Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

Keep up the good work, evangelical prophets!

Ronnie Floyd, from left, Rodney Howard-Browne, Adonica Howard-Browne, Johnnie Moore, and Paula White stand behind President Trump as he talks with evangelical supporters in the Oval Office at the White House. Photo courtesy of Johnnie Moore

Silly me.

On Wednesday, when President Trump embraced an immigration bill that would give priority to English speakers with job skills over family members, I figured the prophets of the evangelical world would be all over him. After all, wasn’t it Jerry Falwall, Sr. who wrote in his 1980 manifesto Listen America, “The family is the fundamental building block and the basic unit of our society, and its continued health is a prerequisite for a strong and prosperous nation”?

So something was needed from the family values crowd along the lines of the statement issued by Austin Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration:

The United States supports families and should not throw up obstacles to their unity. Unfortunately, the RAISE Act would have our nation turn its back on this long and storied tradition of welcoming families setting out to build a better life.

But no, as with every other Trumpian affront to their professed principles, the President’s house prophets either tell him what he wants to hear or forever hold their peace.

Which puts me in mind of the wonderful story in 1 Kings 22, where Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, is trying to get King Jehoshaphat of Judea to join him in attacking the city of Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat asks that God be consulted, so Ahab calls together his 400 prophets, who tell him to go ahead, he’ll be victorious.

Jehoshaphat doesn’t want to believe them, however, and asks if there isn’t another prophet of the Lord to inquire of. There’s Micaiah, says Ahab, “but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”

Micaiah is nevertheless summoned, and the first words out of his mouth are, “Attack and be victorious, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” Ahab insists, however, that he speak the truth, and so he does: “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd.”

Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” says Ahab.

But here’s the beauty part:

19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’

“One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’

22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.

“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.

“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’

23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

In other words, according Micaiah, all that prophetic encouragement was just God setting a trap to destroy the king. Ahab doesn’t buy it. He throws the prophet in prison, attacks Ramoth Gilead, and is killed.

If I were one of Trump’s’s house prophets, I’d be pondering whether all the encouragement they’re giving him isn’t actually the work of a deceiving spirit from the Lord, intended to destroy his presidency. Such as, for example, their enticement to ban transgender people from the military, a policy that is opposed by Republican senators, the Pentagon, military families, and the American people generally.

Of course, if one of those prophets stands up like Micaiah, odds are the President won’t listen to him. Which, as in the case of Micaiah and Ahab, would be all to the good.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

105 Comments

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  • A touch hateful on your part Mark. You don’t even have the decency to pray for your leaders, as Christ taught?

  • How do you know that Mark doesn’t have the decency to pray for his leaders?

    How do you know what answers he may have received?

    Did you read the story of Micaiah?

  • Hateful are the people trying to use immigration laws to suit their personal bigotry (and hobble our economy at the same time). The whole purpose of the RAISE act is to reduce numbers of people from Asia, Africa and Latin America for its own sake. Its is hate given color of law.

    If they had any moral and ethical integrity, Evangelical leaders should be opposing such measures.

  • I am being nice here.

    I am not accusing Evangelical leaders of anything here. I am just saying here is their chance to show they have some moral backbone, if they choose to do so.

  • Trump has not displayed a respectful attitude for the American people. He hasn’t earned prayerful attitudes. The guy is practically a primer of public displays of the seven deadly sins.

  • Doesn’t matter. We are instructed to pray for our leaders…..do you really think Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau are “supporters value decency”? lol We still pray for them though.

  • Gerrymandering, vote dilution, and the appeal to open expressions of racism mostly.

    Of course since being put in power he has done nothing to garner respect or even loyalty.

  • No Spud. God puts people in power and takes them out. It will be interesting to see what He had in mind.

  • I’ve never seen ANY evidence for that claim – though a lot of people seem to believe it.

  • How old is this story? God needs someone to volunteer to entice Ahab? God just couldn’t do it on his own, or just kill Ahab on his own, or any of it at all, on his own?

