Today, in the Catholic Church, is the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo.
Son of a pagan father who converted on his death bed, and of Saint Monica, a devout Christian. Raised a Christian, he lost his faith in youth and led a wild life. Lived with a Carthaginian woman from the age of 15 through 30. Fathered a son whom he named Adeotadus, which means the gift of God. Taught rhetoric at Carthage and Milan, Italy. After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, he became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”
As you can see, Augustine was sort of a sinner in his younger years. Here’s the operative quote: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”
Yet Augustine turned his life around and became such a devoted follower of Christ that he was canonized a saint and a Doctor of the Church.
So…what does Saint Augustine have to do with Trump?
Sigh… my opinion won’t be popular. Still, it’s my opinion, and to comfort myself and others who are voting for Trump, I’m going to use the therapy of writing to say why.
During my daily Scripture reading and reflections, I have always applied the Scripture and the gospels to my everyday life. I’m not sure if other people do this, but I do, and I have for many years.
Today’s Mass readings and the homily, combined with it being the feast day of St. Augustine, brought on the following reflection.
If Saint Augustine were here today, in 2016, would he have ever become a saint? With his life–running around with women, getting drunk, having an illegitimate child, defying his mom St. Monica and causing her to cry about him and what he was doing–would the court of public opinion and the call of the world by the “cool people” have, perhaps, drawn him away from the Lord?
Probably not; lots of people turn their lives around, regret things they did while they were young, and count on the goodwill of others to forgive them and not hold it over their heads.
But, there are always those who refuse to believe anyone who once led a life of ill repute can ever really turn around.
So, during Mass, I listened to the following:
My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.
SIRACH 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
And then this passage from the Gospel of Luke:
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The priest’s homily was all about “tooting your own horn”, and how people in business must advertise in order to let consumers know that they have a good product, so the above passage from Sirach is a hard one to live up to.
And how about that parable in the Gospel? Jesus told us to not get too big for our britches, and to invite people who can’t do anything for us into our homes, etc.
So, again, what’s all this got to do with Trump? He’s a terrible sinner and a bad dude, as many of the leading people in the Conservative movement tell us.
Here’s an example from a recent article in National Review, by David French, who thought he might run for president as an independent earlier in the year.
Look, this was bound to get ugly. It’s been ugly for a long time. Because Trump represents such a radical departure from decades of Republican leadership, the choice to support him involves a host of moral compromises that are atypical for a Republican primary, much less the general election. And since most of us in the conservative movement scorn notions of moral relativism, we’re simply not going to be content with reasoning that says, “My choice is right for me; your choice is right for you.”
The Kentucky church my wife and I frequented early in our marriage was one of the best churches I’ve ever attended. Never before or since have I seen such zeal for the Gospel or such a desire to reach the most desperate and vulnerable members of society. It wasn’t a wealthy church. I was the only lawyer in the congregation, and there was only one doctor. Many people struggled to make ends meet.
Sadly, that rendered them vulnerable to scams, and when a diet-pill pyramid scheme started racing through the congregation, I was aghast. People were spending money they didn’t have to join networks and create “down lines,” firmly believing that economic salvation was at hand. The sales pitch was slick, but the pills scarcely disguised the pyramid. One presenter even said, “You can get rich without even selling any pills.”
I’d worked on consumer fraud cases before, and I thought that I could help stop the madness. I went to the presentations, I researched the materials, and then I started talking to friends. Some listened, but most got mad and a few got furious. To this day, those are some of the most painful conversations I’ve ever had, and I realize now why: My friends were hearing two voices. One of them was speaking authoritatively about numbers and dollars and selling hope. The other was speaking with the same degree of assurance about numbers and dollars but was instead trying to extinguish hope. I never stood a chance.
Yes, voters have a responsibility to exercise good judgment. But the greatest responsibility lies with the con artist and his knowing enablers. Trump — like Obama before him — is selling hope. But that hope is a false hope, and all those “establishment” figures who scorn the alleged “moral preening” of Never Trump know it. They’re aware of the pyramid scheme, and they choose to further it anyway, like the minions who circulate to cheap hotels across the land, pitching scams in meeting rooms. They’re co-conspirators. No one likes to be told they’re wrong. But it is, in fact, wrong to support Trump, and when I see a member of the GOP establishment selling the Trump brand, I’m transported back to Kentucky, watching a huckster exploit people I love.
I’m not questioning French’s motives in telling people what he believes, but it is a bit insulting that he considers every person who is voting Trump to have been taken in by a snake oil salesman and a con.
I mean… there are doctors, lawyers, and many other professionals who voted Trump in the primaries. Were they all that foolish? Did they all really buy themselves some snake oil?
Or did they just have a different opinion than French and the others at NRO, the Weekly Standard, The Resurgent, and the other publications that hate Trump?
You can make your own decision on that question.
Sigh… the above Gospel, where Christ asks us to invite everyone, no matter their social status, or how much money they have, or their disabilities, sort of disagrees with French’s condescending attitude toward the working class poor.
He mentioned the people in his congregation and said they were taken in by a scam. I wonder if any of them have read his words. I myself fell for a scam once or twice in my time. Nobody knows about it, thank the Lord; I wouldn’t want anyone to talk about my foolishness, let alone write about it in a National publication.
