Donald Trump, Bible Salesman - Word&Way

Donald Trump, Bible Salesman

When I finally stopped laughing at the image of the “master of real estate” selling Bibles to pay legal fees, I thought of Clyde Edgerton’s novel, “The Bible Salesman.”

Rodney Kennedy

Edgerton offers a parable of Donald Trump the Bible seller. Henry Dampier, the 20-year-old title character of the book, has a chronic case of the triangulation blues. At the beginning of the narrative, on his rounds selling Bibles he has promised to give away free, Henry meets a con artist of a more secular sort: Preston Clearwater, who bilked the Army out of a warehouseful of supplies and is now trying to work his way up the post-World War II organizational ladder of a car-theft ring. Clearwater tells Henry he’s an F.B.I. agent infiltrating the ring and needs a partner — Henry can sell his Bibles when he isn’t helping Clearwater (and the bureau) steal cars.

A review of the novel in the New York Times says, “Scripture and hormones are powerful forces, and Henry is determined to cheat neither. A devout Baptist, he has no compunction about lying to sell a Bible, but sweats the inconsistencies within the Gospel. Like: If God is all-powerful, why does he need to rest on the seventh day?”

The odd mixture of selling Bibles and stealing cars fits the strange sight of Donald Trump in court during Holy Week for the setting of his trial date. He has been indicted for paying “hush” money to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, to cover up an affair.

Not since Johann Tetzel came beating his drum selling indulgences has there been such an embarrassment of conflating profit with the gospel. Martin Luther, incensed by Tetzel, swore, “I will beat a hole in his drum.” He then composed the Ninety-Five Theses and launched the Protestant Reformation. I am far from being a Martin Luther, but I would gladly put a stopper in Trump’s trumpeting of an idolatrous version of the Holy Bible.

Is it possible the foray into Bible selling finally rips the mask off “God’s Strong Man” and shows him to be another garden variety con artist, a door-to-door salesman with a gift of endless gab, a pack of lies, and a heart of stone? Will Americans finally say, “We’re not buying any more of what Trump is selling?”

Trump himself, of course, is not on the street hawking Bibles. He has endorsed the Lee Greenwood Bible. Trump, however, will put his name on anything with a chance of turning a profit. Trump will sell anything, and he has sold his followers a bill of populist, demagogic “turnip greens.” This Bible takes its place alongside the $399 gold “Never Surrender High-Tops,” digital trading cards, cologne, and perfume.

This promotion seems low even for Trump. Margaret Hartmann, senior editor for Intelligencer writes, “This is a man who took the suit he wore in his mug shot, cut it into tiny pieces, and sold those scraps glued to trading cards — or at least licensed his name to a company that did all that. Now he wants us to drop $60 on a Bible that doesn’t feature Trump’s signature, a golden cover, or the phrase ‘NEVER SURRENDER’ somewhere in the text?”

Trump has already experienced a lot of grief by being in close proximity to the Bible. His “Two Corinthians” remark at Liberty University brought him an explosion of rebuke. He brags on the Bible; he doesn’t know it.

The presumptive Republican nominee released a video on his Truth Social platform on Tuesday (3/26) urging his supporters to buy this “God Bless the USA Bible” from country singer Lee Greenwood.

His stunt of holding up a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church after he had ordered the area cleared of peaceful protests met with howls of rejection. He even held it awkwardly and used the Revised Standard Version, the translation anathema to conservatives more likely to call it the Reviled Standard Version.

When asked to share his favorite Bible verse in an interview with Bloomberg Politics in 2015, he didn’t give a direct answer. “I wouldn’t want to get into it. Because to me, that’s very personal,” he said. “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

Later, Trump landed on what seems to drive him relentlessly: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Showing no biblical sense, Trump has insisted that he has never done anything that required repentance. He has preached a gospel of revenge and “getting even” his entire life.

Trump, with opinions about everything, is of the opinion, “All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many. It’s my favorite book,” Trump said in the video posted on Truth Social. “I’m proud to endorse and encourage you to get this Bible. We must make America pray again.” Does he keep a Bible next to his bed with his copy of Hitler’s book?

The marketing department for the “only Bible endorsed by Donald Trump” may not have noticed that 20 million Bibles were sold in the USA in 2023. According to The New Yorker, the Bible “is the best-selling book of the year, every year.” There may not be much of a market for the Trump Bible, unless MAGA folks, who purchase everything “Trump,” think this is the book they must have. Sixty million Magadonians at $60/Bible equals $3.6 billion. Trump would have no trouble paying his legal fees, fines, and judgments from sales of the Bible.

The Trump Bible is every Christian Nationalist’s dream book. Labeled the “God Bless the USA Bible,” it also includes, in addition to the Old and New Testaments in the King James Version (not sure if it’s the New King James Version) the Bible contains the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and a handwritten copy of Lee Greenwoods patriotic song, “God Bless the USA.”

Colonel Flynn, a flaming Christian Nationalist, giving preaching advice to pastors told them they should be preaching from the Constitution. The new Trump Bible is a one-stop text portfolio for preaching patriotism, nationalism, racism, and all the worst kinds of -isms.

Holding up a Bible for a photo op, bragging on the Bible, selling the Bible, and quoting verses from the Bible doesn’t make Trump a Bible believer. What he’s peddling is not Christianity.


Rodney Kennedy has his M.Div. from New Orleans Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Louisiana State University. The pastor of 7 Southern Baptist churches over the course of 20 years, he pastored the First Baptist Church of Dayton, Ohio — which is an American Baptist Church — for 13 years. He is currently professor of homiletics at Palmer Theological Seminary, and interim pastor of Emmanuel Friedens Federated Church, Schenectady, New York. His seventh book, Good and Evil in the Garden of Democracy, is out now from Wipf and Stock (Cascades).