The Church of Trump

Trump as god?
Trump as god? | Photo: Irish Times

By Cassandra Devereaux

On August 21, Donald Trump shared a quote from a right wing news outlet in order to shame American Jews who do not support him. It read:

“:…the Jewish people in Israel love [Trump] like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God…. But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”

It is, of course, religiously illiterate to claim that Jews might see him as a second coming of a messiah they don’t believe had a first coming. And yes, “King of Israel” and “King of the Jews” both are titles used to refer to Jesus. The claim here is that to Isreali Jews, Donald Trump is regarded as Jesus Christ. This echoes the Evangelical Christian eschatological belief that in the end times, Jesus will convert the Jews and will establish a “New Jerusalem.” This is a popular “loophole” sort of reasoning that allows antisemites to nevertheless support Israel.

This tweet came amidst Trump’s smear campaign against congressional freshman Muslim women Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar. Spitefully, he had pressured Israel to deny them entry. Even the rightly derided American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), lobbyist, fundraiser and enabler of the brutal settler colonial state and its project of genocide against the Palestinian people, criticized the move. Within this eschatological mythos, Jews who don’t repent and come to know Jesus will be cast into the lake of fire.

On the same day, when talking to reporters about the trade war with China, Trump looked to the skies and said, “I am the chosen one”.

To those on the outside, all of this may seem like mere hyperbolic excess. To far right evangelicals, this language likens Trump to Jesus, justifies Israel as righteous while likewise smearing American Jews as faithless and doomed to suffer God’s wrath. These comparisons, placing Trump as Christ, are not new. They began before Trump took office.

In the summer of 2016 during the height of that year’s presidential campaign, Pat Robertson claimed to have a vision. The chairman of the Christian Broadcast Network, who infamously blamed the attacks of 9/11 on the ACLU, pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, and  lesbians, said:

“God came to me in a dream last night and showed me the future. He took me to heaven and I saw Donald Trump seated at the right hand of our Lord.”

It’s important to understand the significance of Trump’s positioning at the right hand of God carries to the Evangelical right. This is a reference to Christian doctrine, as expressed in the Book of Mark 16:19 which reads:

“So then the Lord Jesus…. was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”

Within the Bible and Christian theology, the right hand of God is reserved for Jesus. Many denominations follow and recite the Nicene Creed weekly during worship services, a congregation as one expressing their belief that Jesus ascended into heaven ans is seated at the right hand. This was a statement that Trump has the same significance and holy station as Jesus. It expressed the belief that he effectively IS Jesus.

Evangelicals know exactly what Pat Robertson meant. Further, it fits right in with their faith, meaning it will be less likely to be examined critically. Robertson is saying that Trump is anointed by God, and that what he does…. WHATEVER he does….is God’s will. It is not to be questioned, and it justifies itself. To oppose it is to oppose God, which Robertson made more explicit on another broadcast;

“I think, somehow, the Lord’s plan is being put in place for America and these people are not only revolting against Trump, they’re revolting against what God’s plan is for America. These other people have been trying to destroy America. These left-wingers and so-called progressives are trying to destroy the country that we love and take away the freedoms they love. They want collectivism. They want socialism.”

Socialism! God forbid!

As laughable as this sort of claim may seem outside the evangelical sphere, this is taken entirely seriously to believers within it. According to neuroscientist Bobby Azarian Ph.D.;

“As a cognitive psychology researcher who has been writing about the science underlying Trump’s support since he began his presidential campaign, I have learned—through comments, emails, and discussion forums—that a significant portion of his supporters literally believe the president was an answer to their prayers. He is regarded as something of a messiah, sent by God to protect a Christian nation.”

Pat Robertson and his 700 Club program are greatly influential in the quarters of Evangelical believers, and when he talks about Trump’s presidency being a divine appointment, his voice carries profound authority. However, it’s not just multimillionaires like Robertson who claim prophetic visions establishing divinity in the person of Donald Trump.

A firefighter named Mark Taylor has been a darling of the Evangelical right since the election that gave Trump the oval office. The so called “Firefighter Prophet” claims that in 2011 God told him that Trump would soon become the President as he was watching Fox News interview the future candidate. He claims he heard God say, “‘I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States.’” He believes that at this moment, he became “Shakina Kami” which according to him comes from African and Indian languages and means, “Beautiful One Whose Desires Are Fulfilled, and in Whose Life the Lord Dwells with the Divine Wind of Providence.” He says that God revealed that Trump will unite the “armies of the Lord.” He reverently describes scenes of great violence resulting from this. He also says that God revealed to him that Trump is “the Chosen One”.

