President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids.
He’s also taken other steps to further cultivate a Christian right that helped elect him, granting new levels of access to Christian media and pushing socially conservative positions that don’t appear to come naturally to him.
One of the first interviews Trump sat for as president was with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody.
“I’ve always felt the need to pray,” Trump said in that late-January interview. “The office is so powerful that you need God even more because your decisions are no longer, ‘Gee I’m going to build a building in New York.’ … These are questions of massive, life-and-death.”
“There’s almost not a decision that you make when you’re sitting in this position that isn’t a really life-altering position,” Trump added. “So God comes into it even more so.”
Language like that has the Christian conservatives who helped lift Trump to the White House nodding their heads in approval.
“I believe the weight of the office that he now holds and the burden of responsibility that it carries is humbling him somewhat and causing him to acknowledge and admit his reliance on God,” said Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who has known Trump for six years and supported Trump’s campaign and served on his transition team. Scott was last at the White House in February for a meeting Trump held to mark Black History Month.
But others who have long followed Trump — a businessman who was known more as a playboy than a practitioner of faith — are skeptical that the president has found religion in the Oval Office.
“Donald has never been a spiritually or religiously serious person,” said Timothy O’Brien, author of the Trump biography “TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald.”
Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President,” said: “He’s a transactional guy with humans, and it’s no different with God — it’s all about whatever is to his advantage with regard to his supporters, and referencing God is exactly and only that.”
There’s also the question of Trump’s church attendance as president. On the morning of his inauguration, Trump and his family attended a service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House and then participated in an interfaith prayer service that Saturday at the National Cathedral. He also appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast in early February.
On Sunday, Trump went to Easter services at the Bethesda-by-the-Sea Church in Florida, where he and his wife, Melania, were married in 2015.
But there’s no public knowledge of any other church services Trump has attended, and if he has, it has been without the knowledge of White House pool reporters.
The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump has been attending church as president.
Trump’s frequent invocations of God in his remarks as of late are a change from both his past life as a businessman and his time on the campaign trail. Generally, candidate Trump did not reference God during his rallies and mostly talked about religion only when asked during interviews and during a handful of speeches at faith-based events.
SOURCE: MATTHEW NUSSBAUM