I’m not a big fan of Michael Gerson, former GWB aide and current Post columnist, but kudos to him for calling out the Reverend Franklin Graham in a recent column:
In their day of prayer [for Trump], Graham and other Trump evangelicals have used a sacred spiritual practice for profane purposes. They have subordinated religion to politics. They have elevated Trump as a symbol of divine purposes. And they are using Christian theology as a cover for their partisanship.
So: This is blasphemy, in service to ideology, leading to idolatry, justified by heresy. All in a Sunday’s work.
Most Christians are familiar with Jonathan Edwards’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In Graham, we are seeing God in the hands of an angry political toady.
A cynic might note that people like Gerson didn’t seem to mind the politicization of the church when the partisan object of evangelical devotion was less overtly vulgar and grasping, such as Ronald Reagan or Bush II. But lines must be drawn somewhere, I suppose, so way to defend the faith, Gerson.
Speaking of defenders of the faith, remember Trump’s appearance at a Virginia church last Sunday to be prayed over, an appearance that was notable at the time mainly because 18 holes of golf had flattened Trump’s iconic triple-combover and because Trump waddled across the church stage in golf spikes? Turns out that preacher had to deal with some fallout from the visit:
Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church in a statement posted on the church’s website wrote Sunday that his prayer was not an endorsement of the Trump administration and its policies.
“Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God,” he wrote. “Today, I found myself in one of those situations.”
“My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage [from 2nd Timothy — or “Two Timothy,” as Trump might put it] portrays,” Platt continued… “I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision,” he said. “This weighs heavy on my heart.
“I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God,” he wrote.
A couple of things struck me when reading about this incident. The first was the post-hoc justification for Trump’s appearance. Trump’s spokespeople said it was related to the mass shooting that occurred in Virginia a couple of days before. But the preacher makes no mention of the shooting and says he was surprised by a call that came out of the blue just a few minutes prior to Trump’s arrival — the preacher says he was asked if he would “pray for the president.”
What the preacher did allude to in his remarks onstage with Trump was the call (by Franklin Graham and other Trump-humping evangelicals) for a special day of prayer for Trump. Platt was meticulously nonpartisan in his remarks and semi-apologetic afterward, as you can see in the full remarks he posted to the church website here, excerpted above.
The conflicting information about the purpose of the visit sounds like typically sloppy advance work by Trump’s people, who can’t put together a two-paragraph press release that isn’t riddled with errors. Trump probably muttered something about “that prayer thing for me” during the round of golf, and the toadies leaped into action, Googling nearby “evangelical churches” and landing on Platt’s.
They probably figured a “Bible-believing” evangelical church in a mostly white Virginia town would be Trump friendly, and if the churches up there are anything like the ones down here, they’d usually be right. But it turns out the church they randomly selected was less white and less Republican than expected.
So, the bullshit about Trump showing up to pray about the shooting was probably made up after the fact by Trump’s crack team of incompetents, either to stave off criticism about Trump’s non-response to now-routine gun massacres, explain his disheveled appearance, or provide cover for the less-than-enthusiastic welcome he received. This is how bad the Trump people are at their jobs — they couldn’t even find a pro-Trump congregation of white evangelicals in Dixie.
Anyhoo, church attendance and religious affiliation have been declining in this country for decades, and white evangelical Christianity’s embrace of Trump will likely accelerate that trend. It’s up to Christians who don’t worship the Orange Pig to call out the heretics among them. It’s good to see some of them are up to the challenge.