The Revd. Mark Bailey Writes…

Whilst on a visit to Mexico earlier this year Pope Francis questioned the policy of the American presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to build a wall across the United States southern border as a means of resolving the illegal Mexican migrant issue. Pope Francis said, “A person who thinks only about building walls… and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Trump responded with the following words, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful… No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” In our post-modern age, which emphasises individual freedom and the right to choose above all else, many will agree with Donald Trump that it is not the place of one person to challenge the belief system of another. This puts religious leaders in a particularly difficult place.

What you might ask is the role of a Bishop or Archbishop, Rabbi or Iman if the modern age renders them silent on controversial topics? Traditionally religious leaders of all faiths have engaged themselves in promoting the ‘spiritual path’ – articulating the pursuit of a ‘higher calling’ by way of putting the context of the world in which we live within a larger framework. Life is not just about money etc. It is also about charity and generosity. Similarly, religious leaders have emphasised their teaching role. The business of evaluating and expanding the tenets of a particular faith tradition has fallen primarily to religious leaders as trained theologians. It is the House of Bishops, and other faith equivalents, who lead when it comes to discerning what is and what is not part of a particular faith. Most would agree that the role of ‘spiritual guide’ and ‘teacher’ are intrinsic to the nature of the office of a religious leader.

But spiritual guidance and religious teaching, however good they may be in their own right, will lack integrity if they do not translate into lived experience. And this is the rub. In theological terms, one person’s orthodoxy is often another person’s heresy. My understanding of my religious faith leads me to hold certain values and behave in a particular way. Your understanding, which is different to mine, leads you to hold different values to me and to behave differently to how I do.

In short, Donald Trump may well believe himself to be Christian but the Christianity he subscribes to is not the Christianity that Pope Francis declares.

God Bless.

Mark

(This article was published in the June 2016 edition of the West Dever News.)


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