My evangelical court throws in the towel

(RNS) — Longtime readers of this column may remember my imaginary friend Court Evangelical, the pastor with whom I reported several conversations during the Trump administration. On Memorial Day, my phone rang. It was him.

MS: It’s been years, Rev! How have you been?

CE: Not so well, actually. It was a bad time for me.

MS: I’m sorry to hear that. What can I do for you?

CE: I’m just calling to let you know that I quit. Thought you might be interested.

MS: Leave what?

EC: My work. My pastorate. I throw in the towel.

MS: Really? How come?

CE: It started with COVID. At first, of course, we went virtual. It didn’t matter, because in a large sanctuary like ours, most of the participants are accustomed to seeing the proceedings on a screen. But then lawsuits began across the country, insisting on in-person worship in the name of religious freedom. So we had to come back.

MS: Were you upset?

EC: Yeah. We got to where our team was talking about “super-spreader Sundays”. Not publicly of course. For the people on the benches, it has become a source of pride to risk their life and health to present themselves. Some of them who wore a mask everywhere else wouldn’t wear one in church because they didn’t want to look “on the other side.” Then came the elections.

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MS: I guess the congregation was everything for Trump.

CE: Of course they were. Of course, I was too. I was, as you know, Reverend Go-To-The-White-House. So there was a lot of disappointment with the result. I held a special meeting for people to express their feelings. Someone stood up and asked me to lead a prayer for “the restoration of the president”. Things got out of control after that.

MS: How?

CE: Let’s say it’s become a major activity of the church to “stop the stealing”.

MS: But it’s not like anything was stolen in your state.

This true. But there was a committee to get people to write emails and travel to places like Arizona and Georgia to “help”. I haven’t seen such volunteerism since we sent buses to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

MS: What about January 6?

CE: Yes, we went by bus to Washington. And some of them entered the Capitol. And some of them have been charged with crimes. And there’s a group in the church raising money to pay their legal fees.

MS: I understand. But “stop theft” has been going on for a while. What was, uh, the straw that broke the camel’s back?

CE: There were a few. After Russia invaded Ukraine, some friends of mine who are Tucker Carlson fans came to me and asked me why America supported “that Jew” Zelensky rather than Putin, who defends the values Christians. When I asked them if they didn’t think independent countries had a right not to be invaded, they said, well, they thought if the Democrats were going to be all for Ukraine, they should do part of the Russian team.

MS: Okay. What else.

CE: Well, Uvalde. Look, I’m a big fan of the Second Amendment. I’ve been hunting since I was a kid. Yeah yeah.

MS: Do you own an AR?

EC: No, I don’t know. But that’s not the point. The thing is, gun rights have become more important in my church than the cross. “How come you never preach on Matthew 10:34?” they ask me. You know, where Jesus said, “Do not believe that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. No “blessed are the peacemakers” for them. No “turning the other cheek”.

MS: Gun control, not so much.

CE: Are you kidding? What really gets to me, though, is all this pious talk about the problem being that there’s not enough mental health care – and not just from politicians voting against funding it. . There are everyday people who wouldn’t see a mental health professional if you paid them. I should know. I can’t count the times I’ve failed to get a parishioner through treatment.

MS: So you’re saying the kid, the shooter, was sick, not mean?

CE: Look, I’m a Calvinist. What does the “T” in the acronym TULIP stand for? Total depravity. Evil is everywhere. It’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean you let it happen, politically speaking.

MS: Last time I checked, evil control policies were quite extensive in Calvin’s Geneva, let alone John Winthrop’s Boston. And dare I mention all these new anti-abortion laws?

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CE: You want to know what’s wrong? How the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention reacted when these women came and told them personal stories of the rape of their pastors. They literally turned their backs on them. And you know what, they were supposedly good Christians. Want to know what broke that camel’s back? Uvalde and the SBN report. I sent in my resignation letter yesterday.

MS: Mazel tov, as they say. Do you know what you will do next?

EC: No. I’m going to pray over it.

MS: Well, take your time. I would say you have a lot to recover.

Barry F. Howard