If Trump Loses His 'Mandate of Heaven,' Will It Go to Pence?
Earlier this week, I was discussing with a friend (whom I’ll call Pat) our plans to attend the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast scheduled for Feb. 6, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Invites are sent out early for this uplifting, influential, bipartisan event where every president — starting in 1953 with Dwight D. Eisenhower — has addressed a packed ballroom of political and religious leaders representing denominations from around the globe.
During our brief chat, Pat shocked me with an intriguing off-hand remark: “I wonder who will be president at the time?”
“Wow, what a question” was my knee-jerk response while processing not only what I had heard, but from whom, since I consider my friend a one-person focus group.
Pat, as a devout Christian, voted for Trump only because Mike Pence was the VP nominee. Otherwise, it is an understatement to say that my friend did not hold candidate Trump in high regard but adamantly refused to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Along with millions of Christians, Pat, an ardent supporter of pro-life and religious freedom issues, is thrilled three years later with Trump's legacy of appointing legions of conservative judges to sit on courts across the land, especially the Supreme Court. Pat also applauds his efforts to fight Christian persecution throughout the world and at home. An added plus for Pat is that Trump is presiding over a strong economy, though my friend fears long-term negative economic impact from out-of-control federal spending.
On the flip side, and as a regular churchgoer, Pat finds Trump’s personal behavior abhorrent, especially after Trump used the “GD word” at an August rally. Pat’s disgust was mirrored throughout this voting bloc, warranting a Politico piece headlined: “‘Using the Lord’s name in vain’: Evangelicals chafe at Trump’s blasphemy.”
Over time, my friend has grown to believe that both nationally and internationally, Trump has demeaned the office of the president. On several occasions Pat had said to me, “Trump is an ass” and wished that “Trump would step down so Pence could take over” — all BEFORE this impeachment business blew up the headlines.
Now you understand why Pat asking that loaded question -- Who will be president at February’s National Prayer Breakfast? -- is so revealing and worth exploring. I can also guarantee that Pat’s answer is the current vice president.
From personal experience over the past three years, starting on Feb. 2, 2017, I have observed that Trump is not comfortable speaking to the solemn National Prayer Breakfast audience. This event is no place to go off teleprompter and brag about personal greatness when all the glory is reserved for God.
Anyone who heard Trump’s first breakfast speech will remember how he chastised Arnold Schwarzenegger for his sagging “Celebrity Apprentice” ratings. What resulted was a 24-hour war of words that completely dominated the media coverage of the event.
In the two years since that fiasco, Trump has stuck to his teleprompter, but his speeches lacked the passion and authenticity I have heard from three past presidents who spoke openly about their faith in a venue where truth is encouraged.
On the other hand, in 2018, I distinctly remember the Congressional Dinners, segregated by region and held the night before the Prayer Breakfast. Vice President Pence and wife Karen stopped by every dinner and addressed the crowd. From Pence’s words, you could literally feel his love for Christ reverberate around the massive ballrooms. After all, these were HIS people through faith’s invisible bond.
My point is that between now and Feb. 6, 2020, anything can and will happen. However, this week four things did happen that make Pat’s question even more prescient:
First, on Monday the words of an influential televangelist, the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, were plastered across the Drudge Report in huge red letters:
Additionally, a Washington Post headline read: “Trump ‘in danger of losing the mandate of heaven’ over Syria decision, Pat Robertson warns.”
Yikes. If the president loses the “mandate of heaven,” where does that leave “We the People”? Moreover, is Trump’s “mandate of heaven” transferable to Pence or any other Republican? Someone needs to ask Robertson those questions.
Second, numerous public opinion polls are rapidly shifting toward impeachment, as reported in this Politico headline: “Half of voters support impeaching and removing Trump.” But, as I have written, the GOP is known for downplaying or ignoring polls.
The third thing involved a second influential Christian leader to appear in a Drudge Report headline and linked to Politico: “Ralph Reed: ‘Render to God and Trump.’” Reflecting the original title of Reed’s forthcoming book, Politico’s full headline adds that Reed “calls for 2020 obedience to Trump.”
Even with the book title change (it’s now “For God and Country: The Christian Case for Trump”), the original title is not a pleasing message to Christians, and one likely to diminish Reed’s standing.
Fourth, on Wednesday Axios reported: “Evangelical leaders break with Trump over Turkey's Syria assault.” The three leaders named are analogous to the Christian political army’s high command: Franklin Graham, Erick Erickson and Tony Perkins.
In biblical terms, does this “break” mean that the “curtain in the Temple has torn”? In secular terms: A separation between Trump and his evangelical base? Watch that space.
Finally, with so much uncertainty swirling around, these truths I do know:
God is in charge of mandates from heaven.
Supreme obedience is only to God.
The scrambled eggs at the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast will be cold.