President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in St. Charles, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Trump is also baiting Christians with his anti-Muslim videos

(RNS) — A great action movie demands a final battle scene, a cosmic clash between the forces of good and evil. Donald Trump — ever the showman — knows this.

All politicians are skilled at casting themselves as heroes in the political dramas they write. But what sets Donald Trump apart is his unique ability to create and cast a villain.

On Wednesday morning Donald Trump returned to an old favorite for that role: Muslims.

The president shared three disturbing videos on Twitter that portray Muslims as violent, cruel, and intolerant, though there are questions about what was really happening in the scenes. But they were purported to depict a Dutch boy on crutches being cruelly beaten by (we are told) a "Muslim migrant"; a scene artfully titled “Muslim Destroys a Statue of the Virgin Mary!”; and a horrific episode in which “Islamists” throw a young man off of a roof.

And that is it. That is all Trump needs.

Using three brief videos he has pulled back “the veil” on the villainous Muslim — as it were — and exposed his truly evil nature. Sufficiently outraged, the audience (read: electorate) will demand the rise of a courageous hero.

As a Christian, I know full well that the second video was directed at me and my people. The presidential provocateur knows the power of religious symbols and he knows that the evocative image of Mary being smashed to the ground by a Muslim man (in the lead-up to Christmas, no less) would provoke me.

Will Christians in the audience take Donald Trump’s bait? Will we join his heroic story of a clash between good and evil? I'll get to that in a moment.

It is clear that Donald Trump’s retweets play a critical role in furthering a dramatic epic that he has been composing about a “clash of civilizations” in which “Islam” and “the West” are bitter rivals locked in a winner-take-all struggle.

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In this drama, Islam and the West are polar forces. And for Trump’s story to work he must depict Islam in absolute terms as foreign, evil and antagonistic to the West.

Trump’s strategy is not even original.

Far-right leaders in Europe have been using this very same “clash of civilizations” story for 20 years now. Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Frauke Petry in Germany, and — the originator of the three video tweets — Jayda Fransen, leader of the far-right Britain First, have all depicted themselves as the patriotic guardians of both the West and Christianity.

Unfortunately, the story works.

There is an intense and animating power found in the clash story. Rooting for the total victory of pure good (the West) over against pure evil (Islam) is inspiring and invigorating. The imagined clash between Islam and the West provides the Western audience (read again: electorate) with energy, meaning, and purpose — in a sick kind of way.

As an evangelical Christian I am ashamed to say that Trump’s story is extremely effective with my own religious tribe. We are suckers for it and many of us will not only listen to Trump’s story, we will want to participate in it.

Why does it work?

It's complicated. But I see three reasons.

First, many evangelicals imbibe large amounts of toxic political media on a daily basis. An hour on Sunday morning talking about humility, forgiveness and hospitality cannot compete with a daily ride on the outrage merry-go-round of talk radio, cable news and social media. The devastating impact these daily practices have on Christian political wisdom cannot be overstated.

Second, Muslim immigrants function as an extremely convenient scapegoat for evangelicals who lament their loss of cultural power in the West. Rather than engaging in a humble act of self-examination, evangelicals can blame socialists, gays, liberals, and now Muslim immigrants, for their loss of cultural power.

Third, we evangelicals tend to be curiously motivated by and hypersensitive to any form of perceived or potential persecution. No matter how wealthy, comfortable, or privileged we might be, we seem quite capable of imagining ourselves as martyrs. Donald Trump’s none-too-subtle suggestion that Muslim immigrants are a potential threat to Christianity is not difficult for evangelicals to imagine. But more than that, for an American religion that has grown comfortable and bored, talk of potential religious oppression and martyrdom is — in a sick sort of way — exciting.

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Stories of Christian martyrdom abroad and the potential of martyrdom at home will always grab the evangelical imagination. Trump’s video of a Muslim smashing a statue of Mary is a rather unnuanced way of suggesting to American Christians, “The Muslims are coming — they’re at the gates, and you might be next.”

It doesn't need to be this way.

