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An Easter Message on Building Walls or Opening Tombs

Jesus’ life is recorded as ending with a securely sealed “great stone” rolled away from an empty tomb. (Matthew 27: 60-28: 2). Donald Trump’s political life is reported as beginning with his repeated promise to create barriers and bans and bombs to keep designated Others entombed. In the face of this glaring contradiction, Trump often asserts, “I’m a good Christian.” Let’s check the record.

Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” He then declared what made one ”a good Christian”: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family (italics added), you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 35, 40)

Donald Trump launched his 2016 Republican presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “drug dealers” and “rapists.” If he becomes president, he plans to deport 11 million of them, and repeatedly promises to build a great wall to keep them out.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9) He also stated what peacemaking involved: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies . . . so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” He then referred to his “Father’s” inclusive spirit: “For he makes his sun shine on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 43-45) Two universal life-sustaining sources that bless everyone on earth and reveal the common humanity and existence everyone shares. And Jesus continued to specify the inclusive meaning of those “who are members of his family” with: “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others.” (Matthew 5: 47)

Donald Trump’s repeated stump speech includes: “So look, in a nutshell . . . we’re going to rebuild our military. It’s going to be so big, so strong, so powerful, nobody is going to mess with us. Believe me. Nobody. Nobody.” He continued, “We’re going to knock the hell out of ISIS, and believe me, it’s going to be done the right way.” (“Let’s face it, Trump is the GOP frontrunner and crushed the field in New Hampshire,” By Eric Black, www.minnpost.com, Feb. 2, 2016)

And it is not just ISIS. Trump’s anger is much more generalized, leading him to want to “knock the hell out of” anybody who challenges him. Like protesters at his rallies, whom he encourages his supporters to physically attack. He incites violence, for example, by referring to a protester being escorted from an event: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.” When a Black Lives Matter protester was “beaten and choked after disrupting another rally, Trump’s reported response: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it is absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”   Trump’s violent nature is also seen in another response: “I love the good old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” (“Donald Trump on a protester: ‘I’d like to punch him in the face,’” By Michael E. Miller, The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2016) No wonder a Trump supporter sucker-punches a protester as he is being escorted from a rally by security. And reporters, who are the constant objects of Trump’s derisive comments at rallies, have also been stiffed-armed or chocked by his henchmen.

Mothers and fathers brought “little children to [Jesus] that he might touch them; and the disciples,” who believed children were lesser, ”spoke sternly to” their parents. “But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Jesus then “took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10: 13-16)

Donald Trump is quoted as saying, “The right way . . . to knock the hell out of ISIS” is to kill their children. “You have to take out their families,” he said, “as “these terrorists . . . care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.” (“Donald Trump on Terrorists: ‘Take out their families, by Tom LoBianco, CNNPolitics.com, Dec. 3, 2015) “The right way” also includes, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” (“Trump Leads GOP Charge Embracing Torture: ‘I’d Bring Back a Hell of a Lot Worse Than Waterboarding,” Democracy Now, Feb. 8, 2016)

Instead of hungering for military power and even thirsting to kill the family members of one’s enemies, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5: 6) Instead of torturing designated enemies, and subjecting them to even more hellish acts, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5: 7) Jesus used The Golden Rule to stress the importance of empathy as the foundation of just and peaceful relationships: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you; for this sums up the law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7: 12)

Donald Trump seized upon the Paris attacks by the Islamic State and the terrorist attack in San Bernardino to call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Trump declared, “It is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. . . . Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims (sic) of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.” (‘DONALD J TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION,’ www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases, Dec. 7, 2015) A President Trump would also consider requiring all Muslims living in the United States to carry a Muslim ID card for tracking purposes, and would be receptive to searching mosques without a warrant, and even shutting them down. (See “Donald Trump’s horrifying words about Muslims, By Dean Obeidallah, CNN.com, Nov. 21, 2015)

Donald Trump doubled down on his assumed Muslims’ hatred of America. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he stated, “I think Islam hates us. . . . We have got to get to the bottom of it. . . . There is an unbelievable hatred of us – anybody. And,” he continued, “we can’t allow people coming in to this country who have this hatred of the United States.” (“Donald Trump Attacks Muslims: ‘Islam Hates Us,’” by F. Brinley Bruton, nbcnews.com, Mar. 10, 2016)

