Trump made the unannounced visit to Northern Virginia’s McLean Bible Church after four and a half hours at his golf course in nearby Sterling and on his way back to the White House. He spent 15 minutes there, and was prayed for by pastor David Platt, who referred to evangelical leader Franklin Graham’s call for pastors around the country’s to honor Trump on June 2.
“Many of you may have seen that there were calls to, particularly on this Sunday, pray for our president,” Platt said. “We don’t want to do that just on this Sunday. We want to do that continually, day in and day out. So I want to ask us to bow our heads together now and pray for our president.”
Trump said nothing from the stage during his brief stay. He wore khaki pants, a blue golf shirt, a dark blazer — and light-colored golf shoes.
“This is the sad thing. It won’t matter,” said Kendal Unruh, a Colorado Christian school teacher and former Republican activist who led the unsuccessful effort at the 2016 convention to dump Trump as the nominee. “It doesn’t matter how much he mocks our faith.”
The White House declined to comment on his attire. Platt himself wore jeans and a polo shirt at the nondenominational church, but Trump typically wears a suit and tie in his public appearances, even in places where others are dressed casually. And his hair, which is always carefully coiffed, appeared stuck to his head, as if pressed there by the golf hat he held in one hand.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement: “President Donald J. Trump is visiting McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA, to visit with the pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach.”
But Platt, in the five minutes of remarks he gave in Trump’s presence, did not mention Friday’s shooting that left 12 victims dead and several others in the hospital.
Platt on Sunday did not respond to a request for comment, and the White House would not clarify why it claimed Trump’s visit was related to the shooting.
It is unclear when Trump decided to drop in at the church. The visit was not listed on his public schedule, even though Graham, a vocal Trump supporter, on May 26 called on fellow pastors to pray for Trump Sunday.
“I and many other Christian leaders across the country are asking you to take a moment during that day to pray for President Donald Trump,” Graham said in a video. “I don’t believe any president in the history of this nation has been attacked more than Donald Trump.”
Unruh, who left her church in suburban Denver because “there was too much Trump worship,” said it was obvious that Trump’s aides remembered only after he had already left the White House to play golf that it was Graham’s “Pray for Donald Trump Day.”
“We know it was: ‘You have to go by this place because we need to keep this base,’” Unruh said. “With them, it’s all about manipulating and gas-lighting the base.”
Self-described white, evangelical Christians make up the only major demographic group that supports Trump. According to recent Pew polls, Trump has the approval of just 37 percent of Americans overall, but 69 percent of white evangelical Christians.
Many have justified their support of Trump — who famously said on tape that his celebrity allowed him to grab women by the genitals and who has been sued thousands of times for failing to honor signed contracts with craftsmen and suppliers — by arguing that their God in biblical times used flawed or even immoral leaders to advance his aims.