In Ohio on Thursday, Trump described what would happen if Joe Biden became president: “No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God.” That’s an odd charge. Biden is a churchgoing Catholic who has told the moving story of how his faith sustained him through the deaths of his first wife, his daughter, and his son.
But yes, there is a candidate without real religion or Christian morality. His name is Donald Trump.
Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former Trump aide and an ordained Baptist minister, put it this way: “Donald Trump has no knowledge of the Bible at all. It might as well be a paper brick to him.” After Trump said that public schools should offer the “option” of Bible study, a pastor tweeted:
I was @realDonaldTrump's pastor for 5 years @MarbleChurch. I assure you, he had the "option" to come to Bible study. He never "opted" in. Nor did he ever actually enter the church doors. Not one time. https://t.co/hf06e6LyRz
— David Lewicki (@dlewicki) January 29, 2019
In her recent book, his niece quotes his sister Maryanne: “The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there.”
Trump’s ignorance of religion is comical. In 2015, when a reporter asked him to name his favorite Bible verse, he declined by saying “it’s very personal.” Watch the video. If you’re a teacher, you have seen that body language from students who haven’t done the assigned reading.
What’s more troubling is that he scorns the moral teachings of the faith that he pretends to believe in. The New Testament warns against hatred: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Trump preaches hatred. In 1989, when he was persecuting the wrongly accused (and then wrongly convicted) Central Park Five, he said: “I hate these people and let’s all hate these people because maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done.”
Perhaps the most famous of Jesus’ moral teachings is: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also” (Luke 6:29). In 2012, Trump tweeted: “When someone attacks me, I always attack back . . . except 100x more. This has nothing to do with a tirade but rather, a way of life!” Lest anyone miss the point about Trump’s repudiation of Jesus’ words, see a tweet from 2013: “What happened to ‘turn the other cheek?’ Sorry, not a believer!”
Think about that. Presented with the words of the religious figure that he claims to worship, he sneered, “Sorry, not a believer!”
Trump stands against the Bible in many other ways. Thou shalt not commit adultery? No further comment necessary. Bearing false witness? By one count earlier this summer, he had made more than 20,000 false or misleading statements during his presidency. Some of his lies are just silly, such as his ridiculous claim about his inauguration crowd. Others, like the whoppers that he has told about COVID-19, are potentially lethal. And they all fall afoul of biblical morality. The Book of Proverbs has a verse (17:7) that seems intended for people like Trump: “Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!” The same goes for a New Testament verse (John 8:44): “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Trump’s business career is a long, sordid tale of graft and grifting. He has deployed platoons of lawyers so he could stiff his creditors, vendors, and workers. The Letter of St. James (2:6-7) describes him well: “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”
Trump was talking nonsense when he suggested that anybody could hurt God. But it is possible to hurt religion, which he does every day. Because of his alliance with certain evangelicals, many Americans may equate Christianity with Trumpism—which means they see it as organized hypocrisy. More than a century and a half ago, Alexis de Tocqueville warned that a faith “cannot share the material strength of the rulers without being burdened with some of the animosity roused against them . . . It does not need their support in order to live, and in serving them it may die.”