To Recite or Not To Recite the Creed: Honorable or Hypocritical?

By Tom Gilson Published on December 7, 2018

Let’s be careful what we conclude about Donald Trump from his refusal to recite the Apostle’s Creed at George H.W. Bush’s funeral.

Remember first of all, this wasn’t the Pledge of Allegiance. The Creed is a statement of personal religious conviction. It means nothing if it’s not an expression of the heart. It means less than nothing if it’s only for show.

Belief or Hypocrisy?

Suppose, then, you’re a politician standing on the front row of a nationally televised funeral. You recite the Creed. Why? Either you believe it, or you thinks it looks better on TV to act as if you do. That second option also means you don’t think the words mean that much; certainly less than your appearances. It’s textbook hypocrisy.

If you don’t speak the Creed, it could be you’re merely distracted or preoccupied. That’s a stretch, though; it’s much more likely you really don’t believe it. But there’s more to it than that, for by not speaking, you’re also showing you’re willing to be criticized for it.

Obtuse Individualism or Real Respect for the Creed?

And why would that be? For some it might be obstinate individualism, a contrary streak that says, “You know, I honestly don’t care what anyone thinks.”

We expect that from Donald Trump in some ways, but in this case he’d be saying he doesn’t care what his Evangelical/ Catholic/ conservative base thinks. That would be surprising. It’s not impossible, but it seems rather a stretch, too.

He who does not speak is at least safe from speaking hypocrisy.

Yet here’s another reason one might risk that criticism. That would be if one takes the Creed too seriously to speak it unless he’s sure he means it. That would be the stance of a man who respects Christian beliefs, who thinks it’s likely there’s real substance there, and that it’s nothing to fool with. It’s someone who’s grappling with the reality he suspects it contains, but knows it would be wrong to act as if he’d totally signed on to it.

Wouldn’t you rather have such a man remain quiet than speak only for the sake of show? Wouldn’t that be a more honorable, more principled stance — even if it’s not a believing stance?

So Whom Should We Criticize For It?

I don’t know why Donald Trump didn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed, and neither do you. I hope — and pray — it means he’s taking it seriously, but that’s mere hope, not knowledge.

But we also don’t know why the former presidents standing near him did recite it. They could have been speaking out of their own beliefs, or they could have been speaking for show. He who does not speak is at least safe from speaking hypocrisy.

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This isn’t about patriotism, but it’s always about politics; and if it’s about politics you can count on someone criticizing someone. So let’s play the game and decide who we should take to task here.

We’ve just seen that the one speaks and the one who doesn’t — either one could have good or bad reasons for what they are doing. Is one way more honorable, then, than the other, in Christian terms?

We Don’t Know

I’ve already said I don’t know. I don’t know whether Trump’s heart is blacker than the Clintons’ hearts or the Obamas’ hearts.

Which means I also don’t know why Trump is getting all the criticism for it. That is, I do know; he’s the media’s all-time favorite target. What I really mean is neither you nor I know that the criticisms have any relation to reality. We can’t tell just from watching them speak whether the former presidents’ participation expressed reality in their hearts, either.

I don’t mean to say there’s no room either to honor or criticize a person’s motives. Rather, let’s speak what we know, rather than what we don’t know. So if we’re going to criticize Trump, let’s do it for his all-too-frequent rudeness, especially towards women and the weak. If there’s a policy you don’t like, criticize him for that. Same for the others standing there.

But be very careful criticizing Trump for not reciting a Christian creed, while holding the Clintons and the Obamas up as models he should have emulated. You don’t know enough to know what’s going on in any of their hearts — where it really matters.



Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.

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  • Chip Crawford

    i understood it completely. There are ministers that have you repeat things after them, going on a bit. I don’t just sing-song after them, because I realize what you say and affirm means something. The Trumps not just going along can actually mean the affirmations of points of faith mean more to them than those who just fit in. It’s not like the Lord’s Prayer, literal scripture. And I thought some behind them weren’t reciting along either. Again, it’s more spiritual to refrain at times than to just conform. Despite Mr. Trump’s obvious flaws, from everything I’ve ever seen or heard, he’s a very steady, ongoing Presbyterian church goer. Those picking at this latest seem to be settling into being hypocritical and ridiculous.

