Donald Trump’s War on American–and Christian–Ideals

By this point I am fairly certain that most if not all of the Donald Trump supporters have long since left the room, so I feel fairly safe in saying what I am about to say.

Now I generally do not talk about politics.  Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion is not a political blog, and I have no intention of making it thus.  I do not have the taste for it, and I feel that there is little to nothing to be gained by it.  Political subjects are excruciatingly contentious and political convictions are very deeply held; thus nothing can be accomplished by talking about politics save to convince the already convinced.  Although there is the possibility that some of you out there are sitting on the fence and open to being convinced by a reasonable argument.

Yet there are occasions when the need to talk about politics is inescapable.  These seem to be recurring with alarmingly increasing frequency in the present political climate.  Indeed there are times when silence on an issue is complicity with the worst among us.  So talk about politics we will, when I feel it is necessary.

ICYMI:  There was a government shutdown last weekend.  This was triggered–in part, at least–by inflammatory and racist remarks from our current president during an important meeting with high-ranking legislators.  Specifically, he referred to certain regions of the world as “shithole countries”.

So where to begin here?  I think it best to begin with the obvious.  The statement that we need more Norwegian immigrants and fewer from “shithole countries” is racist.  That’s all there is to it.

Some defenders of Donald Trump might argue that the above statement is not racist–it is just a way, albeit a crude one, of arguing that we need a more skilled immigrant pool.  It isn’t.  That argument goes like this:  “We need a more skilled immigrant pool.”

But is that really what Donald Trump said?  At first he owned it but later he attempted to backpedal, saying via Twitter that his comment was “tough, but this [the profanity] was not the language used”.  His supporters went on the offensive forthwith.  They heaped all manner of reproach upon Dick Durbin, a Democratic senator who was in attendance at the meeting in question and who first reported Donald Trump’s comments, impugning his integrity in no uncertain terms.  “Dicky Durbin,” they called him.  “Never trust a Democrat,” they said.  “All they do is lie, cheat, and steal.”

Yet this much is undeniable:  Whatever Donald Trump said, profanity or no profanity, it was so harsh that it was found shocking by all who were in the room.  And at no point has Donald Trump denied the underlying sentiment.

This is not without precedent.  While on the campaign trail Donald Trump said of undocumented Mexican immigrants:  “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”  He has routinely stoked the long-debunked conspiracy theory that Obama is of Kenyan citizenship.  He claimed that the “Central Park Five” were guilty despite DNA evidence which clearly indicated no such thing.  He attempted to implement an unconstitutional “Muslim ban”.  He equivocated on the Charlottesville protests/murders, saying that there was violence “on many sides”.  Given this prior record, Donald Trump has long since forfeited the benefit of any possible doubt.

Yet the issue here is not whether or not Donald Trump uttered a profanity in that meeting.  It is much deeper than that.  Our president believes that certain people are disqualified from immigrating to the United States by virtue of the living conditions in their country of origin.

There is no way in hell to square this with our deepest and most cherished ideals of who we are as America.  For immigrants who come here, it isn’t about healthcare or economic benefits or social services or whatever.  Well, there may be some who look at it in terms of all the great social services/healthcare/welfare programs that we have here and how can they get in here and mooch off of all that.  I don’t know.  But for the vast majority, I would be willing to bet that it is about the freedoms we all take for granted, freedom to speak, work, worship, and advance, and the possibility of a better life, if not for themselves, then for their children or their children’s children–all things they could never in a million years hope to attain in their countries of origin.  Our highest ideal of who we are as a nation is a place where all can come and better themselves, become whatever they are capable of becoming, and we are all the better for it.

Furthermore, there is no way to square this with who we are as Christians and as evangelicals.  The countries which Donald Trump disparages as “shithole countries” are places where evangelical Christianity is burgeoning.  In many parts of Africa, growth of evangelical Christian communities is off the charts.  Africa is on track to become the largest evangelical continent.  In other words, many of the people living in those “shithole countries” are our fellow evangelicals.  Evangelical Trump supporters:  That is worthy of pondering.  Will you sit back and let our president disparage your fellow evangelicals because they come from places with less than desirable living conditions?

But it’s bigger than that.  As Christians, we believe that all people are created in the image of God, and that all people are people for whom Christ died.  Regardless of the living conditions in their country of origin.

If you are an evangelical, ask yourself:  How do I square these things with Donald Trump’s belief that certain people are disqualified from immigrating to the United States by virtue of the living conditions in their country of origin?

And now I will answer you:  You don’t.

