The day after he ordered the strike that killed Iran's Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Donald Trump showed up at an evangelical church in Miami to cast himself as a modern-day savior of Christianity.
This may be a bit confounding for those of you who remember that Trump rarely visited a church during the 2016 campaign, and when he did in Council Bluffs, Iowa, he pulled dollar bills out of his pocket when the communion plate passed his way. Well, look, if you're going to dwell on all that, you are never going to be invited to join Trump's newly founded Christian Church of Campaign Convenience.
Many of us find attending church to be a humbling endeavor. The sanctuary is a place where we can confess our sins to God, pass the peace of Christ, and reflect how, to quote my late mother, we can fix ourselves and help others.
Trump is having none of that. He doesn't even try to fake humility. For an hour, he stood before the Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesus congregation, which repeatedly cheered "four more years," and brayed about how he has snatched Christianity from the jaws of the Christian-eating monster lurking somewhere out there where only he can see it, apparently.
"Evangelical Christians of every denomination and believers of every faith have never had a greater champion, not even close, in the White House, than you have right now," he said. "We've done things that nobody thought was possible. Together we're not only defending our constitutional rights. We're also defending religion itself, which is under siege."
For nearly two decades, I've been writing about this mythical religious persecution of Christians in America. Not one day in all of my years of practicing my Christian faith have I felt the least bit unsafe in doing so. The only ones attacking my Christianity are the far-right Christians who wield God as a weapon. They've produced some of the most hateful mail of my career.
Meanwhile, our Jewish brothers and sisters are increasingly endangered by right-wing extremists in this country. The president doesn't like to talk about that part of being Jewish in America. He did, however, offer this anti-Semitic take at a gathering of the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida — almost a month to the day before he spoke to evangelicals:
"You're not going to vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let's take 100 percent of your wealth away. No, no. Even if you don't like me — and some of you don't; some of you, I don't like at all, actually — and you're going to be my biggest supporters because you'll be out of business in about 15 minutes."
That's some Christianity Trump is peddling.
Let's end on a better note.
In this time of crisis in our country, I am forever seeking signs of hope. So often, I find them where I least expect. Last week, it was at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
I grew up with country music, and still sing along to it, especially when I'm cooking. I've been wanting to form my own all-girl country music band since December 1963, when my grandma gave my little sister and me matching cowgirl outfits. I am always surfing my hate mail for possible band names. So far, Feral Feminists remains my favorite. Don't tell me a girl can't dream.
Anyway, there I was, sitting next to my husband on a crowded pew in the balcony of the Ryman Auditorium. The place was packed with white people who came to hear two hours and 15 minutes of country music at its best, from Tenille Arts and Dillon Carmichael, to Connie Smith and Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers.
A little after 9 p.m., the final act strolled onto the stage. The McCrary Sisters, a black gospel group, stepped up to four mics. They blew the roof off with "Amazing Grace."
They were the only black singers at the Grand Ole Opry on Jan. 3, and they got the only standing ovation of the night. In Nashville, Tennessee.
Every time I think about that, I smile.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, "The Daughters of Erietown," will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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