Trump brings a decidedly Trumpian message to Prayer Breakfast

Perhaps Donald "Two Corinthians" Trump forgot that the National Prayer Breakfast was not about him and his sense of grievance.
Image: Donald Trump
Pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas, and International Christian Academy, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.Evan Vucci / AP

Every year during Barack Obama's presidency, the Democrat would make an appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he'd deliver pensive, thought-provoking remarks about the depths of his Christian faith. And nearly every year, as regular readers know, conservatives would express their outrage over the ideas the president challenged them to consider.

There was, however, never any doubt about the theological foundations of the Democrat's remarks. In 2011, for example, Obama explained how he "came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace Him as my lord and savior."

As is true in so many areas of public life, things now are ... different. This morning, Donald "Two Corinthians" Trump made his latest appearance at the same event, which began with the president lifting print copies of newspapers trumpeting his impeachment acquittal as if they were trophies to be admired at a celebratory parade. A predictable message soon followed.

President Donald Trump blasted "dishonest and corrupt" people Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, bashing his impeachment before the nonpartisan event with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just steps away.

"As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people," Trump said. "They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country."

Or put another way, Trump sees little distinction between the health of the nation and the health of his political standing -- a point he seemed eager to emphasize at an event devoted to worship.

The rest of the speech wasn't much better.

After Harvard professor Arthur Brooks delivered the keynote address, in which he encouraged attendees to love their enemies and set aside "contempt" for opponents, the president began his remarks by saying, "Arthur, I don't know if I agree with you.... I don't know if Arthur is going to like what I'm going to say."

Moments later, Trump seemed to take shots at the faith of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), saying, "I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that that's not so."

This gave way to the president telling attendees, "For those of you that are interested in stocks, it looks like the stock market will be way up again today."

Indifferent to the point of the National Prayer Breakfast, and its ostensible non-partisan nature, Trump soon added, "You better get out and vote on November 3rd because you have a lot of people out there that aren't liking what we're doing."

It's been a long time, but one of my first jobs after I left school was writing for Church & State magazine, where I paid pretty close attention to the National Prayer Breakfast. In fact, over the last couple of decades, I think I can honestly say I've heard or read every presidential address to the event.

But I don't think I've heard one in any way similar to Trump's remarks this morning. That's not a compliment. While the president's faith is certainly his business, he acted this morning as if the point of the event was himself. And with that in mind, the Republican delivered a petty speech in which he appeared preoccupied with personal grievances.

It was the latest reminder that Trump is whom he appears to be.

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