The Art Of The Religious Deal

Reporters who have followed Donald Trump over the years tend to describe his approach to pretty much everything–business, family, charity and now the Presidency–as transactional. (That’s a nicer way of describing the paradigm through which he operates than “what’s in it for me.”)

A recent article from the Guardian suggests that a similarly transactional approach is not only more widespread than we might suppose, but that it explains the otherwise inexplicable support for Trump of those “family values” Evangelical Christians who comprise the majority of his political base.

Before the end of 2016 there was little in Donald Trump’s life, or frequently offensive political campaign, to suggest that as president he would be hailed as God’s appointee on Earth, be beloved by born-again Christians, or compared to a biblical king.

Yet that is exactly what has happened in the three years since Trump took office, as he has surrounded himself with a God-fearing cabinet and struck up an unlikely but extremely beneficial relationship with white evangelical supporters.

It’s a relationship that, for Trump, has ensured unwavering support from a key voter base and for his religious supporters, seen a conservative takeover of the courts and an assault on reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

The Executive Director of Americans United has accurately summed up the transactional nature of this support, noting that Trump continues to confer “unparalleled privilege” on this one narrow religious constituency–and that, in exchange for that privilege, Evangelicals are willing to ignore the numerous behaviors that are blatantly inconsistent with their purported beliefs, and to exhibit loyalty at the ballot box.

In law school contracts class, students learn that enforceable transactions require consideration (promises) from both parties. If you do thus-and-so, I promise to do thus-and-so. If one of the parties breaches, by failing to deliver on those promises, performance by the other will be excused.

Thus far, at least, Trump has lived up to his end of this particular deal. That makes this  transaction unusual: he has stiffed contractors, banks and charities, cheated on wives, broken promises to students enrolled in Trump University…In this case, however, he undoubtedly realizes that failure to perform would doom any chance of re-election.

Trump’s capture by the Evangelical Christian constituency has been widely remarked, and the steadfast loyalty of that community has been the subject of significant commentary–most of which has revolved around the stunning hypocrisy shown by  religious right figures and their transparent efforts to justify support for a man who (if he wasn’t delivering judges) they would call the anti-Christ.

The unlikely alliance between those nominally following biblical interpretations of right and wrong, and a thrice-married man who has been credibly accused of sexual assault and infamously paid off a pornographic actor, has thrown up a rich – and bizarre – cast of characters.

A sustained effort by influential Christian voices to justify Trump’s personal misdeeds and political cruelty has led to the frequent portrayal of Trump as a flawed vessel for God’s will. In particular, Trump has been compared to King Cyrus, who, according to the Bible, liberated the Jews from Babylonian captivity, despite himself being a Persian ruler.

The hypocrisy is certainly there. But what is becoming clear is that it isn’t only Donald Trump who approaches everything as a “deal.” In the Evangelical community, capitalism and market values have rather clearly overwhelmed (trumped?) theological commitments.

Wasn’t there a warning in Genesis about selling one’s soul for a bowl of pottage?


  1. No, just one’s birthright (inheritance). It was a straight transactional deal about who would inherit the family’s lands and wealth.

  2. The religious who support trump seem to be willing to forgive his flaws as a human but ignore that his actual policies are, overall, completely opposite to what the Christ taught. Our so called white “Evangelicals” seem to have lost the Christs teachings somewhere along the way.

  3. What is the answer to my repeated question; why did the Republican party dump 16 viable Republican presidential candidates to force “The Donald” on this country…and assure his APPOINTMENT TO THE PRESIDENCY…by way of the state Electoral College members? Does this go back to the formation of the all white men Republican committee which was formed only to stop any and all progress by the first duly elected biracial president of this country? As has been true since the beginning of this country, one drop of black blood designates the full race of the person. Who remembers President Obama’s mother and the grandparents who raised such a fine man were white? NOT meaning that white is superior; but his racial heritage is mixed but seems to have gotten lost due to the deeply embedded racism in this nation.

