Christianity and the Cult of Trump

The president’s following originates from a problematic heritage.

Photo by Getty Images/PixelCatchers.

The authoritarian, patriarchal Trump style is not a stranger to the Eurocentric Christian world. The Christian faith, in its political construction, was founded upon an authoritarian organization modeled on an authoritarian family unit. Just as the husband is the ordained head of the household, called by God to be a modern-day Abrahamic patriarch, so too are priests, called fathers, the ordained heads of churches. And while Protestants shy away from the word father, they nevertheless create similar authoritarian structures where congregants submit to a pastor who serves as the spiritual head.

For centuries, even before the foundation of the republic, Eurocentric Christianity has legitimized a patriarchy where authoritarian men rule at home, rule in the church, and rule in public. The system of checks and balances in the U.S. government becomes a nuisance to be dismantled instead of a safeguard designed to protect us from authoritarian rule. Further complicating patriarchy is the way in which whiteness expanded the authoritarian model by feminizing men and women of color, thus placing their fate under the benevolent masculine hand of the white, male overseer who knows what is best for inferior people. Christianity in the United States is simply simpatico with a political model designed to justify white supremacy.

When authoritarian figures can do no wrong, the problem is not so much with the leader but with the followers, who, like followers of religious cults, willingly drink the proverbial Kool-Aid regardless of how high their IQ may actually be. Seeing their unearned, privileged positions threatened by merit-based concepts such as equality, they embrace cult leaders who present themselves as the only solution to their downward-spiraling predicament, or as Trump proclaimed while mounting the Republican National Convention stage: “I am your voice. I alone can fix it.”

Because only the cult leader can save us, he can do no wrong. Mao, Stalin, or Castro from the political left can do no wrong; Hitler, Mussolini, or Pinochet from the political right can do no wrong; Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, or David Koresh from the religious fringes can do no wrong. And when leaders can do no wrong, lemmings follow unto death.

During the presidential campaign, Trump bragged about being able to shoot somebody in broad daylight in the middle of Fifth Avenue and lose no voters. And the crowd cheered. Trump can do no wrong. The people transfer their absolute faith in God to Trump. So, too, they redirect their unconditional love from God to Trump. In an ultimate narcissistic move, Trump replaces God in accepting what is due to the Deity and in promising what the faithful can expect in return. If this is not idolatry, then I don’t know what is.

3/4/2021 3:50:17 PM

Wow!! What a wonderful dissertation on modern, European/American Christianity. Thank you for this well thought out and presented assessment. The author has beautifully and articulately brought to the surface the image err of what has come to be mainstream Christianity in America today, and the reasoning behind those who have so blindly gravitated toward Trumpism, leaving behind the very faith to which they believe they so ardently cling.

10/31/2019 12:04:10 PM

It's absolutely idolatry born of lukewarmness and secret hatred of others. That''s why Trump's supporters love him... he's just like they are, except he's rich and they're not.

10/27/2019 8:57:57 AM

I think it is a problem of a false theological anthropology. Who am I in the eyes of God? The prevalent notion of humankind as somehow a sinful stepchild in the eyes of current Christian thought is not the only one in the world. We are not bodies that have a sullied soul in some places. We are indeed souls having a current human event. And to some even this is too small. The soul having the experience is none other than the Soul that ties all existence together. So some work has to be done to answer the question, "Who am I?"

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