Experts on why so many Republicans accept that "God gave us Trump"

How Donald Trump has evolved into a Messianic figure among the white religious right

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published January 11, 2024 5:45AM (EST)

Donald Trump, "light worker" extraordinaire  (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, "light worker" extraordinaire (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is now publicly proclaiming that he is some type of messiah, a man chosen by God and Jesus Christ to do their bidding on Earth. For Trump, this means becoming America’s first dictator.

If Trump were a private citizen and not a former president and leader of a right-wing fascist movement, his claims to divine power would be viewed as the ramblings of an unwell person and de facto cult leader. Unfortunately, public opinion and other research shows that many millions of Americans actually believe that Trump is some type of divine figure, a man with a mandate from God. This is more evidence that Trumpism, like other forms of fascism and fake populism, is a form of collective pathology and emotional and mental unwellness on a societal scale.

Trump’s claims that he has a mandate from God should not be a surprise or in any way shocking: it is the predictable next step in a years-long pattern of megalomania, fabulism, malignant narcissism and other such negative behavior where he has claimed to have secret knowledge and insights that no one else possesses, and that his followers should just believe what he says and reject the facts and empirical reality itself.

Last week, Donald Trump took an even bigger step forward in his claims to being God's leader on Earth, when he shared a campaign ad declaring that “God gave us Trump.”

Business Insider details how:

Former President Donald Trump shared a bizarre fan-made video on Truth Social, which declared that he was divinely chosen to lead the country.

"And on June 14, 1946, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, 'I need a caretaker.' So God gave us Trump," the video starts.

The narrator goes on to frame Trump as a messianic figure who was created by God to "fight the Marxists" and "call out the fake news for their tongues as sharp as a serpent's."

Trump has long had a solid base of support among evangelical Christians in the United States, and polls show that a high portion believes that God anointed him to rule — even though he has never suggested having any strong personal faith.

Trump's sharing of the video suggests that he fully embraces the role ahead of the 2024 election.

The video describes Trump's supposed strengths, including his "arms strong enough to rustle the Deep State and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild." It's not clear which of his grandchildren Trump is meant to have delivered.

The video also describes Trump as a workaholic who worked all hours of the night while president.

His work ethic was a source of debate during his time in office, particularly after his private schedules were leaked, showing that half of his scheduled time was unstructured.

The video also claimed that Trump attended church services every Sunday despite no evidence of this.

In all, Trump’s claims to a divine mandate are central to his attempt to become America’s first dictator because through that logic he, like other fascists, autocrats, and tyrants throughout history, is both above the laws of man and normal society while also being the personal embodiment of the law.

To that point, one of Trump’s attorneys went so far as to claim during a hearing before a federal appeals court on Tuesday that he is immune from prosecution for his many obvious crimes because a president supposedly has the “legal” authority to order his rivals killed and to issue pardons in exchange for money.

American presidents possess no such power under the law; as articulated by the Framers, the American democratic experiment is founded upon a rejection of such tyranny and what is in essence the divine right of kings.

In an attempt to better understand Trump’s claims of being God’s chosen candidate and a type of messiah, the implications for the country’s worsening democracy crisis, and what comes next with the ex-president and his neofascist movement’s rapidly escalating dangerousness, I recently asked a range of experts for their thoughts and suggestions.

Federico Finchelstein is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York. His most recent book is "A Brief History of Fascist Lies."

This is a new low in the ongoing sacralization of American politics. The idea, seemingly endorsed by Trump himself, that "God gave us Trump" is only viable presented to the followers of the cult, for the rest of the universe is obviously farfetched and pathetic and yet it deserves our attention. It represents how dangerous and fascist leaning the Trump cult is.

The Trump cult conflates faith with nationalism and extremist messianic ideology. In short, it reminds us of how irrational Hitlerism and other fascism had been vis-a-vis to democracy. The clip fuses images of the world (especially economic life) with the banal life of Trump, as God's representative on Earth. But this is intentional because the propaganda technique behind it is to fuse the ordinary with the extraordinary. Thus, Trump appears as a normal ordinary man (he is not) but also as God's envoy and messenger.

Dr. Justin Frank is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and the author of "Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President."

