We Worship Trump: How Religion Consumes Everything

by Guy Walker

Members of the clergy lay hands and pray over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights

by Guy Walker

Trump fatigue is already here. It’s the same Trump-only mania that began a couple of years ago—a never-ending misadventure of savagery and paranoia, a circus act of cannibalism that wants to popularize itself out on the streets. Even if we tried to avoid to him, he’d still interrupt everything, popping up his head of fried chicken meat onto the screen of your regular television shows, or into your bedroom, or in the office beside the water cooler. He’d find a way to disrupt every pondering sentiment, every moment of love and privacy, the name TRUMP branded permanently on every newborn’s forehead. Last week it was James Comey and the Russian connection; next week it will be something even more bastardly and profane.

In a way, it’s amusing. The pack of beasts rummaging inside the White House then try to pretend in front of the cameras that there is order and function within their walls. It’s like farm animals trying to look innocent after ransacking a house, tables smashed and couches torn apart, their snouts all covered in cake crumbs. But when you consider the consequences of their enacted policy, the comedy quickly wears off: the loss of healthcare for millions, mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug users, runaway climate change and environmental collapse, the rise of a theocratic state in which everyone has to follow some form of Christian Sharia Law.

With the sheer amount of shrieking profanity coming from Donald Trump and his administration, the last point—that of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy administering the rule of law—is particularly concerning because it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Trump rests on a bed of nails with every new blunder, scandal, and insult dulling the seriousness of his prior ones. So he avoids the critics as much as possible, and instead goes wherever he is liked so he can continue to gloat about his victory in November. It is in this where he finds his most loyal base in the evangelical Christian community.

Over the weekend, Trump gave his first commencement speech as president, at Liberty University, his scabby cheeks shaking violently as he spoke to the group of graduates looking up at him with devout bellicism, their golden tassels furious with conservative juvenescence. Many of the 50,000 or so attendees gripped their Make America Great Again hats in their laps or under their gowns with a simple tribalistic fervor. These hats and their piousness are, of course, ideological totems, part of a phenomenon that is comparable to high school football fans in a quaint dusty town with nothing but their parades of bright body paint and dull battle cries. God! Trump! USA!—they’re all synonyms of each other—prideful apish grunts from animals who toss their fresh turds at anyone who doesn’t repeat the same chorus.

This is the same Liberty University that teaches young Earth creationism in its biology courses. It’s rumored that the dinosaur bones in its on-campus museum are labeled as being 3,000 years old. So as an institution of alternative facts, Liberty is surely the most appropriate university to host Trump—as long as what’s said sounds conservative, it’s right and should be made gospel. In a 2015 convocation speech, the president of the school, Jerry Falwell Jr., encouraged his students to carry more guns on campus, advocating that the more beer-drinking 20-year-olds with loaded guns under their belts, the safer and more secure their educational experience would be.

For as much as Donald Trump is mocked for his blustering style of speech, he knows how to speak to his audience. At Liberty, it was all about God: “When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked ‘Our Creator’ four times. Because in America, we don’t worship government, we worship God.” The crowd proceeded to roar with approval, their glossed-over eyes affirming that religiosity dictates over everything, that their fabulous puppeteer booms his way from chugging smoke machines as we collapse to our knees, weeping with enthusiasm. The government is just a bureaucratic obstacle, they say, a rusting machine of sin that needs only to be dismantled and overcome.

His statement doesn’t provoke the shock and enormity that it usually would if it was said by a normal politician. Instead, we sigh despondently—almost indifferently now. In a few more days, we won’t even remember this speech—it will join the drunken blur of ineptitude along with everything else, the mounding scandals and investigations taking precedence over a little talk of God. If Trump were a tenth as blundering as he is now, this statement might seem worse—there would be more time to be offended, more energy and daylight to oppose the dictums of theocracy. Instead, he continues almost unnoticed. He reasoned that because the Founding Fathers invoked “Our Creator” four times, American currency is inscribed with “In God We Trust”, and why school children obediently quip “one nation, under God” every morning, their little fingers placed perfectly over their hearts, repeating it day after day until it’s burned in their memories forever.

