The week’s stand-out soundbite from the You Couldn’t Make It Up ministry — every government has one — popped out of the mouth of Sarah Sanders who, if she hasn’t been fired since Wednesday, is press secretary at the White House.
During an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network she said God “wanted Donald Trump to become president”.
The facts are that he was chosen by voters and, possibly also by Mr Putin, but Ms Sanders — a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, Arkansas — will not have shocked or even surprised activists in the conservative Christian networks.
They saw Mr Trump as the fulfillment of God’s will and helped to ensure that, firstly, Republican contenders not so divinely favoured fell by the wayside and, secondly, that he got the votes needed for success in the states that matter in the electoral college.
As to the little matters of Trump’s two divorces and allegations of adultery, misogyny, and racism, well, who is entitled in this world of sinners to be the first to cast a stone?
Europeans find the hotline that runs from heaven to the White House puzzling and, when it isn’t terrifying, comical, which was why Britain’s Tony Blair was told by his press advisers not to “do God”.
It is, though, a lode that runs throughout America’s political and cultural history, from the 17th century Puritan dream of a shining city upon a hill, to George Bush Jr saying he felt that “God wants me to run for president... God wants me to do it”.
Asked to name his favourite philosopher, he replied: “Christ, because he changed my heart.”
Ronald Reagan subscribed to the notion that manifest destiny protected his country by placing it between two great oceans, a sentiment encapsulated in the 1893 poem — later to become a patriotic anthem — in which Katharine Lee Bates writes of a nation bathing in God’s grace and brotherhood from “sea to shining sea”.
The problem is that religion, along with fake patriotism, can be the last refuge of a scoundrel.