It's hard to imagine two people who have more broadly different approaches to the issues of immigrants and asylum seekers than Pope Francis and President Donald Trump.
It's not surprising that any pope would have a somewhat different view of all this than any American president. The former is charged with advocating for the Christian gospel of love and inclusion while the latter is charged with making sure America is secure and that immigration and asylum rules are fair.
Still, the Trump-Francis differences could hardly be more dramatic.
And now, as this Daily Beast analysis reports, three Trump supporters are working in concert to oppose the pope on this very issue -- Trump's former senior adviser Steve Bannon, the traditionalist Cardinal Raymond Burke (once head of the Archdiocese of St. Louis) and Italy’s new interior minister Matteo Salvini, often described as a xenophobe, including by the author of the Daily Beast piece.
As the story notes, Francis has called for "integration and acceptance, not borders and closed ports. . .But the pope’s words have fallen on the deaf ears of many politicians, and sparked outrage from Bannon, Burke and Salvini."
I don't want you to imagine that popes, including Francis, always advocate humane policies that are practical, reasonable and caring. The deeply checkered history of the papacy makes it clear that doesn't always happen. And I don't want you to suggest that, no matter how Bannon, Burke and Salvini express themselves on the matter of immigration and asylum, they aren't raising some real issues that need attention.
But Pope Francis is doing what wise and thoughtful people of faith are supposed to do -- use their prophetic voices to call attention to injustice, evil and injurious policies.
And if you ever have to vote between Francis and Bannon on the question of who is representing thoughtful morality, go with the pope every time.
As this issue has been hotly contested in the U.S. in recent weeks, it seems to me that the distinction between immigrants and asylum seekers often has been lost. People who want to move to America for a better life, a better job, a fresh start should comply with our immigration system. And American lawmakers should make sure that system is as fair and well-operated as possible.
On the other hand, most of the people in recent weeks being detained at the border, from what I can tell, fall into the category of asylum seekers. They are trying to escape domestic or political or social violence in their own lands and to save the lives of their families. They should be handled differently than normal immigrants. To take away their children for weeks at a time, for instance, is inhumane and unconscionable.
In all of this, I think the Daily Beast commentator gets it right when she writes: "One might assume Francis is asking what Jesus would do for the good of humanity. It seems Bannon, Burke and Salvini, worshippers of Trump, think they know better."
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A VIEW OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY
What does it mean to be Christian in America today? A history professor at Henderson State University offers some useful historical perspective here. Although Christians remain a majority of Americans, the religion is splintered in all kinds of ways, some of them uniquely American.
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P.S.: My latest Flatland column -- about the uselessness of anti-Sharia laws -- now is online here.