Yesterday (Feb 18, 2017) I watched part of President Trump’s rally in Melbourne Florida and then read the transcript. And I must say I have some concerns about the way Mrs. Trump opened the rally. She opened by praying the Lord’s Prayer. I feel the need to say something about that as both a Christian and as a citizen.
First as a citizen. Our constitution mandates what is often called the separation of church and state. Just to refresh our memories here is the text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. From Cornell University Law School website.
I am neither an attorney nor a constitutional scholar. A s a citizen, it seems to me that to begin an appearance by the president at a public event with the Lord’s Prayer is at the very least inappropriate. It is inappropriate because the Lord’s Prayer is a distinctly Christian prayer. It is not a prayer that people of other religions would or should pray. (I’m leaving aside the appropriateness of beginning a public presidential appearance with any sort of prayer.) If a non Christian was at that rally, I can only imagine that they felt uncomfortable and isolated during that prayer. In light of recent Presidential actions and statements this prayer might be seen as a direct action to exclude Muslims. I do not know if that was the intention, but the result is nevertheless exclusionary.
By using that prayer, the assumption was made that the United States is a nation comprised only of Christians. There was no acknowledgement of any of the other faith traditions present in our nation. This is simply not right. One of the great strengths of America is our commitment that people worship (or not) according to their personal beliefs and those beliefs are neither helped nor hindered by the government.
I am equally, if not more disturbed by this use of the Lord’s Prayer as a Christian. My faith was co opted to set the stage for a political rally. Jesus is not to be used by either the left or the right. Jesus is not to be used by Presidents nor members of Congress, nor state or local officials to paste a Christian veneer over their remarks. Christ is not to be used to legitimize the words of a government official.
Particularly upsetting was that the Lord’s prayer was used as preface to remarks which were designed to amplify fear and to demonize the stranger and foreigner.The President spoke repeatedly about “those people”. To pray for God’s “kingdom to come” and then to speak of building a wall to keep “those people” out was unsettling. The President said “we want people that love us..” rather than the Christian way, which is to love others. The President said “We will pursue peace through strength.” Christ’s peace is sacrificial, self emptying, self giving. Christ’s strength is found in Christ’s weakness. The President said “We’re going to start winning.” The way of Christ is not concerned with winners and losers but rather with justice and mercy. Repeatedly the President referred to deals and money. Saving money, making money, paying money (particularly other people paying). Business and the economy were described as our guiding and primary national priorities. Along with being “totally safe”.
This is not the way of Jesus.
Please show some respect for the faith. Don’t pray the prayer Jesus taught us and then proclaim values that Jesus did not teach us. Don’t hide behind the Lord’s Prayer and use it to gloss over the unChristian character of your speech.
Christians should honestly ask whether the way of Jesus is reconcilable with the responsibilities of governing a nation. These are difficult and important ideas to wrestle with. And what we discover may be hard and unsettling for us both as Christians and citizens.
In Matthew’s Gospel the Lord’s Prayer comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. First there are the Beatitudes. And then Jesus taught “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But is anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”…Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
And after he teaches the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt 5-6 selected verses)
I could go on….
For me the juxtaposition of the Lord’s Prayer in a political rally followed by political speech was troubling.
Mr Trump, I hope you pray the Lord’s Prayer daily. I really do.It is a good prayer and a life changing prayer. I pray for you to be a good man and a good President. But please, please stop using the Lord’s Prayer at political rallies.