In a video for Big Think, religion scholar and former CNN host Reza Aslan suggests that fundamentalist Christians have drastically altered the presidency — and not necessarily in a good way. Making up much of President Donald Trump’s support, these people seem to think he’s been hand-picked by God to serve as president.
At the beginning of the video, Aslan wonders whether Trump’s supporters are a religious cult.
Trump, he noted, received resounding support from American evangelicals while the 2016 presidential election was in full swing. So much so, in fact, that it amounted to more than former president George W. Bush, who identified himself specifically as an evangelical, received. Aslan said:
“This makes no sense. Especially when you consider that Trump is the most irreligious president in modern history — that his entire worldview makes a mockery of core Christian values, such as humility and empathy and care for the poor.”
So Aslan is trying to wrap his mind around this, referencing the rise of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” In times past, this was seen as “heretical” by a majority of Christians. Now it’s picked up quite a following. Aslan continued:
“The essential gist of [prosperity gospel] is ‘God wants you to drive a Bentley. That what Jesus really wants for you is material prosperity. … Many white evangelicals looked at Donald Trump and what they saw was a wealthy man, and that wealth, as far as they were concerned, was just a sign of God’s blessings.”
Aslan followed that up with a tweet:
“Many white evangelicals looked at Donald Trump and what they saw was a wealthy man, and that wealth, as far as they were concerned, was just a sign of God’s blessings.” https://t.co/meZt2J0JBX
— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) April 15, 2018
In an opinion piece for The Los Angeles Times last November, Aslan drew comparisons between Trump’s evangelical supporters and a modern-day cult.
“I use the word ‘cult’ in its pejorative sense, meaning a deeply insular social group bound together by extreme devotion to a charismatic leader. Such groups tend to exhibit a few common characteristics.”
“They are usually formed around an individual whom they’ve elevated to prophetic and near-divine status.”
He listed instances where for some evangelicals, the cups (and their mouths) runneth over.
Instances in which:
- Franklin Graham, whose famed father Billy Graham died in February, and is perhaps Trump’s most notorious evangelical supporter, blanketly dismissed Trump’s astronomical moral failings by comparing him to such Biblical figures as Moses, Abraham, and David.
- Pastor Robert Jeffress, with the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas told a talk radio audience that Trump made a better candidate than someone who exemplified “the teaching of Jesus” because Trump made a perfect biblical strongman.
- Frank Amedia, an Ohio pastor who briefly connected with Trump’s campaign, compared Trump to a biblical prophet touched by God.
He said last July that:
“I believe that he receives downloads that now he’s beginning to understand come from God.”
How these people can cast aside Trump’s treatment of women, his immoral character, and his obvious racism is inexplicable. The religious right hammered Atheists and compared them to demons, but for us, morality is sometimes a larger issue. Aslan notes:
“Atheists in America think a politician’s morality is more important than white evangelicals.”
Aslan is nothing if not feisty, and got himself into a spot of trouble when he upset with Trump’s response after a terrorist attack in London. He compared Trump to human fecal waste.
Apparently, the truth was a little too much for CNN, which canceled a program Aslan hosted on the network.
The old cliche, of course, says that the truth hurts. But sometimes it’s also funny.
Here’s Aslan’s video for Big Think.
Featured image by Big Think via YouTube video.