His favorite book might well be the Holy Bible, but the truth is the billionaire casino magnate may know no god greater than himself. In a recent round of attacks on Ben Carson, Trump appears to question the most central tenant of Christianity: that Jesus paid the price for our sins and with that comes an unqualified guarantee of redemption for those who believe.
For his part, Trump (and political prognosticators) may not even recognize the gravity of the mistake. Christian conservatives, who see their politics through the lens of their faith, won’t miss it.
Without uttering the actual words, Trump questions the very validity of Carson’s claim to an early divine intervention—one that Carson says paved the road for his personal redemption, healing, and success. Evangelicals, who remain a commanding force in Republican politics, believe in the redemptive power of Christ—the same Jesus that Carson credits for his personal deliverance and transformation as a young man.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump does not buy into that notion or, if he does, it comes with qualifications.
On Thursday night, during a rambling 95-minute speech in Iowa, and in various television interviews, Trump accused Carson of having a “pathological disease” and said healing those ills would be impossible. He likened it to an attempt to reform a “child molester.” The assertion, which Trump continues to repeat, runs contrary to the core of Christian theology: I can do all things through Christ. With God, all things are possible.
Later, in a chilling Instagram video published Friday morning, Trump re-upped his attacks on the retired neurosurgeon—who currently leads the field in several national and early state polls. The ad, titled “Friday the 13th,” uses Carson’s own words to paint him as either a pathological liar or a Willie Horton-esque murderous rogue whose temper cannot be taken lightly.
While every other GOP contender chose to stay out of the fray, Trump—seeing his political fortunes slip away—went after Carson. But challenging Carson, who remains the most trusted and admired candidate in the GOP field, on those terms is a gambit that will almost certainly backfire.
It’s a compelling story, for sure—wayward black boy, raised on the hard streets of Detroit by a single mother who put together piecemeal jobs to eke out a living and see him off to Yale. Carson talks a lot about the value of hard work. Struggle and redemption are central to the Carson promise: The American Dream is alive for those who truly want it.
Carson’s personal narrative vaulted him into the top tier. Clearly, Trump would like nothing better than to turn the surgeon’s own knife against him. However, assaults to his integrity and questions about Carson’s personal biography have been met with a flood of campaign contributions.
But if you listen closely, you’ll hear Carson say something else: Ask God, believe it and He will deliver you.
Carson, as he outlines in his many books, believes that power is without limit. We are talking about a man who believes in the Resurrection. If God can raise a man who was crucified on a hill called Golgotha from the grave, could he not also touch and redeem a black boy suffering from anger issues in Detroit?
By targeting Carson on that central point, the former reality show star turned presidential candidate tips his cards on matters of faith. Trump, who touts his support among Christians, may have unwittingly told them: You cannot trust Ben Carson. And you cannot trust God.