    It reminds me of the Sodom story, where god has to send someone to Sodom to find out if the stories he’s hearing (from whom?) are true. Then god has to walk to Sodom, and he sits down with Abraham and has dinner, but doesn’t seem to know that sarah is hiding behind the door– and the door of a tent at that?

    and this is the very same god who so loved the world that he created hell– err sorry, went through the
    whole cosmic melodrama of death and resurrection.

    Does anyone ever think about the stories at all?

  • Mark, these guys – “evangelical prophets” – aren’t interested in doing ethical things. They’re just looking out for their meal ticket, that’s all.

  • I don’t have to blame anyone. I don’t live in the states. Christ put Trump into power.

  • A lot of people believe crazy things. You are free to believe that if you wish but it’s ridiculous. This movie we’re in is running unedited.

  • That’s just it, Ben, they are faith stories. Not history as we study it, not science, not math, but faith stories…people in relationship with the Divine and others working out how God works.

  • I do think Justin Trudeau’s supporters value decency, in a real and profound kind of way. And as for praying for Trump, that will only lower my blood pressure, which is a good in and of itself, I guess.

  • What’s a prayerful attitude, actually? I can be vitrulently opposed, and speak it, and still pray. That’s part of a life of faith. And the reason the guy is in power is because of a failure in American morality, not God’s hand.

  • No. Christ puts people in power and takes them down Kang.

    – So did Christ put Hitler in power? What about Stalin? Pol Pot? Amin?
    More specifically, did Christ put them in power knowing what they would do with the power they received?

  • But if they are just stories, then how to they relate to reality? And how did anyone know about god assembling up the host of heaven and asking them to entice Ahab? Did god tell them that’s what happened? Was someone there on a tourist visa?
    That’s the problem– the improbability of the creator of the entire known universe asking someone to do him a small favor. How does that work out how god works?

  • Christ puts people in power David.

    Proverbs 8:15

    “By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice.

    Daniel 2:21

    “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.

  • God has allowed this for a reason. I dunno about you, but I have a very difficult time hating and wishing curses onthe same people who I pray blessings for. Every once in a while it happens, but not that often – thankfully.

  • lol…I don’t know Spud, I have no scripture on that…….let me think about it…..:)

  • Then Christ is incompetent.
    There are millions of innocent people who were killed because of the people Christ put in power. Christ can shrug his divine shoulders and say “not my fault,” but that’s a rather blatant dodging of responsibility

  • God did allow a lot of it and I cannot understand why the atrocity was allowed. God is Sovereign though David. One day we will understand.
    Look at Babylon and the other times. As awful as it is, and it is awful, He allowed it for His purposes.

  • “God did allow a lot of it and I cannot understand why the atrocity was allowed. ”
    – Allowed? No, if God puts genocidal dictators into power then God makes their genocide possible. Its the difference between leaving a gun out where a possible school shooter can find it (carelessness) and actually putting the gun into the shooter’s hand after he has made his intentions known.

    “God is Sovereign though David. One day we will understand.”
    – That is small comfort for the people who were massacred by the genocidal dictators your God allegedly put into power

    “Look at Babylon and the other times. As awful as it is, and it is awful, He allowed it for His purposes.”
    – Uh huh, and I should respect such an apathetic deity…why now? Because it will damn me for not doing so? No wonder your God enables genocidal dictators: he is one himself.

  • I suppose it’s easier to be angry with the Lord, than to accept what has happened, knowing you will understand why one day. God bless you.

  • I suppose its easier to give cop-out stock answers than to actually think about your theology. Read a book.

  • How about that: American evangelicals are already laying the groundwork for denying responsibility for their role in electing the child-in-chief.

  • Well, if you need something to whine about, why not pick the weather. You’d have a better chance for being right. I’m not American.

