Reframing the Trump Prophecies: When Prophecy Fails

Julia Duin, who has a long history of stellar religion writing, yesterday published at Politico a deep dive into the world of Trump prophets and prophecies.  I urge you to take the time to read it. The business of the charismatic church right now is in disarray because the prophets can’t get their prophecies straight. Some think Trump is about to return to the throne and others think those prophets are foolish.

I am not very bothered by this. I have never had much confidence  in modern day prophets. Although I think some of them are good guessers, I doubt any of them have an inside line on God’s will. They all wanted Trump to win so badly that they groupthought their way into near unanimous predictions of a Trump landslide. They were listening to each other, not God or the majority of Americans who were fed up with the Narcissist in Chief.

Some like Jeremiah Johnson can admit this, but others like Johnny Enlow and Greg Locke are providing evidence for cognitive dissonance theorists. The key source for understanding reaction to prophecy discomfirmation is Leon Festinger’s book, When Prophecy Fails. Festinger and his co-authors describe the distress true believers experience when their prophecies fail. I can also recommend in Religion Dispatches a nice summary of more recent work of prophecy disconfirmation which provides a fuller account of the bizarre reactions to prediction failure.

Magnitude of the Dissonance

Let me share a short portion from When Prophecy Fails:

Theoretically, what is the situation of the individual believer
at the pre-disconfirmation stage of such a movement? He has a
strongly held belief in a prediction – for example, that Christ will return -a belief that is supported by the other members of the movement. By way of preparation for the predicted event, he has engaged in many activities that are entirely consistent with his belief. In other words, most of the relations among relevant cognitions are, at this point, consonant.

Now what is the effect of the disconfirmation, of the unequivocal fact that the prediction was wrong, upon the believer? The disconfirmation introduces an important and painful dissonance. The fact that the predicted events did not occur is dissonant with continuing to believe both the prediction and the remainder of the ideology of which the prediction was the central item. The failure of the prediction is also dissonant with all the actions that the believer took in preparation for its fulfillment. The magnitude of the dissonance will, of course, depend on the importance of the belief to the individual and on the magnitude of his preparatory activity.

In the type of movement we have discussed, the central belief
and its accompanying ideology are usually of crucial importance in the believers’ lives and hence the dissonance is very strong and very painful to tolerate.

Festinger predicts that the magnitude of the dissonance generated by prophecy disconfirmation will hinge on the importance of the belief to the individual. He says the person’s central belief and accompanying ideology are of crucial importance. As is very obvious for all to see, the dissonance for the Trump prophets is “very strong and very painful to tolerate.” For Trump prophets, it appears that their central ideology is about Trump being in charge. Instead of Christ, they have put their trust in Trump.

The focus on Trump at all costs is what is so frustrating to other charismatics like Michael Brown. Brown and some others are forming a rival group of prophets who know the election is over and, despite their apparent belief in predicting other futures, are trying to keep some real in reality. From Duin’s Politico article:

In a December 15 article, Michael Brown, a longtime charismatic revivalist and scholar in Charlotte, North Carolina, had sharp words, warning co-religionists: “There is no reality in which Trump actually did win but in fact didn’t win. … To entertain possibilities like this is to mock the integrity of prophecy and to make us charismatics look like total fools.”

In his interview with Duin, Brown seems to describe well the primary ideology held by the Trump prophets:

 “How did we become so politicized?” he wonders. “How did so many of us end up with an almost a cultlike devotion to a leader, compromise our ethics for a seat at the table and drape the Gospel in an American flag?”

Actually, Brown should know the answer to this in that he often defended Trump against criticism during his term. However, he now sees accurately the result. Reality is here. Trump lost. For some, however, Trump became so integral to their religion that they can’t quit him. They can’t see reality without him. The dissonance is to great. To recognize Trump’s loss might do damage to their faith in God.

At some point very soon, there will be a final disconfirmation. Some will go quietly. Some will accept reality. Some will blame the Satanic forces of their ideological opponents. While I doubt any of these public preachers will give up the gravy train of their ministry, many every day Christians who have been hoodwinked by these false prophets might indeed resolve the dissonance by deciding that none of that god stuff was ever true and become another casualty of the Trumpvangelical transformation.

Owen Strachan’s Public Theology

Owen Strachan is a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Southern Baptist school in Kansas City, MO. There, he leads something called “The Center for Public Theology.” Today his public theology showed up in the following tweet:

The Time article in question describes a brilliant and successful effort by many people to safeguard the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. As people in the real world know, Donald Trump lost his bid for a second term in an election which was — according to former Homeland Security official Christopher Krebs — “the most secure in American history.”

