‘God wanted Trump to be president’
That is the incredible claim made by Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders. Whether divine intervention is at play or not, Trump is extremely popular among America’s evangelicals.
“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times,” mused Trump spokesperson Sarah Sanders. “I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there.”
That was the extraordinary message broadcast on Wednesday in an interview Sanders gave to America’s Christian Broadcasting Network.
The president himself repeatedly trumpeted his Christian credentials on the campaign trail. In recent days he even tweeted his support for Bible study in school: “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes […] Great!”
Nevertheless, the notion of Trump enjoying divine support will seem to some, a little… outlandish.
The Atlantic has called him “the least traditionally religious president in living memory.” Writing in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson labelled him “the most ethically challenged president of modern times — prone to cruelty, bigotry, vanity, adultery and serial deception.”
Even the Pope has weighed in against the president. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Yet, for all this criticism, Trump has significant support among American believers. In 2016, 80% of evangelical voters backed Trump — a greater share than that achieved by Republican heavyweights George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and John McCain.
“We believe him to be God’s champion,” says Trump supporter Teresa Ledesma. “God needed a fighter, someone who was unapologetic. He’s gone into the lion’s den for us.”
But why does Trump appeal so much to conservative Christians? Some point to his support for anti-abortion measures, while others see him as the protector of old American values supposedly under threat in a more liberal modern world.
As for God wanting Trump to be president, the idea does chime with parts of Christian thinking. Theologian John Calvin developed the doctrine of predestination. This is the idea that everything that happens on Earth is predetermined by God. The consequences that this has for human free will have long been debated.
Some say we should not be surprised by Sanders’s comments as America is an extremely religious country. But is Christian belief compatible with support for Donald Trump? Should politics and religion be kept separate? How would the same comments be responded to if they were said of a British prime minister?
What about the claim itself? Considering modern advances in science and technology, is faith in God reasonable? What about the notion that God determines everything that happens on Earth? Could determinism appear in other ways that do not include God — how might society push us down certain paths in ways we cannot control?
- Do you believe in God?
- Is religion beneficial for society?
- Imagine you have been sent to interview President Donald Trump but you can only ask three questions. What questions would you ask?
- Do some research into these two concepts: free will and predestination. Then write a paragraph in response to this question: “Are humans capable of making truly free decisions?”
Some People Say...
“I don’t like losers.”President Donald Trump
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Sarah Sanders also took the opportunity to attack Trump’s political opponents, saying that it is “very hard” to take lessons on morality from the Democratic Party. As a percentage of all the support Trump received in the 2016 election, 46% was from evangelical Christians. By way of comparison, 45% of Hillary Clinton’s votes came from non-white voters.
- What do we not know?
- We do not know if Trump will have this same level of support in the 2020 election. However, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson claims that evangelicals are showing “hardening loyalty” to the president.
- Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself, or are from different cultures.
- When a husband or wife cheats on their spouse with another person.
- Belonging to one of the Protestant churches or Christian groups which believes that teaching the Bible and persuading other people to join them is extremely important.
- George W. Bush
- President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Mitt Romney and John McCain both lost elections to Barack Obama.
- John Calvin
- Theologian and leading figure in the early Protestant church (1509-1564).
- Free will
- The idea that human beings are able to choose freely between different possible courses of action and have control over the direction of their lives.
- For example, French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argued that humans cannot help but be responsible for their lives. Humans are “condemned to be free,” he said.