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Donald Trump: Preaching a secular prosperity Gospel?

Donald Trump: Preaching a secular prosperity Gospel?

In “Trump’s religion and its popular appeal,” an opinion piece in Religion News Service’s Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk looks at the influence of preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale (who was senior minister at Trump’s childhood church, the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, and later married Trump and his first wife Ivana) on Donald Trump’s draw.

As the historian Donald Meyer shows in his fine study, The Positive Thinkers, Peale was the latest in a line of popular American spiritual leaders stretching back into the 19th century who promoted Mind Cure — a philosophy that teaches that obstacles to a good life are fundamentally psychological and can (only) be cured by positive attitudes and beliefs.

Trump, whatever his claims to actual religion are, has borrowed from this spiritual/philosophical tradition for his own “preaching,” says Silk:

It’s no surprise that, among religious leaders, Trump should be getting his most enthusiastic hearing from promoters of the Prosperity Gospel. But we shouldn’t think of Trumpism in their terms — a straight-up return on investment for faith (plus material contributions). What Trump the presidential candidate has done is turn America as a whole into one of those psychologically hobbled souls in need of Mind Cure.

For Trump is not so much a congenital liar as a person for whom unpleasant truths exist only as obstacles to be thought away. Never mind what the Mexicans say, of course they’ll pay for the wall. Never mind that U.S. manufacturing and coal-mining jobs are gone with the global wind, of course they’ll be brought back. Never mind that California has had less rainfall in the past five years than ever in recorded history, there is no drought.

What Trump voters are buying is the latest version of a product fashioned deep in their collective unconscious. According to his de-spiritualized version of Mind Cure, the power will come not from The Almighty but from The Donald, a boss so capable of curing a mentally impaired America that we’ll get tired of winning. It’s a beautiful thing, and a wonder to behold.


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Jay Croft

When I was in high school lo, these many years ago, I read Peale’s books.

I admired a lot of what he wrote until I came across a statement: if you invent something patentable, you should donate the patent to a manufacturer and not expect anything back.

Even though I was just a kid, I realized that was Big Business milking us regular folks. No more Peale for me.

Wayne Helmly

It is widely known that during the 1940’s Maestro Robert Shaw’s famous Chorale initially rehearsed at Marble Collegiate and had agreed to be their choir-in-residence. Peale insisted that Shaw eliminate ethnic diversity in his chorus if they were to continue their residence in his church. Shaw refused, and moved his chorus to a more tolerant church home.

Trump’s intolerance towards Mexicans and others have roots in his church home.

Wayne Rollins

I recognize a familiar pattern here. Every four years, citizens in the United States gather to elect a new savior. The difference this year is in the question asked, “Are you the one who is to come” has become “Are you the ONLY one who will come.” Promises made during campaign season most usually fall in the category I call “male bovine residue” and we keep telling ourselves they don’t stink. Trump knows this, and expects that we, like his investors in the past, will use our resources to help him build his own brand (himself) and carry all the liabilities that come due when it (he) fails. He has nothing to lose when his strategy begins with the expectation of bankruptcy.

John Chilton

Trump of course has experience in the field of bankruptcy.

When a Trump enterprise goes bankrupt the bondholders have found it more profitable to keep Trump when an ownership stake and the Trump name on the enterprise because it is more valuable with the name than without it. Too big to fail if you will. It’s why Trump thinks bondholders can always be give haircuts.

I’m hoping that PGA’s move of a tournament from a Trump course (the PGA couldn’t find a sponsor for the tournament as long as it was at the Trump course) to a course in Mexico is a sign that Trump’s behavior has damaged the name.

Rich McDonough

The comments that manufacturing is dead in America are incorrect. Manufacturing is not dead. The USA is still the largest manufacturer on Earth. Many people confuse this “death” with fewer manufacturing jobs. The reality is, like agriculture, we simply make more “stuff” with far fewer people due to our superior productivity. True, we no longer make lower value products, but we excel in high value items. I doubt that Mr. Trump’s plan to bring back low value jobs to America will result in most of us wishing to pay $25.00 for a pair of socks at Wal-Mart!

James Byron

One of the best analogies I’ve seen for Trumpery.

I’d disagree only with the claim that the death of American industry and manufacturing is both inevitable and irreversible. It isn’t: it’s a direct consequence of neoliberalism, a policy choice that can, and must, be reversed if we’re to avoid demagogues who’ll make the Donald look like a cakewalk.

He’s a warning, a brutal warning, but a warning all the same. There may not be another.

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