Last Thursday, Donald Trump used the National Day of Prayer as a symbolic photo opp to sign another of his Executive Orders, seeking to fulfill a campaign promise made to his conservative Fundamental/Evangelical base. With him at the event were numerous well-known religious leaders—part of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council.
Because of an early draft leaked to the media, this Executive Order (EO) was expected to grant sweeping permissions for businesses to refuse service based on “deeply held religious beliefs,” granting the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and those perceived to be involved in sexual relations traditionally reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. There was also the speculation among Fundamental/Evangelical leaders the EO would override the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches and religious nonprofits from promoting (endorsing) political candidates—something Trump promised in his campaign.
Several civil liberties organization threatened legal action if such an Order were implemented.
Let me say clearly that I affirm everyone’s right to their religious beliefs. I don’t have to share them, agree with them, or even understand them. I think that’s what Freedom of Religion is all about, as guaranteed by our Constitution. I’m not interested in forcing anyone to change, compromise or violate what they believe. I have my own beliefs, and I’d like that same respect in return.
And that’s why I find these "religious freedom" initiatives so objectionable.
As an observer of the intersection of religion and politics, I’m struck by their many contractions, which I've written about in the past.
But in this case, the entire spectacle of Donald Trump's EO is much more for me.
It reeks of unmitigated hypocrisy.
Background: The word “hypocrisy” comes from a Greek word (hupokrites) that referred to an actor—someone playing a role outwardly that didn't reflect who they were inwardly. In those days, actors held a mask to their face to depict the nature or disposition of the person they were portraying.
If it was a “good” character, the mask was smiling.
If not, the mask showed a frown.
(These masks are still the symbol of the theater today.)
“Hypocrite” came to mean someone who masks who they truly are—an impostor, a charlatan. It connotes a person who puts on a outward persona in order to deceive others, someone who says one thing, but does another. They smile, say the right words, buddy up…but it comes with a personal agenda. They want something from others, and play a part in order to get it. They are Con Artists.
The word “hypocrite” is used 20 times (TWENTY!!!) in the Gospels, all spoken by Jesus, usually directed at pompous religious leaders:
Those who like to be seen praying in public;
Those who want to impose their rigid beliefs on other, while not living by those same standards;
Those only concerned with external behavior, not inward motives;
Those who focus exclusively on their traditions and rules, rather than the needs of people.
Allow me to share my perspective—to unmask what I see as the hypocrisy (and the Hypocrites) of this Executive Order.
In my opinion, it's evident on many levels.
First, the hypocrisy of this Executive Order is seen in the “executive” signing it.
At the signing of this Order, Trump proclaimed: “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever.”
Think about that. Please.
This is the same guy who had previously signed TWO Executive Orders seeking to ban immigration, based on a person’s religion. (Thankfully, both were struck down as unconstitutional.)
Does anyone else see that as…oh, I don’t know…hypocritical?
But one conspicuous aspect of this stunt stands out.
For me, Donald Trump advocating for anything remotely related to religious morality or ethics is duplicitous, a mockery of the faith he's purporting to protect. This man is devoid of common decency or strong religious loyalty. Essentially, he’s giving permission for others to impose beliefs he doesn't embrace or practice.
Trump is the personification of a Hypocrite!
This “angel of light” has lied and deceived his way into the hearts of conservative “christians,” while in no way sharing their theology or their values. As a former Fundamentalist/Evangelical, I remember when Trump's lifestyle and behavior would be the cautionary tale used in the pulpit as an example of how NOT to live. There was a time when his words, his past, his antics, and his character would have been considered “ungodly.” His gambling empire, serial adultery, multiple marriages, shady business practices and scam operations would've made him unfit for “righteous” support by Christians, much less political endorsement from religious leaders.
And yet, EIGHTY-ONE percent of Fundamentalists/Evangelicals voted for him.
(Yes, that’s more…say it with me…hypocrisy!)
Donald Trump has no leadership skills, and no actual solutions to pressing, urgent problems facing our country. His cabinet is full of inept individuals. He’s impetuous and temperamental, plagued with low approval ratings, and failed promises. He’s probably being investigated for collusion with Russia. His presidency is in trouble, and his go-to action is deflection! He needs to take the attention away from the problems of his administration.
What we have is a trickster, utilizing the proven art of misdirection, asking us to look “here” so we miss what’s going on “there.”
This is nothing more than a distraction, intended to deflect…to mask…what actually going on around him.
It’s showmanship, done for the favor (and favors) it garners him with a large voting bloc. But ultimately, it was the classic bait-and-switch tactic of a con artist, intended to appease those who supported him and believed his empty promises.
But it was an illusion. A lie.
I think there's much more hypocrisy involved in this measure than just the man who signed the order.
To avoid one overly lengthy post, I’d like to examine several other hypocritical elements in a separate entry.
I hope you'll return for Part Two.