A Moment of Truth
It was a surprisingly honest word from a President whose exaggeration of statistics, distortion of facts, and outright lies have become so incessant that we had almost forgotten what it sounds like to hear his voice say something that might actually be true.
The National Prayer Breakfast is a strange blend of power politics and prayerful platitudes that often seems like a religious version of the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner without the satire. At best, it’s an affirmation of the common ground of our shared religious traditions. At worst, it’s what Jesus critiqued when he talked about praying on street corners.
Jesus and the “Crisis of Contempt”
This year’s Keynote Address by Harvard professor, Arthur Brooks, is more than worth the 15 minutes it will take for you to watch it. As a “follower of Jesus,” he pointed to the words of Jesus, “who taught us to love God and taught us to love each other.”
He named “the biggest crisis facing our nation” as “the crisis of contempt and polarization that’s tearing our societies apart.” But he also called this crisis “the greatest opportunity we have ever had as people of faith to lift our nations up and to bring our people together.”
Focusing on Jesus’ “subversive and counterintuitive” command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Brooks got personal.
“How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically? …Make it personal, my friends…Jesus didn’t say, ‘tolerate your enemies.’ He said, ‘love your enemies.’ Answer hatred with love.”
He closed with this bold challenge for all of us:
“Ask God to give you the strength to do this hard thing, to go against your human nature, to follow Jesus’ teaching…Ask God to take political contempt from your heart. Sometimes, when it’s just too hard, ask God to help you fake it.”
Pow! Where I grew up a sermon like that would be followed by an invitation to repentance and prayer. And then the President got up.
Disagreeing with Jesus
With what felt like genuine honestly, the President said, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you. (Laughter.) But I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say.”
He went on to demonstrate his honest rejection of everything Brooks said with his full-throttled, gut-punching anger, hostility and revenge toward those who had opposed him, specifically attacking the Speaker of the House who had just said that she prays for him.
At least he told the truth.
Brooks had acknowledged that it’s hard to love your enemies. It’s hard for all of us. But at the Prayer Breakfast, at his acquittal celebration in the White House, and by his actions every day since, the President has proven that he has no interest in even “faking it.” He’s been declaring, “Jesus, I don’t agree with you. You’re not going to like what I’m going to say.”
Doing the Hard Thing
Brooks got it right when he called loving enemies “the hard thing.” It’s hard for all of us, nearly impossible for some of us. But being a “follower of Jesus” means that we at least accept Jesus’ words as the goal or vision toward which we are called to live. At the very least, we try. So, I, as an imperfect follower of Jesus for whom loving someone with whom I disagree is hard, intend to follow Brooks’ advice and pray:
Lord, give me strength to do the hard thing, to stand for truth and resist evil, but to do it without contempt in my heart. Help me learn to love people with whom I disagree. And sometimes, Lord, when it’s just too hard, help me to fake it. Amen.
Grace and peace,
11 thoughts on “The Day the President Told the Truth”
“Jim, you possess more grace than I can muster. I pray for more, but the consistent onslaught of violence against all that civilization holds important, pushes me toward wanting a “cease and desist” order. That reasonably good men and women stand by, afraid to act on the oaths they have taken, tears me apart. I have little grace to cover them. I can accept that this is my short coming, but the pain being caused to people in our country and around the world by a psychologically damaged man-child cries out for some stop-action. We are working on the pain of civil rights. We are working on the pain of the LGBT+ community, but we don’t allow those with criminal intent and no conscience to continue their destruction of good people. Grace and action must come together at some point.
Larry: I agree! With you, my spirit is weary and my heart is broken. With you, I’m praying for grace to stand courageously for what is right while not being consumed by the hatred and bitterness that is all around us. Jim
Oh, Jim, Thank you so much. These are the words we need to hear and live by. It’s harder some times than others. These words give me a bit more strength.
This may be too long for you. If so, delete it.
I read this with interest. I thought your article started off in a fair and truthful way, but then got extremely biased when you write âDiagreeing with Jesus.â I watched the entire event and Iâd like to summarize for you, as I am a follower of Jesus Christ also, and a Trump supporter, how I saw it.
The Methodist denomination is much more liberal than mine, the Baptist one. I do not disparage any faith or denomination, but I think they each migrate toward certain biblical principles that some man at one time thought were most important. I have seen the Jewish, Methodist, and as an adult the Baptist faith and now while dating some 7th-day, Lutheran, Presbytarian and pentacostal faiths. To me, you are engrained in the Methodist, more liberal way of thinking, and therefore you see an exaggeration (or marketing message) by Trump as a lie, even while Iâm sure you know every President (except maybe Carter) has lied and all exaggerate the positive for themselves. I, however, see Trump as a marketer, who often given his opinion which liberals cannot stand. I donât have time to study 1000âs of so called lies, I just look at policy. For the people of this country, what all the politicians say is far, far less important than what they do. Most people arenât listening anyway. In mu brief time in politics I learned a fact can be spun any way to want to make it look good or bad, depending on the audience.
