The funeral service for George H. W. Bush was as genuine as the man himself. It was one of those very few times when politics could be set aside to remember the character of an honorable person who embraced the Christian faith and lived a life of service undergirded by that faith.
Such times are rare indeed anymore. The Christian faith espoused by Bush is no longer as pervasive in our country as it was earlier in our history. Yet there were, in the first row, three ex-presidents, the current president, and another former presidential candidate all paying respects to Bush 41.
There still was controversy, though, as depicted in this photo showing all of those in that front row reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Well, almost all.
While everyone else was affirming Christian faith, Donald Trump didn’t participate.
Eminent Christian leaders already have jumped to his defense and scolded those who have criticized his non-participation. Should we not be concerned about it? Are those who have pointed out his lack of response merely Pharisees who should just keep quiet?
First, let me say that I have no illusions about the others who chose to recite the creed. Jimmy Carter has always claimed to be a born-again Christian, yet his theology is akin to a theological liberalism I cannot endorse. God is the final judge.
Bill and Hillary Clinton have also always professed to be Christians, but I find little to nothing in their lives to back up that profession. Bill’s practice of carrying a Bible to church during his presidency only showcases the hypocrisy of his life of sexual immorality. Both Bill and Hillary are dissemblers (the nicer word) of the highest caliber, although the latter isn’t nearly as good at it.
Barack Obama’s brand of Christianity emanates from the liberation theology camp where Jesus is nothing more than the forerunner of his true heroes: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, etc. His view of Scripture was such that he dismissed the Bible’s clear teaching on homosexuality; in fact, he mocked it (I saw the video in which he did this). His tenure as president saw direct attempts to curtail Christians’ liberty of conscience.
So, in my view, those people reciting the Apostles’ Creed were hardly advocates of what the creed states. Hypocrisy abounded.
Yet, does that excuse Trump? What is so offensive about the words of that creed that he would refuse to say them?
In one sense, he is being more honest. Neither his life nor his words back up any idea of his being a real Christian.
In case you are unfamiliar with the Apostles’ Creed, let’s run through it phrase by phrase in the newer version found in the Book of Common Prayer.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
If you believe there is a God who made all things, this should be easy to say.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Now we’re getting more specific. Saying this part requires that you truly believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God. And then there’s this thing at the end that talks about being judged one day. I can understand why a non-Christian wouldn’t want to recite that.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic [universal] Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
This promises, among other things, the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. What if you are someone who has publicly stated—as Trump has done—that you don’t think you’ve done anything for which you need to ask forgiveness?
Yes, I can understand why he didn’t say those words.
My appeal is to my fellow Christians who rush to Trump’s defense no matter what he says or does. Be careful. Maybe he doesn’t deserve your solid support. Pray for him, of course. Be grateful for any policies that help relieve the governmental burden on our profession of faith.
But don’t crown Donald Trump with the title of political savior.
Steve Berman wrote an article on The Resurgent website recently in which he strongly cautioned Christians about the true nature of our president. “Trump is not an evangelical,” he noted. “He has no investment in Christianity other than a transactional, expedient relationship. And that can change–very quickly.”
He continued, “Trump’s nature is self-preservation, and self-aggrandizement. When he fights, it’s on behalf of himself, with you along for the ride as long as you’re riding in his chosen vehicle (aka the ‘Trump train’).”
Berman then offered a long string of names of people Trump has left in the dust once their usefulness to him had ended. He concluded his article with these words—words Christians should take to heart:
In 2015, I quoted my then-pastor, who cautioned Christians to be careful, because the first time Christians differ from Trump, he will turn on us. . . .
The long line of those who have been left waiting for Trump to pay off, know what happens when the time comes for him to leave them. Trump is who he is, and in the strongest likelihood, that will not change. As Christians, and as conservatives, we must be very, very careful not to hang our hats on the shaky pole of “perhaps.”
“Perhaps” he won’t abandon us, we hope. But “perhaps” he will.
I didn’t see too many political cartoons about this particular memorial service, but the one I did see I found to be most appropriate.