Trump’s new vision for our nation is not just un-American, but it is unchristian. And either, if not both, of those shortcomings should bother you.
During his inaugural address, the president announced that for at least the next four years, “Every decision … will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” Under the banner America First, Trump proclaimed the “crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.”
As Trump spoke, I began to understand more clearly why so many people packed into venues throughout the country to see him campaign. Who doesn’t like being put first, especially when you’ve felt that others — both foreign and domestic — have been receiving preferential treatment? It feels good to soak in the aplomb of first place for a minute. I’ve learned, though, everything that feels good to you is not good for you. In this case, America First is not good for us.
Trump’s own assertion begs a profound theological question: is “America First” what righteous people and a righteous public should want? It is difficult for me to reconcile the acknowledged selfishness of “America First” with a Christian’s call to common humanity. Trump said, “the bedrock of our politics is a total allegiance to the United States of America,” but, as American Christians, are we American first or Christian first? And if our primary allegiance is to Christ, how can we cheer on a foreign policy that countenances the richest nation on the planet being primarily concerned with itself when more than half the world lives on less than $2 per day? My faith calls me to have concern for the least of these and looks to a model of Christ, who by his own testimony did not “come to be served, but to serve and give his [own] life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). In fact, Jesus tells us that service to others, even when it comes at our own expense is one hallmark that distinguishes Christians from those who do not know him. Indeed, self-sacrifice and service is Jesus’s formula for greatness (v.26). In other words, humanity first, not America first.
You might ask, how can we serve others, if we have not given proper care to our own well-being? Without question, there are segments of American life that require our collective investment. American workers, vital infrastructure, neighborhoods and communities deserve attention. Still, these needs cannot justify abdication of our responsibility to those who live beyond our borders. For all its internal challenges, the United States is still the wealthiest nation in the world and “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
In his speech, President Trump quoted Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” I agree. I just hope access to “togetherness” and “unity” does not require an American passport.