A fascist Jesus Christ: MAGA turns Donald Trump into a martyr

Trump's anointment as some type of new Jesus Christ is a symptom of a much larger problem with the Christian right

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published April 14, 2023 5:56AM (EDT)

Fran Flynn (C) prays during the 'Evangelicals for Trump' campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry as they await the arrival of President Donald Trump on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Fran Flynn (C) prays during the 'Evangelicals for Trump' campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry as they await the arrival of President Donald Trump on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Last Sunday, millions of Christians around the world celebrated Easter. Beyond the mythological elements, the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of death, life, and renewal. At its core, Easter is a time to reflect upon and mark the change of seasons from Winter to Spring and the need to plant and nurture new life.

Donald Trump embodies, both as a human being and through his behavior, the literal opposite of the self-sacrifice, humility, dignity, generosity, sacrifice, and courage represented by Jesus Christ and his teachings. Trump is also the antithesis of the forces of health, life, and regeneration represented by the Easter holiday. Trump is plotting his return to the White House and has publicly promised an apocalyptic reign, a Hitler-like "final battle" and "End Times" where he and his MAGA movement's "enemies" will be severely punished if he wins the 2024 Election.

These facts have not stopped Trump, his propagandists, and cultists (most notably Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene) from elevating him to the level of Jesus Christ, as if Trump is a martyr who is being "persecuted" for doing the work of "God." When Trump was recently arrested and arraigned in New York for crimes connected to hush money payments he made to his mistresses during the 2016 presidential campaign, he reportedly wanted to have a public perp walk and be photographed for a mug shot because he believed that it would make him look like "Jesus Christ" to his followers.

In an "interview" on Tuesday with Fox News, Donald Trump told host Tucker Carlson that the police and other court officials were crying, extremely upset and apologizing to him for being "forced" to arrest and arraign him. Of course, that is not true: Trump is a compulsive liar and a malignant narcissist. But the story and imagery of Trump the martyr, being taken off to be executed like Christ or some other divine figure, is powerful and compelling for his cultists and other followers.

Trump's anointment as some type of new Jesus Christ exists in the much larger context of how white right-wing Christian fundamentalists view Trump as a tool for their anti-democracy theocratic project.

Donald Trump would go on to "celebrate" Easter by using his Truth Social disinformation platform to amplify death threats against President Biden, maniacal rants about World War 3 and other massive violence, and white supremacist, conspiracist, antisemitic, and other threats of stochastic terrorism and violence by him and his followers against "enemies" such as Manhattan District Attorney Bragg and the Department of Justice.

In a series of conversations with me here at Salon, psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank responded to Trump's Easter Day threats:

To anyone paying attention, Trump's outbursts are transparent.

He gives permission to unstable people to carry out their grievances at a murderous level. This is not just because violent people love Trump, but because they are following Trump's stated practice of striking back "ten times as hard" with any means available when he feels wronged.

I'm beginning to think a warning, or even a gag order is not sufficient. He needs to be secured where nobody can hear his genuinely dangerous outpourings. And it needs to be now.

Donald Trump's anointment as some type of new Jesus Christ exists in the much larger context of how white right-wing Christian fundamentalists view Trump as a tool for their anti-democracy theocratic project. Likewise, Trump has no respect or sincere interest in "Christianity" and the Christian right: They are just a means for him to get and keep unlimited power.

Calling Trump's martyrdom "a symptom of a much larger—and much more dangerous—problem," Candace McDuffie writes at the Root: "Nothing is beneath the right to cling to power and propping up Trump as a political sacrifice was perhaps a predictable move. Even though it's obviously outrageous and ridiculously tone-deaf, it's how conservatives have always moved—and it's proven alarmingly effective."

She continues: "The irreparable damage conservatives have done to Americans in the name of religion continues to harm marginalized and vulnerable groups. Whether its laws that attempt to eradicate trans people, abolish women's rights, employ deadly police forces or emphatically uphold the right to bear arms, Christianity has become the go-to excuse for Republicans to act however they like." 

In a recent op-ed at Time Magazine, Rev. Nathan Empsall, who is a priest in the Episcopal Church and the executive director of Faithful America, offers the following warnings about Trump as "Jesus Christ":

Any comparison between Trump and Christ is clearly heretical and inappropriate. However, these extremist voices are right about one thing: There is, indeed, a parallel between Donald Trump's arrest and Holy Week. But it's not between Trump and Jesus—it's between MAGA leaders and Pontius Pilate, the brutal Roman governor who ordered Christ's crucifixion.

Not only would Jesus never pay anyone hush money to change the outcome of an election, he wasn't even a politician. When the devil tempted Christ with earthly authority, he flatly refused to take it. Neither did Jesus support political violence the way Trump delights in playing Jan. 6 footage at his rallies. In fact, when the disciples drew weapons to prevent Jesus's arrest, he told them, "All who take the sword will die by the sword."

Pontius Pilate, on the other hand, was a regional Roman dictator known not only for his cruelty, but also for his alliance with local religious leaders. The high priests were eager to collude with the governor, including to crucify Jesus, because it allowed them to keep their status and personal freedom. In turn, Pilate benefited by having allies who could keep his subjects in line and thus keep him in power. It was a great deal for everyone—everyone but the people.

Two millennia later, a nearly identical bond has been forged between conservative American Christians and MAGA Republican politicians like Trump, Greene, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Under the blessing of conspiracy-theory preachers like Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, and Paula White-Cain, these politicians use and abuse religious imagery to create a culture where disagreeing with them is no longer seen as civic discourse, but as an act of blasphemy. To them, indicting a corrupt Republican politician like Trump isn't an example of a healthy democracy, but a demonic attack on a holy figure anointed by God.

The idea of Trump as some type of Jesus Christ figure extends beyond White Christianity to the secular neofascist and "conservative" movement and the larger white right. The latter are first and foremost engaged in a political-cultural project that works through a religious devotion to its cause. The assumptions, "logic", and revolutionary goals of the global neofascist and right-wing project exist outside of rationality, empirical reality and real facts. This is a politics of faith. 

In all, Trumpism, and other fascisms are a force that gives its members meaning. They are sacred in that way, something rapturous, charismatic, a way to find salvation and fulfillment. The leader – Trump in this case – is a type of secular mystical cult leader and godhead.

We see this of course at Trump's rallies and across the vast right-wing echo chamber and propaganda machine that has created an alternate lifeworld where Trump is a superhero, a god, savior, a great man of history, a conquering force, and represented as a type of masculine ideal, supremely virile and a Hollywood action hero like Rambo or Rocky. In this imagination, Trump rides Abrams tanks that are protected by bald eagles; he is a king or emperor; he is the ideal leader and man; every woman wants to be with Trump and every man dreams of being Trump.

In that world, Donald Trump is the MAGA Fascist Jesus Christ.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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