Donald Trump has been trying to woo the evangelical vote by continuously repeating on the campaign trail that his favorite book is the Bible, recounting his faith as a young man, and describing himself as religious, as part of a strategy to convince Christian voters that he is one of them. But is he?
When asked in an interview on Wednesday what his favorite Bible verse was, Trump became clearly uncomfortable. He repeatedly refused to give a verse or two, and when asked if he was “an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy,” he said, “Probably equal,” and described the Bible with empty platitudes like “very special” and “incredible” (relevant clip starts at 7:06):
HALPERIN: Okay, you mention the Bible, you’ve been talking about how it’s your favorite book, and you’ve said, I think last night in Iowa, that some people are surprised that you say that. I’m wondering what one or two of your most favorite Bible verses are and why.
TRUMP: Well, I wouldn’t want to get into it, because to me, that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal. So I don’t want to get into verses, I don’t want to get into —
HALPERIN: There’s no verse – there’s no verse that means a lot to you that you think about or cite?
TRUMP: The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.
HALPERIN: Even to cite a verse that you like?
TRUMP: No, I don’t want to do that.
JOHN HEILEMANN: Are you an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy?
TRUMP: Probably equal. I think it’s just an incredible – the whole Bible is an incredible. I joke very much so, they always hold up The Art of the Deal, I say, ‘My second favorite book of all time.’ But I just think the Bible is just something very special.
Jesus asks Christians to spread the good news to all the earth, and in Romans 1:16, St. Paul implores us to be unashamed of the Gospel. So why would Trump not want to share his favorite verse? It seems likely from the way he responded to the question that he simply doesn’t know any.
Trump consistently refers to evangelicals as “they”, rather than “we”. He has said he does not ask God for forgiveness. He refers to Holy Communion as “my little wine” and “my little cracker”. It only takes listening to a couple of his interviews with shock jock Howard Stern to find that he doesn’t exactly take the notion of chastity very seriously. His new national campaign co-chairman, Sam Clovis, said just a month ago that Trump “left me with questions about his moral center and his foundational beliefs… His comments reveal no foundation in Christ, which is a big deal.”
So the question is, does any of this matter? Trump’s supporters have been quick to dismiss any charge that Trump is artificial, or not a real conservative, or any other questions about what he actually believes and what he’d actually do. To the diehard Trump fans, he basically can do no wrong, and has done no wrong. But will revelations about Trump’s faith, or potential lack thereof, cause his supporters to reconsider?
Thomas Valentine is a researcher for APIA and a junior at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.