I don’t think anyone with any sense in their head actually believes our president is a particularly devout person. Most of us accept that the lip service paid to Christian conservatives is just a means to an end to secure their votes. This year his comments at annual, and insulting, National Prayer Breakfast are no exception.
A Weird Definition of Freedom
“We can all be heroes to everybody, and they can be heroes to us,” Trump said, completely oblivious to how reminiscent it is of Nathan Fillion’s role in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog “as long as we open our hearts to God’s grace, America will be free.”
Ok let’s really talk about this. My freedom is not contingent on capitulation to an imaginary, etherial dictator. Benign as it sounds, this is dangerous talk. It gives the impression that the ills of the world are caused not by bad policy, not by shoddy legislation, not by inequality or malice, but by a perceived failure of people like you and me to submit to worshiping a fairy tale.
It’s scapegoating, a bail out for the iniquitous that redirects peoples’ anger and frustration from the actual sources of their problems onto other people who merely assert the freedom to live their lives differently. Worse, since this ‘god will fix everything if everyone just believes hard enough’ form of magical thinking leads to believers thinking that the solution to their problems is to silence dissent. It’s a very narrow form of freedom which says you can do whatever you want but only as long as you don’t break the rules of a metaphysical despot.
The Greatest Hits of Pandering to the Godly
In addition to that nonsense, Trump trotted out everyone’s favorite playlist of justifications for the erroneous claim that the religious (in particular Christians) have some special claim to what it means to be American. He pointed out that dollar bills have ‘In God We Trust” printed on them and the ‘under god” part of the pledge of allegiance. So once again we must tediously remind everyone that those features of our national trappings were added during the red scare as part of a narrative to oppose ‘godless communism’. In fact, the whole ordeal of the prayer breakfast itself only started in 1953 during the height of that particular panic. He also trotted out the cliche of ‘god given rights’.
“Our rights are not given to us by men, our rights are given to us from our creator,” he jowled “No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away.”
Let’s reflect for a moment on the irony of that statement coming from a man who pardoned disgraced former sheriff Joe Arpaio for repeated civil rights violations, . endorsed police brutality, and (lest we forget) openly brags about violating the bodily autonomy of women.
The president went on to say that people should be free to live by their convictions. Which sounds great. Unfortunately when he says it he means that Christians should be free to deny gay couple’s marriage licenses, or deny employee’s healthcare services, or use government property to promote their personal beliefs.
In the end, the yearly prayer breakfast is a farcical display designed to sure-up theocratic supporters. So one can’t really say these kinds of remarks are a surprise. But it must be remembered that for every platitude uttered about how the freedom of our citizenry is contingent on ‘the grace of god’ and how our successes are based not on our own efforts but by the whims of a fickle celestial boogie man that demands fealty, that the truest freedoms protected by our constitution are the freedoms to disagree, to voice that opposition, and to live freely without fear of persecution based on the delusions of others.
Back in 2016 when Trump was on the campaign trail he asked an audience “Raise your hand if you’re not a conservative Christian”. In light of today’s speech there is only one way for someone like myself to answer such a question.