Given Trump’s recent statement to reporters, he agrees with this assessment.

One might be forgiven for believing the book Taylor described this in to be the imaginings of a satirist, but not only was it genuine, it became a best seller. Moreover, a feature film, The Trump Prophecy, was based on it and is very popular in the spheres of the Christian Right.

Taylor is a frequent guest on right wing media such as CBN.  He has made further claims about Trump and prophecy, saying:

 “The Bible says, ‘Do not touch my anointed, but especially my prophets.’ I believe Trump is a type of prophet, he’s a political prophet, and I said from day one, you had better be careful what you say about this man because you are touching God’s anointed … He’s an anointed spiritual machine.”

An eager contributor to the mainstreaming of far right conspiracies, Taylor has made claims such as, “The Deep State-Illuminati paid Holland to throw the [Women’s World Cup championship]. They wanted Rapinoe to win, so she can use the platform to promote the gay agenda.”

Another voice in the crowded “pro-Trump prophecy” claimants is pastor Hank Kunneman, who says that, in a conversation with God, the almighty told him,

“As David was a man of war, so there are certain things that is on this president that I’m requiring. This president has been called and appointed by God—whether you like it, whether you agree with it—to be at war with some of these cultural things like its okay to have man with man, woman with woman; it’s okay, they say, to push God out of our schools.”

Suffice to say, Trump was appointed not by a divine being, but by the electoral college, a bourgeois scheme by which the popular vote is sometimes overridden by giving outsized representation to the conservative states. For example, a voter in Wyoming’s power to appoint an elector is three and a half times what a voter in New York State has. Given Trump’s victory in an election he was not favored by oddsmakers to win, many right wing Christians who share his reactionary politics see this as a sign of divine appointment, ignoring the role of this scheme that allowed his appointment despite losing the popular vote.

Kunneman is a Megachurch pastor. Such pastors are highly influential, the rock stars of the Right Evangelical movement.  Like many, Kunneman live streams his sermons and posts the videos afterward. He is popular and his reach is broad. Therefore, when he went on the Jim Bakker show, people tuned in. Bakker himself is a disgraced televangelist who famously retired from his PTL CLub program when it came to light that he had paid off Jessica Hahn, a woman he drugged and raped. In this conversation, Kunneman claimed he heard God tell him

“I am putting my thumb upon the diabolical deeds of those who have stood before me… And look for a sign, a thumb drive. When this appears, it shall be a sign of my thumb—the finger of God—that has been and is upon this nation to expose, to expose, to expose that this land shall come into a season where it shall rest. For the trumpet shall be louder and the voice of the trumpet through Trump shall even blast louder and it shall outweigh the anger and that which is against it. But then there shall come the season of restoration and it shall be known as the hour of payback, where I will bring back the Commandments, prayer in school. I will bring back, God says, the right for the unborn to live and it shall be outlawed in your land, says the spirit of God. Watch what I do in the season of the trumpet that blows over the next few years.”

Like Bakker, Kunneman is a grifter, taking financial donations from viewers in exchange for the promise that God will reward them. Right wing “prophets” are an industry until themselves. And even when they’re disgraced like Bakker, or even exposed, they still prosper. Stage magician and debunker of the supernatural James Randi exposed Peter Popoff’s hustle in 1986. Popoff is another “Prosperity Gospel” pastor and faith healer. Popoff would have audience members fill out ‘prayer cards’ listing addresses and reasons for attending. Randi used a radio scanner to tune into a radio frequency at his shows where his wife would read the contents of these cards to be picked up by her husband’s earpiece, giving him the illusion of supernatural revelation about who they were and why they were there. Randi recorded this frequency, in which his wife would also mock the person on stage using foul language. Yet after exposing him and playing the recordings before the world, Popoff continued his career, which is still going to this day, 33 years later. Randi recalls meeting audience members who traveled from afar, spending all of their money, in order to be healed.

