Every week at our church we pray for leaders and those in authority. I Timothy 2:1-2 commands the church to do so:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
God’s people are supposed to pray for their civil leaders as well as other leaders, such as police chiefs, majors, city councilmen/women, etc. Therefore it was interesting to read that Katelyn Beaty, editor at large at Christianity Today, had started praying for the removal of President Trump from office. On August 16th, following the Charlottesville, VA protests, she wrote this on Facebook.
Recently I have started praying for God to remove Donald Trump as President. I personally never have thought him to be fit for the office, but the past six months have brought day after day of chaos, confusion, and fear for many already-vulnerable Americans. (Remember when we were talking about *nuclear war* a week ago?) I pray this in part because this role seems damaging to Trump’s own soul and has secured his ties to white nationalism, which is a power and principality that has choked this nation for 400 years.
I didn’t vote for the man, but this prayer is not partisan. Neither is the vast and wide condemnation of Trump’s refusal to name and criticize what was on display in Charlottesville. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. This is not a “progressive evangelical” bandwagon. Naming and mourning the racism that has been given new energy under Trump is a natural outflow of the gospel, the good news that Jesus breaks the dividing walls of hostility and makes us one, that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will band together to worship him forever. If you’re worried that talking about racism makes you liberal-ish, maybe you’re too worried about labels and what “camp” other people will put you in.
Even as I pray for Trump’s removal from the office of president, my hope is buoyed by God’s people — not the ones who post selfies from the Oval Office, but by the people who daily take up the task of living deeper and deeper into peace, reconciliation, and self-sacrificing love for fellow image bearers. My hope is in the church — both the institution and her people scattered. As I wait for God to answer my prayers, I believe God can use this moment to lead us to greater repentance and healing, as a nation and a church.
But I’m also going to keep praying for Trump to be removed, and swiftly.
In principle, I have no particular opposition to praying for the Lord to remove a man from office. Our church has done so before from the pulpit. But two things indicate to me that this is a power move not based on principle.
First, did she ever pray for the Lord to remove President Obama? Of course, we all know the answer to this. She did not. Why not? President Obama openly pushed for the murder of babies. He praised Planned Parenthood. He said he would be fine if one of his daughters got an abortion. President Obama also openly pushed sodomy. He praised homosexuals and pushed for same-sex marriage.
While I also have never been a supporter of President Trump, he has not openly praised white supremacy. He does not speak at KKK meetings. He does not say that if his son joined up with the KKK he would be fine with that. Any promotion of white supremacy by President Trump is indirect, at best. But that was not the case with President Obama. He openly encouraged the murder of babies and sexual immorality. He openly encouraged the breaking of at least two of the ten commandments. So why would Ms. Beaty not pray for the removal of President Obama?
There are a couple of possibilities. She could believe that racism is worse than abortion and sexual immorality. Given her feminist leanings this is a distinct possibility. If this is the case she should study her Bible more and listen to the news less. This, of course, is not to say that racism is okay. It is a sin. But murder and sexual immorality overflow this country like a plague. President Obama with a high hand promoted both. If racism calls for prayers for removal then surely this did as well. If “vulnerable” Americans have been hurt under President Trump then surely they were also hurt under President Obama.
Or Ms. Beaty’s refusal to pray for President Obama’s removal from office could be because President Obama was a clean cut, well spoken, upper class, family man who also was black. Yes he believes in murdering babies and sodomy, but at least he is classy, well-educated, and a minority.
Either reason is wrong.
Where is the Gospel?
I Timothy does not just encourage us to pray for our leaders. Paul gives us two reasons why we should pray for them. You can see the first above. That the God’s people may lead “a peaceful and quiet life.” The second reason is given in the verses immediately following the ones above:
This is good [to pray for leaders], and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
As any good Calvinist will tell you the “all men” is talking about all types of men, in particular our civil leaders. God wants us to pray for our civil leaders so they might come to Christ, trust in Him, and be saved from their sins. Whenever our church prays for a leader we disagree with, such as President Obama, we always prayed that he would repent and turn to Christ. That is the goal, right? President Obama’s bloodthirsty promotion of abortion showed that his soul was separate from Christ. His promotion of sodomy directly opposes the Word of our Lord. As a public leader he has a responsibility to push for righteousness and justice as Scripture defines it. The same goes for President Trump. I do not think he trusts in Christ. Therefore he needs to repent and turn from his sins.
This brings me to the second reason why I find Ms. Beaty’s prayer for removal empty: It lacks the Gospel. She does not pray for President Trump to repent. She does mention that she hopes this leads to “repentance and healing”. But it is clear that President Trump is not who she has in mind. She does not pray for the racists gripped by hatred to turn to the One who can set them free. Following Charlottesville it was striking how “gospel-centered” leaders refused to extend the Gospel to people they considered racist. I hope to write about both Tim Keller and Russell Moore’s response in the future. Both of their articles were empty of the Gospel. No calls to repent. No hope laid out for those who hate other races. Just rants about “racism is Satanism.” On and on it went. Where is the call for white supremacists to come to Christ? This is not an encouragement to minimize racism. But if racism is sin then the answer is Christ and the Gospel. But for some reason, unlike other sinners, racists do not get the Gospel preached to them. Racists get treated like no other sinner, especially by white, upper class, college educated, elites. Reading some of these posts one comes away wondering can racists even be saved? But even more, do Christian leaders want them to be saved? Are 21st century racists equal to 1st century tax collectors? And if so, what does it say about 21st century Christianity that the Gospel is not clearly extended to them? What does it say about our gospel-centered Christianity when our prayers do not include a plea for former KKK members to be saved and sitting beside in worship, Nazi tattoos and all?
There is nothing wrong with praying for the Lord to remove a man (or woman) from office. Our church has done that. I have done that. But when that prayer has no clear call to repent and turn to Christ and when men who are more wicked and evil get a pass it is hard to take such a prayer seriously and not see it as just a reaction to the prevailing cultural winds.