Typically one hopes a Christian benediction doesn’t refer to your political opponents as the enemy.
But when I listened to Pastor Mark Burns deliver the benediction to the Republican Convention on Monday, I realized that Trump has stained just about all elements of our civic discourse.
The Pastor didn’t speak for long. But his benediction was still noteworthy.
To roaring applause, the Pastor claimed, “we got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans -but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.”
Later, in “the name of Jesus” the Pastor asked God to keep Trump strong “that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.”
The Pastor closed “In Jesus’ name. If you believe it, shout Amen.”
Burns, a popular Evangelist and CEO of a Christian TV network who adheres to the Prosperity Gospel, declares in his twitter profile that he’s a “unifier.”
He may well believe that but when given a moment to follow that example, he opted for crass division and partisanship unworthy of a follower of Christ.
Invocations and Benedictions are supposed to be different. They remind us that there is something larger than us and that the mysteries of faith that should be humbling.
I love watching the invocation before the House or Senate because it is the only moment of the legislative day when political leaders, brimming with egos that are sometimes too large to be healthy, bow their heads and listen to a person of the cloth remind them how small they are compared to God.
Some find the presence of clergy at political conventions to be disconcerting, an unhealthy mix of religion and politics. But American political history has always been infused with religion and we are a heavily religious people.
At their best, these addresses remind us of important truths. They elevate discourse. The call us to “the better angels of our nature,” to quote a great Republican.
That doesn’t necessarily mean bland words devoid of political meanings. Religious institutions subscribe to tenets and a good invocation or benediction need not avoid them. Timothy Cardinal Dolan used his prayerful moment the 2012 Democratic National Convention to ask that “we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.”
He prayed for “those waiting to be born, that they may be welcome and protected.”
But he also used is appearance at both the DNC and RNC to pray for the leaders of both parties.
Burns chose a different path.
Perhaps it is just a reflection of where we are as a country and who we’ve become. If that’s the case, then we are Donald Trump’s America regardless of whether he wins or loses.