Blarney Stoned

Ireland's Blarney Castle
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The trademark tactic of deception still at work today

I’m not Irish. I’ve not traveled to Ireland. I’m not given to the back-bending obeisance needed to receive the “blessing of the Blarney Stone” and so I might never have known the story. Long story short, the Blarney Stone is set into the façade of a castle in Ireland built in the 1400s. Kissing it was thought to be a lighthearted ritual that brings the kisser great favor among strangers.

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To kiss the stone, you lie on your back across the roof of the castle. You reach across a narrow chasm stretching 90 feet to the green grass below. Why? Why would anyone care to do this? The result is a gift of gab, charm, wit and humor. It is the artful “ability to deceive without offending” that makes it worth it to the kisser.

People who are endearing, witty and charming aren’t evil or suspect. I’m saying that it is curious that this mystical legend grew up around the ability to “deceive without offending.” That happens to be a trademark tactic used by the enemy of God’s people, “who deceives the whole world,” according to Revelation 12:9 NKJV. The strategy serves well because rather than setting off alarm bells, it does the quiet work behind the scenes, melting the heart and confusing the issues.

Offensive, maybe, not quite blarney

Donald TrumpThe populist rise of billionaire real-estate developer Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party has raised all kinds of alarm bells. His proposals to build a wall in order to prevent undocumented entry into the U.S. and to ban the entrance of Muslims into the U.S. have offended many. That he “bad-listed” journalists who asked him unpleasant questions offended champions of the Constitution’s First Amendment. One journalist, the object of his sexist slur, and other women revolted by his sexual braggadocio charge the offense of misogyny.

African Americans recall that a 70s lawsuit sought to prevent racial discrimination after his company refused would-be Black renters a lease. More recently, Trump’s failure to distance himself from the support of racial hate groups such as the KKK also alarms many. These revelations tend to be offensive on their face; yet they’ve somehow managed to charm many.

Surprising, maybe, but there’s no blarney in that. It’s to be expected that any good politician, from either party, can spin and woo voters to their side somehow. Trump is not the issue. It was last month’s closed-to-the-press meeting between conservative evangelical Christians and Trump that really smacks of blarney.

How Evangelicals came to Trump

United in Purpose and My Faith Works, two self-described, non-partisan Christian civic groups sponsored the event. There, Jerry Falwell, Jr., son of the late televangelist and founder of Liberty University; Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson; former GOP candidate and neurosurgeon Ben Carson; and televangelist Paula White were among 1,000 evangelical faith leaders who gathered around Trump in person.

Evangelical voters—who Trump believes constitute the largest constituency in the country—have long rallied around their sacred three (no, not Him): the sanctity of marriage, sanctity of life and religious freedom. And in an effort to reach those wary of him, Trump gave a shallow nod to the latter: “We’ll soon be saying Merry Christmas again.” He said he would nominate only pro-life judges.

And, while his family and marriages may not have always worked out, former GOP rival, Mike Huckabee gave him a pass. He said he admired how Trump dealt with his family, “People can fake it on stage, they can walk out and do the happy family moment, but you can’t fake that backstage.”

raised handsIn endorsing him earlier this year, conservative mega-church pastor Eric Metaxas, touted Trump—as “our only hope” for the future of “virtue and faith.” My Faith Votes posted “pre-conversation” and “post-conversation prayers” and asked leaders to be open. Each of the leaders had been vetted and selected with Trump’s approval, and each question had been screened by Trump’s camp.

What happens now?

Truly, this was a back-bending feat for both sides. While endorsements were not the goal, it looked like a meeting of the minds. The result was the appearance of piety, transparency, cooperation and a meaningfully deep exchange between both sides.

Critics of the leaders and the event predict that in the future, Christian right endorsements will have lost their own moral weight. Observers figure that Christianity—its beliefs and behavior—must not count in the evangelical support and vote anymore. Delivering their share of the evangelical voter influence to a particular candidate now means less about spiritual qualifications. It’s the cold, hard assessment of whether evangelicals can win favor and favors with their candidates.

Still, we should not miss the prophetic harbinger here.

The softball blitheness toward Trump gave him cover. The closed-door meeting and willingness to pronounce him “good” gives him spiritual credentials he may not have garnered otherwise. With no evidence that he had changed and walked back his offensive comments or innuendos, they blessed him. This blessing was for a man who had said he never needed to ask God for forgiveness or re-evaluated his position. They accepted his tirades and offenses as that of a “baby Christian” on a “journey.” Therein lie the guile and the blarney of the faith leaders.

“Christian leaders have always placed principle above power; Trump always prizes power above principle. That’s an unpleasant match,” Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro wrote.

The Blarney next time

But, you say, isn’t that what Christians do, forgive? Overlook a multitude of sins? Well, yes; to exercise God’s grace. This, however, is a theological-political arrangement around a political gain. As these evangelical leaders see it, Trump (not God) is the last chance at the right thing for America. Together with him, they can protect God’s will and God’s way for America.

shutterstock_261955472The book of Revelation (particularly chapters 13, and 14) speaks to the rise and fall of the future’s most powerful political and spiritual force. This political-spiritual power unites to enforce “worship” through bloodshed. It is an alliance that combines in power under the guise of righteousness and its enforcement.

“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” Revelation 13:15. But, God’s witness shouts: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and hear, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” Revelation 14:7

Maybe when we see that alliance forming in the future—when it counts most—we will see the blarney coming and refuse to be beguiled by its subtlety.

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