By Abimbola Adelakun
In the days since the Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden, was projected the winner of the 2020 presidential election, some of those who have been shamefaced are the American evangelical preachers that prophesied his victory. These preachers evidently did not learn from the 2016 experience of Pastor Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue Church of all Nations who made a similar prophecy only to fail. Since Trump got a surprising victory four years ago, these preachers have virtually pimped the Cross of Christ to politics. They thought history would repeat itself and Trump would get a second term. Thus, they pre-empted the anticipated victory by prophesying; sheer speculation masqueraded as divine inspiration. I believe Trump’s electoral loss was the sound of Jesus Christ unlatching his church from the toxicity of their partisanship.
To be clear, people have a right to their democratic choices. Anyone, even pastors, can select presidential candidates on any basis whatsoever. However, the degree to which Christians were going gaga over Trump was unsettling. It is a testimony to how morally ambivalent some of them had become that they had no problem with Trump’s moral failings. At least, prophets in Bible times challenged the king, but not these ones. You only needed to listen to them tell you Trump is the only thing standing between the world and total anarchy plus the anti-Christ to see that they have supplanted the face of Christ with that of a politician. When they saw that Trump was going to lose the election, their world unravelled.
By now, almost everyone has seen the video of Paula Cain-White praying and asking for angelic reinforcement from Africa and South America to reinforce the angels in America and ensure a Trump victory. But first, why Africa and South America and not Anglo-Saxon countries? The woman knows that territorial angels are as powerful as the prayers of the people that live in those places. Since Africans are the ones who pray endlessly to fight the demonic forces of social insecurity, their angels must be strong enough. But where was she when Trump issued visa bans on some African countries? Where did she stand in 2018 when Trump stoked fear over a caravan full of refugees headed for the US from those troubled countries? Did she remind him of Matthews 25, where Jesus said he sometimes appeared to us in the guise of a stranger? Yet, when Trump’s political ambition tanked, she summoned the angels watching over them to fight for the same man. You do not want those people, but you had no qualms appropriating their spiritual labour that has strengthened their angels for your ends.
In Nigeria, there are men of God who had no opinion during #EndSARS but suddenly saw God enthroning Trump. Then, there were quasi-prophets, the so-called influencers who confuse their social media following with a divine mandate. Despite a string of failed marriages and allegations of domestic abuse, some of them still have the temerity to claim they are fighting on behalf of the Christian faith. Just as Trump stood in front of a church holding a Bible upside down to take a photograph in which he portrays himself as a warrior for Christianity, these commentators only need proclaim they are pursuing a pro-Christian agenda and their followers will overlook their personal faults. Unlike in Antioch when they could tell that Christians were Christians because they acted like Christ, these ones are called Christians because of their politics.
Almost all of these Christians share the same reasons why Trump needed to win. Some of them say Trump fights for Christians and that is why “they” hate him. I always find that part of their claim laughable. Christian conservatives are not endangered species. Saying anyone hates Trump because he is fighting for Christians is tantamount to saying “they” hate Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), because he is fighting for the Fulani survival. It is far more appropriate to say Trump is hustling for the votes of Christians. If he were fighting for Christians, he would not frequently put them in a moral quandary where they would have to contradict the word of God just so they could defend his lack of character.
In the bid to overcome that contradiction of preaching righteousness while at the same time supporting a person who embodies its antithesis, some would remind you of King David. He killed Uriah and took his wife but still remained God’s darling. But comparing Trump to David is an abuse of the scriptures. They always conveniently forget David repented of his sin as soon as it was pointed out to him. Trump, on the other hand, has stated multiple times that he does not ask God for forgiveness. He does not go to church and cannot name a single verse of the Bible. David was a poet, and even though he was a man of war, he demonstrated a moral code by refusing to kill Saul when it was within his power to do so. Trump, on the hand, is a philistine and a pathological narcissist; a sado-populist, the kind of person that would inflict pain just to watch you writhe. Yet, prominent faith leaders went as far as endowing him with the title of a Bible character, “King Cyrus.”
Others insist Trump embodies “good” because he will do what they want: he will make the USA righteous by ending abortion, running gay people out of town, and supporting Israel. By this ill-logic, the side of the ideological divide in the USA that supports abortion policies is evil, but the same Israel where you can get an abortion at nine months (sometimes even free) is somehow the personification of good. In Nigeria where abortion has always been illegal, people still do it every day. And even though we criminalise both abortion and same-sex relationships, we are still not a righteous country.
There is danger in reducing all politics to fighting issues of personal morality. Just take a look at one of the most backward societies in the world called Kano State. In that poverty-ridden enclave, they still manage to destroy beer bottles worth millions of naira. Supposedly adult men who should be sensible enough to invest their energies in looking out for policies that will change their lives endlessly obsess over other people’s choices, and they insist their religion will dictate the terms of public behaviour. Those who believe that Trump’s presidential victory was God’s design should not have a problem accepting that his electoral loss is also divine will. Left to me, the development is Jesus’ way of telling people that when it comes to issues of personal choices, he disagrees with these zealots’ methods. He would rather speak to people himself in his still small voice rather than cede that authority to politicians.
Incidentally, Nigerian Christians who support Trump are the ones most likely to dislike Buhari and call him out of his various abuses of power. While they have moral clarity on Buhari’s nepotism and moral corruption, this same set of people will twist themselves into a gnome to justify a similar thing when Trump does it. I am convinced that these Christians would have supported Buhari and all his flagrant abusive practices if only he were a Christian. For that reason, I worry about Nigeria in a post-Trump world. While Trump might have lost his election, Trumpism will not go away. It is a potent strain of populism that is now transnational, no thanks to the power of networked media. That ideology will affect how we do politics globally in the years to come. At the local level, Nigerian Christians that spend their time justifying Trump’s abuses of power because they see him as divine agenda will eventually find a “Christian” president who will harvest their sentiments by pandering to their desires to be public regulators of private morality. Having trained their instincts to support a politician as long as the person claims their faith, they will be zealot defenders of power abuse. Over time, they might even join their Muslim counterparts to break beer bottles.