A Note on Melania Trump and The Lord’s Prayer as a Rallying Cry

From Fox News:

Melania Trump attacked for reciting ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ at campaign rally

Leftists on social media tore into First Lady Melania Trump, mocking her accent and religion and branding her everything from a hostage to a whore – all for the secular offense of reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.”…

Rounding up random Tweets on a particular news topic must be one of the easiest jobs in journalism; in this instance, unattractive mockery of Melania’s accent and presentation at the rally in Melbourne, Florida, is mixed in with some innocuous quips that can hardly be styled an “attack” (e.g. Gerry Duggan: “Trump is still there, so Melania’s prayer didn’t work”). Some of the comments have since been deleted, presumably to escape a pile-on, and in the case of the most unpleasant comment showcased by Fox (from someone with 351 followers, according to Yahoo Cache), the user has deactivated his account.

However, the website’s opener about a “secular offense” elides a deeper concern: that the decision to have Melania open the rally in this way was a political appropriation of religion that reduces the iconic words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament to a triumphalist mantra – quite literally, a rallying cry. When else has the Lord’s Prayer ever ended with a cheer?

This is not to suggest that Melania’s faith is insincere – I wouldn’t claim to know either way, and I don’t consider her past modelling career as evidence that she is not religious. But clearly, the rally’s choreographer (Bannon?) wanted a display of Trump family piety for political and rabble-rousing purposes. Having Donald Trump himself lead the prayer would have been too ludicrous and shameless: in particular, the line “forgive us our trespasses” would have reminded everyone of Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for asking God for forgiveness. And in any case, it’s more useful for Trump to be portrayed as someone who is led in worship by others, rather than as someone who leads worship.

The Trump First Family is religiously diverse: Trump himself is a Presbyterian, Melania is a Roman Catholic, and Trump’s politically significant daughter Ivanka, as far as I know, is the first ever First Family member to have publicly disaffiliated from Christianity, having converted to Orthodox Judaism. But there is every reason to suppose that Donald Trump’s own affiliation is little more than nominal, and that his recent turn to a more overt religiosity (allowing evangelical pastors to lay hands on him and such) is pure opportunism.

UPDATE: An evangelical Melbourne pastor named Joel Tooley attended the rally, and was concerned by what he saw:

…A soloist sang, “God bless America” and there was a strong sense of patriotism in the room. A pastor got up to pray and repeatedly prayed throughout his prayer, “Thank you for making this the greatest nation on earth…in Jesus’ name.”

…The First Lady approached the platform and in her rich accent, began to recite the Lord’s prayer.

I can’t explain it, but I felt sick. This wasn’t a prayer beseeching the presence of Almighty God, it felt theatrical and manipulative.

People across the room were reciting it as if it were a pep squad cheer. At the close of the prayer, the room erupted in cheering. It was so uncomfortable. I observed that Mr. Trump did not recite the prayer until the very last line, “be the glory forever and ever, amen!” As he raised his hands in the air, evoking a cheer from the crowd, “USA! USA! USA!”

…The very first words out of the President’s mouth were the words of a bully. That is not simply one person’s perspective, it is factual. He immediately began badgering and criticizing the media; like a bully inciting a crowd.

Tooley writes that the crowd turned nasty when a “grandmotherly” woman near him produced a protest sign bearing the words “You had your chance, now resign!”, and he was himself abused when he called for calm:

…two angry, screaming ladies looked at me, both of them raised their middle finger at me in my face and repeatedly yelled, “F*#% YOU!” Repeatedly.

I calmly responded, “No thank you, I’m happily married.” Their faces and their voices were filled with demonic anger.

Tooley believes there was “demonic activity”.