Closing the Barn Door

Now that Donald Trump is president-elect, some of the religious press seems to be having second thoughts. The Religious News Service (RNS) published an editorial comparing Donald Trump to Silvio Berlusconi (here), a wealthy industrialist who ruled Italy for many years, both corruptly and incompetently. (Actually I think Trump more closely resembles Mussolini, down to his trademark mannerism of squinting while pushing his chins forward. Mussolini was the Vatican’s strongest ally, which may account for the omission.)

 

In another editorial, RNS talked about the American Civil Religion, that we are a nation under God. The author, Mark Silk, said: “As for acknowledging that America stands under a higher judgment, the president-to-be could not even acknowledge that he might himself have done a thing to repent of. If there’s ever been a president less capable of invoking God, I don’t know who it was.”

A headline in the National Catholic Reporter declared, “In response to Trump, Vatican official says church should be prophetic.” It contained more verbiage than substance. According to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the secretary of the new Vatican office for Promoting Integral Human Development, the “worst aspect” of Trump is his “unpredictability.” While Pope Francis previously criticized Trump, Archbishop Tomasi only said he was unpredictable.

During the campaign, coverage from the religious press was similar to that of the mainstream press. There was little substantive coverage of the issues, and little fact checking. Their coverage of the religious right reflected their derelict version of neutrality - simply repeating claims that had previously been debunked.

The campaign could have served as a teaching opportunity. But the religious press made no attempt to compare Trump’s doctrines to those of Jesus. Not only would that have upset many Trump supporters, learning of Jesus’ doctrines might have upset many Christians.

It might also have made a difference. Traditionally, Catholics vote Democrat. Yet 52% of Catholics voted for Trump, up from the 48% that supported Romney.