I try so hard not to get sucked into the world of American politics. I know many Mennonite pastors have strong ties across the border and have their heart wrapped up in the American political landscape. Perhaps they went to the USA for school or work. Some Mennonites are American refugees that came to Canada to avoid being drafted into the army, others are more world minded then I am and pay attention to America as global force. I totally understand that many Mennonites have strong ties to our neighbour to the south, but I don’t. I try to not get too emotionally wrapped up in American politics (if only for my own mental health). All that being said I got completely sucked into my newspaper today reading about a debate between Pope Francis and Donald Trump.
The Hamilton Spectator article reported that the Pope was asked during his visit to Mexico “…what he thought of Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall along the entire length of the border and expel millions of people in the U.S. illegally.” The Pope responded by saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian…” Then we are told that, “Trump fired back ferociously, saying it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question a person’s faith.” He went on to say “I am proud to be a Christian, and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened.”
I think this raises a couple important questions:
- Is it disgraceful to say what is or isn’t Christian?
- What is unchristian?
- Is it our job to protect Christianity?
So is it disgraceful to say what is or isn’t Christian? My gut says no. God isn’t just the God of the Church, God is over all, even politics. If a politician is using their faith as part of their platform then they should be willing to have their platform compared to the tenants of their own faith. A better word for Christian is “Jesus Follower,” and so if a politician claims to be a Christian it follows that we should look at where their politics do or don’t line up with the teachings and life of Jesus.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about loving people. He welcomed the outsiders, the people without power to his table. There is lots of things that Jesus didn’t speak to directly but this is not one of them. Jesus talked quite pointedly about some criteria for who is “in” and who is “out.”
He painted a picture of himself separating sheep and goats. The sheep are “in” and the goats are “out.” How does Jesus know who is who? It isn’t a long list. Apparently the sheep that follow their shepherd were told by Jesus,
“When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, 3and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36 CEV)
The sheep don’t remember seeing Jesus in any of these situations so they ask him for an explanation of how this happened, and they are told, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40 CEV). Conversely the goats are surprised to find out they are not part of Jesus’ “in group.” Jesus tells the goats, “Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.” (Matthew 25:45 CEV)
I’m not saying we should start kicking people out of church for not measuring up. It is important to remember that we all suck in our own individual crappy ways. Jesus absolutely talked about not judging small blind spots in others when we got whole planks blocking our own sight. It is Jesus’ job to be judge not ours. That being said when I think about Jesus’ emphasis on meeting people’s physical needs, welcoming strangers, and even supporting people who have been caught doing something illegal, I see Jesus giving us some very clear standards to make public judgements on what is or isn’t Christian.
As followers of Jesus we need to be forward about what Jesus taught and how he lived. That brings us to our last question. Should we be the protectors of the Christian faith? If we are followers of Jesus, then that question is turned completely upside down. How did Jesus protect the faith? He didn’t build walls to keep people out. He didn’t fight when he was attacked. Jesus defended the faith with a strange kind of “passion.” The passion of Christ leads to sacrifice and death, not of others, but of ourselves to make room for the beauty of resurrection.
As I turned the page on this story in my newspaper, I was greeted with an editorial cartoon by artist Graeme MacKay that took a different spin on this same piece of news. Mackay’s cartoon had Trump on one wall with a banner saying “No Illegal Mexicans” and the Pope is on another wall with three plaques saying, “No Gays. No Women Priests. No Apologies.”
Everyone deserves a reality check. We all have our own walls. Being a follower of Jesus has to allow for hard questions. We need to continually ask ourselves as Christians,
- Where should I be building a bridge?
- What walls do I need to tear down?
- How can I be more holistic in my faith?
All newspaper quotes taken from an article by Nicole Winfield and Julie Pace entitled “Trump rails against the Pope” published in the Hamilton Spectator Feb 19th, 2016 - Read the full article here: http://www.thespec.com/news-story/6314388-pope-labels-trump-not-christian-for-proposal-to-build-wall-along-mexican-border/