The kickoff to the reality show known as the Republican National Convention went off as expected—with satire, chaos on the floor, and religious wing-nuttery. Good thing I got my popcorn popped ahead of time.
First, prior to its official start, Stephen Colbert somehow made it to the stage and—before being escorted off—pulled off a brilliant Hunger-for-Power Games mini-satire.
Then, in the middle of the first afternoon, Colorado delegates representing the rump ranks of the rapidly disappearing #NeverTrump movement attempted to demand a vote to change convention rules. They failed, but not before creating some more great television.
Finally, Trump’s near-lone connection to the African American religious community, Pastor Mark Burns of South Carolina, was wedged into the program to lead the opening prayer. While party leaders look to promote an image of unity and moderation in the personality politics of Trump (with Pence serving as a stand-in for moderation, despite his own considerable record on the right), Burns went full prayer warrior:
We are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans—but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.
Trump’s connection to the “prosperity gospel,” and warm words about him by figures such as Joel Osteen, have been widely noted by a number of commentators. Burns himself, the owner of the NOW television network in South Carolina and pastor of the Harvest Praise and Worship Center in Easley, South Carolina, has followed the trajectory of numerous prosperity gospel-ers and megachurch entrepreneurs, white and black, from a modest Baptist background to a history of religious entrepreneurial initiatives attracting scores away from historical denominational connections. Trump and Burns reportedly were introduced last year by Paula White, whose record of financial stewardship (or lack thereof) bears more than a little resemblance to Trump’s own record.
Stay tuned for more on a Duck Dynasty star, Scott Baio, plagiarism, and more… But the relationship of religion, politics and entertainment already has been worth the price of that popcorn.