  • And we receive such large numbers of immigrants from these countries. /sarcasm

    Top countries the US received immigrants from:
    Mexico
    China
    India
    Philippines
    El Salvador
    Vietnam
    Cuba
    Dominican Republic
    South Korea
    Guatemala

    None of those countries are ones where English is the primary language of its citizens.

    The purpose of the bill has zero to do with protecting US workers or even meeting a national interest when it comes to immigration. It is to mess with family based immigration and keep non-white immigrants out. We do not need to be limiting legal immigration.

    Are you done with half baked excuses for deplorable legislation?

  • Hew was just trying to prove a point.
    someday, when he reveals the alleged entirety of his alleged plan, we’ll find out exactly what it was about.

  • Try the US census by way of wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States

    English is not a native language in any of those countries. Calling such populations English speakers is conflation. What is taught and what will be considered “English proficiency” for the sake of this bill are two different things.

    So you are saying you are in support of this abomination of an immigration bill or are you just trolling on side issues here? My guess is on trolling.

  • Oh hardly. I discovered that evangelicals outside of the USA deflect responsibility in the same vapid, self serving way that evangelicals in the USA do.

    Makes me even more determined ti point out their absurdities.

  • I said read a book, not skim a book looking for the passages which confirm your prejudices

    The way you evangelicals read the Bible

  • Yes, yes you are right. But it seems the larger point still remains. Are people to be left out of the country, even if they have family here, if they don’t speak English? Think of the many, many people who came here and learned, and their children –the generation born here, becomes proficient. We have for generations taken immigrants from Germany, China, Japan, Cuba, Mexico — and we’re only talking about legal immigrants here — how many legal immigrants should we take and under what circumstances.

    The evangelical organization World Relief, which was founded in 1944 by the National Association of Evangelicals, has a strongly worded statement against the new policy.

    From Christianity Today:
    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/world-relief-has-broken-ranks-will-other-evangelical-organisations-follow-and-criticise-trump/111489.htm

  • Trump changed the immigration policy to more closely match that of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand the other English speaking countries.

  • You might think that. But I am not. The racists conceived this bill to keep America “whiter”. It has white supremacist nativist fingerprints all over it. Donald Trump’s most vocal voting base. I am stumping for the greater diversity immigration brings.

    I do not complain about being called a racist, I try to refute it. 🙂

  • Evidently the drafters of the bill did. The whole purpose of it is to attack one of the most common forms of legal immigration for its own sake.

    Again, I question what your point ultimately is. You have given no opinion on the bill or it’s provisions. So you are clearly just trolling for its own sake.

  • Whether or not that is true (IDK) it is totally irrelevant – unless you’d also support him changing gun policy to match more closely that of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK etc ..

  • Ok. I warned you about her. Good luck. ????

    As I told her once, she’s a passive aggressive little lollipop, triple dipped in psycho.

  • With respect to the Philippines, China, and India, I think your argument is a little bit weak as opposed to the other nations you listed, of course a 70% batting average isn’t bad, it could get you into the HOF.

  • It’s prophetic imagination, right? The God of the universe didn’t ask someone to do him/her a favor…that’s how the prophet put it into words. Also, giving free will to humans answers a lot of the question you raise…in giving us free will, God forces nothing.

  • As you well know, nothing happens outside the providence and will of God, what all the consequences might be for good or ill from Mr. Trump’s presidency none of us can authoritatively declare. You are profoundly correct in your admonition that those of us called to do so by our faith are compelled to pray on his behalf, something I have not been as diligent to do as I ought.

  • I love the Electoral College, it makes things much more interesting than mere mobocracy.

  • “Triple dipped in psycho?” A clever phrase, I’ll grant…but a bit painful to read.

  • So the prophet erred in his putting it into words. But god wrote the Bible. You can’t have it both ways.

    As for free will, it sounds like a protection racket to me. “Nice little soul you have there, buddy. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to it now, wouldya?”

