At least as long as there have political rulers, there have been prayers for them. That they would succeed in battle, that they would rule with justice, that the tribe or nation or empire over which they ruled would prosper under them.
Even though Jesus wasn’t much of a prayer warrior when it came to the political rulers of first century Palestine, calling Herod “a fox” and defiantly challenging Pontius Pilate over his cynical relationship with the truth, since the ascendancy of the unapologetically unconverted Constantine to Caesar’s Throne, the Christian Church has wed itself to political power.
In the American political theater, prayer has never been far from center stage. Especially since the Carter era and the move of American Evangelicalism from the fringes to the mainstream of religious thought, politicans have twisted themselves in all sorts of strange contortions to demonstrate that they are “born again,” part of the called and chosen ones. Donald Trump is no exception, nor is his nemesis, Hillary Clinton. Clinton often speaks of her Methodist faith and Trump made sure that he was born again before he completed his trouncing of the Republican field, including Senator Ted Cruz, who was specifically told by God to run for President. God is, one assumes, still chucking over how Ted fell for that one.
Today, as the coronation of Donald Trump nears, he, as is the custom, had a praying preacher open the show. And what an opening it was. Up to the microphone stepped Anderson, South Carolina televangelist and Prosperity Gospeller, Mark Burns to invoke Divine Favor on the candidate. Back in March, Pastor Burns, riffing in a very Trumpy way, said of the Jewish Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders “he gotta get saved.” What his view of another Jew, Jesus of Nazareth is, one may only guess, since he was considerably more economically radical than Sanders.
Tonight, Pastor Burns provided a glimpse into the spiritual warfare that Evangelicals intend to launch for the next four months:
Pastor Burns’ theology is not exactly orthodox, but then the man he is praying for is not exactly orthodox either, so this should not surprise us. But, even for an Evangelical who believe that God wants you to be rich, it was a bit unusual to hear an imprecatory prayer, with no pretense of praying for the lost soul of Methodist Hillary.
Perhaps in his gold-leafed Bible the pages of the Sermon on the Mount were stuck together so Burns never got to the verse where Jesus said: “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Too weak, too low energy.
Next week, we get to see if the Clinton Campaign will fire a return salvo.