On Monday’s episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host took a break from lampooning the breaking news that constantly dribbles out of the White House, instead focusing on “Trump’s evolving views on faith, religion, and separation of church and state” in his nightly segment, “The Check-In.”
Meyers’s recounting of Trump’s anything-goes-as-long-as-it-makes-money religiosity is impressively nuanced, calling out several of the self-proclaimed faith leaders surrounding the president, including his personal “spiritual adviser,” Paula White.
White and her contemporaries preach a version of the so-called Prosperity Gospel that seems almost tailor-made for this president’s self-serving myths about the root causes behind his alleged success and endless “winning.”
But first, it’s worth noting that one of the few campaign promises this administration has (sort of, kind of) fulfilled is Trump’s promise to “protect” (read: prioritize and privilege) the beliefs of conservative white evangelical Christians, who voted for him in record numbers. To illustrate that, Meyers rightly turns to the president’s signing of a “religious liberty” executive order back in May. Although the order turned out to be “a whole lot of nothing” from a legal and policy standpoint, Trump and his supporters have heralded it as the first step toward reclaiming what they believe are this nation’s uniformly Judeo-Christian roots.
As Meyers notes, though, even in a Rose Garden ceremony filled with fawning religious adherents ready to believe that President Trump, despite his ever-growing list of moral and ethical failures, is anointed by God to bring about the Second Coming, Trump couldn’t resist his own litigious huckster tendencies. After inviting up to the podium a few nuns from the Little Sisters of the Poor, who sued the federal government over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, Trump asked the attorneys who represented the Sisters to stand and be applauded. What both Trump (predictably) and Meyers (regrettably) neglected to mention was that those attorneys are from the right-wing, anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, the nation’s best-funded Christian legal nonprofit, which has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Given the unprecedented Oval Office access granted to right-wing, evangelical leaders, Meyers’s conclusion about the president’s faith practices is spot-on: “Trump’s surrounding himself with people who seem to prioritize wealth over faith, while using his friends to convince others that he himself is a man of deep faith.”
But perhaps that’s what is necessary for a president who has attended church services twice since assuming office to keep apace with an administration stocked with Christian supremacists, not least of whom is Vice President Mike Pence, who sponsors weekly Bible study sessions for cabinet members inside the White House. (Reporting from numerous outlets suggests President Trump has never attended one of these sessions, though he is always invited and receives copies of the texts reviewed each week.)
Watch the full segment from Late Night with Seth Meyers below.