Donald Trump has enlisted a larger, more diverse lineup of clergy than usual to pray him into office at his upcoming inauguration ceremony.
The group—bigger than any president’s since Ronald Reagan—reflects his politics, pragmatism, and personality. It includes evangelical leaders Franklin Graham and Samuel Rodriguez, as well as spiritual advisor Paula White, the Florida televangelist credited with his rumored recent Christian conversion, and a Detroit prosperity preacher, Wayne T. Jackson.
“Taken together, [Graham and White] have embodied Trump’s embrace of the twinned ideologies of Christian nationalism and capitalist Christianity,” Kevin Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University and author of One Nation Under God, told CT.
The two represent the type of “pragmatic spirituality” that Trump evoked throughout his campaign, with Graham advancing a political agenda and White a financial one, according to John D. Wilsey, author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion and an assistant professor of history and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Despite Trump’s Presbyterian identity and upbringing, mainline traditions are not represented among the half-dozen clergy involved, which include one Catholic and one Jewish leader. As Wisley noted, “his Protestants are evangelicals”—a crucial voting bloc that helped Trump win in November.
Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, recently defended God’s role in securing Trump’s victory in November, and appeared alongside the president-elect during Trump’s “thank you” tour this month. Graham did not endorse Trump, but held prayer rallies in all 50 states leading up to the election.
“It is a privilege to be asked to take part in the inauguration of the next President of the United States. I am very thankful that prayer and reading from God’s Holy Word will be a part of this important ceremony as the world watches,” he posted on Facebook Wednesday. “We need God’s blessing and favor on this nation and our new president, Donald J. Trump. I’m praying for that—will you?”
Franklin Graham previously prayed at George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001. Billy Graham prayed at inaugurations for Richard Nixon (in 1969), George H. W. Bush (in 1989), and Bill Clinton (in 1993 and 1997), The Charlotte Observer reported.
White, a longtime friend, has been Trump’s biggest advocate and defender of his faith to fellow Christian leaders. But the inauguration lineup also includes figures who have been less enthusiastic and even critical of Trump.
Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and a Christianity Today board member, displayed some wariness over Trump’s proposals during the campaign. But he has partnered with the Trump transition team to address immigration policy, particularly the status of children of undocumented immigrants. Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has criticized Trump’s immigration stance, will also speak.
“The inclusion of such critics suggests a willingness to heal former rifts, which of course would be a welcome and appropriate sign for an inauguration,” said Kruse.
Rodriguez is slated to offer a reading and invocation, as is White. Graham is slated to offer a reading and benediction, as is Jackson.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today