Rev. Pat Robertson, center, talks to attendees at a prayer breakfast at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. on Jan. 16, 2010.
First up from the God Machine this week is a story about Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump continuing to focus attention on the religious right movement as Election Day draws near.
The GOP nominee has already appeared at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, which axed an anti-Trump piece from the student newspaper this week, and today, the candidate will appear at the other major university founded by a Virginia televangelist: Regent University, created by TV preacher Pat Roberson. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is returning to Virginia this weekend for a rally at Regent University in Virginia Beach, the strongest signal yet that his campaign has not given up on Virginia.
The rally at the Christian university is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Trump’s official schedule.
It’s not clear what role, if any, Pat Robertson will play at the event, but the radical televangelist has made no secret of his support for Trump. As Right Wing Watch explained, “Robertson has emerged as one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders on the Religious Right, claiming that the business mogul is facing satanic attacks and dismissing the tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women as simply ‘macho‘ talk.”
It may seem odd to think prominent evangelical leaders from a social-conservative movement would be so enthusiastic about a secular, thrice-married adulterer and casino owner who’d never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith. But Robertson has long prioritized partisan politics of theological principles. In fact, in the 2008, the TV preacher threw his support behind Rudy Giuliani – another secular, thrice-married adulterer.
There is, however, a generational problem that’s emerged this year between the religious right movement’s politically connected elite – Robertson, Falwell, Tony Perkins, et al – and many principled, rank-and-file evangelicals who have no use for partisan expediency.
The fissure has already emerged as a problem at Liberty University; it’ll be worth watching to see if a similar dynamic unfolds at Regent University.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Speaking of the Trump campaign, the Republican ticket issued a mailer in Ohio purporting to show a Muslim American supporting the GOP candidate. The trouble is, Gurinder Singh Khalsa is Sikh, not Muslim, and he doesn’t support Trump.
* Downsizing: “He rejected his sumptuous Vatican apartment and chose a Ford Focus to get around town. Now Pope Francis is giving up the historic summer residence where pontiffs have holidayed for nearly 400 years. Without ever having spent a night there, the pope ordered the apostolic palace and gardens at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles from Rome, be turned into a museum.”
* Remember, public facilities that are open to some faith traditions must be open to all faith traditions: “The national movement [from the Satanic Temple] is attempting to establish a dozen After School Satan Clubs across the country. Local chapters have applied for space at public grade schools in cities including Atlanta, Detroit, Washington, Portland, Ore., Tacoma, Wash., Salt Lake City, Tucson, and Los Angeles. The clubs are all seeking school district approval, with the Atlanta-area club saying it hopes to hold its first meeting by Halloween.”