The Pope and Donald Trump

 The Pope recently declared that Donald Trump was no Christian because of his border plans: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian," said the pontiff. ‘This is not in the Gospel.’” (here for Reuters, here for Catholic News Service).

This raises several issues. First, Popes have built and rebuilt walls around Rome. Does this mean they were not Christian? Constantine and successive Christian rulers built lots of walls. Were they Christian? No reporter or commentator raised this issue.

Second, the Pope’s decision criterion—“This is not in the Gospel”—is a very dubious one. Gilded cathedrals are not in the gospels, nor are popes, nor are vaccines. Are these unchristian?

Moreover, Jesus effectively built walls around Samaria when he told his disciples not to preach to the Samaritans. Like nearly all Jews of his day, he hated the Samaritans. The parable of the Good Samaritan was based on the premise that they were detestable. (Yet even a good Samaritan was better than hypocrites refusing to help the needy.) I think it is quite likely that Jesus would have favored an elevated wall that let travelers between Galilee and Judea bypass Samaria.

Jesus’ core teaching was to love your neighbor as yourself. (Samaritans did not count as neighbors.) One corollary of this teaching was to help the needy. That’s why Jesus told the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. That’s why he said, store your treasures in heaven and not on earth. That’s why he taught that the first in this world would be last in the world to come. And that’s why Jesus damned the rich, saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”

Donald Trump’s most salient attribute is his wealth. He often boasts of it, and said he dedicated most of his life to amassing it. There’s no question of his love of money. Yet the pope chose to remain silent about this. Pope Francis high-fived preachers of the Prosperity Gospel, which was traditionally regarded as heresy, even by those popes who sold indulgences and church offices. I think Francis is overly fond of grandstanding, and has a capricious way of defining Christian values.