It is instructive to note these prophets and con men make good money for their efforts. It is vital to understand who it is that buys into their tales. These tend to be working class people from conservative regions. In a lot of cases, regions where the industry that sustained the people’s need for employment has gone away as this empire has shifted from one based on manufacturing to one based on finance capital. In Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin noted:

 “….a federation of great powers which, so far from forwarding the cause of world civilisation, might introduce the gigantic peril of a Western parasitism, a group of advanced industrial nations, whose upper classes drew vast tribute from Asia and Africa….. no longer engaged in the staple industries of agriculture and manufacture… under the control of a new financial aristocracy.”

The United States is now the “greatest” of these powers. Manufacturing has largely left, leaving cities such as Flint, Michigan in dire straits without potable water. Agriculture has shifted from the family farm that is part of our cultural mythos to factory farms. Jobs have dried up, and in many places there is little likelihood that they will return under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which now thrives on the export of capital rather than local industry in our empire. For rural communities in the Bible Belt that have been hard hit, it stands to reason that the high religiosity will lead many to seek hope in divine intervention, and that predatory hucksters will exploit this to make a buck. These conditions also make them vulnerable to the Capitalist’s strategies to promote scapegoating.  This keeps the proletariat divided against itself and when we’re fighting each other, we’re not turning against the bosses, the true architects of our economic suffering. Ours is a President who both panders to Right Evangelicals and spouts racist, homophobic, transphobic, antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other bigotries. He appeals to hate and offers “hope” to the religious who are willfully engaged in this division. He offers empty promises of restoring the industries which have left, and his inevitable failures are explained away with conspiracy theories such as the infamous QAnon which describes agents of a deep state (often Jewish) who work to promote pedophilia and undermine the President. Decades of undermining of teacher’s unions and school budgets have created an educational environment designed to fail to educate. This and virulent anti-intellectualism has created a culture which celebrates ignorance creating a perfect environment to give rise to such as Trump and obfuscate understanding of revolutionary politics which offers true liberation for suffering workers.

No religion, let alone Christianity, is a monolith. It would do a disservice to describe all churches and church goers in this light. Black churches have long been centers in which Blacks have been able to organize for their liberation. Latinx churches are helping migrants seeking sanctuary and protection from ICE. Jesuit priests in Central America forged a “liberation theology” which helped introduce and support socialist ideas among oppressed, revolutionary peoples. Colombian priest Camilo Torres said, “If Jesus were alive today, he would be a guerrillero.” He picked up a gun, and died fighting for proletarian revolution. There is a famous painting by the Cuban artist Alfredo Rostgaard depicting a Guerilla Christ with a rifle in Torres’ honor. Likewise, the church looks different in different cultures. Rather than saying there is Christianity, it may be more accurate to say that there are Christianities.

Regardless, we must promote a material analysis in order to understand how to liberate ourselves, not a supernatural one. It is imperative that we teach Marxist theory and praxis to our deeply suffering proletariat if we are to overthrow our common bourgeois oppressors. While religion is not at any risk of going away, it is important that we understand that the past several decades have given rise to an insidious far right faith. Since Roe v. Wade in ‘73, right wing politics has been infused into American churches to combat women’s self-determination, LGBTQ2S+ advancement and to fight the so-called culture wars. Decades upon decades have compounded this problem. This has given rise to the church that positions a vulgar rapist, philandering, possibly pedophilic bigot of a president as a second coming of Christ. The Gospel of  Matthew, chapter 16 verse 18 depicts Jesus saying:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”

Upon this bigoted anti-worker vulgarian of a president has been built a new church. Its existence “justifies” any evil act that billionaires can inflict on workers, any horrors inflicted on oppressed nationalities and oppressed people. The destruction of the planet is positioned as a divine plan. This means a return to the feudal doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings. We’ll never know what compelled Trump to say such bizarre things. Perhaps his ego took a beating in light of China’s dominance in the trade war as well as the widespread ridicule over his ambitions to buy Greenland. It could be that these made him want to flex for his adoring base. Perhaps his ego is so great that he has come to believe in his own divine significance. Whatever the case, we need to understand that broad swaths of the public DO believe that the president is a divine figure. He has the Evangelical establishment, Wall Street, Fox News and other right wing media, and a shameless bourgeoisie furthering this mythic narrative. They can’t make good on their lies, only compound them beyond credence. We have theory, history, a scientific approach, and the truth on our side. As their empire collapses, illusions continue to fall away, and we will be there. We will greet people who peel away from these sinister influences, and with the broad proletarian movement we build today we will welcome them into the light of reason. Together with those who join us, we will usher into being a new world in the shell of the old, and the Church of Trump will be no more.

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