The Trump Prophecy and the Evangelical Vote | Renegade Cut

By | September 3, 2019


In March of this year, President Donald Trump
traveled to meet with his southern voting base in the red state of Alabama. The state had recently suffered through a
tornado, and his handlers undoubtedly believed this would be a good photo opportunity. While there, his MAGA disciples, his Trumpism
apostles, thrust the Holy Bible on him and had him sign the pages of scripture as if
it were a middle schooler’s autograph book. They look so excited – elated, even – to
see the President – this president — and to have him participate in this unusual ritual,
this mild sacrilege. After all, this is Donald Trump, friend to
Christians everywhere and devout Protestant. A Presbyterian powerhouse of faith, imbued
with the humility of Jesus Christ himself. This twice divorced adulterer, this loathsome
creature accused many times of sexual assault, this obvious liar, this even more obvious
fraud. How is Donald Trump…their guy? If he doesn’t behave the way Christ would
have him behave, why is he so popular among the flock? Trump may be the least outwardly
religious president in modern American history, prompting the least controversial and least
confrontational living comedian Jim Gaffigan to remark “I can’t believe every woman I
know is marching in the streets and CNN is showing Trump pretending to believe in God.” According to exit polling from the New York
Times, the results of the 2016 general election show that Trump handily won the Catholic vote
and even more resoundingly won the Protestant vote. They. Love. Him. Or at least, they love what he’s doing. Last year saw the release of the latest in
the Christian exploitation film assembly line: The Trump Prophecy. It’s the “true story” [card] of real life
fire fighter Mark Taylor. During a sabbatical from the department due
to PTSD, Mark begins receiving visions from God and the Devil. Either that or nightmares consistent with
having PTSD, whatever. One night in 2011, Mark falls asleep with
the news on, so he hears Donald Trump’s voice while dreaming. Because of this, Mark concludes that Trump
has been chosen by God himself to be the next President of the United States, much in the
same way that God always chooses the Super Bowl winner. Mark’s extremely unprofessional doctors help
spread this vision of a Trump-led America, starting prayer chains and horn-blowing rituals. Although Trump does not run in 2012, a year
after Mark has his dream, he does run in 2016 and wins, turning Mark’s nightmare into OURS. Mark was right, his vision now proven. After all, he prayed for it to happen. It’s not like anyone else in America prayed
for their candidate to win. God confirmed. So, is that why Trump won? Because God intervened? Well, no, but Trump’s support among God’s
most radical American Christians – white Evangelicals – definitely helped. According to The Nation, 81% of white Evangelical
Protestants, the Christian base of the Republican Party, voted for Trump. “Evangelical” is superficially a religious
designation, not a political one…but it has actually come to be both. It became the common name for the revivals
of the 18th and 19th centuries, in America. These revivals were not just about waking
up current Protestants but finding new Protestants – conversion. Immediate conversion, in fact. Evangelicals supposedly adhere to the 19th
century revival doctrine of the importance of evangelism and conversion and the final
authority of the Bible. Although America became more secular throughout
much of the 20th century, the insertion of religion into politics had a revival of its
own. Frances Fitzgerald, author of The Evangelicals:
The Struggle to Shape America, explained it like this: “When Jimmy Carter, a liberal
Southern Baptist, ran for president in 1976, the pollster George Gallup estimated that
fifty million Americans were ‘born-again’ Christians, and Newsweek magazine ran a cover
story, ‘Born Again! The Evangelicals,’ explaining who these millions
of people were. Four years later the Christian right emerged
in force, declaring holy war against ‘secular humanism’ and vowing to mobilize evangelicals
to arrest the moral decay of the country. Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist pastor, Pat
Robertson, a televangelist, and conservative Southern Baptists led the charge against the
gay rights movement, abortion, and the banning of school prayer. At an enormous rally in Dallas, Ronald Reagan
became their standard-bearer, and won the presidential election with the help of evangelical
votes.” AUDIO 3 Speaking of Falwell, The Trump Prophecy is
actually a production of Rick Eldridge’s ReelWorks Studios, in cooperation with the film department
of Liberty University, the evangelical school founded by Falwell himself. But between the election of Jimmy Carter and
the PROPHETIC election of Donald Trump, a lot happened with evangelicals and American
politics. The formation of evangelicals into a political
force rather than a religious sect began with a court ruling against Christian private school
Bob Jones University. In 1960, Bob Jones Sr. famously said “If
you are against segregation and against racial segregation, then you are against God.” In 1971, his school was forced to de-segregate,
and because of this, powerful Christians began to mobilize evangelicals into a predominantly
white and predominantly conservative voting block. Evangelical politics are inherently conservative,
and though black evangelicals exist, the evangelical movement has been inherently white. The individual is not the same as the movement. In 1979, Jerry Falwell launched the Moral
Majority, an organization set up to register conservative Christians to vote and mobilize
them against the nascent gay rights movement and reproductive rights. This was furthered along by Christian media
like the Christian Broadcasting Network, seen here prominently displayed in The Trump Prophecy. These organizations and denominations combine
under the banner of The Religious Right. This was and is not a movement of “Christians”
