Falwell Trumps the Pope

It is simply too easy with a name like “Trump” when writing titles or headlines.  I am sure the late night talk show hosts are having a field day.  So, forgive my failure to resist the easy pun in titling this post.  The reality is, there is nothing very funny in the topic which I intend to address.

Recently, Pope Francis entered the American political fray in response to a reporter’s question about Donald Trump’s position on immigration.  The Pope responded, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian.  This is not in the Gospel.”  I am no fan of Donald Trump, but it is a remarkable thing to have the leader of the Roman Catholic Church suggesting that the litmus test for being a Christian is one’s view on immigration.   When Christ said in John 14:6 that He was “the way, the truth, and the life…No man comes to the Father except through me,” He summed up the Gospel rather well.  In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas told the Philippian Jailer, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”  These passages represent many that suggest that the Gospel is rather well defined in the Bible.  While it is important how we live, and the Bible is replete with passages encouraging believers to glorify God in their lives, the notion that one’s position on any given issue is the indicator of salvation is problematic.  In fact, the Gospel tells us that it has absolutely nothing to do with us.  Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.”  What we do does not make us a Christian; what Christ has done for us does.

But I will leave that topic there.  Trump responded to the Pope by asserting that he was, in fact, a Christian, and decrying the Pope’s right to question anyone else’s faith.  His response is not surprising.  What surprised me was Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s interjection into this hubbub.  Falwell, Jr. supported Trump’s claim to be a Christian with the following, “I’ve seen his generosity to strangers, to his employees, his warm relationship with his children….I’m convinced he’s a Christian.  I believe he has faith in Jesus Christ.”  Presumably given his public stance and his past, Falwell, Jr. finds the support for his assertion in that last phrase, but it is not completely clear.  Falwell, Jr. suggested that the Pope was “saying we have to choose leaders…that share his faith.”  He also asserted that John F. Kennedy would be “rolling over in his grave” were he to hear the Pope’s words.  Falwell, Jr. compared his position on this issue to his support of Romney in 2012 when he asserted that Christians should be okay with voting for a Mormon for president.

I will not critique any of those statements too directly, other than to wonder if Mr. Falwell’s own father would not be rolling over in his grave were he to hear his son’s words.  The expression is an unpleasant one and I invoke it only because Falwell, Jr. did.  I think Jerry Falwell, Sr. believed there was a direct line of connection between one’s faith and one’s politics, or at least there ought to be.  He formed the Moral Majority to inject Biblical principle into the public debate and encouraged Christians to support candidates who stood for principles that were consistent with God’s Word.  While we can debate his interpretation of what that looked like, his sometimes vitriolic rhetoric, and some of his methods, I agree with the basic premise.  As a Christian, I seek to influence the political system and, indirectly, government policy by supporting candidates that hold positions that most closely represent the principles of God’s Word.  Jerry Falwell, Jr. has tended to follow his father’s example in his own political involvement.  When discussing this interchange with the Pope, however, he seemed to be building a wall between politics and faith by quoting Christ’s reference to paying taxes in Matthew 22:21.  “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and then he followed that comment with “And that means to choose the best president.”  All of this is convoluted by his argument that Trump is indeed a Christian.  I am not interested in pursuing that line of argument right now.  I am more interested in the seeming dichotomy that Falwell, Jr. created between faith and politics, something his father would not have done.  If politics is in the realm of the Caesars, is he suggesting that the faith of the candidate does not matter?  Clearly by arguing, seemingly against all evidence, that Trump is in fact a Christian, he contradicts himself.  If Falwell, Jr. wants to assert that the Pope cannot invoke matters of faith when addressing politics, then Falwell, Jr. cannot either.

Personally, I am not willing to relegate the realm of politics to the Caesars, or more simply, to strip it from the reach of faith.  It is a realm, at least in America, where all citizens can and should be involved.  The Founders understood that in a democratic republic, people vote based on what they think is best for the nation.  The decision regarding what is best for the nation is grounded in the core values of what they believe to be true.  One cannot separate one’s faith, or lack of faith, from one’s political decisions any more than a judge can adjudicate a criminal case apart from the foundation of the law.  Our worldview, or our metaphysical starting place, is an essential component of our rational process.  If we believe Scripture to be true, then our evaluation of politics will be influenced by Scripture.  I am not arguing that a Christian must vote for a Christian.  I think what Falwell, Jr. was trying to articulate, however awkwardly, was that Christians should vote for the person that will best represent biblical truth, whether they are Christian or not.  If he intended to make that point, I agree.  I see in his response, however, far too great a concession to make a point that is still somewhat elusive to me.  He disagreed with the Pope because of his theological differences with him.  He should have responded to that disagreement, rather than suggesting that religion and politics should be kept in two separate realms.

