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Opinion (26/1/2021): In God’s Name – By Sam Omatseye


I came upon a video clip where a certain televangelist Sid Roth, a blond, bald and combative septuagenarian, announced that Trump was going to win because he heard it from the lips of tested prophets around the world. The clip featured some of them who uttered, with supernatural pomposity, that the spirit of God had anointed a second term for the petulant American.

It was a moment in ecclesiastical folly. A well-known Nigerian evangelical made the honored list. He preened in his suit as he dispensed his lie. All the prophets, with Biden now with the crown, must be retooling their ear of prophecy. They had turned the word of God of no effect. They privileged their imagination over the word of prophecy. Jeremiah said: “They are prophets of the deceits of their own hearts…he that hath my word let him speak it faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” One of the prophets in America exploded into a burst of cackles when Biden’s victory hit the waves. His church followers chorused his raucous uproar like hens invaded by hyenas. Kenneth Copeland apologised afterwards. But his fervour for Trump was not lost in that feverish hour.

Some have said that Trump was a good man, who just had a bad tongue and an impish attitude. Other than that, he was a child of God. Just as they used the Bible to prop slavery, they excavated passages in the Bible to enthrone the bigot as a messiah. After all, he gave the Christians what they wanted. He hissed at gays and abortionists, and he kissed the prophets and judges. He teargased Black Lives Matter irritants so he could twirl the Bible, if upside down, in front of a church. It did not matter the man did not know 2nd Corinthians, played golf when others prayed in church and spat out expletives like shithole to address a certain people God had created.

Few understand that the American evangelicals do not prophesy Christ for all but Christ for whites. If you are black or brown, and profess Christ, you are somehow not an authentic soul. You do not belong to the chosen race. You are beneath the priesthood because you are in the hood. To get this we have to go to history, and how they turned Christianity as a tool to justify the black man as chattels in the slave era.

When slave trade began, especially in the heydays of sugar plantations in Brazil and Caribbean, the white workers were too fragile. So they craved black biceps. It was cheap. All they needed was invade West Africa. Some white consciences did not support, but profit trumped prophets. They then enlisted the church. They said they wanted to refine us out of our savages. Slavery was a boon. The blacks gave them prosperity. They made wealth, especially for England and Scotland. Others in Europe, like the French and Spanish, also wanted to ladle out of the plate.

Slave traders became the Bill Gates of that era – rich, puffy, snoring in luxury, erecting palaces. They enacted new lifestyles of taste and opulence, the sort that sociologist Thorstein Veblen would later call “conspicuous consumption.” The African sweat inaugurated and justified capitalism. The church bloomed beside them. No one listened to discordant voices. Slave trade made the world of the west and the west made the black man make them. Hence the novelist Daniel Defoe wrote, “No African slave, no negroes; No negroes, no sugar; No sugar, no islands; No islands, no American continents; no American continents, no trade.”

They converted Africans, but what the whites saw in the message of heaven was, to them, a return home to Africa, to the liberty of their village hearths. Their churches were not for blacks. They brooked black churches but when the revolts disrupted plantations they regretted sometimes that they had evangelised in vain. The whites wanted mammon, but the blacks invoked their God to trash plantation mammon. Yet, some, like Wilberforce, saw the genuine pivot to Christ to free the slaves. When the U.S. was born, it was born for whites. When Jefferson said all men were created equal, he meant not just white man, but rich, propertied cockerels like him. Hence he spoke equality but ravished female slaves he would not marry.

Today the most segregated hour is Sunday morning. Whites and blacks worship apart. So, when the evangelicals supported Trump, they had no blacks in their imagination. Christianity is less a religion than culture in their eyes. They see God in the white man, and the white man in God. God anointed their race, so others are lesser souls in God’s eyes. When they say Trump is a child of God, they mean he is the point man of the race. They confirm how Wole Soyinka defined religion in his novel, The Interpreters, as “the justification of existence.”

The quest for democracy and the vote was resisted, even though the black man earned the franchise after the civil war. The KKK fought them back out of suffrage in the 1880’s. They had to wait till the civil rights era of the 1960’s to get the vote. President Lyndon Johnson, who made this happen ended the Democratic Party’s power over the white vote. Since 1964, they have not won the president with the white vote. This was because of what is called “the southern strategy” introduced by President Richard Nixon. The three words were God, Guns and Gays. These three words were code for white interest. The ideas sacralised the race.

With increasing immigration and spread of so-called coloured folks, the electoral maps will enlist states like Texas and Florida for democratic majority for another generation. That can change America. It will make the southern strategy obsolete and reset the ideological battles, so it will not be a battle about gays and abortionists but for honesty and progress. The white evangelicals will fall out of favour and clock out of history. Bernie Sanders has a strategy to deploy the democratic majority in Congress to entrench progressive ideas for a generation. If Democrats work the electorate to generate a momentum for good ideas, the Republican Party will have to rejig again, like we saw in the times of Nixon and Reagan. It is a consequential moment for America and the world. Will Biden bite?

The evangelicals claim to love God, but back a loveless villain. It is so because, in their sub-conscious, blacks or browns are not human enough. So, how can their votes count? If a black man is a fraction of the white man, how can we say their votes are equal? In their souls, the black man is still disenfranchised. Hence they say that Trump won and invaded the Capitol. Their math is racist and their prophets calculated it in the spirit. They won the white vote, so Trump was cheated.

The same evangelicals who cry against abortion back a president who abandoned babies at the borders. They love the unborn but abandon them after they cry out of the mother’s womb. They do charity for poor folks in Asia but vote for poor colored people to suffer. They hold vigils for a racist president but travel here to Africa to preach love and take prophet’s offering back to enrich their lifestyles. It is evangelical contempt.

The Biden victory can start a new clock to wake Christians to the true value of love, not racism. As one of them, Saint Augustine wrote, “That a beginning be made, God created man.”

– Omatseye, a respected columnist, writes for The Nation

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