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Much has been made in recent days of President Trump not having recited the Apostles' Creed during former President George H.W. Bush's funeral on December 5. Comments have ranged from questions regarding Trump's literacy to criticism that he is perhaps not "Christian enough" to warrant the support he does have from evangelical Christians.
I was impressed he was even there in the first place, though he looked incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.
Granted, Trump was not the 41st president's favorite person on the planet, and if Trump has been paying attention at all to the news beyond Fox News, he would have heard that Mr. Bush did at least once refer to the current president as a "blowhard" (per CNN). It should come as no surprise that while the Bush family—at least George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush respectively—are known for being Republican and that there should at the very least be some common ground between Trump and the Bushes for no other reason, Trump would be uncomfortable at former president George H.W. Bush's funeral.
Appearances by the Clintons and the Obamas probably didn't help matters much; I'm quite sure that the tension in the air at the funeral was probably ridiculously thick, though of course everyone there were adults and were no doubt painfully aware of the public scrutiny they were all under.
However, it is that same scrutiny that leads us to Trump choosing not to say the Apostles' Creed during the service when all the other presidents in attendance did.
For those unfamiliar with the Apostles' Creed and what it is, according to Britannica, it is a "statement of faith used in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and many Protestant churches."
I became familiar with the Apostles' Creed as a result of my marriage to a Catholic. While I was raised as a Protestant, my parents were not churchgoers, although they insisted my sister and I should attend Sunday School and I do recall attending religion classes during my time at a Canadian Forces school in Lahr in what used to be West Germany. As a result of all of this, I had never really heard the Apostles' Creed, though I knew of it; it was just something that came up through my formative years.
Our children were baptized Catholic, and as such, that ultimately meant when we went to visit family members, we would honor them and attend the local Catholic church, which is where I basically memorized the Apostles' Creed. I felt the need since my children were being raised as Catholics and attending a Catholic school, to show respect for the faith and for those family members and friends who were also Catholic by learning to say it. I also thought that I needed to model the behavior for my kids; when they attended church, they should know the basics and the Apostles' Creed was part of that, so I learned to say it with everyone else.
Some might argue—and have argued—that unless you believe in the faith, you shouldn't necessarily participate in the various facets of the service, but I disagree. In the case of Trump's attendance at Mr. Bush's funeral, I understand that he was there as a head of state and therefore there to respect and honor a former president who enjoyed an incredibly long, well-lived life. Religion shouldn't necessarily enter into that equation. Separation of church and state, and all that.
However, we live in a world that's all about optics, and when you're the only one who's sitting out of something involving a few other presidents and current and past heads of state from other countries, you look like a real jerk.
Trump's faults aside, even he would have understood that choosing not to participate in something so basic as reading the Apostles' Creed off the funeral program would have looked bad. We may never know why, exactly, he chose not to read along with the other past presidents, but this is only another instance where Trump could and should have carried the dignity and respect of the office he holds and failed. Reading the Apostles' Creed when you may not necessarily be a part of that particular faith - such as my situation where I am not Catholic but continue to say the Creed out of respect for the faith and for others—is a matter of respect in this case, and once again, Trump dropped the ball.