In the two years since Donald Trump announced his bid for the White House, an untold number of songs have cropped up on YouTube and music streaming services that take their inspiration from his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
But only one appears to have gotten an endorsement from the president himself.
Twice in the past two weeks Trump has tweeted out a live version of “Make America Great Again,” a hymn-like ode to the new president written by a Texas minister and performed by a choir and orchestra from the First Baptist Church of Dallas, an evangelical megachurch.
On July 4, Trump commemorated Independence Day by posting a video of the group performing the song at the Kennedy Center during a concert honoring veterans. Trump spoke at the July 1 event, which was sponsored by First Baptist. “Your music honors our heroes more than words will ever do,” he told the musicians.
Trump gave it another shout-out on Sunday when he shared a photo slide show of his trip to the G-20 Summit in Germany with the song as the soundtrack.
The composition was written by Gary Moore, a 73-year-old former music minister at the megachurch, who told the New York Times that “Make America Great Again” was as much a tribute to Trump as it was to freedom of speech and religion in America.
Musically, it’s full of familiar evangelical fare, with triumphant horns, singsong vocal melodies and hymn-like verses whose lyrics make no mention of God or government but could certainly be considered devotional.
“Make America great again, make America great again, lift the torch of freedom all across the land,” goes one verse. “Step into the future joining hand in hand, and make America great again.”
Another verse reads:
Like the mighty eagle that is rising on the wind
Soaring t’ward our destiny
Hearts and voices blend
With a mighty melody oh let the song begin
And make America great again
Make America great again
The song has been listed with Church Copyright Licensing International, a legal clearinghouse for worship songs used by some 60,000 churches worldwide.
Trump, a self-declared Presbyterian but not a churchgoer, has been embraced by large swaths of evangelicals, many convinced he will be a better advocate for their beliefs than his predecessors. First Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress, a stalwart Trump supporter among evangelicals, praised the president at the Kennedy Center concert, saying “he has exceeded our every expectation” and “we thank God every day that he gave us a leader like Donald Trump.”
Not all evangelicals shared in that enthusiasm, however. Jonathan Aigner, an evangelical Methodist who serves as music minister for a Texas congregation, called Jeffress’s remarks about Trump “one of the most disturbing presidential introductions I’ve ever heard” and criticized the “Make America Great Again” song. In a post for the site Patheos, which features commentary about religion and spirituality, Aigner lamented that the sentiment in the song “has been adopted by a significant portion of the evangelical church.”
“It’s not only their candidate’s campaign slogan, it’s now a part of their gospel. It’s their mantra, their creed, their prayer, and they shout it out with nationalistic fervor,” he wrote. “Pledging allegiance to God and to America in the same breath, melding together the kingdom of God and self, they pray a blasphemous prayer to a red, white, and blue Jesus.”
“The mere existence of a song like ‘Make America Great Again’ in a database of so-called ‘worship’ songs highlights the degree to which American Christianity has sold its soul to a gospel of power and self-interest,” he added.
Trump is far from the first candidate to have his campaign rhetoric turned into song lyrics. In 2008, singer Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas recorded “Yes We Can,” borrowing then-candidate Barack Obama’s campaign slogan for the refrain and passages from a speech in New Hampshire for the verses. The minimalist black-and-white music video features more than 30 celebrities and artists — including Scarlett Johansson, John Legend and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — singing the lyrics over a spare acoustic guitar line. Will.i.am followed up on that effort with two more pro-Obama anthems, “We Are The Ones” and, after his election, “It’s A New Day.”
In October, shortly before the election, the celebrated dance-punk band Le Tigre released “I’m With Her,” a pro-feminist paean to Hillary Clinton that took its title from her campaign hashtag.
Trump’s polarizing “Make America Great Again” slogan, trademarked the day after Obama’s 2012 reelection win, has inspired a flurry of tribute songs. There’s the dark, determined country number by Dave Fenley, performed with a sense of urgency at the Republican National Convention last year. There’s the rap-rock rendition by Political Panic that lauds Trump’s plans for a border wall and blasts “lying crooked Hillary” over her email scandal. And there’s the Auto-Tune-laden pop song that urges voters to “stand up, get that MAGA, yell it louder.”
None of those, however, got plugged — twice — by the leader of the free world to his 33.7 million Twitter followers.
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