How Christian are the Trumps?

This subject has become a major topic of debate today in its necessary far-reaching implications on the decisions that will be made by Donald Trump during his Presidency. Melanie Trump’s welcome and courageous praying of the Our Father at a rally in Florida on Saturday has only led more fuel to the fire of this debate.

by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith on The Catholic Herald

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand together during a rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport (Getty)

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand together during a rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport (Getty)

Donald and Melania Trump are Christians who seem to occupy a grey area between churches

At Donald Trump’s recent rally in Florida, Mrs Trump was at his side and at one point led the audience in the recitation of the Our Father. This strikes me as unusual, given the American obsession with the so called separation between Church and State. I am guessing that most people at the rally, including the Donald, were delighted, and most of anti-Trump America would have had their prejudices confirmed. Prayer has long been a bone of contention in America. Prayers are banned in American public schools, for example.

Melania Trump is Slovenian, and according to her Wikipedia entry, a Roman Catholic. She is noted for all sorts of reasons, being, for example, on the second First Lady not to have been born in America, and the first to be a naturalised American, and the first not to speak English as her first language. But if it is true that she is a Catholic, that makes her only the second First Lady to be so.

Of course, Melania and Donald’s union is not a regular one from a Catholic point of view, as he has been married twice before, and both previous Mrs Trumps are happily still with us. But there are many people who are in irregular unions who nevertheless strongly identify as Catholics and go to Mass, though not to Holy Communion, and who have had the children of their union baptised. In America great play is often made of politicians’ religious allegiances. Yet with Melania, few details are in the public domain, as far as I can see.

One thing that is common in American public life is the way people can move with some ease between denominations. Mike Pence has been described as a Catholic, but is now an Evangelical. Or so at least it seems, as he is loath to cast off the label Catholic. But the truth seems to be – it is truly hard to be sure one way or the other – that he now attends some sort of Evangelical megachurch and has, therefore left the Catholic Church. But one thing is certain: Mr Pence wants to appeal to both Catholics and Evangelicals, hence the way he has described himself as an “Evangelical Catholic”.

Sarah Palin made the same journey. She was baptised as a Catholic, but in early childhood her family embraced Pentecostalism. Though Mrs Palin has made no attempt to deny her Catholic origins, at no time has she claimed to be a Catholic still. Because she effectively left the Church as a little child, she has not incurred any canonical penalty.

Marco Rubio, another faded luminary of the Republican Party, also has a checkered religious history. He is usually taken to be a Catholic, and it is clear that he has been baptised and confirmed as a Catholic and married in the Catholic Church. However, it is also clear that he was for a time a Mormon, and has at various times worshipped in a Baptist Church. This amount of religious zig-zagging may be the sign of a tender and questioning conscience; there again, it may simply be an inability to stick at one thing, and yet another reason why voters looked at Mr Rubio and decided, after all, that they preferred Trump.

Another Republican with what is called a “complex faith journey” is John Kasich, yet another candidate who failed to dent Trump’s rise to power. Yet Kasich’s journey is not that hard to understand. He is a Catholic who has become an Anglican, as indeed have his parents. However, Kasich’s Wikipedia page contains this gem: “Kasich was raised a Catholic, but considers denominations irrelevant, while stating that ‘There’s always going to be a part of me that considers myself a Catholic.’”

Mr Kasich needs to be reminded that one can never be the member of two churches at the same time, and that Church membership is very important indeed. But he is by no means alone among Americans in trying to give the impression that one can have one’s cake and eat it. And just as there are some who try to belong to more than one Church, there are also those who identify as Christian without actually belonging to any Church at all. My best guess is that Melania, born a Catholic, and baptised as such, is now occupying some sort of grey area between churches. Her husband too seems to be in a similar situation: a generic self-identified Christian without much actual denominational allegiance.

Nevertheless, she led that rally in prayer. She may have been trying to tell us something in so doing. Is it that the Donald, unlike some Republicans, is a proper Christian, a man of fixed and coherent beliefs? Let’s remember that both Catholics and Evangelicals played an important role in getting Trump elected. Perhaps that Our Father was an acknowledgement of that.

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34 Responses to How Christian are the Trumps?

  1. GC says:

    I do believe that Melania’s father was a member of the Communist/Socialist/Workers/Whatever party in Yugoslavia and did not have his daughter baptised. He was some sort of manager in a State-owned company, which would normally indicate he was a party member. I apologise if I have been misinformed.

    She also didn’t seem too familiar with the words of the Lord’s Prayer – in English, anyway, which would suggest not all that much church-going since she arrived in the States.

