Friday, February 19, 2016

Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham are Wrong--Again--on Donald Trump

Earlier this week--you may have seen this story on the telly, because it caused a wee bit of a stir--Pope Francis pretty strongly condemned Donald Trump's proposed wall-building plan, saying, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel."

(It should be noted that Francis also said in that same salvo that he wasn't saying this as a means of telling American Catholics how to vote.)

The Donald hit back, calling Francis's comments "disgraceful" as a questioning of a person's faith, which on its face, is mighty rich, as Trump has made his political name off of questioning Barack Obama's identity, including Obama's own Christian faith.

Yet Trump is a proud hypocrite, we all know this.  Calling him to account doesn't really do much good in the way of public admission or truth-telling, it just causes him to double down on his ridiculousness.

But it is this phenomenon of the Christian right calling foul over having the faith of one of their own questioned that I believe *must* be talked about right now, because it isn't just Trump complaining about the Pope's comments now, it's Christians with inherited heavyweight names like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham, who has openly questioned Obama's Christianity just like Trump, but for Trump, he seems to prefer that bridges should be built rather than questions of faith raised.

Now first, as an aside, I have to note the chutzpah with which Falwell Jr. cited John F. Kennedy as a pioneer in becoming the first Roman Catholic to be elected president when Falwell Jr.'s own father, Jerry Falwell, notably used peoples' prejudices to bait them into bigoted ways of viewing other people, including women, gays and lesbians, and pagans.  And Jerry Falwell Jr. is the same guy who rhapsodized about being able to shoot up "those Muslims" as a point in favor of concealed-carry gun laws.

Second, if you watch the video of Falwell, Jr., his own Biblical exegesis is total bunk.  He once again completely misuses the "render unto Caesar" quote of Jesus, something I already thoroughly dissected here previously, but this time he is saying that quote means "choose the best president."

I don't even know where to begin with that.  There were no presidents in Roman-occupied Israel, because there were no elections, there was a monarchical emperor.  How does Falwell Jr., the chancellor of perhaps the most visible American Christian university at present, get off saying that?  (And because he is being questioned by a journalist, not a theologian, he gets away with his awful exegesis.)

That CNN video is actually painful to watch, because when you see Falwell get asked how he reconciles Trump's wallbuilding beliefs with the Gospel, Falwell is stumped--he just doesn't say anything for several long seconds, before going right back into his previous spiel about how wrong it was for the Pope to tell people to vote for a Christian.

Except that isn't what Francis did--he explicitly said, this isn't about telling anyone how to vote.

And Falwell Jr. ended by quoting a verse that is, again, particularly rich coming from him and his Islamophobic self: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Luke 6:37)

So what is this tantrum really about?  Honestly, I think it's about how the Christian right is reacting to having the faith of one of their own called out.

To which I simply say...welcome to the club.

I have lost track of how many times my own Christianity has been called into question by commenters, Twitter trolls, and even other ministers because of any number of issues: my wrestling with the morality of abortion rather than being wholesale pro-life, my endorsement of marriage equality and equal rights for GLBTQ citizens, my refusal to label the Bible as inerrant or infallible when it plainly is's remarkable.

So to the soldiers of Christ, the Falwells and the Franklin Grahams, who love to show bluster and bigotry one moment and then cry like they stubbed their toe the next, I simply say: welcome to my world.  Suck it up and stop acting like such a special snowflake.

You are public theologians, like me, but with a far, far bigger platform, and you have gotten away with abusing your platform for many, many years.  Now, finally, one of the few public theologians with an even bigger audience than you has called out one of your own for espousing un-Christian prejudices.

What will you do?  I know you're big on accountability, and that the Bible says that friends hold one another to account.

But I suspect that isn't what you have done with Trump, nor is it what you are interested in doing with Trump.

However, I hope and pray that it will be.  Because while you may act aggrieved over your buddy's hurt feelies, millions of people live in fear of what your friend might do to them as president--stripping away what has become their homes, their livelihoods, splitting them from their families, ripping apart their entire lives.

Take it from someone whose own family immigrated here illegally a century ago: those fears are well-founded.  Trump's attitudes are a century out of date and then some.

And if you don't start taking their fears seriously, and ministering to them in a genuinely Christ-like way rather than continuing to dissemble for your blowhard of a presidential pal, I in turn fear that you will only continue to do a disservice to the Gospel that Francis speaks of, the Gospel that you and I alike are sworn to teach, the Gospel which can save us all.

I'll be watching.

Vancouver, Washington
February 19, 2016

Image of Pope Francis courtesy of Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. Trump not only appears to know nothing of Christian teachings, he is also seemingly oblivious to his outsize ignorance.