I’m Outraged by Trump’s Church Photo-Op

n the book of Jeremiah, the Hebrew prophet shares instructions from God about entering a place of worship.

“Stand at the gate of the house of the Lord and proclaim this message there,” God tells the prophet. “Reform your ways and your deeds so that I may dwell with you in this place.” You can enter, the prophet relays, only “if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 7: 1-10).

These words came to mind as the shocking photos of Donald Trump standing in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, Bible in hand, flashed across TVs, computers, and phones.

What was the president trying to convey? It certainly was not a call to reform our ways, to deal justly with our neighbor, or welcome the alien, the widow, and the orphan.

Only a short time before the president’s appearance, the full coercive power of the state was unleashed on people peacefully protesting brutal violence against black Americans. They were chased from Lafayette Square in a barrage of teargas and rubber bullets.

Many white Americans were shocked by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. But for black Americans, this was only the most recent incident in a 400-year history of racism. The rallies and marches taking place across the country demonstrate how this deep wound continues to fester.

The president’s response should elicit nothing short of condemnation from followers of Jesus.

In a conference call with governors, the president urged them to “dominate,” arrest, and imprison demonstrators for “ten years.” He chided the governors for not acting with greater force, labeling them “jerks” for not doing so. There was not one word from the president about racism or its long legacy of oppression and exclusion.

There were other reasons Trump’s church photo-op was shameful as well. For one thing, the president stood in front of a church sign that said “All Are Welcome.” The hypocrisy is almost too much to bear.

The Trump administration has effectively closed our borders, consigning many asylum seekers to remain in dangerous Mexican border towns while they wait for their asylum hearings.

Persons from certain countries, which the president has described in vulgar and derogatory terms, are banned from the U.S., and tens of thousands of migrants languish in jails and for-profit detention centers where they face a heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic and recession have fallen heaviest on communities of color. These are situations that should remind us that we are one people, that our health is intimately related to the health of everyone else.

I am a Catholic sister. Our deepest belief as Christians — whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or Evangelical — holds that we are all children of the same loving God and are responsible for one another.

Unfortunately, our president, even though he chose to stand in front of a Christian church with the Scriptures in his hands, does not seem to understand this most basic tenet of our faith.

He ignored the pandemic for weeks, forced the states into destructive bidding wars for supplies, ignored the counsel of public health professionals, and belittled mitigation measures by refusing to wear a mask or practice social distancing.

And now, he’s beaten and tear gassed people peacefully protesting for justice for their neighbors.

The president is using churches and the faith community as a backdrop for his reelection campaign — and nothing more. Rather than posing in front of a church, Trump would be wise to go inside and spend some time reflecting on the message of Jesus.

Sister Karen M. Donahue is a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She lives in Detroit, Michigan.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
Steve Martinot
The Desire to Kill
David Yearsley
The War on Kitsch
Amy Eva Alberts Warren – Rev. William Alberts
Why are Certain Christians Democratic and Others Authoritarian?
Lawrence Davidson
Covid Madness
Brian Cloughley
Britain’s Disorder and Decline
Ellen Taylor
The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World
David Rosen
White Nationalists on the Attack
Jeff Cohen
Politicians of Color Should Not be Immune From Criticism
Joseph Natoli
Drawn Away from Reality in Plain View
Frank Joyce
Give Me Liberty,  Give You Death
Jonah Raskin
My Adventures in the Matriarchy
Paul Street
The Racist Counter-Revolution of 1776
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Corruption of the Democratic Party: Talking to Ted Rall about his new book
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Record on Foreign Policy: Lost Wars, New Conflicts and Broken Promises
Paul Edwards
A Bridge Too Far
Jennifer Joan Thompson
How to Do Things With Theses: Chile’s National Police Force Sues the Feminist Artistic Collective, Las Tesis
Shawn Fremstad
Vacations for All!
Thomas Knapp
A Modest Proposal for Compromise on “Confederate” Military Bases
Vijay Prashad, Eduardo Viloria Daboín, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Venezuela’s Borderlands Have Been Assaulted by COVID-19
Thom Hartmann
COVID Masks: The Latest Faux Conservative Outrage
Jesse Jackson
Mandatory College Football Practices in Time of Pandemic are Nuts
Nicholas Vincenzo Barney
Consensus Politics on the Fringe: The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Intellectual Dark Web
Ted Rall
The Data is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden
Theresa Church
In Reconsidering ‘Normalcy’ Genetically Engineered Trees Do Not Belong
Chelsea Carrick
Let’s Not Lose Momentum
Adam Rissien
Sorry Secretary Perdue, Our National Forests are Not Crops
Arshad Khan
India and China Tussle on the Roof of the World
Paul Gilk
A Few Theoretical Percentages
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”:  A Phrase That’s Tells us Very Little, if Anything,  About the Actual Levels of Danger We  Face
Claire Chadwick
I Got COVID-19 at Work. I Won’t be the Last
George Wuerthner
The Upper Green River Should be a National Park, Not a Feedlot
Julian Vigo
Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19
Ravi Mangla
Policing is Not a Public Good