  2. Tom Fisher says:

    Is it that the Donald, unlike some Republicans, is a proper Christian, a man of fixed and coherent beliefs? Let’s remember that both Catholics and Evangelicals played an important role in getting Trump elected. Perhaps that Our Father was an acknowledgement of that.

    Donald Trump barely even conceals the ‘wink’ when he makes his claims to piety.

  3. Tom Fisher says:

    Melanie Trump’s welcome and courageous praying of the Our Father at a rally in Florida on Saturday has only led more fuel to the fire of this debate.

    The prayer was met by the audience with the positive response which was both intended and anticipated. Not the slightest risk was taken in having her read a prayer that the organizers were certain would be well received. It was not, in context, a courageous act.

  4. Tom Fisher says:

    Mike Pence is undoubtedly a Christian. Some Christian causes will benefit from Trump being president (due to the strange alliances in American politics). The author should be content with those comforts. No need to pretend (to oneself as much as others) that Mr Trump is a devout man.

  5. toadspittle says:

    Very well put, Tom.
    (I assume I will be permitted to say that, at least.)

  6. toadspittle says:

    Also, it’s gratifying and unsurprising – to see that GC has, as usual, bothered to do some research into the subject, instead of simply being led by the nose.
    (Although I doubt if I will be permitted to say that.)

    [The Moderator – My apologies, Toad, I had managed to press the wrong button and have lost your post.]

  7. kathleen says:

    Tom @ 00:45

    I agree with the post introduction in that it was certainly a “courageous act” on Melania Trump’s part to publicly pray the Christians’ most important prayer – the only set prayer taught to us by Our Blessed Lord, and the one that all Christians pray!

    Melania knew very well (and was not mistaken) the criticism that would follow this public affirmation to the primacy of The King of kings, and Who even worldly leaders must bow to.
    This act was a statement; Melania was saying (or implying) that the enemies of Christ could stamp and scream in rage for all their worth, but she, and her husband the President, were followers of Christ Jesus, the Lord, and their words and works would be done in His Holy Name.
    Brilliant!

    Anything goes for the world, except identifying as a Christian these days:

    https://scontent.fmad3-2.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/16938887_10154989187156704_1969646257869100304_n.jpg?oh=2d613bb38395f71815e31b1c657383f3&oe=5941FFE9

  8. Tom Fisher says:

    The decision to have Melania Trump read the prayer was taken because a positive response would be forthcoming from the audience, and the negative responses would not matter to the intended audience. No courage was involved in the scheduling.

    —The organizers of political events held by republican presidents do not require courage to include christian prayers. —-

    The above sentence is the most blindingly obvious thing I have written in along time.

  9. Tom Fisher says:

    but she, and her husband the President, were followers of Christ Jesus, the Lord, and their words and works would be done in His Holy Name.

    Have you really been conned by Donald Trump? He couldn’t give a fly fig about Christ Jesus.

  10. Tom Fisher says:

    This act was a statement

    The word you’re looking for is pandering.

    You seem to think that Donald Trump (this thread) and Vladimir Putin (previous threads) are good Christians. The Pope you’re not sure about of course.

  11. Tom Fisher says:

    Oh and ps, please undo the cowardly deleting of Toads’s last comment

  12. Tom Fisher says:

    Anything goes for the world, except identifying as a Christian these days

    Identifying as a Christian is not a risky thing to do for republicans. Surely you know that?

  13. The Raven says:

    I wish that I could, Tom.

    The thrust of his comment, with which I agree, is that Mr Trump shows little sign of sincere Christian sentiment (or any moral character for that matter) and is probably using public shows of Christianity for political purposes.

    Do you recall a film called “Bob Roberts” (circa 1990 without googling it)? It seems eerily prophetic.

    Having said all of that, VP Pence does seem to be sincere (albeit an apostate) and a lot of the damage that a Clinton presidency could have done will have been averted. Only time will tell whether the US’s Faustian bargain with Trump will be more or less awful than Hillary.

    The parallels between Trump and Papa Bergoglio seem rather alarmingly obvious to me.

  14. mmvc says:

    Melania did get some pretty nasty criticism for intoning the ‘Our Father’ at the Florida rally:
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/19/melania-trump-attacked-for-reciting-lords-prayer-at-campaign-rally.html

    Only the Lord who truly sees the hearts of men can judge the motives behind this action. The fact is that many of the thousands of people present welcomed and joined in that prayer. Surely that is both positive and encouraging.

    Meanwhile, after the de-funding of abortion groups, here’s another welcome reversal by President Trump:
    http://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/trump-prepares-to-drop-transgender-bathroom-mandate

  15. kathleen says:

    Tom @ 08:33

    “Have you really been conned by Donald Trump? He couldn’t give a fly fig about Christ Jesus.”

