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LONDON: Archbishop of Canterbury baffled by Christians who back Trump

LONDON: Archbishop of Canterbury baffled by Christians who back Trump

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks with 'Peston On Sunday' in London,Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock / AP

Nov. 26, 2017

England's top religious authority, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said Sunday that he doesn't understand why so many Christians in the U.S. support President Donald Trump.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby told ITV's "Peston on Sunday" program that he "really genuinely" can't comprehend why fundamentalists have provided such a strong base for Trump.

"There's two things going through my mind: do I say what I think, or do I say what I should say? And I'm going to say what I think," he said on the show, referring to the support Trump has garnered, especially from so-called Evangelical Christians. "No, I don't understand it. I really genuinely do not understand where that is coming from."

Welby did say he would be willing to attend a state dinner in Trump's honor if the president comes to Britain on an official visit.

He noted that he's met with worse people than the president of the United States.

"I spent years and years involved in conflict stuff around the world where I met people who had killed many, many people," he told ITV.

He said part of his job is to meet with people he disagrees with "and to testify with the love of Christ to them and to seek to draw them in a different way."

Trump has accepted an invitation for a state visit to Britain, but no date has been set. Though he said he'd meet Trump, Welby also said, "It'd be unlikely I'd do more than shake hands with him."

Welby: "I really, genuinely do not understand" Christian support for Trump

By Archbishop Cranmer
November 28, 2017

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was interviewed by Robert Peston on Sunday. He spoke about the British economic model, economic justice, investment, skills, apprenticeships, automation, robotics, AI, equality for all, food-banks, housing, Brexit, Northern Ireland, trade, unionist identity, the Good Friday Agreement, public enemies, and media headlines which stir up hate and division.

Before you kick him, he also spoke about Jesus's command to care for and love the poor, the judgment of the Old Testament prophets, the need to build communities by loving one another, and the imperative of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

So far, so good.

Then Peston mused about the "amazing support" which Donald Trump has from Christians in America. "Do you understand why fundamentalist Christians in America are so supportive of Donald Trump?" he asked the beaming Archbishop.

Rabbit.... headlights...

"There's two things going through my mind," Welby cogitated. "Do I say what I think, or do I say what I should say? And I'm going to say what I think."

Marvellous, thought the 'Peston on Sunday' producers, as they contemplated the imminent Twitter storm and media furore.

Marvellous, thought Christians everywhere: the transparency, integrity, honesty of the man. What a breath of fresh air.

And then it comes: "No, I don't understand it. I really, genuinely, do not understand where that is coming from," said the Archbishop, speaking exactly as he thought.

There was a bit of rambling before Peston reprised: "But the fundamental point is that you don't understand why the fundamentalist Christians in America seem to regard him as being the answer."

The Archbishop raised his hands, more in bemusement than blessing. "No," he said, "But then... I mean, you look... you look at the situation... maybe they felt... I don't know... I just have... I don't understand it, is the simple answer."

But the odd thing is he went on to provide an answer in the very minute following. Peston asked the Archbishop: "How important is truth in politics?"

And as part of his response, the Archbishop said (speaking exactly as he thought): "We need transparency and integrity and honesty. We need people who say what they think, but are wise in the way they say it and don't stir up hatred. Yes, of course truth matters a great deal: it's where there's a lack of truth that people become suspicious. And I think one of the things with much of the voting we've seen in Europe over the last couple of years comes down to the fact that a lot of people don't trust that they're being told the truth. And if they don't trust that they're being told the truth, they'll go for someone who provides often simplistic, easy answers to complex and difficult questions."

So, when the Archbishop of Canterbury tells the world that he really, genuinely, does not understand the Christian 'fundamentalist' support for Donald Trump, he might first listen to himself, because he manifestly does know.

And then he might challenge the crass use of 'fundamentalist' when applied to Christians -- which quite a few sections of the media (and Twittersphere) have interpreted as 'Evangelical' -- not least because quite a few Roman Catholics also seem to have voted for Trump. And then there's the perception (or reality) of a very slight sneer of theo-political superiority, which isn't at all uncommon among the Bishops of the Church of England:

There are Brexit-supporting Christians, and Trump-supporting Christians. It isn't for the leadership of the Church of England to pass partisan judgment on their spiritual discernment or political motives, not least because it's such an appallingly divisive witness.

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