Presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump met with evangelical leaders on Tuesday, and in that meeting he blatantly told them to disobey the Bible. Trump suggested that conservative Christians should not pray for their political leaders, because that’s “politically correct.”
The billionaire real estate tycoon met with nearly 1,000 evangelical leaders in New York City in a “conversation” convened by retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson and the nonpartisan My Faith Votes organization.
Trump said that he has his religion to thank for the blessings in his life, and added that it was the evangelical vote that gave him victory in the Republican primary in the South. At the same time, he again displayed an embarrassing level of biblical illiteracy in his comments.
“We can’t be politically correct and say ‘we pray for all of our leaders,’ because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes, and that’s a very, very bad thing,” Trump declared.
— E.W. Jackson (@ewjacksonsr) June 21, 2016
1 Timothy 2:1-3 explicitly calls for the very thing that Trump said evangelicals should not do. “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,” wrote the Apostle Paul. He later added, “I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” This biblical argument is why traditional churches with set prayers — and many non-traditional churches with looser services — pray for political leaders, often by name, every Sunday. My church prays for President Barack Obama by name, even though a majority of attendees neither voted for him nor support his policies. This is what scripture tells us to do, and millions of Christians across the globe do it every Sunday.
Regardless of how badly political leaders treat Christians, scripture tells us to pray for them. Matthew 5:43-44 emphasizes the difference between Christians and non-Christians in this regard. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
To be fair, Trump made his remarks by responding to this very phenomenon. “Some of the people were saying ‘let’s pray for our leaders,’ I said well, you can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that — pray for everyone — but what you really have to do is you’ve got to pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person,” The Donald declared.
Then, he emphasized that evangelicals should not pray for “all of our leaders” because some of them abuse us. Has he read Matthew 5? The whole point of praying for all our leaders is that some of them abuse us. That’s what Jesus told us to do.
Next Page: Nevertheless, Trump’s event seems to have been a success.
Trump was right in emphasizing how the evangelical vote pushed him to victory in the southern states during the Republican primary. “Christianity, I owe so much to it in so many ways,” The Donald said. “Through life, through having incredible children, through so many other things. But also from frankly, standing here because the evangelical vote was mostly gotten by me.”
Trump recalled the South Carolina primary, in which he was not the favorite. “I went to South Carolina and I was going one beat in a very evangelical state,” but “I ended up getting massive majorities of the evangelical vote. And then everybody said, ‘What’s going on and how did Trump do that?'”
It is not true that The Donald won “massive majorities” of the evangelical vote, but he did win pluralities that carried him to victory in the primaries.
Although the meeting with Trump was closed to press, the Christian minister Earl Walker “E.W.” Jackson, Sr., who ran as the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013, tweeted video of the event. Jackson is the founder and president of S.T.A.N.D. (Staying True to America’s National Destiny), a conservative non-profit organization “dedicated to preserving life, the traditional family, and our Judeo-Christian history and values as the Foundation of our Constitution and culture.”
Despite Trump’s urge to disobey scripture, many attendees reported feeling reassured by The Donald’s speech and promises.
Anthony said that Trump “was very big on religious liberty,” and recalled The Donald telling religious leaders that they “have every right to speak up and express yourselves, and you don’t. The First Amendment protects that right and yet you don’t.” The pastor said that on this, Trump was right on.
He said God was using The Donald to move Christians to act to defend religious freedom. “I think God was speaking through him at that moment, to the church, to tell us why are you being silent about the most important thing about our lives?”
This idea that Trump will use his fearlessness and willingness to be politically incorrect to advocate for the rights of Christians has driven many to his side, and there are good reasons for it.
Nevertheless, there is also reason to doubt The Donald’s genuineness — after all, he has repeatedly said he does not remember asking God for forgiveness, a central piece of Christianity, and accepting the free gift of life as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
As the Republican Party struggles with embracing Trump, conservative Christians are struggling, too, and Trump continues to give them good reasons both to back him and to be hesitant.