Will America be great again?


Tomorrow, we will inaugurate the 45th President of the United States of America—Donald J. Trump.  Some folks are rejoicing in his victory, while others are quite concerned about how he will govern or even quite nervous about his qualifications.

I’ve musing about what his inaugural address might be like.  Will he make an effort to bring our nation together?

I came across some ideas while reading the alumni magazine of my seminary—Theological College of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  They just got a new Rector—Sulpician Father Gerard McBrearity P.P.S. this past fall and I gleaned some ideas from his inaugural letter.  He wrote . . . .

Every time we bring hope into a situation, every time we bring joy that shatters despair, every time we forgive others, and give them back their dignity, every time we listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time we speak the truth in public, every time we confront injustice, we are practicing resurrection. (Resurrection is about bringing new life where there’s decay or listlessness or despair.)

Father McBrearity was quoting the words of the spiritual writer Megan McKenna in his opening remarks. He goes on to say,  “I hope that in everything I say and do I will practice resurrection, that I will be able to bring joy where there is only hurt or anger, that I will be able to listen, that I will be able to speak the truth and confront injustice.”

Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear words such as this—healing words, words of hope, inspiring words, uplifting words, from the next President of the United States?  That he would be able to listen?

Perhaps we will.  I hope and pray we will.

One of the roles of a president is to inspire the people of the country. Yes, to bring about resurrection.  To show us the way forward.  To offer hope.  To bring life!

It is up to the President to lead us in the work of healing. Should it not be one of his first orders of business to bring us together? To reach out to those with whom he disagrees and be magnanimous, though in the last few weeks he has stubbornly gotten into Tritter wars with people, behavior  unbecoming of a man who will tomorrow take the oath office of the presidency of the country he says he wants to make great again.   Wouldn’t be great if he were able to make a grand gesture of goodwill to the people he’s offended?  Wouldn’t be great if he would tell us he’s going to be a president for all Americans—whites and blacks, Christians, Jews and Muslims, men and women, the poor and the rich; Latinos, LGBT folks, immigrants, and so many more?

There’s something else that I want to add that gleaned from  my reading preparing for Mass last Sunday.  Bishop Robert Barron, an assisting Bishop in the LA Archdiocese, often has a brief lesson in the Magnificat liturgical magazine, as he did last Saturday evening.  He had this to say . . . .

One of the distinctive marks of our culture is a tendency toward self-exculpation (excusing ourselves) and self-exaltation.  “I am beautiful in every single way,” declares a popular song. Everyone is a victim, and yet no one is morally to blame for anything.  One’s personal desire reigns sovereignly over politics, nature, and religion. This attitude is not only wrong-headed—it is adverse to Christianity, which has to do with salvation.  For if there is nothing to be saved from, who needs a Savior?   (Magnificat, Jan. 2017, p. 188)

In the Middle Ages, when Popes were installed as Pope three times a papal master of ceremonies would fall to his knees before the pope, holding a silver or brass reed, bearing a tow of smoldering flax. For three times in succession, as the cloth burned away, he would say in a loud and mournful voice, “Pater Sancte, sic transit gloria mundi!” (“Holy Father, so passes worldly glory!”) These words, thus addressed to the pope, served as a reminder of the transitory nature of life and earthly honors.  (Source: Wikipedia.)

Does Mr. Trump who is known for his—um—rather large ego–which also bruises like an overripe peach,  recognize that he is not the Savior?

He would do well to have something like this ceremony to remind him that THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY IS BIGGER THAN YOU, MR. PRESIDENT!

So, let’s sum up then. . . .

From  St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians for all of us . . . .

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.

Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.

Then God’s peace which is beyond all understanding, will guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, Brothers and Sisters, your thought should be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.

Live according to what you have heard me say and seen me do.

Then will the God of peace be with you.  (Phil. 4:6-9)

And now my prayer . . . .

Almighty God, Creator of the Universe,

We thank you for the 239 years we have been a strong, vibrant country.