    “In law school contracts class, students learn that enforceable transactions require consideration (promises) from both parties. If you do thus-and-so, I promise to do thus-and-so. If one of the parties breaches, by failing to deliver on those promises, performance by the other will be excused.”

    Was Trump’s blatant white supremacist personal and sexual lifestyle and business dealings the primary “promise to do thus-and-so” for the Republicans as a whole and the evangelical christianity is but a cover up? The proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing”?

  4. Trump delivered on the bargain he made with the Evangelicals to flood the court benches with Christian zealots. And he kept his promise to the filthy rich about their taxes by pulling a slight of hand with the middle class taxes structure. But he reneged on the promises he made to that wasteland of FOX followers who he knew would continue to delude themselves if he just gave them enough fuel to keep the hate and intolerant fires burning.
    Getting those Trump supporters to see and accept the truth of Trump is our task, and we shirk it at our peril.

  5. The sentence near the end that starts “Trump’s capture by the Evangelical….” should be “Trump’s capture of the ….”

  6. It became crystal clear when 45 killed Soleimani that the evangelicals are counting on 45 to deliver the rapture. Good old Mike Pompeo even mentioned it in one of his press briefings. Frankly, I would be okay with it if God were to carry them all away.

  7. Pascal; doesn’t either term fit the current circumstances, “capture of” or “capture by”? It appears neither would stand alone without the other; they are tightly entangled and inseparable as long as McConnell upholds both in his Senate position of power.

  8. Okay Sheila, I’m going to give this a go,

    not that too many are gonna find it interesting.

    I believe what you’re referring to is in Genesis 25:29-34 and also mentioned in Hebrews 12:16. So both in the beginning of the Bible and also at the end are almost at the end, LOL.

    As it goes, Esau came in from the field after a particularly hard day and Jacob was cooking up a pot of lentil stew, which would’ve made it red. Esau asked Jacob for a “swallow” of the red,” to which Jacob asked Esau to trade his birthright for a meal of’ lentil stew and bread. So Esau sold his birthright for that meal, he viewed it as having little to no value,

    Archaeologists have determined that it was a practice that existed during that time, exchanging a birthright for something material. It was therefore illegal document or (a transactional deal).

    And as we know, Jacob later had his name changed to Israel, and Esau remained bitter but later made peace with each other with Esau accepting Jacob’s gift of a herd of livestock. They shed tears together and Esau bowed down 7 times to his brother. So even though twins, Esau was born 1st and had the birthright, and sold it for a bowl of stew, to which the nation of Israel came through Jacob.

    So there were heavy consequences for this “transactional deal,” something that seemed useless in the eyes of Esau changed the course of history. Instead of focusing on King Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and releasing them from captivity, they should be focused on what happened with Esau and Jacob. It didn’t turn out well for Esau as lived with his brothers yoke around his neck.

    Evangelicals seem to have forgotten warning given them in 2nd Timothy 3:12 which reads; “And all who propose to live piously in Christ Jesus will also be persecuted; 13 but scoundrels and impostors will make progress for the worse, misguiding and misguided”

    Proverbs 13:20 Reads,
    20 The one walking with the wise will become wise, But the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.

    Proverbs 14:7 Reads,
    7 Stay away from the foolish man, For you will not find knowledge on his lips

    Proverbs 22:24, 25 Reads,
    24 Do not keep company with a hot-tempered man Or get involved with one disposed to rage, 25 So that you never learn his ways And ensnare yourself.

    The apostle Paul quoted these Hebrew Scriptures to warn the Christian congregation in Corinth (Corinthians) of their associations, apostate beliefs, and out and out heresy.

    Too bad, evangelicals claim to be righteous, but in reality they are blind guides leading blind followers. This is quoted in Matthew 15:14, as a warning concerning Association.

