Leadership Means Setting An Example

Speaking down upon the South Lawn in a pre-Memorial Day event

Did President Trump go to church Sunday?

No? Unless I missed something (in which case I’ll immediately delete this piece). That’s kind of a surprise, no? Considering he spent a chunk of last week threatening governors if they refused to immediately let places of worship throw open their doors. “Right now. For this weekend”, he insisted in a statement in the White House Briefing Room, taking no questions after. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors”.

I’m not going to try to argue today whether places of worship should or shouldn’t be open. I’m not even going to try to suggest if they can or can’t conceivably be opened safely. Or if Trump even has the right to override “the governors”. At the same time, I’m not sitting here relishing the fact that they are shut down in many places, as Trump’s press secretary has condescendingly suggested of the media.

The “Reporter” in this case is Reuters’ Jeff Mason

While I consider my own religious beliefs to be private, I do feel compelled to publicly let on that they’re very important to me. Right now, maybe more than ever. Which is why I make a point of regularly participating in worship online these days.

Anyway, if opening up and filling up places of worship is such a huge priority for the President, where is he? Why isn’t he humbly in prayer in a pew, either masked or unmasked, singing songs of praise or praying silently, socially distanced or packed in amid throngs of thankful congregants? However he wants to show his devotion, according to his own principle, which he publicly avows to hold sacred above all else.

Who cares that he played golf this weekend? Yeah, it got a lot of aghast coverage, but should’ve been a surprise to no one. (I take zero credit for predicting just a couple of weeks ago that he would be out playing golf very soon, “too soon”, because anybody could’ve predicted that.) And since he went out to do that: nothing stopping him from going to church on Sunday. In fact, if he was going to make a spectacle of himself playing golf, it’d be the least he could do to also show some empathy and “one nation, under God, indivisible”.

Thing is, this isn’t the first time. This President makes a pattern of not doing as he says, and that sets an example in itself, and never a good one.

For instance, way back at the beginning of March, he Tweeted this:

Yet by then he’d already cancelled all his future rallies, and in fact hasn’t had one since. Why? He’s had plenty of rallies during flu season before. So in fact, he was exhorting people to not take COVID-19 seriously even at a time when his own political operation was already taking it soberly enough to cancel every single damn big audience public event.

And yeah, all politicians just do and say some things for show. For sure, many do believe deeply in many of the things they advocate, but other things just help them stake out a position they feel will be popular.

Trump’s different. He’ll make an even bigger show of getting all heated up about something, but when it comes to showing up for it, time and time again, he doesn’t even bother. It’s all about whipping people into a lather, which no doubt his talk of churches did among his supporters too, and then his job is done.

And he can go play golf with a clear conscience, because he shows no evidence of a conscience at all.

It’s follow by diktat, not by example. And whenever Trump mixes himself up in religion it always reminds us of Psalm 10, of the man who thinks so much of himself in all his thoughts that “there is no room for God”.