“I did not fight in vain, so that you may not have to fight either”, the Psalmist intoned, putting into words the moral imperative revealed by President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s journey to the Oval Office.
They had arrived bearing a message of hope. It was a departure from past practice, as his predecessor had made a habit of distancing himself from the president.
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The spirit of the occasion has unfortunately been marred by some hurtful reports regarding the President and First Lady’s agenda, which included their meeting with a grieving congresswoman, Rosie Diaz, who survived the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years ago. Their intention, from the start, had been to pass some of the light of faith that had inspired the Bible-inspired trip from President George W Bush in 2006.
As reported by the Washington Post, Trump’s advisers are concerned about the president being exposed publicly as a “lone wolf”, after he posed a direct question about the motive of the killer before a debate moderator. He was evidently unaware of the context in which the question had been posed. And yet the public outrage was not wholly groundless, given that Trump himself has received far more questions about the motive of killer Stephen Paddock, who killed 59 people and injured more than 500 at an LGBTQ country music festival in Las Vegas in October. He had been recording himself providing an answer that was ultimately rejected by the White House.
Unrestrained by protocol, the president snapped back angrily. And that has caused concern amongst his advisors – for whom any hint of appearing anything other than respectful can come back to haunt them politically.
The meeting came as the latest insult added to the pile of criticism President Trump has received for his offensive comments and actions toward women, the transgender community, the LGBT community, and immigrants. But at least he was doing something, seeing that so many members of his evangelical base can’t identify clearly with him.
The allegation that he was aiming the answer at the killers directly is problematic. Even in the context of what was said, the implication was that this was the kind of misguided people he would not tolerate. This is the risk a President and religious leader take in speaking to their audience with power; and they have an obligation to mitigate the reputational risks.
The real question is whether Trump himself is a slave to the common notion of the legacy that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison left. If so, then he has failed to live up to his former role as the potential conservative counterbalance to President Franklin Roosevelt.
But, also, some may see Trump not merely as the embodiment of the racist legacy of the Old South, but even the Southern slaveholding Heritage with which some American Christians identify. It’s a similar discomfort of deep seated shame he has left on the American people.
Still, aside from that, the Obamas were prime ministers from the moment they stepped into the White House, and Obama promised the country the exact opposite of Trump. There is still no equivalent, and no need for one.
I became increasingly alarmed at the idea of him ever becoming a US President, as his evangelical platform as an entertainer suggested that the presidency was his chosen oracle. I feared that “pushing an envelope” would seem even worse when he became president. It all unfolded before my eyes, as he began to deliver coded commentary about the horrific tragedy in Charlottesville.
In his commencement address at Liberty University in May, he described the church “as the most influential force in the history of our world”, which may explain how he could say “white evangelicals, have you ever wondered what it would be like if we had 100 pastors every time we shot a street angel into a church?”
It’s an open question why they would do that. But it is not out of the realm of possibility. From what we have seen in Charlottesville and in other racist incidents, that is exactly what this president would encourage.
The election of Trump would be destructive for this country, not only for his own failings, but because he will push for policies like this, which will further divide us into categories where we will continue to fight over who is not in our camp.
B.E.N. was a member of a Trump team in the 1980s. She has never endorsed his re-election