Trump arrest prompts comparisons to Jesus: ‘Spiritual warfare’

For the most dedicated Trump conspiracy theorists, there are no coincidences and timing is everything.

So when ex-President Donald Trump was arraigned on Tuesday for falsifying business records to conceal silent money payments in an effort to influence the 2016 election, some of his most ardent supporters were quick to note that the court appearance took place during Christianity’s holiest week, Holy Week in which many Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

“It appears there was someone else who was tortured and crucified this week,” read a post on Gab, a platform popular with Trump supporters. A similar post on Telegram framed Trump’s case in apocalyptic terms: “Good versus evil. Biblical times. Divine moment.

Comparisons comparing Trump to Christ were among the top online stories about the former Republican president and his criminal charges circulating in recent days, according to an analysis of online content and social media conducted by intelligence firm Zignal Labs. on the media, on behalf of The Associated Press.

Zignal’s analysis found tens of thousands of mentions calling Trump a martyr. The number more than doubled immediately after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., linked Trump’s lawsuit to the persecution of Christ during an interview.

Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 34 counts, alleging he hid payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign from two women – an adult film actor and a former Playboy model – who claimed having had sex with him, as well as a Trump Tower Porter who claimed to have a story about a child Trump fathered out of wedlock.

Greene, who traveled to New York to protest Trump’s impeachment, noted the timing of the impeachment during a broadcast interview before bringing up the comparison to Christ.

“Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government,” she said. “There have been many people throughout history who have been arrested and persecuted by corrupt radical governments, and it starts today in New York.”

The comparison was denounced by Episcopal Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees more than 500 churches in Greene’s home state, and called his comments blasphemous and disgusting.

“While Marjorie Taylor Greene may put her political loyalties ahead of God, Christians don’t,” Jackson said. “Those who have faith believe that Christ has always been and always will be alone.”

Trump’s personal, political and professional history makes him an odd choice to replace Christ, the savior and central figure of Christianity. Yet it’s an outgrowth of Christian nationalism, a movement that fuses traditional Christian themes and imagery with conservative candidates like Trump, according to John Fea, a historian at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who has studied the role of the evangelical Christianity in American history.

“They see this as spiritual warfare, and Trump is on the side of the angels,” Fea said. “From this perspective, Trump is politically a savior, he will restore America, and he will rise from the ashes in November despite persecution and suffering.”

Trump has encouraged such beliefs by saying he is uniquely qualified to lead the country, calling his 2024 campaign to retake the White House the “final battle” against his enemies and praising QAnon, a movement that sees him as a leader. crusader against what he says is a secret child-sacrificing cabal that controls world events.

He took on the role of martyr again on Tuesday, when his campaign created a fake photo ID and included it in a fundraising email, even though no photo ID of the former president was found. was taken that day.

From a Christian nationalist perspective, Trump’s return to New York could be seen as an echo of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Fea said, except for the fact that Christ rode on a donkey and that Trump arrived in a motorcade.

Behind the religious metaphors, online reaction from Trump supporters to Tuesday’s impeachment was mixed, fragmented by competing conspiracy theories and Trump’s complicated role in the movement he helped build.

While many far-right commentators denounced the charges, others said Trump deserved no sympathy after he failed to pardon defendants charged in the failed Jan. 6, 2021, uprising. at the US Capitol. Some have pointed to the accusations as one of the reasons they are now supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ long-awaited bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Some Trump supporters have promoted peaceful protests as a way to send a signal to the nation, but others have cited debunked claims about Jan. 6, arguing that any protests could be a trap staged by federal agents.

“Beware of undercover, anytime they want to make trouble, cancel and everyone go home,” wrote a poster on Gab in response to a post announcing Greene’s protest in Manhattan.

Other commentators have yet dismissed the very real legal danger Trump faces, saying he is orchestrating the entire prosecution as a way to ferret out his enemies.

The latter was a particularly popular sentiment on the QAnon chat rooms, where Christian imagery regularly mixes with fantasies about world governments, child sacrifice and bloodthirsty rituals.

“A whole MOVIE!!” one Trump supporter wrote on Telegram: “Trump is a writer, producer and director!!! Have your popcorn!”

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