Trump’s $60 Bible pitch not just ‘ridiculous’ but a threat to Black and marginalized communities, critics caution

There's a “deep and intimate connection between the promotion of this theocratic style of governance and autocracy and the attack on the African-American civil rights infrastructure," said Bishop Joseph Tolton.

Then-President Donald Trump holds a Bible outside of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington amid protests in 2020 over police brutality. The Bible he's now promoting comes with copies of national documents. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)

Though Donald Trump’s recent promotion of a $60 “God Bless the USA Bible” may seem trivial, or even absurd, on its face, advocates and strategists say something more sinister is at play with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s “make America pray again” hard sell.

“It’s really important that we don’t just get stuck there and that we don’t just talk about the fact that he’s such a clown who is doing something that is sacrilegious in an effort to raise money to defend himself,” said Bishop Joseph Tolton, an American theologian and global advocate against the white, far-right evangelical Christian movement.

The Trump-endorsed Bible, which is accompanied by copies of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and Pledge of Allegiance, sends a “blaring message” to white evangelical Christians, said Tolton, president of the advocacy group Interconnected Justice. He told theGrio that Trump’s promotion of the $59.99-plus-tax Bible – for which he is receiving royalties – nods to a constituency that wants to see the U.S. government, and governments globally, overtaken by a white Christian ideology and theology that is already growing in political power.

“[House Speaker] Mike Johnson is a Christian nationalist, as is [U.S. Sen.] Ted Cruz, as is Governor [Ron] DeSantis,” noted Tolton, who said conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett are also “deeply connected to this wildly extreme religious ideology.”

Supreme Cout Justices Neil Gorsuch (left) and Brett Kavanaugh are among those linked to an “extreme religious ideology” that Donald Trump caters to, Bishop Joseph Tolton contends. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Even Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker, who quoted the Bible in the court’s IVF ruling that determined embryos are considered children, is an admitted believer that America was founded as a Christian nation. Parker is a proponent of a Christian theology known as the Seven Mountain Mandate, a movement within evangelical Christianity that takes the position that conservative Christian values should “invade” every aspect of society, including government and business.

White evangelical Christians are a loyal voting bloc for Trump, who has proudly embraced Christian nationalism. Tolton warned that the movement aims to blur the separation of church and state and undo policies protecting marginalized communities, including Black Americans, women, and LGBTQ+ Americans. In Trump, the white evangelical movement has seemingly found its torchbearer.

“Religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country,” Trump says in a video he posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, while promoting the Bible. “Christians are under siege … we must defend in the public square and not allow the media or the left-wing groups to silence, censor or discriminate against us.” 

Trump, said Tolton, is “fully ready to implement policies that are absolutely breathtaking, head-turning and unimaginable.”

Though Christian nationalist policy positions are clear when it comes to issues like abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, Tolton said there is also a “deep and intimate connection between the promotion of this theocratic style of governance and autocracy and the attack on the African-American civil rights infrastructure.” 

He explained, “They are clear if there’s a group of people who are the natural voices to respond to this, it’s African-Americans. That’s why they’re pushing this idea of reverse racism.” The goal, he said, is to dismantle structures of the Black civil rights that have historically propelled the country forward.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, holds a “Critical Race Theory” book during the 2022 confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Bishop Joseph Tolton deems Cruz a Christian nationalist. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist, told theGrio that Black voters will see through Trump’s act of “desperation” and deem it “ridiculous.” 

Black voters have historically been good at “balancing what’s in their political best interests with their cultural, social, and moral principles,” said Payne, who was a staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “Black voters have shown that they can compartmentalize and prioritize what is most clear, what’s most urgent, and what’s most important, historically.” 

“They did it in 2020. They did in 2022. Getting Joe Biden in the office, reelecting Raphael Warnock in a place like Georgia, helping to turn a state like Georgia competitive in the Democratic camp,” he continued. “Black voters have shown themselves to actually be very savvy politically.”

The Rev. William Barber, a civil rights activist, took to social media to call out Trump’s promotion of the “God Bless the USA Bible,” writing, “The prophet Ezekiel named it in his day: greedy politicians make an unholy alliance w/ false religion that says God is on their side when God has said no such thing!”

The co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign also quoted a book from the Bible about a “con-man who used the name of Jesus for his own profit,” writing, “The Bible exposes grifters who try to exploit it.”

On MSNBC Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton called Trump’s Bible promotion a “spit in the face of people that really believe in the Bible from a Christian point of view.”

Payne said the latest from Trump is a “money play” that “reeks of a little bit of desperation,” which he argued could be politically damaging, particularly as the presidential candidate faces hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees and penalties and four criminal indictments.

“I think people give Trump space to be offensive, unfortunately, because that’s baked into his public profile,” he noted. “What people don’t tend to like is the desperation and kind of looking pitiful, and I think this looks a little pitiful and a little desperate.”

Wise or not, Payne said he believes this is a strategy by Trump, who is “throwing stuff out there so that people can talk about that and maybe pay less attention to the fact that he’s talked about wanting to be a dictator on Day One.”

Former President Donald Trump is seeking a return to the White House. Above, he speaks Thursday after attending the wake of slain NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller in Massapequa, New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Trump is probably winning when folks like me are spending more time talking about the sublime and the outrageous as opposed to the tangible stuff that most people are actually going to feel the effects of,” he argued. 

“Most people aren’t going to feel the effect of him trying to hawk Bibles and founding documents, but they are going to feel the effect of him trying to pass the national abortion ban and trying to rebalance the tax system against working people and him trying to essentially complete his efforts to overtake democracy.”

Bishop Tolton urged American voters and institutions like the Black church to push back against Trump and the Christian right, telling theGrio, “This is a real interesting moment.”

“This is a threat not just to Black people in America but to Black people globally,” he said, explaining that this theocratic movement is also behind anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Africa that are seeking to penalize communities, including in Uganda, where penalties include imprisonment and death. 

“Who is going to emerge as the counter to what we’re seeing with Christian nationalists?” he queried. “We are kind of sleepwalking into a theocratic style of governance that’s held in place by a nutjob strongman.”

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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