Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Trump's bizarre bible photo-op

Donald Trump's bible photo-op was a bizarre event even by Trumpian standards.
Police used tear gas to forcibly move out peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square Park in central Washington, so that Trump could make his leisurely stroll down to St. John's Episcopal Church (the so-called "church of the presidents"). Presumably, the vibe was supposed to be reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln or some such, deep in philosophical contemplation.
One arriving at the little church, he struck a few different poses with a bible (apparently not his own) in front of the church, which had experienced a small basement fire a few days earlier. He was probably hoping for a convenient beam of light from the heavens to highlight his display, but the heavens did not oblige. Then, photo-op over, he strolled back to the White House - no explanation, no speeches nothing. Priceless!
Various religious leaders, including the bishop of the diocese and the church's own rector, neither of whom were consulted about the stunt, responded with criticism, disgust and outrage. One prominent rabbi called it "one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen". Trump had made a similar PR visit to the Shrine of Saint John Paul II in Washington earlier in the day, which the Catholic Archbishop also found "baffling and reprehensible".
But there was no religious context to the event: it was just a cynical photo-op, pure and simple. The Christian Broadcasting Company and Fox lapped it up. Fox & Friends called it Trump "demonstrating his intent to protect churches from those who would try to destroy them". And at least some of his Republican supporters rallied around, with one in particular gushing, "Historic moment as @POTUS Trump reclaims St. John's Church for America! God bless America!" (My favourite quote from a Democratic senator was, "He handled the Bible like the ape handled the bone in '2001: A Space Odyssey' ").
Few, other than Trump, would have the chutzpah for such a performance - most would be concerned about appearing glib or phony. But not Trump! Apparently, according to media sources, it was entirely his idea, because "he wanted the visual". And he seems to have achieved what he wanted (coverage on the right-wing media, and photos for his faithful to disseminate on social media).

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