Critics condemn “blasphemous” religious images in 2024 election campaign

Critics condemn “blasphemous” religious images in 2024 election campaign

The intersection of faith and politics in 2024 is evident, from a messianic-sounding video claiming, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, 'I need a caregiver,' so God gave us Trump,” to comparisons of the former president to Jesus Christ.

“Do you believe that the man who can save this nation – the only man who has been mocked and destroyed like Jesus – Trump can come back and save the American dream for everyone,” Oscar winner Jon Voight said in a video earlier this year.

When President Trump burst onto the scene in 2016, he was neither a regular churchgoer nor a person of deep faith. Now, eight years later, he is incorporating religion into his White House re-election campaign.

“We must bring Christianity back into our lives and back into what will once again be a great nation,” Trump said in an online video.

Jackson Laymeyer leads Pastors4Trump, a group that supports the former president.

“I think the religious themes are very appropriate because this is a very spiritual battle,” Laymeyer told CBN News.

Shortly before Easter, Trump began promoting the sale of the Bible “God Bless the USA.”

“This Bible is the King James Version and it also contains our founding documents,” Trump said in a promotional video. “I want a lot of people to have it. You have to have it for your heart and soul.”

Laymeyer welcomes this message. “How in the world can pastors and Christians complain about the incoming president of the United States encouraging Americans to read the Bible? That's what all of us pastors want,” he says.

But the Bible recommended by Trump, which sells for $59.99, has drawn criticism.

Pastor Loran Livingston of Central Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently gave a sermon that went viral because he condemned Trump's sale of Bibles.

“If you don't read and pray, you say, 'Wow, now there's a Bible that has the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in it. Isn't that wonderful?'” Livingston says in the sermon. “No. No, it's disgusting. It's blasphemous. It's a trick.”

Michael Wear, author of The spirit of our politicsconsiders Trump’s religious appearance in his election campaign to be strategic.

“I think he's clearly trying to appeal not only to Christians, but to people who are more antagonistic to our politics,” Wear said in an interview with CBN News. “I think it's clearly working for some people.”

Nationally broadcast radio host Erick Erickson disagrees with this assessment and calls such a strategy ineffective.

“He already has this base of voters voting for him,” Erickson commented. “He risks alienating them by watering down their gospel and tying his ramblings on abortion to a position they care about. And he's going to appeal to moderate voters. Moderate voters care about money matters, not the Trump Bible. I think he should probably leave Jesus out of it.”

On the other hand, President Biden, who is himself Roman Catholic, is much more reserved when it comes to religion. However, his recent move to make the sign of the cross at an abortion rally in Florida has come under criticism.

“Making the sign of the cross is one of the most profound gestures a Catholic can make to show our reverence for Christ's death on the cross and our faith in the Holy Trinity as we sign in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. “To abuse this sacred gesture is to mock our Catholic faith.”

The backlash comes at a time when the president's disapproval rating among Catholics is at 64 percent, a historic high according to a recent Pew Research Institute poll. Wear said the Biden camp also has a strategy to reach out to religious voters.

“You're going to have people in their campaign who are doing religious proselytizing,” Wear said. “I think he's appealing to character. He's appealing to decency. He's going to focus on the issue of democracy and some of the legal issues of his opponent.”

Mark David Hall, professor at Regent University, author of Who is afraid of Christian nationalism?describes religious messages in politics as inappropriate.\

“Of course it's fine to be a good patriotic Christian and love our nation,” Hall told CBN News. “But it should be a well-ordered love of the nation, not an excessive love. And I certainly understand why people support Donald Trump for president, but they should recognize that he is not a savior, politically or otherwise.”

Some have pointed to the religious symbols displayed during the Capitol riots on January 6 as evidence that Christian nationalism is on the rise.

However, Hall counters that while the movement exists and is problematic, he does not believe it poses an existential threat to American democracy or the church.

He explained, “About 20 percent of Americans would like to move to this kind of cultural Christianity. I think that's nowhere near as scary as what all the critics call Christian nationalism. But I still think there are good rational, biblical, constitutional and theological reasons for rejecting even this harmless form of Christian nationalism.”

Meanwhile, Wear issued a word of warning to Christian voters ahead of the November election.

“Whether it comes from the right or the left, whether it comes from the Republicans or the Democrats, I want to encourage Christians not to be so easily flattered, not to be so easily tickled,” he said.


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