A major question regarding Donald Trump is why the Christian right supports such an immoral man. Marlene Winnell has suggested reasons for this cognitive dissonance. She writes, “Trump actually represents the worst of what might be called ‘deep Christianity’ … deep-seated assumptions in orthodox Christianity.”
“The world is a bad and dangerous place.” Spreading fears about terrorism, violent crime, and financial ruin, Trump’s messages match the Bible with its threats of evil and peril, especially the threat of impending end times. Both Trump and the Bible preach the same message: Be very afraid.
“Might is right.” Trump’s values are strength without equality, peace, or justice. An example of this is his beating the drum with his demand that Hillary Clinton be put in jail—before she is tried in an impartial court and before there is any proof of wrongdoing on her part. Trump measures his success by how much money he makes and how much he has cheated the government. The Bible’s Jehovah displays his power by killing people with plagues, floods, and slaughter. Even Jesus, many times gentle and giving, physically drove merchants out of the temple and brags that his “Father” would send him “more than twelve legions [72,000 soldiers] of angels.” To many of those on the far Christian right, Trump is messianic.
“A savior is needed.” Trump continually tells his audiences that only he can save them. There is no team effort; he speaks only about himself in solving problems. He also doesn’t say how he will save the nation; he tells people that they should “trust” him because he is their “voice.” Fundamentalist Christians are waiting for the Messiah to return and save them from all their problems in a way that didn’t happen the last time Jesus appeared on earth.
“Simplistic thinking is adequate.” Trump’s sole solution to immigration problems is to “build a wall.” Trade deficits can be fixed by defaulting on loans. The sole solution to foreign policy issues is nationalism. Every answer to Trump comes from a black and white look at the problem with complete obedience that comes from either right or wrong—no alternatives. Both Trump and Jesus hold the believe that “whoever is not with me is against me.”
“Obedience is key.” Trump supporters don’t reject anything that he has done or said no matter how racist or misogynist. Their position is that others are worse. His fraudulent Trump University? His birther movement? His cheating Trump Foundation? No problem—he’s their leader and shall not be questioned. A Biblical story lauding Abraham when he obeys God by sacrificing his son Isaac praises Abraham. Devout far-right Christians must follow their pastors’ reading of the Bible instead of thinking for themselves, and Trump audiences at his rallies follow the same knee-jerk response to their leader.
“Violence is okay.” In fact, it’s beyond okay because Trump has called on people to beat up on protesters because it supports his purposes. This is the same premise in the Bible as people who don’t agree with God’s teachings can be burned, buried alive, or otherwise struck down. A constant in the Bible is God’s wrath, something visible in almost every Trump rally.
“Prejudice is acceptable.” God sanctions genocide in the Bible and punishment by death for homosexuality in the same way that Trump wants to punish people. God regards the disabled as “unclean,” and women are ordered to be quiet and submit to their husbands. Slavery is endorsed in the Bible, and people who read the Bible literally are comfortable with Trump’s superior attitude toward LGBT people, women, disabled people, and racial and other minorities.
“Earth is dispensable.” Despite scientific consensus about the dangers of climate change, Trump believes it is a hoax. “Deep Christianity,” however, put apocalyptic vision over science and rationality. Like many fundamentalist Christians, who have no sense of responsibility for the Earth because of their belief in the End Times, Trump can ignore the problems of global warming in order to make more money.
“Exclusive self-interest is moral.” Moderate Christians believe in giving and helping people, but isolationist Christians and Trump are supremely selfish, in opposition to an ethic of working collectively for the common good. Evangelicals are focused primarily on getting to heaven. The nineteenth-century belief of Manifest Destiny, responsible for making the New World into a white man’s paradise at the cost of killing millions of people native to the country, holds a strong similarity to “making America great again.” Trump’s extreme position of American “exceptionalism” can lead to greater genocide by white men.
“America has lost its way.” Trump’s speeches are filled with false claims of the horror of the U.S.—the “hell holes” where blacks live, the way that blacks have never had worse lives (even during slave times), the disastrous economy, the dangers of ISIS and the global financial institutions, etc. Fundamentalist Christians who believe that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians (actually many of them were Deists) think that the U.S. has abandoned those mythical Christian principles; they’re happy to hear Trump claim that U.S. leaders—of both parties—are running the nation into disaster. They believe the biblical message that these “evildoers” will cause entire nations to suffer and be punished. To these people, every natural disaster, many of them caused by climate change, come from the behavior of sinners who don’t follow their belief. To them, Trump will be their savior.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is one of those people who look on Trump as the nation’s savior. He believes Janet Porter’s movie, Light Wins, in which she claims that the Old Testament flood described in the story about Noah’s Ark was caused by same-gender marriage. Gohmert claims that the same thing can happen in contemporary times because of legalized marriage equality and calls on people to vote for Trump in a goal of “saving America.”
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. has tried to convince the Christian school students to vote for Trump who reminds Falwell of his father. Ironically, there are some similarities as Jerry Falwell, Sr. used his Old Time Gospel Hour to spread videotapes accusing Bill Clinton of drug smuggling and murder when he was governor of Arkansas.
Falwell invited his Trump supporter friend Ralph Reed, who demanded Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, to convince the Christian school students that they have a Christian duty to vote for Trump. After a brief criticism of Trump’s bragging about sexually assaulting women, Reed launched into a diatribe about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and then urged them to not sit out the election or vote for a third-party candidate. He said:
“We are called to put away our ‘my way or the highway’ pride, forsake cynicism and negativity, and participate fully as citizens, always cheerful, always winsome, always ready to defend our faith.”
Pat Robertson also continues his support of Trump by explaining that the candidate’s delighted claims of grabbing women by the “p***y” is just his way of “trying to look like he’s macho.”
These are the people who support the bigoted, racist, sexist, violence, murderous, fearful, narrow, black and white perspectives that they glean from their readings of the Bible. These are the people who want to force everyone to follow their own beliefs without thinking for themselves without permitting any diversity. These are the people who are regarded as role models by the Christian right.
It speaks well for many of the 15,000 students and 500+ faculty at Liberty that they have signed a criticism of both Trump and Falwell. The group Liberty United against Trump wrote that Falwell’s support for Trump had cast a stain on the school’s reputation:
“We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him. … He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”
Of the over 2,500 signatures posted by yesterday, 1,100 of them had Liberty University email addresses, and some faculty members have not signed the petition because of concern about retribution. The issue is valid: after Liberty board member and confidant of Falwell, Sr., disagreed with Jr.’s Trump endorsement last January, he resigned, citing “concern about a lack of trust.” Jr. had supported his endorsement by saying, “Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught.”
Polls indicate that fewer than 100 Liberty students voted for Trump in the Republican primary. Unlike their president, Reed, and other Christian right leaders, they understand this dilemma: Can you still claim to be the “Moral Majority” when you support a man who has boasted about sexual assault? The tragedy for those who say “yes” to this question is that they believe Donald Trump will follow through with his promises to “religious liberty.”