Columns Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

A court evangelical goes off the reservation

1909 painting “The Worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan. Image courtesy Creative Commons

Late Tuesday night my cell phone rang. It was the court evangelical I last spoke with in May. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.

CE: Prof?

MS: Rev! To what do I owe the pleasure?

CE: You have a minute? We got to talk.

MS: Sure. Do you mind if I record this?

CE: Knock yourself out.

MS: OK then. What’s up?

CE: So for the past few weeks I’ve been preaching on “The Good News versus the Fake News.” You know, how the Gospel is the best way to defeat all this fake news about the President?

MS: Cute. But I thought Fox News was pretty good at it.

CE: Well yeah. But the Gospel is even better. Or so I thought.

MS: You’re having second thoughts?

CE: The thing is, these convictions and guilty pleas and indictments aren’t fake news. Even Fox is reporting them. And I’m starting to feel like it’s no longer possible to treat Trump like a useful idiot, a corrupt vessel filled with saving waters.

MS: Why not?

CE: It’s the greed, son. It’s corrupting everything. Look at Paul Manafort and his $15,000 ostrich coat, guilty of tax evasion and bank fraud. Or tax fraudster Michael Cohen and the $30,000 profit he failed to report from the sale of a handbag. A handbag! And then we’ve got Congressman Chris Collins, a certified Trump lover, indicted for insider trading. And Congressman Duncan Hunter, another certified Trump lover, indicted for using campaign funds to pay for fancy vacations and other personal expenses.

MS: What about Tom Price and his charter flights? Ben Carson and his $31,000 dining set? The Mnuchins and their dollar bill photo? Scott Pruitt and his vacation trips, housing arrangements, etc. etc.? And you just noticed that “Greed is Good” is back, big league?

CE: Well no, but I’ve reached a tipping point. I was never against wealth per se. I always figured Jesus’ saying that it’s harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle was pardonable hyperbole. Not that Jesus needs a pardon or anything. Look, I can proof-text with the best of them, but you can’t read the New Testament without feeling as though, well, greed is not good.

MS: What about Paula White and the others of her ilk who go to the White House with you to heap blessings upon the Artist of the Deal?

CE: You know I’ve never had anything good to say about the Prosperity Gospel.

MS: So what are you going to do?

CE: For starters, I’m going to chuck my sermon plans. Next Sunday I’ll be preaching on Timothy 6:10.

MS: Remind me.

CE: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

MS: One can hope.

CE: Remember, last time we talked, you asked if it had ever occurred to me that Trump is Antichrist?

MS: And you said it had occurred not just to you, but was all over the Internet.

CE: Right. But I’ve been rethinking. Trump’s not Antichrist. He doesn’t have the grandeur or the intelligence. He’s just the demon of greed we call Mammon, the pathetic fallen angel that Milton describes in Paradise Lost:

Mammon led them on—
Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell
From Heaven: for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific.

MS: Nice poem. Isn’t there something in the Sermon on the Mount about him too?

CE: Yes there is: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

MS: And you’re going to preach this to your congregation? About the President?

CE: I’m fixing to.

MS: Let me know how that works out.

CE: I will. So long, Prof. Thanks for listening.

MS: So long, Rev. And good luck.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

40 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Trump’s not Antichrist. He doesn’t have the grandeur or the intelligence. He’s just the demon of greed we call Mammon, the pathetic fallen angel that Milton describes in Paradise Lost.

    That’s a relief. All this time I’ve been hesitant to convey on Trump the distinction of being the Father of Lies even though he acts like it. Mammon suits him much better.

  • Curious that the CE has decided that Greed/Mammon is the greater sin than abusing women, or denigrating immigrants and refugees, or separating refugee parents from their children, or racism, or………

  • I would like to suggest that the headline writers should change the title. Perhaps you did not know, because it is used so widely in military applications (which ought to say something), but “off the reservation” comes from the justification for murdering Native Americans.

    It’s not too hard to avoid reproducing genocidal rhetoric; please consider the change. One of many easily googleable sources: http://blog.nativepartnership.org/off-the-reservation/

  • Without a name the article hasn’t much traction.

    It appears to be use of the literary device of an imaginary dialogue in which the author places his own ideas and thoughts into the mouth of someone who does not exist.

  • Greed is only the fourth circle of Dante’s Hell. Fraud and Treachery are the eighth and ninth circles. It is most likely that one of these last two circles will be where Trump, his high profile supporters (Graham, Falwell Jr., White, et al), and his other accomplices will receive their eternal reward.

