The Trumpist Church: How Donald Trump Infuses Christianity into His Campaign

The Trumpist Church: How Donald Trump Infuses Christianity into His Campaign
The Trumpist Church: How Donald Trump Infuses Christianity into His Campaign

Long known for impromptu and volatile performances on the podium, former President donald trump he now tends to end his rallies on a solemn note.

Soft, meditative music sounds in the room as silence takes over the crowd. The intonation of Trump’s voice becomes ceremonious and sober. Many supporters close their eyes and hang their heads. Others raise their palms or murmur as if they are praying.

At this moment, Trump’s audience is his congregation, and the former president, his pastor — who delivers a final speech lasting approximately 15 minutes similar to the evangelical altar call, the emotional tradition that concludes certain Christian religious services with the faithful giving testimonies. expressing your commitment to the Savior.

Donald Trump supporters pray during the Republican’s rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, in an image from July 2023. The former president’s campaign approaches evangelical services Photograph: Maddie McGarvey/NYT

“The great silent majority is emerging like never before — and under our leadership,” recites Trump reading the text from a teleprompter, in a typical version of this script. “We will pray to God for our strength and freedom. We will pray to God and we will pray with God. We are one movement, one people, one family and one glorious nation under the eyes of God.”

The meditative ritual may seem incongruous with the raucous epicenter of the country’s conservative movement, but Trump’s political doctrine stands out as one of the most striking examples of the transformation of the country. Republican party in a Trumpist Church. Trumpism’s insistence on the pursuit of devotion and absolute loyalty can be seen at every level of the party, from Congress to the Republican National Committee to the base electorate.

Trump’s ability to turn his supporters’ passion into pity is crucial to understanding how he remains the undisputed Republican leader despite leading his party to repeated political failures, while facing dozens of accusations of violations in four criminal cases. . His success in portraying these indictments as persecutions — and warning, falsely, that his supporters could be next — fueled enthusiasm for his pre-candidacy and put him, once again, in a position to capture the White House.

Trump has long defied common sense by embodying the character of an unlikely, yet irrefutable, evangelical hero.

The former president married three times, was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment, was convicted of corporate fraud and never showed much interest in religious services. Last week, days before Easter, he posted on his social media platform an infomercial-style video selling for $60 Bibles accompanied by copies of some of the documents that founded the nation and lyrics from the song “God Bless the USA ” (God Bless the USA) by Lee Greenwood.

But even as he remains eager to maintain the support of evangelical voters and portray his presidential campaign as a battle for the soul of the country, Trump has been careful not to speak directly in messianic terms.

“This country has a savior who is not me — who is someone much higher than me,” Trump said in 2021, from the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, which has a congregation of more than 14,000 believers.

Image from September 2023 shows Donald Trump during an event organized by a Christian entity. Former president abandoned the strident tone of other campaigns Photograph: Kenny Holston/NYT

Still, Trump and his allies have gradually moved closer to comparing themselves to Christ. Last year, federal representative Marjorie Greene, a Republican from Georgia and a close ally of Trump, stated that both Jesus and the former president were imprisoned by “corrupt and radical governments”. On Saturday, Trump shared an article on social media titled “The Crucifixion of Donald Trump.”


He is also the newest member of a long line of former presidents and former presidential candidates who prioritized evangelical voters. But many conservative Christian voters believe that Trump has surpassed his predecessors in acceding to their desires, pointing especially to the conservative majority he installed on the Supreme Court that abolished federal abortion rights.

Trump won an overwhelming majority among evangelical voters in his first two presidential runs, but few — even among the crowds at his rallies — explicitly compare him to Jesus.

Instead, Trump’s flock is more likely to describe him as a modern version of Old Testament heroes like Cyrus or David, individuals who were morally flawed but handpicked by God to lead profound missions designed to achieve some rightful justice or resist it. to an existential evil.

“He was definitely chosen by God,” said commercial real estate broker Marie Zere of Long Island, who attended a Conservative National Committee conference in February outside Washington, DC. “He’s still surviving even with all these people chasing him, and I don’t know how to explain it other than divine intervention.”

For some Trump supporters, the political attacks and legal risks he faces are downright biblical. “They crucified him. It was worse than the crucifixion of Jesus,” said Andriana Howard, 67, who works in the restaurant industry in Conway, South Carolina.

Political weapon and vulnerability

Trump’s solid and devoted voter base has formed one of the most durable forces in American politics, giving him a clear advantage over the president. Joe Biden in relation to inspiring supporters.