When Brussels was brutally attacked by the Islamic State on Tuesday, Donald Trump was quoted as renewing “his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and for legalized torture to extract information from an Islamic State operative captured last week in Brussels.” Not surprisingly, Trump’s Islamophobic, “carpet-bombing” Republican presidential rival Ted Cruz got into the act, “demand[ing] that the United States ‘empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.’” (“In Campaign, Walking a Tightrope Over the Fight on Terrorism,” By David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times, Mar. 23, 2016)

“There is an unbelievable hatred of us.” BBC correspondent Mohammad Madi investigated Donald Trump’s “Islam hates us” statement and found it to be untrue. Madi wrote that several polling agencies “have measured broad sentiment among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.” He then cited the Pew Research Centre, which found that “anti-Americanism was strong around the world around the time of the US invasion of Iraq.” But, “currently there is little evidence of profound anti-American sentiment except for in a handful of countries, it says.” (“US election 2016: What does ‘Islam’ think of America,” (Mar. 13, 2016) Trump’s demonstrated inability to differentiate between Muslims is also seen in another Pew Research Center finding: “Most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS.” (“Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world,” By Michael Lipka, PewResearchCenter, Dec. 7, 2015)

“There is an unbelievable hatred of us.” Donald Trump himself demonstrates an “unbelievable hatred” for those who confront his delusional ravings with reality. An example is his mimicking, in a mocking way, congenitally handicapped reporter, Serge Kovaleski, whose Washington Post column contradicted Trump’s reported claim “that ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims [in New Jersey] cheered the fall of the Twin Towers” on Sept. 11, 2001. As reported, “Officials have said that did not happen.” (“Donald Trump Criticized After He Appears to Mock Reporter Serge Kovaleski,” by Daniel Arkin, nbcnews.com, Nov. 26, 2015)

The Republican candidate who would be president is “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Donald Trump does not want to “figure out what is going on.” Years before he started verbally assaulting his way toward the presidency, a Pentagon advisory panel “figured out what was going on.” The panel’s “harshly critical report” found that “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies,” that “when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.” And, “In the eyes of the Muslim world . . . ‘American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering.’” (“U.S. Fails to Explain Policies to Muslim World, Panel Says,” By Thom Shanker, The New York Times, Nov. 24, 2004)

Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn has also “figured out what is going on.” He writes that “there has always been a disconnect in the minds of people in Europe between the wars in Iraq and Syria and terrorist attacks against Europeans.” He states that this “disconnect” serves “the interests of Western political leaders, because it means that the public does not see that their disastrous policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and beyond created the conditions for the rise of Isis and for the terrorists gangs such as that to which Salah Abdeslam belonged.” Thus, “Western leaders have never had to pay any political price for their role in initiating [conflicts] or pursuing policies that effectively stoke the violence.” (“How Politicians Duck the Blame on Terrorism,” Counterpunch, Mar. 21, 2016)

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims (sic) of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad and have no sense of reason or respect for human life (italics added).” The record shows that Donald Trump is actually talking about himself! He lacks self-awareness, which is the pathway to empathy, which is the gateway to The Golden Rule, which is the bridge to The Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), which is the answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”—which is the essence of being “a good Christian.”

Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye.” Jesus was emphasizing the importance of self-understanding: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”(Matthew 7: 1-5) Long before modern psychology, Jesus addressed the human tendency to attribute one’s own unacceptable unconscious wishes and violent impulses to others.

A number of rabbis have provided a model for Christian leaders. The rabbis protested Donald Trump’s recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee by walking out of the meeting and holding a prayer vigil nearby. Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky was reported as giving the reason for their protest: “This is really a response to the statements he has made throughout the campaign that are Islamophobic – claiming that all of Islam hates us, that he wants to register American Muslims – that’s not what we believe as Jews.” Rabbi Olitzky’s point: “What we’ve learned from our history is that we can’t stand idly by when a leader says those things.” (Rabbis Plan Prayer Vigil During Talk By Trump,” By Alan Rappeport, The New York Times, Mar. 19, 2016)

Christian leaders and their members would do well to follow the example of these rabbis by joining in massive peaceful protests outside Donald Trump’s rallies. Christians profess a gospel of love, one that calls for freeing people from tombs of hatred and violence and making room for everyone on whom the “sun” shines and the ”rain” falls, sustaining and renewing life. Being “a good Christian” is not about saying “Merry Christmas” during the holidays. It is about Christians creating “good will” and “peace” among all men and women and children.

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Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away) is now published and available on Amazon.com. The book’s Foreword, Drawing the Line, is written by Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair. Alberts is also author of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.

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