There is an old legend concerning a Pied Piper who visited the town of Hameln in Germany. According to the story, the townsfolk of Hameln had a problem with rat infestation and asked the piper to help them deal with it by playing his magic pipe. When they refused to pay for his services, he used his magic pipe to lead all the children of the town out and away from their parents as a form of retribution. I can’t help likening this old legend to the emergence of a certain Republican presidential candidate. I hesitate to name him, as his pipe is playing so loudly, I really don’t need to tell anyone reading this to whom I refer!
I do not, however, wish to write about the man himself, but the very thought provoking issue of those millions who are clearly supporting his tilt at the White House, and specifically those who profess to be ‘Evangelical Christians’. More than ever, I feel justified in the decision I made, a few years ago, to stop using the nomenclature ‘Christian’ in describing my own faith. Unfortunately, the word suggests certain patterns of thinking and political positions to those looking on from outside. Although many of my friends and plenty of those I read about distance themselves from the teachings of Mr Trump, there are seemingly vast swathes of ‘Christians’ who support him and his vitriolic stance on many issues. This I find puzzling and at least a little disturbing. Apparently, I am not the only one. Shane Claiborne is offering free copies of his book ‘Jesus for President’ to anyone completing an essay in less than 500 words on how their faith in Jesus induces them to vote for Mr Trump!
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand some of the reasons why Donald Trump attracts many to his cause. For some years now, more and more people have become deeply disillusioned with the political establishment. I find it quite heartening that so many people see through the silky smooth maneuvering of most career politicians. I see their aspirations for something better being projected on the figure of a non-conformist maverick like Mr Trump. A similar phenomenon is playing out on the other side of the partisan divide with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. What is even more puzzling is the clear preference, especially among many older white evangelicals, shown to a man who insults women, folks with disabilities, immigrants and Muslims. This is in preference to the ‘evils’ of proposing more social equality as espoused, for instance, by Mr Sanders. I use the word ‘evil’ with some tongue in cheek affectation.
And this is where the Pied Piper comes in. It seems to me the tune that is performing its magic on so many ears in the predominantly white ‘Christian’ culture of the bible belt in the US is the one that is echoed albeit somewhat raucously by Mr Trump in his more extreme pronouncements. Trying to put partisan allegiances aside (impossible I know), have we not created an inherent set of beliefs amongst the Christian community that favors our own self-advancement, our own comfort and prosperity above the needs of the world around us? How many of the songs we sing, the books we read, the sermons we listen to these days concern our own inheritance, destiny, comfort and healing. And then we are surprised when this focus on self is taken to extremes by standing against those who purportedly threaten our comfort and way of life.
I would humbly suggest that the message of Jesus (after all, Christians were named after Jesus!) focuses primarily on meeting the needs of those around us, welcoming the stranger, being kind to one another and preferring others over ourselves. There are so many examples of this approach in both the sayings and the actions of Jesus that I can only suggest reading all 4 accounts of the life of Jesus. I guarantee you will catch the drift. I realize that many of you reading this would have no truck with the Pied Piper of NYC but I appeal to those who find themselves attracted to his divisive agenda to re-examine what is best for the community we live in and the increasingly global village to which we belong. Whether you profess faith in Jesus or not, I fear for us all in a world where self-interest rules and love for our neighbor is merely an afterthought.