"I’m a very proud Christian”: Will religion be enough to save Donald Trump?

Trump is going to extreme lengths to shore up the white Christians who make up his MAGA base before the election

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published February 28, 2024 6:00AM (EST)

Former U.S. President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures at the end of a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, on December 19, 2023.  (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures at the end of a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, on December 19, 2023. (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Do you accept Donald Trump as your personal lord and savior?

Most people, be they Christians or not, would laugh at such a question given that Donald Trump does not attend church, and has repeatedly shown himself to be a cruel and wicked man – if not evil. But many of Donald Trump’s MAGA people see a divinely ordained messiah figure. Why would they believe such a thing? Their religious leaders – and Trump himself – has repeatedly told them it is true.

Trump, an apparent megalomania, recently shared a video on his Truth Social disinformation platform, proclaiming that “god made Trump," in essence granting him superhuman powers. Last week, he continued to amplify his claims of being divinely blessed and a type of emissary-prophet – and now martyr – for Christianity. 

At the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) International Christian Media Convention in Nashville on Thursday, Trump told the audience, “If I get in, you’re going to be using that power at a level that you’ve never used before… With your help and God’s grace, the great revival of America begins on November 5th.” Trump also quoted the Bible and Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: “The Bible says blessed are the peacemakers. I will be a peacemaker and I will be the only president who can say — and I say this with great conviction — I will prevent World War III.”

Claiming that he is being tortured and made to suffer because he is being put on trial for his obvious crimes, Trump told the audience, “I take all these arrows for you and I’m so proud to take them. I’m being indicted for you." As Trump said this, he looked at the audience, stretching out his arms.

In the same speech, Trump drew upon old right-wing tropes about how “Christians” are being persecuted by “the Communists” and “the Reds." In this context, these “anti-Christian” forces are not Stalin or Mao, but instead the Democrats, President Biden and all others who believe in the Constitution, democracy, the separation of church and state, and the rule of law:

We will protect God in our public square….I will not allow the media or left wing groups silence you, censor you, discriminate against you, or in any way tell you what you have to say….Remember, every communist regime throughout history has tried to stamp out the churches, just like every fascist regime has tried to co-opt them and control them… And, in America, the radical left is trying to do both. They want to tear down crosses where they can, and cover them up with social justice flags….But no one will be touching the cross of Christ under the Trump administration, I swear to you.

Trump, a gifted showman and carnival barker, told the audience exactly what they wanted to hear, making the following ridiculous claim: “The left is trying to shame Christians. They’re trying to shame us. I’m a very proud Christian.”

The attendees at the NRB Convention were ecstatic in their support of Trump. The Associated Press described the scene as follows:

Trump brought the crowd to its feet repeatedly and frequently championed his record on abortion, including appointing three conservative Supreme Court justices who helped overturn the Roe v. Wade decision…. “When he came onto the scene, people were skeptical,” said Troy Miller, president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters. “But I think, as they’ve learned more and listened to Donald Trump speak, the one thing I hear all the time from people ... is that they really feel like Donald Trump understands them and that’s the biggest connection that people make is, ‘This is a guy in politics who gets us, who understands us, who doesn’t talk like he’s an elitist and talk down to us.’”

"But Trump’s biggest applause lines," the Religion News Service added, "came when he promised to promote school vouchers, seal the United States’ Southern border and prevent transgender men from participating in women’s sports. With him as president, he vowed that America would have only two genders — male and female."

Trump continued with his lies about how Christians are being “persecuted” in America. Trump made similar claims about how “Christians” are being “persecuted” and “discriminated against” and “hunted” in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend. (In reality, white Christians have a vastly disproportionate amount of power and influence in American society as compared to other groups).

Trump also continued to channel Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, with his lies about how the United States is being betrayed from within by its so-called enemies i.e. people who do not support the MAGA movement and American neofascism:

“The greatest threat is not from the outside of our country – I really believe it is from within. It’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside.”

