When I watched live the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of January 6, 2021 I was astonished at what I saw. I witnessed rioting that I had contemplated, but actually never thought I would see. It was a shocking day. I was struck by some of the signs held by rioters. For example, one said read: “Jesus is my saviour. Trump is my president.”
Signs like that made it clear that to many of the rioters, the insurrection was a religious act. They felt they were defending the faith. The insurrection was a religious event. I now realize that is exactly what they were doing. They were defending the faith of Trumpism. That was their religion. These people believed in Trump without reservation.
As Thomas B. Edsall said in a New York Times article, “It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.”
Trump had said that during the first election campaign that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and he would not lose any supporters. Now I know that for once he was telling the truth. That was literally true.
In the 2016 presidential election which Trump won, he said there was carnage on the streets of the United States, and he was there to rid Americans of that. He said that “I am the only one that can save America.” By such statements he was making it known that he professed to be the Saviour of America. It really was an absurd claim. After all, what qualifications did he have to claim to be a saviour. He was the son of a rich man who used that inheritance to go into business on a smooth track and then he proceeded to go bankrupt a number of times. According to the New York Times he did not increase the wealth he inherited by any more than it would have earned had he invested it in the bank. He was a pretty poor business man in other words. He had no relevant experience to run a country. He was obviously a man of little learning. All he really had was wealth. And in America that of course is enough. Americans worship wealth. And that’s where Trump came in as the saviour of America.
The amazing thing was that millions of Americans believed that Trump was the saviour of the country. They actually believed his claims. As a result, they actually gave Trump religious devotion. The most unlikely thing actually happened. Religion often works that way. It is often not rational. It is often government by faith not reason.
So, how did that unlikely event happen? I want to explore, in my own meandering fashion, the connection between politics and religion. I think it is deeply fascinating. I hope you agree and accompany me on this journey.