Christianity Is Not Trump’s Native Tongue, and So What?

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Last week, President Donald Trump wished the country “Happy Good Friday,” and all hell broke loose. Suddenly, everyone was an expert on Catholic theology—or, at least, the emotional rubrics going along with Holy Week. Sure, most religious folk would not use the phrase “Happy Good Friday.” But most religious folk understood what he was trying to say, and they let it slide. Not the Left, though.

Ancient stoner comedian Tommy Chong said, “Did Trump really wish everyone Happy Good Friday? The day that Jesus was executed? Happy execution day? Ignorant to a fault.” And Chong, a spectral image from the 1970s, wasn’t the only one upset about Trump’s Good Friday message.

Joe Lockhart, the Democrat pundit and former Clinton White House spokesman, said: “This is a solemn day for Christians. It’s not called Happy Friday. Like not knowing what the significance of Pearl Harbor was, I’d suggest the President doesn’t know what happened on Good Friday according to the scriptures.” Note that Lockhart slyly mentioned the silly slander that Trump told a guide at the USS Arizona that he did not know what happened at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. And now he does not know what happened on Good Friday.

One writer tweeted, “Even a Jewish person knows that. You never wish someone a ‘Happy’ Good Friday. If you ever believed Trump was a Christian, this tweet is proof he is not. He’s celebrating Jesus’ crucifixion.” Religion writer at Slate Magazine Ruth Graham said that once again Trump revealed his inability to “speak Christian.”

Longtime lefty religion writer Amy Sullivan wrote that, “for a president who enjoys a high amount of support from white conservative evangelical Christians, Trump has displayed a remarkable unfamiliarity with Christian practice and language and has shown little desire to learn more about the faith of his most ardent followers.” Sullivan wants you to know Trump supporters are white.

Search “Trump Happy Good Friday” and the Googler comes up with 20 million hits.

This latest contretemps reminds me of the time Trump referred to “Two” Corinthians rather than “Second” Corinthians at Liberty University. It was reported the audience of evangelical students laughed at his goof. Listen to it on YouTube and you will (not surprisingly) discover this is no truer than the assertion that Pearl Harbor was a mystery to him.

But what fun they had with Trump on that one! Unhinged lefty pundit Keith Olbermann tweeted, “Corinthians 2 Trump 0.” Director Jon Favreau said, “Free headline idea: Two Corinthians, One Trump.” (Not sure what that one means.) Paul Begala, dissident Catholic and political fixer for Bill and Hillary, joked: “Two Corinthians walk into a bar…” Okay, that was a good one.

Stephen Colbert, TV jokester and hero of the Catholic Left, said: “Trump loves the Bible so much he doesn’t even need to read it, apparently, because he has had a little trouble with the name of one of the books of the Bible.” He asked one of his studio musicians if he had ever heard anyone referred to Two Corinthians. Never, ever, he said. Colbert then did an unfunny riff on mispronouncing “The Book of Job.” CNN reported that Trump “had tripped over himself.” And the Associated Press reported, “The comment prompted chuckles from students in the crowd,” though the tape does not show that.

Even conservative Christians joined the party. Good guy Eric Metaxas said, “Two Corinthians went bankrupt & sold me their chain of diners dirt cheap. I flipped ’em to two Romans for twice the price.” Okay, funny.

Religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey came to Trump’s rescue—a bit, anyway. “For what it’s worth, 2 Corinthians (not second) is pretty common British speak. Granted, Donald Trump is not from England. His mom is an immigrant from Scotland, where I’m told 2 (not second) was likely common.” She also pointed out, correctly, that Trump mispronouncing Second Corinthians was not much on the mind of his supporters and that critics were missing the point.

What I find most interesting is that these people are making fun of a non-native speaker. Ruth Graham got that exactly right. Trump does not naturally speak “Christian.” It’s a bit new for him. Sure, he was raised within the religious shadow of Norman Vincent Peale. But it’s clear that religion has never been very important to Trump. If it was, he kept it well hidden.

In recent years, however, he has been trying, with baby steps and stumbles. It’s been reported that, at one Sunday service, he tried to put money in (what he thought was) the collection plate, only to discover that it was really the tray that holds the bread and wine in a Protestant communion service. He once said that he didn’t need to ask for God’s forgiveness. He referred to the Communion wafer as a “little cracker.” And now we have “Two” Corinthians, and Happy Good Friday. This is plenty of fodder for the snarky Left who make fun of him, as well as the Christians who support him, who are all obvious dupes.

But what’s clear, at least to us, is that he’s trying.

Some would call it pandering. Others see that he is on a journey and that, like all recent immigrants to a new land, sometimes he makes mistakes. Adopting new customs and a new language take time. The nice liberals who are mocking him would never think of mocking an immigrant who struggles with English.

Trump is an immigrant to a new land. James Dobson called him a “baby Christian.” We should assume good faith, that he is genuinely trying, and we ought to cut him some slack. Christianity is not his native tongue, and so what?

And in a way, Trump was right. Good Friday was the day we were redeemed. How happy is that?

Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic (Sophia Institute Press, 2021).

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