Well, well, well, the day we’ve all anticipated has finally arrived. As expected, as one of my non-Christian friends remarked, it has turned into a church service. As expected, there’s plenty to ponder in the ceremony. I’m only going to ponder on the thin slice of that event, the scriptural quotation of the rabbi Marvin Hier and the Christian leader Franklin Graham. The reason why I pick on these two isn’t because I hate them. Far from it. I love them enough to provide some corrections to their scriptural quotation to save them from divine wrath. I’m only half kidding. My concern of course is the claim by many evangelicals that Trump could be the “most Christian” of all presidents. If he’s the most Christian, at least he should surround himself with people who know the sacred scripture of the faith. Apparently, the evidence points the opposite direction.
Rabbi Hier quoted from Psalm 137. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion…” If you prefer the musical version, here’s one by Boney M. The problem is this. Jewish refugees and exiles wrote the psalm when they were captured by the Babylonians. Trump has already made it very clear that he doesn’t want any “illegal immigrants”, those who seek asylum in the US. His followers by and large are anti-refugees, especially those refugees from Muslim war-torn countries. For the rabbi to pray the prayer of the refugees is an insult to the suffering of his own people. The Psalm also calls a curse upon those who created the refugee crisis (and that goes for both sides of the political divide).
It ends with these harrowing imprecations,
“Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.”
Are we really ready for that prayer? Are we ready to call that curse upon anyone who caused those crisis (including our own foreign policy makers)? PERHAPS, the rabbi inadvertently prayed this prayer appropriately for this occasion. Who knows? What irony!
Then comes Franklin Graham. He quotes from 1 Timothy 2.1-6, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying for kings and those in authority. I believe in that as a Christian. However, I think Graham has failed to notice that the context for that prayer is for a church service. In 1 Timothy 2.8, the author wrote, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” The raised hands were the gesture of prayer in first-century church services. Did Graham notice that he really isn’t in a church service? By conducting himself in this way, he gives the impression that the inauguration is a church service. He may think that it’s quite a great marketing (i.e. evangelism) for the church, but I assure every reader that all my unbeliever friends are outright turned off by this pseudo-church service. Evangelical Christianity has mastered the art of lousy marketing.
Well, as is fitting for this day, I’m going to add my own quote. I saw this quote from my buddy Doug Jantz. When Israel conducted its first unofficial election back in the time of David, they elected to have Saul to be their king, and that election turned out to be a disaster. This is most fitting for evangelicals who put their trust in politicians (on both sides, but especially those who say that Trump is God’s man), kings and king makers. Listen to the prophet Samuel from 1 Samuel 8.10-12, 18.
“Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots…And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day’.”
Let that sink in!