US MEDIA WATCH | John Sandeman
Thursday 28 January 2016
Try this thought experiment. Think of your city’s most notorious radio shock jock. It might be Alan Jones if you are in Sydney or Brisbane. Or Derryn Hinch, or Melbourne’s Andrew Bolt who qualifies because he has a regular gig on radio these days.
Now imagine this bloke has been studying at Bible College for a year or two. Your favourite Bible College that turns out ministers you like.
In the US you might be talking about Erick Erickson who was named by the Atlantic Magazine as “the most powerful conservative in the US” and by the Washington Post as a “key national player”.
And over there is lots of competition in right wing talk radio. Erickson has earned those titles as a blogger turned radio host. He broadcasts on the Atlanta-based station WSB, but fills in for the national right wing king Rush Limbaugh.
Erick is the genuine article: pro guns, fiercely opposed to Obamacare (which, in some ways, resemble a faint imitation of Australia’s health care system). He is a tea party conservative (which resembles Howard’s battles writ very large).
But he is also attending Reformed Theological Seminary, a place that you might expect an Aussie Presbyterian or a Sydney Anglican to go to. It is conservative with a reputation for academic rigour.
He’s also a guy who posted on Facebook a copy of an anti-gun New York Times editorial he disagreed with, with bullet holes in it. At that time, I responded by pointing out the college he was attending. To me there was a contradiction between glorying in a gun culture and studying God’s word. Feel free to disagree.
So I have been watching him with interest. Will studying the Bible make him different on the radio or his influential blog?
He’s just started a new blog, the resurgent.com, moving on from a site he made popular with the tea partiers: Redstate.com.
Redstate hit the news when Erick refused Donald Trump entry to the “Redstate gathering”, which is big enough to have most republican candidates wanting to make speeches at it. It is called Redstate because on electoral maps the Republicans are indicated in red and the Democrat bits are coloured blue.
Erick has taken on his audience again the other week and rebuffed Trump again, too. There’s a real battle within the Republicans at present to get conservative evangelical votes. (In the US, the labels “evangelical” and politically “conservative”, among white people at least, tend to fit together much more snuggly than in Australia).
But the commentary Erickson employs around his latest anti-Trump is rather interesting. He is concerned that some pastors have come out in support of Donald Trump, a candidate Erickson does not think a Christian can support.
Polls continue to show “evangelicals” supporting Donald Trump in large numbers. A recent NBC survey monkey poll gives Trump 37 per cent of the “white evangelical vote”. But a closer examination of that vote, such as this story on the analysis site politico.com, shows that base to consist of one influential group: televangelists. As Politico puts it “The GOP front-runner isn’t much of a conservative Christian, but he is finding a way to play one on TV.” The various flavours of Christians appear to support different candidates. Two of them, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have outlined the gospel during their campaign.
“I totally and completely get American angst that drives people to Donald Trump,” writes Erickson. “I get it. I may disagree with it, but I am not unsympathetic to it and I do understand it.
“What I do not understand, however, are preachers and theologians gravitating to Donald Trump. It should be harder for those engaged in daily theology to bifurcate their Christian world view from their citizenry …”
He then quotes 1 Timothy 6:2-10 which of course includes “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”
Erickson adds, “I understand Donald Trump supporters. That a pastor so connects to the anger Trump has tapped into, however, is deeply troublesome to me. Pastors should not want to make America great again. They should want to build up their flock, not lead the sheep toward paths of anger and an American Jesus.”
Erickson gets it. While a strong nation may be desirable, it is not a substitute for a Godly savior.
Trump has famously said he has nothing to repent of in his life.
“I think some pastors have themselves developed itching ears,” says Erickson. “Instead of leading their flock to joy and hope in the Lord, they’re leading their flock to hope in not only a sinner, but one who says he has no need to repent. Pastors who trot out 2 Chronicles 7:14*, identifying that passage with the United States, are engaging in a level of scriptural perversion beyond that which I can fathom when they cast about for the candidate who prides himself in his lack of humility and proclaims he has no wicked ways from which he must turn.”
Great words from a gun toting tea party guy! I mocked him and now I have to take it back.
* 2 Chronicles 7:14 “… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”