Of all the judgments of Donald Trump's targeted ban on Muslim immigration, I found the most elegant to be 2,000 years old. It comes from St. Paul and Matthew's gospel.
Not that these commentators returned from the dead for the occasion, of course. But this weekend's lectionary for church-going Christians offered a rebuke to Trump’s Friday order — to his whole mindset, in fact — that was impossible to miss. Matthew’s Beatitudes and Paul’s 1 Corinthians put poetry to the concrete reasons for thinking that our president dares, as Paul says disapprovingly, to "boast before God.”
Perhaps defenders of the president’s refugee ban don’t read the Bible? They've included a National Review contributor and Trump voters, who apparently would stand by their man if he were filmed cooing "Unforgettable" to a German shepherd in the Oval Office.
Major newspapers meanwhile spared no thesaurus in condemning the executive order, among them The New York Times (“cowardly and dangerous"), The Washington Post (“irrational xenophobia”) and The Boston Globe (“offensive” and “appalling").
The New Testament passages I heard on the weekend offered a gentler rebuttal to Trump, who barred citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, while banning refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely.
But this weekend's lectionary for church-going Christians offered a rebuke to Trump’s order -- to his whole mindset, in fact -- that was impossible to miss.
Paul reminded the church at Corinth about their shared faith’s radical break with conventional wisdom: “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
The weak, lowly and despised who ran for their lives from Syria’s carnage, or from Iraq and Afghanistan after aiding us in those wars, shame Trump’s lame justifications for his ban. Keep terrorists out of the U.S.? Syrian refugees are terrorism’s victims, deserving our sympathy. None of the seven countries covered by Trump’s temporary ban has produced a terrorist who has killed on American soil since 9/11, an event the executive order highlights — but the ban omits any of the countries that did produce 9/11’s hijackers.
The weak, lowly and despised who ran for their lives from Syria’s carnage, or from Iraq and Afghanistan after aiding us in those wars, shame Trump’s lame justifications for his ban
Allow “extreme vetting” of potential terrorists? We’ll see if Trump comes up with something better than existing, rigorous reviews, which have helped make it more likely you’ll die by lightning strike than terrorism. Reverse longstanding discrimination against Christians trying to enter the U.S., as Trump alleged in an interview? That’s another “alternative fact;” almost as many Christian as Muslim immigrants were admitted in fiscal 2016. Anyway, it’s hypocrisy for a man who condemned Sharia law to enact a religiously discriminatory order targeting Muslims.
Matthew’s rendering of the Beatitudes, from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, assures “they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” and other suffering souls that they are blessed. It’s unlikely that the Middle Eastern travelers held or sent home from U.S. airports after Trump’s order felt blessed. Since judges temporarily halted the deportations while courts consider the legal challenges, it’s too soon to tell whether the meek will inherit the earth.
They may yet. That National Review writer, while declaring Trump’s order legal, acknowledged questions about whether it’s smart, given the countries it omits and the peaceful Muslims caught up in its broad net. On the other hand, reason is not Trump supporters’ forte.
The Times found one pro-Trump couple angry at the government for stiff-arming the Navy-vet husband on disability benefits, while, he said, “we’re helping refugees and immigrants.” Their resentment at their own treatment is understandable. But taking it out on immigrants, who the wife says are “cutthroating” Americans, is illogical.
It’s also un-Biblical. Paul and the gospel writers, living under the oppression of Roman occupation in the first century, could tell our president why.