President Donald Trump addressed the nation following the largest mass shooting in the nation's history Sunday night. He focused on prayer and God conquering evil, quoting the Bible quote in the process. Speaking to those directly affected by the Las Vegas shooting, Trump quoted Bible verse Psalm 34:18.
The verse from Psalms, reads, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." That's the New International Version, a favorite of American Christians. By many counts, it's the most popular translation according to sales — at least in Christian book stores. It's also the first entry on many Bible websites, including BibleHub.com.
The brokenhearted in this case that Trump is speaking to would be those who lost loved ones in the Las Vegas attack. Early Sunday at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, concert-goers were targeted from across the Las Vegas Strip by a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino. The gunman had many automatic rifles, and he opened fire for what was nearly 10 minutes, followed by sporadic bursts.
Videos from the calamity show people ducking for cover and then running as they try to decide whether the gunfire was real or perhaps caused by another loud noise such as fireworks. Some audibly debate whether to stay put and risk getting trampled or stand up and run, perhaps making themselves an easier target. At least 50 people were killed, including two off-duty Las Vegas police officers. Another 200 plus were injured.
Trump stuck to a religious tone in his speech. He called the attack an "act of pure evil" and used this verse of Psalms to give it a directly religious connection (while omitting the words "terrorism" and "gun" — there was not even a hint at the need for gun control). The main people he's speaking to with this verse are those who lost someone. He proceeds the verse of Scripture with:
Hundreds of our fellow citizens are now mourning the sudden loss of a loved one. A parent, a child, a brother or sister. We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you, and we are here for you, and we ask God to help see you through this very dark period.
The idea behind this specific verse is that God is near you in your time of need. God will be there for you, Scripture says, just as Trump is asking for God to be. This is also something that Trump goes on to explain immediately after the quote. "We seek comfort in those words," he explains, "for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve." Then he goes on to mention others who could be comforted by God at this time, the injured:
To the wounded who are now recovering in hospitals, we are praying for your full and speedy recovery, and pledge to you our support from this day forward.
Of course praying and quoting Scripture is not inherently a bad thing (Obama quoted the Gospel in one of his gun control speeches after the Sandy Hook shooting). Yet, it's something that Trump supporters in particular will connect with. Within moments of reciting the verse, people were already noting the verse on Twitter with some clearly happy that the president used it.
There are lots of other Bible verses that the president could have selected, should he have wanted to make an argument for gun control, or some sort of federal action to prevent future attacks. The Book of John 3:18, for example, reads, "Children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."