President Trump's commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday was not inconsequential because, as The Atlantic's Emma Green points out
Much hasn’t changed since Trump’s last visit to Lynchburg. His message is still about taking down Washington, the media, and “the cynics and the doubters.” He still seems most at ease out of the White House, among his people, facing adulation and approval rather than policy decisions and a critical press. But unlike those early days of biblical fumbling, Trump has learned how to smoothly connect his anti-establishment message with religious praise.
To be sure, Trump invoked God at every opportunity. To those past and present members of the military present, he was "profoundly grateful to every single one of you who sacrificed to keep us safe and protect God's precious gift of freedom." He maintained in the USA "we don't worship government we worship God." On behalf of all Americans were barred by government bureaucrats from worshipping the previous Sunday, he declared "We will always stand up for the right of all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings."
The President told the story of 98-year-old George Rogers, whom he implied took part in the Bataan death march but "kept his faith in God" and "discovered God's plan for him," later becoming an executive at Liberty. The assembled graduates, Trump maintained, have been "equipped with the tools from your time right here on this campus to make the right decisions and to serve God, family and country."
The President added "We all salute the same great American flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God." He promised "As long as you remember what you have learned here at Liberty, as long as you have pride in your beliefs, courage in your convictions and faith in your God, then you will not fail" (video immediately below from 9/15).
Those graudates may or may not have understood, as Dr. James Emery White explains
But doesn't the Bible say to judge people by their fruit? Yes, but not as defined by the world, such as money, success, numbers, buildings, publications, position, title, speaking engagements, notoriety, rankings, sales or press coverage. That is the world's standard of success, not the Bible's.
Trump's failure to understand that neither God, nor faith in God, guarantees earthly success may be apropos for an individual steeped in the prosperity gospel, a persistent thorn in the side of Christianity. Still, Green maintains
In his first commencement speech as president, he said it was God who brought him to the White House. But in electoral terms, it was people like those at Liberty, and their president is finally speaking their language.
The President is speaking their language- opposition to abortion, repeated mentions of God, and opposition to abortion.* He is doing it, however, by still crediting his election to God, to wit (emphasis mine):
It's been a little over a year since I've spoken on your beautiful campus and so much has changed. Right here, the class of 2017 dressed in cap and gown, graduating to a totally brilliant future. And here I am standing before you as President of the United States, so I'm guessing — there are some people here today who thought that either one of those things, either one, would really require major help from God. Do we agree? And we got it.
They may very well agree that Trump's election require(d) major help from God, a belief fully consistent with the President's view. "I alone can fix it," Trump has boasted. Solomon reportedly noted "when pride comes, then comes disgrace but with humility comes wisdom." Jesus himself is reputed to have said "whomever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Donald Trump probably has won evangelicals over. Whether he has won over the entity they claim to adore is much more problematic.
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