Religion's Role in Trump's Inauguration Weekend Was Prominent

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Church choirs sang, a half-dozen religious leaders prayed and Donald Trump, as U.S. presidents before him,  mentioned God in his inauguration speech. "There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God," he said.
Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir await the inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on Friday. Reuters

Church choirs sang, a half-dozen religious leaders prayed and Donald Trump, as U.S. presidents before him,  mentioned God in his inauguration speech. "There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God," he said.

Many Americans felt Trump's religiously infused inauguration ceremony was noteworthy for a president whose personal faith wasn't a prominent part of his campaign. "Like many Americans, Trump has a variety of ties to organized religion, but it doesn't define him, and he's not well-versed in beliefs and practices," the Deseret News reported.

However, the music heard, Christian leaders who spoke, Bibles used and subsequent church ceremony tied the inauguration together in an overall religious manner.

Two well-known religious singing groups performed on Inauguration Day. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, accompanied by the U.S. Marine Band, sang "America the Beautiful." The Washington National Cathedral Choir of Men, Boys and Girls sang "God Bless America."

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed at five previous inaugurations, for both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Trump invited six faith leaders to participate in Friday's swearing-in ceremony. "The last seven presidential inaugurations, since the elder Bush's in 1989, have had one or two members of the clergy offering prayers and readings," Pew Research Center reported. None of the six was Presbyterian, Trump's denomination.

The first three speakers, a Catholic and two evangelical Christians, shared biblical passages and an opening prayer.

A prayer of King Solomon from the ninth chapter of the Book of Wisdom was read by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. The passage is a plea for God's help in becoming a wise and strong leader.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, senior pastor at New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, Calif., and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, recited the Beatitudes from Matthew 5.

Pastor Paula White, a televangelist and pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla., concluded the opening religious interlude, praying for God's blessings on Trump and the United States of America.

The second group of religious leaders spoke after Trump's speech. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, offered blessings for the new president and asked for God's guidance in keeping the country focused on righteous work. He was the first rabbi since 1985 to speak during an inauguration ceremony.

Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, read from 1 Timothy 2.

Bishop Wayne Jackson, a prosperity gospel preacher and leader of Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit, Mich., shared the final benediction. "May the Lord bless and keep America ... and give us peace," he said.

Trump ended his oath of office with "so help me God," joining a tradition that isn't required by law.

"This reference to God is not mentioned in the Constitution," Pew reported. "Chester A. Arthur, in 1881, is the first president on record to have uttered 'so help me God' at the end of the oath, although earlier presidents' inaugural addresses did refer to God and heaven."

Trump was sworn in with two Bibles, the Lincoln Bible and his family Bible, The Tennessean reported.

"The Lincoln Bible, used during the 16th president's first inauguration, was most recently a part of President Barack Obama's first and second inauguration ceremonies and is a part of the Library of Congress' collection," the article noted. "Trump's Bible, a revised standard version, was presented to him in 1955 by his mother upon graduation from Sunday Church Primary School in New York."

Bibles also are not a requirement for the swearing-in ceremony.

"It's not a requirement for the country's commander in chief to take the oath of office using a Bible, but it's a presidential inauguration tradition started by George Washington," The Tennessean reported.

Trump spoke for 16 minutes after taking the oath of office. He included references to faith in the final few minutes. "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity," he said.

Trump concluded his address with familiar words: "Thank you, God bless you and God bless America."

Two religious services also were part of inauguration weekend. The Trump family joined with Vice President Mike Pence's family at a private prayer service three hours before the public swearing-in.

"Friday morning's worship service, held at St. John's Episcopal Church across the street from the White House, continued a modern Inauguration Day ritual. With the exception of Richard Nixon in 1973, every president since Franklin Roosevelt has attended spiritual services on inauguration day," CNN reported.

Trump, Pence and an estimated 300 other guests heard a sermon from the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a controversial Southern Baptist megachurch pastor who has criticized Islam, Mormonism and the Catholic Church in the past.

Trump also attended a Saturday-morning interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral, at which approximately 25 leaders from America's diverse faith communities delivered brief reflections, scripture readings or prayers.

Speakers included Carlyle Begay from Navajo Nation, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, Imam Mohamed Magid and Cissie Graham Lynch, who is the granddaughter of Billy Graham, Christianity Today reported.

 

 

Tags : Inauguration 2017, Trump, God and America, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, U.S. Marine Band, Pence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Pastor Paula White, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Franklin Graham, Bishop Wayne Jackson, Lincoln Bible, St. John's Episcopal Church, Inauguration Day rituals, National Cathedral, Rev. Robert Jeffress