Evangelical pro-Trumpers were roundly defeated in November. They hitched their hope–both politically and ethically–to one of the most corrupt and immoral presidents in American history. Most of Trump’s diehard evangelical supporters believe that evil forces stole the election. preventing four more years of a God-appointed president who was born to restore America to Christian greatness. Trump lost the election, but his cause was just. Over the next months and years, such a belief will be disseminated through what I have called a lost cause evangelical infrastructure.
As it is now shaping up, Eric Metaxas and Charlie Kirk will use their platforms as the most prominent evangelical defenders of the lost cause. Former Minnesota congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann will educate young men and women in the evangelical lost cause from her new position as dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. The Falkirk Center at Liberty University will be an institutional home for this movement as it continues to provide a platform for pro-Trump evangelicals Metaxas, Kirk, Jenna Ellis, Sebastian Gorka, and others. On the Independent Network Charismatic front, “prophets” such as Lance Wallnau will continue to use their large social media presence to rally the faithful in a Trump-inspired Christian populism.
And dozens and dozens of evangelical churches will continue to host lost cause events like the one we saw earlier this week at Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills with Jack Hibbs and Kirk. Watch:
Let’s remember that this event took place in an evangelical megachurch. Listen to the cheering evangelicals in the audience as Kirk spins the election results and thanks the congregation for “doing the right thing” at the ballot box. If you want to get a picture of what Trump’s presidency has unveiled, it is all on display here. Hibbs has an open Bible on his lap as he and Kirk talk about Christians winning back the culture for Christ. Trump is gone, but the conversation is still all about the pursuit of political power.
Both Kirk and Hibbs continue to suggest, through Kirk’s “funny” joke about hand-gestures, that Democrats stole the election from Trump. Like other lost cause movements, these evangelicals believe that Trump’s agenda for America was righteous and just.
Kirk claims that every one of “the left’s” policies “run contrary to God’s laws and God’s nature.” Hibbs agrees. The crowd cheers. Those in attendance are obviously happy that their pastor has allowed a political rally to break-out in the Calvary Chapel sanctuary. Both Kirk and Hibbs sit back and grin with satisfaction.
Hibbs, trying and failing to show he is some kind of historian or political philosopher, claims that “the Bible is the birthplace of the Constitution, one feeds the other and one defends the other.” I wrote about these kinds of Christian nationalist claims extensively in chapters 9 and 10 of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.
At around the 18:00 mark, Hibbs implies that those churches that have not stayed open during COVID-19 or failed to “stand” with Trump during the election will “not get a chance to stand again” in 2021. Notice how Hibbs connects the ability of the church to “stand” with those in political power. He then moves into evangelical fearmongering mode by suggesting that the “powers-that-be” want to shut down churches and are “sharpening their swords as we speak. He adds:
If you [are a church] that didn’t make the cross over into the new year standing, I don’t know if you are going to get a chance to stand again…I want to put a cry out to churches: you really need to open-up now because there is a high probability that you may never be granted the freedom to do that from the government again, and if you are waiting for permission from the government to open-up again I don’t think it is going to come from this administration.
Kirk then attacks my new friend, Christian rapper Lecrae. He says that Lecrae “should never be allowed to perform at another church after he supported Rafael Warnock” in the January 5, 2021 Georgia Senate runoff. He adds: “Lecrae wanted to be loved and accepted by the Democrat power establishment instead of standing-up for truth.” Again, Hibbs’s white middle class audience cheers.
Kirk then calls for a “battleship Christianity” that will fight to save American culture. A twenty-something loudmouth with no pastoral experience or formal education has the audacity to lecture pastors about how to run their churches, read their Bibles, and engage in public life. Kirk says that if a church does not preach politics, its congregants cannot trust it’s pastor’s teachings on other matters. This reminds me of the early 1740s when Presbyterian evangelical Gilbert Tennent barnstormed around the colonies preaching a sermon titled “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” Tennent told Christians to leave their churches if their pastors had not experienced the new birth. A few years later, he wrote a series of pamphlets apologizing for his role in dividing the Christian churches in the colonies. One of them was titled The Danger of Spiritual Pride Represented.
At this point, the event is the equivalent of a full-blown Trump rally as Kirk makes a direct connection between Hibbs’s willingness to preach pro-Trump politics and the numerical growth of Calvary Chapel-Chino Hill. For the record, I have no doubt that Calvary Chapel-Chino Hill is growing because Hibbs uses his platform to preach politics. I also can’t think of a better window into the current state of American evangelicalism.
And it was only a matter of time before Godwin’s Law kicked-in. Like the New England Federalists of the early 19th-century who believed Thomas Jefferson was coming to close their churches and confiscate their Bibles, Kirk says that Biden’s government will soon be coming to do the same thing. Hibbs responds to Kirk’s claim: “He’s just speaking history. It’s exactly what Hitler…did.” The level of fear-mongering and conspiratorial rhetoric reaches its height as Hibbs starts comparing the Biden administration to the Nazis and Soviets.
At the end of the talk, Hibbs says that he expects the Holy Spirit to bring a revival to America like it has never seen before. After listening to his conversation with Kirk, it is unclear whether this will be a revival that will transform people spiritually or a “revival” that will drive the Democratic Party from power and restore America to its supposed Christian roots. As I asked this summer, “if a spiritual revival leads to more Christian Trumpism, it is really a spiritual revival? Or is it something else?”
Finally, Kirk announces a new program he is starting at Turning Point USA to help rally churches to become more like Jack Hibbs and Calvary Chapel-Chino.
Hibbs ends the night in prayer, sending a message to his congregation that God was pleased with everything that was said at this event.