me the Pharisee and Trump the publican

This story is the context for my thoughts on President Trump.
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Luke 18:9-14  (NIV) The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In the King James English, a "publican" is a tax collector. In Jesus' times, the Romans recruited locals to collect taxes for them. If one worked for the Romans as a publican, one shook down the locals to deliver the obligated amount to them, and shook down some more to finance your salary. They were not popular in general, but in the Jewish context perhaps more so as they worked for the idol-worshiping oppressors. The Romans were wrong theologically which compounded the distaste the faithful Jews had for their brethren who worked for them.

In short, the publicans worked for the enemy and profited handsomely. They did not lack in material needs and seemed to not suffer any punishment from the heavens. They kept getting away with it: robbing, doing evil, fornicating. But they still sought God. The only way the oppressed could exercise retribution against them was in religious judgment. In Jesus' story, the self-righteous Pharisee did exactly that. Praying loud enough to praise himself and condemn his neighbor, also praying, in humility. The publican asked God for mercy, and the self-righteous Bible scholar had none to offer. But God did, because love wins.

As I took a walk today and reflected on this story, I asked myself, a progressive, liberal christian, if I still had mercy for President Trump. He says awful things. His administration bullies the marginalized constantly. But I need to be self aware to not conflate my negative judgment of hateful policies with negative judgment of a hateful person. Just as the immigrant children detained at the border in Texas because of his inhumane white nationalist policies need mercy, he does too.

Mercy precedes the plea, because mercy is the nature of God. Mercy enables confession, but doesn't demand it. 


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