Pope Francis, heading home from his recent trip to Mexico, answered a question about Donald Trump’s immigration policy like this: “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Trump replied, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” Actually a religious leader seems uniquely suited to that task. But questioning “a person’s faith” is not exactly what the Pope was doing.
He wasn’t saying Trump didn’t accept Jesus Christ as the son of God. He wasn’t saying that Trump didn’t pray or go to church or read the Bible. The Pope questioned not whether Trump believed himself to be a Christian, but whether he intended to act like one.
That’s “Christian” as in a person “who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.” A quick perusal of the New Testament reveals these to include serving the poor, treating others as you would want to be treated, helping strangers, and forgiving, forgiving, forgiving.
I have mixed feelings about this use of the word “Christian.” If a Christian is, by definition, a good person (whatever your theological beliefs, those teaching are pretty good ones), then a bad person cannot be called—no, cannot be—a Christian.
That leaves one with no way to describe the group of people who call themselves Christian but whose behavior isn’t . . . Christian at all. Under this definition, Westboro Baptist Church members are not Christian; Pat Robertson is not a Christian; Robert Louis Dear is not a Christian. And there can be no such thing as a “Christian terrorist.”
This doesn’t seem quite fair. (Leaving aside whether the Pope would be consistent on this question: surely priests who prey on children are not, according to his definition, Christian. But would he say that? We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt)
On the other hand, I like the idea that in order to be called “Christian” you have to adhere to a set of ideals, not just claim the title. You shouldn’t get to slide based on giving money to the church or knowing the words to the Lord’s Prayer or even accepting that Jesus Christ died for your sins. You should have to follow his teachings, or at least try to.
For a “Christian” that would mean making an effort to show charity, mercy, and forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t seem particularly interested in sexual morality. He doesn’t care about punishment. He says he is “the way,” but he doesn’t condemn (or ask his dad to smite) people who don’t go that way; he tells his followers to preach to nonbelievers, not to attack them.
None of that sounds like Donald Trump, who could fairly be described as Candidate Least Likely to Turn the Other Cheek. Cheek turning is obviously for total losers.
The Pope is right: you’d have to look elsewhere to find the most Christian candidate for President. You’d have to find the one most pro-immigration, pro-amnesty, and anti-poverty, the one who demands health care for everyone and increased taxes on the rich. Jesus would have taxed the shit out of the rich.
If you were determined to vote for a “Christian,” in short, it appears that you’d have to vote for the Jew.