18 thoughts on “Falwell Trumps the Pope”

  1. I agree with what you say on this article and believe the same. I was watching this conversation between the Pope and Trump as well and thought that it was interesting about how quick Trump was to lash out. Trump clearly has a hard time being humbled about anything and that is a trait that I would not want a future president to have.

  2. I agree with this article when it pointed out how interesting the Pope’s litmus test for Christian though on immigration. While Trumps reaction wasn’t at all necessary, it never is, the Pope’s statement was an interesting one.

  3. A person can believe that the rules regarding immigration need to be enforced (as they have been over the last several years, actually) while also concluding that it is unnecessarily divisive and mean-spirited, and also expensive, to build a wall.

    1. If you wouldn’t mind, I would ask you to explain why you think building a wall is unnecessarily divisive and mean-spirited?

      I will grant you that the cost of building it is a valid point, a well built border fence would suffice just as well IMO, but would you also call a border fence unnecessarily divisive and mean-spirited? After all, they would both serve the exact same purpose.

      Also, please provide evidence that immigration laws are being enforced. Your claim that they have been over the past several years seems a bit dubious since all the evidence I have seen indicates the exact opposite of this assertion.

      1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/02/u-s-deportations-of-immigrants-reach-record-high-in-2013/

        That said, the last couple of years have been down, as the focus has been more on dangerous criminals and not so much on mere illegals.


        As for the mean-spirited part, we may have disagree. When I see a new wall or gate where there was no wall or gate before, I take it to mean a distrust of and hostility to outsiders. I just don’t see new walls as inviting or as friendly.

        Considering that immigrants form the foundation of much of our progress in recent decades in science and medicine, I just don’t think a wall sends the right message.

  4. I agree with the Pope. Donald Trump’s biggest campaigning argument seems to have become immigration, and his position on immigration thoroughly contradicts Biblical principles. As everyone knows, on immigration, Trump said, “Mexico is sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.” Trump clearly is playing the us vs. them narrative in a way of generalizing Mexicans so that he can target them as a whole. I don’t see how this is a good representation of Christ, which in my opinion, is what we should be looking for in a President. Next is Trump’s building of a theoretical wall between the U.S. and all muslims. Again he has generalized the few radicals (that misinterpret Islam) as all Muslims, in order to justify stopping all Muslims from entering the country. This is pathetic racism, and a horrible image for America. While I am not a Catholic, I wish more people would speak like the Pope.

    1. “This is pathetic racism, and a horrible image for America.”
      Aaah. The thermonuclear bomb of choice by progressives has just been unleashed. That may not be your intent, but that is what you just launched. First, of course, Islam is not a race, so why the charge of racism? Is it because most everyone would agree that racism is a Biblical wrong, while there is a strong Biblical support for recognizing that some cultures are wicked? 2nd, while I disagree with Mr. Trump in many things, and in this in the way he stated it, do you have any concerns that we may not be properly vetting Islamic immigrants? Please remember that in San Bernardino, 14 people were murdered, and 22 seriously injured by Islamic extremists that were not vetted as rigorously as we could. And further, realize that the reason that Mr. Trump and others paint a broad brush against Muslims in general is precisely because it is impossible to tell which Moslem is going to radicalize. You give us a way to discriminate–yes I used this word deliberately–against only those that are a threat, and the many, many Americans that are concerned against terrorists will be happy to more narrowly target their concerns.

      1. “Is it because most everyone would agree that racism is a Biblical wrong, while there is a strong Biblical support for recognizing that some cultures are wicked?”

        Racism is wrong, but not because there is strong biblical support for this point of view. Indeed, the OT provides ample evidence to the contrary.

        For that matter, I would add that slavery also is wrong, even though the Bible never condemns it and indeed includes many verses that make it clear that the practice is acceptable.

        As for culture, your point is dubious, to say the least. The Bible does not address “culture” to any degree of clarity, probably because that is a term that we in the modern world have made up. In the OT, Jewish “culture” is exalted, of course, but individual Jews who reject God are condemned.

        What seems to count, above all, is the INDIVIDUAL”S relationship with God. Individuals of a certain culture are not condemned, but individuals who reject God are.

        Although Islam itself is not a race, per se (and “race” is biologically a meaningless word anyway), there IS rampant evidence of (1) prejudice against Muslims in America, (2) people who do not believe that religious freedom pertains to non-Christian religions such as Islam, and (3) prejudice against people of Middle-Eastern descent. Sadly, many Christians are behind such prejudice, and I would suspect that many of these are supporters of DJT.

