It is with optimism and hopeful anticipation that I head out to a meeting President Trump is hosting Thursday for religious leaders. There is a reason for my optimism. Although he doesn't get credit for it, Trump is far more religious than many people realize.
In my conversations with pastors who have personally ministered to him, I have been made aware that he's extraordinarily open to the word of God, to the power of prayer, and to growing in the life of the spirit. In other words, he is tuned into the Lord's movement in his life. This is great news. An open heart and mind and a teachable spirit are vital characteristics for good leadership.
Recently, Trump made his first international trip, and it had the feel of a religious pilgrimage. It brought him to three major religious centers of the world. He visited Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem and Vatican City in Rome. In meeting with the leaders of the Abrahamic religions, Trump was sending a clear message to the world that he was on a mission of peace. The fact that he chose these explicitly religious places shows his conviction that for peace to prevail, it is not enough that political leaders or military leaders do their duty to work towards it.
It is just as necessary that religious leaders do their duty. They are called to teach peace, to activate their congregations to pursue it, and to show the world that peace is the fruit of true union with God.
At the beginning of last month, during the signing of his executive order protecting religious freedom, Trump reminded the country to listen to its religious leaders and reminded the leaders that the people, and their president, want to hear them loud and clear -- even more than they want to hear the politicians
It brought to mind an instance when Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., -- when he served in the United States Senate -- told me, "We politicians can do our jobs only when you, the clergy, do your jobs." To do their jobs, politicians need the support of people who have a strong sense of right and wrong. Religion needs to till the soil until it is fertile. If the clergy did their jobs, people would be eager to support good politicians.
For far too long, government has played too big a role in dictating what clergy can say. It's why Trump opposes the Johnson amendment.
Priests for Life has also been fighting against vague and unconstitutional restrictions on what pastors can preach from the pulpit, particularly when it comes to politics, elections, and voting. With the signing of his recent executive order, Trump has made it easier.
Free speech from the pulpit is something our Founding Fathers took for granted as our heritage. They never dreamed it would one day be censored. The restoration of this American legacy is one of the many steps Trump is taking to make America great again.
Trump has been able to resonate and connect with people on a very profound level. A non-polished, non-politician was able to break through the red tape and surprise everybody by getting elected. People heard him speak and they jumped to their feet because he echoed what they were thinking and feeling. His style is refreshingly void of any trace of political correctness. People desperately want a leader who tells it like it is; they tired of moral compromise and are hungry for unvarnished truth.
The same approach that works with Trump needs to be employed by religious leaders, and in this sense, his meeting with us Thursday should be a fresh call to our own freedom of spirit. We need to tell the uncompromising truth and tell it like it is. We must refuse to be handcuffed and stifled by political correctness.
Brownback also once said to me, "There is a great divide in Washington that is stronger than the partisan divide. It is simply between those who acknowledge God and those who do not."
This is why I am looking forward to this meeting with Trump, with whom I have had the privilege to converse with twice before. In him, we undoubtedly have a man who acknowledges God like our Founding Fathers did. This is the foundation for creating good and just policies.
When I meet with the president and religious leaders tomorrow, I anticipate with joy the changes that are happening and will continue to happen for the betterment of our country. I anticipate the affirmation we pastors need from one another and from our political leaders. And I look forward, in turn, to giving our political leaders, starting with our president, the affirmation that they need and deserve from the religious leaders of the country.
Father Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the national director of Priests for Life.
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