Forty-eight percent of Republican primary voters say they are excited about Trump becoming the GOP nominee for president, and 32% are satisfied but not excited about that outcome, according to a poll New York Times/Siena College recent. Only 23% of Democrats are enthusiastic about Biden as the Democratic candidate, and 43% say they are satisfied but not enthusiastic.

The intensity of Trump’s most committed supporters also contributed to the former president’s campaign decisions, according to two sources familiar with internal deliberations. His team’s ability to depend on voters who will vote for him without additional stimulus means that some of the money that would otherwise be spent on voter turnout campaigns can be invested in field staff, TV ads or other ways to help Trump.

But Democrats also see an advantage. Much of Biden’s support comes from voters deeply opposed to Trump, and the president’s advisers see an opportunity to scare moderate and undecided voters into supporting Biden by casting Trump’s movement as a cult-like creation dedicated to restricting rights. to abortion and undermine democracy.

Trump supporters pray during the former president’s rally in Warren, Michigan, in an image from October 2022. The vast majority of evangelicals support Trump on his return to the White House Photograph: Brittany Greeson/NYT

California Governor Gavin Newsom, one of Biden’s most important Democratic allies, pointed to an increasingly aggressive online presence by the president’s reelection campaign, which has sought to portray Trump as a candidate who leans toward religious extremism.

“There’s a huge opportunity here,” Newsom said in an interview. “Trump is defined too easily and reinforces that definition over and over again. And Biden now has a campaign capable of weaponizing that.”

Trump’s combination of politics and religion is by no means a new phenomenon. Christianity has long exerted a strong influence on the American government, with the majority of voters identifying as Christian even as the country becomes more secular. According to a Gallup poll, 68% of adults declared themselves Christian in 2022, compared to 91% in 1948.

But as the former president tries to establish himself as the only true Republican leader, religious overtones permeate his third presidential campaign.

Fundraising emails phrased in benevolent terms promise unconditional love amid requests for contributions starting at $5.

Even more than in his past campaigns, Trump defined his 2024 candidacy as a fight for Christianity, telling a convention of Christian broadcasters that, “just as in the battles of the past, we still need the hand of Our Lord”.

On his social media platform, Trump in recent months has shared an image in the same style as trial drawings of himself sitting next to Jesus and a video that repeatedly proclaims, “God gave us Trump” to lead the country.

The apparent effectiveness of this type of tactic made Trump the first great American politician. U.S to successfully separate his character from his policies for religious voters, said history professor John Fea of ​​Messiah University, an evangelical institution in Pennsylvania.

“Trump split the atom that united character and policies,” said Fea. “And he did it because he was actually the first to listen to their complaints and take them seriously. Does Trump really care about evangelicals? I don’t know. But he crafted a message that resonates directly with them.”

Support from local pastors

Trump rallies have always been something like a cross between a rock concert and a biblical revival. When Trump began softening his speech with musical backgrounds, many linked the tracks to the theme song of the QAnon conspiracy movement, but the campaign distanced itself from that notion.

Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, said in a statement: “(Former) President Trump has used the end of his speeches to draw a clear contrast to the recent four years of Joe Biden’s disastrous presidency and to lay out his vision to try to get the US back on track.”

But the change helped transform Trump’s rallies into an experience aesthetically more akin to a religious rite.

A Trump rally in Las Vegas in January began with a prayer from Jesus Marquez, a local church elder, who cited Scripture to declare that God wants Trump to return to the White House.

“God is on our side — He is on the side of this movement,” said Marquez, founder of the American Christian Caucus, a grassroots group.

Donald Trump’s campaign hats reference Jesus, in an image from March 2022. Trump has won support from local pastors across the US Photograph: Dustin Chambers/NYT

At a rally in South Carolina in February, Pastor Greg Rodermond of Crossroads Community Church prayed for God to intervene against Trump’s political opponents, arguing that they “try to steal, murder and destroy our America.”

“Father, we are gathered here today on behalf of our nation to see it restored to its greatness,” Rodermond continued, “and God, we believe that You have chosen Donald Trump as an instrument in Your hands for that purpose.”

But some Christian conservatives bristle at the prospect of joining their brethren in carving a path straight from the ornate gates of Mar-a-Lago to the pearly gates of Heaven.

Russell Moore, former president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Trump’s rallies have strayed into “dangerous territory,” with altar-call-style closings and opening prayers in which pastors describe Trump. like one sent from God.

“Claiming divine authority or God’s approval of a political candidate means that that person cannot be questioned or opposed by someone who does not also question or oppose God,” Moore said. “This is a violation of the commandment not to take the name of the Lord in vain.”

The article is in Portuguese

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