A Letter To Our Barbarian

“Trump is a bit of a barbarian, but in a way he’s our [Christian] barbarian.”

– George Pell, as quoted in The Guardian 17/12/2020

Dear George Pell,

You don’t speak for me.  You can say what you like as long as we’re clear on that – and clear that you do not speak for most followers of Jesus.  I just hope people can differentiate you from Him!  In a recent interview you said some things about Trump that make me retch.  So I need to say ‘no’ to them now…

1. No Trump Is Not A Bit Of A Barbarian.

Why on earth did you choose the word Barbarian?  What a strange word to use!  I suppose it works coming from you.  Because you’re with Rome and the ancient Romans condescendingly called those of different or ‘uncivilised’ ways barbarus.  Like the word pagan, the word barbarian was and is racist; used to talk down to those who are different.  Is that what you meant?

But what is more concerning is that you won’t just name sin and evil for what they are.  No, Trump is not a barbarus.  He is a sinner who openly flaunts his sin – one who is not repentant or ashamed of it – a sinner who doesn’t believe it’s wrong.  He’s the kind of sinner who is accused of sexually abusing at least 26 women, who sleeps with and pays off prostitutes to stay quiet, and who boasts about grabbing women’s genitals without consent.  That’s not Barbarism – it’s sexual abuse.  He publicly lies and forces his lies to be repeated under threat – that’s emotional abuse.  He constantly mocks people with derogatory names based on their personal traits.  That’s not quaint barbarism – it’s verbal abuse. 

Listen, George.  I’m a real sinner, full of faults.  But Trump is a public sinner that refuses to repent, refuses to concede, refuses to admit fault, refuses to listen or apologise.  His name will go down in history for abuse of power.  Did you miss the bit where he ignored the death of hundreds of thousands of his own people?  And there you are, with your media platform and all you can come up with is… he’s a bit of a Barbarian?  Your refusal to name corruption is alarming.  God forbid that Australians should confuse your words for common Christian opinion!

2.  No Trump Is Not In Any Way ‘Our’ Barbarian

Then there was the bit where you called him ‘our’.  The Guardian knew exactly what you meant.  They inserted the word [Christian] in there to make the intent clear.  Why on earth would you claim him as part of our movement?  It’s clear that Donald Trump has little interest in following Jesus.  When on the campaign trail he was asked his favourite Bible verse he responded with “an eye for an eye.”  Had he heard Jesus’ refutation of that axiom?  No selection could have more clearly identified his opposition to the love, grace, and forgiveness that define Jesus.

And here’s the biggest worry.  You seem to think that a leader’s dangerous selfishness ought to be overlooked if a little ‘good’ can come from it – if it can get you a few allies in a high-court somewhere.  But I don’t believe the end justifies the means – I’m solidly with Jesus and the Judeo-Christian tradition on that one.  Evil doesn’t bring good.  You can’t uphold evil leaders hoping that they might do a little good for your cause – it comes back to bite you (and all of us).  You can’t ignore the destruction wrought by a demagogue would-be dictator just because he’s instrumental for some of your ends.  It never works.  Have a spine.  Name evil.  Praise the good.  But for God’s sake, please don’t pretend that Trump might be on the side of Jesus.

Please!  You’re damaging the Christian cause unimaginably, sending the signal that we need leaders anything like Trump.  At least you might say nothing rather than obliquely affirming him.  What we need in world leaders – no matter the affiliation, religion, or party – is integrity.  Why not call for that?

And by the way, I’m not saying you’re not on the Jesus team.  That’s not for me to judge.  Perhaps you’re a bit of a barbarian, but I’m hoping you still are, in a way, our barbarian. 

Pastor Matt Thiele,

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Buderim.