Will the Bible Pay the Bills?
COMMENTARY

March 29, 2024by John R. Vile, Dean, University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University
Will the Bible Pay the Bills?
FILE - President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church across Lafayette Park from the White House, June 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Those familiar with Jesus’ three temptations in the wilderness know that Satan is familiar enough with scriptures to be able to quote them. Readers of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People” might be wary of Bible salesmen. 

The infamous ranks of such salesmen have recently been joined by none other than former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. He apparently needs some pocket change to post bond to appeal a New York conviction for business fraud and to pay off a libel judgment that he has lost against E. Jean Carroll. 

Trump, who typically begins his political rallies with Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA,” is now directing people to the “God Bless the USA Bible.” Appearing on Truth Social, Trump urged his followers to celebrate Holy Week, and “Let’s Make America Pray Again.” The Bible, a King James version that Trump is urging his followers to buy for $59.99, is far less expensive than the gold-colored “Never Surrender High-Tops” sneakers that he recently promoted and that retailed for $399 a pair.

The Bible that Trump is touting also contains copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and a handwritten chorus of Greenwood’s song.

With the modesty of an individual who has published his own best seller, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump has long said that the Bible is his favorite book. One might remember that on June 1, 2020, Trump appeared in front of St. John’s Church across from Lafayette Park where he held up a copy of a Bible after first having the street cleared of those protesting the murder of George Floyd.

The “God Bless the USA Bible” is far from the first of its kind. In 2009, Thomas Nelson published “The American Patriot’s Bible,” edited by Richard Lee, a Southern Baptist minister.

In 2012, David Barton, who is known for his association with the WallBuilders, published “The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom,” an American Standard Bible translation, which was accompanied by historical essays and sketches. 

Political leaders have long utilized religious symbols to mobilize their followers. 

At a time when both northerners and southerners were citing Bible passages to justify their respective positions, Abraham Lincoln is said to have responded to a question as to whether God was on the Union’s side by saying that his greatest concern was “to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion of neighboring Ukraine, recently appeared in an Orthodox Russian church, lit a candle and crossed himself to mourn individuals who had been attacked in a concert venue. 

The Tennessee Legislature has recently passed a bill that would name the Aitken Bible, a King James Bible published in the United States during the Revolutionary War, as one of 10 state books. 

As individuals invaded the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest President Joe Biden’s election, some carried signs saying, “Jesus is My Savior, Trump is my President.” Others set up a hangman’s noose as they called for the execution of a vice president who refused to certify Trump as the winner.

Many people of faith claim a promise, originally directed toward the Jewish people, from 2 Chronicles 7:14 that says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 

Trump, who as president signed the covers of Bibles belonging to tornado survivors, has urged supporters to buy the Bible he is selling and to pray. He has put less attention on the need to be humble and turn from wicked ways.

Indeed, at a 2015 forum he suggested that instead of asking God for forgiveness, he simply went on “to do a better job from here.” 

The Bible is an extraordinary book that is well worth the read, but God is not obligated to bless America simply because the title of a book that a presidential candidate is hawking, and from which he is hoping to profit financially, asks him to do so.


John R. Vile is a professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author of “The Bible in American Law and Politics: A Reference Guide” (2020), “Prayer in American Public Life: An Encyclopedia” (2022); and “The Christian Cross in American Public Life: An Encyclopedia” (2024). He can be reached by email.

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