We’ve been through wars—one that almost sundered our own land, and many of our young have fallen so that we could be free.

We’ve been through droughts and depressions, hurricanes, and all sorts of tests to our national will; but we’re still more or less in one piece, dear God.

And now, we come to another moment of peaceful transition of power in our land.

Almighty God, we ask your blessing on Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence as they assume their office tomorrow..

Please open them to your guidance.

Send upon them your Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Wisdom,

the Spirit of justice, peace, and unity for all in our land.

And finally, dear God, we ask your blessing on all the peoples of our great county,

from east to west, from north to south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours!


And finally, dear Mr. Trump . . .

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace!

     (Numbers 6:23-26)  

And now, before you go, here’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing America the Beautiful with great slide show. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer



One Nation – Under God

The Jefferson Memorial at Night; the statue of Jefferson faces the White House.
The Jefferson Memorial at Night; the statue of Jefferson faces the White House.

This week began with a Memorial tribute to the martyred Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and will conclude with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States ~ Donald J. Trump.

Nine years ago, the June 2007 edition of my Arise Reflection / Letter was entitled, WHAT HAS BECOME OF OUR BELOVED COUNTRY?

I wrote,

Those of you who have been with me for some time  (this was Volume XVIII) know that I occasionally write something difficult to deal with.  The following topic I have been thinking about and praying about for years.  I was alarmed about three issues

1.) Technology and unbridled consumerism have become our false gods.

2. ) Our country was saturated in violence on TV, video games, Virginia Tech. to Abu Ghraib.

3.) We have taken for granted our freedoms in this country, as I warned the Patriot Act was beginning to do.

This is how I concluded that issue in June of 2007:

And the sad thing is we let it happen.  We are so self-absorbed we ignore what we see. We become complacent. Yes, we could lose our democracy.

But we can let our voice be heard in the political process in this coming election year.  (Barack Obama’s)  We can take our country back from the special interest groups.  We can show them that America is not for sale!

This is the America I believe in:  the America which is not just out to make a buck but puts people first—and God—first; that goes below the surface of things to find life’s meaning and purpose; that leads the world not because what we have but by the ideals we hold sacred; that is not deluded by false gods but knows and serves the God of Love.

As a result I’ve had a category in my blogs, entitled “Transforming our Nation, “ that I’ve only used on patriotic holidays. But what I propose to do is, over the next month or so, to post occasional blogs on that topic as we see how the Trump administration fulfills the responsibilities of their office. I want to look at all of this prayerfully from the perspective of the Gospel from a spiritual point of view.

My overarching theme is In God we trust?  And that was prompted by an email someone sent me informing me that there’s a new dollar coin cast that no longer has the words “In God we trust” imprinted upon it.  Where are we going as a nation?  Since 2007, I’ve been pleading with my readers to pray for the transformation of our nation, as I do with you now

And for our first entry,  take  one I received Sunday from the website of Association of United States Catholic Priests,

Dear Mr. Trump: Will You Advance a Moral Agenda?

Campaign created by
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Sr. Simone Campbell, with over 15,000 clergy signed on.

Dear Donald Trump,

As you prepare to take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, we write with deep concern and prophetic hope for our nation and world. This letter is to share a commitment to meet with you in a house of worship prior to your inauguration, if you desire to hear our voice of counsel and challenge.

At the heart of our religious traditions, the moral values of love, justice and mercy compel us to seek the common good in society. When you place your hand on the Bible and promise to fulfill the duties of the office to which you have been elected, you will assume leadership of a government that exists to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our children.”

Why is this important?
Pursuing a more perfect union is serious work for any human being. We want to pray for you because we know this is an especially difficult task today.

In the prophetic tradition, we want to exhort and challenge you because you cannot do this work alone. Our sacred text honored by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike declares we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. America’s Constitution begins “We the people…” because it points toward a form of government that requires a broad and engaged coalition of citizens in order to thrive. We want to pray and point towards these essential goals.

