Commentary: Reagan Reed
At a massive rally for a political figure who has inspired the most fiercely loyal and passionate fan base in perhaps all American history, there is bound to be at least some hero worship. It’s one thing to be a fan of former president Donald Trump, however, it is wholly inappropriate when words of genuflection to a human leader hijack one’s prayer to God. That’s unfortunately what happened when Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough inaugurated the Conroe Trump rally with a prayer.
Now, I personally like Judge Keough, and think he’s done a pretty decent job leading our county. Keough and his Chief-of-Staff Jason Millsaps were very involved in the logistics of the Trump rally, and deserve a lot of credit for everything running smoothly. Many of the attacks against him in this current election cycle have been unfair. I know people who go to his church and by all accounts he’s a great pastor too. However, I also believe in respectfully calling out politicians when they are off the mark, and I believe Keough’s prayer at the Trump rally was way off the mark. As a fellow Christian, I found it offensive, and I write this article not just as a political activist, but in a spirit of admonition from one believer to another.
It started out as a normal prayer. I bowed my head and silently prayed along. However, about halfway through the prayer, I opened my eyes in shock, as Keough prayed that God would, “Bring back President Donald Trump.” It didn’t stop there. I could no longer keep my head bowed as this was no longer a prayer- it had morphed into a political speech:
“The president who was the most pro-life and religious liberty- minded. The president who brought economic prowess back to us and created an environment where every people group had record employment. The president who showed us the real meaning of ‘peace through strength’. The president who is the most brilliant, tough-minded, clear thinking, calm, gifted by you to lead this great nation. The president who showed us how to make America great again. So father we pray and ask that you hear our prayer and bring back the greatest president who has ever lived, Donald Trump, as the next president of the United States. And I pray this now in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people said…”
Even if all of the above were true, it was grossly inappropriate to incorporate crass politics into the sacred act of prayer. If Keough wanted to make those points, he should have said them in a speech either before or after the prayer, not during. The focus of prayer should be on God alone, not on any man, however great.
The prayer was emblematic of the broader trend of evangelicalism being hijacked by “christian nationalism.” Christian nationalism treats the church as a voting block and promotes a cultural Christian identity rather than actually putting into practice the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Faith should certainly inform our principles in dealing with political issues, however, politics should never be the main focus of the church.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t pray for our political leaders- in fact, the Bible explicitly commands it. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for or agree with the president or not, you should still pray for him. I remember as a little kid I prayed for George W. Bush every night. I prayed for Barack Obama regularly. I prayed for Donald Trump (and God knows he needed it). To this day I pray for President Joe Biden. In my personal experience, it is very hard to hate somebody you pray for regularly. What if more people on the “christian right” stopped saying, “F*** Joe Biden,” and instead started saying, “Pray for Joe Biden?”
We should all heed the words of St. Paul in I Timothy 2:1-2:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
The New Testament is replete with calls to pray for and honor government officials. However, what you will not hear are examples of genuflecting prayers to Caesar or other Roman officials. Imagine how absurd it would be if the Apostle Paul prayed the following:
“God we pray that you bring back Emperor Caligula and restore him to power over the Roman Empire. The emperor who brought economic prowess back to us and created an environment where every people group had record employment. The emperor who showed us the real meaning of ‘peace through strength’. The emperor who is the most brilliant, tough-minded, clear thinking, calm, gifted by you to lead this great empire. The emperor who showed us how to make Rome great again. So father we pray and ask that you hear our prayer and bring back the greatest emperor who has ever lived, Caligula Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, as the next emperor of the Roman Empire. And I pray this now in Jesus’ name.”
Caesar wasn’t perfect. Trump isn’t perfect. No human is, and no human should be treated with unconditional loyalty. The focus of our prayer and devotion should be God alone.
Judge Keough, you’re a good man. But respectfully, your public prayer yesterday missed the mark.
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