By Ed Spivey Jr. 1-19-2016

Donald Trump accidentally struck a dissonant chord this weekend when speaking before students at Liberty University, a major Christian college known for turning Bible-believing, Christ-centered young people into loyal Republicans. Liberty is a required stop for all presidential candidates wishing to establish their evangelical bonafides in the Virginia town of Lynchburg, which most white people read as “Welcomeburg,” but people of color, not so much.

Trump held his audience spellbound for the first part of his message, which included a reference to Jesus turning over the voter registration tables in the temple, but then he invoked a scripture from the second book of Corinthians. “Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame.”

As sympathetic as Liberty University students would be to sports metaphors — most in the audience were waving their “Christianity is Number One” foam fingers — Trump’s use of “two” instead of “second” prompted laughter from some of the students in attendance, students who would no doubt be disciplined later, perhaps by having their guns confiscated for a semester, leaving them defenseless against professors who insist on assigning term papers of more than 140 characters.

Trump quickly recovered, however, and talked directly to the evangelistic impulses of the group: “Jonathan Three Hundred and Sixteen has always meant a lot to me. That’s the Great Commission, a really fabulous commission, which normally is 3 percent of the final sales price, depending on the broker, although you might be able to squeeze out another half point.

“That was Jesus talking, terrific guy, Hispanic, I think, but since he’s the Son of God, I invited him to my first wedding. Super guy, ate a lot of shrimp, as I recall, and we were running out but He made some more. He offered to make more wine, too. He’s like a one-man Costco. But I told him he didn’t need to, because we have fabulous caterers, really the best caterers, and he said ‘I know that, Mr. T., I know everything.’ And then he laughed.

“Marla loved Him. No wait, that’s my second wife. But everybody loved him, including Bill Clinton, who was also at my third wedding.”

Trump went on to claim that “Christianity is under siege” and that he was the only presidential candidate who understood the biblical call to whatever.

“In Second Connecticut 4:18, that’s the terrific verse about doing unto others before they read the fine print. It was written by Pontius Paul who was on the Road to Epiphany, and called all Christians to look at the mustard seed not as half empty, but as half full, and that’s so important for us today, because the country—at least the part I don’t own—is a mess, a fantastic mess. We’ve got to take it back and tell the Saudis and the U.N. we don’t want their oil or anything.”

Trump also spoke with vigor about the undocumented and vowed as president he would forcibly remove the scourge of illegal Canadians, starting with Ted Cruz.

“And China, I can negotiate with China and get a better deal because I’m a great negotiator, I’m a terrific negotiator. I even used the Lord’s Prayer after my Eye of the Needle Casino went bankrupt in Atlantic City. The Lord’s Prayer has that fabulous part about forgiving our debts, which I mentioned to the banks I owed, and I’m waiting to hear back from them. You kids can pray for that. Pray for this country, of course, which is a mess, but also for my casinos and my golf courses, which employ a lot of people, a few of them legal.”

At the end, as the students filed out after dismissal, Trump noted that “look, they’re giving me a standing ovation!”

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Ed Spivey Jr. is Art Director at Sojourners.

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