When I started this blog, I intended to focus on the separation of government and religion and my earlier blogs concentrated on that topic. But I’ve been sidetracked by other interests and have been reminded recently that the separation of church and state is being (and has been) clobbered by the actions of presidents since the election of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. President Eisenhower initiated the first annual Prayer Breakfast with the theme “breakfast under God.” In fact, Eisenhower also urged adding the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” imprinted on bills and coins.
The Prayer Breakfasts have included not only presidents but also political leaders from all states, business executives, clergy, and political and evangelical leaders from numerous countries. Although these gatherings have been ecumenical, the U.S. presidents who have presided have focused primarily on their beliefs in Christianity and praying to their God.
“The National Prayer Breakfast has grown steadily over the years – from 400 attendees to close to 4,000,” according to Diane Winston, Associate Professor, University of Southern California. “The presence of the U.S. president has made the event a draw for leaders worldwide.” They are able to network before and after the breakfast. Today’s POTUS and many of his evangelical followers attended the most recent Prayer Breakfast on February 7, 2019.
Before and beyond that event, many evangelicals have been steady supporters of Trump, displaying an obvious double standard—their hypocrisy. While declaring their Christian beliefs, proselytizing their faith, and praying over Trump, evangelicals ignore the non-Christian actions of the POTUS. They withhold criticism of the man who is widely known as the Liar-in-Chief, a guy who adores those who praise him and likes to brag about his great wealth.
Although Trump claims that “nobody reads the Bible more than me,” how does he explain the fact that he has defied most of the biblical Ten Commandments as spelled out in Exodus 20, such as
- “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” (Trump is routinely on one of his golf courses),
- “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (who doesn’t know about Trump’s alleged sexual affairs and cheating on his various wives?)
- “Thou shalt not steal” (Trump has withheld payments to workers on his properties)
- “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbors” (Trump constantly lies about and insults people who disagree with him)
Along with the Old Testament’s “thou shalt nots,” what about the New Testament and the gospel examples that evangelicals preach? Evangelists declare they are believers in “the Word” but find no fault with a POTUS who disregards biblical passages (probably doesn’t even read them). Evangelicals are convinced that God has anointed Trump and deigned that he should be president.
Politically, “Nearly half of Republicans, 45 percent, believe that God wanted Trump to be president…. More than half of white evangelical Protestants — 55 percent — said that God endorsed Trump.” In the words of Philip Bump, a Washington Post columnist, “Trump has put a pointed focus on issues of importance to the evangelical community, explicitly to cement their political support.” To many evangelicals, Trump is a modern-day Messiah—an orange one at that—and can do no wrong.
In January 2019, columnist Christine Emba put it this way: “A disconcerting number of self-professed Christians have transitioned from the traditionally ‘evangelical’ ambitions of spreading the gospel and forming a personal relationship with Jesus to spreading the gospel of wealth creation and fighting the ‘radical left.’ National identity is what ties this body of believers together, and ‘the wall’ has become its icon of hope, pushing the cross to the side.”
A reminder for biblical believers: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images”!