Why obsess about Trump?

It is a legitimate question posed to me a number of times over the past few days usually accompanied by a somewhat puzzled look.

Whatever anyone thinks about Donald Trump, it is undeniable that he has used violent rhetoric in his appeal to the electorate. He has played on a dangerous stream of racism that seems to continue to fester just beneath the surface in many communities. He has spoken of deportation of people who do not fit in his vision of America. He has demeaned women and skated dangerously close to calling people to acts of violence. He has encouraged discrimination, intolerance, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and abuse of power. He has demonstrated no concern for the dangerous degradation of the environment or the marginalization of those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

Donald Trump presents as a man who is arrogant, belligerent, and bullying. He appears to have scant respect for facts and almost no concern for the nuances of the complex issues any politician must face. He gives credence to wild conspiracy theories and completely discredited stories about anyone who opposes him. He plays on peoples’ fears, demonizes those who disagrees with his view of the world, promotes division, and encourages anger and hatred. He mocks people with disabilities and apparently lacks the most basic qualities of human decency and respect we would hope to instill in our children. He is no role model for children and youth.

Donald Trump is committed to a dangerous anti-globalist worldview that risks returning the US to the tragic isolationist attitudes that contributed to so much suffering in the past.

I grieve the times in our history when Christians have not made it abundantly clear that we stand firmly against the qualities and attitudes Donald Trump embodies. I fear repeating the mistakes of our past. I do not want the church to watch passively from the sidelines, or even worse collude with violence to further our own agenda, while anger and hatred grow among us unopposed and proceed down the road to increasing violence and suffering.

I do not believe Donald Trump intends the United States of America to repeat some of the most vicious horrors of history. But his attitude and language are tending in that direction. The tragic fact is that, many Christians appear to be at least indifferent to, if not supportive of Trump’s approach.

According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted from 15-25 June, 78% of evangelicals intend to vote for Donald Trump as president of the US.

These evangelicals are my brothers and sisters. They purport to believe  the same gospel I believe and seek to live by the same Spirit to whom I seek to submit my life. We are linked. The evangelicals who support Donald Trump are part of my family. Certainly, in popular public perception, there is absolutely no distinction between my faith and the faith of those evangelicals who will tick the Trump box on 8 November.

In the introduction to his book The Catholic Church And The Holocaust, 1930-1965, Michael Phayer makes the undeniable observation that,

the physical extermination of the Jews took place on the largely Catholic continent of Europe.

In no way would I suggest that a Trump presidency would lead the US to embark upon “the physical extermination” of anyone.

However, it is unavoidable that Christianity was the dominant belief system in most of Europe throughout the 1930’s as it remains today, at least nominally, in the western world.

Phayer issue a sobering challenge to Christians pointing out that,

We are faced with the plain, appalling fact that many of the world’s greatest mass murderers were born and raised Catholic – Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Rudolf Höss.

None of these men were practicing Christians in their adult lives. But, the fact remains that they all grew up in a Christian milieu. As children they would have attended church, heard the stories of the Bible, sung hymns, heard prayers, and had regular contact with people who professed Christian faith.

How could a world that predominantly professed Christian faith, be a world in which, between 1939 and 1945 60 million people could be slaughtered?

Where was the Christian voice as human affairs took such a tragic path?

Where was the wisdom of Jesus who said,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Who was raising up the urgent vision of Jesus who told his followers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Mattthew 5:9)

What voice was issuing a clarion call to

love your neighbour as yourself. (Mark 12:31)

Where was the vision being lived in a compelling manner that God has entrusted to us

the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)

And, perhaps most urgently of all, who was proclaiming unmistakably that as human beings we fulfill our destiny, not by building walls and attacking those by whom we feel threatened, but by living

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1,2)

Donald Trump raises for Christians today the question of what we are doing, or might do, to stand firmly and visibly against any forces that might lead to an increase of violence, division, and brokenness.

Are the communities we nurture becoming more gentle, kinder, and more compassionate due to our influence? Are we speaking and working for a world in which there are fewer boundaries? Do our lives make it possible for the human community to overcome separation and heal division?

These are some of the important questions Donald Trump raises. It seems to me they are questions about which it is worth obsessing and speaking our minds.

The most common responses to the European Holocaust of 1939-1945 have been divided into perpetrators, collaborators, and bystanders. Perpetrators and collaborators are facilitated by bystanders. We all bear the responsibility to raise whatever voice we may have against the violence of perpetrators and the callousness of collaborators, lest we be found to be guilty bystanders.

May all people of goodwill stand against the rhetoric of the Donald Trump’s of this world and allow their voices to be heard.


If this post seems unfair or hysterical, read: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/12/opinion/an-even-stranger-donald-trump.html?smid=fb-share

The author makes the frightening observation that,

Mr. Trump’s crowds remain big and loud, but they’re angrier and more malevolent, and so is Mr. Trump.