The Hamilton Spectator

Juxtaposit­ion of Trump, Navalny


A tale of two Christians, a tale of two versions of Christiani­ty. In his super-extravagan­t homes and on his private jet, former U.S. president Donald Trump claims to follow Jesus, yet abuses and insults those who disagree with him, lies about and libels his critics and empowers mass hatred and bigotry.

His allegedly Christian followers roar their opposition to justice and equality, cherry-pick and misinterpr­et the Bible and promote the oxymoron of Christian nationalis­m.

It’s a stinking mess of exploitati­on, not only of the words and actions of the man who 2,000 years ago lived in poverty and preached love and inclusion, but of a Gospel truth that at its best has inspired some of the greatest and finest champions of goodness and change.

For the second version of Christiani­ty we have to look to Russia, Moscow and to a remote and terrifying penal colony in the Arctic.

That’s where Alexei Navalny was incarcerat­ed and almost certainly killed for challengin­g Vladimir Putin, who Trump has repeatedly praised and who countless conservati­ve Christians see as the great hope of their cause.

During his trial in 2021, Navalny quoted the Gospel of Matthew, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousn­ess” and described how the words of Jesus inspired his politics and activism.

Unlike Trump, he was always reluctant to make his faith overly public or political, but said that being a follower of Christ meant that he had “fewer dilemmas” and that scripture provided him with a guide. He spoke often of how he thought Jesus would behave in various situations.

This wasn’t akin to those people who attach WWJD — what would Jesus do — bumper stickers to their cars, but something far more profound and real. Living a Christ-like life in the most appalling conditions and retuning to Russia knowing that he would be arrested and likely murdered.

Navalny wasn’t always supported in his faith, either by allies or opponents.

Many in the anti-Putin movement are strongly atheistic and some of the most strident supporters of the Russian despot are active in the Russian Orthodox Church. Nor was he a lifelong believer but came to faith later in life, as are a number of people, some quite prominent, who look for a spiritual and philosophi­cal underpinni­ng to their objection to oppression and tyranny.

This juxtaposit­ion, this glaring difference, between those who try to twist the Prince of Peace into a reactionar­y warlord and those who see him as the great rebel he truly was, has always been there of course.

St. Francis of Assisi in the early 1200s on the one hand, medieval popes with lavish palaces on the other; Anglican bishops investing in the slave trade in the 18th century and the abolitioni­st movement led by evangelica­l ministers and politician­s; church leaders in Nazi Germany remaining silent or saying little and heroes such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sophie Scholl, giving their lives to oppose Hitler. The latter was beheaded for her Christian witness.

Today, most of us who are Christian will never, thank goodness, face choices that put our lives at risk. But other challenges are still there. The world looks on — many if not most readers of this column may look on — and see Christiani­ty linked to conspiracy theories, arch-conservati­sm and frankly an ugliness that repels rather than attracts. It breaks my heart.

I don’t blame people for being repulsed by what they see, but I urge them to scrape away the dirty rust and sometimes even the pretty packaging and realize what is truly there.

Scholl, martyred by the Nazis, said, “Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone” and, “An end in terror is preferable to terror without end.” She was 21 years old when she was killed.

It’s not my job or intention to convert but merely to try to set the record straight. Alas, it’s becoming increasing­ly difficult.

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