Bible-thumping playboy: Associated Press explores faith, contradictions of Donald Trump

Here in my home state of Oklahoma, Popemania couldn't trump The Donald.

Local newscasts provided nonstop coverage last week as Donald Trump came to speak at the Oklahoma State Fair.

I was amazed and amused:

(I immediately felt my age when I had to explain the O.J. reference to my teenagers.)

Of course, Trump's religion — or lack thereof — has inspired both humor and dismay as the Republican presidential contender has gained surprising support among some conservative Christians:

On the same day that Trump visited the Sooner State, The Associated Press published what impressed me as a smart, nuanced take on Trump and religion (particularly given the space constraints of a wire story):

The lede:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump recently showed up at a gathering of Iowa conservative Christian voters with a copy of the Bible in hand.
"See, I'm better than you thought," he said. Then came a black-and-white photograph from his confirmation to further prove his Christian cred.
"Nobody believes this," he said to laughs. "What went wrong?"
As the Republican presidential front-runner and billionaire businessman tries to maintain his lead in early polls with rivals gaining, Trump is increasingly courting a wing of the Republican Party that might seem antithetical to his brand: evangelical Christians.

Later in the story, AP provides this important context:

In many ways, Trump's brand as the bombastic, thrice-married billionaire showman would seem an ill-fit among religious conservatives. He once held a reputation as a womanizing playboy, previously supported abortion rights and appears to spend more time calling into Sunday morning talk shows than attending church.
Trump likes to boast about the Bible being his favorite book, but he has refused to quote his favorite biblical verse when asked what it was. He raised eyebrows in June when he said at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, that he has never asked God for forgiveness and described Communion as "when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker."
"I love them. They love me," Trump, a Presbyterian, said of evangelicals last month in Greenville, South Carolina. "I love the evangelicals, and it's really shown in the polls."

From there, the story quotes well-known evangelical talking heads (including Russell Moore and Tony Perkins) who are skeptical of Trump.

But AP gives a voice, too, to lesser-known pastors who speak positively of Trump, while at the same time noting — to my surprise — that the real estate tycoon has a past history of supporting some Christian causes:

On Monday he's set to host a group of evangelical pastors and bishops from across the country for a private meeting and prayer session at Trump Tower in New York.
Several attendees, including Pastor Lionel Traylor of Jackson, Mississippi, said evangelical voters are particularly drawn to Trump's direct style and his strong defense of Christians at a time "when Christianity is under attack." Trump has frequently made reference to attacks on Christians abroad and said that he will be a champion for religious liberty, including defending Christmas.
Trump's relationship with evangelical leaders goes back far longer than he's been running for president.
According to previously reported tax documents, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has given to numerous Christian causes in recent years, including $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelist Association in 2012, as well as ministries as far away as Debra George Ministries in Texas and the Ramp Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Now, I'd love more concrete details on Trump's faith and religious background — if such details exist. More facts surrounding that confirmation referenced up high would be a nice place to start.

But give AP credit for a solid takeout that covers a lot of ground in a concise amount of space.

If you missed the Trump story during Popemania, by all means, check it out.

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