With this Time magazine article, we have a more informed idea of factors which led to the security of that election. We also have information about how the right of minority voters were protected and encouraged. Guess what? Evangelical supporters of Donald Trump were not cited for helping to stop voter suppresion or provide truthful information to the public.

Strachan’s public theology laments the “sinister” efforts to increase voter participation as a “plot.” What the Time article documents is an effort to combat lies and disinformation and make sure all legal voters used their privilege. Apparently, these strategies were quite successful in countering voter suppression tactics aimed frequently at minority voters.

In my Twitter response to this tweet, I asked Strachan how telling the truth and fighting against voter suppression can be considered a sinister plot. He rarely ever answers those who question him so I don’t expect a response. But I offer that question to any Trump supporting evangelical. If your public theology is to lament legal get out the vote efforts and the dissemination of truth because your candidate didn’t win, then what religion are you with?

 

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. Here is a key passage:

Currently, white and black evangelicals are divided in obvious ways as we observe another MLK, Jr Day. For instance, African American Baptist churches are leaving the Southern Baptist Convention as white leaders there take aim at Critical Race Theory while yawning at Christian nationalism. White evangelicals as a group find themselves in much the same place as when King, Jr. wrote in 1963. I long for a change. I long for an end to concern for ideological purity and a striving for relational purity.

American Thinker Retracts False Claims About Voter Fraud and Dominion Voting Systems

The far right website American Thinker just published this statement about Dominion Voting Systems. The site had published articles accusing Dominion of throwing votes from Trump to Biden.

American Thinker and contributors Andrea Widburg, R.D. Wedge, Brian Tomlinson, and Peggy Ryan have published pieces on www.AmericanThinker.com that falsely accuse US Dominion Inc., Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., and Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (collectively “Dominion”) of conspiring to steal the November 2020 election from Donald Trump. These pieces rely on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories about Dominion’s supposed ties to Venezuela, fraud on Dominion’s machines that resulted in massive vote switching or weighted votes, and other claims falsely stating that there is credible evidence that Dominion acted fraudulently.

These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. Industry experts and public officials alike have confirmed that Dominion conducted itself appropriately and that there is simply no evidence to support these claims.

It was wrong for us to publish these false statements. We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning 9 journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion’s track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error.

This is an important statement. Of course, they were threatened with a defamation suit, but the owners of the site recognized that they couldn’t prove their claims.

There will be more of these as right wing sources realize they are going to have to prove their reckless and false claims or back off. They can’t do it, so they are going to have to tell the truth to people. Much damage has already been done but I hope some people will listen and realize these claims were lies from the start.

Dominion has filed suit against several other news outlets and persons, including Eric Metaxas.

Former PA State Rep and Christian Nationalist Rick Saccone Stormed the Capitol During Jan 6 Invasion

Rick Saccone is a former state representative and adjunct professor at St. Vincent College in PA. He once ran and lost an election against a current member of the House of Representatives from PA, Conor Lamb. He also once sought the GOP nomination to run for Senate in PA and had Christian nationalist icon David Barton’s endorsement. More recently, Saccone showed up on January 6th as a part of the crowd that stormed the Capitol. In fact, he filmed himself describing it.

He then issued a statment minimizing his earlier words. In this KDKA report, part of that statement is provided.

I don’t buy his explanation since he said they were going to run the evil people and “Rinos” out of their offices. Shortly after this video was posted on Facebook, he resigned his adjunct position at St. Vincent and took the video off of Facebook.

I am posting this because I want to draw a line between Saccone’s Christian nationalist beliefs and his appearance in a mob willing to “storm the Capitol.” I realize this is one person and not all persons who hold Christian nationalist beliefs are willing to go as far as Saccone. However, Saccone is a case of an individual who articulates a pious Christianity on one hand but on the other justifies aggressive action when he perceives that his ideology isn’t dominant.

Here is a Saccone on Christian television, Cornerstone TV:

Saccone’s evidence that the Lord is working in America is Trump’s leadership and a good economy. He says as long as “the Lord is leading us,” America will be fine.

But what happens when Trump (or the current messianic political figure) isn’t in power?