    Christ also responded to his apostle, Peter, when Peter asked for clarification,

    Peter responded: “Make the illustration plain to us.” 16 At this he said: “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Are you not aware that whatever enters into the mouth passes through the stomach and is discharged into the sewer? 18 However, whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and those things defile a man. 19 For example, out of the heart come wicked reasonings: murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. 20 These are the things that defile a man; but to take a meal with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:15-20)

    Obviously, the evangelicals are not as biblically learned as they would have one believe, they tend to be hypocrites and blind guides, using transactions in a way that is detrimental to the teachings of Christ and their faith.

  9. What Therese Bowers wrote, and to bring Genesis up to the Jesus era, Jesus had big problems with the corrupt Pharisees both in and out of the temple and Barry Lynn was not there to come up with a Jews United against Temple and State organization.

    Franklin Graham knew what he was buying with Trump – power – but at the cost of Christian principle. Franklin Graham is one of the modern day Pharisees in control of a substamtial number of believers who have abandoned their personal principles and the biblical warning in re false prophets (of which Trump is representative) to Graham’s lust for power.

    Possible result? The demise of Christianity due to compromised principles. Possible successor? A rather vague and personal view called spirituality free of Pharisees where the new believer makes his/her own rules. Yet another possible result? Not the end of but the beginning of a more informed Christianity. Which one, if not another unmentioned here? I haven’t the foggiest.

  10. Once again, 2016 was the year of the populist — the year Americans went to the polls to show their discontent of the corrupted political system which has been screwing them for decades.

    The GOP found Trump, “a billionaire who was above the corrupt ways of Washington politics.”

    The DNC chose the Queen of Corrupt Washington politics.

    Trump may be a piece of shit, but the closed-minded Evangelical base has been sold that “liberals are the devil.” We kill babies, remember?

    And they’ve demonized liberals who have corrupted the educational system because they’ve removed GOD from the children. Godlessness is the work of Satan.

    They can overlook Trump’s “minor flaws” because nobody is perfect, but at least he’s not a liberal. He’s a God-fearing man, not an atheist (secularism).

    Trump believes in the Holy Book, not science books. He’s a true believer, however flawed he may be in the eyes of the liberals.

    Liberals have been demonized to the simpletons who are now part of the post-truth movement. Education is terrible because it makes you question biblical teachings. True believers aren’t swayed by science because they have faith, and that’s their ticket into heaven. Well, that and their $10 tithe to pastor ______.

    The more Trump is attacked personally by the media; the more solidified his base becomes around him because they consider it a personal attack.

    The less educated they are, the more easily they are to manipulate with propaganda. Hitler’s book Mein Kampf spelled out how to treat the masses. The enlightened fled the country if they could because they saw what was coming.

    Oppression is natural, and Trump/Pence/GOP is using it correctly on an uneducated, God-fearing base.

    The Democratic Party is failing because they can not appeal to the masses left behind because they are controlled by Wall Street — Pirates of Capitalism.

  11. Todd,

    Your rambling, cross-purpose contribution today seems to try to exonerate Trump and excoriate “liberals” for …… reasons known only to you. Of COURSE Trump is a transactional fool. It’s what con men and crooks do. But you simply cannot blame everyone for the DNC’s missteps. Clinton, at least, had read the Constitution and believed in the rule of law. That, my friend, is head, shoulders and mountains higher than what we now have as a national leader/disgrace.

  12. Vernon,

    You are interpreting our present situation from an intellectuals viewpoint which makes you miss the entire point of my post.

    Do you honestly believe those with a 5th-grade education and who take the Bible as fact care whether or not HRC could read the constitution? 😉

  13. From an article I just read today:
    Author Isaac Asimov may have best characterized the mindless beast of legitimized stupidity in a 1980 column for Newsweek magazine.

    “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been,” he wrote. “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

    In 1985, Neil Postman’s crowning achievement, “Amusing Ourselves To Death,” provided a most prescient analysis of the current lobotimization of American public discourse.

