Interesting moments occur at Trump Tower. This is where Donald Trump manages his presidential campaign and business empire. It is allegedly where he also sexually assaults women while using the 2016 election to divide Americans along religious and racial lines.
Sin can be understood as an intentional standing apart from God. What isn’t sinful about what occurs at Trump Tower?
This so very ugly election has certainly produced two very different visions of America. We have seen that in the debates. These differences were also apparent at last week’s Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, a fundraiser for charitable programs run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. This dinner is traditionally the final appearance of the two major party candidates before the November election. It is a political roast of sorts ― with the candidates poking fun at themselves, their opponent, and often the media and other political leaders in attendance.
Donald Trump spoke first and got off a few good lines before turning, well, let’s just call it nasty. Of Hillary Clinton, Trump told the Roman Catholic audience: “Here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
That was when the booing began. It didn’t stop as Trump continued:
I won’t go this evening without saying something nice about my opponent. Hillary has been in Washington a long time. She knows a lot about how government works. And according to her sworn testimony, Hillary has forgotten more things than most of us will ever, ever know, that I can tell you.
As for Clinton, she got some good laughs herself:
This is such a special event that I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here.
There were also some good quips about running a race with Trump:
It is a special honor to be here with your eminence. I know you were criticized for inviting both Donald and me here tonight. You responded by saying, “If I only sat down with those who are saints, I would be taking all my meals alone.” Now, just to be clear, I think the cardinal is saying I’m not eligible for sainthood. But getting through these three debates with Donald has to count as a miracle.
Perhaps the most important remarks made by Clinton was her more serious call to embrace the inclusive vision of Pope Francis:
I am not Catholic, I’m a Methodist, but one of the things we share is a belief that in order to achieve salvation, we need both faith and good works. ... You certainly don’t need to be Catholic to be inspired by the humility and hearts of the holy father Pope Francis, or to embrace his message. His message about rejecting a mindset of hostility. His call to reduce inequality. His warning about climate change. His appeal that we build bridges, not walls.
Atop Trump Tower, however, Donald Trump looks down at the world and tries to delegitimize our democracy. He opened his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and has closed it calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman.”This is not a normal election. Conservative evangelicals leaders, the GOP’s core, recently denounced Donald Trump:
We believe the candidacy of Donald J. Trump has given voice to a movement that affirms racist elements in white culture—both explicit and implicit. Regardless of his recent retraction, Mr. Trump has spread racist “birther” falsehoods for five years trying to delegitimize and humiliate our first African-American president, characterizing him as “the other” and not a real American citizen. He uses fear to demonize and degrade immigrants, foreigners, and people from different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. He launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans, immigrants, and Muslims, and has repeatedly spoken against migrants and refugees coming to this country—those whom Jesus calls “the stranger” in Matthew 25, where he says that how we treat them is how we treat him. Trump has steadily refused to clearly and aggressively confront extremist voices and movements of white supremacy, some of whom now call him their “champion,” and has therefore helped to take the dangerous fringes of white nationalism in America to the mainstream of politics.
No one would call Hillary Clinton a perfect person or candidate. She has enough humility to acknowledge that herself. What she does offer, compared with Trump, is a campaign of policy positions fueled with hope and not sin.
Politically speaking, Donald Trump tests the boundaries of democracy by refusing to say whether he will accept the legitimacy of the election.
Theologically speaking, Donald Trump is intentionally walking away from God by embodying some of the ugliest aspects of humanity.
Thankfully, we have a better option. Hillary Clinton may not be perfect. But an imperfect human as president as far better than a president who from his perch high above America presents a dark vision of the world where powerful men like him can take what they want – sex without permission from women, oil from other nations, unearned wealth for himself – and call it good.