Apparently, for at least some Christian nationalists, it is time to take to the streets and storm the Capitol. If your Christianity doesn’t include nationalism, you simply accept whatever happens in each election and continue to pursue the Kingdom of God. However, if your Christianity requires America to be run by Christian rule, then when your preferred candidate loses, your faith is threatened. These are incompatible visions of what our mission here is about. One leads to peace and preoccupation with redemption and service to all. The other leads to political preoccupation, division, discord and sometimes violence. I have a pretty clear idea about which one I think is right.

Trump Supporters Reject Antifa Theory and Take Credit for Capitol Invasion

Some Trump supporters are floating the theory that antifa sympathizers infiltrated their ranks and are responsible for the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Not only has an initial claim by the Washington Times been retracted, a major problem with this theory is that Trump supporters who were leading the charge — they call themselves “patriots” — deny it. They take credit for the action and threaten that there will be more such actions in the future.

Below are clips of Trump supporters debunking the narrative that antifa did the dirty work on Wednesday. I have also provided a link to a full video of the insurrection as filmed by one of the instigators.

DeAnna Lorraine and her colleague Brandon say in clear language that their Trump supporting group and thousands of their closest friends perpetrated the breach of the Capitol. “Antifa was nowhere to be found…” said Brandon.

The full video of DeAnna Lorraine is here at this tweet and I link to the full 88 minute video (to get a sense of what happened, I recommend watching all of it) here.

These Trump supporters appear to be planning more action like this. A complete review of just these two sources includes threats of additional aggression.

Today, Trump is out with a tweet undoing much of what he said yesterday about a peaceful transition of power.

Trump’s “patriots” who broke into the Capitol Wednesday will certainly take no criticism or disapproval from this.

In any case, the narrative of antifa (see other evidence here) being involved or responsible cannot stand up to scrutiny.

Trump Jericho Marchers Part of Capitol Assault

Lots of finger pointing at antifa today by Christians who say Trump supporters didn’t storm the Capitol yesterday during the count of Electoral votes in Washington, DC.  Instead, they say antifa infiltrators did it.

First, no specific people have been offered as examples. One would think all of those Trump supporters would know a stranger in their midst. Second, Trump supporters all over the place are taking credit for the mayhem (see here, here, and here).

The third point in response is the subject of this post. Jericho Marchers, mostly Christian Trump supporters who believe the election was stolen posted video of themselves occupying the outside of the Capitol and are bragging about it. Look:

The marchers are on the Capitol steps and the bleachers set up for the Biden/Harris inauguration ceremony. According to news reports yesterday, these spaces were off limits to the public.  The whole area was barricaded but the marchers broke through.  Here they are singing the National Anthem after illegally breaking through the barricade and occupying the Capitol steps and plaza.

I watched this yesterday as it happened and I couldn’t believe the marchers just walked through the barricades. The marchers ignored instructions and warnings from Capitol Police and occupied the area.

Another way of looking at the people outside of the Capitol is that they provide cover for the mob inside the Capitol to loot and terrorize. They were not supposed to be there and it took a significant law enforcement build up to clear them from the area.

I will end this brief post with a Trump supporter asking “what did you think was going to happen?” Pardon the language but I think he asks Donald Trump an important question. Trump invited his most sincere followers to Washington to do something about the election. What did Trump think was going to happen? You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, Donald.

Trumpist Protesters Assault the Capitol: Sane Responses

I have never been so glad to be Never Trump as today.

Trump protesters stormed the Capitol today disrupting the Electoral College count. I am writing this as the protest is going on so it is unclear how many injuries there will be. The protesters actually invaded the House chamber with no intervention from the National Guard. Apparently, our legislative branch is vulnerable to a mob.

In my opinion, Donald Trump incited the riot with his rhetoric leading up to the protest and by his speech this morning. His tweets of we won’t stand for the election to be stolen and similar themes have incited his followers to believe his lies and debunked theories. Now, his followers have crossed a bright red line and engaged in violent action.

Trump supporters who have gone along with the conspiracy theories about voter fraud and voting machine switching tactics need to own their rhetoric. Below, I have copied some reaction from those who say what I am thinking.

Eric Metaxas Promotes Donald Trump’s Last-Ditch Effort to Destabilize Election

On his Facebook page, author and Trump die hard Eric Metaxas is promoting Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort to get Republican legislators not to certify the election results in states where Joe Biden won.