And how many of us have sinned in the past? I have; I’m a only a poor sinner with my many faults.
I’m voting Trump because I still have hope in God. I don’t want to despair. If that makes me a buyer of snake oil, then so be it.
I don’t know God’s mind. I don’t know everything. I have to believe that Trump is where he is for a reason, even if he was my next to last choice of candidates. (Trump beat Jeb Bush in my line-up).
I’ve read many articles on why we should never vote for Trump, and many of them are quite a turn off. Many of the poor that Christ asked us to invite are most likely voting Trump.
I’m not sure Jesus would approve of David French right now, especially because of this article, where he agreed with a fellow journalist that the poor who are in need of jobs should just suck it up, put their worldly possessions in a U-Haul, and get out of their rickety towns because the jobs are gone, and they’re never coming back.
Perhaps the poor or unemployed want jobs to come back to their towns. Maybe they don’t want to be the 21st century Joads. I certainly don’t blame them. Why should they not give Trump a try? He can’t possibly be worse than Hillary, and he might even be better. Only God knows the future.
As for Trump himself, I know for a fact that he has recently helped people in need. Click here. Also, there are many testimonials, videos, articles and interviews that show without a doubt that Trump is not the boogeyman the NRO folks believe him to be, even though he never was, nor is he now, a saint. I’m not going to link to all of them. They are easily found in a quick google search.
From the linked article:
Tony Perkins announced Friday that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s $100,000 donation for relief efforts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was received by the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, which is serving as a hub for distributing supplies and hot meals.
Perkins said: “All funds that are marked for disaster relief are being placed in an account separate from GSBC’s general fund and will be used only for expenses related to GSBC’s disaster related efforts and restoration. For example, these funds may be used to purchase relief-related supplies, material and services. The funds will not be used for normal church expenses, nor will the funds be used for cash grants to individuals. Any funds not used in this initial relief phase will be used for subsequent efforts to support and/or directly restore and rebuild homes and church facilities impacted by the flood.”
Would Christ approve? Would Saint Augustine approve? You can decide for yourself. And, who are we to judge why Trump donated the money? Shouldn’t we just be happy that he did it?
One more point. I have seen comments from Christians who are not voting Trump because they are afraid their own souls will be lost. One lady, commenting on a new friend’s Facebook post said that Trump voters are selling their souls to the devil.
Another commenter, on twitter, said that she would not vote for either Hillary or Trump, as both are evil. Now I understand that some people can’t vote Trump because they simply don’t believe he is going to do what he says he will. And I do understand that; I was not exactly thrilled with his actions during the primaries.
Also, it is none of my business what people do with their votes. Your vote is your vote and my vote is my vote.
But to tell others they are selling their souls by voting for a human being to be president is rather… harsh.
Also, the “vote for neither evil” sentiment seems to come from this one clergyman’s quote:
Of two evils, choose neither.
Okay. So one clergyman who lived in the 1800’s is what you base your philosophy for voting in this important election upon?
Remember who Trump is running against? I don’t need to list Hillary Clinton’s many crimes, her immorality or her evil intentions here, because everyone who isn’t a Democrat already knows what she is.
This election is make or break for America and our freedoms. One quote?
For perspective, here are some other quotes by Charles Spurgeon.
‘You are no saint,’ says the devil. Well, if I am not, I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Sink or swim, I go to Him; other hope, I have none. -Charles Spurgeon
We do not pray to God to instruct Him as to what He should do; neither for a moment must we presume to dictate the method of the divine working. -Charles Spurgeon
He who has felt his own ruin will not imagine the case of any to be hopeless; nor will he think them too fallen to be worthy his regard. -Charles Spurgeon
Few men would dare to read their own autobiography if all their deeds were recorded in it; few can look back upon their entire career without a blush. -Charles Spurgeon
And here’s one that’ll make you go hmmm… What does Charles Spurgeon mean by the following? Did he believe only “certain” people were “predestined” to get into heaven?
What about Saint Augustine? Hmmm….
I believe that nothing happens apart from divine determination and decree. We shall never be able to escape from the doctrine of divine predestination – the doctrine that God has foreordained certain people unto eternal life. -Charles Spurgeon
And, for fellow Catholics, there’s this gem:
If I were a Roman Catholic, I should turn a heretic, in sheer desperation, because I would rather go to heaven than go to purgatory. -Charles Spurgeon
(Reminds me of Davy Crockett. “You can go to hell. I’m going to Texas.”)
So…. Charles Spurgeon was sort of a mish-mash. Some good stuff in his quotes, but also some questionable tenets to his faith. I don’t think I’m going to base my vote on what he said 150 years ago.
In fact, since our Mass readings today included a passage from the book of Sirach, Spurgeon, no matter how close to God he was, couldn’t possibly have read it, since the Protestants removed Sirach from the Bible. (And he would never have read it anyway, since he didn’t approve of Catholics).
So, I’m voting for Trump. If I find out that I bought myself some snake oil, I’m sure David French will tell the whole world, and say: “I told you so.”
But, what if he’s wrong?
Never Hillary, Pre-Convention Musings & a Reluctant Fisk
I Wish You Peace
Evil Never Rests