In the wake of the November election, I wrote that President-elect Trump’s opposition to free global trade was not only bad economics but downright immoral. Looking back to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the case is made that if The Donald is to define neighborly based on America first (to the exclusion or detriment of our extended neighbor network), then he’s missed the point of what the Christ advocated.
The message of Jesus is clear. Eternity belongs to the neighborly – even when it may cost to be neighborly. And in the end, squeezing our global neighbors will prove counterproductive. The road kill we pass by will inevitably include our own.
In this sequel to the earlier blog, a counterargument is made from another event during Jesus’ ministry. That counterclaim is that Jesus argued that taking care of your own comes before taking care of the alien, the other. Is Jesus contradicting himself? Or How are these two seemingly opposed viewpoints to be reconciled? And what practical advice can be drawn for application to the steps that Mr. Trump may take upon inauguration.
And was asked in the first installment of this blog discussion, the question is posed: What would Jesus say about being pro- or anti-trade?
Jesus A Racist?
For a different perspective on how the Christ – the anointed one – might react we look not to a parable but to perhaps the most perplexing encounter that Jesus has with a stranger as recorded in the Christian New Testament. As recounted by the gospels of Matthew and Mark, this is Jesus’ encounter with a Gentile woman from the non-Jewish area of Tyre and Sidon (in present day Lebanon). Jesus deliberately left communities in the Galilee with Jewish population to venture into less familiar Gentile territory. He finds and enters a house where he could be incognito. But alas, his whereabouts are soon discovered – by a women desperate to find a cure for her demon possessed daughter.
The exchange that then unfolds between the male rabbi and the female foreigner is nothing short of astounding:
- The Canaanite woman cries out to Jesus: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.
- Jesus doesn’t answer – but ignores this foreigner, this alien.
- Jesus’ disciples pile on, urging Jesus to “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
- Then to make sure the welcome mat is withdrawn, Jesus for once supports the logic of his disciples, saying: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Implication: Preferred access to God’s kingdom is for the Jewish population to the exclusion of all others.
- The woman tries again, calling out to him: “Lord, help us.”
- At this point, the Savior of the universe comes across as more than a little bit perturbed, answering: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Meaning little bitches, or at best little puppies. The debate over what Jesus meant rages down over 20 centuries. What we do know is that dogs were not man’s best friend in Jewish culture – but were low on the animal pecking order. As the Proverbs say, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.”
- In today’s world, Jesus remark would be taken as blatantly racist, certainly not politically correct. But this alien woman holds her ground, bypasses the insult, and responds with even a bit of good humor: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
- She has the better of the exchange and Jesus caves: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed “that very hour.”
So, What Does this Have to do with Donald Trump & Global Trade?
Put yourself in the shoes of Jesus Christ – or Donald Trump. Do you see much difference?
- Both demean the foreigner
- Both espouse taking care of the people at home first
- Both deliberatly insult the one(s) who come across as their adversary
- Both engage in what at least appears to be racist rhetoric
- And both are engaged in no holds barred negotiation.
Jesus makes a 180° turn, yielding to the woman’s better reasoned case. The Donald has shown, in some cases, similar flexibility (witness his bromances with Dr. Ben Carson, maybe even Mitt Romney). Could he cave on trade as well?
And the Moral of the Story Is …
Put aside the apparent put-downs, the seeming racism, the disingenuous baiting of the audience, the blatant inequity of parochialism. Admittedly, these are thorny moral questions. But morality may be irrelevant to outcome.
What is on display with Jesus and Mr. Trump is the willingness, the seeming reckless abandon, to push for resolution that would not have been possible without an adversarial encounter.
And What does this Mean for the Global Community?
Based on the parable of the Good Samaritan, I have argued that President-elect Trump’s opposition to free global trade is not only bad economics but downright immoral. How is the example of the caring Good Samaritan to be reconciled with the image of a grasping Canaanite woman and her belligerent all-powerful adversary?
The answer comes down to the distinction between free trade and fair trade:
- The example of the Good Samaritan speaks loudly for free trade – a world where every nation, every person is our neighbor.
- The example of the Canaanite woman speaks volumes for fair trade – if you’re going to get, you have to give.
So, it is for Mr. Trump. Uphold the global community. Reward those who can do more for less – for improved standard of living and reduced environmental footprint.
Concurrently, push without ceasing for exchange that recognizes the full cost versus benefit for all transacting parties.
And if it all involves a bit of hard-edged politics along the way, so be it.
Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite) Woman (Matthew 15:21-28, NKJV)
Then Jesus went out from there (around the Sea of Galilee) and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
But He answered her not a word.
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
For the first installment (Part 1) of Jesus vs. Trump on Trade, click: https://jesustheheresy.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/jesus-vs-trump-on-trade
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