President Trump holding a Bible in front of the rioter-torched St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House has sparked a riot of words. Democratic Party leaders trashed the president for hypocrisy—once again accusing another of exactly their own actions. But the faith community also piled on Trump, as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida Greg Brewer tweeted, “This is blasphemy in real time.” Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington told CNN that she was “outraged” because Trump’s actions were contrary to the teachings of Jesus, saying that Christ lived a life of non-violence, but she stopped short of condemning the violence of rioters.
These same people who say the Bible is not a prop for a photo opportunity were silent when Hillary Clinton, the previous president, and Bill Clinton showed up at churches carrying their Bibles. But since it’s Trump, it’s unacceptable and blasphemy. Interesting tweet from a friend of mine, Joel Richardson: “So many preachers expressing their disgust because POTUS used a Bible as a photo prop. Sorry guys, you’re not the only one who gets to use the Bible as a photo prop.” To me, Joel’s statement here is far deeper than it appears on the surface. If pastors were using the Bible for more than a prop, perhaps we wouldn’t see so many systemic problems around the country because people would be living out their faith in truth and in love.
Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, seemed to understand Trump’s message. Franklin tweeted: “After his speech from the Rose Garden Monday afternoon, President Donald J. Trump made a statement by walking through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church that had been vandalized and partially burned Sunday night. He surprised those following him by holding up a Bible in front of the church. Thank you, President Trump. God and His Word are the only hope for our nation. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).”
Christ had a view on the religious leaders of his time. In Matthew 23:27-28, He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Part of the problem with the religious leadership of our time is that they cannot even agree on what is sound doctrine, leaving the flock scattered and confused. And another part of the problem is that both political and religious leaders often appear to judge others from the content of their own hearts, rather than against the standard of God’s Word.