Have You Bought Your Christian Nationalist Bible Yet?

Have You Bought Your Christian Nationalist Bible Yet? March 31, 2024

“Elmer Gantry never knew who sent him thirty dimes, wrapped in a tract about holiness, nor why. But he found the sentiments in the tract useful in his sermon, and the thirty dimes he spent for lovely photographs of burlesque ladies.”            ― Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry

Have you purchased your “God Bless the U.S.A. Bible” yet? Donald Trump wants you to know that:

“All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many. It’s my favorite book. It’s a lot of people’s favorite book.”

“I think you all should get a copy of the ‘God Bless the USA’  Bible now and help spread our Christian values with others.”

It is a sales pitch worthy of the Elmer Gantry Award. It’s not a real award, but it should be. It should be given to the most insincere, fraudulent, con man who tries to sell us religion. But more is at stake than the few dollars that hucksters like Gantry and Trump are bilking out of gullible followers…much more.

You should watch the movie “Elmer Gantry” if you aren’t familiar with it. Burt Lancaster plays Elmer Gantry, a hard-drinking, fast-talking traveling salesman with a charismatic personality who infuses biblical passages and fervor into his pitches to collect money from the gullible.

The movie was released in 1960 and won five Academy Awards in 1961. The story is based on the 1927 novel by Sinclair Lewis of the same name. Gantry’s special talent is turning religion into a spectacle, and he does it so well that it brings people by the thousands to the church started by Sister Sharon Falconer, loosely based on the life of the real evangelist, Ami Semple McPherson. Along with the crowds came the money. Lots of money!

I couldn’t help but make the association between Donald Trump hawking God Bless the U.S.A. Bibles, and Gantry’s fake sermons and sales pitches for eternity. Both are cut from the same cloth.

However, whereas Gantry is a fictional character who seems to represent the totality of organized religion which is built around messages designed to shame and guilt people into turning over hard-earned money to the coffers of the clergy, Trump is a real modern-day Elmer Gantry, piously and hypocritically hyping sales of Bibles to the throng of those who call themselves “Christian Nationalists.”

Trump’s message was designed to go to the heart of the Christian Nationalist mission. Making America a Christian nation…and solely a Christian nation. Here are some other pitch lines in Trump’s Twitter video: (watch it at your own risk and you might want to have a barf-bucket nearby)

“I’m proud to be partnering with my very good friend, Lee Greenwood. Who doesn’t love his song ‘God Bless the USA.’ In connection with promoting the ‘God Bless the USA’ Bible.”

“Religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country…I think it’s one of the biggest problems we have; that’s why our country is going haywire. We’ve lost religion in our country.”

“Christians are under siege but must protect content that is pro-God. We love God, and we have to protect anything that is pro-God. We must defend God in the public square and not allow the media or the Left-wing groups to silence, censor, or discriminate against us.”

“Stand with me and the legions of Americans asking God to bless our great nation, to bring our great nation back, and to make America great again.”

“There you have it. Let’s make America pray again. God bless you, and God bless the USA.”

And there you have it…the most crass, money-grubbing excuse for selling the good book I’ve ever seen.

And by the way, this is no ordinary Bible, no sir. This is a special Bible my friends because “it is the King James version.” And, not only that, but this Bible also has a copy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence ANNNND…that great founding document, the Pledge of Allegiance in it.

It’s all yours for only $59.99. Now pardon me while I am becoming nauseated.

The one thing that seems overtly missing in Trump’s Bible pitch is where all this money will go. Usually, when a celebrity makes a pitch to send money somewhere, it is for a charitable cause like “feed the children” or “save the animals.” Trump mentions no charitable cause or nonprofit.

I wonder how much Lee Greenwood’s cut will be.

Of course, this pitch along with selling $399 Golden T sneakers are all going to help pay for Trump’s legal fees and fines. Once a grifter, always a grifter. Trump is playing the gullible Christian Nationalists for all they are worth. He is playing on their fear. Playing on their sense of entitlement. Playing on their nationalistic theology. And, he is playing on the heart-rending version of Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

But more to the point, the video, with its stark appeal to nationalism with Trump standing between two American flags, hawking Bibles, illustrates the degree to which white Christian Nationalists are the core of his base. And, white Christian Nationalism would make up the core of his new administration should he be able to pull off an electoral victory in November.

