Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Wall

I have held off from preaching or writing about Mr Trump, partly because I am naturally cautious when it comes to witch-hunts. It sadly does not surprise me that exactly the people who object to his famous Hadrian fantasy now want to block him from entering our country, despite having made no objections against various visiting despots from the Middle East, Indonesia and China. 

Even so, objections to Trump's wall stand firmer than it does itself, especially when it is propped up by cherry-picked biblical witness. It surely did no credit to Christianity when Trump's reverend stooge cited sacred scripture at his inaugural speech to prove that God is "not against" building walls. 

Now this may well be true when one is defending one's people from marauding tribes, as in the Old Testament story cited: and I suspect that very few of the people who hold up placards calling for "no borders" leave their front doors and windows open to all comers at all hours. But the Bible is not given to Christians as an anthology of proof texts. We are meant to read it through the lens of Christ. So doing, we see an overarching narrative of a God who breaks boundaries, even the boundary between himself and his creation, in the person of Jesus Christ; who breaks the barriers that separate Jew and Gentile, slave and free, the taboos which cordon off the leper, the prostitute, the tax-collector; who even tears the veil between earth and heaven in his glorious Resurrection. National boundaries and nation states have their purpose, but Christians must always see them as only temporary measures, in this critical light. There is nothing temporary about a wall. 

All this is a caution against a pick'n'mix approach to the Bible, and also to a pick'n'mix approach to clergy: U.S. Presidents choose their own preachers. The benefit of an Established Church like ours is that, counterintuitively, its leaders are not chosen by our political masters. This does leave us with a grave responsibility to act as critical friends to the Government rather than as lickspittles, but the American contrast shows that this is no bad thing. 

This aside, it is worth bearing in mind in the furore that the proposed presidential visit is not a matter of Mrs May inviting Mr Trump. Rather, the Prime Minister of Great Britain is inviting the President of the United States. He is here for his role, not his person, and to refuse to work with him would be a neglect of the Government's duty, foolish and even childish: grown-ups have to work with people they do not like. There is something of the Gospel in that sentiment, too. 

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