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I love Donald Trump

I love Donald Trump. I love him with my whole heart, mind, and soul.

Ok, that’s a lie. The truth is that I find both Trump and Hillary Clinton difficult to love.

All of the presidential elections in my lifetime have been laced with pitfalls for Christians. This one, however, seems even more fraught than usual. As a priest, it is not my job to endorse or denounce candidates for office. I will not tell you who you should or should not vote for. However, as a priest I am also called upon to proclaim the truth of the Gospel, and both the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign have staked out positions that are antithetical to that Gospel in one way or another.

Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country, along with his attacks on people of Latino heritage both at home and abroad, do not square with the call of Scripture to treat aliens in our midst as equals (Ezek. 47:21-23) and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Lev. 19:18, Mark 12:30-31, Rom. 13:9, etc.).

Likewise, Clinton’s plan to expand abortion, and even to make taxpayers pay for it, would make Christians complicit in an evil act that the Church has recognized as the destruction of innocent life at least since the writing of the Didache in the late first century or early second century.

And these are just two examples of how both campaigns imperil Christian moral teaching. I haven’t even touched on issues of personal character, or valid social and economic questions about which Christians might legitimately disagree.

So how is it possible to love people like this? How can I say that I love people who so consistently thwart the moral imperatives of my faith?

Because I must. Because if I don’t love them, I’m failing to live up to the very same standards that I am decrying them for not meeting.

When the Bible tells us that we should love our neighbors, it is not a suggestion. God wants us to do more than just love people in a generic sense, loving the category of “neighbors” but not necessarily the individuals who fall within it. Scripture and the historic teaching of the Church are clear. We are to love each person as ourselves.

That includes our “enemies.” It includes people we dislike or find difficult. It certainly includes our political opponents. We are to love them, which means that we are to will their well-being above our own. We are to recognize that they are children of God just as we are, people whom Jesus died for just like we are, and that this makes them holy. Every human being reflects God’s own life. Each person, no matter how marred by sin, is a miracle of God’s own rendering.

I must confess that I am quite bad at this. I have trouble loving the person who cuts me off in traffic, let alone politicians whose policies I believe will be profoundly harmful to the future of our nation.

I find this particularly hard in the case of Donald Trump, not because I am more politically fond of Hillary Clinton (I am not), but because Trump pushes all my buttons. Almost daily, Trump reminds me of the bullies I knew as a kid. He treats people with blatant disrespect, attacking those whom he deems weaker than himself, like women and the disabled, and then he refuses to offer any apologies for this behavior when he is called on it. When I turn on the radio in the morning or open the newspaper, I am constantly confronted with things about Trump that make my blood boil.

But what I have come to realize more and more lately is that I actually like the anger. I enjoy the outrage. If a news story has Trump’s name in it, I am far more likely to read it in the hopes of feeling some sort of self-righteous response. I get a hit of dopamine off of my growing disgust. And that is a sin of which I need to repent.

A tremendous portion of media coverage is designed to bring about just such a response. This is not new. For the last few decades, the rise of 24-hour news and the invention of social media have contributed to a widening gap of empathy in our nation. We consume our news now largely based on which side of the aisle we want to identify with, feeding on our outrage about each new infraction from the other side. We are “red” or “blue” now. We watch politics the way that we watch sports, rooting for our team to win and wishing all manner of devastation upon the other team.

It stimulates the pleasure centers in our brains. It sells ads. It gets clicks.

I am not saying that we should not care deeply about politics and public policy. These things matter a great deal. As Christians, we should be disturbed by how little moral good finds its way into either of the platforms of the major parties, and how drastically we have been asked to compromise our values in this and in every election cycle, in order to bring Candidate X in so that we can keep Candidate Y out.

But in the midst of our legitimate passion for the issues that matter to us, have we lost sight of the most basic Christian imperative? If we have come to the point where we fail to see Christ in our political opponents, then we have got to take a step back.

I will not be able to see Christ in myself unless and until I can see Christ in Donald Trump. This is true even if Trump cannot or will not see Christ in me or others like me.

For those of you who find it more challenging to love Clinton, go ahead and insert her name for Trump’s in the preceding paragraph. The point remains the same.

I urge American Christians to commit for the remainder of this political season to take five minutes each day to pray for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I recommend that you do it first thing in the morning, before you turn on the television or the radio or open your iPad to learn about the latest slight.

Don’t just pray for them quickly. Take the time to really think about them as human beings, about their families, about their feelings, about what it is like to live in their shoes. Pray for their well-being. Pray that God would bless them. Pray that God would help you to see his image emblazoned on them.

It may not change your vote, but it just might change your heart. And in the end, that may turn out to be the most valuable change that our country needs.

7 COMMENTS

  1. You’re right. I hate it that you are right. I wish you weren’t. But you are. And now I have to repent and do as you suggest. This is going to be very uncomfortable, but I guess I should thank you. Sigh. Sanctification’s a *****.

