is openly against the LGBTQ community, and any measure that affects American free enterprise.17

5. "Trump has taken measures that blur the border between religion and politics in the US."18

The President, in addition to all the public expressions he has made, erasing the separation of Church and State, signed an Executive Order abolishing the Johnson Amendment, which prevented donations from churches to political parties to facilitate the participation of religious groups in campaign policies without losing their tax benefits. Amid the impeachment process, he campaigned against his removal from the King Jesus International Ministry in Miami and sought the support of evangelicals in South Florida after Christianity Today supported the impeachment by the House of Representatives and his removal as President.19

He relates very well, with leaders of the traditional and independent evangelical churches, has a small Bible study group in the White House — of which Rick Perry, Pastor Paula White, and Mike Pence have been or are members, celebrated his impeachment acquittal in the Senate, participated in the National Prayer Breakfast and declared Sunday, March 15, 2020, the National Day of Prayer for the coronavirus.

Conclusion

The perfect storm is coming. The causes and conditions are present in the factors mentioned above: the Trump phenomenon (his election and support is a reflection of the success of the authoritarian Christian conservatives and how far they have gone and continue to go in their alliance with the political right) and the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath of economic crisis (recession/depression, increase in unemployment), direct us (unless God provides otherwise) to a government that in the name of Christianity will gradually erode the constitutional principles of the separation of Church and State and freedom of conscience. All in the context of the culmination of the final events prior to the coming of Jesus Christ.

 

Important Clarification:

The reader may wonder why I do not speak of the Political or Religious Left. Perhaps more than one reader can feel more comfortable and secure thinking that it is the left that will erode the freedoms established in our constitution and the best way to defend those freedoms, from the left, is through President Trump.

That position is valid however I do not share that vision, and I want to explain why. First of all, I want to clarify that I am not a communist, nor am I a leftist. I am existentially Christian, Protestant, and Adventist. Secondly, the class struggle, whether on the left or on the right, separates us from love for God and neighbor, because it leads us to a mistaken spiritual war.

Fear of the left or of communism can lead us to the wrong choice, labeling parties and people as radical leftists, when in reality they are not. It happened in the past, in the cold war, and it is happening now.20

It is a strategy of political, authoritarian, and conservative sectors, which together with conservative Christian authoritarian sectors, seek to distract our attention, placing the decoy that our freedoms will be invaded by the left, while their leaders work for the other side with different nuances and strategies in Congress, the White House, in its own churches, for the transformation of the beast as lamb into a new system of government.

 

Footnotes:

1. Revelation 18 implicitly mentions that in the time of trouble and great tribulation, there will be a great economic crisis. Ellen White, founder of the Church and biblical commentator, points out in The Great Controversy: “the rich lament the destruction of their magnificent houses, the dispersal of their gold and silver.” The United States at this time is rapidly approaching an economic recession/depression of biblical proportions.

2. See Wikipedia article “The Great Recession.”

3. https://www.clarin.com/new-york-times-international-weekly/

4. There are statistics that seem to suggest that support is much more than that. Adventists are no stranger to that statistic and support. There are different visions among us regarding the President. There are those who support him ideologically and electorally because his political management is compared to King Nebuchadnezzar or King Cyrus. Others believe it will bring Sunday law, persecution, and hasten the coming of Jesus Christ. There is a sector that agrees with its policy of defending the traditional conservative values ​​of the United States because they fear the inclusion of socialism in the United States. The latter believe that Trump is a shield against the Left, so they ideologically support the Republican Party and make political, ideological, and religious alliances with conservative political sectors, something that is also happening with the people of God. There are many public figures in the people of God, who fleeing from the Left, consciously or unconsciously, are influencers, who are contributing ideologically, to the creation of a new order in the USA and in the world.

5. In the El País newspaper, on April 4, 2020, an article by Braulio García appeared, entitled “Global crises demand global solutions: is it time to create a World Constitution.”

6. For a thorough study of the subject, it is a must-read, Pastor Malvin Moore's book: Could It Really Happen? 2008, Pacific Press, translated into Spanish by Editorial APIA.

7. “Brody File Exclusive: President Trump Says Persecuted Christians Will Be Given Priority as Refugees,” CBN.com, accessed August 2019.

8. The Nationalist, Populist, White, Republican movement led by President Donald Trump is called Trumpism. It has a lot of support among Latin Americans in the United States. According to the BBC Mundo Network, 30% voted for Trump. Of that number, the majority identified themselves as evangelical Hispanics. They were the number one Latino group that supported Donald Trump, for being pro-life and protecting the free expression of Christianity in this country. See news system through the BBC Mundo social networks, on May 25, 2018, Gerardo Lissardy interviewed the Rev. Samuel Rodríguez, a member of a group of evangelicals who informally advise Trump and is President of the National Conference of Christian Leaders Hispanics (NHCLC), the largest Hispanic-Evangelical organization in this country.

