(RNS) The bombshell dropped by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson that Donald Trump had recently accepted a relationship with Jesus shook certain corners of social media over the weekend.
Some evangelicals welcomed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to the family as a “baby Christian.” Others expressed their doubts any such conversion had taken place.
And still others found something in the report that tickled their funny bones.
Several scholars studying American evangelicalism began joking amongst themselves on Facebook about what the candidate might be like as a born-again Christian. Kate Bowler, assistant professor of American Christianity at Duke Divinity School, said she quickly “realized what an incredibly fruitful line of inquiry this was” and took the lighthearted conversation to Twitter Monday (June 27) morning with the hashtag #IfTrumpWereEvangelical.
Many Twitter users quickly jumped in with their own suggestions, and by mid-afternoon Monday, more than 800 total tweets had been posted using the hashtag, according to hashtracking.com.
It’s partly funny, Bowler said, because of the nostalgia and “tender love-hate relationship” many have with their evangelical upbringings, which many of the tweets reference.
And also, she said, “I think it was mostly that it wonderfully highlights the contrast between Trump’s hedonism and evangelicalism’s puritanism.”
Here’s a roundup of some representative tweets using the hashtag #IfTrumpWereEvangelical:
First, there’s the issue of Trump’s reported conversion. So far, it only has been relayed by Dobson, but at least one Twitter user is hoping to hear it dramatized in the style of the “Golden Age of Radio” on the long-running radio program “Unshackled.”
Many Twitter users riffed on Trump’s plan to build a wall along the United States border with Mexico.
The Bible includes numerous references to walls: Joshua led the Israelites in marching around the city of Jericho and its walls came tumbling down, and Nehemiah led the Israelites in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem after they returned from exile. And what Sunday School student hasn’t sung about the house upon the rock?
Others referenced movies, music and books — like the apocalyptic “Left Behind” and “Thief in the Night” series — that were popular in Christian subculture 20 to 40 years ago and left their mark on many evangelicals growing up.
Most lovingly drew from Scripture or poked fun at certain evangelical turns of phrase and verbal tics, like a tendency to pepper prayers with the word “just.”
And a few made their politics clear.