    Postman’s work drew a distinction between the Orwellian vision of a totalitarian government seizing individual rights and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” where freedom and rights were voluntarily sacrificed in favor of medicated bliss, or Soma, which Postman pointed to as an analogy for infotainment (television programs packaged as news or information but largely driven by sensationalism, propaganda and entertainment value).

    In 2009, Charles P. Pierce published “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.”

    “The gut,” as it were, became the basis for Pierce’s Three Great Premises of Idiot America: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units. Anything can be true if somebody says it loud enough. And fact is that which enough people believe; truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
    The above quotes seem to me to properly describe today’s social, cultural and political landscape.

    The idea that you can “turn” the Bible Thumping-Evangelicals with logic or other bible quotes away from President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence is a lost cause. President Agent Orange has delivered what they want: a Dominant-Male Authoritarian, who has no checks and balances on what he says.

  14. Not being a Biblical scholar, I can’t weigh in much here…But above, the question was asked about how did Trump become the GOP nominee with so many better choices running.

    He got something in the 20 % range of GOP primary votes. In fact, “he won a lower percentage of votes than anyone since Reagan in 1968”. BUT, having so many competitors, that was enough – the “loyalists” showed up.

    Such is my fear about the upcoming DEM primary season. Think we all suspect which candidate has the fiercest “loyalists”…that’s how more extreme candidates take the cake.

  15. Gerald,

    That’s the problem with the evangelicals at present, they make up their own rules! They do not abide by ANY of Christ’s edicts. The handwriting is on the wall so to speak, borrowing from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, LOL, they are writing their own demise by tying their horse to the political hitching post. They are definitely on the wrong side of Christianity, especially when they elevate such a morally corrupt miscreant as godly, that in itself is idolatry.

    So if you go by the Genesis account, there were those who called on God’s name in an evil or idolatrous manner. This is during the time of E’nosh, right before the flood of Noah’s day. This was a contributing factor to the flood, as people made idols and elected men to be their God’s.

    So, the evangelicals of today have meddled so much in secular laws and politics, they have basically written their own death knell! I think, religious organizations are going to be dismantled, because of their lockstep support of corruption, immorality, and their idolatric fawning over their brand-new messianic King, LOL! They brought it on themselves, the crying and gnashing of teeth will be astounding.

  16. Re: Yesterday’s blog and posts;

    Do you all deny that SOMEONE(say, the 1%, or the educated elite, or the capitalist elite) DOES GET/FIND ACCESS TO TRUTH AND REALITY?

    My question is: If some can access truth, why can’t the rest of us?

    Another question: If someone is determined to feed us only lies, does that not require that they know the truth? Which confirms that someone knows the truth.

  17. i was approached once by a customer i hauled a load into his yard,after a few minutes about what ever, he said he got his buisness started by joining his present act of religion. they basically seen a clean cut,suit wearing pronoun,and allowed him to become one of them. not the typical evangel,just a sect of buisness conscience people,who practice a religion…he said i should join… i made fact of my lack of intrest in religion,and its writings. the mega church, how did that come about,why mega? did the locals who run,not the preacher,the once on board who decided if they can make a shinning example,or, make some money for its,er, causes? monied minds looking for buisness,(were clean cut suit wearing bible believeing,level headed ) by the church they conceive..theres plenty of this going around,christ is probably the most exploited deity ever. and is a billboard in your face entity to millions,who seek the mega
    church. im stepping on toes,please excuse.. i look at trumps sham at the gospel as a lower than whale turds,and self serving,but then again, so are those who bless this bag of garbage and then try and sell it at thou is rightious…yea,right,and i have a spot of firm land in the middle of the swap too…

  18. The problem with words is that they can enlighten us or distract us. I hate the term “transactional” – it leads us to think of contracts which leads us to think of a simple home purchase. Then we try to understand the “transaction” in that light.

