The Trumpism Spectrum explained

A HANDS-ON LOOK AT HOW WE GOT FROM THERE (2016) TO HERE (2021) UNDER THE RULE OF EX-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

However we define Trumpism, there is no denying its existence in the United States of America. Its effects were on full display during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. The question we now face is whether Trumpism should be primarily defined as a political or personal condition.

The tactics used to promote Trumpism began with the political slogan Make America Great Again. Those four words symbolized the Trump campaign’s claim that the nation was in desperate need of recovery.

The MAGA slogan worked wonders with those already convinced that Donald Trump represented something “great” about America. His purported wealth and worldwide brand delivered a pre-packaged sense of competency and vision.

Yet that is not what Donald Trump ultimately wound up selling. Instead, he saw an opportunity in convincing people that the nation had abandoned them. That gave millions of already disgruntled people the idea that they had something genuine to complain about. Whether they knew the true sources of their purported misery, or whether they were justified in their self-proclaimed victimhood did not matter. Trump tapped into their anger. That was all that mattered.

To his retinue of pledged supporters, Trump added the support of the evangelical Christian community by choosing a dogmatically zealous Mike Pence as his running mate. The implicit promise in that action was banning abortion and installing some form of Christian theocracy on the nation.

Safely delivered from political criticism by his religious associations, Trump engaged with far-less-admirable brands of populists. Specifically, he offered approval to avowed racist groups as “good people” and chortled with glee as militia groups and violence-prone police threatened to bust heads as a means to maintain order.

All the while, he continued the drumbeat against illegal immigration and repeated his warlike call to ‘build the wall.” That brand of xenophobia resonated with Americans convinced that brown people were freeloaders and stealing their piece of the American pie. Others welcomed Trump’s dog-whistle racism as justification for their own terminal prejudices. Meanwhile, the wealthiest MAGA supporters happily embraced Trump’s “I’ve Got Mine” mentality because it promised a return to tax policies favoring their economic status.

As illustrated in the Trumpism Spectrum, it is easy to trace the initial migration from slogans to tribalism, and from religious legalism to populism. All these tactics were designed to cement a coalition of committed collaborators in the Make America Great Again cabal. Anyone that criticized that cabal was accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a supposed mental condition that caused people to act irrationally in response to the ex-President. But that invented term was itself a form of gaslighting, an attempt to make sane people feel crazy about their grip on reality.

Adding to the mix was the rising influence of conspiracy theorists including QAnon, a willfully ignorant and semi-mysterious source of insane accusations and outright lies invented by some Internet gnome lurking on the outskirts of humanity. While Trump griped and whined about the supposed lies contained in the campaign-driven Steele Dossier, he did nothing to counteract rumors that Democrats were involved in human sex trafficking or the daily piles of Right-Wing garbage pumped out by the political right, including but not limited to Fox News.

As Trump’s presidency proceeded, he relied on an increasingly aggressive mix of propaganda to cover up his many illegal activities and political graft in defiance of the emoluments clause and bans on pursuing campaign aid from foreign governments. He was impeached twice for his corruption, but excused by Republican henchman in both the Senate and the House. A few freely admitted that he’d cheated and even broken the law on several counts. But they are power-driven hypocrites and political whores of the worst kind. They are loyal to their party and traitors to our nation.

The only place that Trump’s lies and cheating seemed to catch up with him was during the Covid pandemic when it became obvious that he was both incapable and unconcerned about protecting Americans from a deadly disease. Rather that amend his ways, Trump’s authoritarian instincts drove him to evolve from a man in a perpetual state of denial of his real performance to a man recognizing his failures. Those he feared more than anything else, and in an effort to protect himself from legal and financial jeopardy, he began to plot ways to steal the election in 2020.

This was nothing new, as even before the 2016 election Trump refused to commit his approval for results if he lost. He merely expanded on this tactic in 2020, denying in advance that he could possibly lose. When he did, he launched the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from him. This lie was invented to foment unrest among his deplorable cabal of truth-denying bigots and zealots. It also appealed to the selfishly wealthy along with the fearful politicians that stood by him through two legitimate impeachments for corruption.

