A Straight Line from the Pulpit to the Resolute Desk.

As chatter about the mid-term elections begins in earnest, many on the left are wondering how the battle for Congress perennially remains close, despite the wide popularity of the current administration’s policies, and a violent insurrection led by the other side. How is it possible that America is still choosing between a party that openly praises those who tried to murder members of Congress and the party that does not do that? The answer isn’t a hidden, wandering path; it is a fairly straight line from the pulpit to the Resolute Desk.

All across America, small congregations of Evangelical Christians have been moving the political needle of this country for generations, nudging us all toward the inevitable division and violence we’ve seen displayed this year. These tiny sanctuaries turned zealotry into action. Defying their own desperate cries for separation of church and state, they stood and told congregations exactly how to vote, and they reached their hands into networks and pockets to bring voters out in droves. All with the ever-present penalty of Hell hanging like a specter from vaulted ceilings.

This coercion formed a potent mix when combined with teaching blind submission and paved the way for generations of political leaders to prey on mass numbers of voters whose grand hope is for their beliefs to be reflected in every aspect of public life. When political engineers recognized the awesome power of the pulpit, they married the Republican party to the Evangelical movement and endangered us all by making our Republic subject to inconsistent interpretations of a book of mythology.

Sermons not only emboldened people to march against their own capitol but instructed them to, every Sunday as they ranted “Something must be done!” Alternate music, news, and movies further isolated believers so they would never be exposed to the way “outsiders” think, forming the perfect environment for a noxious rot to fester: that there is an us and a them.  Naturally, these people would not only follow corrupt leaders blindly, they would seek them out. It is all they have ever known.

Like the Israelites who cried out for a king, the Evangelicals cried out for leadership. Over the course of decades, their childlike desire for a father figure was heard and met, but not with someone qualified who reflected the best of the nation. Rather with representatives who would give in to the church’s tantrums. Believers then sought gradually more brutish characters with blatantly unscrupulous connections, who reflected the worst of us. The party then began to shun intellect in a perverse reflection of a teaching the churches had long since codified: It is not the job of the follower to think but to obey.

Now we find ourselves in this place, where large swaths of our citizenry cannot fathom the way the other side thinks, where “enemy” is a line drawn over the tiniest affronts, meanwhile gut-wrenching crimes involving children and life-saving medical care slips away, never to be thought of again.

How can buildings no bigger than roadside stands have altered the course of our nation? By preparing the masses. By teaching blind faith in authority; assigning eternal damnation to those who disagree with them, covering up ages of sexual abuse, and enabling domestic abusers under the guise of authority. These churches serve their congregations up like sacrifices to the already-gluttonous altar of the GOP.

However, there is a way forward which keeps the nation whole and restores Christianity to its rightful place: the hearts of its believers. It is not impossible, though it is almost incomprehensible in modern America.

We must divorce Evangelicalism from the Republican party and force a separation of these monumental powers. We must exorcise money from these coffers and flatly refuse the influence of the pulpit. Above all else, we must not allow any mythology to control the narrative of our nation, no matter how entrenched those beliefs may be in our collective identity.

Perhaps if we find it in ourselves to face the dangerous reality that Christianity, as it stands, is a weapon of systematic brainwashing, then we can begin to deprogram the masses. It would then be possible for us to become the place of rest for the weary, the place of comfort for the lost and ailing, and for us to uphold truth and honor, but those things will never be possible as long as the pull of the religious right continues to drag us farther away from our ideals into the dark woods of these hazardously unassuming sanctuaries.

Published by JulianneKing

Julianne King (she/her) is the author of Sex Work & Other Sins and Bible Belt Revolution. Her poetry has been featured in the South Florida Poetry Journal, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, and on Rattlecast Open Mic. King's work focuses on mental health, surviving Christianity, reclaiming the body, and post-traumatic growth. She lives just outside of St. Louis, Missouri with her six children and chosen family.

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