Pope’s comments could help Trump with evangelicals

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Donald Trump | Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (http://bit.ly/21brLUT)

Donald Trump | Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (http://bit.ly/21brLUT)

Donald Trump | Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (http://bit.ly/21brLUT)

Donald Trump | Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (http://bit.ly/21brLUT)

In a twist that religion reporters will be spilling ink on for days to come, Pope Francis spoke yesterday aboard his papal airliner about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the Pope told a group of reporters when asked about Trump.

This might sound like bad news for Trump, who has been courting the conservative Christian vote during most of his candidacy: In January, a poll found that 37 percent of white evangelical Republican voters were behind Trump. Some prominent evangelicals, including Russell Moore, president of theEthics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, have been critical of Trump; others, like Liberty University president  Jerry Falwell, Jr., have publicly praised him. Trump has divided evangelicals with his numerous religious gaffes and aggressive behavior, but he continues to draw support from the most conservative among them.

Trump’s camp was quick to issue a response to the Pope’s remarks. It started off in a Trumpian fashion, imagining a future date when the Vatican will be attacked by ISIS and “the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President.” (It’s unclear why Trump isn’t president in his own hypothetical fantasy, but that’s neither here nor there right now.) Trump’s response goes on to attack the Pope for not seeing both sides of the story about the US and Mexico, and calls Pope Francis’s remarks “disgraceful.”

“I am proud to be a Christian,” Trump continued, “and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened.” Nevermind that the Pope has arguably done more good for global Christianity than anyone since Mother Teresa–Trump needs to make a point, and a favorable comparison of his faith to the Pope’s is just the ticket. It turns out that conservative Christians, especially evangelicals, have a deep-seated distrust of Catholics. This is anecdotal, but the evangelical church I grew up in was always urging us to bring our Catholic friends to church–the implication being that Catholics are not real Christians. Their veneration of Mary (which we called “worship”) is disdainful to many evangelicals, and their adherence to liturgy and ritual strikes many conservative Christians as confusing and legalistic. Having the Pope as a nemesis may actually bolster Donald Trump’s ratings among the conservative evangelical Christians who are already afraid of immigration and their gun rights being taken away.

There are very few people who could spin a denunciation by the Pope into campaign success. Unfortunately for us, Donald Trump may be one of them.

  • Thomas Sporman

    Laura,
    Insightful obsrevation here.Yesterday I attended a religious freedom rally held at high noon at the Kansas State Capitol Building.Police estimated crowd at between 1500-2000 people. Out of the first 37 comments I read on cj.online.co this morning, about 25 were starkly anti-catholic. This surpried me some, since main speakers included everyone from”Anglican-Zoorastin”. Peace,Tom

  • yoh

    You mean this one?
    http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article60840913.html
    Where the governor was stumping for a a religiously inspired redux of Jim Crow?

  • Jack

    Given the bovine stupidity and utter buffoonery of fellow conservative and centrist evangelicals in following Trump, and the theological and moral incoherence of Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Robert Jeffries, Jr., two evangelical so-called leaders, in their excuses for Trump, I sometimes wonder whether the word, “evangelical” has any objective meaning anymore.

    I wondered how Christians in Italy could have followed Mussolini or Christians in Germany follow Hitler, or Christians in Cuba follow Castro…. Now I know. They put nation or class ahead of Christ and off they go…..

  • Doc Anthony

    i don’t want to vote for Donald Trump,
    but people like Pope Francis and Hillary Clinton keep on forcing me to vote for Donald Trump,
    so I guess I’ll just have to vote for Donald Trump. It is what it is.

  • Jack

    There’s no excuse for any Christian to vote for that vile and disgraceful charlatan. There are other people on that stage of higher quality…..from Rubio to Cruz to Carson. No one is perfect and as Christians we should know better than to search for perfection. But Trump doesn’t even fit the minimal standards of human decency, let alone the Proverbs view of what a leader should be.

    It would be tragic if, in our attempts to vote against far leftists, we end up making the same mistakes the Germans and Italians made and end up backing a fascist.

  • Doc Anthony

    We have had eight years of Obama, our religious liberties are all but ended, and now we’re about to allow Hillary to continue Obama’s deeds for another eight years? Too many Christians have already been “backing fascism” (of the liberal kind) long before Trump decided to get in the game..

    We all wish Rubio or Cruz could win, but the fact is that a back-slidden and confused America doesn’t even want any sincere and serious Christian candidates like them. Those two don’t have a chance against Hillary.

    So if Trump wins the GOP nomination, I am not staying home like evangelicals foolishly did when Mitt Romney tried to help them.

    It’s time to vote against Hillary already, one way or the other.

  • Jack

    I disagree, Doc, because I think there is something especially bad and wrong with Donald Trump that transcends the normal political scene we’ve been accustomed to dealing with for our entire lives. I want to be wrong on this, but Trump is a destroyer who can do far more damage than even Hillary or Bernie, because he has shrewdly chosen issues where a vast majority of non-libs can support him.

    This is how dictators seize power in center-right societies. They pretend to be center-right or right, fighting the Commies, in societies where there were true threats indeed from the far left for decades.

    The error in supporting them is to believe “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.”

    Not in this case, Doc. No way in the world. This one’s a new and dangerous enemy, all the more so because he’s trying to sound like one of us.

    I can see right through this rat bast*d. I know a dictator when I see one.

  • yoh

    Despite the rhetoric of a couple of self-interested legal groups and politicians appealing to bigots, the term religious liberty is still not synonymous with discrimination.

    I guess to someone expecting a privileged position of authority based on their religious belief, any nod towards upholding principles of religious freedom can seem like oppression.

  • Doc Anthony

    You seem to view Donald Trump the same way I view Hillary Clinton.

  • Jack

    Well, Doc, I guess it’s human nature to view a newly emerging enemy in a sharper way than the enemy one has known for years and decades.

  • Jack

    Also, Doc, I am naturally more alarmed when enemies emerge who claim to be from our neck of the woods.

  • Ricardo Galvan

    Protestants have a lot more problems with Catholicism than just the rituals/liturgy. It’s their denial of justification sola fide sola gratia that is the real, major problem, and for which the Catholic Church anathematized us in Trent. The Mary stuff and transubstantiation is just the icing on the heretical cake. For good reason, most orthodox Churches do not recognize Catholics as being equal to us.

  • Tom Sporman

    Ah, so sad, Richard that Protestants feel about Catholics the way they do. Oh, when you have some time, please re-read Scripture, and share wih me just where Catholics are off-course, so to speak in our liturgy, dogma,, and, interpretation. Peace,Tom

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  • Jack

    The differences between Catholics and Protestants are perhaps narrower than once thought, but significant differences remain.

  • Kmurph

    Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the U.S – of course Evangelicals adore him.

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