Skip to main content

‘God wills it’: The divine myth behind the Trump presidency

Throughout history, arrogant leaders have invoked God’s name to pursue abhorrent policies
US President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Florida on 18 February (AFP)

Whenever Israel is questioned about the motive behind its Palestinian land theft, establishing illegal settlements or the severe human rights violations in the West Bank, they tell you "God wills it."

The concept of “God’s will” cannot be disputed or called to account. International law, as well as fundamental human values and ethics, do not apply if they happen to go against this divine historical mission.

And this attitude is not unfamiliar in the political arena. The slogan “God wills it” has been utilised by patronising leaders who have granted themselves the right to speak in the name of God throughout history, usually serving as propaganda or to stifle criticism.

The Crusades

In November 1095, Pope Urban II announced the beginning of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont with the slogan “Deus vult” (“God wills it”), thus justifying all the ensuing atrocities committed against various nations and people of different religions. The First Crusade, which led to the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, saw a massacre of Jews and Muslims living in the city.

The use of “God’s will” as a warrant to commit atrocities has prevailed through the age of colonial expansion and into the modern era; colonial powers have, at various times, arrogantly invoked their connection to God to mobilise military campaigns marked by bloodshed and conquest.

The slogan 'God wills it' has spread among fanatics in the US and their numerous propaganda platforms that promote settler-colonialism in Palestine

Prior to the First Zionist Congress in 1897, Anglican clergyman William Henry Hechler, who worked as a chaplain for the British embassy in Vienna, incited Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, to colonise Palestine and establish a Zionist state. In an extended article published on 11 June 1897 in the newspaper Die Welt, founded by Herzl to promote Zionism, Hechler ended with: “Let this be your slogan: ‘God wills it!’” 

Herzl and his companions in the Zionist movement direly needed such support, due to the rejection they faced among local Jewish communities. Due to the harsh criticism of the Zionist Congress among the Jewish community in Vienna, it had to be held in the Swiss city of Basel, far from the Jewish mainstream. 

Christian Zionists

Hechler is just one of many examples of so-called “Christian Zionists” who view history from a distinct lens and frequently emphasise the impending end of the world. Nowadays, this movement has a number of adherents in the US, including many supporters of President Donald Trump.

The slogan “God wills it” has spread among fanatics in the US and their numerous propaganda platforms that promote settler-colonialism in Palestine.

Recently, a similar expression came directly from the White House, when press secretary Sarah Sanders told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) that “God … wanted Donald Trump to become president”. 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is pictured at the White House on 28 January (AFP)
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is pictured at the White House on 28 January (AFP)

This left some observers puzzled; did God choose Trump specifically, and not the rest of the world’s heads of states, or preceding US presidents, such as Barack Obama?

Sanders’ statement might have resonated with the audience of CBN, which was founded by Pat Robertson, who is known for his fanatical beliefs about history and the end of time, in addition to being a prominent advocate for Christian Zionism. But this type of statement is not typically used in diplomacy, yet this “God-chosen” president fails to show even the slightest interest in the rest of the world, rejecting international accords such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, while supporting the Israeli occupation in its unprecedented settlement expansion. 

A world dazed

Trump is adored within the Israeli community, as seen during the opening ceremonies for the US embassy in Jerusalem last May. And the praise did not stop there; a commemorative coin depicting Trump alongside Cyrus the Great was also manufactured.

Donald Trump: The man who would be king
Read More »

Such depictions are infused with arrogance and perceived superiority. When policies of leaders are given a “Godly” label, they cannot be criticised or opposed. Trump’s case is illustrative of this, as he has withdrawn from international agreements without the slightest humility, and issued other brash edicts, including the ban on citizens from some Islamic countries and the push for a wall along the Mexican border.

At the same time, he has waged war against the media and ridden roughshod over diplomatic propriety in terms of cooperating with other countries.

The Trump presidency has left the world dazed. Sanders has reinforced those concerns through an arrogant attitude that enables all possible risks to be taken, with the reasoning that “God wills it”.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Hossam Shaker
Hossam Shaker is a journalist and an author who has extensively covered the topic of migration in Europe.