By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – “Spiritual success” is a more accurate measure for the United States than wealth, according to likely billionaire President Donald Trump in remarks Feb. 2 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
“America is a nation of believers,” Trump said. “In towns across the land, we see what we so easily forget: The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success but by our spiritual success. I speak that as someone who has had great material success and who knows many people who have had great material success. … Some of them are very miserable, miserable people.”
Compared to people to have money but no happiness, the people who have no money but happiness “are the successful people, let me tell you,” Trump said at the 65th annual breakfast, attended by 3,000 politicians, religious leaders and dignitaries, including King Abdullah of Jordan.
Trump spoke about having gone to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware the previous day for the return of the remains of William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL killed in a firefight with al-Qaida in Yemen. “Greater love has no man than that a man lay down his life for his friends,” the president said. “We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.”
Freedom is not “a gift of government” but “a gift of God,” Trump added. “It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said that the God who gave us life gave us liberty.” But the nation’s 45th president question whether “the liberties of the nation will be secure if we remove the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God.”
“That is why I will get rill get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment, and allow our religious representatives to speak freely without fear and without retribution,” Trump said. The amendment, attached by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson to a 1954 bill, bans federally recognized nonprofits from making political endorsements. “Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is a right under threat all round us,” said the president.
In his speech, Trump alluded to the executive memorandum he issued Jan. 27 that bans refugees hailing from seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. His action suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days.
“Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world. But there are those who would exploit that generosity,” he said.
“We want people to come into our nation but we want people to love us and to love our values, not to hate us and hate our values. We will be a safe country, we will be a free country, where people can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility and without fear of violence.”
Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast lasted one minute longer than his 18-minute presidential inaugural speech.
“Five words that never fail to touch my heart,” Trump said at the breakfast, are “I am praying for you.” “I hear it so often” ‘I am praying for you, Mr. President.’”
He lauded the keynote address given by the Rev. Barry Black, a Seventh-day Adventists who is chaplain of the Senate. The speech was so good, he told Rev. Black, “I’m going to appoint you for another year, the hell with it.” Chaplains are appointed by their respective house of Congress.
Trump also talked about how he “had to leave” his job hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” after he announced his presidential bid. “They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger to take my place, and we know how that turned out: The ratings went right down the tubes, it was a disaster. Pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings.”
Copyright ©2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.