Friday, February 19, 2016

Frankie and Donny

Finally, the event we've all been waiting for:
Thrusting himself into the heated American presidential campaign, Pope Francis declared Thursday that Donald Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to address illegal immigration only by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump fired back ferociously, saying it was "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith.
Ahem. Let's think about this one:

I am no fan of Donald Trump, but the statement as reported shows the problem quite clearly. Trump is hardly basing his whole immigration policy on building a wall on the border. He has plenty of other proposals, some more realistic than others. So we'll grant that much to Trump.

Then again, is it really "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith? Seems to me it's part of the job description, at least if questioning means challenging. We are all called to recognize our sin and to be better disciples. See if you can spot the flaw in Trump's response:
"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful," he said at a campaign stop in South Carolina, which holds a key primary on Saturday. "I am proud to be a Christian, and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened."
The secret word here is "proud." Proverbs 21:24 could have been written with someone in mind:

The proud and arrogant person--"Mocker" is his name-- behaves with insolent fury.

I'd also add that an admonition directed at a political candidate does not equate to an attack on Christianity itself. And if you listen to Francis consistently, he's made humility a recurring theme in his papacy, as he should. And if you want a New Testament reference, try Romans 12:3 --

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Anyone who takes the idea of humility to heart is unlikely to run for president, and there's usually a thin line between bravado and salesmanship. We can stipulate that and still suggest that pride is usually problematic. Inasmuch as a politician is supposed to be a public servant, excessive pride is a fundamental trait for many people who currently populate our governmental agencies, especially at the federal level. I'm not sure if any of the people running for president understand the problem, but I especially worry about Donald Trump in that regard.

7 comments:

jerrye92002 said...

Remember the old saying, "It ain't braggin' if'n you can do it"? I don't think "pride" and a reasonably objective recognition of one's own accomplishments are the same things. But bragging about what one can actually accomplish in the future, well, that's either Trump or Obama, take your pick. You can already see how it turned out for one of them.

Gino said...

One says he will enforce the border, the said he would save the world....

Brian said...

Then again, is it really "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith? Seems to me it's part of the job description, at least if questioning means challenging.

That was my reaction, nearly word for word. Seriously.

I also think that there is an important distinction between referring to a person's actions/beliefs as "not Christian" (adjective) and a person as "not a Christian" (noun). Parsing that in this case may be tricky, since I don't believe he was speaking English at the time, but it seems in context that the former was what was intended.

Mr. D said...

I also think that there is an important distinction between referring to a person's actions/beliefs as "not Christian" (adjective) and a person as "not a Christian" (noun). Parsing that in this case may be tricky, since I don't believe he was speaking English at the time, but it seems in context that the former was what was intended.

Yep. It's been a problem all along with this Pope, because he doesn't speak English as well as his predecessors did. I would imagine it was a translation issue. And I suspect your interpretation is the correct one, Brian -- there's a huge distinction between failing to act in a way that's not Christian (meaning Christ-like) and not being a Christian at all. Any Christian who understands his/her faith at all understands the distinction. It's usually called sin.

jerrye92002 said...

Good observation, Brian, and I think it's further complicated by the (at least translation of) his words to condemn "building walls rather than building bridges." Nothing about Trump in there at all, that I see, or even about real, actual, walls. It's all metaphorical. But in Trump's mind (abetted by the scandal-mongering press) it's all about him.

R.A. Crankbait said...

In the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah was sent from captivity in the court of Xerxes to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. His followers and the remnant left in Jerusalem worked with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, succeeding in the face of opposition from their enemies and from within, rebuilding both the city and their cultural identity.

Bike Bubba said...

Per Brian's comment, it's worth noting that Spanish does have the indefinite article and endings on nouns and adjectives, so I'm pretty confident that part of the translation was straightforward without a whole lot of ambiguity. (had he been speaking Russian, Hebrew, or Chinese, different story, but this was Spanish) One thing I note as well is that the Pope admitted not knowing precisely what Trump's position was--it's almost as if His Holiness was saying implicitly "Donald, you're not that important." If I read that right, pure genius on the Pope's part, which I wonder if "the Donald" got.

But that noted, given that Trump has famously admitted he doesn't believe he doesn't have sins that need to be atoned for, I think that even the harsher (and probably incorrect) interpretation is totally fair. Anyone who believes that Christ came to save sinners is going to say "Donald, you have a problem here, and a big one."

And FWIW, not only did Nehemiah build walls but not bridges, but I believe the same applies to David, Hezekiah, and.....the Vatican. I've been in Rome, and it's got walls but no moat or bridges. So just to be lighthearted about the matter...