Divergent Approaches To POTUS Inaugural - Protest and Prayer

A stained-glass window in the sanctuary of Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo: Robert Parham)

Honored civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis sought to delegitimize the presidency of Donald Trump.

"I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," said Lewis, who plans to protest Donald Trump's inauguration by skipping it.

A number of other Democrats have decided to bypass the inauguration, refusing to recognize symbolically the legitimate election of Trump.

"I will not be celebrating. I will be organizing and preparing for resistance," said Rep. Barbara Lee (California).

Rep. Ted Lieu (California) said, "For me, the personal decision not to attend the inauguration is quite simple: Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis."

A third California representative, Maxine Waters, tweeted, "I never ever contemplated attending the inauguration or any activities associated w/ @realDonaldTrump. I wouldn't waste my time."

One congressman said he plans to join the anti-Trump Women's March on Washington. Another said he would be speaking to schoolchildren in St. Louis. A third said she would be hosting an immigration roundtable.

The UK's Guardian newspaper released on Saturday a protest guide to the inauguration, including a queer dance party and marijuana advocates passing out joints. The Women's March on Washington for abortion and LGBT rights is projected to be one of the largest events.

DisruptJ21, an anti-Trump movement, said, "We're building the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen."

The American Civil Liberties Union partnered with Black Lives Matter to prepare inauguration protesters. An app is available to record police altercations and report them to the ACLU.

Anti-Trump protests are being held across the country.

A few folk in Nashville have announced a "silent inauguration." They plan to sit in a public park in silence for 15 minutes when Trump takes his oath for office.

Americans who are angry, dejected and fearful about the election results will express their feelings in a variety of ways. Some will be disruptive. Some will be hateful. Some will wring their hands in worry.

Others take another approach. Bobby Dagnel, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas, called for subversive engagement: praying for elected officials.

"Praying for our newly elected president - and encouraging others to do so - may be the most powerful thing we can do to practice civic leadership and engagement in a divided community," wrote First Baptist Church of Nashville's Frank Lewis. "I do this, in part, because Scripture tells me to do so."

Drawing a distinction between prayer as affirming and prayer as agreeing, Barry Howard, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida, noted , "Praying for a leader is not the same as affirming or agreeing with his or her policies or character. I believe this is true whether we are praying for presidents, governors, mayors or pastors."

Howard, a member of the Baptist Center for Ethics board of directors, said, "To pray for a leader is to affirm the power of God in providing guidance and to intercede for that leader to be receptive to God's direction, to grow in their moral and ethical conviction and to govern or lead in the best interest of all people."

Doyle Sager addressed twin biblical concerns. The pastor of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, Missouri, wrote , "Post-election, the tension centers around our biblical mandate to pray for all duly elected officials, including our new president, while reserving the right to call out those elected officials when they depart from the way of justice and decency."

As for congregations in the D.C. area, the Washington National Cathedral and its choir will participate in the inauguration. Responding to criticism, the Presiding Bishop of the Diocese of Washington said that praying for leaders was "deep in our biblical and Anglican/Episcopalian traditions."

One D.C.-area church will have an "inauguration evangelism event." McLean Bible Church "will be handing out Gospel literature in order to plant the seeds of a future relationship with God within the guests of the event." Jews for Jesus will be leading the event for this nondenominational mega-church.

Protest and prayer are divergent approaches to the inauguration. Protests are expressions of opposition. Prayers are expressions, in some cases, of agreement with the new administration. In other cases, prayers are being faithful to the biblical mandate to pray for leaders without affirming the values and policies of President Trump.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook. Order his new book, "The Disturbances." It is available as either a paperback or an e-book.

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of articles about the inauguration of President-elect Trump, focused on the importance of praying for the new president (and all elected officials), honoring their election and engaging respectfully our representatives.

Previous articles in the series are:

Praying for Your Elected Officials: A Subversive Idea

The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do for POTUS

4 Ways to Handle Political Tensions in Your Church

5 Ways You Can Pray for the President, Other Leaders

After Inauguration, Churches Begin Work of Empathy

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