I sincerely believe it is just a typical narrative that that speech was âThe Day the President Told the Truth.â In my view, he speaks truth almost all the time. For example, he has fought tooth and nail to implement his campaign promises, usually succeeding. Heâll say something, and the left instinctively calls it a lie anymore. Heâll say or do the essentially the same thing a liberal President has done, and he is condemned by the left. Iâve seen articles about the 1000âs of lies he has told, and when I look at the first 10, they all amount to opinions that he has lied, never proof. You know, Satan is very deceitful and he could be deceiving you, and Trump may not be. I donât expect to change your mind, just to get you thinking because I believe in November you will be stunned at his success in the polls.
If you want to contribute to this terrible narrative that he lies, heâs a racist, a narricisist, etc., like all the liberals, it is your prerogative. I think history will judge your opinions harshly, as Trump will go down as the best President in a very long time for the vast majority of this country. God rises up leaders. Whatever you think of Trump, your and my God put him there. And He can take him down, as well. Most people do not engage in politics like you and I, and are looking at their self interests. I think he serves far better the interests of most Americans (many of whom do not live their faith like you and I) than any candidate on the left by far. To me, his primary job is to serve the nation, not to be a perfect Christian like you seem to desire. I mean whether his âDisagrees with Jesusâ on being kind or not, is really not in the Constitution, and in my view, it is quite irrelevant to his job description. He is dealing with terrorists, horrible world leaders, a vicious opposing party, allegations nonstop and you expect him to be nice, first and foremost. Itâs unreasonable to expect that, in my view. Have you not noticed his efforts on abortion, freeing preachers to speak their mind from the pulpit, spiritual advisors like Paula White and Franklin Graham by his side, his willingness to call Christmas by name, and on and on. He is pro-Christian and it cannot be denied in my view. Does he have to act Christian in your mind to be pro-Christian?
If our country would get back to Christ, we would see an explosion. I will always agree Trump does not set a good Christian example, but his polices are going to help the faith enormously. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, who is obviously out to stop him, claims she is a Christian, and wants to do nothing about 60 million abortions of mostly minority pre-borns in this country. God gave us those babies. I hope you have trouble reconciling that, too.
I wish you would think about your comments from this point of view. When Jesus said âlove your enemiesâ do he think he was talking to 1) you and I, 2) everyone, or 3) a nationâs leader. You seem to think 2) everyone. I think it is everyone, but a President of the most powerful nation on Earth must lead for all of us *(some are not Christians), and his job is not to be exactly like Jesus while in public. He should in private, of course, but in public, a politician must respond to things as he sees it, or he will be overwhelmed. I as laughing as I you said he attacked Nancy Pelosi who prays for him. None of us knows if, or what she actually prays for Trump, but do you honestly believe itâs for his success in the White House or anything remotely positive for him. No, she just tried to throw him out of office and has been for literally his entire term with 7 impeachment attempts. Come on, Jim.
I hope youâll look at his Cabinet, where most of the actual work is done. Many of them are fine Christian people. Doesnât this tell you anything?
I doubt you made it to the bottom here, but if you did, I hope this somehow helps you see those of us who love this President. We are not, as Hillary said, deplorable.
Love ya! Russell
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Russell: Thanks for your response. As you would expect, I could not disagree with you more deeply with everything you say. I am concerned that your blind loyalty to this President continues to enable him in doing perhaps irreparable damage to our nation, our world and, through the likes of White and Graham, to the witness of the Christian faith. But with that, I will continue to love you as a person and pray for God’s best for you. Jim
Thank you for helping me voice my opinion. I am a traditionalist Methodist and I am conservative and support Donald Trump for reasons stated above. I do not hate anyone and will not mistreat anyone unless after trying many times until I shake the dust or mud off my feet and go forward. This article to me being posted by clergy is very divisive and in no way will unify a congregation.
Russell, I’m curious to hear your opinion… I figure we could both agree that Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we have angrily been at odds with someone, and we hear that passage, how would you decide who’s job it is to make the first effort towards loving that neighbor? Ours or theirs?
Russel speaks for him self and I believe he does represent many currently. And there In lies the growing divide of those believing more in the president than the holy scriptures upon which this world was meant to be built. God and Jesus are the arc of time and all creation, which is much grander and more long lasting then this short time nation and culture.
God help us all!
Great post In Holy Land where we need this message Gary
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Jim: What a contrast from Arthur Brooks, Harvard professor and humble Christian, with his honest and sincere prayer and Donald Trump (self-proclaimed born-again Christian, by the way), response of poking fun at Brooks and JESUS….he will have to answer come judgment day for his atrocious, demeaning and disrespectful behavior….He needs so much MORE PRAYER from us all….Thank you, Jim, for the excellent post…