On Sunday, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, made an unexpected stop at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia. Unlike so many of us, the President wasn’t going for the coffee and donuts. On the contrary, President Trump wanted the people of that church to pray for him. Pastor David Platt, caught unaware, did what any sensible Christian minister would do in that situation. Rather than questioning the President’s motives or wringing his hands over his worthiness — none of us are worthy according to the Bible — he stopped the service and prayed for the President.
Unsurprisingly, controversy ensued.
As things so often go these days, Pastor Platt issued an apology that same afternoon to soothe offended parties — there are always offended parties — and clarify why he had prayed for the President. I use the word “apology” advisedly. In an excellent article on prayer and the importance of it in relation to our leaders, the Federalist hurried to Platt’s defense and said that he did not apologize. But I have read his statement and truly don’t know how else to characterize it. An explanation? An apology* with an asterisk?
Platt’s statement begins:
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.
That strongly suggests that what he did is not what he would have done had he been given time to reflect on the matter. And while he didn’t have time to “deliberate” on his prayer for Trump, he did have time to deliberate on his statement about that prayer. Platt goes on to say that he knows “that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.”
One is tempted to ask what the “valid reasons” are. For a statement that was apparently meant to defuse a political tempest, that is a loaded sentence. May I suggest Pastor Platt make it a sermon series? But I digress.
Calling a friend of mine who is a Baptist pastor, I asked him this question: “Suppose one Sunday at your church you are giving a sermon and you are pulled aside and told that President Trump is stopping by and wants the church to pray for him. What do you do?”
“I stop and pray for him.”
I then asked: “What if instead of Trump, it was Hillary Clinton or Obama or Nancy Pelosi? What would you do then?”
“What you’re asking me is this: ‘Is prayer ever a bad thing?’ My answer is still the same. I would stop and pray for him or for her. Isn’t that who we need to be praying for?”
My friend then referenced 1 Timothy 2:1-6, a passage from one of the Apostle Paul’s Epistles calling on Christians to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions.”
The point is, Platt did exactly what he should have done right up to making his, uh, apology*. He didn’t endorse a platform, a candidate, or a party. He simply prayed. However, his public statement after the fact, no matter how apolitical it was meant to be, played right into the hands of Democrats and a media bent on destroying this President. Why? The Left has been so successful in demonizing Trump as a man of such hateful, evil, Bond villain-like intentions that any association with him is deemed worthy of public scorn. In issuing his lengthy explanation, Platt unwittingly legitimized that narrative to such a degree that now even prayer for the President of the United States is a questionable Christian endeavor requiring loads of caveats.
But is the Trump (a.k.a. “Goldfinger”) narrative true?
Not from an evangelical Christian perspective. Whatever Trump’s personal feelings or private behavior, his policies have often reflected the values evangelicals hold dear: strongly pro-life, pro-Israel, suspicious of Islam’s global agenda, anti-socialist, and this is to say nothing of his conservative judicial appointees. This is precisely why the Left hates Trump with such blinding passion. To them, he is a traitor to his Blue State origins, having put the values of their hated Red State rivals above those of Manhattan and Los Angeles. Don’t be fooled. Their hatred has nothing to do with his hair, Stormy Daniels, or some dubious Russian connection.
When the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Timothy and urged his readers to pray for their leaders, he did so under one of the most oppressive regimes in history. I find no apologies or equivocations. Indeed, so audacious is the Bible when it comes to the subject of prayer that it even tells us to pray for our enemies. In the Christian understanding, prayer is a spiritual tool, not a political weapon.
To be clear, I don’t question Pastor Platt’s Christian intentions. Far be it from me to do so. But I find it noteworthy that his actions where he did not have time to deliberate were probably more reflective of Paul’s injunction than those where he did.
Larry Alex Taunton is an author, cultural commentator, and freelance columnist contributing to The American Spectator, USAToday, Fox News,First Things, the Atlantic, and CNN. You can subscribe to his blog at larryalextaunton.com.