Magazine article The Christian Century

The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography

Article excerpt

The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography

By David Brody and Scott Lamb

Broadside Books, 400 pp., $26.99

David Brody and Scott Lamb know they have their work cut out for them. "Donald Trump" and "spiritual life" don't generally appear in the same sentence, after all. The authors know full well that a large swath of Americans will see their project as a big joke. A 400-page book? A pamphlet might be better suited to the task.

Brody (a reporter for Christian Broadcasting Network) and Lamb (a vice president at Liberty University) don't dodge such skepticism. With humor, creative logic, and an almost dizzying ability to transform character flaws into endearing qualities, they argue that Trump was not only chosen by God to lead the nation but also exemplifies many Christian virtues.

In his foreword, Eric Metaxas sets the tone. As one who initially thought Trump's faith was a laughing matter, Metaxas is the perfect person to defuse this notion. In typical fashion, Metaxas finds that the best defense often entails a good deal of offense. Yes, there's Trump's biblical illiteracy, his inability to recall asking God for forgiveness, and, ahem, his "personal life before running for president"--not to mention his tweets. And yet there remains "the terrifically stubborn fact" that many Christians have embraced Trump, even as critics "seethe with fury" at the apparent hypocrisy of it all. For Metaxas, this "thorny riddle" can be solved by remembering Christian grace. No one is perfect, and only moralists would rage against extending God's grace to a man like Trump.

Grace abounds in Brody and Lamb's book, at least when it comes to Trump. The authors go to great lengths to build a case for the president's spiritual life. Trump's mother came from Scotland, "the land of John Knox" and Scottish Presbyterianism. He and his father both embraced the "Protestant work ethic" (described with biblical proof texts against laziness), a fact attributed to their German Lutheran ancestry. Two of Trump's great-aunts were Pentecostals. Trump loves southern gospel music and Christian television.

At times, the authors seem to want to have things both ways. Trump's religious illiteracy can be blamed on his upbringing in a theologically vacuous mainline church, yet his confirmation preparation was "surprisingly meaty" compared to many evangelical churches today. His inability to name a single Bible verse reflects the fact that he hasn't "consistently gone to a church that emphasizes expository Bible teaching and doctrine," yet it also evidences his honesty: "Trump clearly wasn't going to attempt playacting as an evangelical."

Sprinkled throughout the book are various character witnesses. Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board, calls Trump a person of "character and compassion" who reflects the fruits of the spirit. Mike Huckabee suggests Trump "has a God consciousness about him that's real" and a "deep, abiding respect, not just for God, but for all people who truly follow God." Pentecostal pastor Paula White testifies that long before Trump entered politics, "he was a man seeking God." Evangelist James Robison asserts that Trump's God-given meekness is as great as any he's ever witnessed, and his "ability to move and motivate people" is "nothing short of a divine, supernatural enabling."

The authors don't shy away from addressing Trump's character issues, but they employ a range of tactics to minimize them. As a bachelor, Trump had "an eye for pretty models--though friends remember him being intensely focused on work. …

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