President Trump desecrated the sacred character of St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square — a living presence of faith in the heart of our nation’s capital — for his cheap and foul political purposes.

On Monday, security forces under White House command fired rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters to empty streets around the church so that Trump could do what he has never done in his entire time in office: leave the safety of the fortified White House to walk a few yards, with Secret Service and his toadies in tow, to stand at the H Street side of St. John’s and get photographed holding up the Holy Bible.

Then he went back home.

Yes, it was a desecration. St. John’s is everything Trump is not.

History records the arms of St. John’s having reached out to embrace the well-off and the unwell, the highly honored and the unloved, and people who, in their own way, just want to find a way of living with love in this world. Those are arms that the Trump we have come to know would receive with a sneering laugh and a demeaning tweet.

St. John’s founded an orphanage for children of Civil War victims, and it also sponsored the founding more than 150 years ago of my parish, and the first African American Episcopal place of worship in Washington: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Foggy Bottom on 23rd Street NW.

Unlike Trump, who has made one or two drive-by ceremonial visits to St. John’s, I often joined downtown workers who turned to the church for noon services during the lunch hour. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in one of the church’s Sunday morning forums.

At the time of his sudden death in 2018, Togo West — a fellow Howard University alumnus, former secretary of the Army and Veterans Affairs, and a former St. John’s senior warden — and I were actively planning a sesquicentennial celebration of St. John’s role in the creation of my parish and St. Paul’s, located a few blocks away in the 2400 block of K Street NW.

St. John’s, above all, is a place of worship.

The thought of Trump using that historic church as a bargain-basement photo op is stomach turning.

And he made no bones about what he was doing. He took advantage of a nation under siege to find an easily accessible church singed by the unrest to posture himself as some kind of Christian Crusader — a stunt that only a cynical, not very bright, two-bit showman would perform.

But Trump knows his base of supporters will fall for anything that he chooses to do.

God, I believe, knows better.

So, too, the souls who worship without fail at St. John’s. As well as people of good will across the nation who can spot a charlatan when they see one; a swindler who sells worthless feel-good illusions, as he fills his pockets with their wants, dreams and votes.

“Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence,” said the Right Rev. Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington. “We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.”

That Trump would use a church to do what he did Monday is beyond contempt.

In last Sunday’s virtual service at the Washington National Cathedral, Episcopalians prayed at the Eucharist, “especially for Donald, president of the United States; the Congress; the Supreme Court; and Muriel, mayor of this city.”

I was one of them.

We shall, I expect, do the same thing this Sunday, just as we have in the past.

It will be done on Sunday with a heavy heart, and a prayer “to forgive those who trespass against us,” and a heartfelt plea for the Lord to get us to the polls on time in November.

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