By Rit Varriale
God Before Government
February 26, 2016
Last Thursday, the Pope was taking questions from journalists and said, “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
In response to the Pope’s comments, Mr. Trump responded with this statement:
“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President.”
First, one must note that the Pope’s statements were extemporaneous. Thus one can understand the validity of the Pontiff nuancing his remarks after the fact, something Trump is very familiar with at this point in his campaign. Was the Pope saying Donald is assuredly not a Christian? I don’t think so. Was the Pope saying that there should be no border defense for nations and the Vatican? Probably not.
But was the Pope bringing the Donald’s application of Christianity to his campaign into question? Most definitely. And on this matter of Trump’s use of Christianity and Christian rhetoric in his campaign, the Pope is doing the right thing as the leader of the largest denomination within Christianity.
Should he nuance his statement? Yes. Should he apologize? Absolutely not!
Secondly, Trump’s statement is a prepared response that is completely erroneous. Religious leaders have a duty and responsibility to question people’s faith. Trump’s statement is an accurate reflection of pop-culture Christianity, which believes the only sin worth judging is the judging of another person’s sin. If Mr. Trump had a greater familiarity with Bible, then he might have recalled just a few of Jesus’ “disgraceful” and “judgmental” comments.
Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
Luke 11:23 23 – “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
Luke 12:56 – “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
John 7:24 – “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
John 8:44 – “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.
I will refrain from quoting some of the Apostle Paul’s “judgmental” statements. The above quotes from the gospels are sufficient enough to dismiss the notion that religious leaders should not make statements about the spirituality of others. Yet, this tit for tat between the Pope and the Donald proves my point in an earlier piece I wrote on Trump’s use of Christianity: when Trump speaks about Christianity, he demonstrates that he is boldly pontificating (pun intended) on something he knows very little about. Not knowing a lot about Christianity is not Trump’s problem. Pretending that he does is the problem. Ironically, the very thing that Trump is most known for, his tell-it-like-it-is-authenticity, is the very thing that is brought into question with his pretentiousness with regards to Christianity.
Could Trump develop a deepened commitment to Christianity? Sure. Could he become a defender of the faith even though he has an elementary understanding of the faith? It happened with Constantine. Only time will reveal what will unfold with Trump and his Christian commitment. For now, I score the first round: Pope 1 – Trump 0.
Matthew 12:33 – “…a tree is known by its fruit.”
Rit Varriale is a pastor, author, blogger, former Army Ranger with the 82nd Airborne Division, concerned citizen and unashamed Christian. He is from Shelby, N.C. and holds a B.A. from The Citadel, M.Div. from Campbell University, a Th.M. from Duke University, and a D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary. You can read more from Rit on Facebook or at GodBeforeGovernment.org.
This article was posted with his permission.