In their dreams, they are free indeed
In the past week or so, a number of evangelical leaders have been openly fantasizing about destroying everyone who opposes them—and then establishing the Republic of Gilead for real.
For years now, Christian-watchers have tracked right-wing evangelicals as they fantasize about their future. A prevailing fantasy involves them conquering America and setting up the Republic of Gilead they’ve always wanted.
Now, their fantasy seems to be taking solid shape. A number of these evangelicals have issued painfully-detailed fantasies—which they call prophecies—that reveal exactly who they truly are. Not even a god could change these toxic authoritarians into decent human beings. An example comes from a recent gathering of authoritarian evangelicals. Let’s look at their plans—and the not-so-hidden desires of their hearts.
Many evangelicals still cling to their literal golden idol, Donald Trump
A few days ago, Right Wing Watch ran a story about a recent gathering of “Christian nationalists” in Oklahoma. At this gathering, various big- and medium-name evangelical leaders revealed lurid fantasies–which they call prophecies–about victory and revenge.
Currently, these fantasies center on Donald Trump.
The guy’s been out of office for a year now, and his rallies are suffering hard from poor turnout. (Bonus: Someone in attendance at a recent rally tweeted, “We’ve reached the ‘Hulk Hogan theme song’ part of waiting for Trump to arrive music playlist.”)
However, Trump still peddles his completely failed, baseless assertion that he totally actually really truly won the 2020 election. Journalists have begun calling this assertion “the Big Lie,” because, well, that’s exactly what it is. (We borrowed the term from a Nazi propaganda technique.)
And many evangelicals—especially the authoritarian end of their pool—supported Trump to the hilt. They were positive that Jesus had really wanted Trump to win. They just can’t forget the guy who inspired the creation of a literal golden idol statue, especially when that golden idol’s subject promised them power and dominance forever. What is grace, joy, and love compared to that, for authoritarians?
So at this gathering, the Big Lie got a lot of airplay.
The evangelicals still steaming over their 2020 loss
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland has experienced some big controversies in the past. He preaches prosperity gospel, which is the baseless assertion that Jesus wants his followers to be rich, healthy, and happy.
(In fact, Copeland titled two of his many books The Laws of Prosperity and Prosperity: The Choice is Yours. Prosperity has laws, apparently, but you must choose it. It’s a good thing gravity doesn’t work like that).
A while ago, he invited pseudohistorian David Barton onto one of his shows. There, these two agreed that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can’t be real because the Bible never mentions it. Oh, and sufferers can easily pray away any symptoms, anyway.
More recently, Copeland famously glared at a female journalist while he jabbed at her for daring to ask questions he didn’t like. And who could forget his creepy outburst in 2020?
Yes, we’ve discussed his antics many times over the years.
He’s been an anti-vaxxer for years, too, so he just absorbed the Covid pandemic into his overall schemes. And as one of Donald Trump’s religious advisors during his reign, Copeland is a proven sycophant. That’s what he was guffawing about in 2020. He’s never accepted Trump’s loss.
(It’s almost impossible for authoritarian evangelicals to admit they were wrong. But especially, they can’t admit it after they’ve invoked divine prophecies and commands. That’d be like admitting they misheard Jesus. Also, in the evangelical game of thrones, only losers admit loss. Winners never do).
It doesn’t sound like this crowd wants Trump to be in office, actually, but they’re hopping mad that what they saw as their victory got snatched away by their enemies.
The 2022 Copium Tour for embittered evangelicals
So on Thursday night, Kenneth Copeland brought his copium tour to Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. There, during a special broadcast of Copeland’s Victory Channel show “Flash Point,” a bunch of evangelicals denounced Joe Biden and praised Donald Trump as the real winner of the 2020 election. Then, they fantasized openly about seizing control of America, punishing everyone involved with Biden’s victory, and finally establishing their own homebrew Republic of Gilead forevermore.
This shindig attracted a whole bunch of right-wing Christian nationalists—as speakers and viewers.
The host of the broadcast was Gene Bailey. He has very tight ties with Copeland’s fellow grifter-for-Jesus, Jim Bakker. According to this news site, he used to be a producer for Bakker’s old show, Praise the Lord (PTL). In addition, Bailey was a media consultant for a while for Bakker’s new show, called simply the New Jim Bakker Show. Currently, though, Bailey works as a pastor and appears as a frequent “special guest” for Bakker. As a guest, he likes to talk about America being “on the cusp of a Great Awakening” and whatnot.
But the “Great Awakening” Bailey has in mind doesn’t look much at all like the real Great Awakenings in America’s past. No, this one ends with evangelicals like himself in positions of great power over all other Americans.