Donald Trump feels like a broken record. Instead of taking the needle off of the record we seem to let him turn the volume up hoping that maybe the needle will stop skipping, which would allow the entire record to change. It just doesn’t happen that way. Trump must be incarcerated as soon as possible because he remains an ever-increasing danger to our nation. The record only gets louder. Now he’s announced that he just could be the new Jesus Christ. Lately, I think the problem is less Trump than it is the media for making him their headline event while leaving Biden on the cutting room floor. He also has the power of Fox News which clearly promotes his re-election.

But more than anything, Trump cannot change – he’s just becoming more the way he is. My question is why so many people love him and turn him into their Pied Piper. America has always worshipped stars; always wanted heroes. It comes from primitive yearnings for permanent idealized parents from childhood, or from replacements for disappointing parents. But whatever the source, Trump worship is not that different from Taylor Swift worship as far as the general public is concerned. It’s just more dangerous because his worshippers are armed and have already staged one insurrection.

Because of modern communication, however, there’s nothing that can be done to Trump other than put him away now. Even if we all turn off our TVs and stop reading the papers, we will never put down our phones. So, stopping him is hopeless. Period.  If he were my patient, I would have already hospitalized him in a closed psychiatric unit. If he refused to go voluntarily, I would call the police and have him hospitalized against his wishes for at least the 48 hours allowed in DC. During those 48 hours I would have to give him heavy doses of antipsychotic medication. But 48 hours will not stop him because he is who he is: he will never stop. Trump must be incarcerated now, before he even stands trial. He must have his phones confiscated as well as his access to “Truth Social.” And he cannot hold any more rallies until all the trials are finished. Trump must be incarcerated in the fullest sense of the word.

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Years earlier, political comic Mort Sahl described going to a Billy Graham rally. There, Sahl took two rolls of film. When he got home to develop them, they came out “blank.” Make of Sahl’s joke what you will, but all Trump’s promises – building a wall, having great infrastructure and a comprehensive health care program were “blanks” in his first term. Now that he admits he is Jesus, Trump hopes to do better in a second term. At least he can legitimize his angry paranoid stance: after all, Jesus Himself was betrayed.

Gregg Barak is an emeritus professor of criminology and criminal justice at Eastern Michigan University and author of "Criminology on Trump." His sequel to that book, "Indicting the 45th President: Boss Trump, the GOP, and What We Can Do About the Threat to American Democracy," will be published in April 2024.

Throughout US history the most successful con men have all relied on three characteristics of their marks—gullibility, absurdity, and believability—from Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II to Charles Ponzi to Bernard Madoff to Donald J. Trump. Ironically, when the “jig is up” and even months or years later with the exception of those who may have been financially or emotionally ruined because of the fraudulent experience, most of the other marks who have been deceived tend to excuse the fraudster rationalizing his behavior one way or the other and/or blaming themselves instead.

Upon seeing this latest propagandistic video by Trump and his “true believers” there have been at least three reactions. As the Peabody Award-winning television producer of non-fiction narrative programming and Founding Editor of, Colby Hall, has written: This “creepy” and “messianic bit of messaging” will “cause many to cringe but others to fall to their knees in supplication.” Most people, however, will find the video to be comical, not to mention the product of pure irrationality or senselessness.   

So why would Trump and company post a satirical version of Paul Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer” video in which Trump the lifelong atheist is playing the role of God’s son?

Because Trump who understands the polls perhaps better than most pollsters do also understands the gullibility, absurdity, and believability of the American voters, Republican or Democratic. He knows according to the latest polls that more Republicans say Trump is a person of faith compared to the Irish Catholic Biden who has worn religion on his sleeve for some eighty years.

With the assistance of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer and presently one of Trump’s leading antagonists, let me explain how we got here in as few words as possible.

It all goes back to 2015 when political pundits, social commentators, and just about everybody else for that matter were all surprised to learn that the lifelong amoral, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, and Democratic contributor had become the beloved favorite of the evangelical community.

This inversion of Trump’s personal biography involved a lot of hard effort and energy on the former president’s part, not to mention his promising to appoint conservative judges to low and high courts alike, and to do his best to fight against abortion, gender, and human rights for all. But ultimately it came down to arguably one of Trump’s greatest con jobs ever.

