Donald Trump’s faith claims have always been dubious, leading his Christian supporters to double-down on millenarianism to justify that support. At this point I am inclined to believe that they’re right, and he will bring about some variation of apocalypse, though probably not the one from the LaHaye and Jenkins extended universe.
But while I strongly believe he’s an atheist, what Trump says reveals much about how he thinks about God, should that God exist. Recently, in Ohio, he went on one of his extended rants against Joe Biden and his “handlers” in the radical left. One of the more interesting things he said was that Biden would “hurt God:”
Now any mainstream theologian will tell you that such a statement is nonsensical, if taken literally. God cannot be harmed by any human action or natural event. A Biden victory would not in any way diminish the totality of God. Now it’s true that classical theism has come under increasing scrutiny. Certainly, the idea of a static, immovable God does not exactly cohere with the sacrificial and emotional aspects of the cross. Therefore more dynamic conceptualizations have been proposed, most prominently the “process” ones. While no less omni-potent, -present and -scient, the basic idea behind process theologies is that because God is with the world and the world with God, God must change as the world changes. However, process theologians think in terms of addition, never subtraction: God grows with the world, but never shrinks, i.e., God cannot be negatively affected in any substantive way. Joe Biden can become President and declare God dead and God would not even bat an eye. Likewise Trump could blow up the planet and God would still be there. Might Trump believe his policies, whatever they are, better actualize God’s growth potential?
Or maybe Trump meant that God would be emotionally hurt — angered or saddened — by the papist Biden’s Presidency and Marxist agenda. There’s nothing inherently unorthodox about thinking that way, as God certainly feels. Of course, that then moves us from a primarily philosophical argument to a more practical, moral dispute over Scripture and whether or not certain interpretations of it displease God. But this is actually the better debate, and one that still reveals a lot about how Trump and his evangelical rabble understand divinity. Put simply, their God is a God who prioritizes not getting His feelings hurt. Now, God is indeed a jealous God (Ex. 34:14), but there’s a difference between jealousy for the sake of one’s own gain and a selfless, sacrificial “jealousy” for the sake of others. In the latter sense, Christians worship the crucified God because that God wants love, justice and peace for all creation.
How would one truly “hurt God”? By not caring for the poor (Mt 25). By not welcoming the stranger (Mt 25). And by slandering others (Mt 5). https://t.co/AHAeJgKuCe
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) August 7, 2020
But Trumpists are clearly not really interested in all that sjw propaganda, instead favoring the former divine characterization. Like themselves, their God is basically a mean-spirited, envious, self-centered and fundamentally insecure entity. Look no further than Trump himself, who clearly doesn’t believe in God (or anything else that could possibly transcend him), but whose imagined God is basically a projection of himself: a narcissistic man-child that demands loyalty through material sacrifice. So no, Trump is not a classical theist — more ancient, tribal deities more greatly appeal to him.