Jesus instructed his followers to love their enemies. President Trump sometimes appears to curry favor with nations recently considered enemies or adversaries of the United States, especially Russia and China. Is he heeding Jesus’ teaching to love one’s enemies?
Lavishing blandishments and flattery on Russia’s President Putin and China’s President Xi does not communicate love. Both authoritarian rulers have enough sycophants in their governments that the rulers recognize flattery for what it is: empty words. Flattery infers shared values and perhaps obedience, neither of which should characterize U.S. relations with Russia or China.
Genuine love for enemies frequently requires speaking truth to power in a way that power is likely to hear. Using this criterion, Trump clearly does not express love for his enemies. For example, Trump failed to confront Putin about Russian interference in U.S. elections with sufficient forcefulness, relying on the word of a known prevaricator instead of the hard, substantial evidence provided by American intelligence agencies. Of course, Trump himself consistently acts as if facts are unimportant or non-existent.
Conversely, Jesus never taught us to treat friends and allies with enmity. Trump inappropriately meddles in the internal affairs of friends and allies, publicly speaks disdainfully or dismissively of allied leaders, and acts (e.g., by unilaterally imposing tariffs) as if U.S. friends and allies are adversaries rather than simply economic competitors. Competition does not necessarily presume enmity. One important lesson learned from participating in athletic competitions is adversaries on the field may be good friends off the field. Perhaps the President, crippled by a bone spur that allowed to him avoid the draft, never learned this lesson during his school years.
Evangelical Christian support for Trump’s foreign policies disturb me because they fail to apply biblical standards in their analysis of those policies. Another illustration of this assessment is that America first is not a Christian policy. God loves all people equally. Consequently, globalization, not perpetual American supremacy, is one foundational pillar of a Christian foreign policy.