A Convenient Christian

TimeWatch Editorial
May 18, 2017

According to the Daily Beast Website, Brandon G. Withrow teaches religious studies at the University of Findlay, is the author of nine books, his most-recent (co-authored with Menachem Wecker) is Consider No Evil: Two Faith Traditions and the Problem of Academic Freedom in Religious Higher Education. His work has appeared in The Religion News Service, The Guardian, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, On Faith, and The Huffington Post. On February 19, 2017 he wrote an article published in the Daily Beast entitled “Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings.” In the opening paragraphs of that article, Withrow quotes an interesting statement by Franklin Graham.

“Mr. President, in the Bible rain is a sign of God’s blessing. And it started to rain...when you came to the platform,” said Reverend Franklin Graham in his inaugural benediction before President Donald J. Trump. Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association , was one of six, predominantly Christian spiritual leaders praying on January 20. It’s his firm conviction that the election was the work of divine providence.  “I believe,” Graham told Fox News, that “in this election, no question, God’s hand was in it.” Brandon G. Withrow, Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings” The Daily Beast Website, February 19, 2017

You will be surprised to discover the number of Christian Evangelicals who have placed their faith in the election of this president. You will probably be even more surprised to discover that these same Evangelicals are equally drawn to Vladimir Putin. Withrow continues the article this way.

“That more ministers participated in Trump’s inauguration than ever before, or that a man not known for religious fervor found Jesus when he needed evangelical support most, should never be a surprise. Faith and power frequently consort and Christianity, in general, has always held an awkward relationship with power. From Trump’s America to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, conservative Christianity once again has a seat at the table. But why people of faith have flocked to these obviously flawed men may be surprising. Both Trump and Putin have portrayed themselves as protectors of the devout, casting themselves in the mold of ancient Biblical figures so familiar to churchgoers.” Brandon G. Withrow, Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings” The Daily Beast Website, February 19, 2017

But the question needs to be answered, why does Trump provide such an attraction when you compare him in the other presidents who had a strong connection with the church? After all there were indeed others who maintained their faith, demonstrating their affiliation to what they believed, regardless of what circumstances they found themselves in.

“Among Republican presidents, Donald Trump’s supposed religious affections differ significantly from previous office holders. By any measure, he was the least likely candidate to have ministers like Graham singing his praises. “Trump’s considerable appeal to Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists seemed weird during the early days of the campaign,” says Dan P. McAdams , the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology and Director of the Foley Center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern University. “After all, the guy knows almost nothing about Christianity, and his life is hardly a model of Christian virtue.” Brandon G. Withrow, Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings” The Daily Beast Website, February 19, 2017

Trump’s impact becomes even more mysterious when compared with some of the other global leaders in other nations. Withrow’s inspired comparison stands in contrast with the other evaluations that others have made concerning the impact of Trump’s presidency.

“Trump’s profile stands in stark contrast to the life-long faith of President Carter and even the guarded Christianity of other Western leaders, like that of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran minister.  Merkel is sometimes criticized for her welcoming policies on refugees, a “misunderstood Christian mission,” as Jan-Werner Mueller, professor of politics at Princeton University, calls it in Foreign Policy. “She has thrown down a moral challenge to her own people,” writes Mueller, “and, in particular, for the 61 percent of Germans who identify as Christians actually to live their faith.” Brandon G. Withrow, Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings” The Daily Beast Website, February 19, 2017

Withrow continues to compare Trump with another unusual world leader, Putin. At the same time he describes how Vladimir uses the church to establish his control of Russia and as much of the rest of the world as possible.

“Unlike Carter and Merkel, Trump’s faith is one of convenience, more reflective of another leader he deeply admires: Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is Putin whose closely held secret personal life is full of rumors , but who is frequently suspected of —though never directly linked to—the death and silencing of critics. (The latter point that doesn’t seem to bother Trump; when Bill O’Reilly recently called Putin a “killer,” the President said he respected Putin and brushed it off.) The Russian Orthodox Church plays first chair to the Kremlin’s conducting of Russian domestic affairs—even playing a part in foreign affairs. The Orthodox Church is a pillar of his statecraft, enabling him to control the faith narrative of his people and giving him the needed propaganda to justify his annexation of Crimea, support in Syria , and even spread Russian religious influence in Western Europe .” Brandon G. Withrow, Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings” The Daily Beast Website, February 19, 2017

Withrow sees clearly something that many others overlook entirely. The use of the Russian Orthodox Church and its use as a political entity is the rise of the Eastern Byzantium Church of Roman Catholicism. The healed wound that has been foretold in scripture is being completed.  The power of the Papacy is indeed established, both east and west. Soon the final rapid movements will be here.

Cameron A. Bowen

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