    • Willam Nat

      Not every Christian Church believes every statement in the Apostle’s Creed as it is worded in the Episcopal Church.

  • That you are questioning the Apostle’s Creed to maintain your faith in donald trump means that trump has become an impediment to what really matters.

    • Is there someone here who’s questioning the Apostle’s Creed to maintain their faith in Trump?

      • Considering the article is about the necessity to recite it, and there are comments of the same, all with the declaration that trump doesn’t need to because trump is trump: yes.

        • Andrew Mason

          Actually it’s a critique of the criticism of Trump’s failure to recite it. This article does not argue that it is necessary to recite the Creed, nor does it allege that Trump is above such things.

          • That it questions the necessity of reciting the Creed is my point.

          • Andrew Mason

            Should non-Christians recite the Creed? Is Trump a Christian?

          • Willam Nat

            Trump a Christian by words and ACTIONS.

            The real question should be: Are the Clintons and Obamas Christians when they practice today’s equivalent of child sacrifice?

          • Yes, as it will prompt a conversion. Any turning toward the Lord is necessary.

            Is trump a Christian?

            By real, Catholic standards? Not one bloody bit.

            By prot standards? There are no prot standards.

            Could be a freemason episcopalian or a “prosperity” joker for the the amount of skin-deep rheroric he says. The baptists worship him as a diety, but they have been an arm of the republican party fot an indeterminate time.

            That trump is seen as a standard for Christianity just because he is a right-wing president is a whole other problem unrelated to his own Faith.

          • There are Protestant standards. There are also standards for those who comment here. You can find them linked from the top of the comment thread. Your character assassinations toward individuals here and toward Protestantism bring you very, very close to being disinvited from commenting here.

            That’s your first warning. But please see my other comment just now: I urge you to examine yourself, and commit to speak in truth instead of what you’ve been doing. It does me no harm for you to speak falsely of me or anyone else here, but it does your own soul a lot of damage. Please, for your sake, reflect on this and then turn to speaking truth.

          • A group that bases itself on nebulous terms like “personal relationships” and “personal interpretation” have no standard by design. The standard is personal and therefore worthless outside of the ego of the individual.

            I have been censored as much by right-wingers, Christians, and “free speech” advocates as I have by communists, satanists, and people who think denying the Truth will immanetize the eschaton.

            you want to ban me because I hurt your feelings. I hurt your feelings because I made you feel like a hypocrite. Not because of what I said, but because what I said hit close to home and made you feel bad.

            I don’t care if you ban me, I can’t think less of you than I already do. I already know you are a hypocrite and a coward and your attempt of putting up an ego-bulleark to prevent you from seeing what I already have is for you only.

            you should care though. Eventually, giving hemlock to all the Truth tellers will mean the world is only left with people like you, and that is how we got into this mess in the first place.

          • With this comment, you are choosing to leave this site. Goodbye. I’m sorry for you, but this kind of persistent character assassination is just not permitted.

          • A further word: When a person is “censored” by people on both the right and the left, Christians and satanists, that person really might want to consider what could be the common factor tying all those disparate groups’ opinions together.

          • Hmmm…

            Thank you. It is a difficult but sound move to uphold right and stated standards. Good leadership.

          • Thanks.

          • Willam Nat

            Do you even know what you are saying?

          • Yes, I do.

          • Willam Nat

            Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

            Typical Marxist answer. No facts, just the belief that everyone will believe you because – and only because- YOU said it.

          • It is common for one side of marxism to claim all non-supporters are communists, the other side claims all non-supporters are fascists.

            This is because marxism is based on the hegelian dialectic and tries to self-justify itself with a conflict in itself. The “useful idiots” in the system are too busy fighting to notice why they are fighting,

          • Willam Nat

            It sure doesn’t. Only someone blinded by hate of Trump and his supporters would manufacture such lies.

        • And absolutely none of that translates to questioning the Creed. I will die for my beliefs, which are quite nicely summarized there, if need be.

          I said nothing remotely like “Trump doesn’t need to because Trump is Trump,” and no one else here said anything like that, either.

          There comes a time, Mr. Teapot, when misrepresentation crosses the line. You’ve reached that point more than once without my saying so, but I’m saying it now. You got us all so completely wrong, I wonder whether you’ve bothered trying to understand us at all.

