There’s been a lot of buzz over President Trump’s remarks in a meeting with Democratic congressmen, referring to specific third world countries as “sh*tholes.” Some allege he didn’t say them, others point to circumstantial evidence such as his lack of denial at first, other sources claiming he did it deliberately thinking it would play well to his base (it certainly did). I don’t doubt that calling third world countries insulting names in front of mixed company is the mark of, like, a very smart, very stable genius (whom we’re lucky to have, unlike those poor sh*tholes), but never mind that for a moment.
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Pretend he did, or didn’t, based on whatever it is you want to be true, for the duration of this article. I was inspired to look at this from a completely different angle after reading an article by Peter Heck at The Resurgent, titled “Jesus Liked ‘Crapholes.’” He noted that in such places, the Gospel of Christ advances most readily and takes root deepest.
Jesus loves the humble, the miserable, the meek, the hungry, the poor, the oppressed. The message of Jesus is love and compassion, and seeing His children in that state moved Him to great acts of compassion, and His instructions to the rest of us on the matter are clear: “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)
What causes me some concern is less whatever Trump did or didn’t say, and more the fact that so many hope he said that. They like the thought of him needlessly insulted a bunch of foreign countries in public (speaking in front of a party as hostile to him as the Democrats, is effectively in public). They want a more arrogant, sneering, contemptuous attitude, from our highest office, no less, and that is what is worrisome.
Arrogance looks good on no one, be they rich or poor, famous or anonymous. Nobody has room to boast: “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (James 4:16). Who are we to snidely condemn them and their homes? Does that reflect well on us in the eyes of anyone except a few other arrogant, mean-spirited and un-American types? The people in these destitute places frequently have little or no clean water, food, or clothing.
They somehow manage to avoid fussing about microaggressions, 9001 genders, aborting their babies, or apologizing for the distant past that they had no hand in. It seems to me that their worries, fears, aspirations, and perspectives are remarkably grounded, in contrast to the silliness we have the luxury to fret so much about. Luxury is exactly the word that applies to all of us in America, even the poorest.
We have such relative freedom from want, fear that we invent things to be upset about, to feel deprived over, like whether we include “Non-binary” genders in our government application forms. I’m not saying we need to allow unlimited immigration or throw away money at projects that are doing more harm than good.
I’m saying that we had better take a good hard look at them, and abstain from a snobbish, heartless attitude. It does no right, either for them or for us. What I’m saying is that we need to remember that these people in “sh*tholes” are still people, created in God’s image like the rest of us. After all, despite our current place in the world, there is actually very little separating us from them. God’s mercy and blessings are what keeps us from being reduced (by say, nuclear war with Russia or China) to a state even more miserable than the lowliest Haitian.
If (or perhaps, when) that happens, what will happen when we go looking for aid and mercy if we have sneered arrogantly at others who were looking for such? Will the other nations of the world be inclined to show compassion and mercy if we suddenly find ourselves reduced to begging? Will God? On my Facebook page, I have laid out the way of charity in greater detail.
I do not want to live in a nation of tightfisted, heartless peoplethe world's crisisbecause such people are going to be just as unpleasant to me or other Americans, as they are to the less well-off in those faraway places. Such people are the last people I want to face adversity with since they will take the shock of having the tables turned even more poorly than most, even crueler and savage in desperation. I do not claim to have all the answers on how to solve the worlds crisis of poverty and hunger, and that is not within the scope of this simple article.
However, I have thought of some ideas, most of them entailing economic pressure on the corrupt autocrats that subject their people to such misery (democracies almost always find a way to get enough to eat, by growing or by trade). By forcing these governments to open up in meaningful ways (and withholding aid until they do, since they often simply pilfer it anyway), we may be able to alleviate some of the world’s suffering and war. Note that these are problems that have no permanent solutions, this side of Christ’s return.
These are problems that will be with us for as long there are humans because these problems stem from flaws innate to the human condition, a consequence of free will. “The poor you will always have with you,” warns Christ (Matthew 26:11), but that doesn’t mean we have a license to do nothing. God calls upon us to be compassionate, to show each other the love that He has shown us, not because we can ever be good enough, but to show that however imperfect we may be, love is what is in our hearts. Virtue is a direction of travel, not a destination. Let us always seek to be humble, and remember that the good things we have, that others do not, were given to us from above.
We have absolutely nothing, except what God sees fit to provide for us, in His mercy: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). Look good and hard at the miserable, the hungry, the destitute, the dying, the oppressed, the condemned.
Note well their fate and remember the prescient words of John Bradford: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”