SEN. McCONNELL: The president says he’s a Christian, I take him at his word. I don’t think that’s in dispute. MR. GREGORY: And how do you think it comes to be that this kind of misinformation gets spread around and prevails? SEN. McCONNELL: I have no idea, but I take the president at his word.
Some people were upset by this answer. In New York, Dan Amira wrote,
While it’s nice McConnell says Obama’s faith is “not in dispute,” his answer wasn’t an unequivocal “The President is a Christian.” It was, “He’s telling us he’s a Christian and I believe him.” Recalling Hillary Clinton’s remark during the presidential primary that she takes Obama “on the basis of what he says,” McConnell leaves some room for doubt in the minds of anyone who doesn’t generally take Obama at his word, which, in the GOP, is probably most people.This anger was misguided, although possibly politically handy. McConnell gave the only possible reasonable answer. Amira thinks he should have said, “The president is a Christian.” If McConnell had said that, a number of other questions would follow. How in the world would McConnell know that? Did God tell him? Did he look into Obama’s eyes and see his soul? The only sane answer would be “I take him at his word.”
I don’t know McConnell’s motives (and it’s possible he wasn’t being honest when he said he didn’t know how the Muslim rumors got spread). Regardless, this was the only reasonable answer. If he had said, “It’s none of your business, or mine, or anyone else’s. We oppose him based on policy disagreements, and his religion is irrelevant,” that would have been an excellent answer. A few problems with it: he’d never give such an answer for the same reasons Obama wouldn’t, and that answer, though excellent, would be noncommittal about Obama’s religion. “I take him at his word. I don’t think that’s in dispute” at least gives lip service to Obama’s Christianity, regardless of McConnell’s motives.
I didn’t know that Nancy Pelosi had said she was praying for Donald Trump until he accused her of lying about it in his December 17, 2019, letter to her. Trump wrote, “You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying ‘I pray for the President,’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense.” We’ve come a long way from McConnell’s taking Obama at his word. We don’t know how Trump knows the statement isn’t true (or how he knows Pelosi knows it isn’t true). Trump repeated this, complete with mind reading, at the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast. As Caleb Parke reported for Fox News, “‘I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,’ Trump said, and added, in a seeming hit at Pelosi, ‘nor do I like people who say, “I pray for you” when they know that that’s not so.’”
I can’t speak for Pelosi, but I see no reason not to believe her. I pray for all who are malevolent, or cruel, or selfish, or uncaring. I pray that we (I often have to include myself) change ourselves and get rid of, or at restrain, our bad qualities. That we mensh out. I believe Trump to be malevolent, cruel, selfish, and uncaring, and my prayer includes him. I pray for him—us—because of his bad qualities. Besides being an obvious thing about religion, it’s part of American folklore. When the bad guy ties the widowed mother to the railroad track, the oldest sister tells the youngsters to pray for him. I don’t know how anybody could have missed this.
I also don’t understand why the prayerful pious at the National Prayer Breakfast didn’t rise in righteous protest at Trump’s complete cluelessness about prayer.