Political News

Love your enemies? Nah, says Trump

Posted February 6, 2020 11:20 a.m. EST

— Loving your enemies is one of Jesus' most famous teachings, mentioned in his Sermon on the Mount just after he tells followers to turn the other cheek.

So it wasn't surprising to hear Arthur Brooks, the keynote speaker at Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast, draw on that teaching.

Brooks, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, is also author of a book called "Love Your Enemies," in which he writes about how we "increasingly view people who disagree with us not as merely incorrect or misguided, but as worthless."

"Some people say we need more civility and tolerance. I say, nonsense," Brooks said at the prayer breakfast. "Why? Because civility and tolerance are a low standard. Jesus didn't say, 'tolerate your enemies.' He said, 'love your enemies.' Answer hatred with love."

Brooks said he hoped his remarks would be a moment of healing for the country after the divisive House impeachment and Senate acquittal of President Trump.

The healing lasted about two minutes.

Immediately after Brooks spoke, Trump took the podium.

"Arthur, I don't know if I agree with you," the President said with a look of chagrin.

Beginning his speech at the annual event, Trump criticized "dishonest and corrupt people" who "badly hurt our nation" -- an apparent reference to Democrats who pursued his impeachment over what they claimed was an abuse of power in holding up aid in Ukraine in an attempt to get the country to investigate his political rivals.

Then he blasted two of his "enemies" -- Republican Senator Mitt Romney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In an emotional speech on Wednesday, Romney had cited his faith in explaining why he was voting to convict Trump on the impeachment charge of abuse of power.

"My faith is at the heart of who I am," Romney said, pausing for nearly a minute to collect himself.

"I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong."

On Thursday, Trump responded.

"I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong, nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that's not so," he said. "So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on."

Pelosi, a Catholic, has said she prays for the President every day.

Even in Washington, which has been torn asunder for weeks by the impeachment trial, Trump's remarks were striking. For one, the National Prayer Breakfast is typically a nonpartisan event that organizers say is meant to provide a spiritual refuge from political warfare.

Secondly, it's striking to hear Trump, who is a Presbyterian, so directly reject one of Christianity's core teachings.

Instead, the President has said he prefers another part of the Bible, where it talks about taking "an eye for an eye." (Ironically, some Christians see Jesus' instruction to turn the other cheek as moving past that kind of morality.)

Later in his speech on Thursday, Trump seemed to acknowledge that many in the room, which included Christians, Muslims and other faith leaders from around the world, might disagree with him about loving one's enemies.

"I'm sorry, I apologize," he said. "I am trying to learn. Not easy. It's not easy when they impeach you for nothing, and you're supposed to like them."

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