Time for Right Wing Religious Leaders to Wear Sackcloth and Ashes

With the coronavirus literally bringing America to its knees, we have seen the altruistic like manner that health care workers, corporate companies, security personnel, and the American people work diligently to risk their lives in the fight against this deadly pandemic. One group though that seems to be missing in action in fulfilling the role of their biblical counterpart in these troubled times is the religious leaders − especially the televangelicals.

In Bible times, it was customary for the high priests and priests to wear sackcloth and ashes to show their penance for transgression against God or as a sign of mourning for the dead. Prophets like Joel also donned sackcloth and ashes like he did when drought devastated the land of Judah. In a call of repentance, he implored the priests as shown in this Bible verse to gird themselves in sackcloth.

   Televangelists with their large mass audience and as messengers of God should be imploring the nation to repent.

Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meal offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.

Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry to the Lord.

Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as destruction from the Almighty shall it come. (Joel 1:13–15 KJV)

The wearing of sackcloth and ashes in bible times was more a cultural and religious practice by the Jews or people who believed in the God of Abraham and Moses. That tradition does not exist today in that part of the world – the Middle East. The only thing close to this religious ritual that is still practiced is self-flagellation (people whipping themselves).

America today is in the deadly grip of the coronavirus and this deadly virus needs some kind of religious or spiritual intercession. If there was a time when religious leaders in America should be wearing sackcloth and ashes it is now. Televangelists with their large mass audience and as messengers of God should be imploring the nation to repent. Even if they did this, don’t expect them to wear sackcloth as they are too steeped in the modern life of luxury to even let them have the humility to do this.

Just like how the plagues brought chaos and disruption in Egypt, the coronavirus has literally shutdown the most powerful country in the world, the USA. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected several countries, but the USA has surpassed all countries in the number of cases and the number of deaths from this deadly virus.

Reasons why COVID-19 has afflicted the US more than other countries could range from the secular to the theological. The secular reasons certainly cannot exclude the government late and inadequate preparedness. From a fundamentalist religious perspective, the reason might include punishment from God. Whether we believe this or not there are plenty of transgressions in America’s history that has not been reconciled and atoned for.

America is a land that has been tainted with unspeakable evil from the beginning of the Republic. The usurpation of the land from the indigenous people who inhabited it, the enslavement of African people, and the barbaric treatment of black people post slavery (lynching and racial oppression). The ancient Egyptians were punished by plagues for similar evil. The coronavirus is similar to the plagues that devastated Egypt in bible days.

A virus like COVID-19 in Bible times would be certainly called a plague, but whether or not that is true what is more revealing is the time-frame that Egypt and America experienced their plagues and pandemic virus. In Egypt it was during the times of the Pharaoh dynasty and in the US, it is on president Donald Trump’s watch.

   There are plenty of Americans that believe that Trump is a good president who is really making America great again.

America’s history has similarities to Egypt for example slavery of African people, military excursions into other countries, and the oppression of non-white people − specifically black people. And like Egypt back in the time of the Pharaoh dynasty, America too is a powerful country that has dominated other sovereign countries throughout the world.

While America has struggled with racial conflict, and showing some improvement in its racial conflict and has shown more respect to the rights of other countries, that all changed under Trump’s administration. He has implemented polices that are equivalent to some of the evil things that the Pharaohs did to the people they oppressed. You can feel the negative energy that has created more of the following: conflict, controversy, scandals, hatred, hypocrisy, and corruption.

There are plenty of Americans that believe that Trump is a good president who is really making America great again. To them putting him in the category of Pharaoh would be unreasonable. Prying children out of the arms of their mothers and putting them in cages is something that is unforgivable. Those children will be psychologically damaged for the rest of their lives. His seemingly innocuous adoration of evil dictators like Putin and Kim Jung Un who are known for their atrocities against their citizens and human rights abuse is also troubling. And there is plenty more.

       Trump’s obsessive hatred of his predecessor has been in evidence from the first month when he became president.

