The threat Trump poses

The threat Trump poses

Antisemitism is rife today in the United States, and racism and other forms of bigotry are not immune either to this growing atmosphere of hate. It will only worsen if Donald Trump returns to the presidency — and the signs pointing to that are there for all to see.

A survey released late last month by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that three out of every 10 Americans — roughly a third of Americans — either believe in Christian nationalism (10 percent) or sympathize with its goals (20 percent). Christian nationalism asserts that America was founded as a Christian nation — a white Christian nation — and must be governed as such. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, certain Christian denominations, non-whites, and all the secularists would become second-class citizens with diminished rights.

More than 22,000 adults were interviewed for this survey, compared to the 1,500 or so polled in most surveys. Surveys of this size have a margin of error of under one-half percent.

There is more, though, that is troubling in this survey.

In five states with a combined 31 electoral votes — North Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, and Louisiana — more than 45 percent of residents either actively believe in Christianizing America or sympathize with doing so. Believers will come out to vote; sympathizers will do so if they are sufficiently energized.

Now add in the nearly 40 percent of residents of the 22 so-called red states who also are avowed Christian nationalists. By adding these states’ combined 191 electoral votes to the other 31, we get 222 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win the White House.

In 2024 political terms, the survey found that Republicans (55 percent) are more than twice as likely as independents (25 percent) and three times as likely as Democrats (16 percent) to be Christian nationalists. The more Christian nationalists and its sympathizers there are in a state, the more votes Donald Trump is likely to get in those states in November.

Most ominous, however, is this finding: Christian nationalists are about twice as likely as other Americans to believe that political violence may be justified in order to “sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” to office, as one survey question put it.

It is no wonder, then, that Christian nationalism — and outright antisemitism — were evident at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, or that a call for political violence that the controversial alt-right political commentator Jack Posobiec made at CPAC earned him a standing ovation. Posobiec has long been associated with white supremacist and antisemitic hate-mongering. He is a promoter of the vile “great replacement theory,” which posits that an essentially Jewish conspiracy exists to replace White Christian voters with non-white immigrants in order to control the political process.

“Welcome to the end of democracy,” Posobiec said in welcoming the CPAC delegates, several high-profile neo-Nazis among them. “We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here.” By “this” he meant his upraised clenched right fist. Posobiec added: “All glory is not to government. All glory to God,” meaning the Christian right’s twisted version of God.

Posobiec later insisted his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously, but the CPAC speech he delivered the next day proves otherwise. It included a call for attendees to “fight” because “[i]f we fight, we are inevitable.” He added: “After we burn that swamp to the ground, we will establish the new American republic on its ashes, and our first order of business will be righteous retribution for those who betrayed America,” essentially meaning non-Christians (i.e., us).

It is also no wonder that Trump openly plays up to the Christian nationalist crowd.

On February 22, he spoke for over an hour to an overflow crowd of radio and television preachers and other Christian communicators at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. “We have to bring back our religion,” Trump said, making no secret about his intentions for a second term. “We have to bring back Christianity.”

Trump promised to restore Christian preachers to power in American life. “If I get in, you’re going to be using that power at a level that you’ve never used before,” Trump said. “With your help and God’s grace, the great revival of America begins on November 5th,” the day after this year’s national elections.

Trump often appeals for support from the Christian nationalist crowd. He even screens a 2-minute 45-second video, “God Made Trump,” at some rallies to promote his Christian nationalist credentials. It was produced by a conservative media group — Dilley Meme Team — that describes itself as “Trump’s Online War Machine.” On January 5, Trump posted the video on his Truth Social platform.

A narrated voice begins by saying that on “June 14, 1946,” the date on which Trump was born, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said: ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God gave us Trump.” The narration then quotes “God’s” lengthy explanation for choosing Trump, including virtually everything Trump claims to have done or promises to do as president (although Israel and the Abraham Accords are suspiciously missing). Then “God” said, “I need someone who will be strong and courageous, who will not be afraid or terrified of wolves when they attack… I need the most diligent worker to follow the path and remain strong in faith…. [And who finishes] a hard week’s work by attending church on Sunday.”

According to a May 2019 survey conducted for the non-denominational Religion News Service, nearly 30 percent of white evangelicals believe that Trump was anointed by God. Fifty-three percent of white Pentecostal Christians believe that.

The video, which has been viewed more than 26,000 times so far, stokes that belief, as do comments made by Trump and his team.

In an August 2019 press conference, Trump said, “I am the chosen one.” He later said he was joking, but his energy secretary, Rick Perry, insisted on Fox News that Trump was serious.

Trump’s spiritual adviser — a role she says she took on in 2002 at God’s request — is the Pentecostal preacher, author, and televangelist Paula White-Cain. (She offered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration in 2017.) She has said she could never say no to a request from Trump because “saying no to President Trump would mean saying no to God, and I won’t do that.”

Whether some of the others around him also believe this nonsense, they are actively planning the steps Trump must take to Christianize America in a second term. Most notable among them is Russell Vought, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget and likely White House chief of staff should Trump win in November.

Vought routinely promotes the Christian nationalist agenda. In 2021, he founded the Center for Renewing America, a right-wing think tank that recently drew up detailed plans for Christianizing this country during a second Trump term. Vought also advised the Heritage Foundation as it prepared Project 2025, its version of how to accomplish that goal.

In an opinion piece published on the Hill, the veteran Democratic strategist Max Burns wrote that many in this “constellation of extremist preachers and apocalyptic prophets” around Trump “believe [he] was anointed by God to rule America. That level of certainty in Trump’s divinity can justify a lot of extreme anti-democratic—and even violent—behavior,” Burns wrote, adding that these people would “do anything to ensure God’s anointed leader returns to the White House next year.”

Jews who support Trump ignore the threat Christian nationalism poses to us and to the rights and freedoms we enjoy here. They support him because he supports Israel. Trump supports Israel, true, but only because the Christian right supports Israel, not out of a love for Jews, but because of its belief that there cannot be a “second coming” until Jews control all of “the Holy Land.” When Jesus fails to reappear, the Christian right will turn on us the way the Crusaders did in 1096 because they blamed us for preventing Jesus’ return at that time.

As Jews, we must do “what is right and good in the sight of the Lord,” as the Torah says (see Deuteronomy 6:18 and 12:28).

Among those “right and good” things, as the prophet Jeremiah quotes God as saying to the Jews of the First Exile, is to “seek the welfare of the [place] to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord on its behalf.” This includes everyone, including the non-Jews, as Jeremiah said and as Maimonides, the Rambam, codified it. (See his Mishneh Torah, The Kings and Their Wars 10:12.)

Jeremiah follows that with this statement from God: “Let not the prophets and diviners in your midst deceive you….For they prophesy to you in My name falsely; I did not send them.” (See Jeremiah 29:7-9.)

Helping Donald Trump and his allies to Christianize America is to ignore Jeremiah. Supporting Trump is not the way to do “what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.” It is the way to turn the growing Jew hatred here into a firestorm that could very well engulf us and bring back to the surface the not-so-latent racism many in the Trump crowd deny even exists.

Shammai Engelmayer is a rabbi-emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades and an adult education teacher in Bergen County. He is the author of eight books and the winner of 10 awards for his commentaries. His website is

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