    Oh really? And how do you know what is in Donald Trump’s innermost soul? Is your mind totally shut to the possibility that he might have turned back to his Christian Faith over recent years? Never heard the story of the Prodigal Son?

    Honestly, Tom, you’re doing a great job in promulgating the lies of the radical anti-Christian Left, by following their line in true Pied Piper fashion! Looks like you’re the one who has been “conned”.
    How the Left organizes and operates!

    Donald Trump has been doing no more than fulfilling all the promises he made during his Presidential campaign. Seems to me that he is proving himself to be a man who keeps his word…. And that, for a politician, is an uncommon but heartening sign.

  16. kathleen says:

    The Raven @ 08:58

    “The parallels between Trump and Papa Bergoglio seem rather alarmingly obvious to me.”

    I assume you mean they are both doing a sterling job of undermining and destroying the hard work of their predecessors, Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI respectfully? 😉

    The first we can cheer.
    The second we deeply regret.

  17. mmvc says:

    Thanks for pointing out those parallels, Kathleen.
    I was struggling before I read your comment… :o)

  18. GC says:

    I’d just like to say that “Melania” (meaning something like black or dark) is a deliciously Catholic name, although etymologically it’s related to yucky things like “melanoma” and (for many Asian women, at least) “melanin” (just look at all the skin-whitening substances on the pharmacy and supermarket shelves!).

    We have, in fact, at least two Saints Melania, the Older and the Younger. They were both rich Roman widows who set up something like monasteries in the Holy Land in the early Christian centuries. The Younger was a pal of Saint Jerome. I suppose in English the name would come out as “Melanie”.

    It would be hard to see how Melania herself would not have been affected by Catholicism. Even though she was born at a time when the communists ruled her country it would have had long Catholic traditions. Even now some 80% of the people in the diocese where she was born are baptised Catholics. Whether their lives all bear the supernatural fruits of their baptisms would be another matter.

  19. toadspittle says:

    ‘Only the Lord who truly sees the hearts of men can judge the motives behind this action.’
    True enough – bur when has that ever stopped CP&S devotees from judging Pope Francis until the proverbial cows come home?
    Trump, in my opinion, is not an evil man – he is simply an utterly hollow man.
    …Like me.

    [Moderator- Sez Toad, who does not judge.]

  20. Tom Fisher says:

    Is your mind totally shut to the possibility that he might have turned back to his Christian Faith over recent years? Never heard the story of the Prodigal Son?

    By Trumps’ own account he is substantially the same person he was as a young boy (though matured, of course). He has never taken very much interest in religion.

    He has never claimed to have lost in himself in a far country, nor has he claimed to have returned home.

    The story of the prodigal son has no bearing on Trump’s life. He has always been quite open about the fact that his chief interests are fame, money, and women. He is refreshingly honest about this.

  21. Tom Fisher says:

    I don’t begrudge Trump his hedonistic life, entirely devoted to crass materialism, and I appreciate that he has for the last 40 years been quite open about his priorities in life. The only thing I can’t abide is this notion that he’s a paragon of piety

  22. The Raven says:

    A good try Kathleen, but I had more in mind: dangerous populists, with little regard for the law, who antagonise those opposed to them and who will let down their supporters.

  23. toadspittle says:

    “[Moderator- Sez Toad, who does not judge.]”
    Where do you get that idea?
    I judge as much as anyone else on here. no more, no less.
    It’s what we do.
    Generally regarding the Pope.

  24. kathleen says:

    Then you must be pretty disappointed, Raven; President Trump has done the total opposite of “letting down” his supporters 😉! In just a few weeks as President he has already fulfilled (or has made the first inroads) into keeping many of the promises he made in the run up to the elections. Mmvc (Maryla) gave a mention to the latest welcome reversal – putting a stopper to the transgender bathroom mandate.

    To be honest, I find it hard to understand how any Chrstian (and especially a Catholic) could disagree with the actions Trump has set in motion in his short time in office so far. He has protected human life from its initiation, refused to allow possible terrorists into the U.S. whose goal is to destroy our Christian heritage, protected women and children from the vile gender theorists, and is doing his utmost to create jobs for all citizens,

    To top it all, his wife has commenced a huge Republican rally by a public recital of The Lord’s Prayer, that asks God that “THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN…”
    This act sent a very clear message to the world, and that is what is getting the militant lefties, the radical feminists (so notoriously unfeminine), the secularists and homosexual lobby so beside themselves with rage. The MSM that is so full of these groups makes far more noise than the conservative press, and has therefore managed to “con” loads of gullible bystanders to swallow their anti-Trump views. Their useful new tool being used now is to call all those who stand by Trump “white supremacists”!! That scares many into taking an aversion to Trump, fearing they might be called one too. Don’t be fooled!

