Damn Pope Francis. He keeps making history faster than I can write history. I have at least two more postings on Sacred space and he has to go and say that Donald Trump isn’t a Christian if he (Trump) wants to build a wall to keep people out. What is really interesting, however, is Mr. Trump’s response. In the first place “The Donald” says: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” Is it? In our Catholic tradition it is precisely the role of religious leaders to challenge us to an authentic discipleship. If Pope Francis—or any of his predecessors—said that Barack Obama is not a Christian, the krazies would stand and cheer. Remember how outraged they were when Cardinal O’Malley came down from the altar to greet the President at Senator Kennedy’s funeral? And those same people were furious that Kennedy was given a Catholic funeral. But let the Pope remind us of Matthew 25:43, and the same people start screaming—maybe because they get the implication that in the opinion of the Pope they, like Mr. Trump, aren’t really disciples of Jesus Christ.
But the key insight in Mr. Trump’s response was in his off –the-cuff remarks where he insisted that he was a “nice person” and wasn’t happy with the Pope questioning his niceness. This is a problem about which I agree with the krazies. We can’t water down being a Christian to being a nice person. There are plenty of nice people who are not Christians. Don’t confuse being nice with being Christian. Jesus said that we would be recognized as his disciples by that we love one another. Loving others and being nice often coincide but they are not the same thing. We can’t reduce discipleship to being nice. We must be faithful.
I don’t know Donald Trump. I do know that much of what he is promoting is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel. On the other hand, my issue is not whether Donald Trump is a Christian but am I faithful to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel? When it comes down to the heart of the matter, to quote Pope Francis: who am I to judge? And, in the end, few voters take their faith into the voting booth with them. Maybe that is something where we should all feel Francis’ sting.