The shining city on a hill is really, really glitzy.

by

Presidential inaugurations are always an American civil religious festival that reflects the personality and faith of the person being sworn in. Today is no exception.

But instead of a call to service (Recall Jimmy Carter’s “shining city on a hill” address, as only one example.) today’s messages will be all about the hand of God picking a particular person and whose wealth is a sign of God’s particular blessing.

This morning’s private pre-inauguration prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square is a tradition dating back to the administration of FDR. Today’s service will feature Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Jeffress is a proponent of the so-called “prosperity Gospel” with an apocalyptic edge and is known for his disparaging remarks about gays, women, and Muslims.

CNN.com:

Jeffress leads a 12,000-member megachurch in Dallas and is a frequent guest on Fox News. But to many Americans, he may be best known for his frequent condemnations of Mormonism as a “cult” during the 2012 presidential campaign. He urged Christians not to vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon, during the Republican primary. He later supported Romney over President Barack Obama.
Jeffress has also called Islam and Mormonism heresies “from the pit of hell,” suggested that the Catholic church was led astray by Satan, accused Obama of “paving the way” for the Antichrist and spread false statistics about the prevalence of HIV among gays, who he said live a “miserable” and “filthy” lifestyle.
In recent years, Jeffress has frequently denounced Islam, calling it an “evil religion” that “promotes pedophilia” because the Prophet Muhammed married a 9-year-old girl. (Many modern Muslim scholars disagree about her age.) The pastor has also said that Mormons, Muslims and Hindus “worship a false god.”
The Rector of the parish, which has hosted past presidents and their families, said that the choice of the preacher was not his.
The Rev. Luis León, rector of St. John’s Episcopal, told CNN about the plan for Jeffress to deliver the sermon when CNN inquired about the event. Leon has been involved in logistical planning of the event but not the choice of speakers. A second source involved in the service confirmed to CNN on Thursday that Jeffress is scheduled to take part.
In 2013, León gave the benediction at Barack Obama’s second inaugural, and Bishop Gene Robinson gave the benediction in 2009.
Today’s choice is in keeping with the style and tenor of the other religious leaders taking part in today inaugural events: clergy and preachers who are conservative, media-savvy, and, especially among the Protestants, reflect a version of the prosperity and positive-thinking approaches the new President is drawn to.

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump is drawn to those preachers who say that one’s wealth is a sign of God’s approval. Paula White has her critics in the evangelical world, some of whom consider her a heretic, but she endorsed Trump’s candidacy, and he reciprocated by inviting White to pray at his swearing-in ceremony.

Another pro-Trump evangelist who will be praying at the inauguration is Franklin Graham. During a recent interview with Lou Dobbs on the Fox Business Network, Graham said “the hand of God” was evident in Trump’s election.

Jeffress tweeted the topic of his sermon, as reported by the New York Daily News:

“Honored to deliver sermon ‘When God Chooses a Leader’ for Trump/Pence private family service,” the pastor said over Twitter.

Today, the Episcopal Churches where today’s events will happen will serve mainly as the traditional venue for these civil religious event, but the voice from the pulpits will reflect a rather different message, and a very different understanding of our response to God as citizens who are also people of faith.

 

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post

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Mary-Jo Diaz Weber
Guest
Mary-Jo Diaz Weber

I am shocked and grieved that such preaching took place in an Episcopal church. What witness did our church provide? It seems none. It occurs to me that when a couple wish to get married in our church, or ask for their baby to be baptized, there is a thoughtful process and the rector is in charge of the service. Why does this man, who demeaned women, Latinos, and the disabled, among other egregious behaviors, get to dictate the service? Who will take us seriously when we say we are following Jesus?

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Philip B. Spivey
Guest
Philip B. Spivey

So very true, Ann. But not so for Jesus: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you want to be my followers, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.' " ~Matthew 16:24 (ES).
Sounds like the Jesus Movement to me.

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Ann Fontaine
Member

Lots of the belief that God shows his blessing in material ways -- all through the Bible. I don't buy it but it is there.

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Helen Kromm
Guest
Helen Kromm

A remarkable development that reinforces the old adage that just when you think a situation can't possibly get any worse, it does. It's difficult to know what to say or how to comment on a development such as Robert Jeffress being permitted to deliver a sermon from an Episcopal sanctuary.

And not just any sermon, but one uniquely geared to this particular inauguration. The press has reported that Jeffress will use the story of Nehemiah in his sermon. Surely the story of a wall builder and racial purifier will find favor with Trump.

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Philip B. Spivey
Guest
Philip B. Spivey

"A burnt offering will follow this sermon".

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