          Please don’t put words falsely in our mouths. It’s wrong, and it’s annoying.

          • Two separate articles on a non-issue of Trump not out-loud reciting the Creed. One of those articles is (this one) asking if it is really all that necessary to do it, or that he is heroically doing it out of respect because he might not believe in it.

            That you laser in on me making a simple, honest critique of this utter nonsense this day in articles has been, tells me I hit a nerve. Here is my question: if you know this is ridiculous, to question the Creed because trump was not speaking aloud (I recite it in my head, so lips moving is meaningless) then why do it?

            Attacking me won’t make the Truth or your clear shame/frustration here go away. Cowardice is a damned and ugly quality.

          • Chip Crawford

            What!? I have flagged you for your disrespect, accusatory and bullying message here and continually throughout various pages on this board. You are flat our inaccurate as well – rife with confusion and very unChristian sentiment toward others. It is not beneficial to young believers to see this malign and error filled pattern of strife and error. No one else appreciates suffering it time after time as well. It does not represent God in spirit or in truth.

          • Willam Nat

            So true, Nigel is filled with hate.

          • Willam Nat

            Hey Nigel your HATRED for Trump knows NO bounds. You will say anything if it leads to the denigration of the president.

          • I am not talking about trump, I am saying putting trump over and above your Faith assinine and hypocritical. It is.

            Someone attacks God, the Church, or any element of Faith outside of the neocon/freemason-friendly idea of a “personal relationship” with God? Crickets.

            Someone doesn’t even attack trump but mentioned how it is strange that the Apostle’s Creed is repeatedly brought into question when it is presented that trump might be opposed to it? DOGPILE, DOGPILE NOW!

            There are people on this site who say Christ actively supoorts and partook in satanic rituals. Where is the outrage? Would there be a similar lack of outrage if someone claimed trump partook in or supported satanic rituals?

            if you cares as much about the Faith as you do for politics, we would have no problems that are railed on this site daily. This is just one very obvious symptom of a bigger problem.

          • Willam Nat

            Hey Nigel,

            How come you have made 5238 comments and have ONLY 659 upvotes?

            Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

          • Because Truth does not make one friends.

          • 1. The Apostle’s Creed was never brought into question. Yet you say it happened repeatedly. If I am wrong, would you please cut and paste here two or three quotations showing who has questioned the Creed, and when?

            2. I don’t read every comment thread on The Stream. If Trilemma has made satanic allusions, I haven’t seen them. I have, however, responded to him on other matters as appropriate, more than once.

            3. When Peter asked Jesus about John, in the final scene in the gospel of John, Jesus told Peter to worry about his own soul, in effect. I strongly recommend you give up worrying about whether people are responding to Trilemma, and examine whether you are living out a commitment to truth yourself.

            I say that because when you misrepresent us — as you have done repeatedly — that’s either because you cannot understand clear communication or because you do not want to. I doubt you are incompetent to understand, which leaves the alternative, that you do not want to understand. To misrepresent another person’s position is to operate in falsehood. I’d like to believe better things of you, that you want to operate according to truth. But I’d have to see it before I could be confident of it.

            And again, this has nothing to do with what Trilemma says or what anyone says to him. Your speech is your own, not his. Some of it has been false, and it wasn’t Trilemma who made it so, it was you.

            I am not joining with another person’s laughter here. I care for you. I urge you for your own sake to reconsider.

          • I am pointing out the strangeness shown in giving so much attention to me for a simple aside and not ones that deserve it for genuine malicious intent. It is because you take me seriously and not them, that is for sure; but there is a reason you do that, no? Not so much because you agree with me, but that I am a bigger threat than any random satanist troll. This is because I hit close to home,

            Read your own articles and your own comments, you might learn something. Projecting that I am the one refusing to be honest with myself with saccharine, pseudo-psychoanalyzing, frankly amateurish levels of manipulation via “concern” will not make what I said go away. Nothing will make the Truth go away. What you are doing here is insulting, pathetic, and it is only remarkable in that you would actually try it.

