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Bridges or Walls?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 18/02/2016 Jim Wallis

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Photo via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

As Christians, we are called to answer: What does God want us to build, bridges or walls?
Donald Trump has never met a wall he doesn't love. He believes in border walls, in gated communities, in structures and policies that separate "us" from "them" - especially when "them" can be defined as immigrants or people of color or the poor.
Pope Francis has a different answer. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel."
Trump responded by calling the Pope's comments "disgraceful," adding Francis to the long list of people he attacks.
I know this much: our relationship with God is personal, but it's never private. The public practices and policies we choose to support demonstrate what we mean by the gospel and about the world we believe God calls us to help create. And the Pope is right: the policies Donald Trump espouses are in direct conflict with the gospel. Donald Trump has become the race candidate, the white nationalist candidate who calls for walls instead of bridges, that appeals to those who want to block America's new multi-racial demographic future. Trump is the "Walls Candidate." And Pope Francis rightly calls us all, religious or not, to build bridges.
A white nationalist candidate, running and winning on the issue of race, just won the Republican New Hampshire Primary. The political conversation, of course, obsessed with the state of the race, meaning the political horserace. What we have not seen in this campaign is much discussion about the state of race in America, in 2016.
Why has a white, xenophobic demagogue received so little scrutiny or accountability for his racial talk against a black President, Mexican immigrants, urban African Americans and Hispanics, and Muslims all over the world? And Trump's debasing comments about women also took their ugliest turn at his last New Hampshire rally.
Fear and hatred of "the other" has created some of the most dangerous movements in human history. Trump positions himself as the "strong man," the "winner" and denounces all his opponents as weak and stupid "losers." It's time to name Trump's dangerous rhetoric for what it is. It is not only racist, but also fascist, with all the dangers that ideology implies. The truth is that we have seen this before. And it's time to tell the truth.
Trump the "birther" has sought to portray the first black president of the United States as a foreigner and not "one of us." Trump's demonization of immigrants, in sharp contrast to facts, has changed the conversation on immigration in America, turning it toward bigger walls and against the "strangers" that those of us who are Christians are commanded by Jesus to "welcome." Instead, Trump the bully calls for rounding them up, breaking up their families, and expelling hard-working and law-abiding people who have lived in America for decades. Trump's call to "completely shut down" all Muslims from entering America is un-constitutional and un-American, as targeting people based on their faith violates our foundational principle of religious liberty. Stopping the hateful spread of Islamophobia and racism must become a bipartisan and trans-partisan issue--that's a moral question. And Trump's political success is therefore a moral threat, especially as reports come in of the Republican establishment warming up to him. Leaders from both political parties must denounce Donald Trump's statements and distance themselves from his dangerous ideology.
The most powerful metaphor for where we are going as a nation is crossing the bridge to a new America. Will we be willing and able to make our way to a genuinely multiracial and multicultural society, where diversity is seen as a strength rather than as a threat? Or are we headed for a conflictual future of one collision after another, with a resistant and even violent white minority building higher and higher walls? Many Americans, especially a new multiracial generation, want to build bridges now. Whether Donald Trump is a Christian or not is something between Trump and God. But Donald Trump's vision for America's future and his policies are indeed, contrary to the gospel. Donald Trump is an anti-Christian candidate.
And that is now our choice--bridges, or walls? I choose to stand with the Pope, building bridges, and all Christians should do the same.
Jim Wallis is Founder and President of Sojourners. His latest book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America,is available now.

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