The Christian Right is in mourning over President Donald Trump being voted out of office. Pat Robertson, the far-right evangelical who founded the Christian Broadcasting Network, has declared that the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20, 2021 must be prevented, saying, "We will not give up this great country. And Satan, you cannot have it." But the irony is that the incoming president is much more religious than Trump, who has demonstrated how little he knows about Christianity and the Bible.
Although Trump was raised Presbyterian, religion was never a high priority in his life. But when he ran for president in 2016, Trump realized that the Christian Right was a prominent voting bloc in the GOP and went out of his way to pander to the far-right White evangelicals he had no connection to in the past. The Trump of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s was more of a Blue Dog Democrat than a GOP culture warrior, and he spent a lot more time in casinos than in churches.
Journalist Ed Kilgore, in an article published by New York Magazine on December 17, notes Trump's history of butchering Biblical references during his speeches.
Kilgore explains, "Before Donald Trump became the very favorite politician of White conservative evangelicals, he was regularly a figure of sport for displaying exceptional ignorance in all matters religious. A particularly rich example of his clumsiness occurred when he was campaigning at evangelical stronghold Liberty University early in 2016 and tried to quote a Bible verse that was very familiar to the audience, since it's etched on several buildings there."
Kilgore adds that there were many other "religious gaffes Trump committed while stumping for votes" in 2016.
"On another occasion along the campaign trail," Kilgore recalls, "Trump was asked about his favorite line of scripture. He delivered a word salad for a while and finally tried to recall 'an eye for an eye,' not the sort of thing Christians of any variety consider normative for the faith of the Prince of Peace…... Just prior to the Iowa caucuses, Trump was in a Council Bluffs church when a plate came down the pews with communion bread on it. The billionaire misidentified it as a collection plate and put a couple of bills on it."
Kilgore also notes that in 2017, Trump met with two Presbyterian minsters and was surprised to learn that they didn't consider themselves evangelicals but rather, described themselves as "Mainline Protestants."
Of course, anyone with even a basic knowledge of Christianity realizes that Presbyterians aren't evangelicals any more than Episcopalians or Lutherans — two other examples of Mainline Protestants — are evangelicals. And there's no way that either Biden, a devout Catholic, or former President Barack Obama, a Mainline Protestant, would have made that mistake or confused a communion plate with a collection plate. Unlike Trump, Biden and Obama both have a long history of being churchgoing Christians and obviously have an extensive knowledge of the Bible.
Televangelist homophobe Pat Robertson desperately prays for an end to the 'Satanic delusion' of Joe Biden’s victory https://t.co/cu7g0FmeFy— PinkNews (@PinkNews)1605899520.0
I’m rolling around in bed tonight with nightmares of a Harris/Biden administration! #Debates2020— Tony Perkins (@Tony Perkins)1603418034.0
If Pat Robertson were to sit down with Biden or Obama, they could have an in-depth conversation about scripture. Yet Robertson, like much of the Christian Right, adores Trump while hating Biden and Obama — which underscores the deeply tribalist nature of the Christian Right.
The Christian Right has long been a hate movement, and it is as much about White nationalism and far-right identity politics as it is about Protestant fundamentalism. The late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr., founder of Liberty University and co-founder of the Moral Majority, was a notorious segregationist during the 1950s and 1960s, when he vigorously defended Jim Crow laws in the pulpit and argued that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a not a true Christian because of his anti-segregation views. During the 1980s, Falwell defended the racist apartheid regime in South African and encouraged Christians to buy krugerrands to support it.
The late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, known for being an arch-conservative in his day, was vehemently critical of Falwell and the Christian Right during the 1980s — describing them as dangerous fanatics and warning that the GOP was making a huge mistake by allying itself with that movement. But many Republicans ignored Goldwater, much to the GOP's detriment.
To the Christian Right and far-right White evangelicals, the fact that Biden and Obama are more religious than Trump is irrelevant. Robertson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family) and other evangelical Trump supporters are extreme tribalists, and they view Trump as part of their tribe — which is why Trump got a pass when, according to his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, he had extramarital affairs with a porn star (Stormy Daniels) and a Playboy model (Karen McDougal) and paid them hush money to keep quiet.
Trump repeatedly attacked Biden as anti-Christian during his 2020 presidential campaign. But in 2017, Trump didn't even know the difference between Presbyterians and evangelicals.
The Christian Right will miss Trump dearly when he leaves off on January 20, 2021. And no matter how much Biden goes to church or accurately quotes the Bible, it won't matter to the far-right evangelical extremists who value White identity politics above all else.