Trump overseas: A religious pilgrimage?

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Donald Trump’s upcoming journey carries strong religious overtones as well as political ones. National Public Radio broadcast a story on the trip today, reported by Tom Gjelten, and on differing views regarding actual and potential disagreements regarding the role of religion in that trip:

Donald Trump’s first overseas trip as president begins Friday with a pilgrimage of sorts. With stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, Trump will be visiting the centers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the three major monotheistic religions.

But he’s wading into deep waters with potential for missteps and disagreement. He’ll meet with Muslim leaders despite declaring that “Islam hates us” during the campaign; he’ll meet with Pope Francis, who advocates for countries to be welcoming to refugees.

“His message is going to be about unity,” said U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Responses to the trip’s message and intent include:

“The way we’ve engaged the world has been strictly in material terms,” said Robert Nicholson, founder of the Philos Project, which promotes greater religious engagement in the Middle East. “We think people do things only because of economics or because of some sort of political grievance, but in actuality religion drives huge numbers of people on this planet.”…

“You’re wading into deep waters here,” said Nicholson. “There are definitely ways Trump can make missteps, either in relating with people from these communities in his private conversations or making public mistakes in terms of what he says.”

Jonathan Sacks, “who supported a faith-based peace approach as the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom”:

“The president of the United States, through his personal standing, might be able to say, ‘Let’s make religion part of the peace process,’ ” Sacks said, “because it’s the only thing that’s been left out of it until now.”

A seminary president’s point of view:

“Just because you stand in a sacred place doesn’t mean you hear sacred truths,” said Serene Jones, president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York. “He is obviously picking and choosing [from whom] he is going to hear about these religious traditions. Clearly this is more of a political trip than one of seeking deep religious understanding.”

Gjelten points out that

Trump’s biggest challenge is likely to come in Saudi Arabia, where he is scheduled to give a speech urging Muslim leaders to promote “a peaceful vision of Islam.” Much may depend on how that speech is received, especially given his suggestion during the presidential campaign that “Islam hates us.”

Robert Nicholson:

“He needs to show that he respects Islam [and] that Muslims have dignity,” said Nicholson. “For a long time, much of the conversation in the U.S. has been that anything Muslim is bad. I think one of the most important things for him to do is to show that he understands that Muslims have a long and ancient and distinguished past, and that he respects it. I think one of the driving factors in the Islamic world is a feeling that they are not respected.”

Photo: Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. Credit: By BroadArrow at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

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leslie marshall
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leslie marshall

President Trump's main talent is schmoozing. "I will do 'x' for you, when you do 'x' for me". So easy to look down on, yet it has plenty of value.

Any modicum of peace that the Middle East has enjoyed (1500 BC to present) depended on that very thing.

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Gregory Orloff
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Gregory Orloff

"Schmoozing" does not mean engaging in quid pro quo tactics for achieving something. It is a Yiddish word with Hebrew roots that simply means "chit-chatting idly, gossiping," often with insincere flattery to appeal to the other's vanity. Not exactly a virtue or a talent...

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Lisa Ann Mauro
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Lisa Ann Mauro

I am ashamed my "fellow" Episcopalians are so intolerant to the POTUS. Look at Bill Clinton's rape of women and affairs - Monica L. Let the Church take back the real priorities and stop bashing Pres. Trump.

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Marshall Scott
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With all due respect, Sister Mauro, any sins of any president from our past (and if we honestly review all 44, they are legion) do not ameliorate concerns about President Trump or any who might succeed him.

Peaceful engagement with and honest information about other religious communities is, I think, a real priority for the Episcopal Church, both in our own deliberations and in speaking to the culture in which we live. This is a matter on which the President Trump has been, to be charitable, inconsistent. In that Middle East "inconsistencies" have concrete consequences, both locally and in the United States. Concerns about that are not categorically inappropriate, even if less charitably expressed.

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Bruce G. Kozak
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Bruce G. Kozak

Totally agree.

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leslie marshall
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leslie marshall

Agree. Why not try a different tack? (& stop all the jibing).

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Anne Dryden McKeever
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Anne Dryden McKeever

What possibly could go wrong?

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

Trump will travel first to Saudi Arabia. He'll deliver a speech written by former Breitbart associate and the Islamophobic Stephen Miller. The same Stephen Miller who penned Trump's disastrous Muslim ban.

Trump will attend of all things a country music concert featuring Toby Keith. This is the Toby Keith, who, during a 2009 Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway, stretched his eyes back in a disparaging gesture toward Asians. And the same Toby Keith who's lyrics have celebrated racism and lynchings.

The concert itself will be an all male affair. Women are barred from attending. At an event like this, and with their views towards women being fairly well known, you would have to think that Fox News would enter this affair at some point. If that thought did cross your mind, you would not be disappointed, because Bret Baier will be in attendance and will render a speech.

As this concert is an all male event, I'm thinking the odds of Fox broadcasting it are almost non-existent. It's not that the event itself wouldn't fit squarely with their ethos and values, because it does devalue women and the artist is a bigot and racist. So on that score the event is in lock step with Fox. The problem here of course is how do you fit into the broadcast women dressed in short skirts and showing cleavage? The uniform for what women are mandated to wear when on-air at Fox. Or to put it bluntly, where is the eye candy for the elderly, pasty faced white men that are at the heart of their viewer demographic?

As if all of this were not enough, Trump at some point will share a stage or venue with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. These crimes include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur.

It was stated that the Saudi's wanted to "dazzle" Donald on his visit. Bigotry, racism, misogyny are all aspects of this visit. And of course, a despicable tyrant and war criminal. Say what you will, the Saudi's clearly know what Donald Trump appreciates.

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

Witness patriarchy in full flower. Ugly as sin.

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Paul Woodrum
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"Dangerous Pilgrimage" might be more apt.

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