In Speech to White Evangelical Broadcasters, Trump Lays Out his White Christian Nationalist Vision

Image: CNBC/TV18

I know, it’s easy to dismiss Trump’s extremist rhetoric as just another occasion of “Trump being Trump.” Because the deluge is unrelenting, paying attention is emotionally and morally exhausting. But especially now that he has essentially secured the nomination as the next GOP presidential candidate, it is vital that we sound the alarm as Trump tells us exactly what we can expect if he returns to power.

Last November, I wrote a column highlighting Trump’s embrace of Nazi ideology with his use of terms like “vermin” and claims that immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of the nation. And this week, thankfully, the media has been calling attention to last Sunday’s speech in Dayton, where Trump said that some immigrants who are accused of crimes “are not people… they’re animals” and claimed that if he didn’t get re-elected, it would “be a bloodbath for the country.”

But a few weeks ago, Trump gave an ominous speech that—while reported by RNS, the Guardian, the Associated Press, and the New York Times—caused less of a public stir. Trump’s remarks expose how a vision of White Christian nationalism is integral to his MAGA appeal, and they reveal the threat this vision poses to a pluralistic democracy.

The venue for this early campaign stop was, significantly, the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) in Nashville on February 22nd. While the name sounds broadly religious, NRB was created by leaders of communications outlets that operate specifically in the White evangelical world. According to its website, NRB, founded in 1944, “exists to represent the Christian broadcasters’ right to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.”

In his rambling 75-minute speech, Trump delivered his most thorough articulation of his vision of White Christian nationalism to date. It was received by an enthusiastic crowd, many of whom sported red hats emblazoned with the words “Make America Pray Again.”

I’m tempted to say that thing writers say about Trump to their readers: “I watched and transcribed Trump’s speech so you don’t have to.” But I’d encourage you to both read these excerpts and watch the entire speech below.

Here are the most troubling highlights:

“The greatest threat is not from the outside of our country.” Trump opens his NRB speech by claiming that God is on his side and that the greatest threat to America is from within. He calls his political opponents “very sick people,” priming his audience to see their fellow citizens with suspicion and fear.

We’re going to save this country. It’ll be thanks to the men and women like you, like the people in this audience. And we are represented by the best. The people who make God’s work your work…. Today, we are in another struggle for survival of our nation….

The greatest threat is not from the outside of our country. I really believe this. It’s from within. It’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside. We can handle China. We can handle Russia. We can handle all of ’em if you have a smart leader. But the inside people are very dangerous. They’re very sick people, in my opinion. In many cases, they’re sick. I’m here today because I know that to achieve victory in this fight, just like in the battles of the past, we still need the hand of our Lord and the grace of Almighty God. We have to have that.

“Persecuted Christians.” Trump praises the convicted felons who have been incarcerated because of their participation in the violent insurrection he himself incited on January 6, 2021, calling them “persecuted Christians” and “hostages.” He calls his political opponents “very evil people.”

Before Trump spoke, his campaign set the stage for his remarks by playing a version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by a group he has dubbed “the J6 prison choir,” comprised of 20 men who have been arrested, convicted, and incarcerated because of their role in the violent January 6th insurrection. Here is how Trump describes these domestic terrorists:

You heard the J6 hostages. You saw the spirit, the spirit that these people have. The spirit. You would think they wouldn’t have any spirit left, but they have tremendous spirit. What’s happened to them has probably, to that extent, never happened in our country before….

The whole thing is crazy what’s happening in our country. Let’s call these brave Americans what they really are: persecuted Christians. They’re being persecuted, and let’s call their imprisoned and imprisonment. They are being imprisoned by Joe Biden and his people, evil people. He’s surrounded by very evil people. They are, I believe, just doing whatever they want to do. I don’t believe they have any leadership at all. Joe Biden, because of his gross incompetence, is a threat to democracy, big threat to democracy. To reverse these monstrous abuses of power, the moment I win the election, I will appoint a special task force to rapidly review the cases of every political prisoner who has been unjustly victimized by the Biden regime.

Christians “have to do what they have to do, and they have to win.” Trump casts the election in terms of good and evil, claiming that “the left is trying to shame Christians,” and calls on Christians to win by any means necessary.

But especially for Christians, nothing is more important than to defeat this wicked system and to return to fair, equal, and impartial justice under the constitutional rule of law.… Our country, I believe is doomed. I believe it’s doomed. As you know, the left is trying to shame Christians. They try and shame us. Us….

And we have to save our country. But Christians, they can’t afford to sit on the sidelines in this fight. They have to really get out there. They have to do what they have to do, and they have to win. The chains are already tightening around all of us.

“I’m being indicted for you.” With language evoking the theological logic of substitutionary atonement, Trump talks of himself as a savior figure who is being indicted on behalf of white evangelical Christians.

I’m a very proud Christian, actually. I’ve been very busy fighting and, you know, taking the, the bullets, taking the arrows. I’m taking ’em for you. And I’m so honored to take ’em. You have no idea. I’m being indicted for you….

