There are a lot of really terrible things happening in the world at this moment, and, in that frame, this one might not feel like a big deal, but I think it’s a story we need to follow:
Liberty University, home to Jerry Falwell Jr. as well as, I assume, some nice, decent people, is offering its resources to help create a film about Donald Trump as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
Explanations of Trump as prophesied figure abound in conservative Christianity, especially in its charismatic expressions, where prophecy, in general, is highly regarded. In fact, this won’t even be the first film about Trump as prophesied figure. There’s a veritable cottage industry of such nuttiness.
This particular film is from the same team that brought to the screen doomsday preacher John Hagee’s Four Blood Moons. That book and documentary are about the four full moons that appeared on four consecutive Jewish holidays in 2014 and 2015 and how they are supposed to mean something. There was a bit of a buzz among a certain kind of Christian around the time that the full moons were appearing, but, as usual with this kind of prophecy, nothing happened. That doesn’t stop Hagee from writing more garbage books and his followers from buying them. It’d be easy to dismiss his writing as nonsense, but it drives and reflects many Americans’ thinking about Israel. Hagee was one of the pastors who showed up at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem a few weeks ago.
The Trump Prophecy: The Movie is set for release in October, just before the midterm elections.
Above, an ad for The Trump Prophecy. Producer Rick Eldridge promises that the “riveting” story will include reflections from “men from various aspects of world economics, of military, talking about what does it really mean to ‘Make America Great Again.'” While some fans of the project claim it is not political and the focus in some of the promotional material is on how prayer can change a nation, there are enough references to Christian nationalism to suggest that this isn’t about personal piety but about political power.
The general line of thinking for those who make sense of Trump through a Biblical lens is that he might not be a Christian, but it doesn’t matter because he’s strengthening Christians. Donald Trump must have been the answers to their prayer, because otherwise we’d be looking at President Clinton, and she’s definitely of Satan. In Trump, the US has been granted a reprieve–an opportunity to turn from our wickedness. he may be, warned Dallas’ First Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress at a July 4 celebration honoring Trump and veterans, “perhaps our last chance.” Gulp! Now it’s up to us, which is why The Trump Prophecy takes as its central verse 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Trump can run headlong into sin (I don’t think he would lose supporters if, today, he were caught escorting his porn-star mistress out of an abortion clinic.) and that will be okay with his devotees. What matters is that the rest of us vote Republican/turn from sin, which is the same thing in their minds.
Not everyone at Liberty is in support of the endeavor, and there is a petition effort to pull the university away from the project, but Falwell is known for intimidation tactics and bullying and the suppression of criticism from within.
All of this is gross on many levels, including, for me, evangelical romance with this prophecy nonsense. It’s not new, of course (It’s how Hal Lindsey got to be one of the best selling authors of the 1970s.), but it’s still shameful. I say that without any negative feelings toward my charismatic friends. (There is a lot to love, I think, about charismatic Christianity, and its contributions to the larger Christian conversation haven’t been recognized, which is lamentable. But this movie and this Trump-as-Prophecy is not a gift.)