Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is “against the Bible,” President Trump told Geraldo Rivera at the 17:30-mark of a radio interview Thursday morning. “That may be a little harsh,” Rivera responded. “Well, okay, take a version of it,” Trump replied. “The people that control him totally are. It may be a little harsh for him, but he’s gonna have no control.”
This “against the Bible” line seems to be a new phrase for Trump, his latest rhetorical trial balloon. I’ve found no example of him using it, on Twitter or off, before the three times he said it this week. The first was Sunday in a tele-rally with Pennsylvania supporters, where Trump described Biden as being against guns, fracking, the Bible, and God himself, a list from which he selected fracking as being the “big factor” to discuss at greater length. He used the phrase again in a Fox Business interview Tuesday in nearly identical context, then repeated it to Rivera.
Trump never explained what being “against the Bible” means. As many reactions have noted, Biden is Catholic and Trump, a professed Presbyterian, is visibly clueless about Christianity. But in speaking, presumably, to white evangelicals whose support he has lately been losing, I think Trump intends two meanings at once.
The first is that a Biden administration will be unfriendly to conservative Christians. Trump’s playing to fears that, though Biden personally is religious and a comparative moderate among this year’s Democratic contenders, the younger Democrats who’ll run his White House will hail from the party’s leftmost wing. They’ll be “against the Bible,” Trump is saying, in the sense of viewing traditional religious practice as an obstacle to the progressive future they were elected to create.
The second sense, if I’m right, suggests someone with more evangelical background than Trump advised him on use of this phrase. I grew up in evangelical churches, and to say something or someone is “against the Bible” can be an interpretive statement, a shorthand for, “against God’s message in Scripture as we rightly understand it.” But notice that simply tossing off a charge of “against the Bible” doesn’t do any interpretative work: There’s no explanation, no citation of chapter and verse. It relies on the assumption that speaker and listener both know that right interpretation already. It is, in other words, another Trump attempt to tell evangelicals he’s one of them — when he very clearly is not. Bonnie Kristian