God and the Trump inauguration
By Cathy Keim
I watched some portions of the Trump inauguration ceremony when I had a minute. I don’t remember ever watching an inauguration prior to this one, since I have never been much of a television fan.
The following piece covers some thoughts on what I saw. I acknowledge that I caught rather random moments – so I may have missed some important incidents – but here we go.
When I first turned on the coverage, I saw Rabbi Hier mention Jerusalem which was incendiary since the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge that the Jews have any right to Jerusalem.
Next Franklin Graham read from 1 Timothy 2:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (NIV)
His choice of this scripture which clearly states that there is one God and one mediator, Christ Jesus, and his ending his prayer “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” was a definite stand for historic Christianity and not the civil religion that is often present at political functions. If he had been wanting to promote the civil religion, he would have stopped with just verses 1 and 2.
There were six pastors scheduled to pray which is more than the usual number. The New York Times reports:
Six religious leaders - including a rabbi, a cardinal, and a diverse group of Protestant preachers — will participate, more than for any previous president, said Jim Bendat, an author and historian of inaugural ceremonies. Each will have 60 to 90 seconds to offer a reading or lead a prayer.
“Some inaugurations have had just one, others have had two or three covering different religions, but this is a record,” Mr. Bendat said.
It turns out that the six religious leaders were comprised of a Jew, a Catholic, a woman, a Hispanic, a Black, and an evangelical. While this points to an effort being made to be inclusive towards the Judeo-Christian portion of the country, there was no effort made to include a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Buddhist or a hat tip to atheists and their proclamation of no faith.
Later I caught a few minutes of the lunch reception and heard the Senate Chaplain, Dr. Barry C. Black, say the blessing. He ended the prayer with “our sovereign God” which works for a civil religion blessing, since any of several religions could agree that “their” god is sovereign.
There is plenty of trouble whenever religion enters the picture. For example, this opinion piece that ran prior to the inauguration in which Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminster Seminary California, laments that Trump’s choice of pastors includes several that adhere to the “prosperity gospel”. Horton states:
Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.
The prosperity gospel — the idea that God dispenses material wealth and health based on what we “decree” – is not just fluff. It’s also not just another branch of Pentecostalism, a tradition that emphasizes the continuation of the gifts of healing, prophecy and tongues. It’s another religion.
Horton continues with an informative stroll through the history and personalities which led to the “prosperity gospel,” so I encourage you to read the whole article. Horton then concludes:
Thanks to the First Amendment, Christian orthodoxy has never been a test for public office. But it is striking that Trump has surrounded himself with cadre of prosperity evangelists who cheerfully attack basic Christian doctrines. The focus of this unity is a gospel that is about as diametrically opposed to the biblical one as you can imagine.
Of course, the other choice for president, Hillary Clinton, is not known for her devotion to Christ either, so the options were limited for those Americans who were looking to vote for a godly president.
Next I checked out the pre-inauguration church service that the president elect traditionally attends on the morning of Inauguration Day. The Washington Post reports:
The sermon was delivered by Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, who compared Trump to the story of the biblical leader Nehemiah who helped rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its walls after the people of Judah had been exiled from the land of Israel.
Israel had been in bondage for decades, Jeffress explained, and the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God did not choose a politician or a priest but chose a builder instead. The first step of rebuilding the nation, Jeffress said, was the building of a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack.
“You see, God is not against building walls,” Jeffress said in his sermon at St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C.
Jeffress concluded his sermon with the observation that President-elect Trump had many natural talents:
But the challenges facing our nation are so great that it will take more than natural ability to meet them. We need God’s supernatural power.
The good news is that the same God who empowered Nehemiah nearly 2500 years ago is available to every one of us today who is willing to humble himself and ask for His help.
God says in Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble I shall rescue you and you will honor Me.”
By all accounts, President Trump is an extremely confident person, but the burdens of the presidency may bring him to humble himself and to ask for God’s help.
The key policy moment of the inauguration came in President Trump’s speech which was laced with biblical language and references. Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports in the Washington Post that:
President Trump’s inaugural address was infused with religious language, reflecting a rhetorical shift from the nation’s new leader. His previous speeches have not usually referred to the Bible or God.
The speech was about as subtle as a blow to the face. He excoriated the political elites who have prospered while regular Americans have suffered. Since he was standing in front of a sea of political elites, including the former president and Trump’s recently vanquished challenger, Hillary Clinton, it was an antagonistic move, rather than a political love fest evoking the greatness of America.
Overall, I felt that there was an outpouring of Christian sentiment in the inaugural events. As mentioned, it did not meet with Christian orthodoxy on all points, but it was a definite moving away from the delusional inclusiveness of the Obama years. It pointed to an administration that was going to be unafraid to declare that our culture was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and even more importantly, that we should continue to adhere to our Judeo-Christian foundation rather than saying that all religions are equal. That is a striking reversal from the previous administration which blithely swept in gay marriage and transgenderism, ignoring the concerns of Christians.
The opening day set the stage for further action by the Trump Administration. I am confident that the political elites will not take this lying down. The battle is enjoined.