I have concluded that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally venal. They have combined to demean politics through their destruction of truth, honour and manners. Out of 321 million Americans was this really the best we could do?
I say we because, though I am a Canadian by choice, I was born and raised in the United States. So every four years I cast a ballot without any serious angst or concerns that I have somehow violated my conscience or my faith. But something awful has happened in 2016.
The esteemed Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, a proud Catholic and conservative, captured perfectly this political moment. In the past, she wrote, a citizen could genuinely like his candidate and could imagine he possessed “unknown virtues” that would be eventually revealed.
“You can’t have illusions anymore. That souring, which is based on knowledge and observation, as opposed to mere cynicism, is painful to witness and bear.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in a speech at the University of Notre Dame that he had not in his lifetime seen “two such deeply flawed (candidates) at the same time.”
Yet to my great dismay countless evangelical Christians and many of their leaders, along with some prominent Catholics, have decided voting for Trump is the Christian thing to do. Their primary reasoning is that, because there is a Supreme Court vacancy, a Republican president who places an anti-abortion judge on the bench might cause dismemberment of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.
“Antonin Scalia’s sudden death made this election the most significant of our lifetime,” James Dobson, head of the evangelical group Focus on the Family, told the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. “The next president will nominate perhaps three or more justices whose judicial philosophy will shape our country for generations to come.”
The U.S. branch of Priests for Life has also come out for Trump. Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the organization, is part of a group of high-powered Catholics now advising the Republican nominee.
The Christian case against Hilary is obvious. Her pro-abortion stance is just one of a long list of sins that threaten social conservatives. But is Trump the answer?
Trump has demeaned POWs such as my father, who was wounded twice and spent months in a German camp nursing two wounds. He mocked a crippled reporter. He has called for the deportation of millions of migrant workers. He is cozy with Russian demagogue Vladimir Putin. His ideas about women are sickening. And he is petty. Who tweets their rage in the middle of the night?
Consider the beatitudes Matthew’s Gospel and then think seriously about Trump. Can you imagine him blessing the meek, the peacemakers, those who mourn and the poor in spirit? He would classify the meek as losers and the poor in spirit as freeloaders deserving of deportation.
I have been chastised by some Christians for my refusal to support Trump and perhaps allowing pro-abortion Clinton to enter the White House. That stings because I know my own heart.
So I was buoyed to see in Christianity Today an essay called “Speak the Truth To Trump” that gives a nearly perfect orthodox Christian analysis of what Americans face in this election. It first shreds Clinton to bits. No surprise there. Then it challenges Christians to apply the same scrutiny to Trump.
“Not all evangelical Christians — in fact, alas, most evangelical Christians, judging by the polls — have shown the same critical judgment when it comes to the Republican nominee.”
It continues: “Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ that St. Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.’ This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed and sexual immorality …. ”
I can’t support that. Honest Abe it is.
(Lewis is a Toronto writer whose column frequently appears in The Catholic Register.)