"President Donald Trump at the National Prayer Service" by U.S. Army Sgt. Paige Behringer / Public Domain

The apocalyptic myth that helps explain evangelical support for Trump

Nov 27, 2019

By Thomas Lecaque

“God’s used imperfect people all through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect,” outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in an interview on “Fox & Friends” before going on to claim that he had given the president “a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago. And I shared with him, I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people who say, you know, you are the chosen one,’ and I said, ‘You were.’ ”

Perry’s statement — especially that “chosen one” bit — would be more surprising in a different administration. At this point, though, it could almost disappear into the background chatter of the administration and its allies. Presidential adviser Paula White, for example, uses the description of a demonic struggle to paint contemporary politics as a holy war. In a sermon about Trump in June, she proclaimed, “I declare President Trump will overcome every strategy from hell and every strategy of the enemy, every strategy, and he will fulfill his calling and his destiny.”

Perry’s and White’s praise may seem outlandish or extreme, but it is entirely in keeping with the way many of the president’s advocates speak of him. Indeed, the tenor of these public pronouncements help explain why he is supported by some 65 percent of white evangelical voters, despite his many improprieties and failings. As Perry’s and White’s remarks remind us, “modern” Christianity has not cast off old ideas. One of its oldest is evident in the “calling and destiny” that White evokes: Implicit in her bombast is a vision of the president as a triumphantly apocalyptic figure, one who evokes the medieval legend of the Last World Emperor.

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