I still can’t figure out how Christians can support politicians that empower the alt-right—the likes of Donald Trump and Kellie Leitch. Some Christian supporters of such candidates rationalize their allegiance to those who strategize the use of hate for political gain by pointing out some positive traits they might display, or advantageous policy proposals they might put forward. So, it seems that queasy supporters do recognize the apparent paradox, and feel a need to address it. Still, for me, bullying, vulgarity, threats, and exclusion, reveal people for who they are in their core. As a result, those actions will always trump any platform they might espouse, no matter how positive. I would not be able to escape the feeling of being played.
How can people profess to be Christians and support actions so contrary to the Gospel? I can’t believe that, when Jesus exhorted his disciples to go and tell all nations, he wanted to impose any culture (turned out it was Western) on unsuspecting peoples, collect conversions like trophies, burn resisters at the stake, set up theocracies, shun people with different beliefs, humiliate, shame, abuse, or violate people to subjugate them.
The man who was all about love could not sanction such acts. I have always believed that Jesus intended instead to have his disciples say to all who would listen: You are loved. You are a child of God. You are good. You are important. Don’t worry. Smile. Know in your heart’s core that you are valued. Now, go, spread joy, free the imprisoned, feed the hungry, find shelter for the homeless, welcome the stranger, share resources with everyone, use only what you need, be kind. Love.
Turn the other cheek, Jesus said, forgive, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. What does that say about eight executions in Arkansas planned for a ten-day period coming up in April?
The Gospel mandates us to feed the hungry. What does that say about US budget proposals to cut funding to Meals on Wheels so that the rich can have tax breaks?
The Gospel mandates us to welcome the stranger. What does that say about bans on refugees in the US and, in Canada, proposals by a candidate for the leadership of a political party for screening procedures to see if they adhere to what some would claim are Canadian values?
The Gospel mandates us to take care of the widow and orphan. What does that say about tax cuts that line the pockets of the super-rich?
The Gospel compels us to befriend the outcast as Jesus did in healing the lepers, eating with the tax collectors, talking with women at the well, and praising the generosity of the Samaritans. What does that say about legislators who deny rights to people based on their race, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation ?
The Gospel reminds us that Jesus berates the Pharisees for focusing on the letter of the law. What does that say about those who would interpret each word of the Bible literally?
The Gospel commands us to love our ennemies. What does that say about people who send threatening messages peppered with abusive language through social media, profane civic leaders, bully those who disagree, or shout "Lock ’er up" ?
When I hear people at rallies, in Canada as well as in the US, yell out, "Lock ‘er up!", I visualize Jesus present to hear those cries. I want to wrap that Jesus in my arms, the one with the wide eyes, aghast in disbelief, the head that nods from side to side, and the silent tears that well up at the corner of the eyes, glisten for a few moments, and then spill over, to carve a mournful path down his cheek. I want to pat his back gently, and say, "It must be so hard to watch everything you stood for distorted and misused. No wonder you’re heartbroken." Then, as I am transported to Judea under Herod, to a courtyard outside the palace of the Roman governor, Pilate, and to another angry crowd, this one shouting, "Crucify him!", I realize the heartbreak swells from an even deeper place.
I’d like to add, "I’m sorry," but that seems inadequate, an abdication of responsibility. It’s so easy to blame others for challenges we face. It’s easy to find a scapegoat. It’s so tempting to hoard resources for ourselves, figuring that if we share, there won’t be enough for us. But then we are working from the stance of scarcity, and all we will get back is more scarcity, more of not enough.
The Gospel calls us to give our coat to a person who doesn’t have one, and our shirt too, if needed, to work from a stance of abundance, with confidence that there’s enough for everyone. Generosity begets abundance.
It must be said: The Gospel and the alt-right view of the world are mutually exclusive; they cannot co-exist. Fr. James Martin tweeted on March 28: "Trump’s 'care' for the environment is the opposite of Catholic social teaching." Sr. Helen Prejean on March 26, said, on Twitter: "Pro-life Christians don’t plan 8 executions in a week." Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times exposes the paradox in "Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan . . .", and Henry A. Giroux examines the culture of cruelty in his March 22 Truthout article. Although these authors have already expressed the dichotomy of Christian support for the alt-right with stark clarity and eloquence, I must speak up as well and add my piece. I simply can’t get my head around how Christians could support Donald Trump or his clones.
As Bert Pitzel, Social Justice Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Regina said, "What do you do when a person’s mind is unknowingly but stubbornly holding on to harmful ways of thinking, unable to change itself to be what the world really needs it to be?" I have a long way to go yet to have any kind of answer to that question.