Donald Trump Jr., one of the nation’s foremost apologists for the win-at-all-costs politics of his father, told an evangelical Christian crowd Dec. 19 that they’ve spent half a century turning the other cheek as Jesus taught and it hasn’t worked out for them.
Trump Jr.’s speech at the Turning Point USA gathering in Phoenix first was reported by Raw Story, then by Relevant magazine under the headline “Biblical Scholar Donald Trump Jr. Tells Young Conservatives that Following the Bible Has ‘Gotten Us Nothing.’” Then it was reported by Peter Wehner of The Atlantic under the headline, “The Gospel of Donald Trump Jr.”
While none of the Trump family has strong ties to any church or has demonstrated any pattern of church attendance, Trump Jr. acknowledged in his otherwise incendiary speech that he knew he would ruffle some feathers by speaking ill of the teachings of Jesus. Exactly how he believes conservative Republicans have turned the other cheek in America’s culture wars was not clear.
The Turning Point USA website explains its strategy: “We play offense with a sense of urgency to win America’s culture wars.”
The nonprofit organization was founded by Charlie Kirk, a firebrand conservative who previously was close to Jerry Falwell Jr. and Liberty University. He and Falwell Jr. created the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, an advocacy and education group housed at Liberty University from 2019 until early 2021, when the university declined to renew its contract with Kirk and quietly changed the name of the center.
Kirk and Turning Point USA focus their attention on high school and college issues, seeking to engage young conservatives in the culture wars through issues such as fighting “wokeness” and “leftist crazy” and “indoctrination.” The organization maintains a “School Board Watchlist” on its website where students and parents are encouraged to report schools and teachers that promote Critical Race Theory and other “leftist” ideologies.
Turning Point USA lists three things it believes: “The United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world. The U.S. Constitution is the most exceptional political document ever written. Capitalism is the most moral and proven economic system ever discovered.”
Trump Jr.’s Dec. 19 speech was given at the group’s “America Fest 2021,” where he spoke alongside keynoters including U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. The event’s website includes an endorsement from Rudy Giuliani. All these personalities have been at the forefront of promoting Donald Trump’s big lie that he won the 2020 presidential election — despite zero factual evidence to that effect.
To this crowd, Trump Jr. stirred up a roll call of conservative grievances against liberals and leftists and big government and other key institutions he said are hostile to conservatives.
“We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing. OK? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution in our country.”
And although Charlie Kirk, the Trumps and conservative evangelicals in general frequently launch campaigns to boycott or silence people and ideas they oppose, Trump Jr. warned instead about the threat of leftists canceling them.
“If we get together, they cannot cancel us all. OK? They won’t,” he said. “And this will be contrary to a lot of our beliefs because — I’d love not to have to participate in cancel culture. I’d love that it didn’t exist. But as long as it does, folks, we better be playing the same game. OK? We’ve been playing T-ball for half a century while they’re playing hardball and cheating. Right? We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing. OK? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution in our country.”
Wehner in his Atlantic article explained: “Throughout his speech, Don Jr. painted a scenario in which Trump supporters — Americans living in red America — are under relentless attack from a wicked and brutal enemy. He portrayed it as an existential battle between good and evil. One side must prevail; the other must be crushed. This in turn justifies any necessary means to win. And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the Scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have ‘gotten us nothing.’ It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go.”
In his report for Relevant, Senior Editor Tyler Huckabee wrote that Trump Jr. “is more correct than he probably knows here. Christianity is a poor device for gaining worldly influence. Nearly every page of the Gospels has stories of Jesus refusing earthly power and exhorting his followers to do the same. … The most cursory reading of Scripture would leave anyone with the sense that this is not a manual for getting stuff.”
Broken churches, broken nation: Will evangelicals ‘recalculate’ or rebel? | Opinion by Bill Leonard