The belief that President Donald Trump, as well as presidents in general, were “anointed by God” has increased considerably among church attendees, according to a recent report.
Among white Protestants who attended church once a week or more, belief that Trump was anointed by God had increased from 29.6% last year to 49.5% this year, according to a report titled “Trump the Anointed?” that was published by Religion in Public.
Researchers Paul A. Djupe of Denison University and Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University compared survey data from May 2019 among white Protestants to a survey they conducted in March of this year.
Belief in overall presidential anointment had increased among white Protestants regardless of how often they attended church services.
For example, in 2019, 4.3% of white Protestants who seldom attend worship said they believed in presidential anointment; by March 2020, the percentage increased to 11%.
In 2019, 13.6% of white Protestants who attended worship a few times a month believed that Trump specifically was anointed; by March, it jumped to 31.2%.
“It is also clear that there remains a gap in believing that all presidents are anointed versus whether Trump was, though it is now much smaller,” reported Djupe and Burge.
“In 2019, the gap was nearly 40% across attendance categories, though by 2020 the gap was closer to 15%. The religious significance of the presidency is spreading.”
On the question of Trump being anointed, the researchers also found similar results in the responses of white Protestants to the general sample in each level of religious practice.
Among weekly worship attendees, 49.1% of the "other" category believed Trump was anointed, which is only slightly smaller than the 49.5% of white Protestants.
Among those who attend services a few times a month, 31.3% of the "other" category believed Trump was anointed, which was slightly higher than the 31.2% of white Protestants.
“In the top two attendance categories, the level of belief is effectively identical between the two groups. This is a phenomenon that is sweeping American religion,” wrote Djupe and Burge.
Last August, Trump garnered controversy when, during a press conference that included a question about trade negotiations with China, he called himself “the chosen one.”
“I am the chosen one,” stated Trump, who then pointed upwards. “Somebody had to do it. So I’m taking on China. I’m taking on China on trade. And you know what? We’re winning.”
“I was put here by people to do a great job. And that’s what I’m doing. And nobody has done a job like I’ve done.”
On the same day, Trump retweeted a comment by conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root, comparing the president to the “King of Israel” and “the Second Coming.”
Robert George, professor and former chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, was among the many critics of the president’s comparison.
“For heaven's sake (I'm speaking literally here), Mr. President you are not ‘like the King of Israel.’ You are certainly not ‘like the second coming of God,’” posted George on Twitter at the time.
“Support for you is not a test of Jewish loyalty. Why retweet nutty, and to religious ears deeply offensive, talk like this?”
Jay Lowder, a Texas-based evangelist who identified as a Trump supporter, called it “one of Trump’s most disturbing steps” and encouraged evangelicals to end their “silence” on the matter.
“Trump is neither the ‘Second Coming of God’ nor the ‘Messiah.’ In repeating the profane quote, he gave a narcissistic endorsement and even thanked Root, a well-known conspiracy theorist, for his words,” wrote Lowder in an opinion column for The Washington Post last year.
Trump later walked back his comment, claiming in a tweet that he was being sarcastic and that the reporters present knew he was just joking.
“They knew the TRUTH...And yet when I saw the reporting, CNN, MSNBC and other Fake News outlets covered it as serious news & me thinking of myself as the Messiah. No more trust!” he tweeted.