Regular readers of this blog know that I wade into political waters reluctantly. Usually, if I do write about political matters, it's to make historical comparisons* or to discuss the politics, the strategy and mechanics, of politics.** But I am loathe to express my personal political convictions; because I'm a pastor, I don't want to claim that my convictions are God's convictions. The Bible doesn't lay out a political program and anyone who claims otherwise, whatever their political philosophy, dishonors God. Attempts by preachers and others to use the authority of God to prop up their own political preferences are either cynical or idolatrous, reducing the almighty God of the universe to self-chosen propositions which become objects of worship.
The only circumstances under which I deem it appropriate for pastors or church bodies to comment on the political or governmental processes is when justice or the love of neighbor, both commands of God, are clearly at issue.
In recent weeks, billionaire and showman Donald Trump has been creating a stir by intimating that he may run for president. Among the main "issues" he has been raising is whether the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, is, as required by the United States Constitution, a natural born citizen of the country.
This question first arose during the 2008 presidential campaign, when people were heard to say that the African-American senator from Illinois with the funny-sounding name wasn't "one of us."
But, as pointed out by conservative Republican Linda Chavez in a recent column, the facts of this "case" aren't even disputable: Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. (Contrary to what some have said, it should be pointed out that this was approximately two years after Hawaii was admitted as a state. But even had the President been born in Hawaii, a US territory, prior to the state's admission in 1959, he would still be considered a natural born citizen of the country.) For more detailed information, you can go to FactCheck.org, a non-partisan site, to confirm that the President was, indeed, born in the USA.
So, why am I writing about this matter?
It's simple. Donald Trump may be a demagogue and a racist, but I don't think he's stupid. He can't be ignorant of the fact that the President is a native-born US citizen. He appears to be striving to give life to what has already been shown to be a lie, appealing to a strain of racism in our country that refuses to believe that someone who doesn't look like any previous president and doesn't have a name like any previous president could be qualified or worthy of the office.
Trump has said that the President couldn't be intelligent enough to be admitted into an Ivy League law school. Trump has said that the President is incapable of having actually written two best-selling books, that he must have had ghost-writers.
The clear insinuation is that everything about the President, including the location of his birth, is a fraudulent hoax. The facts say otherwise. (If you're inclined to believe any of what Trump has said about the President, you might want to read The Bridge. The author isn't a spokesperson for Obama, but a straightforward biographer, who sometimes says less than complimentary things about the President.)
But if Trump was simply wrong on matters of fact, I wouldn't be writing this post. (I myself get my facts wrong, as I freely admit.)
Donald Trump is engaging in race-baiting. Whether he uses the words or not, he portrays the President as the unworthy beneficiary of affirmative action for getting admitted to a prestigious law school. He intimates that because the President is black, he couldn't possibly write two literate books. And because he's black, Trump believes, the President can't possibly be worthy of holding the highest office in the country.
Christians, commanded by God to love our neighbors as we love ourselves--even when the neighbor is the President of the United States--and to love justice--even when the victim of injustice occupies the White House, must speak up.
Donald Trump needs to be told that he is clearly and sinfully in the wrong. Whether he gets the message or cares about it or not, that's what I'm doing here.
What do you think?
*I'm a life-long student of history and majored in Social Studies Education, with a major concentration on History, at Ohio State, from which I graduated in 1975
**I used to be involved in politics.