By Robert Mann
Is voting for Donald Trump a morally defensible act? Can a person of faith justify supporting him? “Yes,” you might say, noting that many people of faith, particularly evangelicals, are wildly attracted to Trump and his blunt, sometime-profane messages. And you’d be right. Lots of Christians do support him.
While I don’t fully understand it, I’m intrigued by those evangelicals’ strange, intense attraction to Trump, whose personal life and public pronouncements often seem so antithetical to widely accepted Christian teachings.
I ask my questions as a Christian, who has little interest in the private morality or religious beliefs of public officials. For example, I couldn’t care less if Trump is a committed Presbyterian, as he claims. The faith or degree of personal piety evinced by a politician does not influence me nearly as much as the morality of that person’s public policies.
Put another way, give me a philanderer who passionately defends the poor over a family man who caters the wealthy and big business.
But back to my question: Should people of faith vote for Trump?
First, support for or opposition to Trump or any other political candidate shouldn’t be a test of anyone’s faith. Whether you’re a true and faithful Christian, Jew or Muslim is between you and the Almighty. As Pope Francis said in another context, “Who am I to judge?”
Second, I would never suggest, as some prominent Catholic leaders have, that voting for a pro-choice candidate (or any candidate, for that matter) is a sin. And I would not urge people, as does Franklin Graham, to support only candidates who “uphold biblical principles,” whatever that means.
That said, if you’re a person of faith (or an atheist), you are not wrong to consider the moral implications of your vote.
So, I wonder if the better question for Christians and other people of faith is: “Will a candidate’s policies and public actions be consistent with the fundamental tenets of my faith or beliefs?” In other words, I don’t ask, “Am I a true person of faith if I vote for this person?” Rather, I ask, “If I vote for that candidate, will his or her policies reflect the justice, compassion, unity and humility that my faith demands?”
I believe Pope Francis summed up perfectly my feelings about what it means to be a Christian in the public realm. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel,” the Pope recently told journalists who asked about Trump’s hardline position on illegal immigration.
Notice that the pope didn’t declare that Trump is not a Christian. He meant, I believe, that Trump’s actions and his pronouncements were not Christ-like. In other words, Francis used the word “Christian” as an adjective, not a noun.
He was right. Trump’s actions and many of his policies are not Christian by any definition of the word that I comprehend.
Fomenting hatred toward Mexicans and Muslims is not Christian. Talking about shutting down mosques is not Christian. Calling for the assassination of the families of suspected terrorists is not Christian. Advocating torture is not Christian.
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