Pope Francis is right – the Gospel is about building bridges not walls. However in criticising Donald Trump last week over his proposed immigration policy (the big Wall) he was simply wrong.
Governments are not called, and indeed cannot be expected to govern by the Gospel. In an imperfect world full of disorder, chaos and evil, they are called to use the authority they have to maintain order. In so doing they create space for the transforming power of the message of Jesus Christ to renew the hearts and minds of people. This is basic New Testament theology
So when Pope Francis says of Trump “A person who thinks only about building walls… and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,” he is overlooking context that is critical to the debate. Trump and other candidates with similar views are not running for church office. They are seeking political office as part of a governing authority that is mandated not to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, but to rather maintain some semblance of order. To achieve this, walls (and other less “kindly” policies and actions) may sometimes be necessary, if not ideal.
The great reformation theologian Martin Luther in his famous work “On Secular Authority” put it like this,
If someone wanted to have the world ruled according to the gospel, and to abolish all secular law and the sword.. what do you imagine the effect would be ? ….Before you rule the world in the Christian and Gospel manner, be sure to fill it with true Christians.
Perhaps it is taking things a little far to wave the view of the founder of the Protestant church in the face of the Pope! However he is a humble and genuine man who would no doubt consider such views, regardless of their origin. To his credit, one could argue that he is so consumed with the amazing values of the coming Kingdom, that perhaps he has forgotten we still need our governments to deal with the one that is passing away.
Thanks Ewen for that perspective. Trump’s greatest contribution to date has been to demolish the wall of PC silence that prevents discussion. Trump doesn’t care that he breaks the “don’t talk about it” rule. Things may never be the same again.