But the sickest loyalty of all is the continued support for Trump even after the acts of sedition conducted by Trump supporters at his direction. The violent, multi-front riots brutalized police officers and left people dead as a result of the insurrection. In the end, Trump invented a brand of fascism that entirely suited him, as he stood watching it all transpire on television even while his violent mob sought to capture and kill the Vice President of the United States. Trump didn’t care. Like his fast-food mentality dictates, he was “having it his way.”

That’s how we got from There to Here over the last six or so years. Looking back at the progression as illustrated on the Trumpism Spectrum graphic, it is pretty clear that it will be too hard to go back through time and fix things. Instead, we need to race forward in the near term to prevent it from happening all over again in 2022 and 2024. Trumpism is a toxic brand of hate-driven politics that was used to beat the nation over the head with an American flag. Despite his ugly pleas, we owe Donald Trump nothing in the way of compassion or compensation. He has done nothing to earn either privilege nor does he deserve it. He is no longer an American in any sense of the word. He is nothing but a greedy traitor, a perpetual con man and an abusive sociopath with nothing to offer the United States of America but an end to the great experiment that launched a democracy worthy of admiration by the whole world.

But under another four years of Trump, that great experiment would cease to exist.

Why so many Americans have literal sympathy for the devil

With police playing both ends of the game as protests and demonstrations broke out across the nation after the choking death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a section of lyrics from the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil came to mind.

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint

Here’s both the beauty and the problem with a song such as Sympathy for the Devil. It is a masterpiece of rock satire, rich with insight into the motivations and corruptions of the human race. The Devil is both the cause and the foil of all these historic activities from the death of Jesus Christ to the murder of the Kennedys.

Yet given that the song has a title, “Sympathy for the Devil,” that can be literally construed as an apologetic for Satan, there are factions of people in this world that never comprehend the true meaning of the lyrics. They begin like this:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste

It is critical to understand from the outset that the Satan character in question is an inherent part of human nature. Not a separate entity. Not an outside influence. Satan lives within us when we allow the “world” to take over our souls. That’s why they are “stolen” and laid to waste.

The song goes on to warn that the actions of the human race are complex, and that one individual can symbolize the plot, and the plight, of many who fall into the trap of worshipping power.

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Thus we find the refrain, brilliant composed to repeat itself throughout the song, in which the Devil reintroduces himself while tossing a cryptic statement out for our consideration:

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my gameI

Both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had already seen much of how the world works by the time they composed Sympathy for the Devil. Rock stars gain a unique insight into the nature of idol worship in general. Combined with the worlds of unlimited drugs, sex and world travel, those two plucked symbols from history to illustrate how and why the world goes sour, and what the consequences are. It only takes a few cogent lines to encapsulate what happens when political upheaval tears into the fabric of society, and fascism runs over justice:

Stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vainI

Rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Ah yes, the devil gets around alright. And he/she is always glad to meet someone willing to play the dangerous game of choosing sides with authoritarians and despots promising heaven while they create hell all around them.

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeahI

The sad, sick part in all this is religion’s role in making it all worse. Mick and Keith dared to suggest that many gods were manufactured in the name of God. That’s where the worship of money and indulgences, the power of tradition, and the nasty habits of oppression and repression come together. We’ve seen it here in America in the last three years, and for the previous sixty years before that. Right now the penchant of authoritarian worship is blowing up in our faces. Donald Trump is responsible for it all, right down to the cop kneeling on the neck of a black man on the streets of Minneapolis. Trump is an expression of all the works of the devil. The Seven Deadly Sins: pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, and wrath.

Watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

I shouted out
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me

At this point in the song, the Devil comes around to the original nature of his supposed virtues. The lyrics show that no innocent will escape his attention.

Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

If you’re familiar with the song Sympathy for the Devil, you know how the searing guitars and Mick Jagger’s twisting voice turn the melody into a mocking tribute to the kind of all Con Men. He taunts and repeats the refrain, each time making it more obvious that the target of the song is often the perpetrator and a partner with the devil in committing evil deeds.

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Then the song takes a wicked turn to illustrate the threat of what’s really going on when the devil inside people takes control. Let’s recall that the murder of George Floyd took place right after the news cycle chewed on the death of a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered by shotgun in Georgia earlier this year. The United States has embraced a brand of vigilante justice infecting both the public and the law enforcement world. This has turned the notion of law inside out and upside down. And we should not forget the long line of mass shootings during all this racist brutality as well.

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint

And then comes the bitter end, when Sympathy for the Devil wraps its arms around the issue of complicity and favoring those who claim righteousness while doing heinous work. One can almost imagine Donald Trump Tweeting these first few words…

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste…

But the devil finally gives us a warning. Better wise up, people, or you’ll be sucked in.


Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

From there, the song falls onto a steaming river of lament and teasing when the devil taunts the innocents and calls them honey and sweetie. One can almost imagine the honeys and sweeties at one of Donald Trump’s rallies; those big-haired, blue-eyed blondes in MAGA tee shirts and oversized breasts fawning over the Cheater In Chief. He meets the combined fantasies and treasured taboos of sexual provocateur possessed of great wealth and supposed moral virtue. Yet he also appeals to the Boys Club of politically cuckolded husbands and dispossessed gun-toters hoping for a target to assuage their pent-up rage. But most of all, Trump appeals to the the Victimhood Mentality of rabid apologists who hand on his every sympathetic word. That’s why evangelical Christians seeking a hero flocked to Trump as a communicator of their claims to persecution despite the fact that Christianity is the most privileged of religions in all of American history. It is a perversion of truth for Christians to claim that their liberties are being threatened by granting equal and civil rights to other members of society. And let’s recall that a literal and legalistic brand of Christianity was a principle player in the institution of slavery in the United States.

Do you get it now? Or shall we explain it again?

But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah Oh yeah

One can imagine Trump standing over one of his fired cabinet members, Apprentice proteges or abused political appointments demanding them to repeat his name.

Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame

Did you catch that last line? That’s the gaslighting part of all this Trumpism. No matter what evil he does, or how many lies and excuses he uses to justify his own incompetency, Trump always tells the world someone else is to blame. Often it is those closest to him that suffer the most. And once he casts them aside, he taunts them publicly.

Oh, right What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name

But here’s the sad, sick truth in all this literal sympathy for the devil. Conservatives have long misunderstood and missed the messaging in social protest songs such as this. When Ronald Reagan played Born In the USA at his political rallies, he had no idea that the lyrics indicted all the things he stood for. And that’s what’s going on in America right now. The devil has all the literalists and slogan suckers in his grip, and all they choose to do is blame everyone else for their problems while spewing hate, gaslighting those who question them and filling the Internet with the repeated lies of the devil himself.

So perhaps it’s time to stop showing patience to the deplorable and depraved in this country, these people whose racist instincts and selfish lust for power have supported a man whose delay and denial of the pandemic have cost millions of people their jobs. If this were a different period in history, there would be a rush on the Capitol and Trump would be dragged to the guillotine and his head placed on a spike. Politically at least, that’s what should happen. But we’ll be lucky if we can even conduct a safe and legal election to remove him from office and begin to confront the sympathy for the devil that Trump supporters call Make America Great Again.

Can you guess my name?

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick JaggerSympathy For The Devil lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc. This blog originally published on GenesisFix.Wordpress.com by Christopher Cudworth.

What does it mean to be an Evangelical Christian?

ufcThe 2016 election was a doozy in terms of bringing strange bedfellows together into voting blocs for both presidential candidates. But one of the most confounding and in some aspects a disturbing conundrums was why a group of faith-oriented believers seemed so drawn to the likes of Donald Trump.

Here was a womanizing, money-worshipping television reality star who never met an insult he did not like. Yet Christian voters were flocking to support him.