  2. I love to reread Aelred’s Mirror of Charity to calm my soul, and remind myself of his spiritual interpretation of Noah’s Ark. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

    “We have seen what charity lays down for us to do in regard to ourselves and our brethren, and since it is obvious that we cannot go to the help of all our fellow men, we must now consider the order that obtains in this regard. Let us imagine our heart to be a kind of spiritual Noah’s Ark, made of the imperishable wood of virtues and good deeds. There we shall find various compartments on different levels made ready for the different kinds of people we shall meet. Just as Noah had to look after wild beasts, we have to find room in our hearts for those who are out for our blood–our enemies, that is, who hate us. We can give them our prayers, and any temporal help we can, but only after we have seen to the needs of those more closely connected with us. Let us, then, leave the lower floor and the outbuildings for our enemies, and keep the inner rooms and the upper floors for those nearer to us. The animals which are not wild but are still none the less earthly and unclean (let us say domestic animals, and crawling things) come next. These are not carnal and bloodthirsty men, and they have nothing against us. Their needs come next, and they deserve our prayers, our encouragement, and occasionally our correction. Of these, some may be connected with us through ties of blood, or of gratitude, which give them a claim to our intimacy. On the top floor, where Noah lodged his family, we can put those who have nothing in common with the beasts, being neither given to anger nor lust nor uncleanness. They are typical men whose desires do not yet carry them higher than a human ideal of perfection. And among these, we must take to us more especially those who are near to us by family ties, or by friendship, or by deeds of kindness. The topmost floor of all being reserved to Noah’s birds, we must find a place there for those whom we know to be specially near to God, flying up to heaven, as it were, on wings of virtue, above the normal state of men. And here again, we shall find that there are some special few of this number who are more closely allied to us than others, those, that is, for whom we have a most special place in our hearts, whose companionship is particularly dear to us and whom we cherish more sweetly and embrace more ardently in our hearts. But above all these there is a place reserved for the one who is above even the highest of our acquaintances, and that is Jesus, Our Lord, who made the Noah’s ark of our hearts in the first place, and repaired it after it had fallen in ruin. All that is beneath Him He gathers to Himself, and transfuses into all things His own sweet savour, His light and His splendour, drawing everything to His own love. He alone, in all these, above all these, takes all our love to Himself, demanding it for His use alone. He makes His dwelling over all else in our hearts, and in the very depths of our souls.

    And so we can make room for everyone in our hearts if we arrange things in this manner, seeing to it that the greater is always preferred to the less, while the lesser is still properly cared for. [Part III, Chapter 34]

  3. As a non-U.S. Citizen, I can say that I enjoyed this article. I’m reminded of Psalm 23: You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.

  4. I don’t pretend to like Trump’s style, brashness or egotism. But on principles of policy, there is nothing Un-Christian about his main objectives. To protects ones home is not un-Christian. To protect ones family is not un-Christian. Islamic terrorism is a clear and present threat to the civilized world. It is far more Christian for a government to protect its people by screening all immigrants before they come here than to continue the hopeless endless war policies in the Middle East that have proven so disastrous for us and them, but that Hillary still favors.
    The FBI crime stats make his statements about illegal immigrants accurate, not unloving. In fact, it is far more unloving for a government to abandon its duties and leave its citizenry vulnerable to the proven disastrous consequences of illegal immigration than it is enforce the law and maintain a real border. This is an economic issue as well as it continues to drive down the wages of the middle class, forcing many to have two working parents and strain the family or avoid having children altogether, which is quite un-Christian.
    To protect the jobs of your fellow citizens from the greed of Multi-National CEO’s who would offshore them is not un-Christian. Serving the interests of the multi-national elite at the expense of the workers, as Hillary has proven to do surely is.
    The United States government is not the Church. Its duties are different. It protects its citizens, keeps law and order and does not bear the sword in vain. We are a nation just like any other nation. All nations are expected to and always have looked out for the interest of their own citizens, not the interests of other nations. If our government ceases to do this in the name “love”, as you seem to suggest it should, the protections that a nation offers its citizens will be removed, thus leaving them vulnerable to the greed of corporations and the greed and violence of other nations, thereby leaving vulnerable the civilization that our ancestors built and the future our children will inherit.
    Fr. John, you were the very helpful to me years ago when I was coming out of legalistic fundamentalism and looking into Anglicanism. On matters of theology and the teachings of the Church I appreciate and respect you very much. Yet, I can’t fathom how you do not distinguish the difference between the sphere of jurisdiction and role of the State as opposed to the very different role of the Church.

    • With all due respect, the FBI crime statistics prove that immigrants have a LOWER rate of incarceration for crime than U.S. citizens (http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mythical-connection-between-immigrants-and-crime-1436916798). The rate for immigrants is 297 per 100,000 compared to 813 per 100,000 of U.S. citizens. Trump has lied about this repeatedly to stoke fear of the other. Among many passages in the Hebrew canon are Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” We are to care for the aliens among us, not stoke hatred and bigotry against them at political rallies or bear false witness against them by saying they are criminals.

      Trump’s business practices are that of an oligarch. None of the products bearing his name are made in the United States – how exactly is that protecting US jobs? Given the oligarchs he is recommending for his cabinet and his stated proposals to lower the taxes of the most wealthy, it is likely we will see more of the same. The rich are rich because the poor are poor. The Scriptures say much about greed and haughtiness and God’s anger against those who economically oppress the poor.

      If you voted for Trump, please do not claim you did so based on your Christian principles. His words and actions are antithetical to the Gospel. We hear the words throughout Scripture: “Fear Not!” while he repeats the words, “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” God wants us to be courageous and not fear because tyrants exploit fear to their own advantage and, too often, for evil ends.

  5. “I love Donald Trump. I love him with my whole heart, mind, and soul.” Sorry, my brother, but this is not the command Jesus gave us! He said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Note the second is “like it” but is not IT.

    Unfortunately, Donald Trump has only one god – himself. He is a seriously ill man who uses “Jesus language” to dupe the foolish into thinking he’s “born again.” Do not believe his words – believe only his actions! He continues to scapegoat and vilify immigrants, hold contempt and hatred towards anyone who disagrees with him, and tacitly approve (by his silence) the actions of white supremacists being done in his name. He is a child of God; however, his actions are evil. I pray God will find him and I pray for God to protect us from his petty tyranny.

    As theologians of the cross, we must “name the thing what it is.” We dare not call evil good, and good evil. Telling the truth, no matter how ugly it is, is often the most loving thing we can do.

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