National Prayer Breakfast 2020: Was Trump Acting Christian? Part 1

When I saw the headlines in my newsfeed last evening, I sighed. President Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast were the talk of the airways, and they were not ideal. Less than two days after what was arguably his most presidential speech yet, the president was jumping back in the mud. While the State of the Union Address was controversial, it was missing the petty digs and character assassinations that all too often emerge from Trump’s twitter feeds and off-the-cuff remarks. The Prayer Breakfast seemed to return to business as usual–or so the headlines implied.

Reviewing the transcript, the greatest victim of the President’s digression seems to be the many positive aspects of the speech. In fact, the focus of the media was only a very small portion of the remarks. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not defending the President’s statements. I believe; however, it is appropriate to attempt to see them through the lens of grace. It would also be a tragedy to miss the significant points which have largely gone unreported. Let’s begin by looking at the parts the media has focused on.

Before the speech began, the President held up a Newspaper which read “Trump Acquitted”.  While some take offense, it was the elephant in the room. Was it noble? Perhaps not. Was it human? Certainly.

Trump followed Arthur Brooks of Harvard University who lamented the increasing polarization in our country. Brooks expounded on thoughts from his recent book, “Love Your Enemies”, telling the audience that Jesus didn’t tell us to tolerate our enemies, He told us to love them. When Trump took the podium, he said with a slight smile, “And, Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you.” The audience laughed as if recognizing his internal struggle. The President continued to Brooks, “But I love listening to you. It’s really great. Thank you very much.”

On the heels of several investigations and recent impeachment trial, we can only imagine what is in Trumps thoughts. Regardless of opposing views, there is little doubt that the President feels he was treated unjustly. There are precious few who cannot relate at some level.

Attacks, betrayal, slander, etc. are painful. No one is exempt. Even Jesus felt the sting. Learning how to respond according to God’s standards is one of the most challenging aspects of the Christian walk. Many pastors and faith leaders have failed the test. I certainly have.

A short time later, Trump told the audience, “As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your President, have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us, and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”

While some take offense, I am consoled that the President kept it general and did not resort to low personal attacks. Again, whether or not you agree, it is a sentiment with which many people concur. Furthermore, if someone truly believes that the actions of certain leaders are detrimental to the well being of those they are charged to serve, it is right to say so.

Perhaps the biggest personal dig came when Trump said, “I don’t like people who use their faith as a justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.” Most everyone knows who Trump was talking about and there was undoubtedly higher ground that could have been pursued. It was; however, honest, and not very different from things most of us have said. Again, I feel compelled to show grace.

One of the most vulnerable and humble moments in the speech was near the end. When talking about people of faith, he said, “And sometimes they hate people. I’m sorry. I apologize. I’m trying to learn. It’s not easy. It’s not easy.” A sentiment that all of us struggling to live out our faith can relate to.

Believe it or not, that pretty much sums up the “horrid vitriol” the media keeps buzzing about. I can’t help but think that most of us would come up short if the same standards were applied to our lives. Especially during our most painful and stressful seasons. The same passage of scripture that exhorts us to live in a manner worthy of our calling, also tells us to bear with one another in love through humility, gentleness, and patience. (Eph. 4:1-3).

Although I would like to think it not true, there will probably come another time when I fail to live up to the high standards of my God and Savior. So, I choose to put a down payment on the grace that I hope to receive from my brothers and sisters at that time. Now is as good a time as any to start those payments.

In part 2 of this article, I will highlight the very positive and very Christian things from the National Prayer Breakfast remarks that have lacked reporting.

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