Trump and Carson set to have the most ironic Jesus-off ever

On October 26, 2011, Mitt Romney led the RealClearPolitics polling average in the Republican primary by less than one percentage point over Herman Cain. He would never fall lower than second place on his way to securing the Republican nomination.

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On October 26, 2015, Donald Trump and Ben Carson hold a combined 48 percent of the Republican primary electorate in the RCP average. No other candidate holds more than ten percent. What’s more, practically every other candidate in the race is seeing their support decline.

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In other words, the Republican Party needs to start bracing for the very real possibility that their eventual nominee will be one of these two candidates. Unless there are major, rapid changes in the race’s dynamics, none of the remaining candidates in the field are going to be able to get half of the GOP electorate to change their minds and vote for someone else.

This also means that, being the two frontrunners, Trump and Carson will start attacking each other — in their own ways, of course. We’ve already seen a preview of what this kind of fight might look like, with Trump calling Carson “super low-energy” and Carson responding by blinking and shrugging.

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

But Trump’s also tested an attack line that would give Carson pause, were it not for Trump’s sheer hypocrisy on the issue. Over the weekend, Donald Trump went after Ben Carson over his religion, saying at a rally in Florida on Saturday that, “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

When asked on Sunday if he had intended to send a dog whistle about Carson’s faith (he had), Trump said he hadn’t, insisting that all he meant was that he really didn’t know anything about Seventh-day Adventism.

This is particularly rich coming from Trump, a man who very clearly has no religious convictions — a lack of belief that Carson has dinged him for in the past. And while on principle I’m fine with a candidate who obviously does not believe in god, it’s particularly discouraging that Trump has been able to hoodwink the American Evangelical movement into backing him simply by saying that he hearts the Bible very much.

That said, there really is something to Trump’s insinuation that Evangelical voters may not like what they find out if they ask even the most basic questions about Carson’s faith. As Mother Jones’s David Corn pointed out this morning, the religion has some unsavory thoughts and feelings about Evangelicals:

Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist who has publicly voiced his commitment to this church and championed its core beliefs, most notably the view that God created the world in six days (literally) and that evolution is bunk (and encouraged by the devil). He has spoken at Seventh-day Adventist events. In a 2013 interview with the church’s official news service, he was asked, “Are there ever any times when you feel it’s best to distinguish yourself from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and what it teaches?” Carson replied, “No, I don’t.”

In this interview, Carson went on to say that he was “proud of the fact that I believe what God has said…that I believe in a literal, six-day creation.”

Carson did not explicitly mention other Seventh-day Adventist tenets. But a central belief of the church is that most other Christian denominations will end up working with the devil. Seventh-day Adventists hold that the Sabbath should be worshipped on Saturday and that religions that observe the Sabbath on Sunday have been corrupted by Satan. The church’s early prophet Ellen White cast much of the blame for this supposed perversion of the Sabbath on the Roman Catholic Church.

As Corn continues, the belief that those who observe the Sabbath on Sunday instead of Saturday are going to Hell is one of the primary distinctions between Seventh-day Adventism and other Christian denominations (it’s even referenced in the denomination’s name). According to Ellen White’s prophecy, which is still cited by the religion as one of its central teachings, the final battle between Jesus and Satan will be fought over the Saturday Sabbath, with those who were corrupted by Sunday worship fighting on Satan’s side. And while Carson has never referenced this specific part of White’s prophecy directly, he did say in a 2014 talk that he believes the prophecy will be fulfilled — and soon. In other words, Evangelical voters are currently willing to give the nuclear launch codes to a candidate who, perhaps quite literally, believes that they will be fighting on the wrong side of the final battle of the apocalypse.

All this is to say that a Trump-Carson showdown could amount to the most ironic Jesus-off the Party of Jesus could have possibly imagined, pitting a candidate with no sincerely-held religious beliefs against a candidate with very sincerely-held religious beliefs that nearly all of their voters are damned to hell.

What a world.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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