Christians are, in fact, capable of resisting Trump’s story. They can resist because they actually have a story of their own.

This Sunday millions of Christians will file into churches across the country to tell an alternative story about the world and their place in it. It will hopefully be a story of humility, grace and hospitality.

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American Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Jews and others all have a public stake in the dramatic story Christians decide to see themselves in: The story of last Wednesday morning or the story of Sunday morning.

(Matthew Kaemingk is an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of the forthcoming "Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear." The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)


  1. But is Trump a master baiter?

    Not really. Even the British PM called him out for retweeting the videos. She is as much of a right wing troll as he is.

  2. Your use of the word christians when you really mean conservative evangelical Christians is a bit troubling to me. Your implications that they have abandoned critical thought is even more troubling.

  3. “As a Christian, I know full well that the second video was directed at me and my people. The presidential provocateur knows the power of religious symbols and he knows that the evocative image of Mary being smashed to the ground by a Muslim man (in the lead-up to Christmas, no less) would provoke me.” Sorry, you are probably not that important.

  4. “But is Trump a master baiter?”

    I didn’t even know they allowed fishing on Coast Guard One.

  5. Just fact-checking brother Matthew Kaemingk here for posting, “Trump is … baiting Christians with his anti-Muslim videos”. Is this happening or even true?

    CHECKED. “La Crosse Lutheran bishop: Pray for respect vs. ‘inexcusable’ Trump tweets”, Lacrosse Tribune, December 1, 2017.

    CHECKED. “Archbishop of Canterbury urges Trump to remove anti-Muslim tweets, reject hatred”, Daily Sabah Istanbul, November 29, 2017.

  6. This writer is either a complete fool or just trying to attract attention. Does he not know the history of Muslim violence and attempts to conquer the West, going back centuries? The stupidity hurts.

  7. I am deeply grateful for this post. I don’t know the sort of evangelicals who approve of the president’s posting of fake videos (they are not what they purport to be!) but the evangelicals I know are keeping quiet. And that is as outrageous to me as supporting this trash. They aren’t stepping out of their bubbles to meet their Muslim neighbors, though the Muslim community in my area is visible, and offers constant opportunities to meet and greet. Do they think the rest of us don’t notice their failure to speak up, and to be present and form relationships with their neighbors?

  8. This writer is either a complete fool or just trying to attract attention. Does he not know the history of Christian violence and attempts to conquer the middle east and Southern Asia, going back centuries? The stupidity hurts.


  9. “A great action movie demands a final battle scene, a cosmic clash between the forces of good and evil. Donald Trump — ever the showman — knows this.

    All politicians are skilled at casting themselves as heroes in the political dramas they write. But what sets Donald Trump apart is his unique ability to create and cast a villain.”

    The ability to “creat and cast a villain” is hardly a unique ability. I would say, and I think this is what the article is trying to speak to, the ability to separate the villain from the vilified is what is unique. To separate the vilified from from the villain that is heroic and heroism is unique. There is nothing popular about being that kind of hero, as a matter of fact you have to be okay with being a vilified hero. Evangelical Christianity has become, or maybe it has always been, about popular heroism. We may support villains, but compared to the vilified, we’re hero’s

  10. I think you’re right. Thank you. I should have been more clear. Conservative, white, American, evangelicals is much more accurate. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue so nice.

  11. I’m absolutely sure I’m not that important. Thanks, Sandy.

  12. Many Christians will not take the bait. Like me! You are absolutely right. Thank you.

  13. Thank you for reading. Sorry that I came off foolish.

  14. Not a problem Matthew. (edit)
    Actually, you answered your own quandary here:
    Third, we evangelicals tend to be curiously motivated by and hypersensitive to any form of perceived or potential persecution. “

  15. I was going to, brother Matthew Kaemingk, but this latest & greatest didn’t mention Trump’s Twitter re-transmission of the three anti-Muslim videos, and so I decided to leave it out from my original comment. The title too doesn’t go well either with the 2 that I cited. “John Piper Says White Evangelical Support for Trump Is Harming Minority Outreach”, by Michael Gryboski , Christian Post, December 1, 2017.

