I blame MSNBC's Chris Hayes. Every weekday I record his hour-long program, then watch it while doing my at-home exercising.
Today a guest of his was Jeff Sharlet, who talked about a piece he wrote for Vanity Fair about the religious nature of Trump devotees.
Being anti-Trump and anti-religion, naturally I couldn't wait to read what Sharlet had written. But I didn't anticipate how scary it would be.
Since Trump likes to do the stupidest, most anti-scientific thing possible, the rally is going to be at an indoor arena that holds 19,000 people, where Trump supporters will be packed shoulder to shoulder, masks optional, screaming in adoration as they behold their Savior.
In short, COVID-19's dream, a marvelous way to spread itself.
I've always thought that the people who attend Trump rallies were crazed, but until I read "He's the Chosen One to Run America," I pictured those people as being more politically crazed than religiously crazed.
It turns out that they're both -- a really dangerous combination. The only good news is that Trump's approval ratings have been sliding the past few months. According to the highly-respected FiveThirtyEight web site, polls show Joe Biden with a nine-point national lead over Trump at the moment.
So most Americans aren't buying what Trump is selling, namely himself. Still, the fanaticism of his most ardent supporters is deeply worrisome. Hopefully they won't go berserk when, as I sure hope, Trump loses his re-election bid this November.
Here's some excerpts from "Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies are Church and He Is the Gospel."
In 2016, I attended Trump rallies around the country to witness the role played by religion. I found it in the fervor for oft-traded stories of the candidate’s riches, his private plane, “Trump Force One” and its golden interior, and in the promises of D-list preachers who opened his rallies with sermons ranging from the staples of abortion and decadence to the miraculous wealth with which God had anointed Trump.
Back then, the candidate was taken as living proof of what’s known as the Prosperity Gospel, a kind of country cousin to establishment Christian conservatism, not so much about saving society as it is about getting right with God by getting rich. Show your faith in his blessings, as revealed in the opulent lives of his anointed preachers, and good fortune will trickle down.
Like Trump, the Prosperity Gospel is transactional—a ready-made religion for a man who came by it, like so little else in his life, honestly. In the books he claims to have written, Trump invokes a personal trinity: his father, Fred, who taught him strength; his mentor, the red-hunting mafia lawyer Roy Cohn, who taught him cunning; and his childhood pastor, bestselling Christian self-help author Norman Vincent Peale, who taught him The Power of Positive Thinking.
Believe in it, preached Peale, and it can be yours. Quid pro quo, a deal with God: affluence (or the dream of it to come) in return for unquestioning loyalty. Trump’s campaign channeled a convergence of conservatisms: Fred Trump’s brutality, Cohn’s corruption, and the cross wrapped in a flag preached by Peale.
As Trump knows, the best kind of deal—the kind that pays—is not only transactional, it’s transformative. With some minor exceptions, the establishment Christian right has embraced the gospel of Trump, and it has prospered: Trump’s administration stocked top to bottom with its apostles, the movement mightier now than it was under George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan.
Trump, meanwhile, has fused his penchant for self-pity with the paranoia that runs like a third rail through Christian conservatism, the thrilling promise of “spiritual war” with dark and hidden powers.
In 2016, the Trump faith was name it and claim it, Make America Great Again, the prospect of the restoration of a mythic (read: white) past. Now, though, the kingdom has come. Trump is no longer storming the gates; he holds the power.
The faith for 2020, I learned at his rallies, is a secret one, its password a wink that’s really a warning, its enemy invisible and everywhere: the deep state, the pedos and the FBI, Democrat-ruled sanctuary cities and the “illegals” they send forth to pillage the heartland. MAGA has become KAG, Keep America Great—which requires not a new prosperity but the eradication of America’s enemies within. “If you do not bring forth what is within you,” as the gospel of Thomas puts it, “what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
...Four years ago, the mood at Trump’s rallies was electric but heavy, a mix of anger and the possibility of “winning”—winning so much, Trump promised, that we’d get tired of winning. Since then he has won; and won and won and won. The energy now is victorious—and even darker.
If the arena is a safe space for Trumpers, a church where the like-minded can join together in a sea of red hats, the world outside is scarier than ever. “Secret murders everywhere,” says Pastor Sean, his voice low and growly. “Pedophiles and evil.” That’s why he loves Trump: because he believes God has chosen Trump for this hour. That which Trump’s critics see as crude and divisive, Pastor Sean takes as proof of his anointing. He is God’s champion, a fighter, a “counterpuncher.”
...Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,” declares the divine voice of perhaps the most famous gnostic text, a poem called “The Thunder, Perfect Mind.” So it is in the arenas of Trump, thousands of red hats just like his, the hats that at each rally he throws to the crowd, giving of himself. Such are the miracles of Trump, adored for his golden tower, his golden faucets, his generosity. He who has taken the most also gives the most.
...“He wants to discipline us,” Dave says. He, in this instance, means not Trump but his father: God. Like Trump, COVID-19 is an instrument of his will, and he has allowed the virus as a punishment for our “corporate” sin, our failure as a nation to fully embrace him and his messenger, Trump, a view not so distant from that of many Christian right leaders, including Franklin Graham, Fox News preacher Robert Jeffress, and Ralph Drollinger, who leads a White House Bible study.
...Only the truly initiated—Dave, Diane, QAnon—know the name of “The Storm” that’s coming, but nearly all of Trump’s devotees can read the signs, red flares over blue seas: A CNN crew arrested on camera, live, in Minneapolis; in New York, a viral video of a riot cop flashing the O.K. symbol; and in Washington, following a gas processional, the president of the United States marching through the sterile aftermath to hold aloft a Bible, upside down—a sign? A signal?—its red ribbon dangling along his wrist like a snake’s tongue.
What does it mean?
“Pray over it,” says Dave, of that which is given for our witness. “Let it settle.”