This, of course, is incorrect. These adages were inserted in their designated places during the “religious revival” of the 1950’s. It was the time of the Red Scare, when the Cold War slogan “better dead than red” was repeated ad nauseam, assuring the West it was better to burn up in a nuclear blast, melting off the faces of children, than live under a communistic society. But it wasn’t just communism itself that was the enemy. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles believed the United States should oppose the Soviet Union not because of their oppressive manipulation of communism, but rather because it was an atheist state—their leaders were godless and therefore malevolent, like vulgar troglodytes shoving their sinfulness upon the world, their parades just armies of red-cloaked brutes that were irredeemable because they had abandoned the one true faith. But the Founding Fathers were forcibly opposed to any institutionalization of religion, noting the separation of church and state in the First Amendment to the Constitution, as well as declaring that “no religious Test as a Qualification to any Office” in Article Six. And the original Pledge of Allegiance—written in 1892 by socialist Francis Bellamy—read “one nation indivisible,” as a heartening paean of bringing together the many individual states in secular unity.

Trump’s commencement speech is already old. But its reception at Liberty University is a reminder why he won 81% of the white evangelical vote in the presidential election. His charisma—however grotesque and illiterate it may be—is inescapable, like a cult leader who will inevitably convince at least some of his supporters to follow him to their graves. There’s something luridly infallible about the thundering orange beast: he surely isn’t religious himself, but offers the same impossible promises like they were ideological aperitifs, little morsels of doctrine to be consumed quickly and regularly. He’s as carnivorous as a David Koresh or a Jim Jones—just a few steps away from the great plunge.

Religion is always discussed culturally: if you’re born in a heavily Christian populated area, chances are your parents also subscribe to the faith and will raise you accordingly; or if you drew a different straw at birth and were shoved into a Muslim dominant country instead, the same pattern would occur. Our gods are malleable according to the patch of dirt we are born on; and the faith persists on through innumerable aspects of the surrounding culture. That’s why according to new analysis at the Pew Research Center, 78% of white evangelical Protestants approve of Trump’s first one hundred days. For them, there’s nothing chaotic or borderline treasonous about Trump’s possible collusion with the Russians—it’s run-of-the-mill politics, and the rest of the country is unpatriotic if they don’t support him. At a recent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, for example, Richard Spencer and his sickly tribe of white nationalists were heard chanting “Russia is our friend!” in some sort of last ditch effort to embrace the enemy. It just shows how strong the power of belief can be when someone has fully invested themselves in a movement. Everyone’s favorite cult to shit on, Scientology, is emblematic of this phenomenon: when Scientologists have invested all their money, and sacrificed their social and professional lives for the sake of L. Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi, self-help wizardry, and then learn that Lord Xenu, dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, planted billions of his people in volcanoes 75 million years ago, it’s somewhat understandable that many adherents of the religion are now too immersed to be able to suddenly retract decades of reinforced belief. Trump Mania is much the same. The enthusiasm for him during the primaries and general election was often so fanatic that many will never recover; likely, it’s not that they won’t admit that they fucked up, but rather that they can’t, not even to themselves.

When Trump signed an executive order that allowed churches to more freely participate in future political campaigns and not lose their tax exemption, he likely did so at the suggestion of one of his closest aides—Jeff Sessions, or Mike Pence, or some other greased-up toad waiting in the shadows. And with the word “impeachment” fluttering around more and more, we begin to wonder what things would look like under a Pence presidency, full of gay conversion therapy and chainmail mittens, public flogging for every boner.

At this point, there is very little that will surprise the world about the American political arena. Shaved rodents high on steroids are scribing our last remaining rights into law. There’s no use in predicting anything anymore—polls are useless and preemptive, a castration of the undercurrents of America. But one thing is certain: Christian fundamentalism within the Republican Party is in its most opportune time.

For now, he’s still there, shuffling around his huge barren stage, dusting himself with a heavy compound, the lights overhead glimmering against his silky eyes. Confetti pours from the sky for years; crowds chant Trump! Trump! Trump! for decades longer. The orange beast leans in a little closer, and opens his mouth still stained with a wet residual paste: “In America, we don’t worship the government,” he says at last, “we worship Trump.”

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