OKAY, THIS SHOULD MAKE IT EASIER STILL! ALL EMAIL ADDRESSES AND A SAMPLE LETTER YOU CAN USE! PLEASE DO THIS AND PLEASE SHARE!
**
Dear Friends!
I just did an interview with Dick Morris which is posted here, but the MOST important part of it is so important that I will stop at nothing to get this message out. It’s all at the bottom and I’ve made it as easy as possible for you, with all the email addresses and a SAMPLE LETTER.
Dick has DAILY been on the phone with the president, and BOTH of them are convinced that if the votes are counted accurately the president won this election. This is not partisan politics, this is about preserving our form of government. If we cannot trust that our votes are being counted accurately, we have lost the republic!
So here is what Dick and President Trump are asking EVERYONE to do, and what I personally am asking you to do.
Every American must please write an email — or an actual letter if you like — to each Republican Legislative Leaders (their email info etc. is ALL listed below for you) in GA, PA, WI, MI, and AZ, asking them to INSIST — which is their Constitutional Duty as you will see below — that ALL signatures in their states are verified.
I am begging you, dear fellow Americans, to do this one thing for your republic, because our republic depends on it. People have often asked me what can I do to KEEP THE REPUBLIC. You can do this now. Will you?
Please please do this duty now and tell everyone you know to do it. It is not asking very much considering the stakes.
God bless you.
Eric’s Signature
Eric Metaxas

Republican observers have been involved all along. In Georgia, the Secretary of State is a Republican. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the 2020 election was the most secure in history. Metaxas has no proof of irregularities; he is a blind follower.

Metaxas wants his followers to send legislators in each of the battleground states the following email:

Here is the SAMPLE LETTER you might wish to use! You can cut and past it exactly as it is or you can personalize it with the name of the person to whom you are addressing it, etc.
**
Dear GOP State Legislative Leader:
Because the U.S. Constitution (Art II Sec 1) provides “that each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the congress” I am boldly asking you to do your solemn duty toward protecting integrity in this vitally important election by NOT certifying any electors UNTIL your state audits the election results with a full recount, with Republican observers no more than three feet away, and with full verification of signatures and the dates on which the ballots were received.
Our nation now critically depends on you doing your duty to insure that “we the people” are convinced everything has been done to the utmost level of integrity, lest the nation’s citizens lose trust in their most important institutions, and we lose the republic forever. You have a charge to keep and I ask you firmly and humbly please to do your duty in keeping it.
God bless you.
Your Name Here
END LETTER
***
OKAY? I hope that helps you get this done! Please do this today or tomorrow! And please tell EVERYONE you know to do the same. It is a small thing to ask when you realize what is at stake, and no matter how this election goes you will know you’ve done all you could. I just did it to every name on the list. Now it’s your turn!
God bless you.

Eric Metaxas

The ongoing legal effort to find fraud has been unsuccessful. This strategy involves getting Republicans to find enough Democratic votes to disqualify to make Trump the winner.

A more ominous aspect of this strategy was sounded by Trump (and John MacArthur) lawyer Jenna Ellis:

Can you imagine the chaos which would result if the legislator appointed Trump electors after Biden won the state? What a brazen power grab Ellis anticipates here. Millions of Michigan voters would be disenfranchised if she gets her way.

The votes have been counted. A “huge win for Donald Trump” would be a huge loss for our Republic. I continue to believe these efforts will fail, but it is stunning to see them being conducted in broad daylight.

On the subject of countering myths about voter fraud, this U.S. government website on cybersecurity is a gem. 

Trump’s Denial of Election Reality: Will Court Evangelicals Play Along?

Last night Donald Trump said he believed the election was being stolen from him and today tweeted this:

As in every other election, mail in and absentee ballots are being counted today and will be added to the totals. There are more of them this year due to record numbers of ballots being cast in this manner. Ballots haven’t appeared in a “surprise ballot dump.” Either Trump is ignorant or deliberately attempting to destabilize the nation.

Will evangelicals who support Trump buy into this?

Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center does:

Franklin Graham is lending credibility to this delusion:

Paula White, of course:

John Fea has a post on this same topic, check it out.

Greg Thornbury has this reaction:

Owen Strachan jumps in:

And of course Etic “Punch and Run” Metaxas punches and runs:

Metaxas in particular is melting down.

Evangelical leaders who have made their bed with Trump will not go quietly into the night. No matter what the damage is to the faith, they will continue to enable Trump’s delusions. It is shameful but predictable given where they have been for the last four years.

In my view, preachers don’t have any specific expertise to add to what is going on with election counting. It is taking place as it always has. What they should do is simply reinforce the beauty of our system that we count every vote. What they shouldn’t do is rebroadcast and reinforce baseless conspiracies about stolen elections.

If you see other evangelicals promoting this delusion, put a link in the comments.