The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody posted an episode of his podcast Friday purporting to explain President Donald Trump’s June 1 Bible stunt in which police violently cleared peaceful protesters out of the way, so Trump could stroll from the White House to pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Brody is a major Trump booster.
Some religious-right figures have mischaracterized public outrage over the event, portraying the outrage as focused on Trump’s use of the Bible instead of on the use of force that made the photo-op possible. “I don’t want to get into all that,” Brody said about the removal of protesters, including priests from the church Trump posed in front of, citing officials’ claims about violent protesters and the approaching curfew.
That was not the only thing Brody didn’t want to talk about. Even as he explained Trump’s supposed reverence for the church, clergy, and Bible as an example of a “1950s mindset,” he did not want to discuss what else was happening in the country at that time. “And once again, I don’t want to get into 1950s and racism. We know what was going on back then. That’s not what I’m talking about,” Brody said.
Here’s how Brody described Trump’s “mindset”:
He remembers a time in the 1950, back when he was growing up—remember, born in 1946, he’s 74 years old—he remembers a time where you dressed up for church, where you went to—where you prayed in school. He remembers a time when there was Bible reading in classes. This is Donald Trump’s America. This is who—this is what he thinks about when he thinks of the church. And he definitely has a reverence for the church. He also has—he also loves people that are passionate. And he sees pastors and clergy as people that are passionate for God, and he loves that. He’s attracted to that.
Brody acknowledged that Trump was seeking political benefit from his photo op, saying, “he knows that a photo holding a Bible in front of the church is a much better photo-op than the church being burned to the ground by antifa and the other crazies.”
Brody’s podcast gave him a chance to tout his own access to Trump—he said he has conducted more than 20 interviews with Trump—and the unique insight he said it has given him into Trump’s religious worldview. He repeatedly promoted his book, “The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography,” co-authored with Liberty University Vice President Scott Lamb.
Brody read a few quotes from prominent evangelical supporters of the president defending the photo-op, which were completely predictable as they were coming from Trump’s religious-right cheerleaders.
Brody also included several minutes’ worth of clips from interviews he has done with Trump over the years. Brody apparently believed that these clips backed up his statements about Trump’s reverence for God and the Bible, but they may be more of a Rorschach test of one’s views of Trump and the level of cynicism one brings to Trump’s use of faith for political gain.
For example, in one clip, Brody and Trump are standing together on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and Brody asks Trump, “Who is God to you?”
“I say God is the ultimate,” Trump says. “You know, you look at this,” he says, gesturing to the ocean, before launching into a discourse about his own brilliance in purchasing the land on which they were standing in “one of the great deals” ever made, assuring Brody that he has no mortgage on it, and claiming that he wants to make great deals on behalf of America. And then he repeats, “God is the ultimate.”
Brody presented Trump’s reverence for the Bible as proof of his God-fearing nature. But I wonder how many viewers might have a hard time believing Trump’s claim that he keeps all of the many Bibles people have sent him over the years “in a certain place, a very, very nice place.”
The last clip showed Trump presenting a humbler attitude and saying that the job comes with so many life-and-death situations that it encourages him to pray more.
Brody followed his show-and-tell with an interview with Jenna Ellis, a member of Trump’s legal team who is affiliated with the Falkirk Center, a Liberty University project launched by Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk.
Ellis is one of Trump’s most fawning supporters, which is saying a lot. When the protest-clearing Bible stunt began drawing immediate and widespread condemnation, she rushed to declare on Twitter that the photo-op was “one of the most poignant moments in American history.” In her interview with Brody, she called it “an important defining moment in America.”
Ellis praised Trump’s “law and order” stance and said that Trump holding up the Bible “as the seat of government in America, as the leader of the free world,” was a reflection of his belief in the moral authority of the church and an acknowledgment “that moral virtue is central to a civil society.”
Speaking of moral virtue, the truth-challenged Trump administration has had a hard time landing and sticking with a story explaining the mayhem inflicted on protesters in advance of Trump’s Bible pose. A week after the event, Attorney General William Barr, who has said he told officials to clear the area but denied giving the “tactical order” to begin the assault, continued to make contradictory and inaccurate claims, saying, for example, that pepper spray is not a “chemical irritant” even though both common sense and science say that it is. As Forbes reported, “One pepper spray company even advertises its product as ‘the most effective chemical irritant available.’”