I have recently completed reading an amazing book! These days turning on the TV in search of a news story may result in being confronted with a 60-minute advertisement for a new diet program or another get-rich-quick scheme. Every now and then one of these infomercials will show up disguised as a book hustling a product you can’t live without. To read it takes longer — much longer — than 60 minutes, and you probably needed to pay for it.
Let me give you a taste of the sales pitch. Here is a quote found on page 282.
"Having known and observed (him) for a number of years, what I’ve come to understand is that (he) deeply respects the men and women of God who have such strong godly principles. (He) is a man who treated everyone around him with respect, no matter his or her title or job."
The author of this hymn of praise is none other than Mike Pence, whose main job seems to be keeping his boss’s ego inflated, as if that were necessary on behalf of a man who manages to turn every encounter into an occasion for self-aggrandizement.
Much of the book’s last hundred pages are given over to a parade of conservative religious leaders seeking to outdo one another in claiming that God chose Trump to be President. “We thank God every day that he gave us a leader like Donald Trump,” says the minister of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Other evangelical heavies hold that the opposition to Trump is the result of “demonic activity.” (The devil made us do it!)
Scattered throughout the last half of the book are attacks on “The Johnson Amendment” which prohibits tax-exempt institutions from endorsing or funding candidates for public office. Here is a blatant attempt by Christian conservatives to obliterate what Thomas Jefferson and others called the “wall of separation between church and state.” These evangelicals see this wall as inhibiting the ability to establish their narrow religious perspective as the foundation of government, leading to a fundamentalist Christian State.
The book’s title is "The Faith of Donald J. Trump." It was written by David Brady of The Christian Broadcasting Network, and is basically an opportunity for a collection of politically motivated right-wing religious leaders to showcase their opinions. Very little is said about Trump’s religious commitments. The first half of the book is basically about the divisions afflicting the Presbyterian Church, the religious traditions of Scotland, the vocational travail of the Trump clan, the story of American fundamentalism/evangelicalism, Norman Vincent Peale, Billy Graham and the Manhattan real estate business. Very little is said about what Trump believes, or the ethic derived from his “Christian” faith and its practice.
Indeed, nothing in Trump’s agenda seems to have been produced by the life and teachings of Jesus, the New Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures or any other religious tradition. The closest the book comes to an analysis of Trump’s faith involves his fascination with Peal’s ”Power of Positive Thinking.” and his lightweight successors, Robert Schuler and Joel Osteen with their so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” Here we get closer to what is at the core of Trump’s real religion. Obviously his faith lies in American power and its capacity to allow a handful of individuals and families to gain enormous personal wealth without reference to anything flowing from the Christian tradition.
A hard look at Donald Trump’s religious beliefs and perspectives will have to wait until a recognized religious scholar produces an honest objective analysis. This book just doesn’t do it.