I haven’t met the Christian God yet, but I’ve seen His literature around town and spend time with many of His acquaintances. As far as I can tell, this Christian God fellow would never sanction a prayer like that offered by televangelist Mark Burns as a benediction at the Republican National Convention:
Hello, Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina! I’m gonna pray and I’m gonna give the benediction. And you know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans, but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.
To defeat every attack that comes against us, protect the life of Donald Trump. Give him the words, give him the peace, give him the power and authority to be the next President of the United States of America. In Jesus’ name—if you believe it, shout “Amen!” [Mark Burns, benediction, Republican National Convention]
Burns loses a point for redundancy at the top—to “give the benediction” is to “pray”. He loses another point for asserting that Donald Trump “believes in the name of Jesus Christ,” a statement that may only be technically true in that Trump does indeed believe as I do that the name “Jesus Christ” exists and can be politically useful, but a statement that does not appear to align with any prominently and exemplary Christian behavior exhibited in Trump’s words and actions. He loses a third point for claiming God is giving Trump words, because the sources of the Trumps’ words are Michelle Obama, F.H. Buckley, and regretful ghostwriter Tony Schwartz.
But Burns forfeits the title of “Pastor” (and that claim is already tenuous, since the TV entrepreneur’s only academic credentials appear to be a GED) when he asks God to favor one American political party over another and refers to a fellow Christian (Clinton can assert her faith at least as credibly as Trump or Burns). Even from my outsider perspective, I feel confident concluding that the God of the Israelites, the God who sent His Son to Earth to be nailed to a cross by the Romans, only to enjoy Constantine’s imperial conversion three centuries later, does not favor any partisan candidate or group. A pastor should recognize God’s partisanship and preach to all souls, not just the ones with the same voter registration.
Burns’s speech is contradictory and maledictory. Lutheran Pastor Hans Fiene dissects Burns’s malediction, noting that Trump’s adultery, greed, insults, and rejection of forgiveness do not embody the Christian ethos. Neither, says Pastor Fiene, do Burns’s words:
First, I think you meant to pray that God would keep us united and not divided, although the Freudian slip is rather fitting given the context of your prayer. Second, Pastor Burns, if you want to defeat the forces of godlessness that swim in the waters of the Democratic Party, get off the stage in Cleveland and go do the things that God says will actually drive sin from the hearts of both Republicans and Democrats.
Preach the gospel that unites all who believe it. Tell people their sins are forgiven. Tell them they are now free to love their neighbors because God has loved them through the blood of his Son. Tell them that, because Christ’s kingdom is not of this earth, they are free to love those who have a different approach to the work of earthly kingdoms. Speak the words that have caused people in every generation to stop loving the sins unique to their respective political ideologies, to embrace those they once called their enemies, and totrust not in princes, but in the King of Kings [Pastor Hans Fiene, “Why Mark Burns’ RNC Benediction Was Terrible,” The Federalist, 2016.07.19].
I’m not a pastor, but I can tell when someone isn’t doing a pastor’s job. With his RNC malediction, Mark Burns speaks as Republican, but not as a Christian pastor.