What White House PR genius thinks it is a good idea to mock the religious traditions of the Episcopal and Catholic Church?
Would Jesus support firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters outside the White House to create a path for Donald Trump's stroll to St. John's Episcopal Church on June 1 so he could brandish a Bible high over his head for a photo-op?
Was Team Trump updating Moses' parting of the Red Sea to enable the Israelites to escape captivity in Egypt? Did Trump relish the idea of playing the role of a Bible-waving old time preacher?
Trump took his little celebratory walk after his fire and brimstone Rose Garden rant in which he declared: "I am your president of law and order, an ally of all peaceful protestors."
That's a huge stretch. The president wasn't much of an ally to the Americans peacefully assembled outside the gates of the White House to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop. Trump consigliere attorney general Bill Barr ordered the tear gas attack.
The president ended his militaristic speech, saying, "And now I'm going to pay my respects to a very, very special place."
That was news to Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who said the president showed disrespect to her faith and of one of its sacred spaces.
She is "outraged" at Trump for clearing the area with tear gas so he could use St. John's as a prop, and for "holding a Bible, which declares that God is love, while everything he has said and done is to enflame violence."
The Bishop called the photo-op a "charade" and pointed to the hypocrisy of Trump, who is hardly known as a man of prayer.
In a Pentecost (May 31) message, Budde wrote: "This is a crucible moment, when the soul of our nation is at stake. If our leaders cannot meet the challenge of this time then we, as faith leaders, must be among those stepping into the void—and we will—but our nation must come together and elect the leaders we deserve. We need and must insist upon moral character, a commitment to justice, and effective governance from our elected leaders."
The nation falls on its knees with Budde to pray for leaders that are able to meet the challenges posed by racism, COVID-19, recession and economic inequality. The former reality TV showman cannot handle those realities.
Trump, who has not stepped on the streets on Washington since his inauguration, continued his tour of the city's holy spots on June 2.
With the First Lady, the president dropped by the shrine honoring Saint John Paul II, which drew a sharp rebuke from Washington's Archbishop William Gregory.
“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement.
Gregory noted the Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. "He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace," added the Archbishop.
There may be a method to Trump's madness of making religious pilgrimages in a city that is seething with rage over the murder of Floyd and other black men by police officers.
On May 30, following a night of protest outside the White House, Trump tweeted how he personally watched every move by the Secret Service as they controlled the crowd.
The president talked about the Secret Service clamoring to engage the protestors and ready to sic "vicious dogs" and use "ominous weapons" upon them.
In reality, tough guy Trump was escorted to the White House bunker, which housed Dick Cheney on 9/11.
That's a sign of weakness to Trump's nationalistic base of supporters. Trump's political survival depends on overcoming that scaredy cat image, even if it means walking the streets of Washington.
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