We forget the radicalism of Jesus Christ.
That’s my only explanation for the brouhaha last week over The Donald and The Pope.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not about building bridges, is not Christian.”
The pope took much grief for saying that.
I don’t get it.
Walling out Mexicans has been at the center of Trump’s campaign. Taking in the stranger — treating him as you’d want to be treated yourself — is at the center of Christ’s message. And somehow the pope is out of line for pointing this out?
Francis made his “walls” remarks Thursday.
Coincidentally (or maybe not), the Gospel Monday was that terribly upsetting one about Christ coming in judgment of us all. I say “upsetting” because most of us, based on Matthew 25:31 to 46, will not be judged particularly well.
He will separate people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
He will say to those on his right, ‘Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me …
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did for the least of these, you did for me.’
Those who did not do for the least of these, meaning Christ in disguise? Well, it’s not looking good. We could be talking hellfire licking at our toes. Forever.
I haven’t visited many prisons lately.
Meanwhile, much of our supposedly Christian nation, with Trump leading both the charge and the vote count, has balked at inviting in strangers from Mexico fleeing poverty or Syrians fleeing for their very lives or Muslims fleeing for any reason from anywhere. “Katy, bar the door!”
Yet I don’t see any exceptions in Matthew. Christ didn’t say it’s okay to turn away refugees and immigrants if you’re worried they’ll undercut your wages. “Securing the border” is not on the Christly to-do list. He didn’t say you could ignore Syrians because some of them must be hooked up with ISIS.
Much of the New Testament is a radical appeal to our higher selves, our loving and free selves, not our frightened, angry, and gnarled selves. It’s a radical prescription for living a life that’s upside down and inside out from how nearly all of us live. It’s not easy.
“Love your enemies.” (Really?)
“Pray for those who persecute you.” (Surely you jest).
“Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. (To Calvary? I don’t think so).
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Once again, there’s no equivocation or extenuating circumstances here.
The Gospel doesn’t say give to a beggar only if you’re sure he’s a worthy beggar and not some scam-artist beggar pretending to be hungry or disabled when all he wants is another bottle of Thunderbird.
They’re out there, those who really do live the Gospel with their lives. But none who I’ve seen or heard about are politicians. That’s why it’s so bizarre to listen to the evangelical Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the Catholic, doing their God/Jesus talk at the same time they’re appealing to fear and demonizing the poor and desperate. It takes real chutzpah.
But one of many things I love about this pope is how he’s made uncomfortable the comfortable, the self-righteous, and those of us who think we’ve done enough by dropping money in the collection plate or writing checks to good causes. Non-stop during his papacy, Francis has talked about our duties to the poor and desperate. Those who objected to his calling out Trump object, I suspect, because Trump has validated their own fears and prejudices. By publicly embracing prejudice, declaring it proudly, Trump has made it seem less loathsome and shameful — and more acceptable.
When Pope Francis sets the record straight and calls such prejudice un-Christian, well, I can only say, again, what’s the problem?
One of the great ironies of the presidential race, 2016, is how the candidates who proclaim their Christianity loudest also champion the most un-Christian positions. I’ll say this for Donald Trump, he of “two Corinthians:” At least he’s not praising the Lord in every victory speech. To me the candidate who comes closest to Gospel values is not a Christian at all. That, of course, would be Bernie Sanders, a Jew.