Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Donald Trump and Religion


No one can see into the heart of another person. What we can do, however, is evaluate their words and deeds. We should do so not to condemn, but rather to understand and move closer to the truth. No one who is a follower of Jesus can correctly claim that their words and deeds always match their professed beliefs. Mine certainly do not always do. So, my concern is not whether Trump really is a Christian, though I admit I have serious doubts. Rather, my concern is whether his stated views and beliefs line up with Christian thought. And, it is now clear that many of them do not.
First, last summer Trump stated that he is not sure he has ever asked God for forgiveness, as he does not "bring God into that picture." Asking God for forgiveness is a central aspect of Christianity across the many traditions. This is not relevant to his political views, but it is curious that many Christians support Trump and believe his claims about his Christian faith.
Second, Trump has stated that the United States should "take out" (kill) the families of terrorists: "...you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families." This policy would clearly contradict just war theory, which is a prominent Christian view related to declaring and conducting war. One of the tenets of just war theory is that it is immoral to intentionally kill innocent civilians. Given the nature of war, non-combatants will be injured and killed, but according to just war theory this should be avoided if at all possible. It should never be done intentionally. Trump's proposal is not only immoral, it is also illegal and would be ineffective. If we attack innocent women and children, we only provide evidence for the terrorists who claim that they are fighting an immoral enemy.
Third, Trump has proposed that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. He is also open to forming a database tracking all Muslims who live here. In addition, he will not rule out requiring some sort of special ID for Muslims. While this taps into the fears and irrational beliefs many hold about Islam, terrorism, and our safety, it is simply wrong to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious faith (or lack thereof). We certainly need to have better screening procedures so that we can identify individuals who may be a threat, given their views and affiliations. But, to ban all Muslim immigration - even those who are fleeing the horrors of war and those who are Muslims moderates - because of terrorism that emerges from misguided interpretations of Islam is like banning all Christian immigration because of attacks on abortion clinics or violent racist ideology emerging from incorrect interpretations of Christianity.
Also, apparently Donald Trump has never read and/or just ignores the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
(Luke 10:25-3) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite (a Hebrew Temple priest),when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan (a very hated people by the Jews), as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Also: Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" and Luke 18:25: "Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Fourth, Trump has a problem with women. His comments about Carly Fiorina's appearance and Megyn Kelly's blood are well-known. His sexism is not new. In the classic book On Writing Well, there is the following anecdote from a writer who interviewed Trump at a spa he developed in Florida:
"Evidently, Trumps philosophy of wellness is rooted in a belief that prolonged exposure to exceptionally attractive young spa attendants will instill in the male clientele a will to live...Trump introduced me to 'our resident physician, Dr. Ginger Lee Southall'--a recent chiropractic college graduate...I asked Trump where she had done her training. 'I'm not sure,' he said, 'Baywatch Medical School? Does that sound right? I'll tell you the truth. Once I saw Dr. Ginger's photograph, I didn't really need to look at her resume or anyone else's. Are you asking me, 'Did we hire her because she trained at Mount Sinai for fifteen years? The answer is no. And I'll tell you why: because by the time she's spent fifteen years at Mount Sinai, we don't want to look at her'" (p. 221).
The notion that women are equal to men because they are also created in the image of God is an important theological truth, even though many Christians and Christian institutions have not lived up to this. The dignity of women is not grounded in their appearance, but rather their humanity. That Trump has the support of so many women is baffling, to say the least.
Finally, Trump appears to be a narcissist. This might work for reality television or real estate deals, but it is not a desirable trait for the President of the United States. The most important moral principle, according to Jesus in the gospels, is to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The Christian understanding of love is that it involves sacrifice, self-denial, and preferring the good of others over one's own. It does not appear that Donald Trump understands this.

For these and many other reasons, Christians should actively oppose the presidency of Donald Trump.

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