Looking Back at the Church of Donald Trump

Looking Back at the Church of Donald Trump March 22, 2023

an American flag upside down
image via Pixabay

 

 

He’s back in the news again, as ever: former reality TV star and failed politician Donald Trump.

Donald Trump who lost the popular vote but won the electoral college to the least likeable Democratic candidate in recent history in 2016. Donald Trump who proceeded to helm the Republican party in to monumental losses in 2018, 2020, and 2022. The thrice-married philanderer backed by those who believe in “traditional marriage.” The man who was going to save the unborn babies, even though for the first time in over a decade, the abortion rate rose every year he was in office. The darling of conservative Christians, who doesn’t usually attend Sunday services, famous for holding a Bible upside down in front of a mainline Protestant church where he’d just tear gassed peaceful protesters.

I somehow became famous in certain small Catholic circles while Trump was president, because I was a fairly conservative Catholic who believed abortion was wrong and still spoke out that Trump was not a defender of life or Christianity. I don’t like to write about Trump anymore because now that he’s not president, drawing attention to him is usually just playing into his hands. And Lord knows my Catholicism has taken a severe beating since those days. But here I am again.

I’m watching the silliest television clips of Christians holding prayer services for Donald Trump,  of Christians standing outside Trump Tower tooting ram’s horns. I see people comparing Donald Trump to Jesus in no uncertain terms. I see increasingly apocalyptic language and calls for what amounts to a holy war. It ought to be ridiculous, and it is. But it’s also completely expected.

Why?

Because this is just how they behaved, to my consternation, in 2016 and thereafter.

Why did they do that?

Because they wanted a tough political figurehead to save them, and with his toxic Reality Television Host charisma, he filled that role.

Why did they think they needed a tough political figurehead?

Because a sizeable number of American Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, were groomed from childhood to believe that we were in danger. We were constantly taught to look out for an enemy who was coming to persecute us. This was the air we breathed for our formative years, and it’s very hard to un-learn that programming. I’m certainly not the only one who’s talking about this programming and the chaos that comes out of it. I’m just someone who spent some time in the Charismatic Renewal, one of the sects involved in it all, and I want to add my voice to all the others explaining. My family was comparatively moderate, and we still believed a lot of this nonsense and were friends with people who believed far more.

I don’t know how to begin to describe what it’s like, to just assume there must be a sinister left-wing cabal calling the shots in America.

I grew up in deeply conservative Catholic circles and then moved to Steubenville. This is all I know.  It’s something I know so well that I’m at a loss to tell you. You might as well ask a fish to explain what water feels like. It feels like business as usual.

But I can tell you this:  if you really, truly think that everyone who is LGBTQ is an abusive, narcissistic person who would hurt a child if given half a chance, and only a God-fearing heterosexual couple will not commit child abuse. If you honestly believe that everyone who believes in a government safety net is an authoritarian communist akin to Stalin. If you actually do think that every vote for affordable healthcare will increase the abortion rate and that abortionists are sadists intent on causing as much agony to a viable baby as possible. If you think that the United Nations or the United States government is excited to establish a one-child policy, cull the elderly and disabled, and ban Christianity. If you’ve been told this your whole life, and been told any evidence to the contrary is part of “The Liberal Media” trying to trick you into siding with Satanists… you will come to a conclusion that is like the things we’re hearing conservatives parrot right now. It will make sense to you. And there are a lot of us who were brought up to believe just that.

It is possible to come to that conclusion, with propaganda repeated often enough. It’s entirely possible for you to even think that believing it is a necessary part of your religious practice. American Christians, Catholic and Protestant both, have come to believe this.

It has nothing to do with the Gospel, but it feels like it does when you’re in the middle of it.

It has nothing to do with Christ, but you will be made to feel like a traitor to Christ if you dare question it.

If you were raised in this culture your entire life– you’re not without blame. You have a responsibility to question what you’ve been taught and to learn the truth. We all do. But in any case, if you were raised that way, you will believe you’re in constant danger from anyone who is different from you. And you will jump at any opportunity to defend yourself from that threat. And if some politician with a toxic charisma tells you that only he can save you, you will make him your savior.

The resulting mess will look like America right now.

And we’ll just have to see where we go from here.

 

 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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