If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture of President Trump is worth a thousand reprimands. Or so the mainstream media, Democrats and left-wing activists would have you believe.
While America’s cities burned last week, progressive leaders, elected officials and their media backers were busy pouncing on a photo-op. Many years of apparent lack of retributive justice has taught them that the best political defense is an ideological offense. Which explains why the much-publicized photo of President Trump holding up a Bible in front of the capital’s desecrated St. John’s Church garnered more attention than the desecration itself.
In an attempt to photobomb President Trump’s moment in front of the historic church, and to deflect from his message of maintaining law and order, the president’s opponents claimed that officers used tear gas and excessive force to clear the area of protesters near Lafayette Park for the president’s photo. The charge was repudiated by the United States Park Police (USPP), which claimed that officers did not use tear gas, and that violent protesters had injured many officers, destroyed public property, and desecrated monuments and memorials. It was likewise denied by Attorney General William Barr, who said the removal of protesters was “necessary to protect federal property and law-enforcement officers”.
What the chattering classes did not focus on was that, amidst the mayhem and destruction around the country and in the country’s capital, a president rallied against the chaos. What they did focus on were the technicalities involved in the rallying cry itself. As the New York Times wrote, “When the history of the Trump presidency is written, the clash with protesters that preceded President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square may be remembered as one of its defining moments.”
Perhaps those on the left may have really been irked more by where President Trump was headed than how he headed there. The picture of a president exerting the power of his office to facilitate law and order through religious imagery likely triggered a mostly agnostic left, notwithstanding the condemnation of the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Bishop Mariann Budde.
That bishop’s censure might be considered negligible, considering her anti-Trump history. For someone who remarked in a PBS NewsHour show last August that President Trump “throughout his presidency has done almost everything in his power to divide the country” and that “his policies and actions contribute to the systemic racism of this country”, Bishop Budde seemed only too happy to manipulate a personal opportunity for more criticism.
Photo-ops from one of their own never ignited the indignation among left-wing detractors that the religious optics of President Trump’s did. I don’t remember his critics cringing at the disrespectful pose of President Obama in the Oval Office with his feet up on the desk. Nor did they seem outraged by Mr. Obama’s photo-op in Cuba on his 2016 visit, where he was proudly photographed in front of a mural of the communist despot, terrorist and human rights abuser Che Guevara.
This is not surprising. But this specific incident points to more than the left’s resentment of President Trump – it points to their resentment of the religious imagery of his pose and his intimation of the sanctity of religion. After all, it was a then-presidential hopeful Mr. Obama, back in 2008, who bad-mouthed the working classes of the Midwest by saying that when “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion”.
The same supporters who concurred with Mr. Obama’s denigration of the right to bear arms and of religion are the same supporters who now fail to endorse President Trump’s support of arms in an effort to maintain law and order and fail to appeal to the Bible’s dictates of “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal” by not sufficiently denouncing the violent protestors.
What is surprising is African Americans’ embrace of the left-wing media and politicians, many of whom ignore the overwhelming religious identity of blacks in this country in favor of the secular nihilism that characterizes their own identities. Indeed, almost 79% of African Americans self-identify as Christians and say religion is very important in their lives, compared with only 56% among all other American adults.
But radical groups like Antifa, who believe that “religion is the opium of the masses”, and others have joined forces with violent thugs to become the mouthpieces of the black community. And too few among that community are protesting their infiltration. The irony of blacks, who are predominantly Christian, being used as political pawns by virulently secular and anti-religious groups seems to be lost on them. As does the notion that black lives seem to matter only when they can be used for promoting the Democrat Party and the false political narratives that earn it the votes of 14.6% of the American population.
Whether or not one agrees with the technicalities of displacing protesters to allow for President Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church, one can agree that he would probably have been vilified no matter where he stood or what he said. Had President Trump appeared in front of the Lincoln Memorial holding up a history book of the Civil War, he likely would have been pounced upon too. But the specific vitriol hurled at him by his critics seems amplified by his choice of venue.
Many of these critics would likely hurl the same invective at a church and the Bible because the same Bible that condemns slavery also condemns same-sex marriage and abortion on demand. And it mandates a morality that the secular media, politicians, academia and entertainment industry disavow.
Protests against the undisputed crime of a Minneapolis policeman have warped into the very violence that is being demonstrated against. In response, peaceful demonstrators would do well to take to the streets to protest the enablers of these secondary crimes rather than harp on a photo-op. Doing otherwise is losing sight of the bigger picture.