In a speech to evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, Donald Trump concluded by saying that winning the election in November may be the only way he will get to heaven.
“So go out and spread the word and once I get in, I will do my thing that I do very well. And I figure it’s probably maybe the only way I’m going to get to heaven. So I better do a good job. Okay? Thank you,” The Donald said, ending his speech at the “Pastors and Pews” event with the American Renewal Project.
His entire speech focused on giving religious leaders more political influence, specifically through repealing the Johnson Amendment, which he claimed is “silencing” church leaders. “You’ve been silenced, like a child has been silenced, you’ve been silenced,” he declared. The amendment prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
“Your power has been totally taken away, I don’t want to insult anybody, but your power has been totally taken away,” Trump added. “They took away the voice of people that want to see good things happen. It’s not like they took away a bad voice, an evil voice.”
“We’ll be able to terminate the Johnson Amendment, and you’ll have great power to do good things,” The Donald insisted.
While many Christian leaders — including Eric Metaxas — have praised Trump for his stance against the Johnson Amendment, others have criticized him as insincere in his Christianity and unrepentant of the sins he has boasted about, such as sleeping with other men’s wives. This speech will likely cement that divide.
Trump repeated the debunked myth that millions of evangelical voters stayed home during the 2012 election, rather than vote for Mitt Romney. “You didn’t vote for Romney,” he told the religious leaders.
Finally, he insisted that voting in the election is absolutely paramount, even if you are sick and about to die. “If you’re lying in bed and you just know you’re not going to make it, you have to get up on November 8th and vote,” The Donald declared. He imbued the election results with a “yuge” religious significance.
Trump declared, “I’m Protestant Presbyterian … First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica [New York] … and I’m proud of it!” Nevertheless, Trump did not display a keen awareness of issues that are paramount to Christian conservatives, such as the pro-life issue or opposition to the LGBT agenda.
Worse, the conclusion of his speech seemed to betray a total lack of understanding of how salvation works in Christianity. Orthodox Christians believe that the only thing that can get you into heaven is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and faith in Him.
Trump’s notion that winning the election, or performing his presidential duties well, could save his soul is nothing less than anathema to Christianity. Trump defenders will likely say this was a joke, but The Donald said it with a straight face, and used it to conclude his speech.
David Lane, president of the American Renewal Project and the leader responsible for convincing at least 500 pastors to run for political office this year, told PJ Media the “heaven” comment was a joke. “Heaven was said in jest — I don’t think he knows the direction,” Lane said in an email statement. He also acknowledged that Trump did not mention pro-life or LGBT issues in the speech.
Even if the comment was said in jest, it betrays the notion that good works get you into heaven, rather than faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Most Americans may believe this, but evangelical leaders should not.
Next page: Why it matters that Trump said the election would get him into heaven.
This reveals the biggest danger The Donald poses to the church as a whole — in promising to “give Christianity power,” he echoes the Roman Emperor Constantine, who arguably did terrible damage to the faith by giving the church power, which actually weakened it. Despite persecution, Christianity spread exponentially during the first three-hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection.
But after Constantine, Christianity spread much more slowly, partially due to the fact that over half the empire was already Christian, but also because political power makes religious leaders more lazy.
Christianity is not about power, and while it is important for Christians to allow their faith to influence their politics, they should never identify the two as one and the same.
Trump’s seemingly careless act of identifying his salvation with the political power he can give to religious leaders not only shows how little he understands Christian doctrine and history, it also suggests that he is pandering to religious leaders without taking the time to understand them.
Repealing the Johnson Amendment would indeed be a victory for religious freedom, but The Donald’s talk of “giving Christianity power” is a temptation the church must avoid.
Right after Trump declared that his presidency might be “the only way I’m going to get to heaven,” a pastor prayed for him — specifically that God might open his eyes about what it is that really brings about salvation according to Christianity.
“I pray Lord that you would give him a renewed revelation of the work of the cross and the power of the resurrection,” the pastor prayed. “We ask Lord for a manifestation of your presence that’s so real, that he would hear from you with clarity and precision.”
May all Christians pray this prayer, for Trump and for everyone. We all need a renewed revelation of the one thing that truly can wash away our sins, and bring us eternal life.
Watch the video on the next page!