The conflation of Christian beliefs, symbolism, and rituals with American nationalism is perhaps the most threatening ideology to the democratic republic internally. These two things are opposites and cannot exist in the same political environment at the same time.

Here is why these two things are not alike:

  • White Christian Nationalism requires the elevation of one religion over all others
  • White Christian Nationalism erases the wall of separation between the church and the state
  • White Christian Nationalism presupposes the minority can rule over the majority
  • White Christian Nationalism defines an “American” as one of them, not the plurality that has always existed in this country
  • White Christian Nationalism requires a religious test for holding office; you must be white, you must be Christian (in their definition), and you must use the Bible as a standard for law

There is nothing about white Christian Nationalism that is consistent with a free, open, democratic republic that has a multicultural society and voter base. That is why another tenant of white Christian Nationalism is voter suppression. Only “real Americans” should be allowed to vote.

Trump’s exploitation of the white Christian Nationalist movement has paid him dividends both financially and politically. You can count on him continuing his gross manipulation of this base if it pays off. That’s what grifters do. If the Satanist church gave him the same adoration, money, and political clout as the Christian Nationalists, you can bet he would be hawking copies of the “Satan Bless the USA Satanic Bible.”

But, should Trump be successful in manipulating enough people in the right geographic regions of the country, and pull out another electoral victory similar to 2016, then it would be pay-up time for the white Christian Nationalist base. And this time, unlike 2016, they have a long laundry wish list. Overturning Roe v. Wade was the big payoff in 2016, but the payoff in 2025 would be vast and transformational.

There is more at stake here than just a huckster peddling “nationalistic Bibles.” The idea of combining the Bible with the founding documents of the United States is not just a bad idea, but it gives the aura of infallibility not so much to the documents, but to the leader who promotes this potion of poison to our Constitutional system.

What Trump has in common with Elmer Gantry is the idea that he is somehow the savior, the chosen one, and the one who everyone adores. It isn’t about solving problems, but getting people to believe that he, and only he, can solve them (whether he does or not). As he conflates the Bible with the founding documents, he is also conflating his personality with the divine, in a messianic image that feeds his deep and infinite well of narcissism. It is delusional but it is also deadly to the republic.

Trump will stop at nothing to promote himself and gain the adoration of millions of followers, along with their dollars. For him, it isn’t about a Bible. It isn’t about Christian Nationalism. It isn’t about the country or solving its many problems. It isn’t about the Constitution or the principles of good government.

It is about him…that’s it. It is about Donald J. Trump and if he has to sell nationalistic Bibles and golden overpriced sneakers to keep his hind end out of jail and win an election so that he can rig the justice system to save himself, he will do it.

One more quote from Elmer Gantry:

“It was not merely that he was a shouter, a pounder on backs, an overwhelming force so that there was never any refuge of intimacy with him. It was because he was always demanding… Elmer assumed that he was the center of the universe and that the rest of the system was valuable only as it afforded him help and pleasure.”

― Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry

About Daniel L Henderson
With a 40 year career in education, Daniel Henderson has the grounding of being a life-long mid-westerner, and having traveled extensively. His teaching career in the field of history and religion has given many of his students inspiration and motivation to pursue their own careers in these fields. Dan has traveled to Europe and Central America and all over the United States. He has a passion for history and historic sites. He has published a personal story of his own faith journey called, "Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical." In 1966, Daniel went "forward" at a Billy Graham Crusade to give his life to Christ, and 40 years later, in 2005, he walked away from it. Like millions that are now leaving the traditional church behind, Daniel has made that break and has written his own memoir about the experience. He was a Christian School teacher for 2 decades and much of his story centers around the "hot-house" environment of those private institutions. As an educator, speaker, writer and historian, Daniel continues today to encourage others to find their faith, embrace doubt, ask hard questions, and find their own spiritual path. Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical highlights this journey in an intimate and personal way that creates that safe place for others to learn, grieve, grow, and emerge into a new, more authentic faith. It is a compassionate, but no-holds barred, conversation about how the Evangelical and Christian Nationalist movement in the U.S. threatens our culture and democracy. It is hopeful, joyful, but also straight-forward in identifying how Evangelical belief and practices harm individuals and society. But ultimately, Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical provides a vision for moving on to a more humanistic and spiritual way of being. You can read more about the author here.

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