Standing in a packed train in Dublin last Saturday evening, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation of two fellow-passengers.

“The world’s gone mad,” said one to his friend, and he offered the example of a certain Donald J. Trump announcing his bid to become president of the United States again.

Or rather, the man suggested that the example of madness wasn’t Trump’s narcissism but the fact that he was getting such support. Were American people bonkers, he wondered?

About eight or so years ago when Trump was entering the fray to become the Republican party’s candidate the first time around, I remember writing a column assuring everyone that such a preposterous prospect was so laughable it would never happen. So what do I know, eh?

Indeed, Trump’s bizarre behaviour during his term at the White House did provide some comedic moments. Oh how we laughed when he suggested injecting disinfectant to cure Covid.

But nobody’s laughing now.

Because U.S. politics and society has become so poisonously divided that one author recently suggested that “America no longer has an exemplary, just and well-ordered society. Power and wealth have become concentrated in the hands of a self-serving elite, while ordinary folk languish".

So, if the world’s most powerful democracy is struggling, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Trump is a megalomaniac, so selfishly addicted to power that he struggles to respect the democratic process. And no, I don’t think it’s too fanciful to suggest that he flirts dangerously close to fascism.

Let’s not forget, though, that in 2020 more than 74 million Americans voted for Trump to become President, so we should look more closely as to how he gains so much support and feels emboldened to think he could win again despite everything we know about him.

There are many factors, but I feel two in particular are relevant on this side of the Atlantic.

Firstly, his populist appeal to those in his country who feel that the American dream has passed them by, those mainly white Christians who’ve been convinced by Trump that the liberal woke agenda has seen immigrants, blacks, refugees, women and others overtake them.

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s features them in her book, 'Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right'. Even the title goes a long way to explaining their disillusion, and it should not easily be dismissed because Trump is taking full advantage in promising them a return to a “glorious past".

Hochschild examines the way these people continue to “follow the pied piper” and she says “a lot of white guys feel stuck and I understand it".

There’s a parallel in Britain and even here in Northern Ireland, when people’s fears are whipped up with the notion that they are being left behind.

The other Trumpian phenomenon is his appeal to the evangelical Christian wing in the States

As a Christian myself, I look on in astonishment that they are one of the big voting blocks that turned to Trump as some sort of saviour…….pardon my use of the term, it is not meant to be offensive but it is deliberate and ironically so.

Again, on this side of the pond there are evangelicals who will admit there are some of Trump’s policies which they like. And again it is a worrying concept for people like me that some Christians here are prepared to turn a blind eye to his dubious character.

In America, to me it does seem hypocritical that a section of Christians who savaged Bill Clinton for his personal lifestyle are prepared to remain silent about Trump’s vile character.

And all because he sticks it to the liberals and backs their agenda on abortion, gay rights and the rest.

So that’s all right then. Or is it?

It looks to me like those American Christians have made a pact with the devil, one in which both they and Trump get what they want. Trump got a swathe of votes, they get a conservative religious agenda. But it’s Faustian in nature, they’re selling their soul.

I’m well aware of judge not and let he who is without sin cast the first stone and all that; but this pact is simply not right in my opinion.

Writer Peter Wehner argues that people of faith should embody moral and intellectual integrity and he says: “The Trump-evangelical alliance has inflicted enormous damage on the Christian witness in America, particularly among Millennials and Generation Z.”

There are numerous stories of younger Christians turning away from their faith because they’re sickened by the identification of their faith with Trump’s disgusting un-Christian behaviour, his misogyny and racism, his divisive provocation.

One of the most sickening images of his previous presidency was the way protesters were battered by police who used tear gas to clear a path outside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington so that Trump could hold aloft a Bible in a photo opportunity.

Sacrilege from such an individual.

And indeed, another photo that provoked derision was the group of evangelical ministers in the White House, laying hands on Trump and praying over him.

Yet according to The Atlantic aides reveal that Trump’s private comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt. He ridicules faith leaders; “Trump mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” according to fellow Republican Ben Sasse.

Trump’s former lawyer and confidant, Micheal Cohen said that after the pastors had left after laying hands on him, Trump said: “Can you believe that bullshit.”

And in Tim Alberta’s book 'American Caranage' he smiled and shook his head saying “those f***ing evangelicals”.

But he knew that if he gave them “the policies and access to authority they longed for, in return they would stand behind him unwaveringly".

Both sides got what they wanted; the right wing evangelicals deliver a huge vote, and in return they get an aggressive agenda against liberals, a voice in power, while convincing themselves that Trump is really a Christian at heart.

The American television evangelists who “perform” and rake in millions are abhorrent to me anyway, but there is also a level of people of fundamental faith taken in by this extremism, sadly.

It’s not a brand of Christianity that appeals to me; bitterness, anger, a harshness towards the vulnerable, lying and deceitful claims to grab power.

In our own troubled and divisive land, does that sound like a faith that would salve our atmosphere of mistrust and division?

Thankfully, it would seem that Trump’s brand of politics is in decline, if his rejection in the mid-terms is anything to go by. Don’t expect a quiet couple of years, though, because this charlatan will try any of the above dubious tactics, and more, in an attempt to seize power.

But Trump’s a loser and no amount of his deliberately dishonest denial of the truth and values of decency and honesty will ever disguise that.