The Strange Case of Dr. Brown and Mr. Trump, Part 2
After President Trump lost the election, WorldNetDaily columnist Michael Brown still couldn't quite admit that evangelicals' embrace of him was a bad thing -- until the Capitol riot.
By Terry Krepel
In his Nov. 4 column immediately after the election, Brown cited several "takeaways"' from the election, among them being "If Trump does get reelected, it will be with God's help," "Trump succeeded in increasing his black and Latino support," and "People of faith should keep praying and putting their trust in God for His desired outcome, whatever that may be." But he did hedge a bit, admitting that the country's "massive crisis of trust" was driven in part by "Trump's masterful way of creating distrust," and adding in another takeaway that "Charismatic prophets are about to be vindicated or humiliated."
On Nov. 6, Brown wrote:
I personally hope that the seemingly impossible happens, that Trump is proven to be the rightfully reelected president and that the prophecies about him prove true.
Brown, once again, ignored the possibility that if Trump's election was ordained by God, he was sent as a warning and not as a deliverance, and that Biden is the actual divine deliverance.
Brown tried to play both sides in his Nov. 9 column, admitting that he appreciated Joe Biden's claims for unity, but he seemed to put the onus on Biden much more than Trump or his supporters (like himself) to make that happen:
But as long as there are strong beliefs that the election has been stolen, there will be no healing in sight.
Brown sounded very much like a Trump supporter in his Nov. 11 column:
Right now, legal officials and the courts are weighing the question of a fraudulent election. But regardless of the final verdict, we can say for sure that the odds were already stacked against President Trump.
But he did seem to concede just a little that Trump may not be divinely ordained: "Again, this does not mean that God is with Trump and against his political opponents. This does not mean that, unless Trump is reelected, God's purposes have failed. And this doesn't mean that Trump did not create his own problems. But it does mean that all these obstacles, multiplied endlessly, are no match for God. Not even close. If He wants Trump in office, it will happen."
Brown both-sided it again in his Nov. 20 column -- even though the rancor is coming almost entirely from his side -- but he did seem to understand the stakes:
Allow me to state the obvious. Barring divine intervention, which would include the miraculous changing of the hearts of millions of people, there is no good outcome to the current electoral crisis. Absolutely none.
But rather than state the obvious -- that it's Trump's responsibility to turn down the heat -- Brown wimped out, first quoting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach bragging that "American irrationality is part of our greatness" (while smearing Biden as someone who "might have mentally left the reservation," a characterization Brown apparently has no problem with), and then declaring that God will save us all, in whatever form: "The God we worship and serve can bring light out of darkness and order out of chaos. The God we adore uses the foolish to confound the wise and the weak to confound the strong. The God we honor brings resurrection out of crucifixion. And when all seems lost, He is often at work the most. As the old saying goes, man's extremity is God's opportunity."
Brown was still in defense mode in his Dec. 9 column, denying that Trump's appeal to white evangelicals was racial, though he conceded that "evangelicals have looked to Trump as a savior figure of sorts, a strong man who, at last, will push back against the left" and that "Trump's America-first nationalism appealed to many a white supremacist, including those on the alt-right." He then vouched for Trump's non-racism:
If he were truly a racist (or, at the least, someone who catered to white supremacy), why did he work so hard (and succeed) in expanding his minority base? Why did he reach out to black and Hispanic pastors and activists, bringing them into his inner circle? Why did he take pride in having a growing multi-racial base? Why did he respond to racial unrest in 2020 by gathering key black leaders for input and counsel?
But on Dec. 14, he sided with religious scholar Beth Moore in warning against Christian nationalism: "Many Christian conservatives today are equating the fate of America with the fate of God's kingdom, making one party (obviously, the Republican Party) into God's party and the other party (obviously, the Democratic Party) into Satan's party." He added:"We should fight for what is right and against what is wrong. But the cause of Trump is not the cause of Christ, nor is the battle for the Senate a battle for the kingdom of God." On Dec. 16, Brown warned against inappropriate merging of religion and politics, "taking over our neighborhoods through intimidation and fear, forcing non-believers to live by our moral codes."