    Not to say my fellow born-again Christian brothers & sisters aren’t now starting to throw Trump under the bus – please God please God – oops sorry. This big name guy, whom I can’t stand for other reasons, is coming on strong. Check this out, if only because it’s Twitter-related:

    A “‘crisis … [was caused by] the emergence of Donald Trump, first as candidate and now as president … Donald Trump with his divisive rhetorical style and his adolescent pattern of blaming and his reckless Twitter form of leadership,’ said Piper.”

  16. Dare yourself, then, to surf The Gospel Coalition (TGC)’s and Chorus in the Chaos’ stuffs on Trump. Remember, it’s not 81% of all Conservative Evangelicals that support him. RNS & TGC put the actual number between 40% to 60%.

    Knowing that, do you feel brave now to check those two Evangelical websites?

    Thought so.

  17. It is helpful when engaging in a discussion about Islam to distinguish the ideology from the people. The Ideology of Islam is terrible and violent and should be strongly opposed. But most Muslims as people are very peaceful and should be loved. We must keep this tension in mind.

  18. I know those websites, I just don’t know many Trump fans personally. I’m not sure why “courage” (or snark) are involved here.

    And on a more disturbing note, this poll indicates 78 percent of white evangelical Christians in Alabama are still supporting Moore. That says something. c

  19. Do you realize how insane that reasoning is? No man who has deep belief in a terrible and violent ideology, that teaches either submission or death to the infidel can be considered a peacful and loving person. Unless they are an extremely bad Muslim.

  20. I’m trying to figure how destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary damages Christianity, but can’t think of a reason why it would. Yeah, it’s blasphemy … but it harms nothing and no one, ever, anywhere. 

    I also seem to remember Christians burning Qur’ans in order to blaspheme Islam and incite Muslims against them. Not that I approve of the “turnabout is fair play” philosophy, but given that this is how some Christians behave, why am I supposed to think any less of Islam over this? 

  21. No, it actually sounds like he has been homeskooled. History are hard.

  22. Sorry for the snark (new word for me, which I’ll look up later). Funny you said how few “Trump fans personally” are in contact with you. Me? All bible christians I know (except just one family, but that was before the election) think Trump is a joke.

    Oh now that you mentioned Roy Moore, Evangelicals over at Breakpoint hate him too.

    So pray with me that God cause him to lose! I prayed He’d cause Hillary to lose too and that prayer sure paid off.

  23. The videos from 9/11 would suffice to show that Islam is a religion based on terror and horror.

  24. Except to people who want special privileges and to attack others on the basis of their skin tone. Like you.

  25. How the hell would you know what the entirety of the Islamic faith, of 1.4 billion people believe?

    Are you an adherent of the faith? Taught about it from scholars and believers? Have any personal contact with people who are either of the last two?

    Of course not.

    You are simply repeating nonsense by both fundamentalist terrorists (backed by dictatorships) and anti-muslim bigots (who enable said terrorists). Akin to describing Christianity based on the philosophy of the KKK.

    It is always offensive to people for outsiders of a given faith to make wild generalizations about it. No different from any Neo-Nazi talking about Jews, Evangelicals about Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists about Catholics.

    But somehow when someone is talking about Islam, they can say this kind of junk without any form of shame or expectation people won’t call them out on such nonsense.

    Give me a break.

    Better yet, instead of DOING THE WORK OF ISIS and demonizing the entire Muslim faith for their benefit, why don’t you try to figure out what they actually believe, from people other than terrorist propaganda.

  26. Break Point? Eric Metaxas outfit? He’s been carrying water for Trump.

  27. Thou shalt make no graven images. It seems that once again, it is Christians harming Christianity by ignoring any inconvenient passages.

