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.