The religious right would have us believe that Donald Trump is not only being used by God to make America great again, but has come to know the Lord for himself. Reportedly, the large number of strongly conservative evangelical figures in the White House have had a considerable impact on Trump. It’s supposedly continuing a change that started in the summer of 2016, when he reportedly became a baby Christian.
Why all the qualifiers? Well, anyone who has watched the almost daily outrages coming from this White House, as well as Trump’s Twitter feed, would find it hard to believe that he really has Jesus in his heart. But one of Trump’s loudest fundie cheerleaders would beg to differ. He claims to have solid proof that God really is working on the Donald’s heart.
Among the many prominent fundies to jump on the Trump bandwagon once he clinched the nomination was Steve Strang. Although Strang isn’t a household name even to most ardent news junkies, most religious right watchers know him well. He is founder and publisher of Charisma magazine, one of the main mouthpieces of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. He has spent most of the last few years carrying water for some of the more extreme elements of the religious right. However, he took it to a new level during the 2016 campaign. Strang initially backed Ted Cruz for president, but threw his weight behind Trump soon after Cruz dropped out.
From then until the election, a frequent guest on Strang’s weekly podcast was rabidly pro-Trump pastor Lance Wallnau, who told him that Trump had been raised up for this time even though he didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. Through Strang’s podcast, Wallnau also maintained that Trump could prevent Satan from taking over the seven “mountains,” or forces, that influence our culture. Wallnau also told Strang that God may have told Trump to hire Steve Bannon as campaign CEO.
Strang bought into it whole hog. A month before the election, he dropped by Jim Bakker’s show and declared that God had chosen Trump to be president. No, this isn’t snark. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Strang claimed that those who shied away from Trump due to his past and present behavior–including some evangelicals–were trying to “pick a speck out of Trump’s eye while ignoring the log in Hillary Clinton’s eye.”
Later, Strang declared that Trump’s upset victory was “an absolute miracle” and called for his listeners to pray against the “principalities and powers” that were out to thwart the effort to Make America Great Again. He also thought that the concerns raised by PFAW and others about the influence of those aligned with the overtly fascist New Apostolic Reformation were a lot of fuss over nothing.
That cheerleading continued anew on Wednesday, when Strang returned to Jim Bakker’s show to promote his upcoming book, “God and Trump.” Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Bakker led off the show by revealing that he was a member of Trump’s faith advisory council–and it had grown so large that the members couldn’t all meet with him at once. With so many preachers seemingly flocking to Trump, Bakker said a question was obvious–how could they attest to Trump’s faith?
Strang cautioned that Trump’s faith was “between him and God,” and it wasn’t for us to judge. However, he claimed that “in the last 10 years,” Trump had stopped doing a lot of things that would have raised eyebrows among evangelicals. For instance, his mouth has gotten a lot cleaner.
As Strang saw it, the strongest evidence of how Trump has changed came in August, when he pushed out his communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, after an R-rated interview with The New Yorker. If you’ll remember, at least one prominent evangelical who has Trump’s ear, Bob Vander Plaats, loudly demanded that Trump bounce Scaramucci immediately.
Within 48 hours, new White House chief of staff John Kelly’s first order of business was to have Scaramucci escorted out. To Strang’s mind, Trump’s decision to dump Scaramucci so quickly was a sign that “he didn’t want his key people talking like that in public.” It’s not the first time that a pro-Trump fundie has suggested that Scaramucci’s ouster was a sign that God was working in Trump. Bakker himself claimed that the faith advisory council was meeting on the very day that Scaramucci was fired, and Assemblies of God general superintendent George Wood warned about “unnecessary swearing.”
We have to wonder if Strang has been paying attention since Scaramucci’s ouster. After all, since then, we have learned that, at bottom, Trump is still the same man who boasted in 2005 that he could degrade women just because he was a celebrity. How? He retweeted a violent GIF depicting him knocking Hillary down with a photoshopped tee shot. It is simply inconceivable that anyone who really had Jesus living in his heart would have even thought about hitting the retweet button.
On the surface, that silence isn’t all that surprising. After all, by continuing to back Trump in the wake of those tapes, Strang and other fundies showed they were willing to throw domestic violence victims under the bus in the name of ending abortion and rolling back marriage equality. But part of that narrative depended on arguing that Trump was not the same man that he was in 2005. That narrative stands discredited with that tweet. We can only assume that Strang hasn’t been willing to stop bowing before Trump long enough to realize it.
(featured image courtesy Strang’s Twitter)