    2. “Trump is clearly playing the us vs. them narrative in a way of generalizing Mexicans so that he can target them as a whole.”
      Why? Why do you have to jump to that? Are any of those statements false? Does Mexico not send drugs into America? Do Mexicans not bring crime into America? Do you, as an American, want crime and drugs brought into our country? The only way those people come into American in the first place is illegal. Why is it racist to say that they need to go, and more importantly how does that contradict any Biblical principles? Furthermore, how does the Pope’s comments, which you have said you agree with, not contradict Biblical principles?

      “Next is Trump’s building of a theoretical wall between the U.S. and all muslims.”
      Here we go again…
      Do you remember what had just happened when Donald Trump advocated for a TEMPORARY halt to allowing Muslims into the country? Do you remember that his statements were made on the basis that “our government has no clue” (which is 100% true) who they are letting into the country? The Muslims who murdered 16 American and injured another 24 ON OUR OWN SOIL passed every test they had to be accepted into the country as refugees. I mean, they had been planning this attack before both of them were even in the country! Let me ask you a really, really important question: What do you think is the main duty of the President of the United States? If your answer is not “to keep the American people safe” then I would really love an explanation on why you think your answer is a better one than that. Trump’s statements were not racist. They were not based on an agenda to create an “us vs. them” narrative. They were based on a desire to keep the United States safe. Maybe this was too far away from us for it to really sink in, but Americans died on our own soil by a couple of Muslim people who hate us. Who we let in, who passed all of our security tests, and who only wanted to come here to kill us. Let that sink in, and then tell me if Trump’s comments are racist.

      I have no doubt that there are many good Muslim and Mexican people in this country. I know many of them. I have gone to school with many of them. In no way would I ever group the ones I know with the murderers, the drug dealers, or the rapists. That is not the point though. The point is that none of them should be here illegally, and our national security comes first.

      I really don’t care if you support Trump or not. I’m not even trying to advocate for him. All I’m trying to say is that people (Christians especially) need to quit jumping to these outrageous conclusions. I really wonder if Trump’s criticism from many Christians is because Christians have become so concerned with making everything look good on the outside, and Trump just completely defies all of that.

      1. “The point is that none of them should be here illegally, and our national security comes first.”

        Most illegal immigrants are law-abiding contributors to society and to the economy and are not threats to national security, yet some legal immigrants and even some American citizens are.

        I for one am glad that President Obama’s focus in the last year or two has been not on all illegal immigrants as much as it is on those illegals who are criminals. That to me makes the most sense, in a world of limited sources and in a worldview that values limited government.

      2. Mr. Adams- Good point. I had not thought of it that way.. especially in relation to the comment I was responding to. I do agree that a good starting place is illegal immigrants who are criminals. They have to go with no questions asked and should be the first priority when dealing with immigration. I think we do have to address all illegal immigrants regardless of how they are contributing to society though. We can’t have the precedent that as long as you follow the law, contribute, and lay low you can stay here whether you came in illegally or not. I feel for those people, and realize that may be harsh, but neglecting to do so kind of makes our immigration laws irrelevant. I would love to have those people here, I just want them to be here legally and get their American citizenship.

      3. Also, I was not implying that all illegal immigrants are threats to national security. That sentence was supposed to be two different points.

  5. I really like this article, and I completely agree with it. As a believer, God’s word should impact everything we do, and that includes politics. While I am not in any position to judge whether or not Trump is a Christian, I see very few, if any, biblical principles in his campaign. If he truly is a Christian those should be obvious, whether I agree with his platforms or not.

  6. I think the Pope is playing himself into many stereotypes of Catholics by stating what he has said. Being a Christian is not a political issue but rather a heart issue. If we try and judge other people’s hearts than we are trying to do a job that is only fit for God.

  7. I think the Popes perspective of Trump wanting to put up walls while the Pope wants to build bridges is interesting. I enjoyed reading this and i think that the pope is putting too much of his perspective of “christianity ” into politics that isn’t necessarily biblically accurate.

  8. Trump’s response: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful… No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”

    Regardless of political views, I think there is truth in this. This statement serves as a reminder for us to build others up in their faith, not tear others down. Christianity is not dependent on one’s border security policy.

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  10. If politics and faith intermixed there would be an interesting outcome. There are reasons that were caused by us Americans that are forcing Mexicans to want to move here. That is besides the fact that we have more freedom. It all comes down to supporting families. The Mexicans do what they have to to make ends meet.

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