Such lies are but another example of how Donald Trump is continuing with his years-long pattern of using “stochastic terrorism” to encourage political violence by his MAGA followers and other members of the “conservative” movement and right-wing against their shared enemies.

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Predictably, the mainstream news media did not give Trump’s Christofascist speech at the NRB conference the attention it deserved. The media malpractice and resulting normalization of Trumpism and American neofascism continue.

In a very insightful new essay at Common Dreams, Robert Ivie describes the type of White Christian paranoiac thinking and fantasies of persecution and victimhood that Trump is channeling and which powers the MAGA movement:

Trump’s harangue to his diehard followers is more than just an angry lament. It is a recipe for violence that typifies his authoritarian cant and culminates in the destruction of democratic institutions.

A majority that would not abide the raw power of authoritarian rule cannot assemble itself except through democratic discourse.

Trump’s apocalyptic diatribe symbolizes his broader refrain of grievance, vengeance, and call to recover a glorified past. It gestures back specifically to a white America blessed by God, but “Make America Great Again” speaks plainly and poignantly to others who fear being left behind and unredeemed. It projects a dark determination to destroy an unholy adversary that would displace divinely entitled white Christians, an image that expresses vividly the angst of a wider segment of politically disaffected citizens. It is a spellbinding, hermetic discourse of restoration that mutates into a malignant formulation for rejecting democratic values and thwarting reasoned deliberation. To contest its backward slant on its own politico-religious terms of restoration is hopeless, even counterproductive. Recognizing its directionality, however, suggests the value of a forward-leaning alternative.

The symbolic force of redeeming a conservative white Christian nation paralyzes democratic community, strengthens a minority grip on politics, and scatters the majority. Not all white citizens fear displacement by an increasingly diverse polity. Not all Christians are evangelical or fundamentalist. Not all conservatives are retrogressive. Not all citizens are Christian nationalists or among the one third that believes God intended the U.S. to be a promised land for white Christians of European descent. The symbol is a consequential misnomer of loss and recovery. Somehow the scattered majority that thinks otherwise must be reassembled.

Public opinion polls and other research show that potentially many tens of millions of Americans do believe that Donald Trump is “divine” and has been chosen by “god” to be president.

Further reinforcing the above conclusion, new research from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) highlights how Christian Nationalists (White Christian Supremacists) are integral to the MAGA movement and Trump’s (and his Republican fascist successors’) chances of taking the White House in the upcoming presidential election (and beyond).

PRRI’s findings include:

At the state level, Christian nationalism is strongly linked to red states and 2020 vote for Trump. At the state level, support for Christian nationalism is nearly perfectly correlated with vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. If the analysis is restricted to white Americans, the relationship between state-level support for Christian nationalism and 2020 vote for Trump becomes even stronger.

Christian nationalists are more likely than other Americans to see political struggles through the apocalyptic lens of revolution and to support political violence.

A majority of Christian nationalism Adherents (54%) and 45% of Sympathizers agree that, “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” compared with only 22% of Christian nationalism Skeptics and 7% of Rejecters.

Christian nationalists are also about twice as likely as other Americans to believe political violence may be justified. Nearly four in ten Christian nationalism Adherents (38%) and one-third of Sympathizers (33%) agree that, “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country,” compared with only 17% of Skeptics and 7% of Rejecters. Support for political violence among Christian nationalism Sympathizers has gone up by 11 percentage points since 2022 (from 22% to 33%) while it has remained steady among all other groups.

As political scientist Paul Djupe explained to me in a recent conversation here at Salon, Donald Trump is donning his fascist “armor of god” and its glamour has compelled many millions of right-wing “Christians” to follow him.

The question remains, will enough people outside of the MAGAverse rally to Trump’s banner or will they instead be so repulsed by what he represents as to convincingly defeat him and the Republican Party in the 2024 election?

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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