  • It’s in those unverifiable instances in which God is at work. And He leaves those who demand scientific verification waiting. “And without faith it is impossible to please God for he who comes to God must believe He exists…”

  • That may be so, but if it is God who puts genocidal dictators in power and not humans, and if God knows they will be genocidal dictators (God being omniscient) whereas humans do not (humans not being omniscient) then it is impossible to overlook God’s enabling of genocide. Granted, its a far cry from the Old Testament, in which God not only enables but actively encourages genocide. It does, however, make one wonder how such a deity could be worthy of respect.

  • The problem with the electoral college is how it is allocated. A Wyomingite has something like 47 votes for every vote a Californian has. Mobocracy would be great if we could insure the right people, like terrorists who attack clinics, get the guillotine, but no more than that. You know if the Right took over you’d soon get there just as I know if the Left took over so would I.

  • Well, Edward, that is because you like sandi, and she shares your faith. I’ve met too many people like her– passive aggressive, hiding behind their faith when they have only bad intentions, no matter what they may say. But even were it not the gay issue, I recognize the type. She’s not a nice person, she doesn’t intend good. Too many others have noticed this about her.

  • So you are trolling. I said zero about English speaking before you brought it up. I questioned your opinion on the bill. You are unaware of its provisions.

    I expect people to respond to arguments being made which are relevant to the topic. You did not.

    I did not edit any of my prior comments here outside of possibly fixing typos from my sausage fingers and cheap phone.

    So you tell me, what did you think I was really talking about?

  • This administration cares little (read none) for evidence. Be it medical, scientific or sociological, they try to rule by their emotional prejudices.

  • I think about them, and read them.
    I read in them that God says “please” to humans. Gen 15:5
    He allows humans to do useful work that they enjoy, instead of doing it himself. Gen 1:28; Ec 2:24
    He offers us something better than what we have given ourselves but doesn’t force it on us. Isa 48:17,18.
    Adam, using his free will, gave us all a genetic defect called death. God offers us gene therapy, free. Mr 10:45
    Can you see these elements in the stories of Ahab and Sodom?
    God certainly did not create hell. See Jer 7:31, which BTW is also in the archaeological record. It is an invention of men who wanted to create a god in their own image. It libels Yahweh, making him into the kind of monster that populated all the churches claiming to be Christian at the Reformation. That’s why his son said it’s incumbent on Christians to “hallow”, “sanctify”, clean up his name. Mt 6:9

  • So are you saying the god created everything except hell? Or that the theology of hell has no reality?

  • Yep, tourist visa. But then they couldn’t get back home because an Executive Order … Oops. Sorry, wrong topic.
    In several places the Bible makes the outrageous claim that it’s ‘inspired of God’. That is, that Yahweh dictated it as a businessperson [gender neutral] might dictate a letter to a [gender neutral] secretary. To continue the analogy, Yahweh signs his name to it [at Isa 42:8 e.g.], while the names on the books as we have them are the secretary’s initials at the bottom. In fact, you no doubt know that many Bibles omit God’s personal name. If you have one, toss it and get one that is correctly translated at Isa 42. I recommend the New Jerusalem or the American Standard. There are others. Don’t settle for one from someone who knows only ‘the god that dare not speak his name’.
    In any case, that outrageous claim can be investigated like any other claim. Julius Caesar claimed that he came to Gaul, saw it and conquered it. Bada bing. Your kids are being taught that in school. Is it true? Can it be proven or do we have only Big Julie’s word for it? And how do we know he actually wrote The Gallic Wars?

  • Well, indeed. How do we actually know anything? We take it all on faith, don’t we? Except for all of the evidence from multiple sources across centuries of time.
    So all you are arguing is that faith is a terrible way to know anything. Congratulations.

  • Ben, the scriptures I cite are part of my answers to you. Did you read them? Are you commenting on them?

