Is the president’s support among Christians eroding?
The headline, “Trump has peaceful protestors teargassed to clear them for photo op”, was likely the headline of the week. He praised peaceful protestors while ordering his troops, actually having his Attorney General Bill Barr give the orders, to fire rubber bullets, tear gas, and physically attack peaceful protestors in front of the White House, who were breaking no laws to be there, all the while touting that he is a law and order president.
Reverend Mariann Budde is the Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington DC. The church that Donald J. Trump (DJT) used for his photo-op was under her responsibility. Suffice it to say that she was not happy.
“I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop. Let me be clear: The President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” she said. “We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others,” she continued. “And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen.” “This is blasphemy in real time” “I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s, nor as just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now,” “Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence,” Budde said of the president. “We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.” “Going to the church, not going in it, not meeting with any clergy, holding up a Bible, but not quoting any scripture, after an authoritarian speech, was about using the religious symbolism for his ends.”
I have alluded to my family being Catholic. That was the family on my mother’s side going back to Quebec. When my grandfather moved to Royal in 1923 from Sutherland, Iowathe fact that they were Catholic was kept low key. After all, the KKK was meeting down the street. Royal only had a population of 365 people in 1923 and there were 200 men at the KKK meeting. There would eventually be a Catholic church in Royal so things change but as noted, Catholics were the focus of the KKK in Iowa at that time. My Dad’s side of the family was German Lutheran, Missouri synod. My mom changed to Lutheran, my grandfather Kruse was one of the founders of the church in which I was confirmed. Many churches started from an ethnic origin. The other Lutheran Church in Royal was Dane and my wife’s grandfather and great-grandfather were founders of that church. It is still operating in Royal today while both the Catholic church and Missouri synod churches there have disbanded. I did what my mother did and moved to the church of my spouse. We are members of the ELCA synod. The ELCA has been very progressive relative to issues of race, immigration and gay rights.
The polarization of the country has permeated the religious denominations. Some churches bristled at being told how they could conduct services under Covid-19 restrictions. Yet congregations have proven to be hotbeds for Covid-19 spread. The issue was decided by the US Supreme court which ruled on the side of the states being able to enforce pandemic related health guidelines on all gatherings, including churches. The president understands his base which includes evangelicals. I do not think that anyone actually thinks that the president is religious personally but he has aggressively courted religious factions transactionally. He gives them what they want in return for political support, not all that differently than he does farmers. At least that is what I and my ELCA Bishop thinks.
ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said, “The president’s call to return to worship is reckless, divisive, dangerous. We have protocols for returning. The church has not been closed these past months. The Body of Christ is connected and worshiping. Is it ideal? No. This is cynical pandering to a vulnerable base.” Holding that bible up standing in front of the church in DC was cynical pandering too.
ELCA Bishop Eaton backed up Episcopal Bishop Budde saying, “The president used federal troops to clear a path through peaceful protestors to stand before an Episcopal church to make a statement and hold up a Bible. Neither the priest nor the bishop was consulted. Not only was that manipulative it was desecration.” I doubt that was the response that the president was expecting from religious leaders.
Our church, as do many others, have a large portion of the congregation that are in the high-risk categories for Covid-19. Large groups of individuals in close proximity, indoors, that talk and sing are about as perfect an environment to spread the virus as one can get. Our church has invested in virtual technology and has been conducting services with congregants in their cars in the parking lot. They have analyzed what change would be necessary to conduct services conforming to social distancing in the physical church building and have concluded that it is not functional. Differences of opinion again cause further dissension with-in congregations. Some of this will likely change how “church” is conducted going forward but a vaccine is needed to get church services under the same roof again. The ELCA differs strongly with DJT immigration policy believing it contrary to Jesus’s teachings. The primary chasm between church dogma and DJT is his rejection of asking forgiveness. I frankly find much discrepancy between what I was taught was Jesus teachings and how this president lives and governs. After seeing how the president has conducted himself, according to religious teachings, his political support among Christians is eroding which is the reason for the stunt with the Bible in front of the church.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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