Saturday, September 2, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made extra-sure to remind everyone that "Sunday is National Prayer Day (by Presidential Proclamation)!"

Presidents are required by law to designate at least one day of the year as a "National Day of Prayer." But Trump, who is visibly struggling to get at least the optics of his handling of the Harvey situation right, has been heavily stressing this "proclamation" in his tweets, in interviews, and in speeches.

Proclamations may be as close as Trump ever gets to prayer. While he has the TV showman's appreciation for the good visuals and soundbites that go along with public displays of piety, his few specific remarks on faith have shown him to be confused at best as to what happens inside a house of worship. Notionally a Presbyterian, he forced two Presbyterian ministers to awkwardly correct him after he identified them as "evangelicals" – and then had to be reassured that non-evangelicals were, in fact, still Christians. 

Holy communion, the central rite of many Christian liturgies, seems to especially confuse Trump. At a rare in-person church visit forced on him by political necessity during the primaries, he mistook the communion plate for the offering and tried to put money on it. But while that was easy enough to laugh off, his description of the sacrament has been harder for some believers to ignore. At the 2015 Family Leadership Summit, Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness. He then added, "When I drink my little wine – which is about the only wine I drink – and have my little cracker, I guess that’s a form of asking for forgiveness." Setting aside the demeaning language, this would fail fourth grade Sunday School. In the Presbyterian and most other Christian liturgies, confession of one's sins and asking for forgiveness is a prominent part of every week's worship. It occurs before, and is not the same thing as, the rite of communion.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • Prayer is too important a thing to too many Americans for a president to cheapen it this way.