On November 8, 2016, I reacted the same as many Americans when it was announced that Donald Trump had officially won the vote for the United States Presidential Election. In the months leading up to the election, I scoffed at the surreal, reality TV-like world that had become my home country. I never once dreamed that this man would be president, in spite of the fact that many close to me told me he had their vote and that he would “change the face of politics”. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing — I wasn’t sure then. After he bragged about sexually assaulting several women, I assumed he was done for. No way could the general public ignore such a blatant display of inhuman behavior. Fast-forward to election night and the results of the votes proved me dead wrong. When statistics came to light regarding the high percentage of evangelical voters that endorsed Trump and help vote him into office, I felt sick. What’s worse is that up to that point, I had once counted myself as evangelical.
The year following the election has been one of inner turmoil and resistance. From marching in the Women’s March on Washington, to calling representatives, to having hard conversations, to watching comedy takes of current events, and taking on new meditation practices in order to maintain some sense of peace. In fact, I ended up leaving church altogether as a result of much of the evangelical climate that surfaced in the wake of the political tensions as well. I know I am not alone in this.
That is why when I sat down with my best friend at the Big Sky Film Festival for a viewing of Christopher Maloney’s documentary “In God We Trump”, I prepared myself to be triggered. I anticipated all the anger and heartache to resurface and remind me why the news was so devastating to begin with. I was, however, hopeful at the very least that the film would provide some answers for what had become of our world. This documentary not only met my expectations on every front, it exceeded them.
The film began with the results of the election followed by an interview of a woman whose reaction to the election results was not unlike my own, setting the stage for the weight of what his victory meant for so many. The documentary proceeds to navigate the question of how the polls predicted a win for Clinton and yet the actual results seemed so opposite of the information gathered prior to the election. The answer: the “hidden” evangelical vote from those who supported Trump and yet were unwilling to admit he had their vote. Following the interview and the news clips proving said statistics, Maloney provided clips of televangelists and other white evangelical leaders prophesying, praying for, and praising Trump. These clips served to drive that point home.
Throughout the film, Maloney breaks down the arguments from those who have supported Trump. With such high numbers of individuals who seem convinced that Trump is the “Evangelical’s Dream President” as Jerry Falwell Jr claimed in one interview, Maloney tactfully addresses these fallacies with the use of dead pan humor and snark with his voice over of televangelist profiles and Trump’s Sunday golfing habits that seem to stand in place of his church attendance. As both writer and director of the film, Maloney adds his tongue and cheek sense of humor to place an additional layer of irony to the film as he captions several of the televangelist or politicians identifications with their own crimes or faults which many seem to have ignored.
However, in the midst of various other interviews from a number of Christians who have dis-aligned with the evangelical church, there seems to be another story unfolding, along with the events that have emerged throughout Trump’s election and his current term. The film reveals that a staggering 14% of church attendees left the church as a result of their endorsements of Donald Trump in the first year of his election alone. The film not only seeks to inform, but also displays a number of profound artistic elements as well. Among those are the montage of the inauguration dubbed with REM’s “Losing My Religion”, and a black and white shot of a decaying church as one of the interviewees speaks of a future where the church will decay and cease to exist — at least in the way that it has existed in America as of late. Rather, the film predicts, that America may actually look more like Europe — where we are loving our neighbors and taking care of each other, without feeling the need to build an empire and label ourselves as “a Christian nation”.
I would be lying to say that the film had not triggered that sense of anger and heartbreak inside of me almost as much as it served as an inspiration or a salve. Clips of disabled protesters being removed from their wheelchairs and hauled from the Mitch McConnell’s office and an over-the-top “Celebrate Freedom Concert” with a choir belting out Trump’s slogan set my teeth gnashing. The power of this emotion was highlighted in full effect at one point Maloney skillfully places a shot of the choir in black and white as he explains that the goal of the modern church has been to create a world that looks and acts like they do. The scene alludes to rallies filled with soldiers saluting the man who turned the world upside down with similar ideas during WWII and the Nazi regime.
In the end, the film serves to remind us that the Christian faith is not merely modeled by how fervently we stand in opposition to the issues that makeup the Culture Wars. The film also provides a simultaneous warning and a challenge of what the world could look like if Christians serve to live out a faith of humility and honor, a faith that seeks to serve the least of these without any strings attached. In short, a world were we truly strive to look like Jesus and live as He lived, foregoing the political power trips and binary “us versus them” mentalities — A faith in stark contrast to many of the things Trump represents.
The recent election of Donald Trump, along with his term thus far, have in essence drawn a line in the sand of what the gospel looks like and as the film zeros in on the fact that the distinction only seems to be rapidly growing with time. We still have work to do but the future looks a bit brighter than it has in some time knowing that there are others out there reacting and motivated in similar ways in hopes to making a positive change in our world.
More information for In God We Trump, written and directed by Christopher Maloney, as well as invitations to show the film at a public festival, can be found at: http://ingodwetrumpfilm.com
Readers can also host a private screening of the film by contacting the director at: http://ingodwetrumpfilm.com/host-a-screening/
The director, Christopher Alan Maloney, is working to release the film to all streaming platforms (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc). Please consider donating to make this possible. Thank you in advance for your patronage!