By their fruit you will know false prophets
Published in Medium recently
I have a journal in which I’ve been collecting quotes for decades. I came across this one recently — “Pray to God but row away from the rocks,” attributed as a Native American proverb. That seemed appropriate today. I am particularly bedeviled (thesaurus find that also seems apt — you’ll see why) by a sequence of articles about Christian folly that came to my attention on the news and via my feed.
Since I am a believer in context, I’ll quickly give you my “testimony.” (I crack myself up. In Jesus circles, this is a thing, sharing testimony on how you were saved.) I grew up a Christian, from being Southern Baptist in my teens, in my young adulthood I flirted with New Age Christianity and Unity, and then became a very active Episcopalian. I eventually left that church too, over a leadership issue. I have always been a seeker and a questioner — which is why I disavowed my first church when I started thinking for myself. I could never stand hypocrisy and man’s inhumanity to man. When my Sunday school teacher at the Baptist church refused to extend equality to blacks saying that the Bible was only referring to Jews and Gentiles, not to “negroes”, I knew at fourteen, that there was something wrong with that. I am skeptical and critical of any religious leader who spews hate and spreads fear, as I believe in a God of love. That’s my context, in a nutshell.
So the fact that evangelical Christians are our current president’s most ardent supporters infuriates me. I know, they think they’re saving babies (a topic for another post) but putting the issue of abortion aside, it just clashes. I mean, look at Jimmy Carter — he is a good man, a model Christian. He walks an exemplary Christian walk, with humility, love and service, as opposed to the current White House occupant, whose walk and talk is narcissistic, arrogant, and selfish. While Jimmy (JC, coincidentally) has been married to Rosalynn for almost 74 years, this other guy’s marital history is far from stellar, far from decent, far from what is considered admirable by Christian standards. And that revealing tape of him bragging about his proclivity to grab pussy? Christian? I think not.
When POTUS 45 announced that he wanted the country “opened” by Easter, that the churches would be packed with people for Easter, that Easter was important to him, it sounded — number one — delusional; number two — dangerous; number three — like his evangelical friends had got to him. I imagined the scene in the Oval Office.
An Imagined Oval Office Conversation
Pastor: You know Mr. President, we’re praying for you.
POTUS 45: Yeah, do me a favor, pray that the fake news will stop saying bad things about me. I mean, they said I was racist. There never was a less racist president in history. Fake news. They should be taken down. Can you pray for that?
(That was too easy).
Pastor: Sure, sure. Hey, Mr. President. I was praying this morning and I got a message from God.
POTUS 45: Gee, why you? Why not me? I’m the president. The best ever. Tell him to talk to me!
Pastor: Okay. I’ll put in a good word, but I think he knows how busy you are, so he came to me instead.
POTUS 45: Yeah, you’re right. Gotta close that border. Build that wall.
Pastor: Right. I gotta tell ya what he said. (God voice) Have faith, my child. It’ll be all over by Easter and the world will see that miracles happen through faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
POTUS 45: Easter, huh? You people, oh — we — like that holiday, right? When’s that?
Pastor: April 12. A couple weeks away.
POTUS 45: I love it. “I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go.” (Actual quote)
Pastor: Just think of it, the churches filled with people on Easter Sunday, like Jesus Christ himself, beating death, rising from the dead.
POTUS 45: And Easter eggs.
Blaming the Coronavirus on God's Wrath
So I wasn’t too surprised when I read this Intercept article — “Trump Cabinet Bible Teacher Blames Coronavirus Pandemic on God’s Wrath, Somehow it Involves China, Gay People, and Environmentalists.” How’s that for a title? This minister, Rev. Ralph Drollinger, leads a weekly Bible study, attended by members of the president’s cabinet. Some members of Congress are also under his tutelage. The worldview of these evangelicals is black and white, good and evil, Jesus or devil. Their impulse is to find blame and claim their position on the side that they deem good. Of course, they would blame China.