  28. As a gay man, with so-called Christians like Roy moore calling for my imprisonment, so-called Christians like people who post on these very pages calling for my death, and so-called Christians like Pat Robertson claiming I am responsible for every possible social ill…

    and with Muslims bring a minority in this country…

    I would agree with you; ” No man who has deep belief in a terrible and violent ideology, that teaches either submission or death to the gay person can be considered a peaceful and loving person. Unless they are an extremely bad Christians.”

  29. Metaxas’ partner, though.

    John Stonestreet, “BreakPoint: Scandals, Politics and Faith: In Whom Do We Trust?”, Breakpoint, November 22, 2017.

    Before Mike Pence becomes US President in 2020, I’m hoping these guys – oh John Piper too is going strong against Trump – see article in Christian Post – will throw Trump under the bus.

    Hey you know your stuff – sorry for the snark, snide remark earlier.

  30. Christianity: thou shall not murder.
    Islam: meh, toss the infidel, homosexual, adulterer off the roof.

  31. I’ve read the Qur’an. ISIS represents the true Islam. Try it sometime.

  32. So, was god not murdering when he killed off the entire population of the planet for their sins, including the little babies who couldn’t have sinned even if they wanted to?
    Kevin Swanson, Philip Kayser, Roger Jimenez– just a few that call for the death penalty.

  33. 1. I sincerely doubt you have read more than the passages frequently cut and paste by Islamaphobes.

    2. You admit the source of your knowledge does not come from anyone who actually practices it. So any assertion about Islam and what its adherents believe is coming strictly out of your posterior

    3. Every bigot likes to quote scripture of other faiths in a way to demonize them. All it means is you share the same tactics of neo-nazis and various other sectarian haters. What else is new?

    “ISIS represents the true Islam”

    Thank you terrorist supporter. You are doing the handiwork of ISIS by taking their nonsense at face value and attacking all Muslims for it. Just what they want you to do.

    Do they send you checks or are you a volunteer for them? You are doing everything possible to make it easier for terrorists short of pulling the trigger yourself.

  34. Wait, you actually expect Christians to abide by the teachings they say their deity delivered to them … ? Heh heh heh, silly little man. 


  35. I agree that ISIS does represent the true Islam, but they do not in any way represent a majority of muslims. Most muslims are so far removed from the source of their religion, their version of Islam is watered down to accommodate the modern moral atmosphere. So often when a muslim encounters the truth about the history of Islam, they are faced with a choice: radicalization, apostasy, or major cognitive dissonance.

  36. ISIS laughs at the ignorance of the West in thinking that Islam is a religion of peace. Go read their article in their magazine Dabiq, called “Why we hate you and why we fight you”. Also, If your looking for how to truly interpret the Quran, read it in the context of the Hadith, Sahih Al Bukhari etc. I think you would be surprised in what you find.

  37. Yes, a lot of Muslims are what you’d call ‘extremely bad Muslims’. They don’t really know what their religion teaches. But ironically they are often some of the most loving people around.

  38. ISIS laughs at your efforts since they make their job easier. I will take advice as to how to read the Quran by people who actually read it and practice the faith. (I don’t believe for a minute you read read the Hadith, Sahih Al Bukhari etc either)

    Thanks to panicky fools like you, they can operate more easily. You take their propaganda at face value, by doing so ignore and attack the millions of Muslims who do not. The ones who are doing actual fighting against ISIS and lending support to defeat them.

    Like the overwhemling numbers of American Muslims who would rather turn in terrorists than support them. Far more successful than government law enforcement efforts.

    Extremism isn’t fought by other extremists. It never works. There is no such thing as a sane argument “___ religion is evil”. Its always just an expression of bigotry. In your case its also an expression of quixotic ignorance masquerading as knowledge. I don’t for one second take you as someone who knows anything about Islam or any religion other than the one you grew up with.

    Attack all Muslims, attack their liberties, demonized their entire faith and you help create a group marginalized enough to be great recruiting material. You are a damn ISIS stooge and you are too stup1d to realize it.

  39. You can love Muslim people but still criticize Islam as an ideology. You speak as if they are the same thing. I am not attacking Muslims as people. My friends who are Muslim that I have known for years are more loving and hospitable than most Christians I know. That doesn’t mean that I cant still criticize the origins of their religion.

