Donald Trump’s new American caliphate

Political strategist Alistair Campbell, the man who coined the sobriquet “the people’s princess” for the recently deceased Lady Diana for the use of his boss Tony Blair, also once interrupted a reporter’s question about Blair’s Christian faith. “We don’t do God,” Campbell famously said. It is an irony that leaves me more bemused than amused – that I moved from a country where religion plays no de jure role in government but very much a de facto one, to a country where the exact opposite is the case. After all, in Britain the Church of England is home to the national religion, Anglicanism, and the Queen is not only the head of state but the “protector and defender of the faith.” And, after all, in Britain a politician’s faith (or lack thereof) is very much his own affair and nobody’s bloody business.

Not so in the US of A. Indeed, in America, atheism is still political suicide, whether it is of the outspoken variety or not. You cannot run for any public office worthy of the name without first nailing your colors to the mast, and they’d better be the right colors too. Not to worry, though, there’s still hope for atheists like Donald Trump, just to pick one out of thin air, so to speak. If you don’t actually believe in God, it’s good enough for the faithful if you declare yourself to be God in his place. For the evangelical, it would seem, any God will do, so long as it isn’t no God. That’s the unforgivable sin.

Of course, Trump pretends to be a Christian with a cynicism that is palpable. Trump has never read a book in his life, but if he did, the Bible would be the last one he would ever read, notwithstanding his declaration that it is his “favorite book.” When once asked about his favorite biblical verse, Trump demurred. He didn’t “want to get into it” because it was “personal.” In other words, he didn’t know, didn’t care and was using religion as a cynical springboard to his presidential ambitions. He was and remains so lazy about those ambitions that he can’t even be bothered to learn a single verse in order to pull off a tincture of verisimilitude.

All this is fine with the evangelicals, who are stupidly comfortable with Donald Trump’s inane declarations of religious faith. They’re more interested in worshipping him than they are interested in what he worships, which is clearly also him. So when Donald Trump appeared before a bunch of loonies Friday night at Miami’s Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesú (the International Ministry of King Jesus) and told them “God is on our side,” those loonies believed him. Not one of them will ever question what kind of a God is it, anyway, that is so impotent as to require the help of this raving and quasi-literate madman. Clearly, for all of God’s many fine attributes, picking the best people isn’t one of them.

Trump spent the evening attacking Democrats, promising to restore prayer in schools, justifying his actions against Iran and promising the faithful he would rescue them from non-interference in their reproductive rights. To the chant of “four more years!” Trump capitalized on his cult of personality which, according to Frank Schaeffer, was just one statement away (i.e. “God is great!”) from looking and sounding exactly like any mullah speaking any fanaticism from any pulpit in Iran. Welcome to Donald Trump’s new American caliphate.

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