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Six words Trump never said to evangelicals

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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About the author

Tobin Grant

@TobinGrant blogs for Religion News Service at Corner of Church and State, a data-driven conversation on religion and politics. He is a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and associate editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.


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  • Trump is as much a Christian as I am.
    But here are three more words that Trump (most likely) didn’t say. Power, money, and dominion.
    And this is why the Evangelicals are flocking to trump, despite Mr. Tobin’s observations. They are afraid of losing all three,

  • Speaking of evangelicalese . . . Apparently, Trump never claimed to be a born-again Christian, but I’d bet anything that at some point in his life, he became a porn-again Christian.

  • It would be far better for American Christians if Mike Huckabee was president.

    But since that’s not going to happen, this year we’ll just have to settle for “Anybody-But-Hillary.”

    Better to vote for the lesser-of-two-evils, than the evil-of-two-lessers !!

  • We already had a born again Christian in the White House in recent memory. Our quota is full for the next 30 years.

  • I’m so sick of this garbage. For a secular state that explicitly disallows any religious test for high office, an amazing amount of this type of rubbish gets into our political discourse.

  • This is a bad thing??

    Also your chart sucks. What use is comparing the word use of one man with the TOTAL word use of MANY “others”. 😀 Trump didn’t say the word “God” as much as every other speaker combined 😛 What a surprise!!

  • It’s not that he didn’t say the words “as much.” It’s that he didn’t say most of them At All.

  • We could just end up with a moral, kindhearted, but Ill equipped one like Jimmy Carter.

    You know things are bad when the Carter presidency is looked upon as the best possible outcome.

  • That doesn’t change the fact that the chart is meaningless. This is an orphaned statistic unless you can show on average, what each individual’s word choice was in comparison to Trump. Maybe most people did not use the word “Jesus” at all either but there were 50 people in the “Others” category, 11 of which used the word one. We don’t know how Trump compares to anyone else with these given stats, 😛 they’re totally useless.

    Oh, and then there’s the words that Trump used that WEREN’T put on that chart that still are relevant. Just picking some random ones of the transcript linked: “Christian(s)”, “Religious”, “Sunday school”, “Presbyterian”, “your religion” (referring to evangelicalism indirectly), “religious liberty”, “Christianity”, “Ministers”, “Pastors”, “pro-life”, “the Johnson Amendment”, “Christmas”, .

    From a quick scan of his transcript, it seems like he’s talking a LOT about religion and using a LOT of religious words, at least up until people start asking about political questions unrelated to religion, he just didn’t frequently use the couple of words cherry-picked by the makers of the (totally useless :P) graph.

    And some of the words he didn’t say: “Bible”?? Really?? If you are talking to, say, a Hindu voter and trying to convince them you’re going to pass policies in their favor, do you think you need to insert the phrase “Bhagavad Gita” into your speech to truly convince them??

  • When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to the father which is in secret, and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
    Matthew 6.

  • These evangelical leaders don’t care that Trump doesn’t have a personal faith story or that he doesn’t know the book is “Second” Corinthians or that he doesn’t use the words “Jesus” or “Christ” or “prayer” or anything else. They think Hillary Clinton is Satan’s minion, and they’ll vote for anyone opposing her. It’s very sad they’ve sold out to the political sphere and have become mere ideologues rather than followers of Christ who insist that their candidate be a Christ-follower as well.