Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Props of Virtue

See where his Grace stands, 'tween two clergymen.

Two props of virtue for a Christian prince,
To stay him from the fall of vanity;
And, see, a book of prayer in his hand,
True ornaments to know a holy man.
Richard III

"Friends, I am ok, but I am frankly shaken.  I was at St. John's, Lafayette Square most of the afternoon, with fellow clergy and laypeople - and clergy from some other denominations too.  We were passing out water and snacks, and helping the patio area at St. John's, Lafayette square to be a place of respite and peace.  All was well - with a few little tense moments - until about 6:15 or so.  By then, I had connected with the Black Lives Matter medic team, which was headed by an EMT.  Those people were AMAZING.  They had been on the patio all day, and thankfully had not had to use much of the eyewash they had made.  Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protestors off of H street (the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House.  They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels.  At this point, Julia, one of our seminarians for next year (who is a trauma nurse) and I looked at each other in disbelief.  I was coughing, her eyes were watering, and we were trying to help people as the police - in full riot gear - drove people toward us.  Julia and her classmates left and I stayed with the BLM folks trying to help people.  Suddenly, around 6:30, and I think I saw someone hit by a rubber bullet - he was grasping his stomach and there was a mark on his shirt.  The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John's, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back.  People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio.  We had to try to pick up what we could.  The BLM medic folks were obviously well practiced.  They picked up boxes and ran.  I was so stunned I only got a few water bottles and my spray bottle of eyewash.  We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John's Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear.  We were pushed back 20 feet, and then eventually - with SO MANY concussion grenades - back to K street.  By the time I got back to my car, around 7, I was getting texts from people saying that Trump was outside of St. John's, Lafayette Square.  I literally COULD NOT believe it.  WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN'S - a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day - SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE!  HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!

I am deeply shaken.  I did not see any protestors throw anything until the tear gas and concussion grenades started, and then it was mostly water bottles.  I am shaken, not so much by the taste of tear gas and the bit of cough I still have, but by the fact that that show of force was for a PHOTO OPPORTUNITY.  The patio of St. John's, Lafayette square had been HOLY GROUND today.  A place of respite and laughter and water and granola bars and fruit snacks.  But that man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second.  I am DEEPLY OFFENDED on behalf of every protestor, every Christian, the people of St. John's, Lafayette square, every decent person there, and the BLM medics who stayed with just a single box of supplies and a backpack, even when I got too scared and had to leave.  I am ok.  But I am now a force to be reckoned with."
Gini Gerbasi, former minister at St. John's

He heard all of the teasing about him being forced into a bunker.  He couldn't take it any more, so he decided on a show of force.

He had the police clear the streets all along the way, so he could walk out from the Rose Garden press conference, walk the approximately 1,000 feet to the church, to pose in front of the church.  Of course, the whole thing would be documented all along the way.  Pictures of him and his staff leaving from Lafayette Park, out of the North Entrance of the White House, flanked by staff and Secret Service.  Pictures of him backdropped by the graffiti and damage.  The picture of him in front of the damaged church.

He picked the church because it had been damaged and it was close.

It was not a church he attended.

It was not a place he prayed at.

He asked no permission.

He discussed with no one at the church.

He would be alone in the photo, at least the first photo.  He would also include his staff in a later one.

He would hold a Bible in the photo in front of the church.  Rather awkwardly fiddling with it before the shot.  Holding it in the air in the photo, as if the object were foreign to him.

"Is that your bible?" a reporter would ask.

"It's a Bible,"  he would reply.

He didn't pray.  He didn't quote a verse.  He didn't open the book he held.  

He held the book.  Had photos taken.  Made a comment.  And left as quickly as he came.

Satisfied, with his picture taken, he would start his walk again, back to the White House.  Police in riot gear would line each side of his walk.  

"That'll show them," he thought.


If you are a Christian, if you claim the Christian faith, and you are not sickened to your core by these actions of our president, I don't know where to begin.

He decided on a photo op and had police remove peaceful protestors to accomplish it.  Despite the White House's instance, protestors on the ground have repeated that they were given no warning, nor were they given instruction to leave.  Instead the police opened fire on them with tear gas, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets.

This included the ministers outside of the church.  As the police came closer and closer to the church, they opened fire on the ministers out on the patio at St. John's, Lafayette Square.  


St. John's Church is "the Church of the Presidents," and has hosted every U.S. president since James Madison. On this occasion, however, the president's visit was unannounced, and church authorities were furious that the White House did not bother to alert them.

“There was no reaching out, no sense that it would require some sort of authorization before using the church as a backdrop in that way.”
“It almost looked like a prop. That is the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It speaks messages of love, of God, love of neighbor. I was outraged that he felt that he had the license to do that, and that he would abuse our sacred symbols and our sacred space in that way.

Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington

This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, lifted up a bible, and had pictures of himself taken. In doing so, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or heal us."
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

This should be the bridge too far for the Evangelical support.  While it should have come much earlier, this should shock the conscience of even the most ardent supporter.

But it won't.

There aren't many things that make my blood boil, but coopting my faith to fan the flames of the violence that is spreading across this country as a result of and in protest of police brutality that is held unaccountable is one.

What's next?  We know he is threatening the Insurrection Act of 1807?  When's the Reichstag?

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

1 comment:

  1. Next? He tried to register to vote in Florida with a D.C. address.....Then when he used a Florida address and received his card, he voted by mail in the March primary....