Since I know that Christianity can only survive and dominate its culture through coercion, that kind of talk really alarms me.
But Gene Bailey has a lot of sympathizers—some in high office
It’s very chilling to think about who attended this thing. For example, Bailey made sure to thank the various high-ranking elected officials who showed up—like U.S. House Representative Kevin Hern of Oklahoma. Hern is an evangelical with no political experience prior to his 2018 election.
Bailey also thanked John O’Connor, Oklahoma’s Attorney General and another evangelical, for being there. O’Connor got in trouble in January for insisting that America is totally too a Christian nation and that it does too need to obey evangelicals. Like him.
Then, Bailey launched into the whole reason they were all there: to declare Donald Trump the real President of the United States (and Joe Biden an imposter and traitor), and to agitate for their Republic of Gilead.
When Bailey declared that Trump’s supposed win was “the raw truth,” the people in attendance broke into loud cheers.
Worse still, Bailey then asserted that “an agenda” sought control of the United States. This “agenda” wasn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans—though he very clearly does believe it is, as did his cheering audience—but rather about “good vs. evil.” Good must win, he insinuates, but it’s “going to take some stick-to-it-iveness.” Evangelicals must “be there for the long haul.”
And that apparently means that evangelicals must not abandon the Big Lie, nor their golden idol, or else they’re letting an “evil agenda” win.
Stuff Christians love: False prophets who tell them whatever they want to hear
To bolster this message, Gene Bailey pulled out every trick in the huckster book.
He painted his tribe’s enemies as inhuman monsters who want to hurt children. In fact, these awful monsters, Bailey claims, hate the truth and hate anything good.
(Weirdly, the truth runs in the exact opposite direction. Evangelicals overwhelmingly favor childrearing techniques like spanking and Endtimes terror that cause lasting harm to children. They’re very comfortable with lying and scheming, and every time I run across a scandal in the Protestant Christ-o-sphere, it always seems to be in evangelicals’ groups. And as we just saw with their Republic of Gilead fantasizing, evangelicals dearly want to gain the power to remove other people’s right to believe and practice whatever religion they wish. That’s the fun of DARVO: every attack is a confession).
As for who those enemies are, mostly we’re talking about Democrats. But it even includes other evangelicals who are less authoritarian.
When Bailey declared that his crowd of evangelicals planned “to take our nation back,” that crowd went just wild.
But “don’t worry, y’all,” this entire broadcast told viewers. Evangelicals would win because they totally have Jesus’ power on their side.
Riling the sheep into wolves
(No hate to real wolves, who aren’t anything like evangelicals imagine. These are metaphorical Bible-wolves. I reckon ancient shepherds really hated wolves).
For months now, I’ve noticed right-wing evangelicals goading their sheep into becoming wolves. They rant constantly about Joe Biden as an illegitimate president, about Trump having had his election victory “stolen” from him, about how evil liberals are trying to destroy their children and families and steal away their rights and religious liberties.
And oh, they do talk up a storm about how evangelicals will soon need to rise up against their enemies to seize control of America before it’s too late.
Much of this rising-up blather gets delivered as prophecies.
Christianese 101: Prophecies
In Christianese, a prophecy is supposed to be a divinely-sent vision of the future—or an explanation for a mysterious current event, but that’s less common. The way evangelicals use prophecy, however, amounts more to them describing their fantasies of domination and victory.
You can tell that’s all that’s going on because evangelicals never, ever penalize a prophet whose prophecies turn out wrong. (And unless it’s a painfully-obvious prediction, these prophets are astonishingly, even hilariously wrong.) No, evangelicals just want the prophecies themselves. These predictions make them feel good and give them hope that they’ll win in the end.
But increasingly, it feels like these false prophets are deliberately riling up the flocks to take more direct action. One false prophet, Chuck Pierce, predicts a civil war that will split the nation in half.
These fake prophecies go into the stewpot with the mess poured in by right-wing activists who claim liberals want to “illegalize Jesus Christ” or evangelicals like Rick Wiles saying that “what we need in this country is a good old fashioned American revolution” to “return America to Christ.”
You can translate authoritarian evangelicals’ usage of “Christ” in prophecies to mean “our dominance as evangelicals.” It substitutes quite neatly most of the time.
Evangelicals are in it to win it
For even longer than I’ve been watching evangelicals screech and shriek about their false prophecies and Donald Trump fanboying, I’ve watched them struggle hard with their own growing cultural irrelevance. Christianity’s decline in membership, credibility, and power has hit them very hard.
And it hits them hard because it flies in the face of their authoritarian power-lust.
