Enough U.S. Senators and Representatives do not believe there was enough fraud to change the election results that Biden now has the votes to certify his electoral college win. Liberal media outlets will interpret today’s events through a liberal lens. Conservative outlets will interpret them through a conservative lens. Far more interesting, I think, is to view this through the lens of historic Christian theology.
Donald Trump’s 2020 loss of the presidency shows that the prosperity gospel does not and cannot keep its promises.
Now Trump has done many objectively good things for our country. But my level of enthusiasm for him on a personal level has been directly influenced by my level of enthusiasm for the gospel to which he was converted: the prosperity gospel.
It was the gospel he heard preached as a child, for his family attended New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church. The pastor of that church was Norman Vincent Peale. Peale is credited as the father of the prosperity gospel; his 1952 book “The Power of Positive Thinking” is the prosperity gospel in its incipient form. It gives its readers ten rules for “overcoming inadequacy attitudes and learning to practice faith.” These are:
- Picture yourself succeeding.
- Think a positive thought to drown out a negative thought.
- Minimize obstacles.
- Do not attempt to copy others.
- Repeat “If God be for us, who can be against us?” ten times every day.
- Work with a counselor.
- Repeat “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” ten times every day.
- Develop a strong self-respect.
- Affirm that you are in God’s hands.
- Believe that you receive power from God
This is the gospel Trump heard proclaimed in childhood and beyond. Though he did not stay a regular churchgoer in young adulthood, he continued to consider Peale his pastor, and Peale performed his first wedding.
The televangelist Paula White is perhaps Trump’s most significant recent influence. She also teaches the prosperity gospel. Word circulated in the 2016 election that she had recently led Trump through a sinner’s prayer. Whatever the truth of that report, she was at any rate invited to offer an invocation at his 2017 inauguration.
Trump has not evinced much interest in the marks of historic Christianity. Martin Luther began his 95 Theses and began the Reformation with these words: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Trump said in 2015 that he had never asked for forgiveness. Cal Thomas asked him about it the next year, and he softened it: “I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”
Sanctification – the process of becoming more holy, more like Jesus – always follows a true conversion to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should see less of what I John 2:16 describes as being “of the world”; “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” And we should see the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-26: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Are these characteristic of Trump’s conduct?
Whatever his deficiencies in this area, he is an excellent practitioner of the power of positive thinking. Picture yourself succeeding. Think a positive thought to drown out a negative thought. Minimize obstacles. This is exactly what he has done through his life and his presidency.
He took a name-it-and-claim-it approach to both presidential elections. Before both elections, he said there was no way he would not succeed. This is, viewed from the lens of the prosperity gospel, an attempt to speak his truth into existence.
He took it to a point where, before both elections, he said that if his opponent was declared the winner that it must be a fraudulent result. He declared that the 2020 election result was fraudulent before any substantial evidence of fraud came in. He had already named and claimed his victory; now he just had to have his lawyers find proof that what he had named and claimed was indeed true.
But it didn’t work. Certainly there was some fraud. There always is at least a little malicious fraud, and there always are a few people who don’t double-envelope a ballot or who sign a spouse’s name and thus inadvertently invalidate a vote that reflected a voter’s true intention. Trump and his legal team have been given their days in court, as is just and fitting. They have brought at least 60 lawsuits. They’ve won one, lost 59, and lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court. They’ve had a chance to bring evidence of fraud forward and have certainly brought some, just not enough to legally change the result.
But through it all, Trump has pictured himself succeeding. He has kept thinking positive thoughts to drown out negative thoughts. He has minimized obstacles. And it hasn’t worked.
That is the lens through which I’m viewing this week’s anticipated electoral college certification. The prosperity gospel let Trump down in the end. It lets everyone else down in the end, too, because it is not the true Gospel.