This morning in Washington, President Donald Trump addressed the 66th Annual National Prayer Breakfast. I especially liked his words: “So today, inspired by our fellow citizens, let us resolve to find the best within ourselves. Let us pray for that extra measure of strength and that extra measure of devotion. And let us seek to build a more just and peaceful world, where every child can grow up without violence, worship without fear, and reach their God-given potential. As long as we are true to America’s founding and the example that all of these great founders have set, we can all be heroes to everybody, and they can be heroes to us. As long as we open our eyes to God’s grace and open our hearts to God’s love, then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light unto all nations.”
Too bad the President’s words smack of hypocrisy.
I say this not because I oppose Donald Trump; rather, I say this because of the way I was raised.
My mother was a devout Catholic, as is my sister. While I didn’t quite “catch the fever” so to speak, years of watching my family actively living their faith taught me that God’s faithful (of any religion) practice what they preach. My mother meaningfully prayed for anybody and everybody. I can honestly say I never heard her utter an unkind word about anyone, not even those who did not deserve such consideration. My mother and sister were in the church pew every Sunday out of desire rather than obligation. While my dad freely admitted he wasn’t a churchgoer, he daily practiced his faith. It was not uncommon to see Dad quietly feed a homeless person on the streets of New York or give his coat to a teenager who didn’t have adequate winter clothing. Ours was not a rich family, but Dad and Mom, who came from nothing, believed in respecting others and sharing what they had with those in need. As I watched my family nurture Christian values, I learned what faith is. The prayerful take action; they do not merely pay lip service to the Almighty, for faith without action is empty, fruitless, and hypocritical.
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A president who disparages others on the world stage is not “finding the best within ourselves”. A president who can’t restrain himself from sharing an often-distasteful stream of consciousness via twitter is not displaying “that extra measure of strength, that extra measure of devotion” needed to face life’s trials. (Perhaps he – and we – should pray harder.) A president with a well-deserved reputation for being a bully is not “seeking to build a just and peaceful world” where a child can live without fear. And a president who commits impeachable offenses (and quite possibly doesn’t understand or care that he did) is not being true to America’s Founding Fathers. President Trump’s staff composed an appropriate address for this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, but until I see the President’s profession of faith put into practice, I will regard his words as empty.
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6