You’ve probably seen the Jerry Falwell Jr. interview where he defends evangelical support for Donald Trump. It’s being widely derided and rightly so. I’d like to point out one particular problem that I have with it:
It’s such a distortion of the teachings of Jesus to say that what he taught us to do personally — to love our neighbors as ourselves, help the poor — can somehow be imputed on a nation. Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom and I’m here to teach you how to treat others, how to help others, but when it comes to serving your country, you render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world. That’s not what Jesus taught. You almost have to believe that this is a theocracy to think that way, to think that public policy should be dictated by the teachings of Jesus.
The New Yorker explained the essential vision back in 2007:
In the seventies, Falwell brought together a group of fundamentalist pastors who had independent churches to discuss what should be done. Then, in the late seventies and early eighties, he preached that Christians—by which he meant evangelical Christians—should engage in the world and save America from moral decline and secularism. He essentially said, “Look, we’ve made this false distinction between the sacred and the secular. In fact, everything is sacred. For too long we’ve left business to Wall Street and politics to the people in Washington. We need to train men of God to become lawyers and businessmen and members of Congress. We have to mobilize our people to turn this country around.” It was this message that permitted fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals, who at that time were moving much more into the middle class, to aspire to “worldly” success and to involve themselves in politics.
Falwell Jr. uses anti-theocratic language to justify support for an immoral leader he hopes and believes will implement at least some of his theocratic vision. And he’s hoping we won’t notice.