Donald Trump is a Presbyterian. Not only that, he says he is a Presbyterian Protestant.
I say Donald Trump is confused. Not only that, he’s a demagogue and a bigot.
He’s running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, if you didn’t know. His latest policy announcement is that he would ban the admission of all Muslims, for any reason, including refugees, into the United States. He would not answer, when asked, if that included American citizens who might be Muslim, travelling abroad. Nor would he answer how US border officials would determine the religion of anyone coming into the United States.
What Donald Trump is, simply put, is ignorant. He is ignorant as a Presbyterian and ignorant as a Christian.
The church he claims affiliation with is Marble Collegiate Church in New York. The church itself released a statement that said Mr. Trump attends the church but is not an active member. Marble Collegiate is a Presbyterian Church, part of the mainline PC(USA). The congregation’s mission statement says, in part, “Marble Collegiate Church is a diverse, inclusive community of God’s people led by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Trump, unfortunately, seems unaware of his church’s mission statement, Presbyterian history and especially the history of Protestant reformer and theologian John Calvin.
Calvin was a lawyer, born in France in the early part of the 16th century. He broke with the Roman Catholic Church around 1530 and following anti-Protestant persecution, was forced to flee as a refugee to Switzerland, where he was given shelter in Geneva. There he did some of his most influential and significant work, publishing his multi-volume “Institutes of the Christian Religion” in 1536. Calvin also wrote commentaries on scripture, theological articles and preached for an hour or more, without notes, several times a week.
Calvin also alienated many of the civic leaders of Geneva, who expelled him to Strasbourg, Germany. There he became the pastor to a church of French refugees. Eventually he was invited back to Geneva to lead the Reformed church there, but once again ran afoul of the powerful families in the city with his preaching. Finally a flood of Protestant refugees into Geneva, who became citizens, tipped the balance of power in both the church and the city in Calvin’s favour.
While some historians suggest that Calvin’s Geneva became a theocracy, Calvin himself believed in separation of church and state. As a refugee, he was one of the most influential thinkers and theologians of his day, an influence which continues five hundred years later. Donald Trump seems to be completely unaware of the refugee origins of his faith.
There are many who find Trump’s thinking attractive, even in Canada. Many think he is “telling it like it is.”
Trump is not. He is a hate-filled bigot spouting nothing but fear and division. Donald Trump is woefully ignorant. He is not reflecting the history, faith and mission of the church he claims to attend. He does not bring out the best in us but brings out the worst in us. His reality is a lie. Beware.
Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.