Last night, Donald Trump used and abused a church, and a Bible, as presidential props for a photo-op. In a violent and authoritarian act, the president of the United States took the space of a church and used a picture of a Bible to make a political move.
This is a very dangerous moment. While governors and mayors are trying to deescalate the nation’s unrest, the president is escalating the violence.
After using military forces to violently remove peaceful protesters of racial injustice, Trump strode with his federal police to stand in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, lift a Bible high in the air and get his picture taken — first alone and then with Cabinet members and White House staff. That afternoon Trump alluded to the Insurrection Act of 1806 when he threatened using U.S. military forces on American domestic soil, calling himself the “law and order president.”
Standing in front of the church, and surrounded by federal forces, Trump said America is the greatest country in the world. The president’s cynical and dangerous appeals to Christian nationalism is an affront to the mission of the church and the integrity of the gospel. His inflammatory words and reckless actions only pour gasoline on his flames of anger and racial injustice. It has been reported that Donald Trump had the Bible upside down when he lifted it up. That says it all.
Our churches meet in buildings on land that authoritarian leaders can take over, but the people of God will continue to exercise their faith. Political power may attempt to co-opt our sacred texts and hold them aloft for partisan purposes, but we will continue to follow what our scriptures say and obey the word of God. Since the president’s act of blasphemy at a church, the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., Mariann Budde have both reiterated their commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the way our Lord calls us to live and act nonviolently for justice and peace. The president can violate our sacred spaces and Holy Bible, but he cannot take away our faith and our obedience to Christ. We, in our many faith traditions, will stand with these Episcopal bishops against the president’s religious offense.