Calmes: Would you buy a $60 Bible from this man?


Holy huckster: Just in time for Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar, Donald Trump started hawking Bibles — in the same month that he paid a bond after recently being found liable for sexually assaulting and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll and ahead of his next trial, for allegedly paying pre-election hush-money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Nothing could better illustrate Trump’s shamelessness, and — in Americans’ reaction to his latest hustle — the range of views about him: From that of grifter (my take, obviously) to God’s anointed one (his most worshipful supporters’).

Stipple-style portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

Opinion Columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical eye to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

Americans haven’t seen a Bible scheme quite like Trump’s in a half-century. And that earlier one was movie-land make-believe — Ryan and Tatum O’Neal playing a father-daughter tag team conning a farmer’s widow in the 1973 film “Paper Moon.” (That same year, the Nixon Justice Department sued Trump and his father for very un-Christ-like racial discrimination in renting apartments, spawning a long legal battle that ended in the Trumps signing a consent decree against the practice. Then, as now, Trump ignored Matthew 5:25: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.”)

“Happy Holy Week! Let’s Make America Pray Again,” Trump wrote in a post on social media Tuesday. “As we lead into Good Friday and Easter, I encourage you to get a copy of the God Bless The USA Bible.”

Yours for just $59.99, plus shipping and handling.

My Bible didn’t cost that much. But mine doesn’t include such non-biblical bonuses as the lyrics to the song that opens Trump’s rallies, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, his partner in this enterprise. There’s also the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Constitution, which “I’m fighting for every single day, very hard, to keep Americans protected,” he claims in a three-minute sales video.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness,” says the Ninth Commandment, Book of Exodus. Trump, the self-professed warrior for the Constitution, once called for the Constitution’s “termination.”

The Bible-pitch video is gold for anti-Trump memes and mockery, the kind of material that’s tailor-made for “Saturday Night Live” without its writers changing a word.

“You have to have it for your heart, for your soul,” Trump says, clutching the good book to his gut. His pose calls to mind that bizarro photo-op outside St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House in 2020. Trump had rarely gone inside St. John’s — the so-called Church of the Presidents — during his four years in office, or any other church for that matter.

Yet Trump sermonizes in the Bible video, “Religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country. …That’s why our country is going haywire. … All Americans need a Bible in their home and I have many. It’s my favorite book.”

Right.

Speaking of favorites, when it comes to the many reactions to Trump’s Bible blather, mine was Liz Cheney’s reply on the site once known as Twitter: “Happy Holy Week, Donald. Instead of selling Bibles, you should probably buy one. And read it, including Exodus 20:14.”

Note to Trump: That’s another of the Ten Commandments. The one that reads “You shall not commit adultery” in the New King James version you’re selling.

Reporters famously challenged then-candidate Trump early in the 2016 campaign to cite his “most favored” Bible verses, given the claims he made then about his love of Scripture. He refused, insisting repeatedly, “That’s very personal.”

At about this time four years ago, then-President Trump also tried to underscore his reverence for Christianity, and Holy Week, with potentially fatal consequences. It was the spring of 2020, COVID-19 was spreading, nearly 800 Americans had died, hundreds of thousands had become ill and much of the nation was shut down. He suddenly suggested that everything should reopen by Easter.

“Easter’s a very special day for me,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?”

Most stayed closed, to the relief of public health experts. By that Easter, more than 22,000 Americans had died, nearly a 30-fold increase in the three weeks after Trump called for the nation’s reopening.

If anything, Trump’s show of religiosity — and that of his most zealous disciples — lately has become more pronounced, even messianic, as he campaigns again for president. Where some Christians see blasphemy, many of Trump’s followers see more evidence that he is God’s chosen one.

Here’s the voiceover from some supporters’ video that he plays at his rallies: “On June 14, 1946, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God gave us Trump.” It goes on and on like that. Last October, at the start of the New York trial that ended with the former president being found liable for financial fraud, Trump posted a sketch of himself and Jesus, side by side, at the witness table.

The believers lap it up. “This is really a battle between good and evil,” one evangelical TV preacher said of the criminal charges against Trump. “There’s something on President Trump that the enemy fears: It’s called the anointing.”

Granted, not all Trump supporters are so fervid. Some even allow that he’s a bit of a con man, not that they’ll change their vote. Yet most of us, whatever our political or religious leanings, should be able to agree that anyone aspiring to lead this diverse nation shouldn’t use the Bible to divide us, let alone to make money.

What would Jesus do? We know this much: He threw “them that sold and bought” out of the temple. Matthew, 21:12-13.

@jackiekcalmes





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