As I’ve stated before, my Lenten discipline is to pray for Putin and Trump. It has definitely proven to be an interesting journey and led to some illuminating conversations. In this post, I want to focus more on Trump and the devastating impact of his choices—and how I’m working hard to pray for him anyway.
Putin is devastating his country as well as Ukraine through his warfare. I strongly believe Trump also devastated his country through the culture wars he encouraged. Think about it this way: Americans came together after the events of 9/11. While we might not all have supported the actions of President Bush, we had a strong sense of being in this together, and Bush encouraged that.
Things were different with the flu pandemic a century ago. President Wilson remained silent about the flu pandemic, choosing instead to focus national attention on World War I, which was still raging as the pandemic emerged. There were no press briefings and no national coordination of a pandemic response. But, at least by not focusing attention on it, Wilson invited cities to make their own choices about how to respond. This meant that those cities, for the most part, made decisions based on the latest (if limited) understanding of science and pandemics rather than on politics.
I’ve noted before the cultural shift in the US from an economic-based approach to a politically oriented perspective. This is having devastating effects on every area of our lives, and Trump chose to capitalize on it. By making mask-wearing and vaccine-taking political issues, he destroyed our ability to come together around a crisis.
So, how do we pray for people in power who intentionally make choices with such devastating consequences? I’m living into the answer each day, bit by bit. It’s not easy, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. Part of it is that I’m praying that both Trump and Putin realize anew that they don’t just have their powerful cronies to care about. Each citizen of each country is literally given into their care, and so I pray that their eyes may be opened to the importance and the value of the rest of us, day by day.
My husband Henry is a retired Episcopal priest. Back in the church that successfully sponsored him for ordination, he learned from the Rev. Harold Trott to add additional phrases (italicized below) to the Charge and Benediction that Episcopal priests traditionally use at the end of every service to send us out into the world. The second phrase especially seems a fitting prayer for all leaders, especially ones who don’t seem to care about the devastating effects of their leadership:
The Peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son, Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you, with all whom you love, and all for whom you care, today and always. Amen.
Might you join me in this prayer this week?