  • What I “argue” are my own thoughts, clearly stated. Please don’t impute others to me.
    Your thought: “all of the evidence from multiple sources across centuries of time.”
    Yes, like the continuing study of the Bible. Not just its ideas but its provenance, its oldest copies, its internal evidence, its notice by opposers of Christianity …
    Do you have faith in electricity? Of course not; you’ve never seen it. Here, hold these wires for me. Are you aware that James Clerk Maxwell sussed it all from the pure maths? http://galileoandeinstein.physics.virginia.edu/more_stuff/Maxwell_Eq.html
    I’ve looked at them; they give me a headache. I need a good laugh to cure it; here, hold these wires.
    Do the research, and we can talk.

  • My sense is that DougP1 may be a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Unitarian/Universalist, or a member of the 7th Day Adventists. Those are the only “Christian” sects I am aware of that deny the doctrine of hell, though it is not true of all SDA’s. My reading of Jeremiah 7:31 does not conform to his. Jeremiah is recording events, not making a declaration that hell does not exist. I don’t see how it could possibly be read that way.

  • Hey. Great questions. Let me answer your questions asked, for my sake not yours. First let me say no matter the conclusions of my answers and your answers the questions are just as important as the answers, they rightly challenge the standard responses.

    I was in Alaska last week when I read the article and your post. A day or two before I watched a short show about the Iditarod and the first woman who won the race. If I had known at the time I was going to use it as an analogy in a post I would have have payed more attention.

    The woman interviewed talked about the history of the Iditarod, how she came to be involved, and some details of the race she won. At the end of the show I felt like the take away she wanted the audience to have was the relationship she forms with her dogs. She talked about her trust in her dogs, and the trust her dogs put in her. You can watch the show and challenge the conclusion that sled dogs actually trust mushers. You can challenge the intelligence of going on a 1000 mile sled ride alone accept with a bunch of dogs. You can make a counter film about putting a team of dogs on a helicopter and putting your trust in the science avionics, and the knowledge helicopter pilots to cover the same course.

    I hope I can pull this explanation off. The show is one human who is an expert on the race explaining the race to other humans. What would an explanation of one dog to another dog about the race and the relationship to the musher sound like?

    I know it’s not deep but if I’m a sled dog what makes life great? Is it having all my questions about sleds and harnesses answered to my satisfaction or is it believing I can relate to and please a musher without being an Iditarod race expert?

    I think these guys who are spitting out Trump’s press releases are just like the people who run puppy mills. They might be Iditarod experts but I don’t really think they are telling the mushers story. I don’t know how to explain the trust a dog strapped in a harness, harnessed to a sled pulling a musher could ever explain the meaning of trust between a dog and musher, but somehow it does for me. I see it in the contrast of the Bible story and the reality of this situation. I also don’t know how comparing sled and harness technology to helicopter technology brings about a greater sense of trust, but for me it does. I don’t know why in this analogy I would gravitate more toward the knowledge and wisdom of a musher over the knowledge and wisdom of a helicopter pilot? To me that is real challenge of your question.

    I don’t know if my simple answers give your questions the intellectual answers they seem to ask but if you ever fly over me in a helicopter pulling a sled, don’t assume I don’t trust or know what I’m doing.

    That is the only way I know how to answer your questions sufficiently for myself. How would a sled dog convince another dog he knows what his musher is thinking?
    Great questions. Don’t know about my answers.

  • In the OT, false prophets flatter those with wealth and power and give good news, true prophets are called ‘troublers’ and are persecuted.

  • I think I understand what you are trying to say. For you, it’s about your belief and faith in god. That is a given for you. It’s not for me.there was a time I was a believer, then a time when I was not, then another time when I tried to be a believer, but eventually realized I was not. I’ve been quite comfortable in that position.

    I have and have had a lot of interest in religion. Now, my interests lie more on the political end of religion. It’s not what one believes, but what one does with it. My oldest friend in the world– 55 years now– is a new apostolic minister. We were married by a UCC minister, also a friend.

