by Frank Schaeffer
“The Trump people have to know they lost,” Yale historian Timothy Snyder, an expert on totalitarianism, argues, and “there has to be a consequence to losing a coup.” Otherwise, they will stage another coup attempt, and demand that their side rig the next election.
There won’t be unity without truth. There won’t be healing without accountability. Trump incited a failed coup d’etat. Until Trump, evangelical leaders, Senators, Congress people, right wing media and everyone else who went along with his “stolen election” lie either apologizes or go to prison- exhortations to be nice won’t cut it. Or as the Washington Post puts it: “The country will continue its descent into violence, and the Republican Party will continue its devolution into fascism, unless elected GOP officials can bring themselves to speak these five words, or their equivalent: Biden won, fair and square.”
Republicans who truly desire the “healing” that Biden offers would follow the lead of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who at long last has abandoned his enabling of Trump. Until they do America can’t just “move on.” Without accountability and truth we have no future.
The 147 Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the election offer rationalizations but lead voters further down the path of misinformed insurrection. Can they acknowledge as McConnell did, that Biden won? Until they do talk of reconciliation is dangerous garbage that opens the door to an evangelical’s version of the post-Civil War Southern “Lost Cause.”
The civil components of the Lost Cause were combined with Christian mythology. The South played the part of Christ in the Christian drama — crucified. Now Trump’s evangelicals have another lost cause-Trump’s reelection-and style themselves as the new crucified victims of Democrats and liberals who “stole” their rightful victory.
A scholar of Southern religion, Paul Harvey, put it this way: “Key to this mythology was the exalting of southern war heroes as Christian evangelical gentlemen. Evangelists of the New South era immortalized the Christian heroism of the Confederate leaders.” Sound familiar? It is what evangelical leader Franklin Graham was doing when he targeted the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach as traitors.
Like the Lost Cause, Franklin Graham’s MAGAism is buttressed by religious narratives and its ‘gospel’ is spread through houses of worship every Sunday. For evangelicals like Franklin Graham, Trump was a divinely ordained savior uniquely able to save the nation from ruin at the hands of the godless. He became part of a biblical narrative, not in the past-but now.
The lasting legacy of the Jan. 6 insurrection is the myth and symbol of Trump’s lost cause as a theological fact. He has successfully nurtured a belief in the 74 million evangelicals and Roman Catholics who voted for him that they can trust neither their government nor the electoral process. That’s because having turned Trump and his reelection bid into a faith issue it is no longer subject to reason anymore than say, the resurrection of Jesus is subject to science.
Republicans will now perpetually question the legitimacy of the US government through their army of evangelical pastors who reject reality in favor of the MAGA ‘lost cause’ myth as their vehicle for revenge-seeking Christian nationalism. This is our future- not “reconciliation.” And it hinges on a theology of victim-hood, eternal battles with evil serving some divine purpose. Arguing with this is hapless. And calls for reconciliation are also hopeless. When issues become theology not only reason goes out the window but so does any ability to compromise.
After defeating fascism in Europe the USA did not “reach out” to fascists and work to “bring them into the fold.” They put leaders on trial and worked to reeducate the masses. You don’t “reconcile” with evil or call for “unity.” You change it or destroy it with the light of truth.