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What proof is there Trump actually cares about Christmas?

He says he does, but does he?


Brenden Gallagher


Posted on Dec 28, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 6:42 am CDT


People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!”

President Donald Trump tweeted this on Christmas Eve, as a culmination of his battle against the term “Happy Holidays” and the assumed political correctness that comes with it.

This is not the first time that the President has offered tokens of Christianity to the evangelical base that came out strong for him on election day, and it certainly won’t be the last. As his approval rating shrinks, white evangelicals are currently one of the only reliable segments of his base.

What isn’t clear, a year into Trump’s Presidency is what whether Evangelicals have a man in the office who actually cares about Christianity. There is an open question of whether Trump is religious at all. Prominent Evangelicals have been quick to claim Trump as their own, but what proof, in his policy or his personal life, do we have, aside from Christmas tweets, that Donald Trump runs with the flock?

If Donald Trump is a man of faith, he is certainly no biblical scholar. Repeatedly, in both his campaign and his presidency, when Trump talks about Scripture, he makes the kind of mistakes that can be avoided by attending a few Sunday school classes.

Famously, Trump quoted a bible verse on the campaign trail from “Two Corinthians.” Even if you only walk through a narthex on Christmas and Easter, you know that “Second Corinthians” is the preferred terminology. 

Trump also can’t even name his favorite Bible verse. When he was asked, he danced clumsily around the question, saying. “Well, I wouldn’t want to get into it, because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into verses.”

These may seem like minor faux pas, appropriate to a man whose faith resides more in his head than his heart. But, Trump has even proven to lack basic understanding of the core tenants of Christianity. When asked if he had asked God for forgiveness, he said, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

Whether you’re a Catholic who attends confession or a Baptist who believes in being cleansed in the Lord’s healing waters, asking God’s forgiveness is a foundational part of the Christian faith.

Evangelicals who support Trump have a defense at the ready for those who find his apparent lack of faith disturbing. They refer to the Donald an “imperfect vessel:” the idea being that you don’t have to be the model of righteousness to be a part a part of God’s plan.

There are a number of “imperfect vessels” cited in the Bible. Most often you hear about King David’s chronic womanizing before he became a man of God: and how God had a habit of using the vain, drunk, and violent for his purposes. George W. Bush fit this mold as well, as his struggles with alcohol and partying prior to his religious and political awakening are well documented.

This narrative breaks down, however, when it comes to Trump. The idea of an imperfect vessel is that the person waivers from the path, but ultimately seeks to walk in God’s light. No one is perfect. Everyone is a sinner. Even a thrice married, casino-owning magnate who is no stranger to the grey areas of the law could, in theory, be an instrument of God. But there isn’t really Biblical precedent for God using someone who doesn’t even try.

CNN traced Trump’s religious history and found utter disinterest in faith between his teenage years and the dawn of his presidential campaign. After compulsory Sunday school attendance in his childhood and flirtations with religion in his late teen years, he turned into a “Christmas and Easter” Christian who only attends church on “special occasions.” Tellingly, the religious influence he cites in his campaign biography Great Again is pastor and Power of Positive Thinking author Norman Vincent Peele, whose heyday was in the 1950s. Peele was a forerunner of the “Prosperity Gospel,” and became something of a guru to Trump. But, if Peele were working today, he would likely remind people more of Tony Robbins than Pope Francis. Trump’s interest in Peele reads far more as a search for motivational mantras than a spiritual journey.

Outside of Peele’s brand of religiously tinged self-help, there is a big gap in Trump’s religious history. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 with his campaign in full swing that Trump started to use the language of “finding God” and took up the habit of calling megachurch pastors to tell them how much he admired their sermons. It won’t surprise you to hear that one of Trump’s favorite pastors, Florida megachurch minister Paula White, is worth $150 million and has a condo in Trump Tower, and is also a fan of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” While he may share some pastors’ interest in wealth, he doesn’t seem to share their interest in faith.

Then there’s this.

in 1984, in an article called Donald Humbug, the New York Times found Trump repeatedly banned residents in a building of his from displaying a Christmas tree.

Which brings us to the Christmas tree. Young Donald and his agents had not allowed either a tree or any other decorations for the first two Christmases, but the tenants decided to try again last December.

They wrote a letter to Citadel [Trump’s management team for the building] asking permission to put a tree in the lobby – stressing that all costs would be assumed by the tenants. A sour letter came back, saying that tenant ”activities” had ”made it quite difficult for Management to feel that a relaxed, ‘holiday season spirit’ relationship exists at the building.” But Citadel said it would not block the project if the tenant spokesman, John Moore 3d, would sign a bizarre legal document in which he would have agreed, among other things, to have the decorations ”comply with applicable governmental regulations” and to take them down should any tenant complain that they ”infringe upon his or her religious beliefs.”

Does that sound like someone who believes “Happy Holidays” is really destroying America’s moral fabric?

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*First Published: Dec 28, 2017, 8:00 am CST