Religious Narratives: A Frame for Your Mantle Piece

by Samuel Mellish

Trump’s association with white evangelical America is no secret, with 81% of that grouping having voted for his Presidency. So when I awoke on the 12th of this month to Johnnie Moore’s tweet, including the picture above and the tag line, “Such an honor to pray within the Oval Office for @Potus & @VP”, I shrugged. It seems unsurprising that the former vice-president of an evangelical university would post a picture of evangelical leaders praying for President Trump, someone who has always wooed that particular bloc.

But, this is when I started to ponder slightly more. So yes, I am unsurprised, and I am certain you agree with me, regardless of your political persuasion. Yet, no one is really talking about what this means in terms of religious narratives. Wait, don’t stop reading! I promise this is somehow relevant. Quick aside, when I talk about narratives I literally mean stories – as human beings we make sense of the world by drawing tales. This happens on your commute to work – when you envisage the route you will take, or what you will do to pass the time. But narratives can be much more important, and can have a much bigger impact on your life. This is where political-religious narratives become so significant.

If it were Johnnie Moore’s doing, or that of President Trump, religion is being utilised here to determine a particular kind of narrative. It is a narrative in which Trump is an authentic Christian, whose spiritual life is ordained by the most senior priestly figures. So what…right? But we need to go deeper, what does this actually mean? This is simply not just an exercise in identifying Trump as a monotheist, it is about creating a particular type of story, which will inevitably strengthen his base’s resolve, and continue to justify his executive and legislative program. The narrative portrays Trump as reflective, biblically literate, aware of Christ’s teachings, an individual who has been blessed by God. Surely such a man would follow the social directives in Luke’s Gospel. But again we can build on this more. The laying on of hands is utilised by a number of denominations for baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and for invoking blessing. So another narrative appears: a priestly Trump?

Narratives are important, they paint a picture of what the world is, or what it aspires to be. They consolidate political power, and influence the legislative future. I am certain that Johnnie Moore was sincere in his tweet, but the narratives he has released are powerful, and have far-reaching political consequences.