Trump promises a revival of Christian power in speech to National Religious Broadcasters

NASHVILLE (RNS) — In an evening filled with apocalyptic rhetoric, patriotic songs, and campaign promises, former President Donald Trump promised Thursday (Feb. 22) that he would make a triumphant return to the White House next year, and that he would restore Christian preachers to power in American culture.

“If I get in, you’re going to be using that power at a level that you’ve never used before,” Trump told the annual gathering of National Religious Broadcasters at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Speaking to a packed-out ballroom of radio and television preachers and other Christian communicators, Trump described himself as a friend and fellow believer, and someone ready to restore God to his rightful place in America culture.

“With your help and God’s grace, the great revival of America begins on November 5th,” he said.

In a speech that lasted more than an hour, Trump portrayed evangelical Christians as a persecuted group under President Joe Biden’s administration, a status he told them he shared in his 2020 election loss, which he said had been “rigged.”

He told the religious broadcasters that one of his first acts of a second Trump term would be to set up a task force to root out “anti-Christian bias.” He said he would also come to the aid of “political prisoners,” referring to those imprisoned for their actions at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Some of those convicts were heard in a recorded rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the so-called J6 Prison Choir as Trump was being introduced.

Trump appealed to the religious audience with Bible verses and promises of world peace. “The Bible says blessed are the peacemakers,” said Trump, quoting from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “I will be a peacemaker and I will be the only president who can say — and I say this with great conviction — I will prevent World War III.”

Though he admitted that he wasn’t a very good Christian and didn’t know much about the Bible, Trump told broadcasters that he shared their faith and would always stand up for God — lines which brought thunderous applause.

But Trump’s biggest applause lines came when he promised to promote school vouchers, seal the United States’ southern border and prevent transgender men from participating in women’s sports. With him as president, he vowed that America would have only two genders—male and female.

Conference attendees stood in long lines as they waited to be screened by the Secret Service and security personnel before being admitted to the ballroom. Kelley Paine from Rockport, Texas, who wore a “Make America Pray Again” baseball cap, said Trump had been a great president and could be one again.

“He’s a businessman and that is what our country needs,” she said.

Payne said she was attending the NRB with her mom, a pastor who runs a Christian radio station. She recently decided to quit her job to follow in her mom’s footsteps by starting a ministry — something she had resisted for years. “I realized I just need to let go and let God,” she said.

While a representative of touted the slogan on Payne’s hat, on the whole the NRB gathering was less tricked out in MAGA gear than can be found at a Trump campaign event, and the coarser messages that have popped up among Trump supporters in recent years were not in evidence.

One vendor in the NRB exhibition hall turned a MAGA chant of “Let’s Go Brandon” — meant to send an obscene message to President Biden — into “Let’s Go Jesus” flags, hats and shirts.

Analia Anderson, who said she has sold t-shirts at MAGA-themed “Reawaken America” events,  is a fan of President Trump, but she said some rhetoric at those events went too far. “It’s not very Christian,” she said. 

Trump’s arrival at the Opryland resort was delayed for more than an hour, and a Southern Gospel group, Ernie Hass & Signature Sound, was pressed into an impromptu concert of gospel songs, at one point leading the crowd in an a cappella rendition of “God Bless America.”

 Just as attendees had begun to drift out of the room, Trump arrived and was greeted with a standing ovation.

NRB president Troy Miller began the evening session, labeled a president forum, by saying the group had reached out to all presidential candidates, inviting them to speak. He also said that, as the NRB is a nonprofit, the group did not endorse candidates — and that any comments made by speakers were not official statements of the NRB.

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt and Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, also spoke before Trump took the stage, praising the former president and warning that the country and conservatives face grave perils from their political foes.

Hewitt called Trump the “best interview in America.”

“I have no idea what he is going to say — nobody does,” he said, a line that drew thunderous applause. 

Hewitt took aim at the term Christian nationalism, a movement that promotes the belief that the United States should be run by and for the benefit of Christians. Hewitt called the term a “slander on the church and on Christians who want to be involved in politics.”

Roberts dismissed concerns expressed by Trump’s foes about corruption and authoritarianism if the former president returns to office. But Roberts alleged that Democrats act in corrupt and authoritarian ways themselves.

“They want to fundamentally transform America because they don’t like this country,” he said. “The establishment does not hate Donald Trump because he’s a threat to America. They hate him because he is a threat to them.”

Trump made similar comments, saying the greatest threat to the U.S. came from inside the country, not from external enemies. Those enemies, he said, had let the country fall apart since he left office.  He referred repeatedly to “Marxist” district attorneys who were suing him, framing his legal troubles are a form of political attacks against him.

“I have been indicted more than any times than the great gangster Al Capone,” he told the religious broadcasters. 

He also claimed that he was being indicted for standing up on behalf of Christians and conservatives.   “I am being indicted for you,” he said.

He claimed that “bad things” were being done to Christian crosses, another thing that would stop if he became president again. And he would work to reverse the decline of organized religion and church-going in America.

 ”We have to bring back our religion,” he said. “We have to bring back Christianity.”

Title: Trump promises a revival of Christian power in speech to National Religious Broadcasters
Source: Religion News Service
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Date: February 23, 2024 at 03:39PM
Feedly Board(s): Religion