Are Pro-Trump Christians Putting Country Before Christ?
I don’t usually respond to online attacks. But the other day I came across a tweet that deserves an answer. Not because it’s profound. In fact, it’s obtuse. But its sheer dunderheadedness, on crucial issues, points a moral. Here, in molar purity, we find distilled a toxin which more often gets diluted and infused into all sorts of other arguments. Here is a poison whose antidote we really need to stock up on. Its author phrased his thoughts in sectarian Catholic terms, but it’s easy enough to rephrase in ecumenical language. Here:
A lot if not most right-wing Catholics would stop being Catholic if they had to choose between the interests of the white race/the West/capitalism, or Catholicism. You see it happening by degrees all the time. Skojec and Zmirak come to mind.
— Bright Noa (@DieZeonScum) October 29, 2018
Where to begin? First of all, the Tweeter’s statement can be read in two different ways. Either of them is intriguing. He could be accusing people like me of choosing “the interests of” our ethnicity, our civilization, and economic freedom/prosperity over the principles of Catholicism. That’s one thing, which I’ll address later.
Band-Aids for Bad Shepherds
But he could equally mean that we choose “the interests of” those earthly things over the interests of Catholicism. That is, the Church’s effort to keep up its numbers. To fill its churches, where 40% of native-born Catholics leave. And one in five Catholics is now an immigrant. (Though many of them leave too, eventually.) To keep money flowing into the bishops’ coffers from the federal government via contracts for immigrant services, as laymen close their checkbooks. (Last year, 40% of the US Catholic bishops’ conference budget came from such federal money.) To boost the influence of our highly politicized prelates. They last year issued more than 200 public policy statements, as if they were some shadow government in exile.
If Christians had told the Romans that they couldn’t try to keep out the Visigoths, Vandals and Huns, Rome wouldn’t have converted.
Those might well be the short-term interests of the Church, narrowly stated. But is it really in the long-term interests of any church to slap a Band-Aid of fresh souls, borrowed from neighboring countries, on its gaping wounds of scandal? Of cover-ups? Of a homosexual network that has partly colonized the priesthood and episcopate? Isn’t that simply enabling a leadership that’s addicted to self-destructive behavior? Isn’t it really like giving your junkie friend a big wad of cash so he can score?
In fact, if we want a genuine renewal in our Church, we need to remove such crutches. We must make bishops depend for full churches and full purses on doing the right things. On cleaning up their seminaries. On preaching and teaching the Gospel to the flock which God entrusted to them — not counting on fresh sheep to wander in from other (mostly better) bishop’s neighboring pastures.
Otherwise, nothing changes. Bishops like retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles can build monstrous new cathedrals to the glory of their own names, and wield political power by posing as champions of immigrants. Meanwhile they cover for sex abuse, preside over lavender seminaries, and persecute faithful Catholics. Those fractious characters are after all replaceable by recent, docile, grateful campesinos.
So I am driven to guard our borders even more by my concern for the Church’s mission than I am by American national interests. Until the fresh flow of canon fodder is cut off by the government, our generals will never adjust their strategy. They’ll just keep sending raw recruits into No Man’s Land — unschooled in the faith, soon to abandon it like the U.S. Catholics before them.
Christianity: Not a Suicide Cult
But let’s imagine that the author wasn’t just being a tribalist, expecting me as an American to write off my non-Catholic neighbors and fellow citizens for the sake of helping our bishops stay fat and happy.
So he’s accusing people like me of abandoning Catholic principles, timeless Christian teachings. What are they, exactly?
The Church has never, in 2,000 years, demanded open borders. If Christians had told the Romans that they couldn’t try to keep out the Visigoths, Vandals and Huns, Rome wouldn’t have converted. Likewise if Christians had taught absolute pacifism, or universal celibacy. People would have looked at insane teachings like that, which guaranteed global chaos, or the end of the human race, and walked away. And they would have been right. The Savior of mankind was not its enemy.
Even Pope Francis has not roused up the nerve to change the Catechism on borders. The Church’s teaching on immigration is much, much closer to the 2016 Republican platform than it is to Democrats’ reckless demand that we abolish ICE, and invite half of Latin America to march in and enroll in Medicaid.
Now, Pope Francis and his proxies would probably like to change this teaching. He and 24 U.S. bishops endorsed an insane manifesto last year which suggested that. But if the pope did that, his doctrine would be false. Precisely because it is new. He’d be inventing something himself, not passing on the Deposit of Faith from the Apostles. And it wouldn’t bind Catholics. It wouldn’t just be our right, but our duty to defy the change.
Likewise if Pope Francis were to reverse the consistent, repeated teachings of his predecessors condemning socialism as utterly incompatible with Christianity.
Any new, “radical” reading of Christianity that generates insane implications is false. Because Christianity is true. It is not a program for proving our faith in heaven by destroying life on earth. Or showing how strong our faith is by dismantling our reason. Or nailing up our neighbors on the cross of chaos and poverty, just to prove how loyal we are to the leaders of our tribe.