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It all occurred on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in a meeting arranged by Cohen who had called in an IOU from Jerry and Becki Falwell. At this meeting Trump was able to play to the desires and vanities of some of the most famous evangelicals in the US, including Jerry Falwell Jr, Pastor Darrell Scott, and Reverend Robert Jeffress, convincing them that he had experienced a moment of true conversion.

As some of those in attendance such as Johnnie Moore, the unofficial leader of Trump’s evangelical advisory board has been quoted, “I absolutely believe he’s a born-again Christian” or as the Rev. Franklin Graham, faith advisor to Trump’s White House and son of the late Billy Graham stated, “I think there’s no question that he believes.”

As Cohen writes in his first book on Trump, Disloyal: A Memoir, a few minutes after all of the evangelical leaders had ritualistically laid their hands on Trump’s germophobic body and had left the 25th floor, Donald popped into Cohen’s office and had this to say, “Can you believe people believe that bullsh*t?”

André Gagné, Professor and Chair of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and author of "American Evangelicals for Trump: Dominion, Spiritual Warfare, and the End Times."

It’s clear to me that Trump's narcissistic and attention-seeking urge to constantly put himself at the center of attention is a typical manifestation of his personality. But Trump has not been the only recent politician to use a Paul Harvey-style of video as a promotional tool to garner the support of religious conservative voters. In 2022, Ron DeSantis had the same type of campaign ad video for his own re-election as governor of Florida in 2022.    

The video the former president posted called ‘God Gave Us Trump’ promotes the idea of ‘Making America Great Again.’ It suggests that only Trump can bring this vision to reality. The video portrays Trump as the answer to America’s economic prosperity and leadership role on the global stage. It claims that he will secure the U.S. borders, fight against the ‘deep state’, battle the Marxists and expose the propagators of ‘fake news.’ The video also depicts Trump as a loving husband and a devout Christian, who waits for the First Lady and attends church on Sundays. Furthermore, I noticed the use of a striking metaphor that describes Trump a shepherd who cares for his flock! It’s analogous to how Jesus is presented as the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John (See John 10:11-16). 

To call Trump a ‘shepherd’ corresponds to the belief that he was divinely chosen to lead the country. This idea was popularized by Lance Wallnau, a Pentecostal Christian businessman, regarded as a prophet, an apostle, and a teacher. Wallnau believes that Trump was ‘Chosen by God,’ just like the 6th Century C.E. Persian King, Cyrus the Great (see Isaiah 44:28–45:4). In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God says of Cyrus: ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose’. Trump has skillfully woven this biblical language into his political career and actions, using it to legitimize his authority. However, this also feeds his narcissistic tendencies, and he is likely to continue exploiting it.

Marcel Danesi is Professor Emeritus of linguistic anthropology and semiotics at the University of Toronto. His new book is "Politics, Lies and Conspiracy Theories: A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective."

Trump’s performative abilities are truly second to none—he knows how to talk, act, and behave according to his specific audience of followers, putting on a veritable “show” for them. In the case of his evangelical followers he has always presented himself as the one chosen to save the world from atheistic secularism, which he claims is being imposed upon Americans by a radical left deep state. Trump has thus evolved into a Messianic figure among the primarily white religious right, who is fulfilling a divine mission—a conspiracy theory that he opportunistically promotes himself, portraying himself as an angry spiritual leader who alone can rid America of its deep state enemies.

The irony in all this is unmistakable since Trump is hardly a religious man. But this does not matter to his religious followers, who see him as a “savior sinner,” like other such sinners and martyrs in biblical history. Many on the religious right see Trump as a vessel who will adopt a moral agenda in office, no matter what opposition he faces.

Before Trump’s rise to power, the mass media hardly paid attention to the religious right, generating a perception among evangelicals of news reporters and Democrats as harboring a liberal secular agenda and worldview that they have been imposing on America for decades. The sense of exclusion that those who belong to Trump’s base felt before his leadership, allowed him to become their spiritual leader, no matter his philandering past and his shady business dealings. For such individuals the MAGA narrative is perceived to be a redemptive religious one, implying a restoration of America’s moral heritage, in opposition to the view of America as a culturally diverse society (religiously, ideologically, and ethnically).

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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