Donald Trump’s efforts to appear religious have often had a phoned-in, casual appearance. How much effort would it have taken to find a way to refer to the Eucharistic wafer that many Christians venerate as something more solemn than “my little cracker”? Did he really talk to anyone familiar with Holy Scripture before quoting “Two Corinthians”? When he called “an eye for an eye” his favorite Bible passage, was he aware that was a bit out of line with both Jewish and Christian ethics for the last millennia or so? And did he bother to run his statement disclaiming any need for forgiveness from God by anyone at all before appearing at a conservative Christian conference?
In any event, he cannot seem to stick to even the most basic script when it comes to speaking of faith. Asked this week by a television interviewer about his favorite books, Trump mentioned two bearing his own byline: The Art of the Deal and Surviving at the Top. Earlier in the campaign, he was careful to list the Bible as his favorite, just ahead of his own books.
You have to wonder if Trump feels no need to pretend anymore. Much of his appeal to the godly is transactional. He’s won over some white conservative Evangelicals by promising to sacrifice a woman’s right to choose and gay folks’ right to marry to their sensibilities. He sealed the deal with some clergy by promising to let them campaign for political candidates right there in the pulpit without having to give up their tax-exempt status. And to be honest about it, more than a few conservative Christians share enough of Trump’s white-nationalist outlook that all they really care about is keeping America the white patriarchal society it used to be.
His religious veneer is very thin and chips easily. If he wins — in no small part on the votes of many conservative Christians who try not to think too deeply about Trump’s open worship of the golden calf of worldly success — perhaps Chief Justice Roberts will administer the oath of office on The Art of the Deal.