(RNS) At a Fourth of July concert hosted by First Baptist Church Dallas at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., President Trump pledged never to forget the men and women who have served in the U.S. military — or the people of faith who put him in the White House.
“My administration will always support and defend your religious liberty,” Trump said at the event Saturday (July 1). “We don’t want to see God forced out of the public square, driven out of our schools or pushed out of our civic life.”
The president touted his support from evangelical Christians — 81 percent of white evangelicals had voted for him — and ran through a number of campaign pledges he said he has kept, including an executive order gutting enforcement of the rarely enforced Johnson Amendment.
And, he said, “I remind you that we’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
He also continued several days of remarks attacking the press, saying to cheers from the audience, “The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I’m president and they’re not.”
First Baptist’s pastor Robert Jeffress was a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board during the 2016 presidential campaign and delivered the sermon at the church service the president attended before his inauguration.
Jeffress noted many American Christians had begun to despair before the election that God had “removed his hand of blessing” from America.
“But in the midst of that despair came November the 8th, 2016. … It was on that day that God declared that the people, not the pollsters, were going to choose the next president of the United States, and they chose Donald Trump.”
Trump responded as he stepped up to the podium, “Nice to win, isn’t it?”
First Baptist’s choir and orchestra performed a number of patriotic songs and hymns at the “Celebrate Freedom” concert, including the premiere of a new song composed to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Its lyrics included:
“Make America great again
Make America great again
Lift the torch of freedom all across the land
Step into the future joining hand in hand
And make America great again.”
The concert occurred a year after LifeWay Research released a survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors that found 53 percent agree their congregation “sometimes seems to love America more than God.”
Still, 61 percent of pastors said it was important to incorporate patriotic elements into worship services around the Fourth of July.