An Episcopal church in California has decided to no longer use the “proper names” of government officials in prayer, citing President-elect Trump’s name as a “trauma-trigger.” It has previously used the names of officials, such as Obama’s, but will now simply refer to them by title, such as “President.”
The rector of the church writes of the “danger” of Trump:
We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety.
This speaks to a larger trend within our society, which is beginning to infiltrate the Christian Church as well, of being unable or unwilling to deal with people or subjects with which we disagree or which make us uncomfortable. Avoidance, however, is not something the Church should engage in.
The Church throughout history has engaged with civil government and prayed for its leaders. The early Christian apologists, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, even prayed for the emperors of the Roman empire which persecuted Christians. They also wrote letters directly to the emperors, following Christ’s command to pray for our enemies and to provide civil government our support, since it holds power at God’s will. Tertullian wrote towards the end of the first century (in chapter 30 of his Apology):
Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish.
Trump, of course, is not an emperor, but he does hold civil power in this country as the elected President. He may make some people uncomfortable, but the Church is equipped to handle the uncomfortable. The source of the Church’s strength is Christ, believing his words: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The church in California argues that it is still praying for Trump as President, just not by name. However, if a congregation is unable to name a person, such as Trump, because his name causes offense and provokes “trauma,” how can it handle God’s Word which also – at times – causes offense and may provoke trauma as it convicts us of sin? How can it handle the greater truths of the Gospel if it cannot handle the “little things” (Luke 16:10).