Archive for the ‘politics and religion’ Category

Mr. Trump and the Lord’s Prayer

February 19, 2017

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:

Amendment I

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.

If you are interested in some background, see here, and here.

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.

 

 

 

Inauguration Prayer

January 20, 2017

Inaugurations are regular and important events in our national life. They mark the uniquely American method of the transfer of presidential power. Every four years since 1789 there has been a presidential inauguration. Some have been somber occasions, some have been joyful. But they are all significant.

Each inauguration is typically the result of an election, the exception being when a president dies in office.  And elections mean that one party won and one party lost. Some years this is a source of more distress than others. In my personal memory, there is more angst and anger and fear surrounding this inauguration than previous inaugurations.

There are people who are afraid. They are afraid based on comments from the President elect himself. There are people who are worried. They are worried based on the behavior of the President elect. There are people who are concerned. They are concerned at who they see making up the President’s cabinet and close advisors. I find myself among these afraid, worried, and concerned people.

One of the things Christians are called to do is pray. And the most difficult command of Jesus is to love our enemies. Part of fulfilling that command involves praying for our enemies, or those whom we believe are our enemies. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that is a hard prayer to pray well.

Praying, “God fix *insert name here*.” Is not, I think, the best prayer. I know this because I have spent plenty of time praying prayers like it.

So here, for what it is worth, is my attempt at a “better” prayer for President Trump. I need to write it out because this is a difficult prayer for me to pray. I need to think hard about what to say and how I say it. It will take a lot of practice before this prayer will come easily to me.

Holy One,

This is a difficult prayer for me, and honestly, right now my heart is not in it. I am trying to be obedient to your command.  I am angry and worried and sad about Mr. Trump’s presidency and I confess a big part of me does not want to pray for him. I would, however, be glad to pray against him. Being petty and mean come more easily than love and grace.  Forgive me. Help me to do better.

Please give Mr. Trump wisdom, compassion, and insight. Help him to discern our common good and to work for it. Grant him a heart and mind that longs for justice and peace. Help him to foster true unity, to encourage all of us in acts of kindness, and to call us to work for justice. Give his advisors wisdom and intelligence and the ability to speak the truth to the President. Help them to advocate for all citizens.

Grant our leadership a broad, inclusive vision for our nation and our world. A vision based not on fear and profit but justice and peace- where there is access to food and shelter for all, where work pays a living wage, access to education and health care for all. Help us all to work toward a nation where every child can dream and then are able to pursue their dream.

Lord give me the humility and courage to support Mr. Trump when he works for good. Give me the courage and strength to oppose Mr. Trump when circumstances require it.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

 


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