The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly affair where D.C. leaders presumably gather to eat breakfast and pray. More than 3,500 guests gather, supposedly leaving their bickering and partisanship at the door to bow their heads and commit to one nation under God.
It’s been a yearly event since 1953 and every president since Eisenhower has attended. Most have spoken.
But to call it an event of the sacred, solemn is a stretch. It’s a political show with everyone glad-handing, preening for the press and posing.
It’s the kind of thing Jesus would have loved to attend — and turn over tables.
Usually the speakers stick to the high road, talking nobly about a God who blesses without any real encouragement to personal repentance. Everyone usually walks away feeling a little better, kind of like walking from a Christmas Eve service peeling candle wax from your hands.
But there have been exceptions.
I remember the time Mother Teresa spoke, and with an ashen-faced President Clinton at her right, she spoke out for the nation’s unborn, decrying abortion and famously offering to take every one of these children under her care. She called abortion worse than war itself. “I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”
And then Dr. Ben Carson, just three years ago was invited by President Obama. He used the event to skewer the administration, making him a darling of conservatives. This led to ill-fated presidential run by the mumbling neurosurgeon — a fine man, but a terrible candidate.
But this year, President Trump significantly changed the conversation. He decided to open his remarks with a dig at Arnold Schwarzenegger, the host of The New Celebrity Apprentice. This is the show that put Trump in the media eye which he later gave up to run for the president.
“The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster, I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings,” President Trump said at the opening of the Prayer Breakfast.
No high holy words. No pleading for blessing. Not even the fake words of piety that so often are spoken.
I was…disappointed. If they want to feud, I think they should take it outside. If he wants to take on Arnold, then they should duke it out, or even a duel, just like Vice President Aaron Burr and Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1804.[
But I don’t think the Prayer Breakfast — despite the trappings — is the place to do.
Arnold was pretty quick to respond, offering to swap jobs. “You take over TV, where you know so much about ratings and I take over your job so people can finally sleep comfortably.”
How about we separate phony prayer from politics once and for all. If you don’t mean “God bless America,” then don’t say it.