Eric Metaxas and Trump Derangement Syndrome

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has been a label used by conservative commentators to describe how President Donald Trump induces apoplexy on the left. But the label may have found a new use – to describe those who have been insisting that it is God’s plan for Trump to be re-elected.

Conservative author Rod Dreher invented a new label “Christian Trumpist-nationalist” to describe the “Jericho March” held last weekend in Washington with bestselling writer and commentator Eric Metaxas as the emcee.

As the US “electors” are about to confirm Joe Biden as President elect, this rally was held to proclaim that President Trump had the election stolen from him.

Metaxas, author of a popular biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the WWII martyr – and animated series Veggie Tales – runs a radio show from New York.

In Dreher’s scarifying report of the six hour rally, he writes of the belief that Trump actually won: “This is an article of faith, not to be doubted. If you doubt, you are a traitor, a coward, in league with the Devil. I’m not exaggerating at all. I saw an interview that the influential Evangelical broadcaster Eric Metaxas gave to the populist activist Charlie Kirk this week, in which he boldly claimed that patriots must fight ‘to the last drop of blood’ to preserve Trump’s presidency, and that those who disagree are the same as Germans who stood by and did nothing to stop Hitler …  Metaxas said it doesn’t matter what can or can’t be proven in court, he knows, and we know, that the election was stolen.”

“When Kirk, who is very sympathetic to Metaxas, asked him what he thought of where the cases stood, Metaxas blithely claimed that he is ‘thrilled’ to know nothing about them.”

As the US Electoral College votes to confirm Joe Biden as President-elect, even the hold-out Newsmax TV network has said it will accept the now official result.

Will Metaxas – who has been described as one of the prominent evangelical “Trump Truthers” – also follow? What about the pentecostal prophets (and there are connections between the two groups) who prophesied that Trump would be re-elected?

Rod Dreher writes for the American Conservative website, because he is well, an American Conservative. David French is another one – a former National Review writer who has joined the growing colony of writers who have set up their own internet subscriber base.

“It’s clear now that when many of those people declared Trump to be ‘God’s anointed’ they did not mean that his presidency was “instituted by God” in the same manner as other governing authorities, as described in Romans 13,” French writes. (By conventional Christian reasoning, Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency is also instituted by God.)

“No, they believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a Satanic effort to disrupt God’s plan for this nation. They were not ‘holding their nose’ to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.”

Beth Moore, founder of Living Proof Ministries and an internationally known Christian preacher, this week stirred a Twitter storm by tweeting her opposition to “Trumpism” among Christians. She believes Trumpism is the most “astonishingly seductive and dangerous” movement ever to influence Christians in the USA.

Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for President H.W. Bush, points out the real cost of Metaxas (whose Bonhoeffer book built a following among evangelicals) being a leader of the  “Stop the steal” campaign.

“There is something pathetic about Metaxas’s panting desire to be cruise director on Trump’s sinking ship,” says Gerson. “But I don’t think his attitude is merely the result of ambition or hero worship. Metaxas seems to be a man in the grip of a powerful delusion. And this ends up feeding doubts about religion itself.”

“When prominent Christians affirm absurd political lies with religious fervour, non-believers have every reason to think: ‘Maybe Christians are prone to swallowing absurd religious lies as well. Maybe they are simply credulous about everything.’

“If we should encounter someone who believes — honestly and adamantly believes — in both the existence of the Easter Bunny and in the resurrection of Christ, it would naturally raise questions about the quality of his or her believing faculties. It would call into question the standard of evidence being applied and muddy the meaning of faith itself.”

Now it may be that as the electoral college vote sinks in, there will be a subsiding of some of the Christian support for the idea the US Presidential election has been stolen. The prophets, including Newsmax, Fox News and Metaxas, will find something else to talk about and the subject will be dropped mostly.

But this episode has revealed something of a fault line in American and, yes, to some extent Australian evangelical Christianity.

There is a fundamentalist fringe, which is prone to conspiracy theory. It takes the truth that Christians are uncomfortable with plenty of what the world thinks, but makes common cause with fringe movements.

The final moments of the Trump presidency has brought out the worst in some of us.

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