Yesterday, June 1st, 2020, President Donald Trump was purposefully photographed holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church in Washington. Today, he and the First Lady were photographed in front of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. There are two ways to view these rather startling displays: 1) as political, manipulative photo ops; 2) as a show of faith and strength. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but when I look at these photographs, I don’t see a man of faith and strength. In fact, I agree with Father James Martin, S.J., who said of these photographs: “Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. God is not your plaything.”
Why do I consider these photographs revolting? Because they’re fake. They do not reflect genuine faith, strength, or religion. They are nothing more than staged photographs meant to advance a political agenda.
A pious man need not advertise his strength or his faith; how he lives his life is his testament. A pious man has no desire to seize the spotlight for personal gain. A pious man does not expel an Episcopal priest and a seminarian from a church in order to be photographed holding a bible as though it is some sort of flag of intimidation or personal triumph. A pious man does not authorize the use of tear gas or rubber bullets to disband peaceful protestors blocking his path. A man of strength and faith treats all people respectfully, doesn’t grab women, doesn’t lie, doesn’t admire foreign leaders of questionable character and tactics. A pious man does not defame others, embarrass, or devalue those with differing opinions. A man who regards the Bible as sacred would not employ the Good Book as a political tool, and he most certainly would not hold it upside down, as President Trump did yesterday.
President Trump, kindly refrain from waving your alleged faith in my face. LIVE that faith. Show me God at work in your life and administration, and I will see it, believe it, and respect it. Until then, put the Bible down.
Matthew 6:5: “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.”