By any reasonable standard, it’s been a bumpy summer for Donald Trump. His average approval rating, as calculated by FiveThirtyEight, stands at 39.9 percent–the lowest on record for a newly-elected president at this stage. FiveThirtyEight also gives the Democrats a 76 percent chance of taking back the House, in part due to an average nine-point lead in the generic congressional ballot. Under normal conditions, the red team’s only hope would be to pray for an October surprise or a miracle.
But the Republicans should be lucky that their numbers aren’t lower. The religious right is as loyal to Trump as ever. The nation’s so-called moral guardians have worked overtime to keep most evangelicals loyal to Trump via what can only be described as bullying. To hear some of them talk, you risk letting the devil into your house if you oppose Trump, and those who oppose Trump are children of the devil.
We got a lovely example of how the religious right convinces its followers to bottle up any regrets they have about voting for Trump. According to one prominent religious right podcaster, it’s not our place to speak out against Trump, but only to pray for him.
On Sunday, religious right talk show host Chris McDonald had a special guest on that day’s edition of “The Mc Files”–one of Jimmy Swaggart’s longtime associate ministers, Mike Muzzerall. The discussion quickly turned to a standard religious right line–God is using Trump to give Christian conservatives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only make America great again, but make America Christian again. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Muzzerall claimed that even if Trump wasn’t saved himself, he was “being used by God right now to keep that door open” for Christians to take this country back. He added that Trump’s upset victory only happened through prayer, and “we need to keep praying for the president that we prayed in.”
McDonald contended that Trump had admitted that he couldn’t run the country alone, and it proved he really was a humble man. Reportedly, he has people come to the Oval Office, lay hands on him, and pray over him every Friday. According to McDonald, no president in modern times has been known to have people pray over him–and “we should rejoice in that as Christians.”
He then delivered a warning to any Christian who doesn’t agree with what Trump does.
Look, if we as a believer have a personal issue with Donald Trump, pray for the man. Pray for the man! Stop criticizing him! But pray for him and ask God to help him.
Okay, Chris and Mike. I’ll play. I am a charismatic Christian. I believe in praying for our leaders. I admit that while I find myself gagging, I pray for Trump. But I also know that we are long past the point where we should merely pray for Trump if we don’t like what he does. It has been amply established that he is the most unfit and unqualified person to occupy the White House in recent history, and poses an existential threat to our democracy.
Fittingly, in the time since this podcast aired, we’ve gotten ample evidence that we are well past the point of merely praying for Trump. On Tuesday, The Washington Post released excerpts of Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” They portray a White House where senior aides trip all over themselves on almost a daily basis to rein in the impulses of a deeply paranoid and egomaniacal president.
It also portrays Trump as a man who is as far from being humble as you can get. For example, in the wake of his infamous claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence that took place in Charlottesville last summer, several of his advisers all but begged him to unequivocally condemn the Nazis and white supremacists who descended on the town. He did so–but according to Woodward, told aides that the speech in which he seemingly came to his senses about Charlottesville was “a f***ing mistake.”
Less than 24 hours later, while chatting with the right-leaning Daily Caller, Trump blew his stack about the protests that ensued at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court. He claimed that it was “embarrassing for the country to allow protesters,” since “you don’t even know what side” they’re on.
So let’s see if we’ve got this right. When a president believes it’s “a f***ing mistake” to unequivocally condemn racist thuggery, we shouldn’t call it out as evidence that president is unfit to lead. We should just pray for him. And when a president declares war the rights that he is sworn–on the Bible, mind you–to preserve, protect and defend, we should just bite our tongues and pray for him.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! When a president engages in behavior that proves he is not fit for his office, we shouldn’t just pray. We must speak out and call this out for what it is, and demand that president either resign or give up his bid for reelection–one or the other. We must also act–by demanding that our lawmakers hold that president to account and going to the ballot box this November to clean out the mess in Capitol Hill, and in two Novembers to clean out the mess in the White House.
Simply put, we are long past the point where we can merely pray for this president. And if McDonald thinks we’re out of line for believing so, that says a lot about him.
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