Six words Trump never said to evangelicals

Jesus. Christ. Bible. They're all missing from Trump's vocabulary

Word cloud by Ryan Burge. This graphic is not offered for republication.

Donald Trump’s confab with evangelicals this week was meant to shore up support from the GOP’s religious base. A transcript of the Q&A session shows that Trump hasn’t learned how to speak even rudimentary evangelicalese.

What words never left Trump’s lips? Jesus. Faith. Pray. Christ. Bible. They’re all missing.

We* ran an analysis of the transcript. Out of the roughly 4,000 words Trump spoke, there was barely an utterance that was specific to Christianity (broadly) or evangelicals (specifically).

Here’s a comparison of the words used by Trump compared to other speakers like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Mike Huckabee, and James Dobson.

Word Others Trump
pray/praying/prayer 25 0
God 17 1
Jesus 11 0
faith 9 0
church 8 4
Christ 7 0
evangelical(s) 7 2
Bible 4 0
spiritual 4 0

One reference to God. No Jesus or Christ. No mention of faith or the Bible. Never a prayer.

Trump spoke about was he was “going” to do.

We talk about religious liberty, and I think it is the number one question. There are numerous things that we’re going to be doing. For one thing, we’re going to appoint great Supreme Court justices

What he didn’t do was talk about what God has done in his life or any other narrative that would show evangelicals that he has a personal faith.

In fact, when he spoke of his own upbringing, he talked about Sunday School and church being “automatic”.

“It was like, you go to Sunday school, you have to do that,” Trump said. “It’s not like, oh gee. It’s like automatic. Today, I don’t think it’s so automatic. And maybe we can get back into a position where it’s automatic.”

Word counts are a blunt measure of a speaker’s message. But the inability to use any commonly used religious terminology is just another indicator that Trump still hasn’t taken the time to learn how to speak to “the evangelicals.”

This isn’t hard to do. I once knew a teenager who in his youth group would quickly answer, “Jesus. God. Bible,” to any question he didn’t know. Half the time he was right. The other half he at least got a laugh. A presidential candidate in a special meeting to woo evangelical leaders should learn to do the same.

“I know words. I have the best words,” Trump has claimed. Unfortunately for him, those words do not include the words evangelicals care most about.


* “We” in this case refers to Ryan Burge.

Ryan Burge @ryanburge researches religion and politics. He is currently studying the politics of the emerging church movement.

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