A recognition of the fact that the American right has soured on the whole notion of democracy in favor of authoritarianism comes with the implicit recognition that conservative white evangelicals have willingly joined that movement. As poll after poll has demonstrated, the one group that has remained loyal to the GOP during its descent into Trumpism is white evangelicals.
To understand how that happened, we should note that court evangelical Franklin Graham is fond of equating progressives with godlessness. That is first and foremost his attempt to exclude anyone who doesn’t agree with him politically from calling themselves “Christian”—which is why he constantly challenged the faith of Barack Obama.
But Graham’s pronouncement is about a lot more than that. It also encapsulates his worldview, which is shared by many white evangelicals.
Almighty God is a sovereign God, ruler over nations, states, empires and governments. He is to be worshipped and obeyed through the precepts and principles revealed in His infallible Word. He not only exists, but He is sovereign over all of history according to His wisdom and purposes, and He is intimately involved in every aspect of life.
The Biblical worldview also asserts the existence and reality of sin and evil. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). War, disease, violence, injustice and the myriad of problems that beset the world are the result of man’s rebellion against God. No amount of higher education, no enlightened political agenda or social program can cancel or remove the devastating consequences of sin.
The root of everything wrong in the world is sin, which relegates any attempt to improve things outside of the parameters set by the “Biblical worldview” to the dustbin of abject failure. According to Graham, human beings who don’t submit to the authority of the Bible are incapable of behaving morally.
The secular worldview dismisses God as irrelevant in the affairs of men and government, and views critical moral issues as independent of God’s moral character and principles. Clear definitions of right and wrong are impossible to determine, having been replaced by cultural whims and situational ethics…
Any attempt to create a utopian society, to permanently solve global problems, is doomed to fail.
That is where the authoritarianism comes in. Graham began the article I’ve been quoting by referencing the fact that Congress failed to pass legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks, the movement towards equal rights for LGBTQ Americans, and the so-called “foothold” that Islam has gained in Europe. Those are all meant to indicate that white evangelical Christians are losing the culture war.
Graham posits that the ultimate solution will only come at the rapture when Jesus returns to eliminate sin and mete out judgement to those who have rebelled against him. But in the meantime, the intent is clear. Since any effort to mitigate the consequences of sin—war, disease, violence, injustice, etc.—outside of adherence to the authority of the Bible is doomed to failure by the godless secularists, Graham’s view of Biblical authority must be imposed by the state in order to contain chaos.
When Sohrab Ahmari counsels conservatives to eschew civility and decency in political discourse in order to “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good,” he is joined in that advice by Franklin Graham. During a speech in North Carolina, Graham warned that those “godless progressives” will call you names and get in your face, so Christians need to have thick skin and say, “there’s more of us than there are of you, so shut up and sit down.”
As with any group, there are those in the white evangelical community who disagree with some elements of Graham’s worldview, just as, contrary to his claims, there are a whole host of Christian progressives. But overall, what Graham has articulated is embraced by Trump’s enablers among the court evangelicals and their followers. It abandons the idea of a democracy where neutral ground is found among a pluralistic society in favor of an authoritarian system that imposes its Biblical worldview on everyone.