Every time the radical left Democrats, Marxists, communist, and fascists indict me. I consider it a great badge of honor. I really do. It’s crazy. I’ve gotta have something a little bit different up there, but I do because I’m being indicted for you. And never forget our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom. And I’m never gonna let it happen. They wanna silence me because I will never let them silence you. And in the end, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I just happen to be standing in the way.

“We have to bring back our religion.” Trump privileges the interests of White evangelical Christians over everyone else and promises to restore them to power.

What they cannot stand is that in the end, we do not answer to bureaucrats in Washington. We answer to God in heaven. We do, we answer to God in heaven. So today, I come before you as a friend, an ally, and a fellow believer to ask for your help and your support and your prayers for this country. We need your prayers. Most importantly.

And I make you a simple promise. In my first term, I fought for Christians harder than any President has ever done before. You know that, you know that. And I will fight even harder for Christians with four more years in the White House. We did things that, uh, the likes of which nobody has ever done for Christians in this country.

I get in there, you’re gonna be using that power at a level that you’ve never used it before. It’s gonna bring back the church goer…. We’re gonna bring it back. And I really believe it’s the biggest thing missing from this country. It’s the biggest thing missing. We have to bring back our religion. We have to bring back Christianity in this country.

“The Biden administration wants to do major harm to you.” Trump claims Democrats are are planning to “target religious believers,” “stamp out the churches,” and “tear down crosses.”

How any Christian can vote for a Democrat, Christian or person of faith, person of faith. How you can vote for a Democrat is crazy. It’s crazy….

Never again will the federal government be used to target religious believers. They are targeting religious believers. What they did to all of you, a lot of ground was lost by religion during Covid, during the China virus. Let’s be more accurate, called it the China virus. We want to be accurate, have to be accurate, or you’ll get criticized <laugh>, you’ll get criticized by the fake news. But Americans of Faith are not a threat to our country. Americans of faith are the soul of our country. They are, they’re the soul of our country….

Remember, every communist regime throughout history has tried to stamp out the churches. Just like every regime has tried to co-opt them and control them. And in America, the radical left is trying to do both at the same time. They want to tear down crosses where they can and cover them up with social justice flags, which nobody even knows what it means. Nobody knows. They don’t know what it means.… But no one will be touching the cross of Christ under the Trump administration. I swear to you, that will never happen. Never happen. <applause>. Thank you. Thank you very much. We’re not gonna let that happen….

The Biden administration wants to do major harm to you. You cannot let people vote for these people. You cannot let people vote for the Democrats. They’re really wanting to change our whole system of values.

“We’d love to bring it back to those days.” Trump wraps his speech with an appeal dripping with nostalgia for his own presidency and a vision of a 1950s White Christian America.

God is watching. And God probably can’t believe what he’s seeing. <laugh>. I will protect the content that is pro-God. We’re going to protect pro-God context and content. To that end, at the request of the NRB will do my part to protect AM radio in our cars. You know, we like to listen to AM radio because you know what? We’re listening to millions of Americans value listening to Christian broadcasters. And you’re under siege. I know what you’re going through….

This great organization has helped spread the word of God, the love of Christ, the stories of the Holy Bible and the voices of famed evangelical people and evangelists. Evangelists like the late great Pat Robertson, who was a great gentleman, got to know him very well, great evangelist. And of course, Billy Graham. How good was Billy Graham? Right?

We’d love to bring it back to those days. Amazing. Our country would greatly benefit by it…. But now we are a nation in decline. We are a failing nation. We are a nation that has lost its confidence, its willpower, and its strength. We are a nation that has lost its way.

But we are not going to allow this horror to continue, can’t allow it to continue. Three years ago, we were a great nation, and we will soon be a great nation again. With your prayers, your voice, and your vote, we will reclaim our government from these horrible tyrants. We will remove the communists, Marxists, and fascists. We will defeat crooked Joe Biden.

We will restore faith and family to the center of American life, and we will restore power to the people. Ladies and gentlemen, with your help and God’s grace, the great revival of America begins on November 5th, 2024. It’s a great revival.

“Upon taking office…” Trump makes several concrete policy promises that flow from this White Christian nationalist vision.

It’s not worth quoting Trump’s rambling justifications for the policy proposals he connects to this worldview. Lest anyone think Trump’s White Christian nationalism is empty rhetoric, however, this speech also included promises to:

  • install White evangelical advisors in all federal agencies;
  • appoint “rock solid conservative judges in the mold of justices Antonin Scalia and the great Clarence Thomas;”
  • create “a new federal task force on fighting anti-Christian bias;”
  • repeal the 1964 Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates;
  • launch “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history;”
  • direct the Department of Justice to “investigate every radical out of control prosecutor in America for their illegal racist-in-reverse enforcement of the law.”
  • take “historic action to defeat the toxic poison of gender ideology and restore the timeless truth that God created two genders, male and female.”
  • sign a new executive order to “cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.”
  • gut the public school system by supporting “universal school choice” and supporting homeschooling families.

I encourage you to pour yourself a glass of wine (or something stronger) and watch Trump’s full speech here:

This article was originally published on Jones’s #WhiteTooLong Substack. Read more here.