In his Dec. 25 column, Brown shot down pardoned criminal Michael Flynn's attempt to boost Christian nationalism:
We can also recognize the important role that the Bible played in the founding of our country.
On Dec. 28, Brown more explicitly rejected Christian nationalism expressed as unwavering support for Trump, pointing out that America "was not established as any kind of theocracy, although we had strong biblical roots":
It is that same zeal for God and love of country that moved some of us to speak up in the aftermath of the elections, as we saw a dangerous spike in Trumpism (meaning, an unhealthy looking to Trump as some kind of political messiah).
And in his Dec. 30 column, after flirting with both-sides-ism on partisan media sources -- "not everything the left-leaning media say is false, and not everything the right-leaning media say is true" -- Brown eventually comes down hard on his fellow right-wingers who reflexively reject anything not reported by right-wing media ... and more specifically himself, citing the hostile reaction he got from far-right activists after writing a column denouncing the QAnon conspiracy. (Interestingly, not only did WND not publish the column, it was reportedly deleted from the right-wing evangelical website Charisma after initial publication.) Brown then took apart the evangelical obsession with Trump -- one, by the way, he helped create:
As for the president, I have heard Christian leaders say that he is the only one they trust right now. I have seen posts saying that "all pastors" have been bought out by "the elites." And on and it goes.
Brown concluded by declaring, "May 2021 be the year when the sword of truth emerges to cut through the lies. And may we have the courage to follow the truth, come what may. It will deliver us from a pandemic even more deadly than COVID the pandemic of deception." Given what happened in the days that followed, it might take more than that to get his fellow right-wing evangelicals to reject deception.
After the riot
On Jan. 6, the Trump-inspired Capitol riot happened. That day, WND published a column by Brown that did not reference the riot but addressed the so-called prophecies by right-wing evangelical ministers claiming that Trump would be re-elected:
When it comes to the presidential elections, God never gave me any assurance that Trump would be reelected (although, as any of my readers would know, he was my preferred choice over Biden). Nor did the Lord ever give me any assurance that the prophets, who to a person proclaimed a Trump victory, were right.
On Jan. 11, Brown tried to justify his and evangelical Christians' support for Trump even as "things are ending very badly for Donald Trump's presidency and some of his close associates are abandoning him," while concluding some people did "compromise" their values:
So, on the one hand, Trump won some short-term victories and also appointed many lifetime judges. He did much good on the national and international scene. On the other hand, we are now left with a real, national mess, with the balance of power shifting dramatically left and with the country as a whole vulgarized in many ways by the Trump presidency.
Brown used his Jan. 13 column to try to carve a center path between "Never Trump" and "Forever Trump":
To the Never Trumpers, I say this: If you genuinely love America and you are people of real character, now is not the time to gloat or say, "I told you so." You should be grieving that the nation is in so much pain, and you should be doing your best to heal the wounds rather than pour salt into them. And if you feel your fellow conservatives erred in supporting Trump, then seek out healthy discussion and dialogue. Condescension is not called for.
Brown showed he was moving on in his Jan. 15 column, cheering Biden's election because right-wing evangelicals need an enemy, and "an adversarial presence in the White House could be the best thing that happened to the Church of America in years."
Finally, Brown declared in his Jan. 20 column under the headline "Joe Biden is president by the sovereign will of God":
As for the issue of voter fraud, there are clearheaded, well-informed conservatives who are sure there is nothing to the charge of massive voter fraud, and there are clearheaded, well-informed conservatives who hold to the opposite view.
After admitting that Trump channeled "dangerous emotions," Brown lectured on how to pray for (or is it against?) Biden:
I would encourage you, then to: 1) make a list of everything you fear could go wrong under the Biden-Harris leadership and pray for the opposite; 2) pray daily that the Lord would restrain those whose vision would destroy our nation; 3) pray that Biden and Harris would have life-changing encounters with the Lord; 4) if the Biden presidency is meant as divine chastisement, pray that we would understand where we need to repent so that mercy may be poured out; and 5) pray that, no matter what happens, Jesus would be glorified and His kingdom advanced on the earth.
So Brown gets to have it both ways: a flawed ally if Trump won, and an convenient bogeyman under Biden. And either way, he still gets to be an activist.