Catholics react to Trump’s Bible sale with concern and humor

4 mins read
Former President Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is pictured in a screenshot from a video announcing he plans to sell $60 "God Bless the USA Bible" during Holy Week, in partnership with country singer Lee Greenwood. (OSV News photo/

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Former President Donald Trump selling branded Bibles should give Christians cause for concern, some Catholic scholars told OSV News. But one suggested humor may be the best response.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, recently announced plans to sell the $60 “God Bless the USA Bible,” in partnership with country singer Lee Greenwood. That Bible contains a King James Version translation — the modern iteration of which is primarily used by Protestants — as well as handwritten lyrics to Greenwood’s ballad “God Bless the USA,” and founding documents including the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

The website for the branded Bible states it is “the only Bible endorsed by President Trump!”

“We must make America pray again,” Trump said in a video posted March 26 on Truth Social, his social media platform. In that video, Trump said, “religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country.”

“I truly believe that we need to bring them back, and we have to bring them back fast. I think it’s one of the biggest problems we have,” he said.

The announcement was met with criticism on social media even among conservative or Trump-friendly commentators.

Conservative talk radio host Erick Erikson wrote critically about the Trump-branded Bibles in a post on Substack, arguing that “we do not need ‘more religion’ in America. We are overloaded with religion. We need more Jesus and that is a very different thing.”

“Jesus Christ is not transactional, and He does not want us to be transactional with each other but relational,” Erickson wrote, adding he is concerned Trump “is surrounded by a group of mainly prosperity gospel ministers” who do have a transactional relationship with Christianity.

Blatant merchandising

Catholic scholars who spoke with OSV News about the Trump-branded Bible expressed concern or befuddlement about the venture.

Leah Libresco Sargeant, author of “Building the Benedict Option,” told OSV News, “It’s very weird.”

“Like a lot of President Trump’s attempts to ‘speak religion,’ it feels like the gesture was generated by someone with a very distant relationship to vibrant, Christ-centered church communities,” Sargeant said. “The Bible isn’t a tchotchke (knickknack) or a branding opportunity. I saw some complaints on Twitter that the choice to sell Bibles was disrespectful to atheists or Muslims or other non-Christians, but honestly, I think it’s most disrespectful to Christians.”

Robert Schmuhl, professor emeritus of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, who critically observes the modern American presidency, told OSV News that “there’s a certain incongruity and a strange marriage of ‘church and state’ in this blatant merchandising of the Bible.”

“Combining Holy Scripture with founding texts of America is not something that creators of the United States would have had in mind at the end of the 18th century,” Schmuhl said.

Keeping voters charged

But Darren Dochuk, a Notre Dame professor of history who studies the intersections of religion and politics, told OSV News that “while it is unusual for a former president to be so blatant in their attempt to win over religious-minded voting blocs by brandishing articles and symbols of faith as proof of their legitimacy, Trump’s Bible strategy represents a long-standing tradition among politicians to sell religion for political gain.”

“Keeping voters animated — charged — by highlighting how far the nation has slipped away from God, and by offering hope for a better future by way of collective embrace of biblical principles, metaphors and myths, is an age-old strategy,” Dochuk said. “Trump has mastered it, but also applied it in an unusually flagrant manner.”

John White, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, pointed to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute that found a growing share of Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s this sense of, ‘Oh, we’re losing our religion,'” White told OSV News. “And Trump, of course, talks about that in his ad, you know, ‘Let’s make America pray again.’ And that we live under threat and we’re under siege and all this other stuff. And, you know, it makes some Catholics very insecure about the future of their religion.”

A potential turnoff to independents

White said the Trump Bible ad is meant as “an appeal to his base,” but may “turn off independents.”

The website indicates that Trump, not his campaign, will profit from any sales.

Schmuhl said that “in the eyes of many citizens, there’s — sad to say — a gimmick quality to this salesmanship.”

Donald Trump seems to think he can ‘brand’ virtually anything, including the Holy Bible,” Schmuhl said. “A few weeks ago, he was hawking sneakers. Now, in Holy Week no less, it’s the Bible. What’s next?”

Dochuk said Trump’s “message and its intent are clear: This is an unabashed effort to court evangelical voters by signaling favor for their convictions that the nation has turned away from God, and that only through a concerted effort — and savvy marketing — can it be won back.”

“‘Court’ is a bit of a misnomer, as evangelicals — the vast majority — are already on board with Trump, regardless of what he offers next by way of political imperatives or consumer goods,” Dochuk said. “But Trump needs both to shore up that evangelical support, and also win favor among those within the evangelical base who may have begun to waver in their allegiance to Trump because of the various crises and scandals that surround him.”

Humor, not outrage

But Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, told OSV News, “It does no good, I fear, to take umbrage at these sorts of outrages and solemnly denounce them.”

“Indeed, doing that plays into former President Trump’s hands. He depicts himself as the man of the people, sharing the simple ‘God and Country’ faith and patriotism that affluent, over-educated cultural elites hold in contempt,” he said.

George joked, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’m now offering the Robert George Hillbilly Philosophy Professor Bible. It includes, in addition to the text of the King James edition, excerpts of Plato’s ‘Republic,’ the full text of Aquinas’s ‘Treatise on Law’ from the ‘Summa Theologiae,’ and a CD of Earl Scruggs playing ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown.'”

Kate Scanlon

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington.