If you want a good, clear sense of how transactional Donald Trump’s relationship with the conservative Evangelical Christians who make up his strongest base of support really is, check out this rambling litany of comments he made in a radio interview today with his buddy Geraldo Rivera after the host inquired about how well he thought he was doing against Joe Biden:
TRUMP: One of the polls said, “Trump is leading by one in Texas.” Okay, I’m in favor of oil and gas, I’m in favor of the Bible, I’m in favor of the Second Amendment, right? Biden’s against all these things. He’s against oil and gas, he’s against the Bible — essentially against religion, but against the Bible — and he’s against the Second Amendment.
RIVERA: That may be a little harsh, him being against the Bible …
TRUMP: Well, the people that control him totally are …
Then the two of them wandered off into attacks on Biden as an “empty suit” and discussed “shy Trump voters” and other Trumpian memes. But given the importance of Bible believers to the president’s reelection, his casual mention of the Good Book as a political positioning item to tick off, like oil-and-gas subsidies and gun rights, shows how little respect he has for these voters.
Beyond this, does Trump have any idea what’s in the Bible from any sort of Christian viewpoint? Recall that when asked about his favorite Bible verse in 2016, he responded with the decisively un-Christian “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” line from the Hebrew Scriptures. He never goes to church unless it’s to pick up an endorsement. So what do you suppose he thinks it means to say that he’s “for the Bible” and Biden is “against the Bible”? Presumably, it’s that Trump is on the “right” side and Biden is on the “wrong” side of Christian-right litmus tests opposing abortion and LGBTQ rights, which, as it happens, have at best a very ambivalent relationship with the Good Book and particularly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who never saw fit to so much as mention either subject.
Is there even the remotest chance the president has a clue about the very different conservative and liberal Protestant interpretations of Biblical passages bearing on political topics, from the patriarchal sex-and-gender codes the former deem critical to the peace-and-equality messages cherished by the latter? Since he’s calling the observant Catholic Joe Biden an opponent of the Bible, does he know Catholics view the Bible (not codified until the fourth century) as a product of the Church rather than the other way around, intelligible only via Church teachings and rational inquiry? It seems more likely that he can fluidly interpret the “unknown tongues” some of his conservative Pentecostal supporters regard as a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, Trump seems to be warming to the idea of describing himself as God’s candidate, as reflected in remarks he made in Ohio today:
When he talks like this, Secret Service agents should scan the skies for signs of clouds from which thunderbolts might come crashing down.
All of this is simply to say that a religious illiterate with heathenish leanings like Donald Trump really needs to stay far away from blithe assertions of his and his opponent’s relationship to the Bible, Christianity, or faith itself. His religious allies can delude themselves all they want about Trump being an ignorant vehicle of divine vengeance against their liberal enemies, but even they tend to shy away from the assertion that Trump — who once famously said he had no sins to confess — is a God-fearing man in any serious sense. He’ll toe the Christian-right line as long as it’s necessary to carry the electoral votes of states like Texas, and not a moment longer.