    However, OK, it is true that Donald Trump is no “paragon of piety” either – something that appears to worry Tom a great deal – but then nobody has pretended that he is, least of all the President himself! That doesn’t mean he is not a Christian believer.

  25. toadspittle says:

    Catholics are going to be bitterly disillusioned by Trump one of these days. And very soon, too.

    “However, OK, it is true that Donald Trump is no “paragon of piety” either – something that appears to worry Tom a great deal ..”
    Tom has already gone on record as declaring that he doesn’t give a rat’s patootie what Trump’s worldly vices are. They are Trump’s problem.

    But Tom can ( and surely will) speak perfectly well for himself.

    However, what might be more of a worry to Tom, as it is for me (and Raven, I suspect) is how amazingly, childishly, eager so many Catholics are to be persuaded by this pagan oaf that he is now God’s representative on Earth
    This is clutching at straws on an industrial scale.
    But then, some Catholics are already famous for believing six impossible things before breakfast every day.
    …So a few more will come as easy as winking.

  26. The Raven says:

    It took me a moment to work out which pagan oaf you were referring to, Toad: the Americas (North and South) are providing a number for our edification these days.

  27. The Raven says:

    President Trump has done the total opposite of “letting down” his supporters

    Give him time, Kathleen.

  28. kathleen says:

    Toad says:

    “Tom has already gone on record as declaring that he doesn’t give a rat’s patootie what Trump’s worldly vices are.”

    Yes, that’s what he said today, but not yesterday, when he was kicking up quite a fuss about (according to him) how utterly heathen Trump is! Just like you are doing now!

    So do you and Tom have a hotline into Trump’s innermost soul then? I don’t pretend to know for certain what he really believes, but only to point out that he is keeping the promises he made to his electors, and that these are good things!

    Today Tom said that he could not abide “the notion” that Trump “is a paragon of piety”… but no one, as far as I can see, has made him out to be one anyway! Even Fr Lucie-Smith, author of the article above, only asked some rhetorical questions about the true faith of the Trumps. Donald Trump himself has always been pretty cagey about his religious beliefs, but when pushed he admits to being a Christian. He certainly appeared to be fully behind his wife’s choice of publicly praying the Our Father.

    And that, for some strange reason, gets many hopping mad.. as your comment above, full of unconcealed rage goes to show. Trump, a “pagan oaf” you say? Ever looked in the mirror, Toad?

  29. toadspittle says:

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/24/media-blocked-white-house-briefing-sean-spicer
    No doubt several CP&S stalwarts will consider this perfectly reasonable. I suppose he’s just “moderaring” the press, really. Making sure they don’t print any lies.

    “but when pushed (Trump) admits to being a Christian. “
    Quite. Shamefacedly, no doubt.

    “So do you and Tom have a hotline into Trump’s innermost soul then?”
    No, we leave that sort of thing to you, Kathleen.
    And I may well be an oaf, but I’m an agnostic oaf.

  30. kathleen says:

    Clean your specs, Toad, and re-read what I really said about the impossibility of knowing what is in Donald Trump’s “innermost soul” (or anyone’s for that matter). We can only judge by what we see… and by the fruit of their actions.
    Trump’s? Looking good so far!

    Oh, and perhaps you could tell me what the difference is between a “pagan” oaf and an “agnostic” one 😉 .

  31. toadspittle says:

    “Oh, and perhaps you could tell me what the difference is between a “pagan” oaf and an “agnostic” one 😉 .”
    Yes, Kathleen. One oaf is pagan and the other is agnostic.

  32. johnhenrycn says:

    My sister calls Trump a “scumbag”, and her slur may not be unadjacent to the truth; but in the end, it was a choice between him and the Whore of Babylon.

  33. mmvc says:

    A great big gaggle of witches appears to share your sister’s disdain for Trump, JH:
    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2017/02/loony-tune-witches-to-hex-pres-trump-wherein-fr-z-has-an-idea/

    How about we all pray the “Saint Michael, the Archangel…” prayer for him to counter their curse?
    Also, as Fr Z suggests, pray the mighty Loríca of St. Patrick for and against these fools.

  34. johnhenrycn says:

    In his post, Fr Z says:
    “Real witches are, happily, in short supply.”

    …which reminds me of my speech to our High School assembly back in ’68 encouraging everyone to take Latin, wherein I mentioned that Christians were in “short supply” back in the day when they were fed to lions, my point to them being that they didn’t need to be Christians to love Latin. I got an ovation for that (not a standing one).

    Judas Priest (aka J.P. on these boards) will disagree with me. Obviously.

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