Donald Trump is a strange man. Trapped in the White House by thousands of protesters and sinking in the polls, he decided to send his “Christian” base a message. What followed was a violent confrontation, followed by a march of his all-white entourage to St. John’s Episcopal, where he held a Bible for the cameras as if it were a club. Jesus had apostles; Trump has minions, and they gathered around the adored one. This spectacle all came mere minutes after a quasi-fascist (or possibly just regular fascist) Trump diatribe that made up in belligerence what it lacked in biblical basis. Amen.
The usual suspects of “Christianity” found solace in this bloodthirsty display; Trump is their Martyr now. More level-headed Christians caught their breath–after the tear gas cleared. St. John’s clergy quickly denounced the action. Gina Gerbasi, the church’s rector, later wrote “I couldn’t have imagined the grotesque scene that would unfold hours later — that the police would shove us out of the way with riot shields, pepper balls and smoke canisters, to clear a path for President Trump.” Gerbasi concluded, “Religious people, who were literally wiping away the protesters’ tears, were driven off the church property with brute force and fear. All so that Trump could use the church as a backdrop and wave the Bible like a prop. It was beyond offensive. It was sacrilege.”
To their credit, other Christians also spoke out. “[Trump] has merged some things and totally perverted some things with his photo op — that is untenable to God-fearing people,” said the Rev. Keith Byrd Sr. of Zion Baptist Church. And when Trump followed his violent and divisive call to arms with a similarly cynical photo opportunity the next day at a shrine to Pope John Paul II, Washington’s Catholic Archbishop declared it “baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.”
The propriety of Trump’s acts was soon settled. The American public knows when they are manifestly indefensible, because that is when Kellyanne Conway appears. And Conway, last seen musing about why the World Health Organization couldn’t handle COVID-19 despite its expertise with the first eighteen COVID viruses, played her part. Unable to defend Trump’s substance, Conway instead attacked the clergy opposing him, insisting that she couldn’t condone “people of faith” calling “into question what is in anyone’s heart.” What “compelled [Trump] to go over to St. John’s and hold up his Bible” was off-limits, Conway insisted, because “[w]e don’t look into other people’s hearts and souls and discern and judge what their faith is.”
Not surprisingly, Conway opens her Bible as often as Trump does. In Matthew 23 (that’s the 23rd chapter, Kellyanne), the Lord warned “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” Those who pray for pretextual reasons are more guilty then those who don’t pray at all.
The Pharisees claimed piety on the outside, but it was their hypocrisy that Jesus Christ decried. “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.”
Similarly, Jesus taught “when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.” Indeed, Trump should have learned this lesson when violating this edict led to his Press Secretary displaying his checking account number to the world.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul warned against those who “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
Conway’s suggestion that Christians—or anyone else—can’t appraise Trump’s sincerity is absurd. Her statement is offensive in particular because it implies that Christians must confine their judgment to a limited set of criteria self-selected by Trump and his Christian Right gatekeepers. Those that make a different decision—particularly those that use the forbidden criteria—are unChristian. At least the Devil bothers to mix his lies with the truth.
“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” Conway’s lectures on faith aside, this is the criteria that matters. But it’s no surprise she doesn’t acknowledge it as such. No one involved in the Trump Administration has much of a conscience.