9. Freedom of conscience is the right to freedom of conscience and religion. This right implies the freedom to preserve your religion or beliefs, or to change your religion or beliefs, as well as the freedom to profess or not to profess, to disclose or not to disclose your religion or beliefs, individually or collectively; both in public and in private.

10. In Puerto Rico, a controversy arose with a group of Christian policemen who wanted to pray at police stations during working hours and were later banned by the government. Many Pastors, Adventist Chaplains, and members of the Northern area made common cause with the police officers alleging that their freedom of worship was violated. They forgot about the separation of Church and State.

11. John Graz, Issues of Faith & Freedom, 2008, Public Affairs and Religion Liberty Department of the General Conference of Seventh day Adventist, Silver Spring, Maryland. There is a translation in Spanish: El Adventista y ... Editorial APIA). On p. 144 of the Spanish Edition, it is said that the fundamental principle of the Kingdom of God is love, there is no love without freedom and there is no freedom without freedom of conscience.

12. Declarations, Guidelines and Other Documents of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2010, Communication Department General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, Editorial APIA, Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 2011, Page 116, of the Spanish Edition. It further adds that it supports Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in harmony with its beliefs and history, it is fully committed to promoting, defending, and protecting religious freedom for all people and throughout the world. This statement was approved by the General Conference Board of Directors on September 29, 1999, at the Annual Council in Silver Spring, Maryland.

13. John Graz, cited work, pp. 145-146, Spanish translation.

14. Wikipedia defines chauvinism as exaggerated or excessive exaggeration of the national versus the foreign. Historically, nations that adopted this type of nationalism alleged that they upheld the nation's traditional moral values. However, on the other hand, they gradually suppressed civil liberties, committed atrocities against dissent, particularly against Jews. Strategically they used for years the name of God and elements of the Christian faith to justify their ideology, and the political order they established, which caused division, confusion, and indifference among God's people.

15. The ignorance of secular political-social processes, together with the criminalization of social causes in the 1940s until the end of the 20th century, through the Cold War, misinformed hundreds of generations regarding social struggles. In those years there was an ideological-economic-political confrontation between two superpowers: the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. who were fighting among themselves to implant their beliefs and ideology. The result in the United States and in the West was that the social, syndical, and economic struggles were presented as a communist conspiracy, seeking to subvert the values ​​of democracy. Today we can see anti-communist approaches similar to those of the cold war in the Churches.

16. President Trump accuses the Democratic Party of being a Left Party involved in a crusade against Christianity. Please see www.telemundodallas.com, January 3, 2020.

17. He opposes legislative measures against global warming and green clean energy. He is opposed to legislation negatively affecting the national coal industry. That was one of the reasons why he withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement. Green energy is said to be the use of energy from the sun, water, wind, and non-polluting energy sources. It has also been pointed out as racist by the CNN news system for the "exacerbation of the racial sense of an ethnic group that often motivates discrimination or persecution of one or more others with whom they live." Please see cnnespanol.cnn.com/2019/07/16/es-donald-trump-racista-10-frases-para-analizarlo.

18. Verbatim words of the Reverend Samuel Rodríguez on the social networks of BBC Mundo, on May 25, 2018. Rev. Samuel Rodríguez, is a member of a group of evangelicals who informally advise Trump and President of the National Conference of Hispanic Christian Leaders (NHCLC).

19. In 1959, there were demonstrations in the United States in favor of racial segregation in schools, where prohibiting racial segregation was said to be a "communist" position. Historically, ultra-conservative sectors of American politics have branded as communist a good number of attitudes, beliefs, or values ​​that they dislike or disagree with. See Wikipedia: Anti-Communism.

President Trump himself has made those hints, against the Democratic Party and recently against Christianity Today for publishing an editorial supporting the impeachment by House Democrats and calling for the removal of the President. Trump used his Twitter account to say that the magazine is "far left." See http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/sur-de-la-florida, by David Smiley, December 21, 2019.

20. In that effort there are former congressmen, politicians, pastors, "influencers," Presidents of nations, secret and not-so-secret organizations. The Netflix Streaming system features a miniseries titled The Family. It is a conservative Christian group known as The Family that has a tremendous influence in Washington D.C. to achieve its ambitions worldwide. (The Netflix documentary is based on the book by the same title by Jeff Sharlet.)

Strong and compelling evidence is presented that they aim to advance a global, political and religious agenda and influence U.S. political and religious political decisions about family, marriage, and gay values in foreign countries. The group has influenced Presidents of the United States from Eisenhower to President Trump. They are the architects of the Prayer Breakfasts called by the White House every year, during Republican and Democratic administrations. They have a global agenda of control, power, and religious theocratic political dominance.

 

Edison García-Creitoff taught ethics and communications for 15 years in Private Universities of Puerto Rico. He is a Social Worker, Conflict Mediator, Lawyer (J.D.) and Lay Chaplain. He has been an Elder, Director of Missionary Work, Director of Home and Family, Deacon, and Sabbath School teacher in the Adventist Church of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Reach him by email at [email protected].

Image: President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, addresses his remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen). Courtesy of The White House on Flickr.com (Public Domain).

 

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