  • Yes, but the Donald will build a luxurious golf course with greens surrounded by fire hazards and a big wall to keep the souls of the damned from reaching the fairways. Ivanka will sell golf hats that say “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” which is Latin for “Make America Great Again.”

  • “I always figured Jesus’ saying that it’s harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle was pardonable hyperbole. ”

    Too funny!

    Whenever the Bible says something inconvenient, it really must mean something else entirely.

    The Bible doesn’t make you the person you are. You read the Bible to justify it.

  • This is clever, funny, absolutely on point about the mystifying support of those who fervently claim the title “christian” for the one who behaves in so many ways that is absolutely not “christian.”

    It is a mystery. Trump is a disaster for so much that the Christian faith stands for. Is Trump’s way of dealing in and with the world the example they want for their own children, grandchildren, today’s youth, their neighbors and friends?

  • I think they are folk that have convinced themselves that “the ends (in this case stacking the courts with ultra conservatives) justify the means (supporting a man like Trump). Unfortunately for them, but not for us, they can’t see that their ultimate end is the loss of respect for Christians and Christian churches.

  • I think they are folk that have convinced themselves that “the ends (in this case stacking the courts with ultra conservatives) justify the means (supporting a man like Trump). Unfortunately for them, but not for us, they can’t see that their ultimate end is the loss of respect for Christians and Christian churches.

  • I especially love the verse about being able to handle poisonous snakes, and drinking poison, and surviving.

    Funny how so many denoms overlook that verse. Tho in West VA and other hillbilly places they do practice it.

  • https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/a_court_evangelical_goes_off_the_reservation/#comment-4056388882

    Susan Humphreys:

    “I think they are folk that have convinced themselves that ‘the ends (in this case stacking the courts with ultra conservatives) justify the means (supporting a man like Trump). Unfortunately for them, but not for us, they can’t see that their ultimate end is the loss of respect for Christians and Christian churches.”

    Or given a choice between two evils, they choose the lesser, much like nearly every presidential election.

    It is rather amusing to read “they can’t see that their ultimate end is the loss of respect for Christians and Christian churches” from an avowed atheist and opponent of Christianity.

  • BUT Hillary is a better person than Trump! AND being a better person is better than being a better candidate. I agree that Hillary wasn’t the best campaigner, she didn’t fire up her base the way Trump did. BUT that is because she has more class than he does, she wasn’t willing to stoop as low as Trump, she has standards.

  • Hillary is a narcissistic unpleasant individual in real life, with a grandiose sense of entitlement, a set of embedded beliefs which in comparison make Barack Obama look realistic, and open disdain for the “hoi polloi”.

    Had she been elected blacks would not be experiencing the lowest unemployment since WWII, Mexico would not addressing NAFTA, Russia would still be hacking the DNC, the stock markets would not be setting records, and the military would be figuring out how to make long-range bombers built in the 1950s last until the 2050s.

    The electorate faced with two choices made the one more likely to enhance their outcomes in real life.

  • Ummmm….yes?

    Power. Money. dominion. And revenge.

    The holy trinity of hyper conservative trumpian evangelicalism.

  • simply repeating yourself does not make it true . hillary has been investigated time and again and little has been found . but those without anything else just repeat old charges . they have nothing else .

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, in both the lying and trust category, Trump would outrank Hillary in both his lying and his ability to be trusted. He is a champion at both. Worse, he is a bully and a divider, a racist and misogynist. He deceives on a whim.

    We will spend decades recovering from the harm he does this country both internally and internationally.

  • Country under Trump has been doing better than almost any other president. You read to much fake news.

  • comey sank hillary’s changes in the past campaign . that trump and people are attacking him only shows trumps contempt for the constitution and the rule of law . comey would not play footsie with trump so trump now uses him for target practice .

  • change the subject much ? can’t win about the disaster that trump is so you change the subject ?

    the country has been doing better and better since 2010 . that a year and a half into trump’s term the country is still doing good only means that the obama policies were great . and trump hasn’t dumped the economy yet . though he is working hard to do that .

  • probably not . but you write it cuz changing the subject seems to be your strong suit . bill clinton has nothing on trump when it comes to playing around ..

  • Oh gosh, we’re already in a position where we’ll have to spend decades recovering from the harm Barack Obama did to this country both internally and internationally.

  • “…under obama.”

    under obama we recovered from the deepest economic hole since the 1929 . obama saved the country’s assets .

    lots of his policies are being turned back due the lack of knowledge, insight, or competence of trump and the people around him .

ADVERTISEMENTs