A few days ago, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby was asked if he understands why Christians in the U.S. support President Trump in such large numbers. "No, I don’t understand it," said Welby. "I really, genuinely do not understand where that is coming from."
Nevertheless, there are clear signs that Trump and Welby will hit it off famously when the time comes to meet. And that might happen shortly, since the president is scheduled to visit the UK early next year. Asked he if would attend a state dinner, the archbishop said he would, "You know, part of the job is to meet people you disagree with, and to testify with the love of Christ to them and to seek to draw them in to a different way."
From my perspective, the two have a lot to agree on. For example, Welby calls himself an "evangelical" even admitting to speaking in tongues: “It’s just a routine part of spiritual discipline — you choose to speak and you speak a language that you don’t know. It just comes. . . . "
It’s well known that President Trump has become good friends with number of leading evangelicals in the U.S. — Ralph Reed, Jerry Fallwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, and Paula White. They have nearly unfettered access to the president and, recently, he took six evangelical leaders on his trip to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.
Welby’s evangelicalism can be trace back to his conversion while at Trinity College, Cambridge after years of spiritual indifference. In 1975 while praying with a Christian friend, he suddenly felt "a clear sense of something changing, the presence of something that had not been there before in my life. Though he told his friend that the experience "embarrassed" him, it didn’t keep him from declaring his evangelicalism even in the face of a hostile press.
President Trump, it must be said, has gone through some sort of conversion himself, though it probably was not as dramatic as some have claimed it to be. Trump had spoken to evangelical groups such as Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition for several years prior to his decision to run for the White House. Further, anyone who followed the trajectory of his campaign, and its rhetoric, will have noticed the gradual increase of references to Christianity.
Both men are willing to stand firm against left-wing media pressure. Last year, Welby bravely contradicted those in the UK who refused to connect ISIS with the Islamic State, "If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult — probably impossible — to overcome it. . . . This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Isis is 'nothing to do with Islam,' or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism.
Such directness befits a cleric whose mother was private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill for six years during Cold War.
There’s evidence, as well, that Welby’s appointment to Canterbury was held up because of his acknowledged evangelicalism and his less than enthusiastic support for same-sex marriage. As recently as April, a Guardian headline read, "Justin Welby unable to give 'straight answer' in whether gay sex is sinful." On this issue, the archbishop may well be to the right of our president.
They also have business acumen in common. After graduating from Cambridge, Welby became a businessman before turning to the ministry and being ordained in 1992 at the age of 36. He worked for several oil companies, one in France, and learning perfect French, which must have given him a understanding the kind of economic issues the president is seeking to correct with new trade agreements.
The president and the archbishop have also experienced the vicissitudes of marriage and family. It was only four years ago that DNA tests revealed that Welby’s father was not whom he had thought. Given his personal experience, it’s highly doubtful that the 105th archbishop of Canterbury would jump on the bandwagon of some religious leaders who have judged Trump as morally unfit to be president of the United States.
The similarities between the two men will undoubtedly make their eventual meeting much more genial and fruitful than the archbishop’s comments suggest. They will discover themselves on the same side on important issues and will encourage each other to bear the cross of a rancorous press.
Dr. Deal W. Hudson took over Crisis Magazine in 1995, leaving in 2010 to become president of Catholic Advocate. While at Crisis, Hudson led the Catholic voter outreach for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and later advised the campaigns of both John McCain and Donald Trump on Catholic outreach. In 2014, he began his weekly two-hour radio show, "Church and Culture," on the Ave Maria Radio Network, and launched www.thechristianreview.com in 2015. His books include "Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction" and "Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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