The Intercept article is a bit misleading, as I came to find out upon reading the actual text that it refers to. Rev. Drollinger asks the question that many evangelicals are asking: Is the world suffering God’s wrath? Drollinger’s answer is yes and no because he identifies different kinds of wrath. No, to the kind of “forsaking” wrath or cataclysmic wrath that the question implies. Yes, to consequential wrath, which is a lesser form, like cause and effect and God’s way of indirectly applying wrath. Hmm. Is that like a parent letting a child touch a hot stove so that they would learn consequences even though that parent could have stopped it?
“Relative to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, this is not God’s abandonment wrath nor His cataclysmic wrath, rather it is sowing and reaping wrath: A biblically astute evaluation of the situation strongly suggests that America and other countries of the world are reaping what China has sown due to their leaders’ recklessness and lack of candor and transparency.”
Get it? It’s God’s wrath of the “reaping and sowing” type but it’s China’s fault. Huh?
You just can’t make something make sense when it clashes with your own view of the world. I don’t believe in a wrathful God. I care about humanity! Justice! Protecting the planet! Caring for each other! Don’t touch that hot stove because I am your mom and I want to protect you!
Yet, this doesn’t bother me as much as his rant beyond that. Once you get an evangelical on a roll about God’s wrath, you pretty much open the can of wrath worms.
Charlatan Influence in the White House
The Intercept article refers to a couple of blog posts written in the last few days claiming that God is judging us for a number of things, including — you guessed it — homosexuality. But this is the first time I heard someone condemn the “religion of environmentalism.” Oh, no wonder the EPA is being decimated, climate change is being denied, and the national parks are being dismantled. I thought it was capitalism and greed.
If this is Christianity, I renounce it! I gladly embrace the religion of environmentalism! Thank God this is not Christianity, rather it is charlatanry! These people are false prophets, who Jesus warned us about (Matthew 7:15). Yet, that’s the rub isn’t it? Who’s false and who’s true? What’s fake news and what’s journalism? What’s propaganda and what’s not? Don’t you care that he’s lying?
Jesus also addressed this question about false prophets: By their fruit, you shall know them. And I bring you back to the comparison between President Carter and the president now. Carter’s tree produces delicious figs. POTUS 45 is a bush of thistles. (Jesus in Matthew 7:16). These charlatans are not bearing fruits from a God of love. These anti-gay, anti-environment and wrathful diatribes are not words of love. Therefore, they must be words of hate, therefore, they must be charlatans. There are people in positions of power making decisions that are harming people and our lands, in the name of God, but really not living up to the tenets of a God of love, falling so short as to be on the other side, the fallen. Those who have fallen away from the God of love. Bedeviled.
Have Faith but be Reasonable
There are Christians who are everyday people unlike these highfalutin (or as we say in Hawaii, high makamaka) charlatans. These were the people POTUS 45 may have been trying to appeal to, his base. Among the believers, it probably resonated like this: Yes, by faith, through prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, miracles can happen. I will follow the lead of my president and also make it my goal to go to church by Easter. If he tells me to go, by Jesus, I will go.
The idea that faith will save us, that miracles happen through faith, is a belief system that I have no problem with and fully support, as long as you maintain a grip on reason. It is irresponsible in this context, by the leader of this country. That’s why I love the quote I started with — Pray, but row away from the rocks. In other words, heaven helps those who help themselves.
It is foolish to ignore the scientists and experts, to say that your faith is stronger than their recommendations. The Virginia pastor who shared a meme claiming that it was “mass hysteria” also shared one about being protected by his faith. He died of the coronavirus. You can have faith and you can wash your hands. You can find comfort in your religion and you can practice social distancing. Heeding science does not mean that you have lost your faith.
You just have to expand your definition of faith, which could be that the scientists and experts are also guided by God, even if they don’t see themselves that way. God is the greatest good, the energy of love. We live to express that love. Scientists in the field of health do so because of their love of humankind. God loves humankind. Whatever is love, is God. By their fruits, you shall know them. Our doctors, nurses, and all workers on the front lines are heroes, and by their fruit you know them.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.