On Religion/Opinion

Life from inside the ‘God Made Trump’ matrix

With its digital homage to the late Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" soliloquy, the "God Made Trump" video drew roars of support at key Iowa rallies for Donald Trump.

"And on June 14, 1946, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, 'I need a caretaker,' so God gave us Trump," said the majestic voice. The former president was God's choice to "fix this country," "fight the Marxists" and, yes, "make America great again."

The script added that Trump, a mainline Presbyterian with a tabloid-worthy personal life, would "follow the path and remain strong in faith and know the belief of God and country." He would "finish a hard week's work by attending church on Sunday. ... So, God made Trump."

On a first take, this "eerily messianic" video seemed like satire, noted Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, author of "Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity." After all, Trump never joined a Washington church and was rarely seen attending worship.

"What's missing from the video is some key theological context: God made everyone," he wrote at MSNBC.com. "God made every political opponent, journalist, American who died in war, and former presidential aide whom Trump has disparaged. God made the Christian supporters of Trump he mocked behind their backs."

This furor was political catnip for the Dilley Meme Team, the creators of this social media grenade, especially the blitz of retweets by furious Trump critics.

Self-help author Brenden Dilley stressed that "God Made Trump" was rally material for a logical reason: "Because President Trump absolutely loves the meme. He thinks it's powerful, he thinks it's a great message. ... That was repeated to me three different times. He loves the meme. He thinks it's cool."

Responding to Fox News comments during a "Dilley Show" podcast, he added: "It's not satire. ... It's just art. ... This is how a MAGA patriot, voters, creators, artistic people who love President Trump, this is how they feel about him, and this is what they created for him. How is this complicated?"

After reading waves of commentaries, I decided there were three primary theories about "God Made Trump":

If this video aired on "Saturday Night Live" -- the work of mainstream-media pros -- it probably would have been seen as satire. But humor from the right is considered out of bounds.

Some Christian conservatives stressed that it's one thing to support a candidate, but something else to blend in explicit biblical claims. This video did "conflate American and Christian identities," said David Closson of the Family Research Council.

"They quote a lot of Scripture that ... in context applies to the Lord, but then they apply it to the former president," he said during "Washington Watch" on NRBTV. "I think, as thoughtful Christians that take our cues from the Bible and not a political party, we do need to call that out."

Odds are good that members of the Trump team knew that "God Made Trump" would inspire an acidic wave of news coverage and slap-back satires -- firing up their own political base. In online jargon, this would "own the libs," so team Trump had nothing to lose.

In comments packed with profanity and slashing stabs at Trump critics, Dilley said he thought it was hilarious to claim that evangelical insiders produced this video.

"It wasn't made by a group of evangelicals, you f****** nitwits," he proclaimed. "It was made by patriotic Christians who believe in Donald Trump and believe in God and believe that God is utilizing President Trump to save America. How is that complicated? Imagine calling the Dilley Meme Team a group of evangelicals!"

The key to "God Made Trump," he added, was "what it showed about the people who covered it" in news reports.

Once again, this episode demonstrates that faith, humor and politics are a volatile mix, noted Seth Dillon, CEO of The Babylon Bee, which specializes in satire with a conservative Christian worldview.

As for the Dilley Meme Team, "these guys basically worship the ground that Trump walks on, so I think that some of them were being totally serious. But that doesn't mean that lots of other people aren't using it because they think it's hilarious and they know it will drive some people crazy," Dillon said.

"It seemed completely serious to me, and that's the joke."

Terry Mattingly leads GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He is a senior fellow at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.

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