Mark Burns, a South Carolina pastor, offered the opening benediction for the Republican National Convention, with a bit of theological malpractice: using the name of Jesus as a partisan tool to attack Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
Burns opened by saying that he was there to pray because:
…we got to be united, because the enemy is not other Republicans – but Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party.
Then he prayed:
Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.
Amy Sullivan, a journalist who has long covered American politics and religion, tweeted that she has seen “nothing like this” in covering prayers offered at either Republican or Democratic conventions.
This fits the jumbled theology of Donald Trump, however. Religion for Trump is just another tool to use in dividing Americans. He has used anti-Semitic imagery and fanned the flames of Islamophobia to advance a white nationalist agenda.
For most people of faith, however, religion is what we call on to unite people, heal wounds and seek justice. We should hope that political stunts like the one pulled by Burns are roundly criticized by all people of faith regardless of where we might stand politically.