            Let me tell you of the top three Spirital Works of Mercy: admonishing the sinner, counciling the doubtful, and instructing the ignorant

            Let me also tell you of the Just War Doctrine:
            There is no sin defending yourself from evil (even with brutal, deadly force barring killing of innocents or already neutralized targets), but it is a grave sin in doing nothing about evil.

            That was St Augustine’s contribution. St Aquinas’ contribution was far more potent:

            There is no sin in being angry about evil (even the worst fury and hatred barring a preoccupation with revenge), but it is a grave sin to do nothing about evil.

            I know you have overlooked the devil’s overt influence or machinations, making it out to be just people being mistaken or personally malicious. It was just last week. It is real though, and it can be found in the silliest of places, like making the Creed subservient to political idolatry.

            I was never talking about you in my message, I was talking generally about the people here that are questioning the Creed as I mentioned. Whether you recognize them or not is not my business as I was very casually talking to them and not you. That you got personally offended by a comment that never personally questioned you says something though.

          • Chip Crawford

            Tom Gilson is a moderator on this site, the author, and steward of the commentary attached in his and other posts. He is a principal in The Stream. Hence, he has rightful oversight here. Your self-assumed totalitarian supreme right wherever you may be defies the chain of legitimate authority in civilized, much less Godly, society. Along with dishonor, do you also usurp a clear line of authority such as The Stream’s standards and those charged with upholding them? Do you here as observed elsewhere make your own self out to be God?

          • You are representing me and others in the worst possible light.

            Second and final warning.

          • In fact there was another comment near the bottom of this thread, in which NigelTeapot confirmed the decision to remove him. I missed it at first. It made this second warning irrelevant.

          • Willam Nat

            BTW Nigel,

            How come you have made 5238 comments and have ONLY 659 upvotes?

            Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

          • I lasered in on you for saying wrongly that we questioned the Creed, and for saying Trump doesn’t need to speak it “because Trump is Trump.” Both of those are serious misrepresentations of what we’ve said here. And now you’re misrepresenting the reasons I wrote my last comment to you. The reasons I gave (and have repeated this time) were clear enough. You need not have misunderstood them, but you did, and you have turned them into character assassination. That’s over the line.

            How I treat Trilemma has no bearing on whether you are committing false character assassination.

          • Yes it does. you claim an honest assessment of the pathetic display yesterday is over the “line” and yet you allow all manner of absolute evil and actual “character assassination” with silent consent and approval.

            The difference is one thing, and your attempt strawmanning what I am saying does not change the shame it clearly inspired for being right on the money: I hit a nerve because I touched on the real religion of many protestants.

          • Willam Nat

            Don’t be too bothered by Nigel. He is just a little man who hates Trump and will say ANYTHING to sow confusion.

          • Willam Nat

            Hey Nigel,

            How come you have made 5238 comments and have ONLY 659 upvotes?

            Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

          • Chip Crawford

            Nice support, but I doubt Tom is bothered at all. He is doing a good job of calling the distortions and not allowing them to stand. The fact that deception is clearly involved in the tempest in Nigel’s teapot is patent by the man’s insistence on his continual distortions of reality. The pile-on here is him reaping what he has sown from the time he began fouling the air here with his sad confusion and upbraiding others for not falling in line with it. Let’s all make a deliberate prayer for him for deliverance on an ongoing basis.

    • Willam Nat

      What are you talking about??? No one is “questioning the Apostle’s Creed to maintain your faith in donald trump” That’s plain stupid.

      • Two articles are prompted because donald trump did not say the Apostle’s Creed aloud.

        The first article mentioned it as a reaction to a media narrative. The comments said trump did not need to say it or it is unnecessary. Some of them (on that article and especially sites like tgo) quite literally say or seriously imply that trump is a messenger from God.

        We then have a second article posted on the site (this one) questioning the necessity of saying the Apostle’s Creed, and saying it is very virtuous of trump to not say it if he doesn’t believe it. The comments again question its necessity with a few exceptions.

        I tell people that if you honestly begin questioning the Creed because of some random man, then yhat man is nothing more than a stumbling block.

        • What does “questioning the Creed” mean, in your view?

          • Asking if it is really all the necessary.

            But please, grow a pair and ban me. you have no idea how much stress I put on myself by calling out evil on here. How many personal attacks I have to endure and seeing everything I Love and cherish attacked because some rando prefers himself over the Truth.

