A collaboration between an independent Christian filmmaker and one of America’s largest evangelical universities is showcasing the growing prominence of a provocative belief about President Donald Trump ― that he was divinely appointed to lead the United States.
As part of a spring semester film project, students and staff members from Virginia’s Liberty University were involved in filming and producing “The Trump Prophecy,” a movie that promotes the belief that Trump’s election will bring healing to America. The partnership between the university’s cinematic arts department and Christian producer Rick Eldridge’s ReelWorks Studios gave students hands-on experience with camera work, set design, logistics and other skills they will need in the movie industry.
Stephan Schultze, head of Liberty’s cinema program and director of “The Trump Prophecy,” told The Christian Post that the film was not meant as an endorsement of Trump but primarily as an opportunity for students to get involved in a project that will be screening in 1,200 theaters across the country in October.
“It is a real credit when they graduate for working on a movie,” he said about the collaboration.
Liberty University was founded by the late Jerry Falwell Sr., a fundamentalist preacher who led the Moral Majority movement in the 1980s that united conservatives of different faiths and backgrounds. His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., is now president of the Lynchburg school ― and an ardent Trump fan who believes the president is a “dream” for evangelicals. Falwell is a member of Trump’s informal evangelical advisory committee and has often defended the president’s controversial statements and actions.
Liberty University did not return requests for comment on this story. Falwell has made it clear in the past that his support for Trump is a personal decision that doesn’t reflect the views of the university as a whole.
Still, the prominent Christian university’s involvement in the film is an indication of how widespread this particular belief ― that God had a role in Trump’s election ― has become.
‘The Trump Prophecy’
“The Trump Prophecy” tells the story of Mark Taylor, a retired firefighter from Orlando, Florida, who believes God told him in April 2011 that Trump would one day become president of the United States. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Taylor claims he was watching television around 2 a.m when Trump appeared on a news segment. He said he then heard the voice of God telling him, “You’re hearing the voice of a president.”
Taylor grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down words he says came directly from the Holy Spirit. The revelation, which Taylor described as a prophecy, claimed God had chosen Trump to bring “honor, respect and restoration” to America. America was going to prosper like never before, Taylor said, and the ties between Israel and the U.S. would grow stronger.
At first, Taylor thought the prediction would come true during the 2012 presidential election. Back then, his “prophecy” about the former New York business mogul becoming president seemed like a far-fetched dream.
In 2015, Taylor showed his writing to the Christian physician and author Dr. Don Colbert, who passed it on to his wife, Mary Colbert. The woman also believed it was a prophecy. After Trump announced his candidacy, Mary Colbert sent copies of Taylor’s words to Christian leaders across the country and started a grassroots prayer chain for America to “return to the Godly principles we were founded upon.”
After the election, Taylor’s prophecy captured the attention of more of his fellow evangelical Christians, a religious group that has been among Trump’s most reliable supporters. The story nabbed Taylor a book deal and multiple interviews with Christian media.
Watch an interview with Mark Taylor and Mary Colbert below.
Taylor told the CBN that God is using Trump to stop an “anti-Christian agenda” consuming America.
“The enemy’s timeline has been denied by the most-high God, and it’s through Donald Trump a lot of this is being denied right now,” Taylor told CBN in December.
Critics, including some Liberty students, are questioning Taylor’s claims of being a prophetic voice, especially given some of his more outlandish predictions ― such as his claim that President Barack Obama is going to be charged with treason and that Trump will release cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease that the pharmaceutical industry has been keeping secret.
Although some of Taylor’s predictions fall to the fringe, his core conviction that Trump was selected by God to lead the U.S. is not at all uncommon within evangelical circles.
Appointed By God
Many evangelical Christians view God as being highly engaged with the world, whether it’s on the larger stage of national politics or on a more personal, intimate level, by directing individuals’ career paths or healing them from sickness. A Pew Research Center survey published in April found that 90 percent of evangelicals believe that God has a hand in determining both the big and little events in life, compared with 68 percent of all Americans.
