Saturday, December 31, 2016
Should We Pray For Donald Trump? - A Dialogue Between A Parishoner And A Priest
This is a authentic dialogue between a parishioner and his priest.
The parishioner wrote:
My wife and I greatly enjoyed the Christmas Eve service but we were upset, bemused and somewhat confused. We were asked to pray for President-Elect Trump and Pope Francis. My question is why?
What exactly are we praying for in Trump's case? Should we pray that Trump stops lying, or stop being a bigot, or stops appointing racists to his cabinet, or stops his plan to increase our nuclear weapons, or stops saying that he won in a landslide, or stops being in bed with Putin, etc. You and I both know that those things will never happen.
I think that it is much better to pray for the victims of Trump's and his follower's hate- like the African-Americans, the Mexican whom he wants to send back to Mexico, the Muslims he wants to make leave the country, or the women he has insulted and/or maligned, or the Native-Americans whose sacred lands he wants to take away from them, or not wanting to stop the one-percent of the population (of which he is a part) from having more money and power than the other ninety- nine percent, or his inability to accept the fact that there really is global warming, or his being anti-gay, etc. So, for what exactly are we praying?
When I studied Political Science in college, I learned that when a nation is in decline or just feels it is in decline, it looks for scapegoats. For example, take Germany between World War I and World War II. The people looked for a savior who would recreated the "good old days". They elected a Fascist who promised to make "Germany great again".
Hitler was a Catholic whose symbol was a twisted Catholic cross. He exterminated or got rid of his "undesirables" - the Jews, the Gypsies, gay people, the mentally retarded, liberals , communists, artists, and yes, even some Catholics who opposed him. The Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII could have said something but it never did.
Pope Pius XII
Why did the Pope remain silent? It was because he approved of what Hitler was doing. Millions of people suffered and died because the churches remained silent or a majority of German Catholics and Lutherans prayed for Hitler. Does all of this sound familiar?
As to Pope Francis, I like him. But, why was he singled out for prayers? After all, he does not share any of the Catholic Church's enormous wealth for the poor. Why not for a true man of peace, the Dali Lama? Or, why not pray for the Coptic Pope, Pope Tawadros II, whose flock is being killed and persecuted. My opinion is that they deserve our prayers much more than the current Catholic Pope does.
I am really not comparing you to the World War II Germans and I am not comparing you to Catholic priests of World War II. I just want to address some issues that have been on my mind, have confused me and that grew out of my attending the Christmas Eve service.
The Episcopal Priest's Response:
Merry Christmas. It was great to see you both on the eve. And thanks for your email. Below in no particular order are a few thoughts, hastily pecked out on my phone, because the issues you raise are important ones.
As regards praying for the president elect, yes, those are exactly the sorts of things that I hope we are praying for for him! Perhaps a softening of the heart like Pharaoh. (I'm sure the Israelites in Egypt would agree with you that there's a fat chance of change there, but, well, at the end of the day, God's justice and mercy prevailed for them. I must trust that it will again.) We always pray for the president, and now for the president elect.... As a colleague reminded me, Jesus said to pray for our enemies.
I am as concerned as you are about the upcoming administration. As Jesus said about a particularly hard case, 'This one comes out only by prayer.'
As for Francis of Rome, we also prayed for Bartholomew, patriarch of the East. This wasn't a commentary on their theology or authority but a recognition that we are praying for unity of the church on this most holy night that we all celebrate together. It's not a political statement at all. And we probably should have a longer list there. (We are praying for the Copts--what horror--see below. And ECCT, for what it's worth, called at convention for prayers for Christians in the Middle East.)
Bartholemew, Patriarch of the East
We do need to pray for the people that Trump has called to persecute. And I think we are but we could be more specific. Let's think of how to do that more intentionally. And we are praying for those persecuted in faith. Christians threatened with violence -- as the Copts are -- have been prayed for at every mass since before I came. As for Pius, well, that's complicated and for the history books at this point, but I believe Francis, as imperfect as he is on so many things, is standing against the sort of dying false hegemony that is Trumpism. At least that's my take. And I have no comment about Hitler's faith except to weep a bit. (Have you seen the new book about the use of amphetamines in the 3rd Reich? Only deep hatred and perhaps altered consciousness could perpetuate the kind of evil that government visited. Lord have mercy.)
What you have to say is heard and appreciated. For what it's worth all those petitions were requested by parishioners (even the ones concerning Francis and Bartholemew). ..... I believe strongly in prayer. After we have voted, protested, advocated, and the like, all that is left is to pray. God's reign of peace and justice will prevail--if the resurrection can teach us anything. (And yes, I believe the Dalai Lama is probably involved in God's peace and justice in ways I don't even yet understand!)
Know, as I believe you do, that all those made at risk by Trump's recklessness are in my prayers and on my heart.
Glad to hear from you as always. Let's catch up in the New Year.
This one can come out only by prayer.
Yours in the love of Christ.