Quite by accident today, I hit on a perfect new career for Donald Trump. For God’s sake nobody tell him, as we have sufficient problems to contend with on both sides of the Atlantic as it is. But allow me to explain, in the strictest confidence.
I was watching an enthralling documentary called The Confessions of Robert Crumb. It was just that – and very well made too, a collage of interviews with the artist in which he laid bare his hopes, fears and obsessions. At one point we were given an interesting selection of footage in which the psychedelic antics of Crumb and his Underground Comic pals were interspersed with clips of a Sixties America of a very different stamp – the conservative underbelly of the nation; cautious, decent, Christian – and still living in a Fifties never-never land that no amount of Flower Power and Free Love could easily assail. One character who stood out was Rex Humbard, a television evangelist who was very popular in his day, though posterity has definitely placed him in the formidable shadow of Billy Graham. Further online investigation revealed more footage of Humbard. Watching this, it was easy to see how his homespun approach won, for a while, the hearts of the nation. This could be DT’s way out of trouble.
There is much here for Trump to take on board. At a certain point he will come to realize that taking on the American Constitution and whining about the lost election is always going to amount to flogging a dead horse. So what can one do when all else is lost? Find a way forward in Jesus Christ is the resounding answer: make the announcement, make all the apologies, get ordained, start a church, make an enormous amount of (tax free) money, continue to wield influence and power – and, most important of all, enjoy the protection and endorsement of something even greater than the American Constitution, the Kingdom of God. In the course of history, considerably worse scoundrels than Trump have achieved this. He could too.
In order to try and gauge how much work Trump needs to do to move this forward, let’s take a look at the Religious Beliefs section in his Wikipedia entry. Given the labyrinthine nature of the rest of Wiki’s coverage, this is startlingly brief – but this is encouraging, since it shows that there is much scope for Trump to develop his engagement with religion, should he decide to become “born again”. The foundation is firm enough too: “Trump went to Sunday school and was confirmed in 1959 at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens. In the 1970s, his parents joined the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, which belongs to the Reformed Church. The pastor at Marble, Norman Vincent Peale, ministered to the family until his death in 1993. Trump has described Peale as a mentor. In 2015, the church stated Trump ‘is not an active member.’ In 2019, Trump appointed his personal pastor, the televangelist Paula White, to the White House Office ofPublic Liaison. In 2020, Trump said that he identified as a non-denominational Christian.”
And that’s it – fairly anodyne stuff. So there is scope – and leaving aside the purely “spiritual” aspect, in practical terms being “born again” amounts to the same thing as declaring bankruptcy, but with none of the opprobrium. It guarantees a blank slate on which to write a whole new chapter, including a fresh attempt at the White House after a suitably decorous interlude and assuming DT can stay out of gaol. If this all comes to pass (I’m already in scriptural mode), don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Below, the journalist J. J. McCullough gives an informative overview of the strong links between the Republican Party and the Evangelical Right.