Monday, 14 December 2015

Trump a woefully ignorant man

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.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Applause for Texas bishops

I love hearing stories of people who are prepared to stand up for their convictions. Especially stories of people who stand up to governments and their clearly unjustified actions.

Recently the Roman Catholic Bishops of the state of Texas have essentially told their state’s governor to go fly a kite. Not that crudely, mind you, but in language so clear that everyone could understand them.

Last month, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott told refugee resettlement agencies in his state that they must not resettle refuges from Syria for “security reasons”. Abbot was one of thirty US state governors who made that policy. Federal money for the support and resettlement of refugees comes through state governments, who have oversight of refugee resettlement programs. Abbot turned off the money tap and filed a lawsuit against one refugee resettlement agency.

The agencies, in turn, said they would continue their work of helping refugees, no matter where they came from. Their response to the Governor, who is himself a Roman Catholic, was unequivocal. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas said, 

“We must not be led by our fears, but guided by our mercy and prudence to develop a means to protect refugees while also protecting ourselves at home. As Pope Francis recently said so eloquently before the US Congress, “if we want security let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunity, let us give opportunity. The yardstick by which we measure others is the yardstick by which time will measure us.”

One of the agencies said more succinctly, "We have no plans to stop welcoming Syrian refugees."

I am certain that the principle of mercy towards others found in Matthew 25:40 is at the heart of the Bishop’s decision. In that passage, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The imperative nature of the words of Jesus make it clear that it is the responsibility of the Christian to respond with compassion and mercy to those who seek refuge among us.

Although voices in opposition in Canada have urged restraint and caution, including that of our own MP, none have gone so far as to stop funding refugee resettlement. The absolute opposite is true, thank goodness.

As a Christian, I am compelled by the words of Jesus to support refugee resettlement in Canada. It’s a principled position and one which history shows is  practical and possible.

Fortunately, Canada is not Texas. If it were, I’d have to say I’d be strongly supporting the Bishops in their fight with the  governor. My conscience tells me I can do nothing else.