When Donald Trump failed to make headlines at a conclave of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition (a “teavangelical” group that combines traditional Christian Right views with a signature loathing of government) today, it was something of a triumph. True, he had some help from Senator David Perdue (R-GA), who soaked up media attention by referring to a Psalm known as the “Cry for Vengeance” and applying it to President Obama. And as BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray reported, Trump stuck close to his teleprompter, his new habit after the Gonzalo Curiel saga.
Trump also stayed away from unfamiliar sacred ground, so there were no off-putting comments about “my little cracker” or “Two Corinthians” or his lack of any need for divine forgiveness. Indeed, the speech was basically an assortment of unconnected sound bites designed to please this sort of audience, from an endorsement of “the sanctity of life” (which means opposition to legalized abortion), to calls to “stand with Israel,” to a couple of shout-outs to “religious liberty” (which means the right to discriminate on religious grounds), to very frequent attacks on “radical Islam.” He even got some sympathy for getting through a brief but noisy Code Pink demonstration.
That demonstration, however, erupted during one part of Trump’s remarks that you might think would be controversial in a churchy environment: one of multiple attacks on Hillary Clinton for favoring a hospitable attitude towards Syrian refugees. “Stop hate, Dump Trump, refugees are welcome here,” chanted the protesters (who then switched to “God hates Trump, build bridges, not walls” before they were thrown out of the room).
The protesters may have known that Christians have for eons felt a responsibility to welcome refugees however unpopular or inconvenient they might be. Certainly the founder of the Christian faith was pretty unambiguous in how he felt about those who scorned strangers in need (Matthew 25:41-43, New International Version):
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
Trump must have missed that passage when reading the book he likes even more than The Art of the Deal.