The 65th annual National Prayer Breakfast took place on February 2nd at Washington D.C. Organized by the Fellowship Foundation, the National Prayer Breakfast offers the president an opportunity to discuss faith and its role in American life.
Given who now sits in the Oval Office, the prayer breakfast was bound to be surreal this year. In a transcript of his speech at posted at Time, President Trump rambled, hopped from irrelevant topic to topic, and seemed oblivious to his own logical inconsistencies. For example, Trump used his speech to make fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has taken over Trump's former TV show, The Apprentice. (Schwarzenegger later hit back on social media.)
"We had tremendous success on The Apprentice. And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show. That's when I knew for sure that I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went down the tubes. It's been a total disaster ... and I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings, OK?"Even when praising members of the armed forced, Trump couldn't resist the urge to remind listeners that he was wealthy and socialized with wealthy people.
"Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one. America is a nation of believers. In towns all across our land, it's plain to see what we easily forget -- so easily we forget this, that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.Trump gave lip service to how everyone in attendance was "equal in His eyes" and "human beings with souls", which I found hypocritical in the wake of his bigoted comments toward Muslims and women, to say nothing of his anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies. In keeping with his earlier campaign promise, Trump promised to "destroy" the Johnson Amendment, which grants religious congregations tax exempt status on the condition that they refrain from endorsing candidates.
I will tell you that and I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success, the most material success. Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people. And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families. They have great faith; they don't have money, at least, not nearly to the extent. And they're happy. Those, to me, are the successful people, I have to tell you."
"It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that, remember.The president shrugged off recent reports of hostile phone conversations with world leaders, telling listeners "don't worry about it".
Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways. And I've never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of president. The world is in trouble, but we're going to straighten it out. OK? That's what I do. I fix things. We're going to straighten it out."
"When you hear about the tough phone calls I'm having, don't worry about it. Just don't worry about it. They're tough. We have to tough. It's time we're going to be a little tough folks. We're taking advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. It's not going to happen anymore. It's not going to happen anymore."Perhaps the most absurd moment of Trump's speech was when he condemned ISIS atrocities just days after barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the U.S.
"We have seen peace loving Muslims brutalize, victimize, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people. We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut of heads. Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that. We haven't seen that, the cutting off of heads. Now they cut off the heads, they drown people in steel cages. Haven't seen this. I haven't seen this. Nobody's seen this for many, many years. All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously if we have to."He later defended his recent immigration and refugee policies with the excuse that he was protecting the U.S. from evildoers.
"Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world. But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear. We need security. There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence, or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle, not right ... In the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty. And that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination. We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values, not to hate us and to hate our values."What kind of self-delusion allows a man to praise religious freedom while bragging that he will undermine separation of church and state? What kind of hypocrisy allows a leader to condemn atrocities while denying refuge to those fleeing the same atrocities? Trump's speech was a stew of Religious Right rhetoric, logical inconsistencies, and rambling that did not remotely approach the eloquence of past presidents' speeches.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
The Atlantic: A Publicity Stunt at the National Prayer Breakfast?
MSNBC: Why Trump’s National Prayer Breakfast speech matters