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The Gospel According to Donald Trump

From left, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Melania Trump and President Trump during the opening of an anti-extremist center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Press Agency)

On Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and said out loud what a majority of Americans concluded a long time ago — that President Donald J. Trump is a liar.

Mr. Comey did not resort to euphemisms when he accused the president of defaming him and the bureau he once led. At that moment, Mr. Trump was at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference across town, basking in applause.

“We will always support our evangelical community and defend your right and the right of all Americans to follow and to live by their teachings of their faith,” Mr. Trump said. “And as you know, we are under siege. You understand that. But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever. You watch.”

Evangelical leader Ralph Reed assured the president he was among friends and fellow believers who appreciated the zeal with which he was fulfilling campaign promises to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices and to exit godless treaty obligations like the Paris climate agreement.

Former rival “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, the Texas senator whose father Mr. Trump once linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and whose wife’s looks he also mocked during the Republican primary, also provided a high-profile amen corner to a man who hasn’t touched a Bible since he was sworn into office in January.

Because Mr. Cruz desperately wants a second term in the U.S. Senate, he’s willing to swallow the remainder of his dignity and clap like a trained circus seal regardless of how much Mr. Trump humiliates him.

It was a fascinating morning of contrasts. While Mr. Trump swore to protect American Christendom from the forces of secularism (i.e, the Democrats), Mr. Comey told a riveted audience on Capitol Hill about Mr. Trump’s attempts to extract a loyalty oath over dinner at the White House.

The picture of the president that emerged from Mr. Comey’s three-hour testimony was a figure of either utter mendacity or incompetence, depending on one’s ideological bias. “I was honestly concerned he might lie,” Mr. Comey said, explaining why he leaked a detailed record of his exchanges with the president after he was fired.

But across town, the righteous surrounded Mr. Trump with a cloud of hosannas and affirmation. “In my first 100 days,” Mr. Trump told the adoring audience, “I don’t think anybody has ever done more or certainly not much more [as president].”

Donald Trump learned a long time ago that he can get away with saying demonstrably false things to his core supporters with little fear of paying a price. As the cliche goes, his people take him seriously — not literally. He may be a liar, but he’s their liar. Even if his lies flatter them at the expense of reality, what’s the big deal?

I was never one of those people who gave any credence to the theory that we’re all living in a computer simulation that mimics what we used to think of as the “real world” — until recently.

In the universe that I come from, Christians would rather have been fed to the lions than to have been allied with a vulgarian like Donald Trump. In this simulated universe, the American faction of Christianity appears to worship a Jesus that has contempt for the poor, hates refugees and embraces militarism. Here, Jesus blesses wealth and power and those who seek it relentlessly.

In the universe I originally came from, evangelicals would’ve gone nuts at the sight of Donald Trump and several Arab despots meeting in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago, putting their hands on a mystical orb in a darkened room as if sealing an Antichrist-level deal to divvy up the world.

In this universe, as long as Mr. Trump gives proper lip service to Christianity and appoints the right kind of judge to the Supreme Court, the president’s son-in-law can own a building in New York City with the ominous address 666 Fifth Avenue and not generate a single nervous giggle.

In this universe, Christians are the opposite of the weak and sentimental fools Friedrich Nietzsche complained about. Here, Nietzsche’s “will to power” is exemplified by America’s dominant religion. The beatitudes have been turned upside down and inside out to accommodate the new American spirit — the gospel according to Donald Trump.

While one man testified on Capitol Hill to the truth of how the president operates, in excruciating details at times, the president wrapped himself in a blanket of righteousness and ignored him. He told lies and luxuriated in the applause of the righteous. In this universe, Jesus spits. He doesn’t weep.

Tony Norman

Tony Norman

Tony Norman is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. He was once the Post-Gazette’s pop music/pop culture critic and appeared as an expert on cultural issues on local radio talk shows and television programs. In 1996, he began writing an award-winning general interest column, which, he says, rejuvenated his enthusiasm for the kind of journalism that makes a difference.

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