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Critics Blast ‘Blasphemous’ Religious Imagery on the 2024 Campaign Trail

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The 2024 intersection of faith and politics is on display, from a messianic-like video which claims, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker,’ so God gave us Trump,” to some comparing the former president to Jesus Christ.

“Believe that the man that can help this nation – the one man that was ridiculed, destroyed as – Jesus. Trump can come back and save the American dream for all,” Academy Award winner Jon Voight said in a video earlier this year. 
 
When President Trump entered the scene in 2016, he was not a regular churchgoer, nor was he seen as a person of deep faith. Now, eight years later, he is incorporating religion into his re-election bid for the White House.

“We have to bring Christianity back into our lives and back into what will be again a great nation,” Trump said in one video online.

Jackson Laymeyer heads Pastors4Trump – a group supporting the former president.  

“The religious themes I think are very appropriate because this is a very spiritual battle,” Laymeyer told CBN News.

Leading up to Easter, Trump began promoting the sale of the “God Bless the USA” Bible.

“This Bible is the King James version and also includes our founding father documents,” Trump said in a promotional video. “I want to have a lot of people have it. You have to have it for your heart, for your soul.”

Laymeyer applauds the message. “How in the world could pastors and Christians complain about the potential president of the United States encouraging Americans to read the Bible? That’s what all of us pastors want,” he said.

But the Trump-endorsed Bible, which sells for $59.99, has drawn rebuke.

Pastor Loran Livingston of Central Church in Charlotte, NC recently preached a sermon that went viral for his condemnation of Trump selling Bibles. 

“When you don’t read and pray you say, ‘Wow there’s a Bible out now that includes the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Isn’t that wonderful,” Livingston says in the sermon. “No. No, it’s disgusting. It’s blasphemous. It’s a ploy.”

Michael Wear, author of The Spirit of Our Politics, sees Trump’s show of religion in his campaign as strategic.

“I think he is clearly trying to appeal not just to Christians, but to people who are in a sort of antagonistic mode in our politics,” Wear said in an interview with CBN News. “I think it clearly, it works for some.”

Nationally syndicated radio host Erick Erickson disagrees with that assessment and calls such a strategy ineffective. 

“He’s already got this base of people to vote for him,” Erickson commented. “He risks alienating them by cheapening their gospel and by tying his abortion waffling to a position they care about. And he’s going to reach out to moderate voters. Moderate voters care about pocketbook issues not the Trump Bible. I think he probably needs to leave Jesus out of it.”

On the other side, President Biden who is a Roman Catholic comes off much more muted on religion. His recent move, however, to make a sign of the cross at a Florida abortion rally has come under fire.

“Making the sign of the cross is one of the most profound gestures a Catholic can make in showing reverence for Christ’s death on the cross and belief in the Holy Trinity as we sign ourselves in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, IL. “To misuse this sacred gesture is to make a mockery of our Catholic faith.”     

The backlash comes at a time when the president’s disapproval rating among Catholics stands at 64 percent, an all-time high according to a recent Pew Research poll. Wear said the Biden camp also has a strategy to reach voters of faith.

“They will have folks on their campaign doing religious outreach,” said Wear. “I think he’s making an appeal on character. He’s making an appeal on decency. He’s going to be focused on the issue of democracy and some of the legal issues that his opponent has.”

Regent University Professor Mark David Hall, author of Who’s Afraid of Christian Nationalism, calls religious messaging in politics inappropriate.\

“Obviously it’s fine to be a good patriotic Christian, to love our nation,” Hall told CBN News. “But it should be a properly ordered love of nation, not in an inordinate love. And I certainly understand why people would support Donald Trump for the presidency, but they should recognize he’s not a Savior; political or otherwise.”

Some have pointed to religious symbols displayed during the January 6th Capitol riot as proof that Christian nationalism is on the rise. 

But Hall counters that while the movement does exist and is problematic, he does not believe it poses an existential threat to American democracy or the Church.

He explained, “About 20 percent of Americans would like to move to that sort of cultural Christianity. I think this is nowhere near as scary as what all the critics call Christian nationalism. But I still think there are good prudential, biblical, constitutional, and theological reasons to reject even this benign form of Christian nationalism.”

Meanwhile, Wear offered a word of caution to Christian voters ahead of the November election.

“Whether it comes from the right or the left, whether it comes from Republicans or Democrats, I would encourage Christians to not be so easily flattered, to not be so quick to have their ears tickled,” he said.

 



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