Long before Kellyanne Conway made “alternative facts” part of the lexicon, Rush Limbaugh had elevated telling easily verifiable lies and leaving out critical details to an art form. But apparently that tendency runs in the family, judging from a column penned by Rush’s little brother, David. The younger Limbaugh claimed that members of a Northern Virginia church crossed a bright line when they objected to their pastor praying for Donald Trump–but left out that there was a very good reason they were upset.
During the afternoon service at McLean Bible Church, a nondenominational megachurch in Tysons, Virginia, senior pastor David Platt got word that Trump was on his way to the church within minutes after playing several rounds at nearby and wanted the congregation to pray for him. This caught Platt off-guard, but he readily agreed to Trump’s request. Watch him lead his flock in prayer for Trump here.
Later that day, Platt penned a letter to his congregation in which he said he felt obligated to pray for Trump in accordance with God’s command in 1 Timothy 2. However, he felt compelled to explain the logistics behind it because “some within our church, for a variety of reasons, feel hurt that I made this decision.” He wanted to emphasize that he did not want to appear to be endorsing Trump or the Republican Party.
When word about Platt’s letter got out, a number of evangelical leaders let it be known they were outraged by the outrage. Franklin Graham, for instance, saw it as people being upset over Platt obeying God.
Jerry Falwell Jr. was even more blunt, tweeting at Platt to “grow a pair” before deleting it.
Along similar lines, the younger Limbaugh claimed that in their rush to object to Platt praying over Trump, a significant portion of McLean Bible Church’s congregation disregarded “ordinary rules of civility.” He claimed they had no right to feel offended by Platt’s “biblically mandated prayer” for Trump, and should feel “repentant, rather than accusatory” for their criticism.
As Limbaugh saw it, Platt’s statement effectively “sanctioned the invalid objections” raised by his flock. Limbaugh added that while he shared his brother’s bitter opposition to Barack Obama, he would never object to a pastor praying for him. He argued that if you oppose Trump’s boorish behavior, but oppose him being prayed over, you’re displaying “screaming hypocrisy.”
But just like Rush, David left out some very important facts that, when thrown into the equation, explain why Platt’s flock was upset. For one thing, earlier in the day the White House announced that Trump was coming to McLean in order to join the church in prayer for the victims of a mass shooting in Virginia Beach less than 48 hours earlier. But neither Platt’s prayer, nor his statement later in the day, mention anything about Virginia Beach.
One has to wonder–did Platt’s flock see the White House’s announcement roll across their phones, then notice that nothing at all was mentioned about the tragedy that took place to the south? It would be hard not to blame them for feeling deceived.
Napp Nazworth, a columnist at The Christian Post, suggested there was another reason Platt’s congregation felt pause at Trump’s appearance–they may have felt their church was being used as a photo op for Trump. Nazworth noted that both the Old Testament prophets and Jesus didn’t think too highly of public prayers. He argued that while Platt may have been forced into “a quick decision,” there was no reason Platt couldn’t have prayed over Trump in his office.
Those would hardly seem to be “invalid objections” to Platt’s handling of the situation. After all, if this was part of a White House effort to snow the nation, the people at McLean Bible Church would have every right to object to God’s house being used in this way. That would have also been true if this had been just a simple Trumpian publicity stunt.
But just like Rush, it seems that David isn’t willing to let facts get in the way of an effort to brand Trump’s opponents as an angry mob. That’s essentially what he’s saying when he claims those who objected to the prayer were breaching “ordinary rules of civility.” Based on what we now know, however, if anyone was being uncivil, it was Trump.
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