Disrespecting President Sign of Bigger Problems

President Donald Trump visited our town last week for a rally. I had only seen a president in person once before, going to Denver’s old Stapleton Airport to see Ronald Reagan during his second term. (In copies of photos I sent to friends, I joked that the small speck in several pictures was indeed the president.)

Although I momentarily contemplated going to Trump’s appearance for the sake of personal historical significance, several things held me back.

The first was the mob scene generated by a presidential visit. The city started closing streets around the civic arena at noon, and the parking garage nearest to the facility shut down three hours prior to the rally.

In addition, officials advised arriving early to get a good seat, which meant showing up several hours early—an unrealistic prospect on a working day.

However, what cinched my decision to forego the rally originated with the fact I had a prior commitment that evening, and I decided honoring it came first.

(Ironically, so many streets were blocked because of the president’s motorcade I wound up being an hour late to the meeting. Fortunately, everyone else was late too.)

Crossing Lines

Prior to the rally, we prayed that no violence would erupt and no incidents occur that would put a blemish on our city during its time in the national spotlight.

That concern was heightened by a threat—deemed not credible—by a Trump supporter to take revenge on the coterie of protesters who gathered nearby to air their grievances against the president.

Free speech is a guaranteed by the First Amendment, and as a free speech advocate, I have always supported unfettered expression of ideas, opinions and open dialogue.

And yet, in the maelstrom of public criticism that has raged against President Trump since last November, I fear that our society has crossed the line of rational thought and whipped itself into an irrational frenzy.

It is the kind of frenzy that led to June’s mass shooting of Republican congressional representatives at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., and could result in something worse.

Indeed, had anything serious happened to Trump here, I can imagine half the country would have been raising hearty cheers and dancing in the streets.

Praying for Leaders

I am quite aware of the intense criticism aimed at our president. My purpose is not to defend him or debate his policies, temperament, or fitness for office.

It’s to point out that the refusal to accept election results and constant carping against whoever is elected president has gone on for more than 35 years and is tiresome.

The reason this is such a problem is its reflection of a growing lack of awareness of biblical guidance and wisdom. Take such verses as:

  • Romans 13:1 and 7 (MEV): “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.

. . . Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”

  • Psalm 84:9: “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed.” I wrote in a previous blog (http://kenwalkerwriter.com/shooting-lays-bare-need-pray-leaders/) about our need to pray for our rulers and respect those God places in office.
  • Exodus 22:28: “You shall not curse God or curse the ruler of your people.”

Disrespecting Authority

Exchange “Trump” for “Obama,” “Bush” or “Clinton” and it’s the same: vitriol, hatred and disrespect on a national scale for the person serving in the nation’s highest office.

Underlying this is a spirit of contentiousness, disregard for authority, and a lack of appreciation for God establishing government and installing leaders, whether good or bad.

This raises the question of how we can expect God’s blessing on our nation when we as a nation spend so much time carping about those He installs as our leaders, be that at city hall, the statehouse, or the White House.

Be Wary of Mixing Politics and Church

President Donald Trump recently made headlines when he announced his intentions to repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment.President Donald Trump recently made headlines when he announced his intentions to repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment.

The rule got its name from former President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the mid-1950s, then-Sen. Johnson successfully proposed a rule prohibiting churches and non-profits from endorsing political candidates if they wanted to retain tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.

Many conservatives have long opposed the rule and advocated its repeal, a move that Trump indicated he supported during last year’s campaign.

Resisting the Lure

While Trump may have Congressional support to push through a repeal, this could be a case of being careful what one wishes for; should it happen, pastors must be wise enough to resist the temptation to embrace political positions.

I say that for three reasons:

  1. I have seen the bitter divisions that arise over political opinions.

Though it’s been a number of years, I still remember the politically-tinged discussion that arose during a Bible study at our church in inner-city Louisville.

When the conversation unexpectedly turned in a political direction, the look at one woman’s face would best be described as a snarl. For me, that look still symbolizes the hazards of linking a church’s identity too closely to any political party or cause.

  1. The church has a better message than politics.

I saw an opinion piece soon after the National Prayer Breakfast where Trump declared his intentions.

In it, conservative columnist Cal Thomas noted that while he supports repeal of the law, the larger question is whether preachers should address politics—and to what end.

“Many political views are represented in my church,” Thomas wrote. “If the pastor began preaching on politics he would find many people, including me, headed for the exits…Whether the Johnson Amendment is repealed, or not, evangelicals have a more powerful message than partisan politics.”

Put another way, pastors should be proclaiming an eternal message, which can easily get lost amid partisan policies.

A church tied too closely to its political views can wind up contributing to the bitter divisions that exist elsewhere in society.

  1. A politically-charged climate in churches can result in members allowing political opinions to (pardon the pun) trump biblically-based concerns.

Be Wary of Mixing Politics and ChurchI saw evidence of that in a Los Angeles Times story that appeared two weeks after the prayer breakfast.

It concerned an evangelical pastor who sponsored a Muslim family from Syria and helped them settle in Fort Worth, Texas two years ago.

Citing the example of the Old Testament’s Daniel, who stood up against the political powers of his day, the pastor recently challenged his congregation not to follow the president’s anti-immigration stance. Instead, he advocated embracing refugees.

Since then, 300 members have departed. While 1,300 remain, the exodus illustrates how easily people in the church can blur the lines between Scripture and political views.

Following Biblical Guidelines

I remember the departure of some members of our church in 2012 when our pastor refused to join the anti-Obama chorus in that fall’s election. He said if Obama were re-elected we would pray for him as the Bible directs.

Our pastor repeated that statement recently after Trump’s election.

That is as it should be. Following Scriptural advice to pray for our leaders doesn’t come with the addendum, “If we agree with that leader’s policies.”

So, regardless of the future fate of the Johnson Amendment, I hope pastors will exercise enough wisdom to avoid jumping into political frays. The outcome will be like opening a Pandora’s box.