Donald Trump’s Christmas message to Christians turned out to be more bah-humbug than joy to the world.
The former president was invited to speak at First Baptist Church of Dallas on Sunday, Dec. 19, by the church’s pastor, Robert Jeffress. Trump was in town to hold a rally that afternoon with TV personality Bill O’Reilly. The rally was not open to media coverage, but the morning church service was.
Speaking to an estimated crowd of 3,000 inside the modern sanctuary of First Baptist Church — and an unknown number of others in overflow rooms and watching online — Trump acknowledged he was ditching the prepared Christmas message he was supposed to give and was, instead, speaking “from the heart.”
On the Sunday prior to one of the two highest holy days within Christianity, Trump issued a dire warning that America is “in great trouble” without his leadership.
“There’s a lot of clouds hanging over our country right now — dark clouds — but we will come back bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” he declared.
He gave examples of these problems, including crime and looting, border security, inflation, gas prices and the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which he called a “mess” even though it was set in rapid motion by him in his final days as president. Nevertheless, he declared the chaotic withdrawal to be America’s most “embarrassing day.”
Despite all these evils, Trump said he sees “such spirit out there right now, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“We’re going to make America great again,” he concluded, to raucous cheers and chants of “USA!” across the church sanctuary.
Trump, who rarely attended church while president, declared: “Our country needs a savior right now, and we have a savior — that’s not me, that’s someone much higher up.”
He also aired his grievances about criticism his wife, Melania, got for her different style of decorating the White House at Christmastime. She was not present with him at the service.
“’We’re going to make America great again,’ he concluded, to raucous cheers and chants of “USA!” across the church sanctuary.”
Trump was greeted by the congregation with a standing ovation. Jeffress then introduced him as one of his “closest friends” and added: “I believe … (Trump) is the most consequential president since Abraham Lincoln.”
“He is a great friend to Christians everywhere,” Jeffress said. “I can say this without any dispute at all, he is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in the history of the United States of America.”
A week earlier, Axios reported on an excerpt of a forthcoming book on Trump and the quest for Middle East peace, written by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid. The author reported on a 90-minute interview with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort where the former president dissed on former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — once one of his closest allies — because Netanyahu had the temerity to congratulate Joe Biden on becoming president. That doesn’t square with Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him.
In that congratulation, “he was very early — like, earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since,” Trump said, adding a two-word profanity for emphasis.
Perhaps more importantly, Trump told Ravid that American Jews “no longer love Israel” as much as evangelical voters.
Trump’s exact words as quoted by Ravid are these: “I’ll tell you the evangelical Christians love Israel more than the Jews in this country. It used to be that Israel used to have absolute power over Congress. And today it’s the exact opposite. And I think Obama and Biden did that. And in the election, they still get a lot of votes from Jewish people, which tells you that the Jewish people, and I’ve said this for a long time — the Jewish people in the United States either don’t like Israel or don’t care about Israel.”
Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas represent the prominent strain of evangelical Christianity that is enthralled with U.S. support for Israel as part of their end-times theology. This relationship dates back to Harry Truman, a Baptist who as president was lobbied by evangelicals to support the creation of an Israeli state.
Thus, for Jeffress to declare that Trump is the most “pro-Israel president” in the nation’s history carries a theological endorsement related to the premillennial dispensationalism of the “Left Behind” series.
Speaking to reporters after the Sunday service, Jeffress said he didn’t believe Trump had said “anything overtly political.” And he said the full house is indicative of the nation’s love for Trump.
“We had a full house today, people were here very early, lining up to get in because they love this president and they love his policies, especially the moral and spiritual principles on which he stands,” Jeffress said.
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