A lesson in humility is exactly what Donald Trump needs


"Donald Trump goes to church... and gets a lesson in humility," so the headlines ran this morning. All over the world, people woke up to the news that the Republican frontrunner was hit with a rather timely sermon in Iowa yesterday: a message on humility.

According to the Associated Press, the minister at Muscataine's First Presbyterian Church – visited by Trump on Sunday – gave a sermon in which she highlighted the biblical call for Christians to serve and advocate on behalf of vulnerable people.

"Jesus is teaching us today that he has come for those who are outside of the church," Rev Dr Pamela Saturnia said, "those who are the most unloved, the most discriminated against, the most forgotten in our community and in our world".

She directly pointed to Syrian refugees and migrants from Mexico as those to whom Jesus offers freedom and value. Both groups have been targeted by Trump, who has taken a hard line on immigration and even pledged to build a giant wall between Mexico and the US.

The presidential candidate later joked with reporters: "We talked about humility in church today. I don't know if that was aimed at me, perhaps."

According to the New York Times, he then qualified this backstage, adding: "I have more humility than people think".

Humility and Trump aren't often words you find in the same sentence. During the second GOP debate last year, he said that "everything I've done virtually has been a tremendous success". But it's not the first time he's laid a claim to humility, tweeting in 2013:

Quite bold, especially coming from a guy who recently suggested he could shoot someone in the street and not lose any voters, and on the same day retweeted this:

So, humility. Trump. He thinks he's got a lot of it, the majority of us – especially those of us Brits who remain bewildered by his candidacy – aren't so sure.

I wonder if Trump, when pointing out the similarities between himself and the Pope in December 2013, had in mind Francis' statement made just a couple of weeks previously:

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

These words come from the Pope's Evangelii Gaudium, meaning The Joy of the Gospel – the mission statement for his papacy. In the 85-page document, Francis called for a fairer economic system and for the protection of the poor and vulnerable. "Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor," he wrote.

"If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, 'those who cannot repay you' (Luke14:14)."

More recently, the Pope has called for refugees to be treated with the dignity they deserve. "At the heart of the gospel of mercy, the encounter and acceptance by others are intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God himself," he said last October. "Welcoming others means welcoming God in person!" He's also urged people of all faiths to work together, declaring that everyone – regardless of their religion – is a child of God.

Trump, who has called for all Syrian refugees to be banned from the US, does not have the poor's best interests at the heart of his policy-making. In his bid to "make America great again" he has turned his back on the plight of millions, who have nowhere to go.

Through fostering a climate of Islamophobia and fear, he is in danger of creating an America that is, in Francis' words, "clinging to its own security", at the expense of hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of lives.

In Philippians 2, Paul urges Christians to imitate Jesus' humility; "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant," (v6-7)

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit," Paul says in verse 3, "Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others".

This is a huge call, and not an easy one to accept or live out. It won't come naturally, even – dare I say it – to the Pope. So yes, we all need a lesson in humility. And if Trump is to become the next President of the United States, I hope he learns fast.