Lots of nice evangelicals out there would never dream of abusing power over anybody. That said, evangelicals as a group are marked by authoritarianism first and foremost. They fit every single marker of authoritarianism, the same as Donald Trump did in his “reign.”
For many years, starting around the 1950s but reaching a peak around 2006, evangelicals got used to dominating the American cultural scene. They got really used to their leaders’ blathering being taken seriously by everyone, their scandals and hypocrisy hushed and covered up, and dissenters punished for saying anything they didn’t like. They even insisted that Jesus himself wanted them to have this power.
And now they’re losing their cultural power—and quickly.
How authoritarian evangelicals perceive the world
In authoritarian groups, members perceive everyone around them as either winners or losers. They only want to be one of the winners. Winning means holding power over others–being able to tell those others what to do, and then see them doing it whether they like it or not. Heck, if those under them hate their orders but must comply anyway, that’s even better.
Ultimately, an authoritarian wants to control as many people as possible–while having to obey as few people as possible.
A relationship of cooperation based on reciprocity and mutuality does not occur to them. They cannot conceptualize relationships of any kind that are based in honesty, compassion, and a genuine desire to stand together against all of life’s troubles. To them, a relationship involves a master and a slave. And those two will always clash and struggle over power.
The master may be the slave of higher-up masters, and so on up the ladder. An evangelical husband may rule his family with an iron fist, but he simpers before his pastor. The pastor, in turn, rules his church similarly, but he simpers before his denominational leaders. And so on. This is where evangelicals get that popular talking point of theirs: everyone is enslaved to something.
The master at the top of an evangelical ladder is slave only to an imaginary being they call “God.” Functionally, that bit of semantics means that person can order everyone around while not being forced to obey anyone else.
To evangelicals, then, real hardship means losing power.
Losing power to their enemies? Unthinkable.
If these evangelicals can’t win honestly, they’ll try their best to win dishonestly
The kind of evangelicals who attend these gatherings want power. They want dominance. And increasingly, they’re dimly understanding that they won’t win either through honest means.
Their sales and recruitment rates are still tanking. Their scandals and hypocrisies get broadcast at all levels of journalism and relentlessly exposed. Worst of all, their leaders get revealed, dissected, and worst of all mocked.
Absolutely nothing evangelicals do seems to be reversing their decline in cultural power. Why, their enemies won’t even allow evangelicals to sneak indoctrination into children at school!
Authoritarian evangelicals’ solution, then, is to seek more power in other spheres–spheres that grant real power. The power they grant can’t be ignored or rejected. Once they’ve gained power through those spheres, these evangelicals will finally be able to force their enemies to obey their demands.
The “payback” we face from evangelicals
One of the surest signs of what authoritarian evangelicals really want these days can be found in Hank Kunneman’s speech during that Copeland broadcast.
Kunneman spoke of “payback coming” to his enemies. By this term, he meant that everyone he thinks helped Joe Biden “steal” Trump’s presidency would go to prison for “treason.”
Christians aren’t supposed to want revenge (“payback”) against anyone. According to their sourcebook, Jesus himself told them to take losses without argument, and then to forgive everyone who mistreated them.
But this fight went way past Christianity a long time ago. To the evangelicals liking this tripe, they really imagine themselves set against demon-controlled enemies on a battlefield. And they face ultimate stakes, even if only in their own minds.
A few years ago, I’d have scoffed at the idea of an evangelical-led rebellion against the United States. I didn’t think they’d ever sacrifice their short-term comfort for such a long-term effort, especially one that could cost them so dearly in the end. But now? This subgroup of evangelicals have behaved in increasingly erratic, violent-sounding, authoritarian, and narcissistic ways. They are enraged at their losses–and desperate for the dominance they think their god promised them.
If magic won’t get them what they want, they seem increasingly prepared to take matters into their own hands.
NEXT UP: Yep, the “Big Quit” we discussed a while ago is definitely hitting pastors. See you soon!
That book I mentioned in this post, The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer, is a must-read if you’re interested in learning about how evangelicals think. It’s free to download here, and you have the author’s own permission to do it.
Also: Hank Kunneman also referred to his enemies’ “demonic agenda.” Then, he asserted that his god would defeat that agenda. No question, no doubt, his god would totally win. That assertion is a claim. We can test it. If Donald Trump’s handlers never find any evidence compelling a revision of his loss and nobody ever goes to prison for “treason” in supporting a Biden win, then obviously Kunneman’s god couldn’t win that fight. We had a lot of fun with Charisma’s 2016 prophecies a few years ago, so I’ll keep an eye on Chuck Pierce’s and Kunneman’s prophecies.