Yesterday was the first Thursday in February, which means the annual National Prayer Breakfast was held in Washington, DC. And, as has been the case for every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the first breakfast in 1953, Donald J. Trump made an appearance.
Unlike previous appearances where he made himself the center of attention and attacked his political enemies, Trump set a new standard by opening his speech with a passage of scripture from the Book of Matthew. Quoting a portion of the Beatitudes spoken by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, Trump read:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Considering that this years breakfast took place one day after he was “acquitted” of impeachment charges by a fake Senate trial featuring no witnesses or evidence, Trump was particularly magnanimous, almost holy, as he called on his listeners to pray for our divided nation and to forgive others.
OK. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, everything I wrote after the first paragraph above is satire and 100% fake news. And by that I mean “real” fake news, not the “fake” fake news Trump is always ranting about whenever the media reports “mean and nasty” things about his mean and nasty behavior.
Trump did appear at the prayer breakfast, but his time on stage was filled with attacks on his political enemies, the dwindling people of faith who put their values before politics, and pretty much anyone else who refuses to bow to his perfection or sacrifice their values on his altar.
In a keynote address given before Trump’s speech, Arthur Brooks, a Harvard professor and president of the American Enterprise Institute, decried what he called a “crisis of contempt and polarization” and he urged the audience to “love your enemies.”
Once on stage, Trump — the man who said he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness because he doesn’t do bad things — replied to Brooks’ words, saying “I don’t know if I agree with you.” He then proceeded to attack Mitt Romney for claiming that his Mormon faith required him to vote to convict Trump, and he attacked Nancy Pelosi for claiming that she prays for Trump.
President Trump: "I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say 'I pray for you' when they know that that's not so. So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on."#NationalPrayerBreakfast pic.twitter.com/79XCLpD7GP
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 6, 2020
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when you know that is not so.”
In days gone by, such statements would have raised the ire of evangelical leaders, but in the Age of Trump, members of the Fellowship of the Pharisees praised Trump for being the complete opposite of the things they claim to believe. “I think the president was completely right in what he said,” Pharisee Robert Jeffress said. “It’s not politically correct, but he didn’t get to be president by being politically correct.”
The Dallas, TX megachurch pastor agreed with Trump’s spiritual discernment concerning Romney’s faith, saying the Utah Senator’s impeachment vote “seems more based on self-promotion than religious beliefs.” He also said the criticism of Pelosi was justified. “When you have been under nonstop attack for the last three years from people who want to destroy you and your family, it’s a little hard to hear them say, ‘I want to pray for you,’ ” he said. “It’s hypocritical.”
Robert Jeffress should know what a hypocrite looks like. He sees one in the mirror every morning when he shaves.
Others with connections to the Fellowship disagreed with Jeffress about how “right” Trump’s behavior was. Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior said Trump’s breakfast remarks prompted her to reflect on how religious faith can be politicized.
“The problem with such statements is not Trump himself, but rather they reveal how American Christianity has become a kind of currency whose value depends on whose possession it’s in,” she wrote via email.
Treating Christianity as currency? Sounds exactly like what her boss Jerry Falwell, Jr. and the rest of the Fellowship have been doing to defend Trump’s indefensible behavior. But that’s likely to remain the case so long as the Fellowship of the Pharisees and other practitioners of lukewarm cheap-grace religion continue trading faith for a seat at Trump’s table.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative.