Celebrating his acquittal in the Senate, President Donald Trump may have missed a key message at a prayer breakfast Thursday morning.
A keynote speaker at a prayer breakfast in Washington on Thursday morning preached a familiar Biblical message. That message was that we should “love thy neighbor.”
But when President Donald Trump stepped up to speak, it became clear he wasn’t ready for that message.
Conservative author Arthur Brooks offered the keynote address, encouraging his audience to embrace Biblical love. Jesus, Brooks said, taught us to love God and taught us to love each other,
“Today, I’m here to talk to you about the biggest crisis facing our nation and many other nations today,” he said. “It’s the crisis of contempt and polarization that’s tearing our societies apart.”
He even cited a passage from Matthew 5:
“‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Those of us who call ourselves Christians should certainly embrace what Jesus Christ actually said.
The President wasn’t ready to hear that, apparently.
The annual event is supposed to be non-political. But you might not have realized that. Trump held up newspapers with the word acquitted in large bold headlines. Even more disturbing: he said he disagreed with the message of loving his neighbor.
Trump began his speech by saying, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you.”
Things went downhill from there.
He said some “very dishonest and corrupt people” put his family and the country through “a terrible ordeal.”
“They have done everything possible to destroy us, and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation,” he said.
He took shots at his rivals, then said it was not easy to like people like that.
Isn’t that the whole point?
Jesus didn’t challenge us to love our friends. That wouldn’t have been a challenge at all.
The object of the exercise is to show love and mercy — and forgiveness — to those we feel have wronged us. Of course it’s not easy! It isn’t supposed to be easy.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said. “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so.”
Christ didn’t put conditions on whom we’re to like. We’re to love our neighbors, no matter who those neighbors are. And no matter how they feel about us.
Vox added this line:
He then pivoted back to his typical stump speech, focusing on the stock market and bragging about his accomplishments rather than on spirituality.
In a way, it’s not a surprise.
Our nation’s politics are a mess. We can’t be civil anymore. We can’t even listen to each other anymore. From the start of any conversation, we’re looking to pounce. We’re listening for any keyword for which we have a talking point on standby.
If you feel you’ve been unfairly persecuted, you’re naturally going to have a hard time embracing your persecutors.
It’s one thing to feel that way in private.
But when you’re the darling of the evangelical right…
And you’re at a prayer breakfast…
And the message is all about loving your neighbor…
…maybe it’s time to at least pretend to focus on the message and to make the effort.
I have no doubt he has hard feelings against his political rivals. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certainly didn’t extend an olive branch when she ripped up Trump’s State of the Union Address inches away from him.
I suspect she may have a difficult time loving all of her neighbors, too.
But maybe this is a perfect example of our need to listen more and talk less.
Maybe if we paid a bit more attention to others and a bit less attention to our own self-righteousness, we might just be able to get along with each other a little better.
It shouldn’t be this difficult.