“President Trump and his Use of the Bible as tool of Terror, Legitimacy, and for Military Pacification”
What President Donald Trump has done today, standing in front of St. John’s Church and holding the Bible in his right hand and pronouncing words of threat to street protesters through the deployment of military force, is a momentous symbolic gesture in the history of the function of the Bible in American politics and civil religion, as well as the ambivalent rapport between the Bible and the American state.
Overall, in American history, the Bible was used in many “negative ways” such as first to support the invasion of the European pilgrims and puritans in the land of Native Americans. The European (Christian) colonizers in the country that will be known today as the United States of America deployed the Bible as a mechanism to proselytize native Americans and to demonize their culture and traditions. They also utilized the Bible as a tool of pedagogy and instruction to inform Native Americans that their own land was not truly theirs; by contrast, the God of the Bible, the European Mighty Deity has given the invaders, slavers, and colonizers a new land, a new country, what their Christian colonizers famously called “the City upon the hill.” The Europeans also used the Bible not only to keep the land for themselves but also to forcefully remove, dislocate, and annihilate Native Americans from their own country.
In other epochs in American history, the Bible has been the greatest weapon used and misused to kidnap Africans from continental Africa. It was instrumental in instituting the system of European slavery and colonization in the Americas and in the developing world (i.e. the Global South). The Holy Book as the Reference Text was used to enslave the Africans or keep them in chain and oppression on American soil. Equally, it was used and misinterpreted to justify the system of slavery and through which, slave masters and the American government maintained the institution of slavery in America. Slavery flourished for 400 years in the American society through the government and masters’ theological (mis-) interpretation of the Bible. Correspondingly, the Bible was used on European slave ships, on American slave plantations, in American plantation homes, in American slave auctions, and in American schools created for African slaves. The use and misuse of the Bible by the American government, racists, white nationalists, white supremacists, and segregationists strengthened the system of segregation and the Jim Crow laws for 87 years in the American society; complementarily, the Bible was effectively deployed by the Federal government to legally ban interracial love and marriage between blacks and whites.
Within these historical trajectories and cultural-political experiences, President Trump’s use of the Bible today is historically connected to the misuse of the Bible as a tool to terrorize people, to legitimate his action, and to call upon American military force to pacify street protesters.
- Trump’s gesture reinforces a long European-American tradition that the Bible can be referenced as a means to pacify protesters and freedom fighters in the midst of racial violence, systemic racism, Police brutality, oppression, and in the production of cultural evil and the triumph of black death in the American society. Trump’s god is a deity who does not care about black tears and racial trauma.
- Trump’s gesture reminds us about the (mis-) use of the Bible in the time of (American and European) slavery and (Western) colonization to indoctrinate black and brown people to embrace the master’s interpretation of the Christian faith and white supremacist theology of Christianity. Trump’s biblical hermeneutics is out of balance.
- Trump’s symbolic action strengthens the ambivalent relationship between American civil religion and the American state, sustained by right-wing American Christians. In other words, he is stating that his presidency is approved by the God of the Bible.
- Trump’s holding of the Bible in his right hand and pronouncing the threat that he will be using the country’s military forces to stop American street protesters sent an important signal to the American people: that his action to threaten, intimidate, terrorize, and even kill American protesters is sanctioned or approved by the Holy Bible.
In conclusion, in contemporary American society, the Bible still remains the most powerful tool, reference, and force used and misinterpreted by white supremacists and racists, and right-wing Christians and politicians to deny some people of their rights and humanity, to delegitimize them in the life of this nation and its citizenship, to terrorize them, and to exclude them from the privileges and opportunities this nation has to offer. The Bible should never be used to declare war on people nor should it be used as a political strategy to win future votes.
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