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First Baptist Dallas greets Trump with standing ovations; former president says country is in trouble

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Former President Donald Trump spends the Sunday before Christmas in Dallas, appearing at the American Airlines Center with former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly and attending services at First Baptist Church Dallas.

Trump took part in “The History Tour” with O’Reilly in Sunrise and Orlando, Fla. Earlier this month and in Houston at the Toyota Center on Saturday night. Dallas event is set for 3 p.m. at the American Airlines Center. Ticketmaster listed just a few dozen seats available on Saturday, priced at $ 106 and $ 206.

Trump made remarks at the end of worship service at First Baptist which the church said would be a Christmas message.

The former president, who admitted to deviating from a prepared speech, said the country was “in great difficulty”.

“There are a lot of clouds hanging over our country right now, dark clouds, but we’ll come back bigger and better and stronger than ever,” Trump said. “… There’s such a spirit out there right now – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He briefly mentioned border security, inflation, gas prices and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which he called a “mess” and “the most embarrassing day” in the country’s history. He also spoke and thanked the military and police forces, who he said are facing unprecedented crime and looting.

“Our country needs a savior right now, and we have a savior – it’s not me, it’s someone much higher up,” Trump said before delivering a Christmas message on Jesus.

“We’re going to make America great again,” he concluded before the crowd stood up again and started chanting “USA”

Former first lady Melania Trump was not in attendance on Sunday, although Trump spoke about his Christmas parties – and what he said was a media reaction to his choice of tree colors. He told the congregation that she would be with him on his next visit. Jeffress attended several of the White House Christmas parties, he said. Trump called the church “beautiful” and said he loved what it does and what it stands for.

Earlier in the service, Trump dated First Baptist Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress to a standing ovation from the congregation. Trump raised his fist and whispered “thank you” to the raving crowd. Many worshipers were taking photos with their cell phones as he walked to a front row seat in the church.

Jeffress was one of Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters among evangelical Christian leaders during the 2016 campaign. He became one of Trump’s foremost Christian advisers and boosters, and was a frequent visitor to the White House during his presidency.

Jeffress introduced Trump to another standing ovation, calling him one of his “closest friends.”

I believe [Trump] is the most important president since Abraham Lincoln, ”said the pastor.

“He is a great friend of Christians around the world,” said Jeffress. “I can say it without question, he is the most pro-life, pro-religious freedom, pro-Israel president in the history of the United States of America.”

A church spokeswoman said the venue expected 6,000 people on Sunday morning. About 3,000 were seated in the worship center, and the rest were scattered across several overflow areas, where spectators waited to watch the live broadcast service.

Average Sunday attendance is around 3,500 people, the spokesperson said.

Signage near church entrances encouraged people to wear masks, to distance themselves socially and to frequently use hand sanitizer, although few masks were seen in the crowds.

The security lines to enter the church for his apparition were already two blocks long by 9.45am.

As the crowds waiting to enter First Baptist meandered along the sidewalks of downtown Dallas, a lone protester walked through the crowd, telling those gathered that Trump was “worse than Nebuchadnezzar, a biblical figure known to have destroyed Jerusalem.

“I am very upset that this church is welcoming me to someone who is worse than Nebuchadnezzar,” said Ruth Torres. “I’m so upset that this jerk is here.

Torres walked down the line with a sign that a bible verse from Isaiah chapter 1 was written on it.

Torres shouted to people under a canopy on San Jacinto Street, “You are going to participate in a super spraying event… I hope you got your shot.” A woman, waiting in the line that formed around 8:30 am, shouted, “The vaccine does not stop the spread.

Church security asked Dallas police to cite Torres for trespassing while she was on a public sidewalk outside the church. The officers encouraged her to keep moving and not to cause any problems.

President Donald Trump and First Baptist Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress participated in the Celebrate Freedom Rally at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC on July 1, 2017.

Very few people online wore overtly political clothing. But the crowd cheered when a bus with the phrase “Come on Brandon” passed by the line gathered outside.

President Donald Trump and First Baptist Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress (right) participated in the Celebrate Freedom Rally at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC on July 1, 2017.

This is the first time Trump has worshiped in person at First Baptist. Last year, he attended the Easter service virtually at the height of the pandemic.

Trump is likely to see friendly crowds at both events. He won Texas 5.6 percentage points over President Joe Biden in 2020, but is still pushing for a major vote audit.

Washington bureau chief Todd J. Gillman and deputy political editor John Gravois contributed to this report.