So Newsweek did another cover lampooning President Trump, as well as evangelicals that helped get him to the White House.
The story, itself (written by Nina Burleigh) has a whole lot of snark, showing Ms. Burleigh’s own lack of Biblical knowledge, and a solid thread of truth.
She’s saying things I’ve said before, concerning why I have such a problem with the self-proclaimed “Christian” support for Trump.
She gives a background refresher on Trump’s spiritual life.
Trump’s long and sometimes confounding spiritual journey started in Jamaica, Queens, at the bite-sized First Presbyterian Church, and later, at the WASPy Marble Collegiate Church on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, where prosperity prophet Norman Vincent Peale preached that you could think yourself to success. In 1952, Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking, a New York Times best-seller for 186 weeks that sold more than 5 million copies and was translated into 15 languages. That tome and his hailstorm of follow-up titles trained a generation of Americans to grin and fake it all the way to the bank. His theology was well summarized by the mantra Fred Trump pounded into his boy, Donald: “You are a killer. You are a king.”
That nugget may have been as close as young Donald ever got to Scripture. During the recent presidential campaign, he called the Bible chapter Second Corinthians “Two Corinthians,” a transgression on par with referring to the Holy Trinity as the Three Amigos. He has called Communion “my little wine” and “my little cracker.” More alarming for the truly pious, he couldn’t come up with a favorite Bible verse when asked during the campaign, except to say he liked the Old Testament’s “an eye for an eye.”
Two things: Second Corinthians is a book, not a chapter. As for what’s most alarming, it wouldn’t be the lack of a favorite Bible verse. It would be his unrepentant lifestyle and attitude, which Burleigh went on to point out.
Trump also diverts from traditional Christianity in more significant ways. For one, he often boasts that he never asks for forgiveness, although that’s a fundamental tenet of fundamentalist Protestants, who believe that all men are sinners in the eyes of God.
Indeed, one who does not repent is not saved. Period.
For many decades, Trump was the sweaty embodiment of the Manhattan libertine—a Studio 54 denizen who ran a modeling agency as his personal Tinder, and laughingly told Howard Stern that his Vietnam was avoiding STDs when he was a swingin’ bachelor…and a swingin’ married man. He wasn’t known for his religious faith until sometime in the early 2000s, when he cold-called televangelist Paula White, another prosperity Christian, after seeing her on TV, and they became friends. (Like Trump, she has endured congressional and federal inquiries into her finances.) White soon owned a $3.5 million Trump Tower condo and spent time with Trump when she visited New York City. She later explained that she knew Trump was a true Christian partly because of the way he treated his employees.
Sure, Paula. That’s how you tell.
The article goes on to tell how Trump used Paula White to draw other televangelists and so-called faith leaders into his circle – not for his spiritual well-being, but to counsel on his political future.
All of these things are awful, and I’ve covered them multiple times, as I’ve called to the church to lean more to their faith and follow God’s example into the voting booth, rather than trust that a corrupt man, once in office, can suddenly become a savior.
While I agree with Burleigh’s assessment of Trump’s “Convenient Christianity,” the important takeaway from her piece can’t be ignored.
This wasn’t so much an attack on Trump as it was an attack on Christians, painted as hypocrites, racists, and all-around reprobates, hiding under the cloak of piety.
Just the title of the piece, “Does God Believe in Trump? White Evangelicals are Sticking With Their ‘Prince of Lies,’” tells us Ms. Burleigh has a certain view of Trump’s evangelical supporters.
She also opens her piece with the final line of John 8:44 – “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The full verse reads, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – NIV.
Is she comparing Trump to Satan?
Trump is a lot of things – many of them awful – but he’s a long way from being Satan.
Burleigh not only attacks Trump and Paula White, but she brings up Joel Osteen and the controversy over the failure of his Lakewood megachurch to open to citizens of Houston after Hurricane Harvey put much of the community under water.
Osteen’s brand of closed-door Christianity is increasingly common on the conservative fringes of American fundamentalism, where profitability is considered next to godliness. Versions of that flinty theology, sometimes called prosperity gospel, dominate President Donald Trump’s evangelical panel, 25 pastors and religious conservatives who have mostly dispensed with those Sunday school homilies about Jesus loving the sick and poor, and Jesus responding to attacks with a turn of the cheek. They preach that their Lord hates entitlements, from welfare to Obamacare, that climate change is the talk of pagan heretics and that their heavenly father is fine with nuclear first strikes, as long as it’s America droppin’ the hammer.
And many of them believe their mortal messiah is Donald J. Trump, long a sybaritic scion but now the man who has solemnly vowed to take America to the promised land of deregulation, tax breaks and resegregation.
Burleigh has some issues. I don’t know of anybody calling for a return to segregation.
Travel bans? Sure, but I wouldn’t call that the same thing as keeping black citizens out of restaurants or schools.
To historians, the evangelical leaders’ response was no surprise, because they know racism was behind the emergence of evangelicals as a political force in America.
Burleigh weaves her bias against Christians in throughout the piece, and Trump is a convenient vehicle for making her point.
She manages to hit on all the liberal hot buttons, with an accusing finger pointed at the white evangelical Trump supporters.
I can get behind her sentiment, regarding Trump, but I’m also not blind to what she’s doing.
She’s trying to kill two birds – Trump and Christians – with one, judgmental stone.