U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, on Aug. 21, 2019, in Washington. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Topics: Spirituality | Opinion

How many U.S. Christians believe Trump is anointed by God?

A survey suggests the theology is subject to partisanship

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(RNS) — Over the weekend, Rick Perry, the U.S. secretary of energy, became the latest highly placed evangelical Christian to claim that President Trump is the “chosen one.”

“I said you were,” Perry said in a clip from an interview shown on Fox News’ Fox and Friends, relating a recent conversation with Trump about an August press briefing in which the president said, “I am the chosen one.”

“If you are a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet and our government,” Perry explained. He said he had given the president a memo listing the kings of Israel, all of them ordained by God in the Bible — none of whom, Perry pointed out, “were perfect.”

Perry seemed to be making a general point about some Christians’ understanding of God’s role in history. (A Fox reporter made clear that Perry thinks the same of President Obama.) But others have gone further. Not long ago, Paula White, the Pentecostal pastor who was recently named to head the White House’s faith outreach office, said she couldn’t refuse a request to serve from the president. “To say no to President Trump would be saying no to God, and I won’t do that.”

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The Rev. Franklin Graham has made similar allusions, saying, “I think God was behind the last election,” as has former U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann. Wayne Allyn Root, a conservative author, radio host and conspiracy theorist, has called Trump the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God.”

Another variation holds that Trump was not one of them (i.e., an evangelical) but was still an instrument anointed by God for some purpose, as was King Cyrus, a Persian emperor the Bible says was anointed to free the Jews.

On Fox and Friends, host Peter Hegseth said this perception of Trump is hardly restricted to conservative Christian leaders. “Going across country talking to supporters of this president, they feel precisely the same way Rick Perry does.”

Is this view of Trump as anointed by God common among Protestants? We put a survey into the field in May of 2019 that assessed the opinions of just over 1,000 Protestant Christians. We asked two questions regarding the anointing of presidents by God.

The first asked if all presidents are anointed by God, while the second asked if Donald Trump was specifically anointed by God to win the 2016 election. In our sample, just 21.4 percent believed Donald Trump was specifically anointed by God to be president, but that figure increases among groups who believe in modern-day prophets and a God who is active in the daily affairs of the world.

Slightly more white evangelicals (29 percent) agreed that Trump was anointed by God, but among white Pentecostals, like Paula White, that figure shot up to 53 percent.

White Protestants’ belief in Trump’s anointing tracks with church attendance. Among those who attend less often than once a month, just 1 in 10 thinks that Trump was anointed. Of those who attend church multiple times a week, 4 in 10 agree that Trump was anointed by God.

“Are Presidents Anointed by God?” (Graphic by Ryan Burge)

Views of the Bible also affect how Americans responded. Among those who consider the Bible inspired by God, just 11 percent believe Trump was anointed, while those who believe the Bible to be the literal word of God are more than three times as likely to think so.

But the results also reveal an inconsistency among white Protestants. Just 12 percent of that sample agreed that all presidents are anointed by God, though it increased to 18 percent among white evangelicals and 30 percent among white Pentecostals. Calling Trump the anointed and not Barack Obama puts some in treacherous theological waters, of course, since the key difference is partisanship.

In the same way, belief in Trump’s anointing is very closely tied to support of his presidency. We asked white Protestants to score their feelings toward the president on a scale on which 100 is warm/positive and 0 is cold/negative. Forty percent of people who rated Trump at 100 said he was anointed by God. But just 10 percent of people who gave Trump the highest rating think all presidents are anointed by God.

At this embattled point in his presidency, suffice it to say, support for Trump is heavily overlaid with theological covering. This brings up the obvious question: Will white evangelicals remain with Trump to the bitter end?

At this point, the social, partisan, institutional and elite forces maintaining these theological ties would seem to prevent much slippage in support for Trump. There is, however, a theological out.

King Saul was anointed by the prophet Samuel. But while Samuel was away, Saul took it upon himself to bless his own decisions. Upon his return, Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you … now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart.”

Will evangelicals call out Saul?

Paul Djupe, an associate professor of political science at Denison University, tweets at @PaulDjupe. Ryan Burge, is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and can be reached at @ryanburge. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.

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  • says:

    We can be assured that Trump could not be the Anti-Christ.

    First the Anti-Christ needs to have a strong charisma; he will rule the world, not a select few. Trump needs to work on this.
    MAGA hats don’t make for a one-world government stance.
    The Anti-Christ needs to succeed in solving the Middle East crisis. An American is least likely to do this. (Dan 9:27)
    The Anti-Christ cannot be a womanizer. (Dan 9:37)
    The Anti-Christ will unlikely be from a major religion. (Dan 8:23)

    I remember a US. Christian leader state: The Anti-Christ will have smarts, most US leaders never fall into that category.

    I find it interesting that every controversial leader is pegged as the Anti-Christ. Remember who had a license plate PET 666? Almost every Pope, US Republican leader and Hitler have been nominated.

    So what are we to do with Donald Trump? Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Note: good and bad leaders are appointed by God)
    1 Peter 2:13-17 adds a bit more to the Romans quote.
    1 Timothy 2: 1-3 states: Before God, we are to petition, pray, intercede and to be thankful for our leaders. As it pleases God to do so.

    The article here seems to imply people (Christian Religious fanatics) see Trump as the new Saviour. Some may, but I doubt the majority do. Paula White and her silly remark seems to forget Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men.”
    Those who oppose the idea God appoints leaders, forget that God is in control of history. (No I don’t always agree with God’s choices, but I best live with them.)
    Looking at the kings during the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, I note that bad kings usually arose from immoral subjects, and some type of judgement changed the heart of the people and their leader. (Note the prophets were not very successful in changing attitudes).
    Trump is not the American Saviour. I think he is God's answer to their societal downturn.

  • says:

    I keep a close eye on American politics, alas, much to the dismay of my partner. That being said, it literally boggles my mind to understand how any person can call themselves a Christian or, for that matter, any kind of a spiritual person, and support Donald Trump. I really don't need to list all the reasons he should not be president but some include the evidence of ongoing corruption; kidnapping children and keeping kids in cages, constant lying to the point that we cannot believe anything he says, betraying US allies, cozying up to dictators and much more. So, if we could look at a long list of his shortcomings, how could any supposed follower of Jesus give their support to such a human being who is so lacking in compassion, justice, spirituality, acceptance, forgiveness and all the things that the Biblical Jesus stood for?
    We know people by their actions. How can an evangelical who has ever read the teachings of Jesus support such a person? As I said. It literally boggles my mind to know that there are those who call themselves Christians yet don't even know what that means. Besides that, it is scary to know there are so many of these people so lacking in common sense. I can have compassion of folks who, through no fault of their own are ignorant of the political situation but in this day of multiple news outlets, social media and the rest there is no need for ignorance. Bottom line is, in my opinion, you can't be a Christian and still be a Trump supporter.

    Replies

    • says:

      Could you say the same for those Christians who supported Hitler and his rise to power?
      I wonder what percentages of Christians and non-Christians supported or voted for Trump. To me, he won because of his popularity factor, not because of his Christian (religious) or moral stance. As I said above, he reflects the society we currently live in.

      Replies

      • says:

        You are right in that he won because of his popularity factor but also because of the strange entity called the electoral college. He didn't win the popular vote, but that being said, the question remains; why? Why is he so popular? He is a nasty man there is no doubt so how can any reasonably intelligent person find any redeeming qualities in him?