  40. History has shown they will fall in line (or face a beheading themselves). Thanks for at least admitting ISIS is Islam.

  41. Nope. Nice try.

    But its not like your spiel is unique or even particularly creative or intelligent. It is the same old nonsense with the same effect. Doing the work of terrorists for free.

  42. But you won’t respect what is generally a key aspect of their identity. Kind of like how evangelicals say “I can love gay people but despise their sinful ways”. Translation is really “I hate gay people but I am too c0wardly to say so plainly”.

    You can’t pretend to know a damn thing about a religion without some contact with people who believe in said religion. What you think you know about Islam probably is at severe odds to those who actually adhere to it or have learned what adherents believe from them.

    It is rather offensive to make claims about the beliefs of a religion one does not belong to nor has had any formal education on by them. Invariably it involves making wild generalizations, stereotypes, accepting propaganda, and snide sectarian slurs.

  43. Attacking the credibility of someone which you know nothing about is not an argument. Better to focus on debunking my actual claims instead.

  44. Your statements are inherently ridiculous. You can’t ever demonstrate they are true and accurate.

    You are making generalizations for the belief of over a billion people and you think it can be done with some measure of authority? Especially of a religion you are neither an adherent of, nor educated in by them?

    Of course it can’t.

  45. I know of evangelicals (actually they are Calvinists) who support Trump. One in particular is my SBC “preacher” brother who is one of the worst bigots you can imagine. He maintains he has access to the “truth” of course defined by him. He also claims the KJV of the Bible is “inerrant” or “inspired”. In other words absolutely perfect and infallible. This heresy ignores the many discrepancies in that version of the Bible and the fact that King James wanted the translation in order to justify his false claim of the Divine Right of Kings. Bottom line he and his ilk elevate the KJV above God turning it into an idol.

  46. LOL! Whatever makes you feel better.

    But your posts are still worthless Pro-ISIS garbage.

  47. You will not like sharia law. Only then will fools like you will realize the freedoms a Christian culture provides, but it will be too late. Just read the sufferings of the Spanish under the Moorish occupation. Took them centuries to finally drive them out.

  48. So how does ISIS send their money to you? Check in the mail? PayPal? Bitcoin?

    “You will not like sharia law.”

    But evidently you do. Seeing that you support Islamicist terrorism. I am not foolish enough to take ISIS propaganda at face value, but evidently both you and terrorists do. So that means you have far more in common with each other than I do.

    Idi0ts like you go off on attacking sharia law from Muslims but gladly support it from Christian types. One does not destroy democracy and freedom to protect it.

    You can collect your money from ISIS this week. You did your job.

  49. Takes quite the logical leap to accuse someone of supporting terrorism lol. A lot of aimless accusation and not a lot of evidence. No one is going to take that seriously. I’ve already pointed you toward evidence you can go look at for yourself. Anyone can go read the Islamic texts and examine them, the same as anyone can pick up a Bible and examine it.

    Doesn’t matter what your personal status is, Its about the actual doctrine of the religion and the history of its founders. If you want to know about Islam look at the life of their Prophet. If you want to know about Christianity look at the life of Jesus. these are objective things anyone can study and come to their own conclusions.

    Muslims are a diverse group of people with a diverse spectrum of beliefs. Those beliefs may or may not align with what their religion itself teaches. In my experience, Muslims are amazing people, the Islam they know and believe is just a completely different version than the one taught by their Prophet. Just like many people who call themselves Christians but don’t really know or believe whats actually in the Bible. We judge a religion based on its founding doctrines and scriptures, not by it adherents.

  50. You ignorant fool, Christianity gave you your democracy and freedoms you enjoy in the West.

  51. Thet’re already taking over pockets of Western Europe, dumbass. Ever heard of no-go zones?

  52. No it didn’t, you lying sack of crap. Democracy came DESPITE Christianity. Especially coming from people who were fleeing the terrors of Christian churches entangled with the European monarchies.

