As best anyone can tell, the nonsense began with Lance Wallnau, an evangelical Christian and self-styled “leadership coach” who boasts a doctorate in theology from an institution that awards academic credit for “life experience” such as “hobbies,” “extensive reading,” and “television courses.”
As Wallnau tells it, the Lord “spoke” to him in early 2016, revealing that Donald Trump, then a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, was “a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.”
A bit later, God followed up with another message for Wallnau: a vision of Trump as the 45th president and a command to “read Isaiah 45.”
Forty-fifth president, 45th chapter. Get it?
The section in the Hebrew bible’s Book of Isaiah to which Wallnau was summoned lauds the Persian king Cyrus the Great’s release of the Jews from their so-called Babylonian Captivity. The Jewish kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BC. Jerusalem was razed and its king and people hauled off to Babylon. Fifty years later, after the Babylonians were in turn conquered by Cyrus, he allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem.
Isaiah (or, more accurately, the unknown author of chapter 45; there are most likely three different authors writing during different time periods) was ecstatic at this outcome, going so far as to praise Cyrus as “mashiah,” the anointed one. Believing that God had “stirred up” the pagan Cyrus to justice, Isaiah rapturously proclaimed that God could use even an ungodly man like the Persian king for good.
They swallowed their reservations, overlooked everything repugnant in Trump’s character, and put him in the White House to redeem America and stand up for Christian values.
And there it was: the birth of the nonsense. Wallnau immediately concluded that God had revealed to him that Trump was the new Cyrus who would lead American exiles back to the promised land. Morally corrupt though he was, Trump was clearly God’s anointed instrument in a cosmic battle against the “demonic agenda” imperiling America.
Wallnau was so excited by the revelation that he furiously churned out and hurriedly published his own prophetic book, “God’s Chaos Candidate: Donald J. Trump and the American Unraveling.”
Wallnau’s screechy, exclamation point-laden tome appeared just a month before the November 2016 election. His announcement that Trump was God’s instrument was an instant hit with Trump-leaning Christians (and a handful of orthodox Jews) who were nonetheless uncomfortable with the candidate’s sordid history of sexual groping, mockery of the disabled, fetish for deception, shameless self-promotion, shady business dealings, willingness to throw his own people under the bus, pettiness and petulance in speeches and tweets, disrespect for imprisoned and slain GIs, character assassination of the press, penchant for bullying, and obvious indifference to Christianity.
God used Cyrus, they shouted with relief, and God can use Trump, too! So they swallowed their reservations, overlooked everything repugnant in Trump’s character, and put him in the White House to redeem America and stand up for Christian values.
That’s when the anointing of Trump as the American Cyrus transitioned from nonsense to tragedy. The character flaws that sat uneasily with his evangelical supporters have been on full display during the seven months of his administration, and have ripped the nation apart. If God really is using Trump to restore America, God’s taking his own sweet time going about it.
But in truth, Trump is no Cyrus, and Christians who voted for him out of either genuine hope or cynical pretense that he is made a bargain with the devil. Regardless of their intentions, they embraced one of the most dangerously expedient principles going, and one that in other circumstances the vast majority of them would’ve surely condemned: the end justifies the means.
Opposition to abortion and same-gender marriage was the deciding issue for many conservative Christians when they stepped into the voting booth to cast their ballots for Trump: that was the end. They were willing to hold their noses and even pretend enthusiasm for a candidate whose moral flaws comprise a catalog of virtually everything Christianity is not: the means.
I get that this couldn’t have been a pleasant position for them to be in, and that the Cyrus nonsense propagated by Wallnau made the bitter pill go down just a bit easier.
But overlooking — not to mention whitewashing — the president’s egregious moral failings by insisting that God can write straight with Trump’s crooked lines is more of a desperate Hail Mary pass than an act of faith, as bitter months of his broken leadership have demonstrated.
The takeaway is what we all know in our heart of hearts, even if we don’t always live by it: No end ever justifies corrupt or evil means. That a large percentage of the nation’s Christians ignore this truth by defending Trump is a scandal that will haunt American Christianity for decades to come.