Donald Trump showed-up at McLean Bible Church and Platt prayed for him. Some may have thought Platt should have closed the door to Trump. Others thought he did not chastise him enough or speak truth to power.
I don’t think I would have handled this any differently. Platt did a great job.
Christians value hospitality. We like to talk about how the church doors are always open. Yes, Trump was probably there to score political points with his evangelical base. But when someone decides to show-up at church, the minister and the congregation should not be concerned about motives. Instead, they should seize the opportunity to change the narrative. This, it seems, is what Platt did.
If Platt rejected Trump’s request for a visit he would not have been acting in a Christian way. If he fawned over the president or got political he would not have been acting in a Christian way.
Platt is no court evangelical. He invited Trump into the service and prayed for him in accordance with 1 Timothy 2:1-6. He did not flatter Trump. He did not pray that God would protect Trump from his enemies. He departed from the Franklin Graham instruction manual in almost every way. Platt prayed that Trump would be an agent of justice. He prayed that God would give Trump wisdom and reminded him that wisdom stems from the fear of God. From Platt’s mouth to God’s ears.
This morning Samford religion professor David Bains made some good points about the optics. Trump was tired and quiet. Platt dictated the terms of the visit. This was not a court evangelical begging for attention and photo-ops in the oval office. Watch the video. Platt walked out on stage with the authority of a minister. Trump followed.
If his letter to the congregation is any indication, Platt did not want to have to deal with this. On the other hand, he has no need to apologize for what he did. This is why I think this Politico headline is misleading.
Emma Green gets it right at The Atlantic. Here is a taste of her piece:
It is not weird for a Southern Baptist pastor to pray for the president of the United States. Yes, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, and have remained firmly supportive of the president during his first two years in office. Yes, he has surrounded himself with a coterie of evangelical adviserswho have cemented the association between conservative Christianity and Trumpism. But even among the evangelical pastors who spoke out against Trump in the run-up to Election Day 2016—and they did exist—praying for the president is a given. As Russell Moore, a major Southern Baptist leader and a vocal Trump critic, wrote shortly before Trump’s inauguration, it is “our obligation as Christians to pray for all those who are in civil authority.”
So when Trump visited McLean Bible Church, a D.C.-area mega-church, over the weekend to show his support to the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting, which took place the night before roughly four hours away, it was to be expected that the pastor there, David Platt, would pray for the president. Trump showed up in the middle of the afternoon, after a round of golf, and made no remarks. The two men stood onstage together, eyes shut, Platt holding his Bible. “We stand right now on behalf of our president, and we pray for your grace and your mercy and your wisdom upon him,” Platt said. “We pray that he would look to you. That he would trust in you, that he would lean on you. That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.”
What’s remarkable about this prayer is not that it happened, but that it shows how thoroughly the Trump era has opened the way for cynicism and outrage over even mundane, predictable Christian behavior. Within the world of evangelicalism, Platt does not roll with the hard-core Trump supporters; his prayer was studiously neutral, clear of boosterism and partisanship. While Trump has certainly amplified divisions among evangelicals over race, gender, and the rightful relationship between Christianity and politics, the choice to pray for a person in leadership is not a meaningful symbol of evangelicalism’s transformation under the 45th president.
Read the rest here.