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Trump sworn in amid protests and a large assortment of clergy

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, right, with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

WASHINGTON (RNS) Donald J. Trump placed his hand on two Bibles and took the oath of office in a swearing-in ceremony that featured prayers and pronouncements of God’s favor by the largest assortment of clergy in inaugural history.

It also drew protests around the nation’s capital.

A crowd along the National Mall watched the presidential inauguration on Friday (Jan. 20) as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to the new president in front of the Capitol.

Trump chose two Bibles for the occasion — a family Bible and the Lincoln Bible, which also had been Barack Obama’s choice.

And he followed it with an inaugural address that drew cheers from the crowd for promises the United States would unite the world to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism” and “most importantly … be protected by God.”

“These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public,” Trump said.

In a dark speech that evoked “American carnage” and proclaimed it “the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” the new president offered a message that could be interpreted as an olive branch to those he alienated throughout his campaign, or as a rejection of the charge that many of his supporters are bigoted.

He briefly quoted Scripture, drawing on Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” And, he added, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

Tweet on Trump’s speech by Joshua DuBois, faith advisor to former President Barack Obama

At Trump’s promise of God’s protection, a voice in the crowd exclaimed: “That’s right!”

It was Alex Jones, the conservative radio show host and conspiracy theorist behind the website InfoWars.

“Trump invoked the birthright of America,” Jones told RNS after the ceremony. “Obama and the globalists know they brought in the occult thing of making everybody hate America, and not saying Jesus Christ and things like that so that we don’t have God’s protection and Providence.”

“Trump’s announcing we’re taking the Providence back and restoring the Republic and our destiny. It’s very powerful. The enemy’s really scared.”

The gathering was populated with hardcore Trump supporters, like Jones, who cheered the new president and his wife, Melania, as they walked in and jeered Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee who Trump defeated during a bitter campaign in which he pledged to jail her once he became president.

At times the inauguration felt like a Trump election rally, with the crowd booing when Clinton’s face was shown on the Jumbotrons and when Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York spoke.

The center of the nation’s capital, including the National Mall and the monuments, was closed off to vehicle traffic. Protests are scheduled to take place throughout the weekend, including some led by religious groups calling on their followers to oppose the president, or at least some of his proposals, on moral grounds.

The ceremony began with Scripture readings and an invocation by prosperity gospel preacher Paula White, the first clergywoman ever to fill that role. Other religious figures offering prayers and readings during the one-hour ceremony included the Rev. Franklin Graham, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Cardinal Timothy Dolan – more than at previous inaugurations.

“To me, that meant everything,” Janet Lynn, a health care worker, who traveled from Minneapolis, Minn., to see Trump sworn in as president, said afterward.

White, Graham, Jackson and Rodriguez all made their comments “in Jesus’ name.” In 2008, Pastor Rick Warren caused controversy by including the phrase in his invocation at Obama’s inauguration.

Graham, who has said God allowed Trump to win the presidential election, made brief remarks before reading from 1 Timothy 2. He pointed out that a rain shower fell just as the new president began his inaugural address.

“In the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing,” he said.

The rain forced many in the crowd to cover themselves with plastic ponchos, since umbrellas were not permitted for security reasons.

Rodriguez read from Chapter 5 in the Gospel of Matthew, including the Beatitudes and the “city on a hill” passage so central to America’s founding ideal and so popular in U.S. politics.

And instead of the more traditional translation of the opening of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Rodriguez used a different take from the New Living Translation of the Bible: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.”

He told RNS afterward that his use of the translation was intentional. “I want to heal. I want to reconcile. I want to bring good news to the suffering.”

Trump, who identifies as Presbyterian, also seemed to allude to the “city on a hill” imagery famously used by the 17th-century Puritan New Englander, John Winthrop, and by the late President Ronald Reagan.

“We will shine for everyone to follow,” he said.

The Republican was elected with strong conservative Christian support. And he’s taking the reins of a government with a cast of high-level appointees, many of whom share right-wing religious views.

“Some of my conservative friends and I, we have been pinching ourselves,” Richard Land, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist News Global earlier this week.

“Are we hallucinating, or is this actually happening?”

Land, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said he was consulted five times for personal recommendations.

In recent weeks, the Senate has held confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet picks. If approved, they would include an education secretary who supports school vouchers to get more children into private religious schools, a climate-change denier and a national security adviser who called Islam “a political ideology hiding behind a religion.”

Conservative Christian leaders have made no secret of their expectation that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who describes himself as “a born-again, evangelical Catholic,” will reward their votes with legislation to defund abortion providers, and by appointing a justice with a record of anti-abortion views to fill the position left vacant last year by the late Antonin Scalia.

White evangelicals voted for Trump in record numbers — 81 percent cast their ballot for him — and some of them were among the early arrivals on the Mall to reinforce their support even as they recognized Trump’s personal shortcomings.

Teresa Kelton attends the Trump Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Teresa Kelton attends the Trump Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Teresa Kelton, a realtor from Waxahachie, Texas, who calls herself a “committed Christian,” said she vote for Trump, but not because she considered him a paradigm of faith.

“God can use a donkey,” said Kelton, who came to Washington with her son and a friend. “Why can’t he use Trump?”

She said that when was watching television during the election coverage she noticed that when the pundits couldn’t understand why Trump kept winning she thought of a verse from the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.”

Kelton said she brought that prayer with her to the inauguration.

