Students at Jerry Falwell’s evangelical Liberty University are helping produce a film that argues Trump’s presidency was divinely foretold.
According to the Christian Post, dozens of students and a number of staff members at Liberty University will be collaborating on a movie: The Trump Prophecy. The film tells the story of Florida firefighter Mark Taylor, who says that God told him that Donald Trump would become president. He adapted his testimony into a book with a small Christian publishing house.
Liberty students and staff regularly work on Christian-themed films as a form of career-development-training, with about one film made per year in partnership with outside film companies, according to the Christian Post. Previous faith-based films have included relatively anodyne fare like Extraordinary, the story of a Christian couple running a marathon together. The Trump Prophecy is funded and produced by Charlotte-based ReelWorks Studios, with a budget of about $2 million.
But an explicitly political film, suggesting that Donald Trump’s presidency was divinely ordained, is striking for the university.
It is not, however, surprising. Over the past few years, Jerry Falwell Jr.’s vocal support for Trump has often put him at odds with faculty and the university’s students. Last year, an anti-Trump pastor was booted off campus after coming to pray with students, while earlier this year, a progressive Christian protest at Lynchburg vocally denounced Falwell’s pro-Trump and GOP-specific policies.
Particularly notable about the Trump Prophecy is the fusion of evangelical attitudes. Liberty is an institution often associated with the “traditional” evangelical community — founder Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.
Meanwhile, the Trump prophesy narrative is more common among evangelicals associated with what is known as the New Apostolic Reformation: a loosely-conceived umbrella group of Christians that tend to focus on the power of individual prophecy and the authority of charismatic leadership figures believed to be possessed of distinct spiritual gifts. (Paula White, the prosperity gospel preacher who is one of the most influential members of Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisory council, is associated with this movement.)
The idea that Trump is a prophesied figure — often compared to the Persian King Cyrus — is a ubiquitous one in those circles (Lance Wallnau, another self-proclaimed prophet, made that very case on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network during the presidential election campaign.)
The head of the university’s Cinematic Arts department, Stephan Schultze, told the Christian Post that the film is not political, but rather a celebration of the power of prayer and Christian faith. “[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. It created a bond within the Christian community.”
In a statement from earlier in production emailed to Vox, Liberty stressed that the film work was voluntary. “Liberty University’s School of Cinematic Arts is collaborating with a prominent filmmaker on a movie based on the book The Trump Prophecies. While the university sees this as an excellent opportunity for film students to gain real world experience, students’ participation in this film is voluntary. No student is being forced to work on this film. Those who choose not to have already been told they can work on other projects with no impact to their grades or to their progress toward graduation.”
The film is currently in postproduction and will be released in autumn.