Trump at Liberty University: There's a verse in "Two Corinthians" that really says it all

A lot of guffawing about this by reporters on social media today. Mollie Hemingway wonders: Who pulled them aside and told them it’s supposed to be “Second Corinthians”?

Readers grumble that I’m too negative about Trump so let me pay him a sincere compliment. I admire that he has the stones to go into a place like Liberty and not even make a pretense of being a devout believer. You could dismiss what he said last summer about not being sure if he’s ever asked God for forgiveness as an amateur mistake; it’s an amazing mistake for someone in a GOP primary to make, amateur or not, but a first-time candidate who’s running as the opposite of a scripted politician gets a little leeway. Six months later, Trump is more polished in interviews and at the debates, and obviously by design — he wants voters to get more comfortable with imagining him as president. But still, he seems to have made no apparent effort to polish his handle on Christian priorities even though he’s competing with an ostentatiously evangelical candidate in Iowa. Why is that? How is it that Trump hasn’t brought in an advisor to teach him how to talk to evangelicals in a way that suggests he shares their worldview? How is it he’s still struggling with questions about divine forgiveness? How is it he can’t spare a hundred grand to have one guy on call who can vet his speeches in advance and say, “Okay, you know that ‘2 Corinthians’ is a written reference to ‘Second Corinthians,’ right?” Or maybe he does have that guy and the guy simply assumed that Trump knew that because, really, who wouldn’t know that who’s been to church a few times as a kid?

I think Trump’s approach to all of this is “what you see is what you get.” He’ll pander half-heartedly, like calling the Bible the only book better than “The Art of the Deal,” but even that operates more as a self-deprecating joke on Trump’s own narcissistic grandeur than as a serious expression of belief. When it comes to evangelicals, he seems resolved not to go out of his way to suggest he feels a sense of piety when he obviously doesn’t. I respect that. Frankly, I wish more politicians would follow his example. And given how well he’s doing in Iowa, a lot of Christian voters seem to respect it too. It’s amazing to me that he’s competitive with Cruz among the wider GOP electorate given how glib his professions of faith are, but that just goes to show that “values voters” aren’t the one- or two-issue voters they’re always stereotyped as being. Plenty of evangelicals, I’d guess, prefer Trump because they think he’d deliver the biggest possible change to D.C. despite the fact that they likely have more confidence in Cruz and Marco Rubio on social issues. They’re treating politics as politics, not as a morals test. You’d think they’d get more credit from their critics on the left for that. Plus, why should evangelical voters hold Trump’s past moral failings against him when prominent Christian politicians obviously don’t? Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, the most outspoken Christian pols in the field, are in a contest lately to see who can speak more warmly of Donald Trump at the expense of their evangelical rival, Ted Cruz:

“Past is prologue and if you look at someone’s past, it’s legit,” Santorum began, but added, “people change and that’s a good thing. I want to encourage everybody to be more conservative.”

“You look at some of the greatest conservatives, many of them changed positions over the years,” Santorum added…

Santorum took a more skeptical line when asked about Cruz.

“You’ve seen a shift,” he said.

“If you’re going out there as he is and saying ‘Trust Ted’ and ‘I am the guy you can trust all the time because I’m not going to waver’ [but] then you have a whole laundry list of wavers and changes, then I think it’s fair game.”

Lifelong practicing Christian Ted Cruz is a shifty flip-flopper but longtime Democratic donor and Hillary pal Donald Trump should be welcomed into the conservative fold? Good to know that Rick Santorum’s principles don’t depend on electoral strategy.

If you want to see just how well received Trump is by some prominent evangelicals, read some of the highlights from the introduction that Jerry Falwell Jr gave him before today’s convocation speech. Quote: “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.” Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was agog:

Here’s the “Two Corinthians” part along with today’s speech in full. Exit question: Didn’t Jesus say in one of the gospels, “Deal from strength or get crushed every time”?

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023