Lori Wooten from Gray, Tennessee, with her family. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Lori Wooten and her son Petie, from Gray, Tennessee, with her family. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Lori Wooten, a churchgoing Methodist who had traveled here with her family from Gray, Tennessee, was also hopeful about what Trump would do for those who share her beliefs.

“We feel like Trump is going to protect our religious freedom more than the Democratic party,” said Wooten, who works for a health care company. “There have been studies that show Christians are the most persecuted group.”

“If you say anything about Islamic terrorism or anything at all negative toward Islam then we are made out to be racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, whatever names,” she continued. “We are not allowed to speak our minds.”

“Donald Trump is a Christian and I feel like he’s a very good believer in God,” added her 12-year-old son, Petie.

Roger Willis from Riverdale, Maryland. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Roger Willis from Riverdale, Maryland. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Roger Willis, a warehouse worker from Riverdale, Maryland, identifies as a Christian but said his faith “really didn’t have anything to do with my vote.”

Willis does believe that “God put everybody where they need to be. There’s a reason Donald Trump is president. God knows what he is going to do,” he added, meaning it as a statement of fact rather than concern.

(RNS national reporter Lauren Markoe contributed to this report)

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

About the author

Jerome Socolovsky

14 Comments

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  • Nobody in their right mind can say most of the cabinet picks are exemplars of competence and expertise or have a good faith desire to run their departments effectively. Mattis and Tillerson appear to be the outliers here.

  • “for the past 8 years listening to the easily-disprovable lies you bought into. President Obama was going to implement death panels, Sharia Law, FEMA concentration camps. He was going to take your guns and tax your bullets. He was planning to enact martial law and raise our taxes through the roof. He allowed ebola into the country to keep Conservatives from voting and was going to allow 100 million Muslim refugees into the country. The list goes on and on.

    … Today is the day that you are proven to be gullible, and wrong. Wrong on every count.

    Now you support a lying, cheating, womanizing man, Donald Trump. And these things have already been proven to be true. As far as I’m concerned, Donald Trump is now your Lord and Savior. You have sold your soul to support him. He is the face of Christianity.

    -Bruce Horst

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/01/20/former-christian-to-evangelicals-who-feared-obama-today-is-the-day-you-are-proven-wrong/#disqus_thread

  • Nah, its a matter of hypocrisy.

    Liberals don’t pretend to vote for old time “biblical values”, try to legislate what consenting adults do in their home, use s1utshaming as a political justification, or attack adult representations of popular culture.

    Conservatives are allegedly prudes. But it turns out they only care about the activities of opponents. Never their own.

  • I was baffled by the prayer during the after-ceremony gnosh….the pastor seemed to suggest that Trumpo was chosen by God…it sort like a “divine-right-of-kings” type of thing, more fitting for medieval Europe than 21st century USA

  • “God can use a donkey,” said Kelton, who came to Washington with her son and a friend. “Why can’t he use Trump?”

    Hmmm. A donkey or #45? I’ll have to think about that.

  • I wish Mr. Trump the best. Considering how he received the votes of racists, sexists, heterosexists, and other assorted bigots, he will need it. I am comforted by the fact he is not an ideologue.

  • Okay… but seriously, the way it looks from someone like me, neither liberal nor conservative, is just like you’re just as bad as the other side. All the outrage over Meliana taking some nude photos or the fact Trump isn’t exactly faithful nor monogamous… sure, if what you’re saying is true and it’s trying to mock or parody the other side, that’s fine, but to us outsiders you all just look as hypocritical as the Right is when they do it.

    Maybe instead of slamming the enemy for prudish reasons, make it more obvious that what you really mean to say is that the same standards your opponents are using for your side aren’t being applied to their same side.

    To us rare political minorities, it seriously looks like both sides are just as hypocritical as the other is. To us this mess just looks like: “The Right wants to shame (Bill) Clinton for infidelity, but not Trump. The Left wants to shame Trump for infidelity, but not Clinton. The Left had a problem with McCain’s health and age but not (Hillary) Clinton’s. The Right had a problem with Clinton’s health and age but not McCain’s.”

    It may be that you’re only adopting the other side’s rhetoric to point out their own hypocrisy, but the only result is that EVERYONE looks like hypocrites.

  • I heard very little in the way about bona fide discussions along policy lines so it really digressed to two poorly suited candidates – although I think Obama was a hard act to follow and the Bern was too left to be considered by the party as electable while Trump the person with his multiple foibles diverted attention away from GOP policy platform. The DNC dropped the ball in search of a really viable/attractive candidate. I watched much of the debates and saw little policy discussion of substance.

  • Eddie, there is a real difference in these two situations, and difference lies in the very nature of the Christian right and the evangelical right. They are the ones proclaiming that their particular moral standards are the only right and true ones, representative of god himself. They are the ones claiming the America and Americans have lost their moral bearings, gone bad with god, etc etc etc. I don’t hear liberals in general complaining about other people’s morals and trying to pass laws to enforce “religious” (ha!ha!ha!) values on people who don’t share them.

    In short, this about liberal criticism of conservative religion’s support of ONE person, who violates and has violated just about every single one of the morals and moral values those so-called Christians are damning other people about. not a criticism of those “values” themselves.

    The “left”, Whatever that may mean, is not being hypocritical regarding Trumpee. They are being critical of the Evangelical rights hypocrisy, not their values.

  • Your comment and perspective are not at all germane to my remark in this instance, typically you go for the jugular in context. I felt the snap of your jaws, but you whiffed.

  • The Christian Right’s last gasp to impose their Sharia on the nation. Thanks to our Constitution it will ultimately fail but not before further dividing the country.

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