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Walls Aren't the Problem with Donald Trump's Faith

That’s Great, But It’s Not Enough

Many people, and undoubtedly many who consider themselves Christian, share this basic belief: if I’m a good person, I will get into heaven when I die. So long as the good deeds outweigh the bad, who really cares if I’m not perfect?

According to Christian doctrine, God cares—and He cares a great deal. The Bible clearly states that everyone sins, and the punishment for sin is death. Worse, God only allows entirely perfect people to enter His heavenly kingdom, and the number of entirely perfect people was zero, until a certain carpenter showed up in Galilee.

John 3:16 is probably the most oft-quoted verse in the Bible, but it’s hard to find a more succinct rendering of what Christians call “the Gospel.” “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” God wanted to redeem human beings from the punishment they deserved, but in order to do that, someone else had to take the penalty on himself.

Jesus died on the cross to provide that redemption. Christians believe that, in doing so, he opened the way for people to restore their broken relationship with God and enter heaven. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus consistently preaches a message of good news and faith—but he always emphasizes repentance. The love of Christ comes at a cost. He had to die, and you have to confess your sins and believe in him.

The Importance of Confession and God’s Forgiveness

A central doctrine of Christianity is the idea that only God can truly forgive sin. If I steal from you, for instance, I have not only wronged you, but also wronged God my maker. I should repent and return what I stole, but you are not the only aggrieved party. Since I have a duty to God to love my neighbor as I love myself, I must apologize to Him and ask forgiveness, even when it seems like I have only wronged you.

Every Christian tradition follows Jesus’s commandment to remember his death and sacrifice until his second coming. This is commonly known as “Communion,” and Trump referred to it when he said “I drink my little wine and have my little cracker.”

Catholics are not supposed to take part in communion unless they are in a “state of grace,” which means they have not committed any major sins. Before taking communion, a Catholic must attend confession—where she confesses her sins to a priest and God grants forgiveness through that priest.

Most Protestant churches have a public confession, which everyone says before they take part in communion. In the Anglican church I attend, we confess that “we have sinned against [God] in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”

Trump’s comment that “when I go to church and when I drink my little wine and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of forgiveness,” might show that he vaguely remembers asking for forgiveness in a corporate prayer. His initial response, however, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness,” hints that, when it comes to communion, Trump goes through the motions of praying the confession, but does not really confess in his heart.

In short, Trump may be the kind of Christian who goes to church, says and does the right things, but does not take his relationship with God seriously. It goes too far to say he is “not Christian,” but it seems unlikely that his personal faith guides and directs his life.

When it comes to the business of making and enforcing laws, this may not be such a bad thing. A general sense of morality may be more important than true belief in a public figure. But for the self-described evangelicals who say it matters whether a candidate “shares your beliefs,” Trump seems an odd fit.