Donald Trump, man of faith

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Author: Matthew Schmitz
Date: August-September 2016
Publisher: Institute on Religion and Public Life
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,497 words
Lexile Measure: 1140L

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Donald Trump is a man of faith. It's true that during his presidential campaign he has demeaned women, mocked the disabled, and praised the abortionists of Planned Parenthood; that his early exploits include repeated adulterous affairs, about which he boasts, and a failed attempt to evict a widow from her home; that, unlike King David, to whom his more shameless supporters compare him, he has never asked God for forgiveness. Trump is nonetheless a man of strong and very American faith. His career throws a light on the spirit of the age, as Lytton Strachey once said of Cardinal Manning. The light is not very flattering.

Trump was baptized and confirmed at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, in New York City. His parents raised him in the austerities typical of devout low-church Protestants. As a result, he does not gamble, smoke, or imbibe--even when the stimulant is caffeine. "I've never had a cigarette. I've never had a glass of alcohol. I won't even drink a cup of coffee," he told Esquire last year. (It is hard to forget when noting Trump's abstemious habits that Hitler and Mussolini neither smoke nor drank.)

In his late twenties, Trump began attending Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue. Founded in 1628 in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, Marble Collegiate is one of the few institutions that survives from the city's founding. Peter Minuit, the governor of New Amsterdam, was the first church elder, and Peter Stuyvesant, the colony's director general, led worshippers to service every Sunday. The high steeple of its current home, erected in 1854, rises two hundred feet above the pavement, a symbol of uprightness set in stone. Here Trump walked down the aisle after exchanging vows with Ivana and heard the sermons of Norman Vincent Peale, a man whose philosophy would become Trump's own.

When Trump met him, Peale was already famous as the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, a book that would go on to sell some five million copies. Peale occupied a position at the center of the establishment, though this standing was endangered in 1960, when he joined a group of 150 Protestant pastors, including Billy Graham, that wanted to keep Kennedy out of the White House....

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