In a recent article, “The Theology of Donald Trump,” Peter Wehner criticizes “…the fulsome embrace of Mr. Trump by Evangelical pastors…” because Trump’s theology is sharply at odds with the Gospel message of Christ and more in line with a Nietzschean God of power.
But what about Hillary Clinton’s theology?
At a private rally for conservative Evangelicals in New York, Trump indulged the crowd: “We don’t’ know anything about Hillary in terms of religion.” Hillary’s supporters either refused to respond to this kind of assault, or they were unable to respond because presumably, they didn’t know much about the theological underpinnings of her message.
It’s true that Hillary doesn’t assure us that her favorite book is the Bible (like Trump does), but she does assure us that being a Christian means the gap in American life between the expectation and the reality of our God-given dignity is morally unacceptable.
Political commentators criticized the Clinton campaign for not having a clear message coming out of the gate, but that’s because they failed to hear the profound faith expressed in her politics. Hillary’s theology and her politics are one and the same, and the key that unlocks them both is at the heart of her rhetoric of rights: “…we are going to defend our rights: civil rights, voting rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities,” because they are human rights.
Her message is the politics of universal human rights, and it is an inclusive worldview grounded in two radically inclusionary theologies at the heart of Christianity.
First, we possess in our person inalienable rights because of the irreducible fact of our worthiness and equality as fully formed human beings. This is the theology of dignity and it is the Christian belief that we must place the well being of the human person at the center of our worldview and our public policy debate. The consequence of a theology of dignity is that the organization of society by competing in human degradation is a social sin.
Secondly, the existential fact of our worthiness is irreducible from any and all forms of degradation because it is given equally to all of us by virtue of our common humanity. This is the theology Imago Dei (in the image of God) and it is the Christian belief that Christ died to make all of human existence not only fully human, but also, fully worthy of the divine. Christ taught that the blessed community is not created through individual greed and power, but rather through empathy and political communion.
A theology of dignity is central to Christian social teaching. The Catholic and Protestant traditions teach that the core of our faith is resistance to a theology of power that Donald Trump and his propagandists like Dobson, Falwell, Metexas, and Jeffress spew. Theirs is a theology in bad faith–perfectly inauthentic to the Gospel message of Christ–and it destroys, in one fell swoop, the two most radically inclusive theologies at the heart of what makes Christianity Christ-like. What is Christ-like is challenging a bad faith politics that subordinates the universality of human worthiness and equality, and a preservation of the subsequent rights that are divinely bound to it.
In Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home), he reminds us that “those who are committed to defending human dignity can find in the Christian faith the deepest reason for this commitment (par. 65).” Human dignity is the hermeneutical precondition that makes Catholic social teaching a critical force capable of introducing inclusionary public policies into the moral imagination of American society. While there is not a direct parallel in the Evangelical community of a social teaching canon, there are efforts to compile thought leaders’ moral reflections on Evangelical involvement in politics that insists our God-given dignity be placed at the center of our public policy debate. In Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation, Glen Stassen also reminds us that Jesus’ central teachings involve nonviolent resistance against the politics of greed, war, and the abuse of power.
All of Christian social teaching, both Catholic and Evangelical, is grounded in one fundamental theology: the person’s intrinsic worth is tied to an irreducible dignity and equality that is shared with others’ dignity and equality, Imago Dei.
Hillary Clinton’s theology is a theology in good faith–perfectly authentic to the Gospel message of Christ–because it is grounded in this theology, and also the tradition of Christian social teaching that insists human rights are inalienable and must be defended against reductive political, social, and economic distortions.
Wehner is right when he says that Trump’s theology is a theology of power that is incompatible with Christianity. But we have a theological, moral, and political alternative.
The alternative is Hillary Clinton’s theology of dignity and it’s future vision of an American society based on universal human rights.
Hillary’s opponents have questioned her religion, authenticity, and trustworthiness. We need to take a deeper look at the theological facts to help clear up any misinterpretations about her social justice Methodism and her courage to fight a Goliath who insists on competing in human degradation. Hillary Clinton’s theology of dignity and politics of universal human rights is what makes her an authentic human being–as a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, and as a politician.
Regardless of whether she wins in November or not, she should be held in the highest esteem as a Christian who is fighting to displace an anti-Christian theology at the center of American politics and replace it with a Christian theology that puts the dignity of the human person at the center.
Hillary Clinton should not be voted for because she’s a woman, but because she’s a woman in good faith—one that will defend the worthiness and equality of us all.