            I will be happy without you, but how long until this place turns into a pig sty without anyone with the guts to go into battle where the suburbanites who feel God has come to give them a 401k and easy life fear to tread?

          • I didn’t ask whether the Creed was necessary, though I note the Church grew, and men and women were saved, before it was formulated as it is now; it’s not Scripture. Regardless, I didn’t ask that. I asked what it might mean that Donald Trump at that time and in that place chose not to recite it. That’s not questioning any creed at all.

  • calduncan

    Millions of “Christians” recite it every Sunday, then live like pagans all week long. God will separate the wheat from the tares.

    • And without the Church, there is no meaning to any good actions.

  • Hmmm…

    Our faith stands before God, not man. Those feeling so free to disqualify others for their choice of a practice at any time or place exhibit lack of knowledge and closeness with the Lord. Sadly, many Christians make this same mistake. It is especially seen among those who adhere to procedure and law without having a close personal relationship through the lordship of Jesus.

  • Irene Neuner

    I think he just didn’t know it. Maybe he was taught it as a child but after 50 years on not saying it he forgot it.

    Our Sunday teacher recently decided to not teach it to our Children’s church kids and our church doesn’t recite it at all and our previous church recites it twice a year. Short sighted mistakes of you ask me but it is what it is.

    • Woobiefuntime

      That excuse doesn’t work because all he had to do is mouth the words to it when they prayed

      • Willam Nat

        And mouthing the words like THAT is commendable?

        • Woobiefuntime

          It depends on if they believe what the prayers message is.

    • Andrew Mason

      My impression, possibly mistaken, is that he had the text in front of him. I seem to recall seeing an image of him holding a document or hymnbook alongside the Obamas and Clintons.

  • Juan Garcia

    One thing I do know about the Clinton’s and the Obama’s- they support and aggressively advocate for abortion, including late term and even post birth infanticide under certain circumstances. What kind of hearts are those?

    One of the things that got early Christians in a lot of trouble in the Roman empire around the time that the Apostles Creed was established was rescuing children who had been abandoned to carrion birds for the purpose of infanticide.

    So who’s the hypocrites?

  • Andrew Mason

    It’s interesting that much of the criticism of Trump’s failure to recite the Creed is by people who would appear to reject the Creed. If the Creed is simply something ‘religious’ then why is his failure to participate so significant? Seems like it could be yet another case of finding any old excuse to criticise him.

  • Az1seeit

    “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” ‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭16:7‬b

    Praise Him!! His opinion is the only one that matters. Praise You Father!

  • Maybe he was just lost in thought and not following. I do that many times. People are making too much of this.

    • Willam Nat

      Maybe he was thinking about the latest secret communication set by Kim that could mean the difference between peace and nuclear war. Seriously.

    • Sgt Carver

      He’s not exactly known for having a long attention span.

  • davidrev1911

    I thank Almighty God that He, through His inscrutably omniscient wisdom, holiness and love, has never left us even ONE flimsy example, evident throughout the New Covenant Scriptures – and remotely construed at that – of someone being required “To Recite or Not To Recite the Creed”; seemingly in order to demonstrate one’s “adopted” status as inwardly possessing eternal life (i.e., John 1:12-13; 2 Peter 1:1-4), aka having been made a genuine “child of the Most High God.”

  • GLT

    There is no doubt the media is being hypocritical, They spend an inordinate amount of time ridiculing people of faith and people of Christian faith especially and then have the audacity to criticize a man for not reciting the creed of the very institution they openly mock. That is either blatant hypocrisy or or outright stupidity. In the case of much of today’s media it could be both.

  • Willam Nat

    Not every Christian Church believes every statement in the Apostle’s Creed as it is worded in the Episcopal Church

  • TauntYou ASecondTime

    DJT’s daughter is proclaimed Jewish – perhaps DJT & MT lean that way
    also? Perhaps even Messianic Jewish? I don’t know his
    spiritual beliefs – but his actions speak loudly. No problem for me either way…just a thought.

  • Gail Finke

    No one HAS to say the Apostle’s Creed — or anything else — out loud at church. Some people don’t like to make responses. It is not a crime or a sin, and this is one of the dumbest church and politicis “controversies” I’ve ever seen.

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