The rise of Donald J. Trump has been attributed to a variety of identity-driven frustrations spilling out of the dark depths of the American political right,, but Trump’s loyal supporters did not always include the heavy-hitting Republican demographic bloc of white Christian Evangelicals, estimated to make up one-third to half of the party’s active voters., As Trump’s political prospects steadily increased, and while many Evangelicals grew fatigued from his unrelenting vituperation of their preferred candidate, Ted Cruz, they grew to embrace Trump’s message, and later the man himself, voting overwhelmingly for him and now-Vice President Mike Pence in the general election.
Two days ago I witnessed President Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s speech was disturbingly nationalistic, hostile, and devoid of historical perspective. The crowd’s ecstatic response to his promise to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism” certainly caught my attention as the line garnering the loudest applause. But today, that is not what haunts me most. Rather, I keep returning to the comment made by (noted Islamophobe) Rev. Franklin Graham directly after Trump’s speech. The reverend said, “Mr. President, in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. And it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform.”
Graham’s statement suggests divine intervention, or at least approval, at Trump’s ascent to power, a common theme applied to both Democratic and Republican presidents throughout history. George W. Bush was also thought by many to be directly anointed by the Lord and was said to have embraced the grandiose attribute dangerously in his role as Commander and Chief of the US military, employing a “messianic militarism” internationally., Not unrelated, Barack Obama was commonly believed to be the Antichrist, (by approximately 20% of registered Republicans, according to one poll), but so was Ronald Wilson Reagan, whose three six-letter names was thought to be a sign of the beast.
So which will it be for Donald Trump: good or evil? I imagine that among many Christians strongly adhering to some form of End Times theology, he will embody one archetype or the other, conveniently conforming to a pattern of events corresponding to whichever prophetic fantasy the believer already prefers. For me, Trump is at once definitely human in his dopey egotism and yet frighteningly threatening—not the second coming of Christ by any means, but nonetheless just as suited to bring about a catastrophic apocalypse.
A quick disclaimer before I begin: this post is not meant to serve as a fact-check to any one’s religious or spiritual beliefs. I consider that practice—trying to argue for one religion over another, or the existence of the divine—to be needlessly anti-social and entirely futile. This piece will not meet typical standards. Instead, it is meant as an illustration of the absurdity of absolute, fundamentalist beliefs in general. These beliefs, not based in facts but reinforced through a biased approach to interpreting significant events, can make us intransigently hateful, with the added severity of the perception of some sort of moral, divine mandate encouraging us to fight on. Furthermore, as we must now confront the reality that Trump’s fascist-style campaign promises and anti-media attitude will now be the official voice of the White House, it is more important than ever to recognize the absurdity and danger of idolizing our political leaders. And of course, it’s always fun to heckle DJT.