    All one has to do is look at the autocratic agenda of Dominionists (Christian Taliban in the US) to see that Christian belief can be seriously at odds with notions of freedom and democracy.

  53. It is quite an easy leap.

    Your spiel about Islamic ideology supports ISIS terrorists.

    It takes their propaganda at face value. It encourages one to attack all Muslims, their place in a democratic nation, their rights, and freedom of worship. All to create an atmosphere which makes it easier for ISIS to recruit and operate. Likewise it attacks those who could be helpful as well. Freedom loving loyal American Muslims. Cutting off effective opposition to terrorists. Terrorists depend on the support of communities which are isolated from law enforcement and liberties.

    “Anyone can go read the Islamic texts and examine them, the same as anyone can pick up a Bible and examine it.”

    But most making comments about the faith in the manner you do have not.

    “We judge a religion based on its founding doctrines and scriptures, not by it adherents.”

    Actually we don’t. We judge it based on what its adherents do. Some faiths have some truly repugnant ideas but are innocuous in how they comport themselves. What you think are its founding doctrines and how you interpret their scripture is not going to be how believers have done so or how they apply it. It is as if one judges Judaism by the harsh sections of Leviticus and ignores the fact that Biblical literalism and draconian application of scripture is not part of their belief.

  54. No, it’s a term the police use …but of course they must all be bigots too.

  55. Sounds like bad policing to me. Real law enforcement does not countenance any kind of “no-go zone” and several European governments have confirmed this. By the way, official state media in the US (Fox “News”) had to apologize, multiple times, for giving false information about these supposed areas.

  56. I hope Pence becomes president long before that and his last day in office is Jan. 20, 2021.

  57. That’s how they get out of it Ben — calling for gays to be subject to capital punishment is not in their eyes murder. And I bet those Muslims throwing “infidels” off roofs feel the same way.

  58. You absolutely can criticize the origins of their religion. We can criticize the origins of our own, and probably should. But what you’re doing is saying that the only “true” way to practice Islam is ISIS.

  59. Several of my co-workers are practicing sharia right now. They’re not having pork for lunch and probably aren’t going to the holiday outing at a local bar this week. I’ll miss them, but it certainly doesn’t bother me. (and I’m not having pork for lunch either).

  60. That’s your problem, *you* judge a religion based on what occurred centuries and millennia ago. Most rational people judge a religion on what its adherents actually do and believe. Should I judge Christianity on the basis of what the Church Fathers said about The Jews?

  61. If they’re smart, they say that Jesus already paid the price, which allows them to have their guillotine, and use it too.

  62. And I hope Dems get their act together and come up with a real winner. There are really great Dems out there but they’re not being groomed to be the next US president. The last great US President was – wait for it – Jimmy Carter! And there were lots of born-again Christians backing him up then before kidnapped by Jerry Falwell in cahoots with Ronald Reagan.

  63. Yeah, the Democrats need to find some talent fast. But I can’t imagine evangelicals supporting a born-again Democrat now, even one with Carter’s piety.

  64. Thank goodness, though, that not all Evangelicals vote Republican. (Next time Dems better put someone better than the likes of Kil… I mean Hillary Clinton.)

    (1) “The Democratic Party has some support from white evangelicals, a group strongly associated with the Republican Party. … Republicans still command most of the support of this voting bloc but by no means have a monopoly on its affections. … 34 percent of all white evangelicals who voted took part in the Democratic primary … White evangelical Protestants … in the past were galvanized to vote by their strong opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage. Some evangelicals are now seeking a broader Biblical agenda which includes poverty and the environment.” [Ed Stoddard, “Polls show some U.S. evangelicals vote Democrat”, Reuters, February 11, 2008.]

    (2) “One simple decision would guarantee that millions of Evangelical voters would join the Democratic Party. All Democrats have to do is change their position on abortion, and really mean it.” [Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen, “Evangelicals Are Not All Republicans”, Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities, Baker Books, 2010.]

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