In addition, white evangelicals in particular tend to hold beliefs that overlap with Christian nationalism, an ideology that sees America as a “Christian nation” that has a special covenant with the Christian God. Research indicates that Americans who believed in several key tenets of Christian nationalism had a strong likelihood of voting for Trump.
As a result of these two factors, it’s not a stretch for some white evangelical Christians to also believe that God was behind Trump’s election, according to Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University.
Whitehead told HuffPost he believes this idea that Trump was divinely selected is not a fringe view within American evangelicalism today.
“Because many evangelicals embrace Christian nationalism to some extent, they will believe that Trump being elected is probably part of God’s will for the United States since it is a Christian nation,” he wrote in an email.
The idea that Trump was God’s own pick has been expressed by several prominent evangelical leaders. In the days immediately following Trump’s election, Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, told HuffPost that he saw Trump’s victory as part of God’s plan for America.
“I firmly believe that God has intervened and given us a temporary reprieve from well-deserved judgement for our having turned away from Him as a nation,” Land told HuffPost in an email on Nov. 9, 2016. “I fervently pray that Americans will take advantage of this temporary reprieve and turn back to the God of our fathers.”
Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas and an evangelical adviser to the president, made similar statements after the election, saying that the Bible tells Christians “it’s clear that God alone establishes our leaders.”
Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, said in an interview last month that he thanks God that Trump was elected president.
“I think somehow God put him in this position. Because he’s not a politician, he seemed to do everything wrong as a politician: he offended many people, did the wrong things ― but somehow he became president,” Graham said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And I just have to think that God, in some reason, put him there for a purpose. I don’t know what that is, but we need to get behind him and support him.”
Some evangelicals have even compared Trump to the biblical figure of King Cyrus, an ancient Persian king who was apparently anointed by God to help rebuild Jerusalem ― even though Cyrus wasn’t a Jew.
Whitehead said that it doesn’t matter to Christian nationalists if Trump personally represents Christianity well, as long as he supports their goals.
“Trump doesn’t have to be pious to be chosen by God or used by God. He just has to bring God’s desires to fruition in the US, which is to create a more ‘Christian’ nation, as they see it,” Whitehead wrote.
The Debate At Liberty University
Some Liberty University students are upset that their school is helping to create this movie. An online petition against the university’s involvement in the film project has gathered close to 2,000 signatures.
“We should be very wary of modern-day prophets,” the petition states. “Mark Taylor has claimed God told him that electing Trump will save the world which is unbiblical at best and heretical at worst.”
In the past, Liberty University students and alumni have protested against Jerry Falwell Jr.’s unwavering support of Trump ― with some graduates even returning their diplomas over the issue.
Schultze told The Washington Post’s Lauren Markoe that one Liberty film student declined to take part in the project and instead completed another assignment. He believes it was for personal or political reasons.
The director told The Post the film allows viewers to decide whether Taylor is a true prophet.
“The Trump Prophecy” website describes the film as an “inspirational message of Hope, highlighting the vast beauty and greatness of The United States [and] its electoral process.” The movie’s trailer references a Bible verse that says if God’s people “humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,” God will heal their land.
Schultze said that he hopes the movie will demonstrate how Taylor’s story provoked a prayer movement for America.
“[People] have come together in the recognition that those prayers have value and build community and build a strong bond that allows for a president like Donald Trump to be elected,” Schultze told The Christian Post.
Whitehead said that this theory about God playing a role in Trump’s election is not necessarily predicated on Trump alone ― rather it’s part of evangelicals’ general worldview about God being intimately involved in world events. This helps people assure themselves that God is in control and that he has a plan for the United States.
This belief about Trump being God’s chosen leader also provides a degree of “transcendent legitimation” for the president, the sociologist said, especially considering how evangelicals reacted to the election of President Barack Obama.
“What is interesting, and others have pointed this out, is how silent many of these religious leaders were about how God selects US presidents when Obama won in 2008 and 2012,” Whitehead wrote. “This suggests that for many, saying that God chose the president is a way to sanctify their preferred outcome.”