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Ethics & Religion
Column # 2,025
June 4, 2020
The Bible Is Not a Photo Op
By Mike McManus

President Trump ordered peaceful demonstrators across from the White House in Lafayette Square to be tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets on Monday to force them out. Then he walked across the Square to the historic, 200-year-old St. John's Episcopal Church, and held up a Bible.

He did not quote one word of Scriptural wisdom, nor express any regret for the burning of the church's basement over the weekend. He simply held the Bible aloft.

Reporters asked, "Is that your Bible?" The President responded, "It's a Bible."

The President has attended services there only 2-3 times in his three and a half years as President. Nor does he attend any church services regularly. He never quotes Scripture.

The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, was seething: "I am outraged," she said, pausing between words to emphasize her anger in a telephone interview a short time after Trump's appearance. She said she had not been given any notice that Trump would be visiting the church.

"I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given a courtesy call that they would be clearing (the area) with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop."

She excoriated the president for standing in front of the church - its windows boarded up with plywood - holding up a Bible which Budde said "declares that God is love."

"Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence," she said of the President. "We need moral leadership and he's done everything to divide us."

The bishop added, "We hold the teachings of our sacred texts to be so grounding to our lives and everything we do. It's about love of neighbor and sacrificial love and justice."

In a written statement, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal denomination, accused Trump of using "a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes, This was done at a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his actions did nothing to help us or heal us."

"The prophet Micah taught that the Lord requires us to `do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.'" He called on Trump and others in power to be moral. "For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us be "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

One day after waving a Bible in front of St. John's, President Trump and his wife, Melania, arrived at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Northeast Washington. Again, his visit drew harsh criticism - this time from Washington Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory:

"I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree."

Trump's use of religion as a political asset has long been a critical part of his presidency. He regularly discusses his relationship with the evangelical community by talking about his poll numbers and political standing. He often describes how "the evangelicals" helped propel him into the presidency, and how he has returned the favor with judicial appointments, executive orders and other policies backed by many Christians.

Interestingly, Trump says he can't remember asking God for forgiveness - a core part of biblical teaching. Asked for his favorite Bible verse, Trump mentioned the Old Testament's call for "an eye for an eye," an instruction for revenge that was rejected by Jesus' call for humility, forgiveness and love toward enemies.

The President does not belong to any Washington church, and only rarely attends services - usually around Christmas or Easter.

Polls show that white evangelicals strongly back Trump, and were quick to defend him Tuesday. The Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelist who is one of Trump's most vocal supporters, defended the President's visit to St. John's, saying that politicians take photo ops all the time.

Samuel Rodriguez, a nationally known Hispanic evangelist, is one of a dozen evangelical leaders who said it was good to see Trump holding the Bible "like a boss."

I stoutly disagree.

The President must stop using the Bible as a photo op, and begin studying its words, such as "Love your yourself."


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.comm. Hit Search for any topic.


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