Mr. Trump, we hope it is your desire to be successful. Success is measured by how we welcome the stranger, care for the sick, care for the poor, and care for the hungry in practice and in policy. In order to be successful in the eyesight of God, leaders must repent when they are wrong, and they must be committed to promote that which is rooted in justice and good will. As clergy dedicated to the care of souls, we know you can neither succeed in a way that pleases God nor fulfill the duties of your office unless you repent. All of us, even persons who hold powerful positions, are called to repent when we violate the deep principles of love, justice, and mercy towards all, especially the least of these.

Since your election, our communities have been fractured by harassment and intimidation. People of color and religious minorities are afraid. Poor working people who you appealed to in your campaign are disappointed that you have attacked their union leaders while appointing Wall Street elites who use them to your Cabinet.

We are deeply concerned by the policy vision that your Cabinet selections suggest. After inviting Steve Bannon’s white nationalism into the Oval Office, you nominated Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department—a man who did not receive Senate approval for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his long history of racial discrimination in Alabama. If he maintains his past positions on civil rights and voting rights, he could overturn and undermine years of victories and protections secured and signed in the blood of the martyrs. Equally insulting to African-Americans is your nomination of Ben Carson, a black man with no experience in government or housing, to head HUD.

But race can never be separated from class in America. We are equally concerned about Andy Puzder’s resistance to the movement for a living wage, which impacts over 60 million Americans and 54% of all African-Americans. We are concerned about Tom Price’s expressed commitment to repeal the ACA and take away healthcare from people with preexisting conditions, veterans, and nearly 30 million Americans. We are troubled that you have chosen several people to lead federal agencies that they have publicly attacked in the past.

Both this nation and the rest of the world desperately need your heart to grow into a source of courage, so you might work with all people of goodwill to uphold the most sacred moral principles of our faith and constitutional values, (I just summarise them here.)

1. Protecting and expanding voting rights and ending voter suppression and unconstitutional gerrymandering.

2. Pro-labor, anti-poverty, anti-racist policies that build up economic democracy through employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a just transition away from fossil fuels, labor rights, affordable housing, direct cash transfers and other support for all families struggling to get by

3. Equality in education by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutionally diverse public education.

4. Healthcare for all by expanding Medicaid in every state, ensuring access to Medicare and Social Security.

5. Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system for black, brown and poor white people and fighting the proliferation of guns;

We do not believe that these are left or right issues. They are right or wrong issues. And while we know no human being is perfect, we wish to speak with you about these moral issues because far too much is at stake for you to succumb to your worst demons while in public office.

Our faith calls us to love all people but this love can never refuse to tell the truth and stand against hate, systemic racism, and economic inequality. We cannot simply congratulate you on your victory and say, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. We are bound by our vows to tell the truth in love and stand together for justice, love and truth.

As this tumultuous year draws to a close, we will hold a National Watch Night service on December 31st at the historic Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC.

Over 4,000 clergy have signed onto our Higher Ground Moral Declaration. On behalf of them and the millions of Americans they serve, we request a meeting with you in a house of worship to pray and discuss these matters. We are interfaith, interracial, intergenerational clergy. You may contact us through the Repairers of the Breach office to arrange a time and location.

And now, my prayer,

Dear God, as we used to stand each morning in grade school

and pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,

and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God,

indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,

I wonder how many of us ~ maybe even the President – honor those words,

or really take them to  heart?  

One nation – under God.

Please, please bring us together, dear Lord.

I ask you to anoint our President-elect with a new Spirit, Lord.

A spirit of gentleness and reconciliation.  

A spirit that reaches out to all Americans and beyond.  

Please, Lord, Let it be so! Amen!

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, meekness, humility, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes the rest together and makes them perfect.  . . .  Dedicate yourself to thankfulness. (Col. 3: 12-14, 16)

And now, before you go, here’s Celine Dion singing, God Bless America with a great slide show.    Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer