Why Mark Burns’ RNC Benediction Was Terrible

Why Mark Burns’ RNC Benediction Was Terrible

If you want to defeat the forces of godlessness inside the Democratic Party, get off the stage in Cleveland and go do what God says will actually drive sin from the hearts of both Republicans and Democrats.
Hans Fiene
By

Great news, Mark Burns! You’ve just been selected to give the benediction at the opening night of the Republican National Convention. As a Christian pastor, this will be a wonderful opportunity for you to do, on a very public stage, what the Scriptures require of pastors: call sinners to repentof their transgressions, promise them forgiveness in the blood of Christ, and bring peace to people of differing tribes, tongues, and political ideologies who have nonetheless been made one through faith in Jesus Christ! Go out and there and give it your best!

Hello, Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina! I’m going to pray and I’m going to give the benediction. And you know why?

Hey, what a great way to pique people’s interest and remind them of the purpose of prayer and a benediction! Of course, I presume you’re going to give a clear, Scriptural answer—something like, “I’m going to pray and give the benediction because we all, Republicans and Democrats alike, have turned away from our Father in heaven, squandered our gifts in reckless living, and need to return to our Father to find peace and healing in his arms.” So tell us, why are we going to pray?

Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Uh, well, between Trump’s serial adultery, decades of flaunting his greed, naming “an eye for an eye” as his favorite Bible passage, and a campaign strategy rooted in belittling and insulting people, this is a bit of a tough sell for some of us, especially with Trump never giving any public indication he’s asked Christ’s forgiveness for any of these sins.

Pastor Burns, I know prosperity preachers like you see material wealth as a sign of God’s blessing on his faithful, which indicates to you that the billionaire must be reconciled with God, but for us old-fashioned Christians who aren’t convinced by a fellow’s net worth, the fruits of Trump’s faith are a bit harder to see.

Nonetheless, while it’s good and preferable to elect a pious and godly man to the executive office, Trump’s job as president wouldn’t be to lead us in prayer and worship. So whether he’s a true believer isn’t essential when his job, like that of all earthly leaders throughout time, would be to help preserve for us a peaceful and quiet life and to keep us safe from the enemies who would do us harm.

And Republicans, we’ve got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans…

Great transition! This would be a great time to talk about how all men need to be at peace with each other, recognizing that our true enemy is the devil.

 …but [our enemy] is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Oh, sufferin’ succotash, Pastor Burns, are you serious? Look, are Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party enemies of God and his church? One can certainly, and easily, make that argument. Clinton and the Democratic National Committee are firmly committed to worshipping Molech through their full-throated support of abortion on demand and without exception, just as they have both given every indication that Christians who refuse to comply with the new orthodoxy on same-sex marriage and “gender” identity should be fined into submission and driven from the public square, and that similarly stubborn Christian schools and churches should expect to be taxed into extinction unless they kneel before the god of social progress.

Of course, if you had identified Hillary Clinton and the DNC as enemies of God and his church, I’d have responded with something along the lines of: “This is true, but take that plank out of your own eye first and remember that the Republican party has more or less friend-zoned the pro-life vote for the better part of four decades, the current nominee supported partial-birth abortion until approximately five minutes ago, and his running mate is the poster boy for folding on religious liberty and refusing to protect the consciences of his fellow Christians in order to stop the media from calling him a bigot.”

Likewise, had you argued that Christians must turn to Trump to find safety from the attacks of their enemies, I’d suggest remembering God’s warning about trying to find safety from his wrath by turning to morally compromised political forces instead of repenting. “Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation,” God says through the prophet Isaiah, words of condemnation he spoke when Judah turned to the Egyptians instead of turning from its sin to escape God’s judgment through the hand of the Assyrians.

However, you didn’t identify Clinton and the DNC as enemies of God and his church. You identified them as enemies of the Republican Party. But in his word, God does not command a specific foreign policy, a specific trade policy, a specific welfare policy. On zero pages of the Bible does God command us to implement specific tax brackets or immigration reforms.

If you, as a private citizen, believe certain non-divinely mandated policies and platforms are preferable to others, fine. Feel free to speak in defense of your political beliefs. But to cite your office as a pastor and invoke the name of God against those who disagree with you on matters of freedom is as blasphemous as Microsoft’s Bill Gates imploring God to curse Tim Cook for running a different operating system on Apple computers.

But let’s move on to the actual prayer. Hopefully this will get better.

Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump.

Okay, fine. Life is a gift from God, and we’re thankful for all who possess this gift, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and pray they may use this gift in faithful service of God and their neighbor.

We’re thanking that you are guiding him…

What evidence do you have that God is actually guiding him? Keep in mind that “Donald Trump invited me to pray at the Republican National Convention” doesn’t count.

…that you are giving him the words to unite this party…

I’m pretty sure that’s not happening.

…this country…

Yeah, that’s definitely not happening.

…that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party of God.

Wonderful, we’re back to this nonsense. First, I think you meant to pray that God would keep us united and not divided, although the Freudian slip is rather fitting given the context of your prayer. Second, Pastor Burns, if you want to defeat the forces of godlessness that swim in the waters of the Democratic Party, get off the stage in Cleveland and go do the things that God says will actually drive sin from the hearts of both Republicans and Democrats.

Preach the gospel that unites all who believe it. Tell people their sins are forgiven. Tell them they are now free to love their neighbors because God has loved them through the blood of his Son. Tell them that, because Christ’s kingdom is not of this earth, they are free to love those who have a different approach to the work of earthly kingdoms. Speak the words that have caused people in every generation to stop loving the sins unique to their respective political ideologies, to embrace those they once called their enemies, and to trust not in princes, but in the King of Kings.

To defeat every attack that comes against us, protect the life of Donald Trump. Give him the words, give him the peace, given him the power and authority to be the next president of the United States of America.

Yes, you should pray that God would protect us from all those who would do us genuine harm. Yes, you should pray that God would protect the life of Trump and everyone else in this world. Yes, you should pray that God would give Trump righteous words that will bring peace and comfort to all who hear them, especially if Trump is elected president.

But don’t presume to know the hidden will of God. Don’t recklessly proclaim that God wills Trump’s election in the way he wills the salvation of mankind simply because a Trump victory would tickle your political fancy.

In Jesus’ name—if you believe it, shout “Amen!”

Just as I don’t think Jesus wants credit every time a Grammy winner thanks him for inspiring her hit song “Fornication Is Awesome,” I also don’t think Jesus will accept a prayer that’s pretty much a textbook example of what he condemns in Matthew 11:7-10, a prayer perfectly befitting those court preachers in “soft clothing” who sing the godliness of unholy rulers because they love the perks of earthly approval and don’t have the guts to call those kings to repentance, like John the Baptist and other true prophets. Without the assurance that Jesus says “Amen” to this prayer, I’m afraid I can’t say it either.

However, Pastor Burns, if you have the opportunity to offer up another prayer at the next Republican convention, let me suggest something very simple and straightforward, something countless Christians throughout the world pray every Sunday morning. Just walk up to the microphone and pray the following words: “Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.”

Pray that, and I’ll shout “Amen!” at the top of my lungs.

Hans Fiene is a Lutheran pastor in Illinois and the creator of Lutheran Satire, a series of comical videos intended to teach the Lutheran faith. Follow him on Twitter, @HansFiene.

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