Think about this through the lens of “What does love require of me?”.  If you can make a compelling case that what love requires of you is to support a president who besmirches your brothers and sisters in Christ because of the living conditions in their countries of origin…no.  There is no such case to be made.

Am I advocating open borders or an unrestricted immigration policy?  No.  Much of the Democratic rhetoric on immigration is just not consistent with present-day economic reality.  In prior generations, when our economy was largely industrial, anyone from any part of the world could come and plug right in to our industrial economic machine and make a decent living for themselves.  But that picture has changed and we need an immigration policy which takes that into account.  And yes, we do need a more skilled immigrant pool.

But it is inexcusable to speak of certain parts of the world with less than desirable living conditions as “shithole countries”, or to support and/or defend a president who does so.  All people, including those who come from such countries, are made in the image of God and are people for whom Christ died.  As such, they deserve better than that from our president, and they deserve better than that from us.

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Charles Featherstone: Conversion Stories

Today I wish to direct your attention to a piece by Charles Featherstone entitled “Conversion Stories“.

The dominant narrative in evangelicalism regarding conversion is that you make a decision to receive Jesus Christ into your life.  Life breaks cleanly into two separate compartments at that point of decision:  A time of darkness and sin before you knew Christ and the time during which you knew Christ, when all is light and peace and clarity, sunshine and roses.  But for some people that conversion narrative just doesn’t fit.  For some people the moment of “decision” is a time when Jesus says “Follow me” and you have no choice in the matter.  For some people following Jesus does not lead to light and peace and clarity, but only to darkness, confusion, and trouble.  Yet you keep following just the same.

Jesus doesn’t ask us softly and tenderly. He comes up to us — at least some of us — and smacks us across the side of the head, strikes us blind, and commands “follow me,” after which we leave everything and follow Jesus. There’s no please, no request, just a demand that we cannot say no to. And we leave everything to follow Jesus.

RHE: I Would Fail Abraham’s Test

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog from a couple of years back.  She begins with a well-known story from Genesis in which Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Abraham goes through with it, but God intervenes at the last moment to spare Isaac.  A ram caught in a nearby thicket was sacrificed instead.

Abraham passed this test, proving himself faithful by not holding back even his firstborn son.  But how many of us would have failed this test?

This story is deeply troubling to anyone with even an ounce of conscience.  Yet there it is.  Those who set themselves up as defenders of the Almighty argue that whatever God orders, we have no business questioning it because He is God.  “It is right for God to slaughter women and children anytime He pleases…God is God!”  “Take your emotions out of it.  Don’t let your sense of justice be clouded by the man-centered humanism of our modernistic, relativistic culture.”  “It is not for you to elevate yourself to the place of God and pass judgment on His ways.  God is God.  You worship God because He is God!”

God is love, yet those who argue thusly would say in essence that in reality God is power, because God gets to define love however He pleases and it is not for us to question.  Even if such love looks nothing like what we would consider love.  Even if it looks like rape or abuse or genocide or child sacrifice.

If that is so, then everything is relativized.  Our moral compass is rendered completely unreliable.

RHE goes on to give several examples of people of strong religious conviction who nevertheless defied the rules–or found creative ways to work around them–for the sake of love.  She comes around at the end to the idea that the real test is not whether you would drive the knife through your child’s heart, as Abraham was poised to do with Isaac, but whether you would refuse.

Read:  I would fail Abraham’s test (and I bet you would too) by Rachel Held Evans

Warren Throckmorton: Evangelical Professor Who Turned Against Reparative Therapy

Today I wish to direct your attention to Warren Throckmorton.  Throckmorton is a psychology professor at Grove City College, and was one of the leading advocates of “sexual reorientation” or “reparative therapy”, which basically sought to turn gays straight.  But as he looked at the scientific evidence and at the harm that was being done to people, he turned against it.

Throckmorton is part of a deeper and growing trend in evangelicalism nowadays, an increasing number of people who are coming to hold scientific truth and Bible truth together in tension, and live to tell about it to college classes.  You can read a profile of Throckmorton and his journey here.

Sarah Silverman: A Master Class in Compassion

Today I direct your attention to Sarah Silverman, who recently had to deal with a Twitter troll.  Instead of lashing back or blocking him, she chose a more compassionate approach, reaching out to him and leveraging her influence to find help for his pain.  This response is being held up as a model of compassion, decency, and, well, humanity–all of which are qualities which seem to be in short supply in the world of social media nowadays.  Read the account by Jennifer Van Evra at CBC Radio to see how it all played out.