Call me crazy, but Donald Trump, Pope Francis and the United Church of Christ have something in common. No, this is not the first line of a joke… “So a politician, a Catholic and a Protestant walk into a bar...”
At first I thought it odd that Rolling Stone Magazine would have articles on both Donald Trump and Pope Francis in the same issue. The article on Trump questioned whether this “surging, renegade billionaire” should be taken seriously in his quixotic run to be President of the United States. According to the interviewer, the up-close-and-personal Trump lived up to his image as brash, non-listening, and egotistical. It was not a surprise that he bashed Mexican immigrants, blamed all ills on the “stupid people” who run government today, and promised that he would “make this country feared the whole world over.”
But this same Trump is hated by Conservatives because he believes taxes should be raised on hedge-fund profits and ultra-high net worth individuals like himself; that middle class taxes should be cut, and that government should spend vastly more on roads, bridges and infrastructure and health care for women, veterans and everyone.
Pope Francis has deep Catholic roots, but urges Catholic leaders to emphasize God’s love for LGBT people over doctrine (meeting with Kim Davis notwithstanding), overtly sides with poor people, eschews opulence for modest living quarters and compact cars, and has the unmitigated gall to tell members of Congress to treat immigrants the way they their immigrant forbears should have been treated (how’s that for ‘do unto others!).
Many people probably would not admit it, but Pope Francis, Donald Trump and the United Church of Christ do have something in common. All three break the mold of the tradition.
Now when it comes to making headlines on a regular basis, making a statement that goes viral on social media, or being wildly popular among several population segments, [music plays]: One of these things is not like the others…
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump’s name is on the lips of sports radio announcers, comedians and preachers on Sunday. Pope Francis had perhaps a hundred million eyes watching him walk out of his residence in Washington DC. The UCC has grabbed some media buzz for its leadership in the fight for marriage equality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other present-day justice issues. Yet our public image has not attained the broad recognition or the opinion-forcing potency of ‘the Donald’ or the Pope.
If we want the world to be excited about what we believe, perhaps it is not enough to break the mold of tradition. Maybe the UCC needs to be more radically UCC than it ever has before. Few living movements possess the combination of God-loving faith, justice-seeking advocacy, and human diversity of the United Church of Christ. No, we should not ratchet up the buffoonery, be louder, or cantankerous. The world is hungry for transformation that is rooted in deep spirituality. It is time that we assert the UCC brand of progressive Christianity with greater intensity than ever before.
Go big or go home.