So, this tweet of Donald Trump’s is making the rounds on Twitter, today:
The new Pope is a humble man, very much like me, which probably explains why I like him so much!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 25, 2013
People are having a lot of fun with it, and I totally understand. We have fun at the expense of our politicians all the time — heaven knows, I certainly have — and yeah, it’s hard not to read that tweet from 2013 and not blink, or roll the eyes, even if he meant it as a joke.
Still, though, I have to say something because it’s been on my mind since I was sitting in a doctor’s office yesterday and scrolling through my twitter feed.
Yesterday Trump met Pope Francis, and I was kind of appalled at the responses of some Catholics to the moment. Not at the jeering, or the rush to see if Pope Francis smiled more for Barack Obama than for Trump — all that high-schoolish and picayune, petty comparison stuff that social media brings out in us — but by the absence of anyone at all suggesting that his moment with the current iteration of Peter might be a really excellent time to pray for the current American president.
Say what you want, hate him all you want (I don’t much like him myself and am hard pressed to find a single person in politics I do like, anymore) but Donald Trump is still a human being, and — no matter how much some may not want to hear it, or cannot believe it — he is beloved by God.
I know it’s difficult for us to understand it, but God really does love these people who traipse across the public stage and drive us crazy. I have to remind myself about that, often and often, when it comes to quite a few politicians, celebrities, and their offspring.
I have to remind myself that it’s too easy to hate — that it’s too easy to serve one’s own need to get a little spittle out there into the arena as we sneer at the people we dislike, and make sure others see us do it.
When we indulge the hate, though, we lose ourselves a little bit, don’t we? We simply become part of the mob mentality, the jeering crowd. And mobs are famously stupid. It was a spittle-flicking, jeering mob that made the stupid but inevitable call for the release of Barabbas, over the Innocent One.
Now, I am not calling Donald Trump innocent, so please don’t write in suggesting I am. And I am not comparing him to Christ Jesus, either, heaven forbid. I am comparing the social media crowd to that crowd, though, and to every crowd that finds itself so easily swayed to indulge its baser and bullying instincts.
You may say Donald Trump “deserves” your spit and malice. Maybe he does. Maybe I do, too. Maybe all of us “deserve” the spit and malice of others, at some point. But the lesson Christ showed us by his own actions, again and again, is that we must give people a little better than they “deserve”, and consistently.
It’s a challenge, yes. It’s really quite a hard lesson, because we are all about deciding what everyone “deserves,” whether it be our respect, our derision, or our prayers. People may have to earn our respect, and perhaps people deserve a bit of derision, but no one “deserves” the prayers of others for their sake, nor can they earn them.
But most people sure “need” them.
I can name politicians I have truly abhored and have learned to pray for, as much for them and their obvious spiritual need as for my own need to offer penance for my unruly mobbish hatreds.
So, does Donald Trump “deserve” our prayers? Who knows? He strikes me as someone who “needs” a lot of prayers — for his personal spiritual needs and also for a growth in wisdom, and that last is not exclusively for his sake, but for all of ours.
Yesterday, I prayed for Donald Trump, that his meeting with the pope might be the start of something positive in terms of growth, introspection, anything, you know? But I didn’t see anyone on Twitter saying, “we should pray for him,” and for once, I wasn’t in the mood to be the one to say it, and endure 50 tweets from ppl telling me that I was a) Pollyanna, b) hectoring, or c) secretly in love with him (because unless you’re being flamboyantly negative, you are assumed to be positive in this crazy world.)
Yes, somebody loves this man, and it is the same somebody who endured mob-hate and jeers for my sake and for yours.
It cannot be easy to be the most hated man in the world. Prior to Trump, the most hated man in the world seemed to be Pope Benedict XVI, and yes, he was easier to pray for. But God loves Donald Trump — same as God loves everyone. And those who do not or cannot understand why or how may actually be obliged — especially if we are people who confess Christ — to give him a little bit better than we think he “deserves.” Because that’s what Christ taught us.
Now that I’ve begun, I’ll keep praying for Donald Trump. For his sake, and for the sake of our own souls, too. And for the sake of the whole world.
It is needed, I think.
UPDATE: I see over at National Review, I see Kathryn Jean Lopez is sounding a similar note:
I didn’t vote for Donald Trump and I’ve been concerned/disappointed/alarmed about how enthusiastically he is sometimes celebrated in some quarters. Today, watching him at the Vatican, seeing his wife stand before a statue of Mary, the Mother of God, I saw the president as a man with a family who we all need to pray for. For wisdom. For humility. For clarity. For sincerity. For courage.