    Think instead of motivation. Trump is a sorry creature with a fragile ego. He only cares about things that build that ego – think power (potency) – money, sex, and adulation (and maybe, for the Freudians, tall, erect buildings) – North Korea’s Kim understands that. Contractors, Trump U students, and wives cannot stand in the way of stroking his ego (money and sex). Court appointments and persecuting gays and other minorities – he doesn’t care – nor does he care about women’s freedoms of any kind, reproductive or other.

    Esau’s story IS instructive – the point (in the eyes of Esau’s contemporaries) was his not valuing his birthright. He didn’t care, so he sold it cheap. (although some commentators suggest that the oral version of the story was also Jacob’s descendants bragging about his “cleverness” in the barter)

    The Evangelicals should be seen similarly. They are more concerned about being able to impose their view of correct thought and behavior than they are about the action of individuals. Trump could be the Devil himself, but he is packing the courts and returning the country to where everybody knows their place (Blacks, subservient; LGBTQ in the closet; and women, barefoot and pregnant) – public schools will be destroyed or turned into semi-religious schools and the government will pay for parents to send their children to religious schools.
    [An additional group just believes that they “end times” are just around the corner (they always are) and that supporting Jews in Israel and war in the Middle East are important ingredients to push the end times along.]

    It is a perfect barter where both sides are very happy. [Of course, everything Trump does is “perfect”] 8)>

  19. In Africa, child soldiers wear stolen chiffon and lace prom dresses and Kentucky Derby style lady’s hats into battle in the BELIEF that such nonsense will protect them from real bullets.

    Re: That which will/should replace Christianity (not that anything will).


    Yes; think of the skepticism of an insurance actuary, who is even skeptical of his/her calculations. Like the actuary and the gambling house, we must replace lazy faith with the work of constant recalculation.

    Belief in anything at all–even once-calculated skepticism–is a solid step into the jaws of a giant bear trap.

    Such facts of life are not comforting. Thus myth wielders find our need for reassurance, even false reassurance, to be the path to controlling our behavior.

    When we trade our reason to the myth hawkers for a promise of emotional comfort, we have sold out to a real-life devil.

    But what do we do when we can’t get all the data needed to calculate a perfect decision? We do what actuaries do: we calculate with the data available and move ahead with caution…and constant recalculation.

    But isn’t it an act of faith to move ahead when calculations are based on thin data? No. It’s an act of probability–best-lit path.

    A skeptic’s life breathes probability. Breathing the gas of faith is suicide.

    But, lo, we choose suicide rather than do the work of life-giving skepticism.

    But, how is one to calculate odds in regard to afterlife? Answer: If one feels it necessary to think of afterlife, one has already bought the myth and sold his/her real life.

    Unfortunately, over 90% of us have already decided to go into battle with realism dressed in chiffon and lace.

  20. Sheila: This story must be apocryphal. Close examination would reveal that Trump was never in possession of a soul and therefore could not have sold it.

  21. Faith our course is what each of us choose to trust in in the absence of evidence. I’ve never found it of any value to anyone to try to transplant faith but that’s not really the point of this post.

    My belief is that the prevalent faith in western culture in these days and times is, for lack of a better word, the stuff of power which now for most people are defined as possessions, the monetary power (wealth) to buy more, status, social pecking order, the ability to buy the resources of advertising/fake news/propaganda/brainwashing to impose your wants on others. Let’s just cause that wealth.

    That has traditionally been Trump’s sole source of power.

    Evangelicals of today (it seems to me) are very often those who believe that the most reliable source of wealth is their God, who assures them the reward of plenty on earth for only a single behavior (sort of like Amway) and that is recruiting.

    Trump has shown them the truth in that gospel. Combine wealth and celebrity, be the wealth inherited or accumulated on screen or in person, and recruits will beat a pathway to your door.

    This of course has nothing to do with Christian Faith but replaces it for those for which piety leads not to heaven or hell after life but power during life.

    It’s a case of family power that can be transferred generationally through inheritance “selling” through advertising/fake news/propaganda/brainwashing power from enlisting God to help you achieve it in earth without your family.

