Jesus and Donald Trump: Who can tell the difference? A close reading
It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump’s favorite piece of literature is the Bible.
That’s because he appears to have modeled his 1987 autobiography Trump: The Art of the Deal on the Book of Genesis.
The Bible famously documents how God created the world in one week, breaking the narrative down to his daily schedule. The Art of the Deal – Trump’s second-favourite book – follows an identical format, with the reader treated to an intimate examination of the business mogul’s schedule.
We learn that on the first day, while God is letting there be light, Trump is ordering his investment banker to buy up stock in Holiday Inn.
As God is seeing the light, and seeing that it was good, Trump is having his executive assistant bring him lunch: “A can of tomato juice. I rarely go out, because mostly, it’s a waste of time.” Trump saw that the tomato juice was also good.
Later on the first day God decides to call darkness night, and light day. That’s the end of his first day. Trump, meanwhile, is examining slides for the Trump Tower Christmas decorations. “I don’t like what I’m shown,” he writes. “Finally, I see a huge and magnificent gold wreath for the entrance to the building, and decide we should use just that.”
God – the slacker – calls it quits after essentially completing three tasks on his first day. Trump, meanwhile, just keeps on rolling. After the Christmas decoration meeting he speaks to his attorney, who is about to embark on a 24-hour flight to Australia – “I tell him I’m very glad he’s going instead of me” – before ringing the NBC executive in charge of choosing the network’s new headquarters.
Trump gives the executive the hard sell on moving NBC to his planned 70-acre site on the Hudson River. He will be building the world’s tallest building there, he tells the bamboozled executive. Wouldn’t it be cool for NBC to have its offices in the world’s tallest building?
With the benefit of hindsight we know that none of this ever happened. Say what you will about god, but when he makes plans he always executes them. Trump’s first day comes to an end at 6.30pm when he takes “the elevator upstairs” to his Trump Tower apartment.
Both Trump and God continue to be busy. The lord almighty makes water, heaven, land and plants on the second and third days. Trump buys more shares in Holiday Inn. A man from a bank comes to see him and Trump marvels at how bankers are now asking him to borrow their money. “They know a safe bet,” Trump writes. He would file for the first of his corporate bankruptcies four years later.
God really kicks into gear on day four. Between then and day six he invents time and whales and fish and animals and still has time to create man in his own image.
Trump is busy too. He gets invited to a party, if you can believe it, although he doesn’t like parties very much because he “can’t stand small talk”.
On the seventh day God rested. Good luck to him. Sadly we’ll never know what happened on Trump’s seventh day, or even sixth day, because his very own Genesis ends on Friday at 4.45pm, when he meets David Letterman and engages in “a few minutes of bantering”.
Every great book has central themes that it returns to and expands on through the text. The Old Testament explores the problem of evil conquering good: whether it be Adam and Eve eating bad fruit in a nice garden, or Cain murdering his brother in a field. Redemption is another important topic: the ability of man to forgive his fellow man, and of god to forgive all sins, or drown a load of people in a flood.
Through the recurring themes of The Art of the Deal, it is possible to see where Trump’s second-favourite book was inspired by his most favourite. There’s the gleaming palace of Trump Tower, mentioned in almost every chapter and almost certainly an allegory for heaven. The press – despite Trump not caring about them – are discussed at length, and can be read as an analogy with Satan and his spawn.
Trump has not just been influenced by the Old Testament, however. There is plenty here borrowed from the New Testament.
The bible has its Jesus, The Art of the Deal has its Trump. Both, we are told, come from humble beginnings. Jesus’s father was a carpenter; Trump’s father was a carpenter’s helper. Jesus lived in a small house in Nazareth; Trump was “a kid from Queens” (the book makes little mention of the $400m family business Trump ultimately inherited.)
Both characters were precocious children who were not afraid to question authority. Jesus went missing for three days once, before his parents found him in the temple in Jerusalem questioning religious teachers. Trump punched his music teacher in the face “because I didn’t think he knew anything about music”.
In the bible Jesus realises he must make the ultimate sacrifice: he must die for humanity’s sins so that men and women may still find a path to heaven. By the end of The Art of the Deal Trump has discerned he, too, has a purpose.
“In my life, there are two things I’m good at,” Trump writes. “Overcoming obstacles and motivating good people to do their best work.” Like Jesus, he now wants to use those skills to help humanity: “To give back some of what I’ve gotten.”
Ultimately, Trump appears to be willing to do a bit of charity here and there, but has no plans become an all-out leper colony philanthropist. His passion lies elsewhere.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he writes at the very end of his second favourite book. “I also plan to keep making deals, big deals, and right around the clock.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015