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A bizarre statue of former president Donald Trump was front and center at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend in Orlando, Florida. The statue eerily mirrors the idolatrous golden calf in the bible. The comparison is to the Old Testament story of the Israelites worshiping a false idol in the form of a golden calf is inevitable. U.S. conservatives praised Donald Trump at the annual gathering last Friday, even unveiling the statue, confirming he remains a Republican political force despite violent scenes in Washington last month.
The conservative conference marked Trump’s first post-presidential public appearance where he delivered a keynote speech on Sunday. He made sure the audience understood that he is “still in charge” of the Republican Party and is its “presumptive 2024 nominee” for president. The 200-pound fiberglass statue is on sale for anyone willing to spend $100,000. Tommy Zegan, the creator, said the monument is named, “Trump and his Magic Wand.” He described it as follows:
He’s wearing a business suit because he’s a businessman. The red tie represents the Republican party, the red, white, and blue shorts represent the fact that he’s a patriot. The sandals reflect how Trump was in his golden years and could be retired and “on the beach” if he wanted to. The 61-year-old artist’s statue eerily mirrors the biblical golden calf referenced in Exodus 32.
While Moses was away receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were suffering a crisis of faith. So, they handed over their gold ornaments and jewelry for the construction of a calf to worship. This angered both God and Moses, who had recently led the Israelites away from Egyptian bondage. And upon his return, an angry Moses destroyed the false idol by burning and grinding it into a powder, scattering the ashes into the water, and forcing the Israelites to drink it.
As such, it came as no surprise that the golden Trump statue inspired jokes and political commentary of biblical proportions across social media. Many called out conservatives for worshiping a “false idol” who was impeached twice and who has undermined the U.S. presidential election process by pushing debunked, baseless claims that an election he claimed to have won handily had been stolen from him, even though no such evidence confirmed the theory. Whit Stillman, the Twitter account holder, said
Worshipping the Golden Calf was *really bad*, prophets say. (Exodus 32:8). Worshipping the Golden Jack*ss seems Even Worse. #CPAC2021
Many evangelicals also see the president as the last line of a political defense against what they regard as encroaching liberalism on their religious values from abortion to LGBTQ+ rights. In his promises to Christians and his overt nationalism, Trump uniquely equated American salvation with American exceptionalism, asserting that to be great “again,” America had to come down on the right side of many of these wedge issues that the religious right felt would be their reckoning.
By creating a narrative of an evil “deep state” and casting himself — a powerful white man of immense generational wealth — as a victim in his own right, Trump not only tapped into the religious right’s familiar feeling of persecution, but he also cast himself as its savior, a man of flesh who would fight the holy war on its behalf. And Trump’s coming to that fight with a firebrand’s feeling, turning the political stage into an ecstatic experience — a conversion moment of sorts — and the average white evangelical into an acolyte, someone who would attend rallies with the fever of revivals, listen to speeches as if they were sermons, display their faithfulness with MAGA hats, send in money as if tithing, and metaphorically bow down, again and again, at the altar of Donald Trump, who delivers the nation from its transgressions.
One often-overlooked dynamic in the rise of Trump among the religious right is the strategic courtship of high-profile religious leaders whose decades-long rooting into the hearts of evangelicals provided an ironclad endorsement. Trump now enjoys infallibility as a result of successfully wiggling into the holy chain of leadership. Many still worship Trump as seen last weekend when the gold statue was presented as in the days of old with the idolatrous golden calf.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Twitter: Whit Stillman
The Slatest: The Golden Trump Statue Is the Talk of CPAC
NY Post: Gold Trump statue on sale at CPAC for $100,000
Top Image Courtesy of Mark Taylor’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of The Futuristics’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Gerd Altmann’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License