Yesterday I posted about David Brody’s forthcoming “spiritual biography” of Donald Trump. The post led to some hilarious and contentious conversation on social media centered around the question of whether or not there is enough material to write such a book.
During one of those discussions, Jay Blossom called my attention to a January 2017 interview with David L. Holmes, retired religion professor at the College of William & Mary and author of The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Holmes reflects on the religious background of our current president. This kind of scholarly and thoughtful analysis of Trump’s connection to Christianity is welcomed. It is very different, I imagine, from the approach that David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network is going to take.
Here is a taste of Meghan Murphy-Gill’s interview with Holmes:
What do we know about Trump’s religious upbringing?
Like most of us, Trump was influenced by the faith of his parents. Three‑quarters of the presidents we’ve had since World War II ended up in the very same interpretation of Christianity in which they were raised. That seems to be a pretty good national statistic. Trump is no exception.
Trump’s heritage is Protestant and European. His father came from Lutheran stock in Germany. We don’t know how religious his father’s family was, but the father attended church faithfully throughout his life. Trump’s mother came from a highly religious area of Scotland, where a branch of Presbyterianism, called the “Wee Frees” (the nickname for the small Free Church of Scotland), is still strong today.
Maryanne Macleod, Trump’s mother, immigrated to the United States as a strict Presbyterian. She seems to have become broader in religion in later years, but she ensured that all of her children were raised Presbyterian.
Trump identifies himself as a mainline Protestant. But if we want to understand him, we would be better off to pay attention to his social, economic, and cultural upbringing, and not to his experience in church. Trump’s father, Fred, was a developer, a field which he quit school to enter. The Trumps lived in Jamaica, Queens, in an area where Fred built many of the houses, often in the Tudor revival style. The home he built for his family was huge: 23 rooms. They had live‑in help, a chauffeur and a maid. They had two Cadillac limousines.
Fred Trump was an interesting guy. I wish we had more history on him. He did things like wear a hat and a tie when the family went to the beach. He may have had a formal side. He was all business. Religiously, he was Lutheran in background, but the crossover to Presbyterianism is hardly a step. He also displayed some anti-Semitism.
Read the entire interview here.