    I won’t go into the whole story– I’m leaving for ireland in a few hours– but there was a catholic bishop who made the following statement in another context, and totally without the required irony given the situation he was commenting on. But it seems relevant here.

    “To those who believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible.”

    Thanks for your posting.

  • Hi Mark,
    Your story is just another illustration of why Judaism is such a sad and unpleasant religion. Christianity adds to this, a bizarre, incoherant mythology, and that makes reason the enemy of “faith”. The priesthood (which includes all who claim to speak for their “god(s)”) picks everybody’s pocket, in order to live well, and enjoy cowering the faithful. Dictators come and go, but their control is limited by their lifetimes. This worldly evil called religion, is the worst disaster ever to afflict mankind.

  • Mark is not a Christian, so he is under no obligation to do anything taught by Jesus. Nevertheless, I don’t see how anything in here precludes the possibility that the author is praying for our leaders.

  • It’s a useful form of execution, but, I can see the merits of hanging from lampposts and such of use as well.

  • In that case, I must say I am both appalled and chagrined at the bloodthirsty nature of your definition of justice.

  • Eh, I have a friend who thinks like that. He opposes the death penalty on principle. I’ve told him he’s blinded by his privilege. In the real world, there are individuals who are greatly evil. We debated things like the Bolshiveks’ execution of the Russian Tsar and his family, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc.

    There’s a poem by the late Unitarian-Universalist Pastor/poet/folksinger Ric Masten

    http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/news/831_tales/ric-masten-dies-as-he-lived-full-of-light-and/article_cf58744a-b561-5b

    I think it’s called “Talk About” – it has a line repeated two more times, I think it goes like this:

    “Before we can even talk about peace
    Let’s talk about
    Something to eat”

    If you don’t understand it I can explain.

  • I am somewhat ambivalent about the death penalty, formerly I was more sanguine about it, and I think a sound case can be made from scripture for its exercise. But latterly, more as a spiritual principle, I have determined that I would not endorse an irrevocable act if there is any uncertainty as to the candidates’ standing with God. Of course, this is all framed around my personal approach to my Christian faith. However, on this issue I will not be dogmatic.

  • Well, same here. Despite your history of throwing shade for christofascists, as you explained, that’s a principled stance, unlike the antiabort extremists who support war and the death penalty, especially in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas where men who were proven innocent were still executed.

    Former Congressman Timothy Penny, who previously represented MN-01 in Congress, was a devout Catholic who said he was “seamlessly” pro-life, opposing abortion, war, and the death penalty. I can find much to admire in such a man although I accept that there is just war, a reasonable time to execute (such as Osama Bin Laden, etc.) and I oppose criminalization of abortion though I’m against it personally. Penny also, unlike the vast majority of other antiaborts, never engaged in slut-shaming.

  • By and large a very reasonable reply. I too, accept Just War Theory, though I regret its necessity. But, as you already doubtless know, abortion in any case is abridge too far for me.

  • A snarky reply to what on my part was a sincere and considered response. Perhaps a remedial course in basic courtesy would serve you well.

  • I believe very strongly in your right to make your own choices. It is unfortunate you believe the government should control women’s. In that regard the reply was much better than you deserved.

  • At the same time I would surmise that there are areas where you would agree the government definitely has a legitimate authority to “control” people’s choices, otherwise we would be left in a state of anarchy. I don’t expect to change your perspective on the question of a woman’s choice in such matters, but I support those women, who in arguing on behalf of women born and unborn, stoutly reject the argument of choice for sound reasons, both practical and moral. Lastly, I’m going to work very hard personally on expressing my views with courtesy to others, and not reacting with rancor when they fail to do the same. That will require effort on my part, but it is consistent with my philosophical point of view. Actions should match words.

  • About the parameters of where government should exercise control, everyone who’s not crazy understands there are some times when the iron fist of the state must strike.

    However, there’s nothing wrong with expressing a belief abortion is wrong. But if that is one’s position it is nothing to support government intervention.

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