It was a solemn occasion. An annual event since 1953.
The day when official Washington gathers to reflect on the meaning of faith in America. A time when elected leaders set aside their differences to unite in seeking God’s providential guidance.
The religious community, like the political one, would be drawn together in a belief that what unites the nation is more important than what divides it.
The National Prayer Breakfast is an opportunity for the American President, regardless of party, to offer noble words of encouragement; to affirm the moral and spiritual values that create what has long been described as a “civil religion” that binds and strengthens the American republic.
This is a very dignified and thoughtful event.
Our new president began his speech with a request that we pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the President’s successor as host of the TV reality show The Apprentice.
“And we know how that turned out,” the president said. “The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster … so pray for Arnold.”
Then, referring to the Senate chaplain, the president said he would make sure he got reappointed:
“I don’t know if you’re Democrat or Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year. The hell with it.”
It was another first – presidential profanity at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Once again, Donald J. Trump reminded us – in case we may have forgotten – that he is a unique president.
Trump won the White House with the enthusiastic support of many leading evangelicals and the votes of most Christians.
It was drenched in irony and hardly a match made in heaven.
He didn’t win those votes by pretending to be a paragon of virtue. He didn’t bill himself as “the Christian candidate.”
On their way to the polls, most followers of Jesus overlooked Trump’s awkward attempts at being one of them (“Two Corinthians”; not asking for forgiveness), his three marriages, his obscene videos about sexual conquest, his wide array of personal attacks and his often crass, violent and vulgar language on the stump.
It was in spite of this mountain of moral evidence that Christians voted for Trump.
He was running against Hillary Clinton. The country had been led for eight years by the most liberal president since Woodrow Wilson. Gay Marriage had become the celebrated law of the land and religious liberty was in the dock.
Christians were feeling increasingly threatened by the media, popular culture and their own government. Just like blue – collar workers in the industrial Midwest, evangelicals saw themselves under siege by forces they could not control.
They threw away the Christian litmus test and cast their votes for one of the most profane and least pious nominees in history.
They cared less that President Trump swore at the prayer breakfast and more about his pledge to “get rid of and totally destroy” the legal prohibition against churches’ open political activity.
By permitting their ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit and engaging in other partisan efforts, churches run the risk of becoming an extension of the party caucus on Sunday.
It’s not a wise move for the church – or the state.
Be that as it may, Trump has told Christians he’s on their side in this moral struggle and would stand up boldly for them.
Martin Luther famously said he’d rather be governed by a competent Hun than an incompetent Christian. As we mark the first 100 days of his administration, we may not yet know how competent Donald Trump will ultimately prove himself to be. The Presidency changes a person dramatically. We’ve already seen this in how our new Commander-in Chief responded to the Syrian gas attacks.
He changed his position and struck the evil regime.
When you’re president, where you stand depends on where you sit.
Competent or not, Trump has persuaded most evangelicals that he will be their fearless champion and defender. As it was last November, for them, for now, that’s enough.
In the Bible, Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, was chosen by God to be the instrument of liberation for the Jews. Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke directly to Cyrus long before he was born. He was the only non-Jew to be called by God “his anointed one” (messiah, Isaiah 45:1).
God promised Cyrus – in a divine prenatal prophecy – that he would be given success, power and great wealth. God said he would do this “so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name” (Isaiah 45:3, NLT).
God raises rulers for his own divine purpose – whether they know him or not. Whether they fear him or not. They may not call him by name, but he knows them.
“Why have I called you for this work?” God asked Cyrus. “Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?” (verse 4, NLT).
It’s another divine rhetorical question, replete in scripture.
There’s always a purpose in God’s choosing and guiding of nations and kings.
“It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one” (verse 4, NLT).
They would be protected, cared for and freed by a secular king who did not worship their God. A king who did not share their faith in Jehovah but set them free to worship him in their own land.
An unlikely instrument; an unwitting champion.
“So all the world would know there is no other God” (Isaiah 45:6, NLT).