Trump, Samson, and the Fall of the House of Evangelicals - Word&Way

Trump, Samson, and the Fall of the House of Evangelicals


The fact that Donald Trump’s role ranges from bombastic to belligerent to criminal makes his story fascinating. Trump never pulls his punches. He is the evangelical strong man. There is not a better biblical character for “God’s strong man” than Samson.

Rodney Kennedy

What follows should not be construed as prophecy, but as a rhetorical critique of how Trump acts and the danger this puts in the lap of his evangelical followers.

Beginning in 2016 and continuing till the present, evangelicals have insisted Trump is “God’s anointed strong man.” Armed with Scripture passages and huge emotional arguments, the preachers have been preaching up a storm that Trump is God’s man of the hour.

I think it a matter of fairness to offer an alternative to the evangelical foolishness about Trump being God’s “anointed” Strong Man.

Samson was God’s man. He was incredibly strong. His secret was his long hair. It is hard to resist the comparison to how much Trump “loves” his hair. At a rally in South Carolina, Trump bragged about his hair: “You know I have this gorgeous head of hair — when I take a shower, I want water to pour down on me. When you go into these new homes with showers, the water drips down slowly, slowly.”

Samson was also a son of promise: “You shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). As a Nazarite, Samson did not drink wine. Trump does not consume alcohol.

Samson had trouble with women. His first wife was a Philistine which displeased his parents. Then Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and slept with her. The three women in Samson’s life parallel the three wives of Trump. How did a crude-talking, thrice-married, self-proclaimed philanderer become the darling of evangelicals?

Trump entangled himself with a porn star. He then spent years denying the payment of hush money to Stormy “Delilah” Daniels. Now, he faces a criminal indictment as part of the blowback for his deception, lies, and bad behavior. Evangelicals have supported him in spite of his problems with women.

Robert Jeffress has defended Trump with total allegiance, admitting that if Trump is guilty, he still supports him. Jeffress said in 2018, “But even if they were true, some of these allegations, I mean, obviously, we don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush-money payments, but what we do support are these president’s excellent policies.”

“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star,” he said. “However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”

Trump has twice been fined in civil cases brought by E. Jean Carroll. The total fines are $91,000. Carroll accused Trump of raping her. He denied the charges, but has been found guilty of defaming her. Evangelicals hardly noticed.

Trump faces a fine of $464,000,000 in his fraud case brought by the state of New York. He has been unable to secure a bond to cover the amount. Perhaps the mega-rich evangelical preachers can raise the money for Trump.

He also faces criminal indictments in Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D. C. Evangelical support remains constant. The word from evangelicals: Trump is the victim of a witch hunt. The devils of the Democratic party are out to get him.

Omarosa Manigault Newman claimed Trump is “particularly angry” over prosecutors of color targeting him, including New York Attorney General Letitia James. Omarosa, who briefly served in Trump’s administration, joined CNN’s Abby Phillip on Monday and claimed her former boss is broke and triggered that he’s being targeted in court by Black women like James and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

“Anytime Donald is being held accountable for his bad behavior, he is going to be unhappy, but he is particularly angry about the fact that he is being held accountable, not just by a woman, but by an African American woman,” Omarosa said.

Trump’s racism is no surprise. He started his presidential campaign with an attack on Barack Obama’s birth certificate — a throwback to the old white American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built.

Trump fought to keep black people out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

Trump manages to be racist and anti-Semitic in the same statement. Even his recent remarks about American Jews haven’t cost him any evangelical support. Trump said, “Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion, they hate everything about Israel, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” Trump said on the radio show of his right-wing former aide Seb Gorka.

Still, evangelicals support him with all their hearts. Jeffress said, “I’m his friend,” he says. “I’ll never walk away.”

After Delilah learned Samson’s secret, his hair was cut. She betrayed him. Delilah said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” When he awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him. So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles, and he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.”

Samson, God’s original strong man, is put in prison by the Philistines. The possibility exists for Donald Trump. While he campaigns for the White House, three ongoing criminal indictments are playing out. Any one of these resulting in a guilty verdict could send Trump to the Big House.

Samson’s story ends in tragedy. While this is neither prediction nor prophecy, there is a strong possibility that the journey of Trump and the evangelicals will have its own tragic demise.

SamsonHere’s the ending for Samson: The Philistines displayed the weak and defeated Samson in the temple, the people were merry. They mocked Samson. They made him stand between the pillars of the temple.

Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. Then Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ He strained with all his might, and the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life.”

The house of Trump will fall on the evangelicals — a political suicide-murder. For the first time, evangelicals are displaying a bit of anxiety. Trump’s vile rhetoric, his fascist crush, his misdeeds, his sexual misbehavior, and his criminal fraud activities have not phased evangelicals. The anxiety arises from Trump not being able to produce an almost one-half billion dollar bond. The fear is maybe Trump is not as rich as he has claimed.

Reality check: The evangelical house will come tumbling down. Trump has grasped the heart and soul of American evangelicals and the foundation on which it rests. He has leaned his weight against the pillars of this once vibrant faith. He has forced evangelicals to compromise one value after another. Now, as he self-destructs in front of them, their house could very well fall with his.

The words of Jesus apply to the house evangelicals have constructed on sand: “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!” (Matthew 7:26 – 27).


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).