so much as it was and is a movement of a political ideology in which Christianity was one of
the elements or traits, the others including being white, conservative and Republican. The Religious Right was not registering American
Christians to vote in hopes they will vote Democrat. The Religious Right is not exclusively evangelical
or exclusively white, and evangelicals are not exclusively white or exclusively Republican,
but those are still the predominant elements of both the evangelical sect and the Religious
Right. This means that the term “evangelical”
can also be used as a political identification for an ethno-religious group. In an article for The Christian Century, Harry
Bruinius wrote: “As a group, they reveal some of the clearest political positions of
any subgroup. Making up around 25 percent of the population,
white evangelicals are by far the group most worried about the threats they see as posed
by immigrants. They are by far the most suspicious of Islam. They are by far the most resistant to same-sex
marriage.” Evangelicals don’t want to elect a “Christian”
president. They want to elect a socially conservative
Republican whether he’s a devout Christian or not. Barack Obama famously attended Church regularly,
as evidenced by his pastor being a talking point on the campaign trail, but his Christianity
was sometimes spoken of suspiciously by the right and in conspiratorial tones about how
he must be a secret Muslim! Obama spoke of his faith often and with sincerity,
but he didn’t meet the real criteria of the Evangelicals. Trump trips over his own words when trying
to convince people of his devotion to Christ, but Evangelicals adore him anyway. There are a lot of competing theories about
why this is. Is it racism or an honest mistake or racism,
or is it racism? We can’t know for sure. In The Trump Prophecy, a running joke is that
Christian voters say they “Never cared for Trump…” before and changed their minds,
which is supposed to be cute but is actually telling about their real goals. Evangelicals and The Religious Right in general
do not aim to put a Christian in the White House. That has been “mission accomplished” for
over 200 years. Instead, they aim to put socially conservative
presidents in the White House. Obama is not some socialist or leftist, he’s
a neoliberal, but anyone left of Ronald Reagan was too much for the Religious Right, regardless
of their Christian bonafides. The Trump Prophecy is split into two parts,
the narrative portion that makes up over an hour of its runtime and a talking heads style
documentary short that makes up the rest. During the narrative portion, Mark never goes
into specifics about why Trump should be president outside of it being told to him by God in
a dream. He also rarely references actual political
issues or talking points. Trump just…needs to be president, and evangelicals
and socially conservative Republicans in general can fill in the blanks as to why that needs
to be. Trump’s most defining characteristics are
his appeals to white nativism, nationalism and traditionalism. He doesn’t have to say anything particularly
Christian to appeal to Evangelical Christians because the evangelical movement has been
more about white nativism, nationalism and traditionalism than it has been about more
Christ-like beliefs like care for the poor. What does Mark even believe anyway? Well, fortunately for us, the character Mark
is based on the real life Mark, and he is very open about his beliefs. These are some highlights from a forty minute
interview that I had to listen to. Incidentally, I’ve read some of his prophecies,
and they all RHYME. They are rhyming prophecies. But maybe Mark is a bit of a strawman. Are Evangelicals in general still supporting
Trump with such fervor, and what do Evangelicals in general even want from Trump? The answer to the first question is a resounding
yes. No matter what Trump does, no matter how many
children are put in cages, no matter how many revelations about his personal life, no matter
what he does that seems to be in direct violation of the teachings of Jesus Christ, Evangelicals
continue to strongly support Trump. A study from the Public Religion Research
Institute from last year showed that 75% of white Evangelicals have a positive opinion
of Trump. That’s 81% white Evangelical men and 71% white
Evangelical women. So, what do Evangelicals want? Well…they want to win. According to Vox, during the 2016 primaries,
Trump’s favorability rating among white evangelicals fluctuated at around 30 percent. It increased dramatically after Trump won
the nomination. This is not an anomaly. It happened with Mitt Romney too. When Romney entered the race, his numbers
among white evangelicals were a little low, possible due to suspicion of his Mormon faith
and his dalliances with liberalism. But as soon as he became the nominee, none
of that mattered. All that mattered was that Romney was their
best bet at curtailing gay rights. Their best bet at reversing Roe v. Wade. Their best bet against a president who they
viewed as secretly Muslim or at least foreign. See, the thing about the evangelical culture
is that it is so mired in other traits that evangelicals don’t know where their white
nativism ends and their belief in the final authority of the Bible begins. Republican partisanship is baked into evangelical
identity in America. Remember what Bob Jones Sr. said? If you’re against segregation than you’re
against God? That’s how it works. If you’re one of those things, then you’re
all of those things and deviation from this norm is anathema. The “values voters” who judged the candidate
by their character are gone, replaced over time by pragmatists. Transactional, utilitarian political ethics. This is reinforced in The Trump Prophecy. Between the narrative and the documentary
short contained within the movie, there is this music video – sighs yeah, I know – uh,
there’s a music video for a song called “The Greater Good.” And if you think that’s a coincidence or I’m