Trump’s penchant for insulting people who criticize him or he doesn’t like is also unforgivable. Worst of all when he is found to be wrong in his offenses against people he doesn’t apologize. A good example of this is how he tried to bring-down Pres. Obama with birtherism. When he was found to be wrong about where Obama was born, he never apologized to him. And remember the Central Park Five (the teenagers who were found guilty of savagely raping a young woman in the park)? Trump took out a full page add in NY Times before they were even convicted saying that they should get the death penalty. All five accused were convicted and spent actual time in prison ranging from 5 years to 12 years before they were found to be innocent and released. Despite the new findings that led to their release, Trump never apologized to them.

So, here we are in the early months of 2020 and COVID-19 which Trump called a hoax in January has killed more people than any other country. We are learning more and more about when Trump was made aware of the coronavirus. Trumps adviser, Peter Navarro advised him in a memo that he need to prepare for this virus – of course he did nothing until the first case was recorded in Washington state.

Trump has said he is not responsible for the outbreak of the coronavirus in America and even more appalling is that at his Task Force briefings, he repeatedly blames Pres. Obama for the virus hitting the US mercilessly saying he inherited a broken system. Only Trump could do this though, because President Obama put in place systems to prepare for a pandemic like COVID-19. Trump influenced by his obsessive hatred for President Obama, ignored these systems and dismantled them.  

Trump’s obsessive hatred of his predecessor has been in evidence from the first month when he became president. Using his executive power, he dismantled every major Obama policies: the Iran nuclear deal, NAFTA, The Paris Climate Accord, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), the Dream Act, transgender military service, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

In our universe there are two forces that are manifested as good and evil. The ancient Chinese philosophy rooted in Taoism recognizes these forces as yin and yang. These two forces co-exist and so the relationship with his predecessor seems to have some metaphysical grounding. Donald Trump’s personality manifest the yin principle and Barack Obama the yang. The moral and spiritual qualities that are evidenced in Obama’s life are the opposite in Trump’s life.

Even if we draw comparisons between Obama and Trump using theological principles, based on objective observations (not biased judgment), the conclusion is that Obama’s life is more closely aligned to these principles than Trump. Yet, we have seen televangelical leaders judge Obama as being evil and bad for America while they glorify Trump and make dumbfounded comments that he was destined by God to be president.

Considering that Obama has lived a life that is exemplary by any social, religious, or political standards you have to wonder why he was hated and Trump who seems to be more outside the boundaries of these standards. One possible answer is given below,

But for Trump, all of that — as well as disparaging remarks about minorities, the disabled, opponents, the list goes on — proved no deal breaker with white evangelicals, perhaps because of the candidate’s views on the threats from Islam and abortion, and the choice of Mike Pence as his running mate.

The televangelicals including Pat Robertson have made reference to God punishing America because of Pres. Obama’s policies. Televangelist Frank Amedia (Donald Trump liaison for Christian policy) in a speech during the 2016 presidential campaign said, “The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a direct result of God punishing President Obama. Janet Porter, who once co-chaired Gov. Mike Huckabee Faith and Value Coalition said that Obama represented an inhumane, sick, and sinister evil. She also claimed that President Obama was a soviet secret agent, groomed since birth to destroy the United States within. Televangelist Pat Robertson, host of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club,” accused President Obama of being a “socialist” who wants to “destroy” America. 

Amedia, Robertson, and Porter’s comments about President Obama are not only irreligious and unspiritual they are based on ignorance, hypocrisy, and racism −hypocrisy and racism because for all the irreverent and scandalous things Trump has done they have not condemned him or made any comments that suggest that God is punishing America because of Trump’s behavior. To the contrary they have in general lauded Trump as a president that was ordained by God, will redeem America, and is really making America great again.

The hypocrisy and racism that televangelicals demonstrate in disparaging Pres. Obama and in glorifying Trump exposes them as religious hypocrites and deceivers. Instead of being objective and honest they promote hatred, divisiveness, and ignorance. It is time for them to put on sackcloth and ashes and atone for their sins, ask God to heal this land, and protect us from pandemics like the coronavirus.

2 thoughts on “Time for Right Wing Religious Leaders to Wear Sackcloth and Ashes

  1. David Simmons

    Mr. Shim,

    Your comments are a true assessment of the negative impact that Donald Trump’s presidency has done to our politics, and our culture.

    America is in need of a Moral and Spiritual Reawakening.

    1. Jermel Shim

      David, thanks for your kind comment. Hope you and your family stay safe during these troubled times.