BEDMINISTER, N.J. – Whatever your opinion of the recent election, let’s agree on one thing. Yesterday, Donald Trump went to church on Sunday, and that is a good thing. The church was The Lamington Presbyterian Church, a stunningly simple, beautiful neoclassical white church in New Jersey.
It is traditional for presidents to attend a public Sunday church service occasionally, and for Donald Trump, we are guessing that it is something Trump doesn’t do every Sunday. Often, presidents go to St. John’s, an Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., which functions as a sort of unofficial chaplaincy to presidents. George W. Bush, however, attended church at Camp David, and the Clintons regularly attended Foundry Methodist Church, according to Time. The challenge is that regular attendance is difficult for church regulars, who must go through security each Sunday.
In the United Kingdom, the Queen attends a private Eucharist on Wednesdays, as well as church. It is distracting for the Defender of Faith to also take the Eucharist in public. While in Scotland, she attends a Presbyterian church, as she is head of state and that is the official church there.
In the Trump campaign, he was made fun of for the way he said “Two Corinthians” rather than the traditional “Second Corinthians.” He blamed it on his mother, a strong Scottish Presbyterian, and Tony Perkins, who wrote the talking point. During a meeting with clergy at Trump tower with evangelicals and pentecostals, Trump was received well. However, one of the evangelicals attending, Lance Wallnau, remarked that he allowed the Pentecostal preachers to pray over his head. This showed Trump’s naivety regarding evangelicals and pentecostals; most Republican candidates do not allow this as it may be photographed and convey an unwelcome message to many mainstream voters. Wallnau, who grew up Episcopal and is now a non-denominational Pentecostal, explained the theology of Trump in a viral Facebook video and in a new book, God’s Chaos Candidate: Donald J. Trump and the American Unraveling.
Trump grew up going to church at First Presbyterian Church in Queens, where he was confirmed. We can assume that attendance was regular, and mandatory, as we know the old school nature of his mother, a Scot from the Hebrides. Later, he attended the famous Marble Collegiate Church, which was the home of renowned pastor Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Marble Collegiate is part of the Reformed Church in America. It is where Trump married Marla Maples, according to an informative New York Times story. Since then, he apparently has not been a regular churchgoer; we assume he is among the Easter/Christmas variety of mainstream Protestants that only show up on high and Holy Days.
Yet spending the time with Mike Pence, and owing so much to evangelicals, Trump went to church last Sunday. We are sure he heard a progressive message; the main Presbyterian denomination is socially and theologically more liberal. If Trump were to attend his old Jamaica, Queens church, he would have had the same sort of progressive message there.
It is unclear whether the Trumps will be in Washington, D.C. over the weekends, but if they are, it would be good to see them both in church. The President and First Lady are and become cultural icons, and their tastes, habits and enthusiasms drive the national culture. It may be that regular attendance at a Presbyterian Church in the D.C. area is a bit of a challenge, but as a person in the pews each Sunday, I can assure you that no matter who the president is, I would wait an extra 15 minutes each Sunday for four years to be able to pray in a pew so close to the President.
To be so bold, let me suggest something. The president ought to officially join a Presbyterian church in Washington, during his time there, and attend fairly regularly, all the while visiting different churches in the D.C. area on other Sundays. The Post did an excellent piece on the various Presbyterian options for Trump; it is HERE.
There are many who have forgotten the joy of church on Sunday. While many non-denominational (and mainline) churches have de-emphasized the formality and the ceremony of Sunday, those of us who go know what a blessing it is to be able to attend each week, and put on our best for the the one who created us and sustains us.
In Virginia, seeing Gov. L. Douglas Wilder attend the largely white, and traditional St. Paul’s in Richmond helped to cement his place as a leader for all types of Virginians; ditto with President Barak Obama, who attended St. John’s, like so many presidents.
Church is one occasion where the President shows himself an average citizen, sitting in the pew, listening to the Word, and hearing the Gospel preached in the sermon. It’s an important part of our national tradition, and having Donald, Melania and Barron dress up and drop a bit in the collection plate would be a potent testimony, no matter which side of the fence you are on. We are all equals in the church.
Below, the video of the motorcade to church, and below that, the Wallnau video with over 3 million views:
Below, the video from Lance Wallnau that had over 3 million views and helped convict Pentecostals that Trump was a safe vote. Wallnau goes live on Periscope and Facebook daily to take his followers wherever he goes.