What did the so-called “evangelical” community find so appealing about Donald Trump?

To answer that question, we can turn to a variety of sources. But one must first consider a definition of the term “Evangelical Christian” and where it comes from. So here’s a nice little description from a site titled GotAnswers.org, a Christian website.

Here’s how they answer the question: “What is an Evangelical Christian?”

Answer: To begin, let’s break down the two words. The term Christian essentially means “follower of Christ.” Christian is the term given to followers of Jesus Christ in the first century A.D. (Acts 11:26). The term evangelical comes from the Greek word that means “good news.” Evangelism is sharing the good news of the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. An evangelical, then, is a person dedicated to promoting the good news about Jesus Christ. Combined, the description “evangelical Christian” is intended to indicate a believer in Jesus Christ who is faithful in sharing and promoting the good news.

In Western culture today, there are many caricatures of evangelical Christians. For some, the term evangelical Christian is equivalent to “right-wing, fundamentalist Republican.” For others, “evangelical Christian” is a title used to differentiate an individual from a Catholic Christian or an Orthodox Christian. Others use the term to indicate adherence to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. In this sense, an evangelical Christian is a believer who holds to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone. However, none of these definitions are inherent in the description “evangelical Christian.”

In reality, all Christians should be evangelical Christians. The Bible is consistently instructing us to be witnesses of the good news (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 1 Peter 3:15). There is no better news than Jesus! There is no higher calling than evangelist. There is no doubt that holding to the fundamentals of the Bible will result in a certain worldview and, yes, political belief. However, there is nothing about being an evangelical that demands a certain political party or affiliation. An evangelical Christian is called to share the good news, to preach God’s Word, and to set an example of purity and integrity. If these callings require political action, so be it. At the same time, evangelical Christians should not be sidetracked into abandoning our highest calling—sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Putting faith to work

There are several things I found fascinating about that description. For one thing, I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA.) Our particular congregation contains both highly liberal and highly conservative Christians whose issues of concern are often addressed from the pulpit. But the central goal of the church the last few years has been to encourage discipleship, which among other things, means putting faith to work through action.

This is a most effective way to distil issues of theology. When people are called together to work in service to others, as the bible calls us to do, fine points of theology do not matter that much.

Faith matters

Yet there are times when theology matters a whole bunch. Throughout the history of the Judeo-Christian religion, sorting out the meaning of scripture and the right relationship of God has taken on highly controversial tones. One could argue that the entire ministry of St. Paul, for example, was spent helping people confront misunderstanding of this new religion that would come to call itself Christianity.

But before that, a long series of *prophets stood on the outskirts of civilization calling people to repentance. When John the Baptist started dunking people in the Jordan river, the rumor mill about his activities got all the way back to the chief priests. John had no patience for their prurient curiosity.

And neither did Jesus. When it came down to it, the Son of God was a sonofabitch to the people in charge of religion. He set out to make them feel the wrath of God.

Unpopular voices

This proves that it is sometimes the unfortunate work of true evangelicals to say things and do things that are not popular with the proponents of mainstream religion. True to this tradition, Pope Francis has been acting like a prophet for the Catholic Church. His claim that “all scripture that does not lead to the love of Christ” is a highly evangelical statement.

He is not a popular man in conservative quarters because more conservative Christians, both Catholic and Evangelical, are accustomed to enforcing the rules of faith and driving a confessional brand of involvement. In order to belong, one must speak and choose to reflect the words of God in a certain way. In other words, “talk the talk,” or get out. You obviously don’t belong.

Dog-whistle religion

The sad thing is that this brand of faith can also come to constitute a certain “dog-whistle” cliqueishness. The confessional brand of religion is like joining a club. And when a club is formed, it can be leveraged to political as well as religious purposes. This is the exact form of social construct to which Jesus most objected. He branded those d0g-whistle priests a “brood of vipers” for huddling together and lashing out at anyone that stood up to their supposed religious authority.

