Here are 5 things Christians should know about the faith of Donald Trump:
1. TRUMP GREW UP IN A PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION
Trump’s mother Mary was born in a Scottish Presbyterian household and emigrated to the United States when she was 18. Fred Trump grew up in the home of German immigrants who held to the Lutheran faith in which they were born. The Trumps were members at the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, Queens, which was the oldest continuous Presbyterian congregation in the Western Hemisphere.
Trump took the oath of office with his hand on two Bibles. One of them was a Bible given to him by his mother when he graduated Sunday Church Primary School at First Presbyterian when he was eight years old. Trump went through confirmation when he was 13 years old. According to David Brody and Scott Lamb, who co-authored the book The Faith of Donald Trump, the PCUSA congregation took young people through a booklet titled “This is My Church.” At the end of the class, they signed a certificate saying that they had placed their faith in Jesus Christ and were welcomed into the membership of the church.
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2. HE ATTENDED NORMAN VINCENT PEALE’S CHURCH AS A YOUNG ADULT
In Trump’s early years of adulthood, his family left First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica and made the trek into Manhattan to set under the ministry of Norman Vincent Peale at Marble Collegiate Church. Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking and a man described in Christianity Today as “the patriarch of the twentieth-century self-help movement.”
Trump developed a great affection for Peale and became a devoted follower of his power of positive thinking. He referenced Peale as a model for his public speaking during the 2016 Presidential campaign, saying that when his preaching was so engaging that “you hated to leave church because you wanted him to go further.” In a 2009 interview with Psychology Today, Trump explained how Peale’s teachings helped him through a difficult time in the early 1990’s when he was going through a divorce and three colleagues had perished in a helicopter crash. He called himself a “firm believer in the power of being positive.” He went on to say that, “I refused to be sucked into negative thinking on any level, even when the indications weren’t great. That was a good lesson because I emerged on a very victorious level. It’s a good way to go.”
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3. HE HAS THE VOCAL AND PUBLIC SUPPORT OF SEVERAL PROMINENT EVANGELICAL LEADERS
Prominent Evangelical leaders started to assemble around Trump in early 2016 and committed their enthusiastic support once it became clear that he would be the Republican nominee. Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson, Paula White, Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress have used social media and media interviews to promote Trump as a friend of evangelical Christians and as being worthy of Evangelicals’ unquestioning support.
Several of the leaders have trumpeted Trump as one of the best friends evangelicals have ever had in the White House. Jerry Falwell, Jr. said that in Trump “evangelicals have found their dream president, adding that “I’ve never seen a White House have such a close relationship with faith leaders than this one.” James Dobson and Paula White each claimed that Trump came to faith in Christ during his Presidential campaign, with Dobson referring to Trump as a “baby Christian.”
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4. HE SEEMS TO HAVE CHANGED HIS STANCE ON ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS
Trump discussed his faith in a 2015 question and answer session at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa. Trump told the crowd that “People are shocked when they find out I am Protestant. I am Presbyterian. And I go to church and I love God and I love my church.” Moderator Frank Luntz followed up on the statement, asking Trump if he asked God for forgiveness. He responded, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
Trump did tell Luntz that he takes Communion. “When I drink my little wine – which is about the only wine I drink – and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”
Cal Thomas asked Trump about the statement in 2016 and Trump said “I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”
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5. TRUMP VIEWS JESUS AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW HE SHOULD BE LIVING
In the same 2016 interview, Thomas asked Trump “Who do you say Jesus is?” and Trump said, “Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.”
In the final chapter of The Faith of Donald Trump, David Brody and Scott Lamb make a couple of important observations about the President. First, they said they see two things in him that encourage them– respect for the God of the Universe and a desire to draw closer to him. Also, they warned about the desire to try to make a definitive statement about Trump’s salvation. They caution, “God will have that final say, not the Never Trumpers, nor Republicans, Democrats, Independents–and not even we in the media.” They continued, “God’s word is the only one that matters. However, we will guarantee this: When believers in Jesus Christ enter heaven, they’re going to be surprised by who they see and who they don’t see.”