looking too deeply into this, the song was written for this movie, and the lyrics were
written by the writer and producer of the film, Rick Eldridge. The message of The Trump Prophecy is that
no matter who Trump is, no matter what else Trump does, no matter the cost to our humanity,
he’s still the best way to get what they want. And yeah, besides winning, they did get a
lot from Trump. Namely, access. That’s access during the campaign and now
during his administration. In August of 2016, with the Trump campaign
seemingly on its last legs, the Republican candidate pivoted toward gaining the favor
of the Evangelical voting block. On August 12, he attended an event called
Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project, co-hosted by the Liberty Counsel, a far right
hate group with a focus on anti-LGBT legislation. Mike Huckabee, a Southern baptist minister,
failed presidential candidate and bad Twitter haver, began to stump for the Trump campaign. Trump began to tell the Evangelicals that
he would repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from endorsing political
candidates. Trump once remarked, while on the campaign
trail: “So go out and spread the word, and once I get in I will do the thing that I do
very well, and I figure it’s probably, maybe, the only way I’m going to get to heaven. So I better do a good job.” It might be a leap to say that Evangelicals
tipped the scales in favor of Trump on election day because, really, so many things had to
suddenly go Trump’s way for him to win the election, but his coddling of the Religious
Right, particularly the Evangelicals, certainly helped. And since becoming president, this relationship
has only grown stronger. Trump, whether he himself is religious or
not, needs the Evangelical base to secure his re-election in 2020. Remember that bit about Evangelicals being
the demographic that feared immigration the most, hated Islam the most and denounced same-sex
relationships the most? Well, Trump doubled down on all of that. Immigration: his fabled wall is so important
to him and his base that he has declared a national emergency to get the funds. Attempts to shut this down have failed so
far. And Islam? Well, he has finally won with his Muslim travel
ban. And what about same-sex relationships? Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services,
exempted South Carolina from anti-discrimination statutes that protect same-sex couples. And what of abortion, the forever hot topic
among Christians? The Trump administration is facilitating access
between themselves and the anti-abortion religious right. Azar was interviewed by the President of the
Family Research Council Tony Perkins at an anti-abortion event called ProLifeCon. The Family Research Council, by the way, is
listed as a hate group by the SPLC. Although reproductive rights are the law of
the land, that has not stopped the Trump administration from trying to skirt around this to placate
their evangelical base. Azar listed victories – new policies that
make it difficult to obtain an abortion, including allowing healthcare workers to refuse to treat
patients. Perkins famously compares being gay to pedophilia
and advocates for the quickly becoming illegal activity of conversion therapy, widely considered
among the psychiatric community as a form of torture. Paula White, a televangelist from Florida
is cited as the president’s chief spiritual adviser. She has a direct line to the White House,
once saying “You can do that because you have a seat there.” She is not alone. Johnnie Moore, a Southern Baptist minister
and former co-chair of the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisory board, estimated he’d
visited the White House 20 times by 2018. Trump regularly hosts Evangelical meetings
at the White House. In August of 2018, approximately 100 Evangelical
leaders were invited to the White House for what was practically an official state dinner. Trump will do anything to hold on to the Evangelicals
– even lie to their faces. In a closed-door meeting with Evangelical
leaders last year, Trump repeated his claim that he had gotten rid of the aforementioned
law forbidding churches from endorsing political candidates. This is false. The law remains on the books even after attempts
by Republicans to kill it. Trump has said to his base: “The level of
hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable. Part of it is because of some of the things
I’ve done for you… …they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do
it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some
of these groups — these are violent people. … Now you’re not silenced anymore. It’s gone and there’s no penalty anymore and
if you like somebody or if you don’t like somebody you can go out and say, ‘This man
is going to be great for evangelicals…’” There is more that Evangelicals want besides
those handful of things I mentioned. They are really, really into Israel. Like, they are thirsty for Israel. I could explain why, but…*sighs* …honestly,
it would take a whole separate video, which I will do one day. There’s just no time left in this one. I will leave you today with a quote from Kurt
Eichenwald of Newsweek, written a few months before the 2016 election and addressed to
then House Speaker Paul Ryan and far-right conservative James Dobson: “The primary
issue here is the credibility of evangelicalism, particularly as it relates to politics. For years, there has been a logic to the evangelists’
support of the Republican Party: Both held similar views on most social issues, and there
was more public discussion by conservative candidates about how faith informed their
policies. This year, that is not true. Instead, you have a man whose positions on
important social issues have changed, whose faith is obviously shallow and who seems to
know nothing about even the basics of evangelicalism, Christianity or the Bible. Mr. Dobson, if Donald Trump represents Christian
values, those values mean nothing.”

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