When President Trump lies, it’s usually a no-brainer to spot. He generally utters falsehoods so false he almost certainly knows they’re false himself.
But when Jennifer Bardi accused the president of lying — twice — in the first paragraph of her “Message From the Editor” column in February’s TheHumanist.com e-zine, I’d wager he probably had no idea he was fibbing.
The first lie, wrote Bardi, was at the National Prayer Breakfast in the Capital on Feb. 8, when he said:
“America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer.”
Yes, America is a nation of majority-Christian believers. But it is also a nation of non-Christian believers, non-faithful nonbelievers and people who aren’t quite sure what they believe, or don’t. And, yes, there are lots of prayers praying but also lots of lack of praying. We are a melting pot of humanity, including “saints” and sinners and kindly, happy, nonbelieving humanists.
But, like it or not, we also constitutionally separate faith and state.
For the president to say we are a nation of believers strengthened by prayer is not only incorrect — a lie, as it were, no matter how inadvertent — because we are much more and much different than that. But it’s also unconstitutionally un-American because it implies fealty to what the Constitution expressly prohibits: government elevation of one spiritual tradition over any other.
Also at the breakfast, Bardi added,
“[The president] lied again when he turned to one religion to characterize American morality (“As the Bible tells us…”).
The truth is that the Bible is the foundational book only of Christianity, merely one among many religions in America, not the foundational text of the American republic.
Bardi invited readers to read a more thorough account of Trump’s “lies, contradictions, and deceitful God talk” at the breakfast, which in and of itself is arguably unconstitutional, in a new Counterpunch opinion piece by the Rev. William E. Albert. Albert is the former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, and both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist Minister.
Along with the president’s lying, Rev. Albert also called out his hypocrisy, which presumably makes the lies morally worse.
An un-Christian history
Despite President Trump’s callous, racist policies toward Muslims and non-white people, and his policy to separate undocumented alien children from parents at our southern border, and his clear religious apathy over many years, he still likes to play the role of the Christian champion. At the recent prayer breakfast, Rev. Albert notes in his piece, the president said with a straight face:
“As part of our commitment to building a just and loving society, we must build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life. All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God.”
“Meaning white ‘lives’ and ‘souls,’” Haines explained.
‘A great and very brave soldier’
In his piece, Rev. Alberts recalled the president’s five deferments allowing him to shirk service in the Vietnam War, and his revelation to shock-jock radio host Howard Stern that he felt “like a great and very brave soldier” for facing “sexually transmitted diseases” in his libertine social life during Vietnam. These sentiments are recorded in a 2016 report by Tim Mak in the online version of The Daily Beast.
However, at the prayer breakfast in front of evangelical Christians and representatives of other faiths, along with leading pols and foreign dignitaries, Rev. Albert said that President Trump “spoke out of the other side of his mouth,” saying:
“We see the Lord’s grace in the service members who risk their lives for our freedom. … Soldiers, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, airmen, and Marines have spent long months away from home defending our great American flag. … Together, as Americans, we are a tireless force for justice and for peace.”
See the official White House transcript of his prayer breakfast remarks, here.
‘The splendor of God’s creation’
Continuing his Christian pandering at the prayer breakfast, he uttered these disingenuous words that his own life behavior confirms he abhors:
“Across our land, we see the splendor of God‘s creation. Throughout our history … we see the story of God’s Providence. And in every city and town, we see the Lord’s grace all around us, through a million acts of kindness, courage and generosity. We love God. … As long as we open our eyes to God’s grace and open our hearts to God’s love … then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light unto all nations.”
Every single phrase in this self-serving deceit is a lie.
As TheHumanist.com editor Bardi wrote: “Just because someone lies with ease and frequency doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call out the whoppers that cut to the core of our democracy.”
Whether the liar actually knows he’s lying or not.
But the scariest sentence was the very first one in the president’s prayer breakfast remarks to the uber-religious crowd: “I will never let you down.”
Uh, what about the rest of us?