But there is great comfort to many people in a religion where the rules are clearly mapped out. Not having to think about what you believe or explain it to anyone else is a simple form of existence. And if by convenience it also simplifies the voting process, well that’s just dandy, isn’t it?

And so many evangelicals look to their religious authorities for direction. If those authorities communicate that the “greater good” will be served by supporting even as flawed a candidate as Donald Trump, then evangelicals will support the man through thick and through thin. And sure enough, many evangelical leaders and conservative political voices called for evangelical Christians to vote for the man because promises were made that he would work to ban abortion, or gay marriage, or any number of theo-political issues bandied about during an election cycle.

Challenging authority

Anyone that challenges this central authoritarian call to loyalty can be branded an outsider and not worthy of attention. Traditionally, this is manifested in statements such as “you can only test scripture with scripture.” That is, the bible is the only source of truth.

The problem with this approach to authority is that it can fail miserably in the face of legitimate theological challenges. The preferred method is to simply deny the possibility that scripture could in any way be wrong. This is a convenient tautology.

It is also the practical method of those that used to stand on top of the walls or before the city gates shouting at the seemingly crazed prophets calling people to account for the true voice of God. So it is no coincidence that when a man such as Donald Trump puts forth a call to “build a wall,” the concept has great appeal to conservatives accustomed to blocking out that which they don’t want to consider. It is the perfect symbol for an insular faith.

A prophet in his home town

The problem with this approach to belief is that it is not biblical at all. It stung the Lord Jesus, for example, to be mocked and disavowed in his hometown. Mark 6:4: “Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

Thus it is not unexpected that even today, any evangelical willing challenge the cliquish or dog-whistle signals of Christian faith should be similarly despised and mocked. People take great offense in being questioned about their faith, especially when they sense a vulnerability in themselves that they might not like to admit.

Interesting observations

As a writer who talks about religion quite a bit, and who is willing to challenge both the religion and politics of others based on what the Bible says, rather than what people say about it, I have bumped into plenty of anger and disappointment from friends, relatives and strangers. One confronted me with this interesting observation: “You make me feel shitty about things.”

And I suppose that is probably true. If one clings to beliefs that don’t stand up to rational or religious scrutiny, it surely can make you feel “shitty” about it.

Stiff-necked and hard-hearted

Being challenged on theological grounds can simply harden those beliefs even more. I can honestly attest to the fact that I have likely had that effect on more than one Christian believer. The risk of abandoning cherished beliefs is never easy. But neither does God appreciated stiff-necked or hard-hearted believers. Giving up the legalistic ways of hard-hearted faith has always frightened the shit out of people.

Some have accused me of having no heart at all, that I am more about the theoretical idea of faith than having  a trust in God. But they have not walked a single step in my shoes, or faced the same deaths in my family that I have faced. I have trust that God will play a role in how those lives will end, and what happens to the spirit of that person in the long run.

Thus I feel empowered to speak as honestly as I can about the deceptions created on foundations of biblical literalism and the relativism that evangelicals too readily accept in trading approval for political power. It’s disgusting, and it produces ugly and false compromises in support for leaders such as Donald Trump. There have been many other abusive figures in history that claimed to be a Christian and turned out only to be selfishly murderous bastards.

And so, to not challenge those trading in politicized religious beliefs… when the Bible clearly maps out the call to speak truth to power… is to abandon the heart of all Christian belief.

Pope Francis

That is what the Pope is talking about when he says that scripture that does not lead to the love of Christ is obsolete. That is the true and honest calling of all evangelicals. To trust that the love of God has meaning, significance and purpose in your life, and to feel the love of Christ and do your best to extend that grace and love to others. That is the mission of faith.

Yet the Evangelical Prophet must also suffer in the face of distrust when challenging others to consider how their authorities might be misleading them. Jesus set the example, it is for prophets of all levels and calling to follow that lead. His disciples did it, trusting that they would be greeted or else they dusted off their feet and left that town to the dog-whistle virtues it claimed for its own.

That’s what it means to be a Christian Evangelical.

*In religion, a prophet is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.