An Epic Debate on Trump and True Evangelicalism

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The cultists can keep worshipping Cheeto Jesus if they want. It’s a free country, at least until the Deep State says otherwise. But I’d direct them to turn their eyes back to O.G. Jesus. Put down The Art of the Deal, and return to the red letters, such as those in the Book of John, where Christ said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

As Bill O’Reilly used to say, I’ll give you the last word. I have to run downtown anyway. I’m writing this on March 4, and Q told me today is the day Donald Trump will be restored as president. Maybe I’ll get the Inauguration Package at the Trump International Hotel, which is reportedly charging three times its usual daily rates. The Storm Is Coming.

ERIC METAXAS:

We are whistling past each other, hermano! Seriously.

Let me at least clarify what I know I meant in saying: “I’d be happy to die in this fight.” It was quite unironically intended as something along the lines of Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death!” Or “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” which was of course famously said by my fellow Yalie Nathan Hale 250 years ago, just before the British hanged him in an orchard not far from where I now live in Manhattan. He was 21.

Are we at a point where any such sentiments—or even the aspiration toward them—are automatically and cynically dismissed as hopelessly naïve and laughably archaic, or even as wild calls to violence? I know that what I said was not intended as trash-talking in the service of Trump, but rather as the heartfelt expression that one should be willing to give one’s life in the cause of American liberty, since so many others have done so over the generations. Of course, I also get the idea you think Trump is to liberty what liberty is to tyranny, so that will just have to be a cultural difference between us.

But no kidding: For me and scores of millions of Americans, the optics of this election were unavoidably and disturbingly suspicious. When you see several swing states all stop counting mysteriously and then—mirabile dictu—suddenly begin again in the morning with the magical Biden votes in place, is it really so terribly odd that many of us wondered what the heck was going on? Were the videos of those trying to cover up the windows through which the official observers were supposed to be observing somehow sufficiently explained, and I didn’t get the memo?1 What’s more disgraceful: that such things were upsetting to millions of Americans, or that those upset Americans were told that for expressing their concerns they were not Americans anymore?

So to regard our jaundiced view of how it all went down with bitter scorn, and as instantly dismissible conspiracy theorizing, is simply not very helpful to the nation, of which we jugheads on my side of this divide naïvely still think ourselves a part. That is not the helpful response one expects from those with a responsibility to encourage faith in our institutions and traditions.

Can you really be unable to imagine that those of us who felt deep and genuine concern about this election might not be gaslighting maniacs, but might actually be concerned citizens looking for assurances we did not get? Instead, we got the clear message that our support for this candidate—whom we dared think shared many of our worthy concerns—placed us beyond the respectable pale. But are you really unable to fathom that we could wonder whether the folks who foisted the superlatively shitty “Russia Hoax” on the nation—and only months ago brazenly and straight-facedly dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop nightmare as “Russian disinformation”—might not be entirely trustworthy, and should do more than they did to assuage our concerns? When the response to what we earnestly believed was imperiously shouted down with one version or another of the refrain, “Shut up or we’ll cancel you, you white nationalist scum!” is it so impossible to see how we only became even more suspicious?

Would people really confident that they won—and who profess to aspire toward “healing the nation”—behave anything like that? Lincoln was historically magnanimous after the Union defeated the Confederacy in the Civil War, knowing this was the only way forward in a nation so unprecedentedly riven. Could “with malice toward none” again be our watchword as Americans today? Lincoln would have had some very good reason to behave very differently, and to crush the vile Confederacy into the mud of the battlefields they had flooded with the blood of half a million young men. Why didn’t he? What did he see that those in power now cannot see or don’t wish to see? Or is Lincoln canceled now, and I forgot?

I admit that it’s seriously upsetting for me to think that you are genuinely convinced Trump—and so many of your fellow Americans—wanted to overturn the will of the people, not least because we honestly believe it was your side that was trying to do that, and maybe even did. But at least via our goofy passive-aggressive “dialogue,” I have at last come to see that you really do believe what you say, even if I disagree with you and flat-out still don’t get it. But can you believe I believe what I am saying, too? Can we at least give each other that much grace in this painful impasse?

Because if we are going to talk about what Jesus said, we cannot avoid talking about humility and grace. So from my perspective those Americans who have given themselves permission to self-righteously despise someone—and those like my mom and dad and all my relatives and most of my friends who voted for him—are not behaving according to the “better angels of our nature.” It is simply not the American way. But infinitely more important, as I know you will agree, it is not Jesus-like. You and I are commanded to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We both know on one level that’s insane and impossible, but we both also know that on another infinitely truer level it is the very measure of sanity, and that with God all things are possible. That I know you know this gives me hope. And part of that hope is that you will believe—now or later—that I know it, too. God bless you, and, if it might be possible, let’s please continue this wild and wacky dialogue. I dare say I think it has been more helpful than not—for which I humbly and sincerely thank you.

1 Election officials at Detroit’s TCF Center, where this incident took place, say that they placed paper and cardboard over the windows at the facility so that workers could better focus their attention, and tally election returns without feeling intimidated by the crowds outside the facility. One hundred and thirty-four election observers from each party were permitted inside to observe the count in real time.