Step Right Up And Get Your Low-Priced ‘Pro-God Content’! Donald Trump Enters the Bible Business

Screenshot from the former president's endorsement video.

Nearly four years ago on June 1, 2020, Federal officers violently cleared peaceful protestors from Washington DC’s Lafayette Square in order to make way for Trump to stand in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church and hold a Bible.* He had just given a speech at the Rose Garden, vowing to use military force to quell national protests over police brutality and the recent murder of George Floyd. As soon as he finished, he walked across the street with Attorney General Barr and various staff members in tow, stood in front of the church, and in what was then seen by many as a shocking conflation of government force and religious rhetoric, pulled out a Bible and displayed it to the nation with an aggressive scowl. At that time, many religious leaders and others commented on the “blasphemy” of using the Bible in this way. The Reverend James Martin said Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. And God is not a plaything.”

But what struck me at the time, as I wrote for Religion Dispatches, was how awkwardly Trump held that Bible. He had no idea how to hold it reverently or even triumphantly. If he had known the real power the Bible holds for Christians as an object, despite his total unfamiliarity with its content he would have held it aloft with both hands as in a high church processional, or in one hand, Billy Graham style. But instead he held it at chest level, displaying it first this way, then that, like any other thing he was hawking. At the time I compared it to the way the Price is Right models used to display cans of Turtle Wax, as if asking “How much is this worth to you?” 

Well now, almost four years later, we know exactly how much without going over: $59.99. 

Trump’s “God Bless the USA Bible” isn’t simply the “trusted King James Version translation,” it also includes the “handwritten chorus from Lee Greenwood’s song ‘God Bless the USA,’” as well as the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance. “It will be perfect,” we’re told on the order form, “to take to church, a bible study, work, travel, etc.” It has a brown leather-like cover with an embossed US Flag curling across the bottom. Thoughtfully, it features large type, for those Trump supporters whose bifocals aren’t always enough.

In his sales video Trump says: “I want to have a lot of people have it. You have to have it for your heart, for your soul.” Why? Because “Religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country and I truly believe that we have to bring them back and bring them back fast. . . that’s why our country is going haywire, because we have lost religion in our country.”

The “Christians are under siege” language is old hat, but embedded within this rhetoric is a newer development. Trump never refers to the “God Bless the USA Bible” as the Word of God, or as revelation, or even as truth (the name of his social media platform, TruthSocial, aside). Rather, in his sales pitch he refers to the Bible as “Pro God content”:

We must protect content that is pro-God. We love God. And we have to protect anything that is pro-God… I’m proud to endorse and encourage you to get this Bible. We must make America pray again!

Given the almost unfathomable legal bills and fines he’s facing, this latest tawdry scheme is unlikely to make much of a dent (though he will, despite a carefully worded suggestion to the contrary, earn a cut of the proceeds). But what’s important here isn’t just the use of the Bible as a money-making scheme for Trump himself and his “good friend Lee Greenwood.” Rather it’s the demotion of even the sacred revelation of God’s own Word into nothing more than “pro-God content.” For Trump and his supporters the Bible is content that can be commodified, weaponized, and then tossed aside like any other outdated or no longer useful content. 

It is notable that almost every news outlet, from USA Today, to Fox News, to the New York Times, refers to the cost of the God Bless the USA Bible as $60 as if the left digit bias employed by used car salesmen and grocery stores is too embarrassing for journalists to acknowledge. But I say it’s important to refer to that actual low, low price of $59.99. Between June 2020 and now, Trump has gone from seeming to hawk a Bible in Lafayette Square to actually hawking one on his social media platform. We know exactly how much Christianity and the Bible is worth to himand it’s a bargain! Happy Holy Week!

Correction: An earlier version of this article remarked that Trump held the Bible upside down. RD regrets the error.