    One academic question I suppose is if the times of the Bible were any different in terms of the desire for power? Of course the means to advertise were much different.

  22. Well written, Sheila, but I think the explanation is that white evangelicals are simply hypocrites: “I’m getting what I want, so who cares about what else he does and how it conflicts with my core beliefs and values”.

    It’s like the support of Trump by Hispanics who are citizens, even though Trump has called their fellow Hispanics “animals, breeders, vermin, criminals, rapists and murderers”. Psychologists say it’s because of the fear that large numbers of newly-arrived Hispanics, if given citizenship, will take their jobs because they’ll work cheaper and at the least-desirable jobs under less than ideal conditions. They also don’t make workers compensation, wage discrimination, sexual harassment or overtime claims as ofen, so as not to rock the boat. Employers offering low-skill jobs just love them.

    Then, there are the “family values”, “fiscally conservative” Republicans, who support this lying cheater, serial bankrupter of businesses, who has brought about record deficits, who starts trade wars then backs down, who orders the assassination of a foreign military leader on foreign soil, who brags about assaulting women, who praises White Supremacists, who cages people seeking asylum, including young children, who pays off mistresses and porn actresses, the list goes on.

    Trump is forcing us to look into a mirror and ask ourselves what we really see: patriots or just selfish people who vote based on what’s best for us, rather than American values. I hope that American values win out, but I’m skeptical.

  23. tRump’s base of evangelical “Christians” never lost the teachings of The Christ as they never had them in the first place. These so called evangelical “Christians” are simply calvinists who led calvinist inspired coups to take over groups such as the Southern Baptist Cult and shape them into political parties with the same agenda as John Calvin and Oliver Cromwell. Said agenda being greed, power and hate.

  24. Len,

    I think the transactional relationship is more of the “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” in the smoke-filled back rooms of Chicago back in the day, that’s the way stuff got done. I imagine it was no different in New York, or any place movers and shakers would make their deals.


    Skeptics were from a school of philosophy (skepticism) in ancient Greece, skeptics believed that nothing really mattered much in life. No matter what you did, your die was cast. They were definitely more of a contrary and lot, “Sophists” claimed that truth was an individual opinion, “Epicureans” believed that the only happiness in life was, Pleasure. The Stoics, believed that you could only live your life happily by following reason, and let’s not forget the Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle who was Plato’s pupil. Most of modern man’s belief systems was from a crossroads of Greek philosophical reasonings, which were many, and apostles, especially Paul who debated with these philosophers.


    I think, most folks look at the Roman catholic church, as at least being the harbinger of Christianity. The Church claiming Scriptures talking about the apostle Simon Peter being the rock of the church WERE misstated, and misstated purposefully.

    In Matthew the 16th chapter starting in verse 13, and reading down to verse 20, you can see that Jesus Christ was speaking of himself, and not Simon Peter!

    “When he had come into the region of Caes·a·reʹa Phi·lipʹpi, Jesus asked his disciples: “Who are men saying the Son of man is?” 14 They said: “Some say John the Baptist, others E·liʹjah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them: “You, though, who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 In response Jesus said to him: “Happy you are, Simon son of Joʹnah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father in the heavens did. 18 Also, I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my congregation, and the gates of the Grave will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will already be bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loosen on earth will already be loosened in the heavens.”20 Then he sternly instructed the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.”

    The Roman church, directly linked to Roman Emperor Constantine, a professed pagan who never changed his beliefs, I believe he died conducting a pagan ritual, although I could be mistaken, my memory is not as good as it used to be.

    Constantine is also considered a saint by the Orthodox churches and Eastern Catholic churches, because he supposedly was an excellent example of being a Christian monarch.

    Interestingly though, Jesus Christ nor any of the apostles ever left instructions for any church leadership. They use the one Scripture as proof that the church is directly linked to Christ, a Scripture that has been tied in knots to prove their point.

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