Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump would frequently say not to worry about the disease because it would go away “like a miracle.”
CNN religion editor Daniel Burke argues that Trump’s childhood minister may be part of the reason why he ignored dire warnings about the disease and instead adopted an approach of “magical thinking.”
As Burke documents, Trump as a child attended sermons by the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who is best known for his self-help book titled, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
During his sermons, Burke writes, Peale regularly “elevated businessmen like the Trumps to saint-like status as crusaders of American capitalism,” and he told his followers to remember that “attitudes are more important than facts.”
Author Christopher Lane, who has written a biography of Peale, tells Burke that Trump’s response to COVID-19 bears many of the hallmarks of the late minister’s teachings.
“Positive thinking can help people focus on goals and affirm one’s merits, but it does need a reality check, and to be based in fact,” he explained. “Trump pretending that this pandemic will just go away is not just an unacceptable fantasy, it is in the realm of dangerous delusion.”
Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, meanwhile, says that the president’s Peale-like determination to shape reality to his own liking is central to his character.
“Nothing is an exchange of ideas or discussion of facts,” he said. “Everything is a life or death struggle for the definition of reality. For him, being wrong feels like being obliterated.”