Donald Trump’s inauguration, and even his presidency, is likely to be a shot in the arm for the prosperity gospel.
“Oh, for sure,” said Andrew Gardner, an expert in American religious history, an opinion writer with Baptist News Global and author of the 2015 book Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists.
Gardner isn’t the only observer predicting the rise of the prosperity gospel — which preaches that God provides financial wealth to those with strong faith — under Trump.
The president-elect’s choice of Florida televangelist and prosperity gospel promoter Paula White, some say, signals his approval of mixing faith and big money.
And politics can be added to the mix with the selection of Franklin Graham to pray at the Jan. 20 inauguration.
“Taken together, [Graham and White] have embodied Trump’s embrace of the twinned ideologies of Christian nationalism and capitalist Christianity,” author and Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse told Christianity Today.
Another four clergy selected for the inauguration offer a touch of religious and ethnic diversity.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced recently that Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Wayne Jackson, bishop of Great Faith Ministries International, also are scheduled to participate.
Missing from the list are ministers from mainline traditions, which represent Trump’s own (Presbyterian) background.
“His Protestants are evangelicals,” John D. Wilsey, author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion, told Christianity Today.
Those pastors represent the voting bloc that elected Trump in November. But prosperity gospel Christians also heavily supported the New York billionaire.
The Washington Post reported that “Trump has received endorsements from lesser-known prosperity gospel pastors who admire his business acumen.”
Those include Jackson, one of the ministers invited to pray at the inauguration.
‘In it for the image’
Gardner said the marriage is a natural one for Trump.
“Often times, the prosperity gospel is invoked by someone with massive amounts of wealth who is a charismatic leader,” he said.
“In some ways, you can see why so many voted for Trump,” Gardner added. “They see a man who has done very well for himself and they put him up on a pedestal as someone who has been blessed.”
Even if Trump doesn’t personally hold to these beliefs, his lineup of inaugural ministers proves he has a solid grasp of the American religious landscape.
“He knows what he is doing,” said Alan Rudnick, a Baptist minister and television, radio, print and social media commentator.
“He knows what he is doing when he puts these evangelicals up on stage to appear with him and pray with him,” Rudnick said. “It says ‘I am the religious candidate — I am an evangelical leader.’”
In addition to having the business success to inspire prosperity gospel followers, he is one of the nation’s leading reality show producers and actors. Trump used that prowess to get elected, and he’ll use it on inauguration day, Rudnick said.
“No matter what you think of Donald Trump politically, he has always been a master of appearance and image,” he said.
He may well be doing the same thing with the inauguration.
“When you put your last name on the sides of buildings and casinos, you are definitely in it for the image,” he said.