In Trump’s case, it doesn’t take a pope to know he’s a terrible Christian. I’m Jewish, and don’t believe in God, and even I feel confident saying it is so.
There are lots of flavors of Christianity and plenty of garnishes and sauces you can add or subtract to your worship. Wars over petty differences have shed countless gallons of blood. There are Christians who happily drive their daughters to the abortion clinic, and Christians who kick their sons out of the house for being gay.
But there a few basics — some bare-minimum standards — you should meet if you want to use the label “Christian,” especially if you want to call yourself (as Trump has) an evangelical.
There are the doctrinal requirements, of course: You’ve got to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. We can’t know whether Trump believes that in his heart of hearts. But you should at least make some kind of minimal head-fake toward following Jesus’ actual teachings if you want to call yourself a Christian, right? You should be a little humble, a little decent, a little concerned with the plight of your fellow man?
Donald Trump is a black hole of humility; no self-deprecating thought can escape the gravitational pull of the delusion he has built for himself. Remember when he attacked Carly Fiorina’s appearance? He believes he is physically attractive enough to insult Carly Fiorina’s appearance. “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness,” he once asked, “if I am not making mistakes?” (His first two wives might disagree.)
As for whether Trump is at all decent: He hasn’t been caught on tape kicking puppies or telling small children Santa isn’t real. He seems to love his kids, even if he’s super creepy about it sometimes. But that’s bare-minimum-to-be-called-human decency, not the stuff that Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted,” said Jesus; Trump wants to deport 11 million immigrants, gleefully breaking up families.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”; Trump wants to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”; Trump bullies Jeb Bush into submission, calling him weak and constantly interrupting him like the world’s most obnoxious big brother.
Trump is cruel to those around him and crueler in the policies he proposes. He claims the Bible is his favorite book (his own Art of the Deal a close second — seriously), but if he’s ever cracked it open he certainly hasn’t absorbed any of its important lessons.
The pope didn’t name Trump or specifically question his Christianity. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian,” Francis said. “This is not the gospel.” And while conservatives Internet-outraged all over the Holy Father for questioning someone else’s Christianity, we all know Trump’s claims to be an evangelical Christian are laughable. Do you honestly think Donald Trump has ever tried to spread the word? Can you imagine Donald Trump on his knees, supplicating to a God he believes has complete power over his life, asking to be saved? (Saved from what?, you can hear him asking. My billions of dollars? The greatest buildings in the world? My model wife?)
Pope Francis may not think much of Trump’s religiosity, but the star of Celebrity Apprentice and his own sexual fantasies has managed to get his bona fides verified by a few choice evangelical stars. Like Trump, Sarah Palin and Jerry Falwell Jr. know something about entertaining a crowd, and they aren’t shy about making their religion into a public performance. They claim Trump is Christian enough for them, and should be Christian enough for you — which reduces the meaning of their own religious beliefs to nearly nothing.
You don’t have to be the Vicar of Christ to judge whether Trump is a practicing Christian; you just have to listen to what he says.