Yesterday the Pope suggested that Donald Trump is not a Christian. The Pontiff’s reasoning was, ‘a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian’.
Francis was likely referring to Trump’s oft-repeated policy of building a huge wall on the American border with Mexico…and making the Mexicans pay for it. Unsurprisingly the Mexicans aren’t so keen on the idea.
Trump’s policy resonates with Americans who are concerned about immigration, but when the presidential candidate says of the Mexican people: ‘They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists’ he's no longer speaking about immigration and is instead moving toward racism. The fact that he added ‘some, I assume, are good people’ hasn’t convinced onlookers that he (as claimed) ‘loves’ Mexicans.
Breaking down walls
Building a wall is not necessarily an anti-Christian idea. There’s a whole book of the Bible which records how God’s people built a wall (Nehemiah). Vatican City has a huge wall surrounding it, so clearly the Pope isn’t saying that walls are intrinsically immoral.
The problem is rather the motivation for building a wall, and what such structures may represent. Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border would represent his opinion that the majority of Mexicans are dangerous people. This is clearly antagonistic, offensive and unchristian. So too is his policy to ban all Muslims from entering the US.
In Ephesians, Paul talks about how Jesus has ‘destroyed the barrier’ which once existed between Jews and Gentiles. He argues that these two groups are now one and the ‘dividing wall of hostility’ has been broken down. (2:14) Rather than knocking down walls which divide humanity, Donald Trump seems intent on building them up. The Pope is right to point out how this is not a Christian idea.
Winning the evangelical vote
Trump has said he has a ‘great relationship with God’. This claim has been met with scepticism from many leading evangelicals in the USA. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, the head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore said it was ‘illogical’ for evangelicals to support Trump. He cited, among other things, Trump’s divorces, pro-abortion stance and ‘lack of a moral compass’ as serious causes for concern.
Trump recently released a video where he can be seen holding a Bible and saying, ‘I really appreciate the support given to me by the evangelicals. Every poll says how well I’m doing with them. My mother gave me this Bible many years ago...I want to thank the evangelicals. I will never let you down.’ When the Bible is used as a prop in a campaign video designed to get more votes, Christians should bristle.
And Christians in the UK may indeed laugh at Trump, but some of our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic appear to rate him. Rather than bristling at Trump’s words and actions, Franklin (son of Billy) Graham has gone on record as agreeing with Trump’s policy to ban Muslims from entering the US ‘until the war with Islam is over’.
Of all the comments he’s made about his faith, Donald Trump’s answer to the question of whether he asks God for forgiveness is most revealing.
Trump said: ‘I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness… And I am good; I don’t do a lot of things that are bad.’
Contrary to what Trump thinks, Christians do not believe that a good relationship with God equals never having to ask for forgiveness. We believe the exact opposite of that.
‘I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad’ is not a Christian statement.
A good relationship with God means admitting our faults and repenting. Jesus didn’t come for people who think they’ve got it all figured out. He came for sinners who know they need a saviour (Mark 2:17).
In all the hours of interviews, speeches and statements that Trump has made in his lifetime, has he ever even hinted that as a sinner in need of a saviour? If Trump does not believe he is a sinner in need of a saviour, he has missed the core of Christian belief.
According to Paul, a Christian not only says that Jesus is Lord, they also believe it in their hearts. (Rom 10:9) Nobody but God alone knows what is inside Donald Trump’s heart. But it’s unsurprising that given his recent comments, everyone from the Pope to the person in the pew is raising serious concerns about Trump’s Christian credentials.