I’ve spent the last few days processing my emotions about not only President Trump’s violent actions towards Americans this week, but his public displays of “faith” while acting in a very non-Christian way. In regards to the peaceful protesters who were violently removed from the Lafayette Square area on Monday, I am still in disbelief. When it comes to the fact that all of it was for a photo-op, I am furious.
I want to make it clear that I am in no way a perfect Christian and I do not claim to be. I am flawed just like everyone else, and although I try my hardest to always better myself and live a more Christian life, I often fall short. Still, my faith influences all aspects of my life, especially when it comes to my political views, something very important to me. I try to always come from a place of love and do what is right, and when I don’t know what is right, I think of the most vulnerable.
Monday evening, President Trump wanted a photo-op (which was unauthorized) at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C., also considered “The Church of the Presidents” due to a long-standing tradition of Presidents attending services there. In order to get his photo, he had peaceful protesters and journalists violently removed from the streets using tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. People were injured, running through the streets trying to find safety while their own government was shooting rubber bullets at them, all because they were peacefully protesting police brutality and systematic racism. St. John’s Episcopal Church was acting as a “safe haven” for protesters in DC who were in need of help by providing water, snacks, hand sanitizer, and medical care. These volunteers were peaceful and only trying to help, yet, they were met with violence. In order to get this photo, priests and other church volunteers were sprayed with tear gas by police wearing full riot gear. So many peaceful people were met with violence, all so that President Trump could walk across Lafayette Square, pose in front of the church holding an upside-down bible, and walk back to the white house. He didn’t even stop to pray or open the bible he was holding- he just got the photo and left.
The following day, President Trump did another photo-op, this time at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington D.C. It is mind-blowing that after everything that has happened, President Trump had the audacity to take photos at the national shrine, posing in front of a statue of St. John Paul II himself, a man who spent his entire life devoted to the dignity of all humans. Quite frankly, I’m disappointed that the Knights of Columbus even allowed this to happen considering that the previous night, President Trump’s choices clearly showed that he stands against the values that St. John Paul II lived by.
I was lucky enough to grow up with St. Pope John Paul II as the head of the Catholic Church until 2005, but it wasn’t until years later that I began to realize how truly extraordinary he was. Over the past decade, I have learned so much from St. John Paul II’s teachings, greatly influencing every aspect of my life. St. John Paul II radiated love and that is something that we should all aspire to.
St. John Paul II (born as Karol Jozef Wojityla) was born in Poland during 1920 and has always been a man of peace. Even when in Nazi-invaded Poland, he refused to resort to violence, forcing him to work various jobs to avoid being deported to Germany. By the age of 20, he had lost his entire family, an experience that would eventually lead him to the priesthood. He was a true ally to the Jewish people who were being rounded up and executed because of one fact alone, that they were Jewish. Through and through, he truly believed that all humans are equal and that human dignity is a right, not a gift.
Pope John Paul II lived through a time of violence and oppression, experiencing first-hand the cruel injustices and casualties of war. He has hidden in a basement fearing for his life while German troops rounded up over 8,000 Polish men to be killed. He has cared for and protected children who should have never had to endure injustices so cruel, especially at such a young age. He had spent years of his life living in fear, witnessing things so evil that many of us can’t even begin to imagine. Still, St. John Paul II remained a peaceful and kind man. He devoted his life to doing God’s work, fighting injustices with peace, and treating every single human with the dignity they deserve. St. John Paul II is an example of the type of person we should strive to be- a person who sees the importance of every single human life, no exceptions. A person who always acts out of love.
St. John Paul II was amazing not because of what he preached to us, but because of what he showed us through his every day actions. There are so many examples to choose from but the first to come to mind is the attempted assassination. St. John Paul II preached forgiveness, and when there was an assassination attempt on his life, he immediately forgave his shooter. This man put 4 bullets in him, and still, St. John Paul II asked everyone to pray for his shooter. He visited his shooter in prison where they had a conversation that ended with peace and understanding. He kept in touch with this man’s family, and after serving 20 years in prison, St. John Paul II requested that his shooter be pardoned. He truly practiced what he preached.
St. John Paul II traveled all around the world, meeting with the everyday people, as well as different political and religious leaders. He went to countries that previous Popes have never been to, was the first Pope to visit a mosque, and the first Pope to pray at the Western Wall. He was an advocate for the people, helping to end communism in many countries. He was always calling for social justice and built relationships that brought peace to so many. He respected different races and religions and took a strong stand against cruelty and oppression. St. John Paul II would not support what is happening in America today.
President Trump is dividing our nation by promoting violence and racism. He is oppressing American citizens that are desperately screaming out to be heard, who are demanding they get the justice they deserve. President Trump tries to hide behind his “Christian values” and as a Christian, I am offended because that is not what my faith stands for.
Donald Trump is not acting like a man of God and every Christian should take time to reflect on all the events that have happened this past week. President Trump used important religious symbols for his own political gain, something that is considered blasphemy. This wasn’t about religion at all, but was actually a political stunt to gain Christian support.
In the words of St. John Paul II…
“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
“Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace…Peace will be the last word of history.”