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Election 2020 Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Thursday during a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Last month, Joe Biden was reportedly denied communion at a Catholic Church in South Carolina by a priest who objects to the former vice president’s support for abortion rights.

And Vero Beach pastor Rick Wiles darkly predicted on his TruNews show that if Trump is removed from office — he didn’t specify how — then cowboys, mountain men and veterans would “hunt down” those responsible and punish them.

So exists the state of religion — or at least, a politicized slice of it — in 2019, where fealty to an earthly politician is the difference between heaven and hell or war and peace.

We’re particularly appalled — though not surprised — by Paula White.

Not because she’s a conservative but because of her naked use of religion as a weapon. She’s trying to frighten believers with apocalyptic consequences if they don’t get in line behind this president.

Unfortunately, the national attention on these self-promoting evangelical opportunists risks overshadowing the selfless work of Christian churches and missions that help people who are hungry, poor, sick and homeless.

White, who led a large church in Apopka until last summer, has long been associated with “prosperity gospel,” which in shorthand means if you give money to the church then God will reward the giver with even more money. (White has rejected the prosperity label, but if the label fits … )

She also has a long association with Trump, praying at his inauguration and his re-election rally last summer in Orlando. This for a president who wears the mantle of a Christian but is on the record saying he’s never sought forgiveness for his sins, a central tenet of Christianity.

They are a match made in heaven.

White was on Bakker’s show to extol the president’s virtues, and to flog her new book, which a review in Christian Today called narcissistic, dishonest, materialistic, shallow and “Trumpesque.”

“After spending time around Donald Trump I find myself inspired by his vision, thought process, keen insight, and overall discipline,” she gushes in the book. “He’s a brilliant thinker who tends to walk several steps ahead of the masses. I want to share his wisdom with the world in my own way.”

The book received endorsements from other religious leaders who move in the president’s circle of loyal evangelicals, including Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed and Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham (who has since deleted a tweet encouraging his followers to buy the book).

They understand that the evangelical voting bloc is vital to the president’s re-election chances, and that books like White’s help keep that bloc in line.

People who identify as evangelical are far more accepting of the president and his behavior than any other group of voters. The Public Religion Research Institute reports that three in every four white evangelical Protestants approve of the job Trump is doing, far higher than any other religious group.

So evangelical leaders — some of them, anyway — exploit elements of religion not to further the cause of faith but to achieve a political end.

It’s not hard to figure out why: Paula White and her kind will never be more visible or relevant in politics than they are with Donald Trump in office.

That’s why they go about the cynical work of weaponizing religion, in contrast to the many Christians who quietly go about the hard work of growing their faith and using it to aid the afflicted.

— Orlando Sentinel  

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