Friday, 16 February 2018

The tastelessness and self-centerdness of American and Christian exceptionalism

Last Thursday morning, the President tweeted the following:
Will be heading over shortly to make remarks at The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Great religious and political leaders, and many friends, including T.V. producer Mark Burnett of our wonderful 14 season Apprentice triumph, will be there.

“This ought to be good,” I thought, in the same way that a multiple-car crash on the interstate is “good.”
This is not the first time that the annual prayer breakfast and “The Apprentice” have strangely melded in Trump’s imagination. Last year at his first prayer breakfast, the newly inaugurated President opened by wistfully noting that leaving “The Apprentice” was “when I knew for sure I was doing it”—“it” being the Presidency. He followed by noting how spectacularly unsuccessful his replacement, movie star and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, had been.
And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster . . . And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay?
And have a nice breakfast.
Truth be told, Trump’s remarks at the breakfast last Thursday turned out to be a disappointment for those hoping for the latest random, off-the-wall, totally offensive Presidential sound bite. It also was a disappointment for anyone expecting that something thoughtful or insightful might be said about prayer or faith. For those, however, who can’t get enough of American exceptionalism, “We’re #1,” and a Christian nationalism built around the conviction that God likes us best, it was a speech straight out of central casting. A few highlights:
  • Faith is central to American life and to liberty. Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our currency declares, “In God We Trust.” And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are “One Nation Under God.”
  • Our rights are not given to us by man, our rights come from our Creator . . . That is why the words “Praise Be To God” are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people.
  • So today, we praise God for how truly blessed we are to be American.
  • So today, inspired by our fellow citizens, let us resolve to find the best within ourselves. Let us pray for that extra measure of strength and that extra measure of devotion.
  • As long as we open our eyes to God’s grace and open our hearts to God’s love, then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light unto all nations.
The President’s speech writer gave him all sorts of red meat to throw to his base, as well to those who like their prayer and faith seasoned with assurances that we are God’s favorites, God’s most recent “chosen people.” And he threw the meat effectively.
There are all sorts of ways to push back, of course, starting with pointing out that the word “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence and the word “God” on our currency and on top of the Washington Monument refer to an impersonal and shadowy Deist God, a divinity so different from what those obsessed with Christian exceptionalism imagine their pet Deity to be as to be unrecognizable. But as a college professor, I know that history lessons and textual analysis tend to have little impact on what people choose to believe. We hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see, until someone or something jars us into awareness. Trump’s National Prayer Breakfast remarks last Thursday left me longing for just such a jarring occasion.

And if you have read this and you think that Trump is God's pick for President of the USA, you might like to read this article

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