Opinion

Was Trump’s Warsaw Speech Racist and Bigoted?

President Trump has been attacked by the ever-vigilant Never Trumpers for some of the comments he made in the address he delivered while in Warsaw, Poland. Here are some of the “disturbing” things he said:

We are the freest and the greatest community of nations the world has ever known.  We write symphonies.  We pursue innovation.  We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover new frontiers.  We reward brilliance, strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God.  We treasure the rule of law—and protect the right to free expression.  We empower women as pillars of our society and our success.  We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.

*****

Just as Poland could not be broken [during World War II by the invasion of the Nazis], I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken.  Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive.  And our civilization will triumph…. So, together, let us all fight like the Poles – for family, for freedom, for country, and for God.

Sacrilege! Racist! Intolerant of diversity! That’s been the response by some. “Donald Trump referred 10 times to ‘the West’ and five times to ‘our civilization,’” liberal political commentator Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic. “His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too… The West is a racial and religious term.”

Trump got it right and the Never Trumpers got it wrong.

It’s not about race or region. It’s about religion – the Christian religion – and the source of morality and the rights it codifies into law. That’s why our Declaration of Independence includes the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

No Creator – no permanent rights. Compare our Declaration with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man that “is in the spirit of ‘secular natural law,’ which does not base itself on religious doctrine or authority, in contrast with traditional natural law theory, which does.” How are rights maintained in a matter-only cosmos where survival of the fittest reigns supreme? You might want to ask those who lost their lives under the falling sharp blade of Madame Guillotine.

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New York City, Easter, 1956

Civilization was once identified with Christianity; it was almost a synonym for it. Winston Churchill, for example, saw the Battle of Britain as a struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. “Upon this battle,” Churchill said on the 18th of June 1940, “depends the survival of Christian civilization.”1

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On May 21, 1988, Margaret Thatcher, the late former Prime Minister of Great Britain, made the following comments to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland:

We are a nation whose ideals were founded on the Bible. Also it is quite impossible to understand our literature without grasping this fact. That is the strong practical case for ensuring that children at school are given adequate instruction in the part which the Judaeo-Christian tradition has played in moulding our laws, manners and institutions. How can you make sense of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, or of the constitutional conflicts of the seventeenth century in both Scotland and England, without such fundamental knowledge? But I would go further than this. The truths of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are infinitely precious, not only, as I believe, because they are true, but also because they provide the moral impulse which alone can lead to that peace, in the true meaning of the word, for which we all long. . . .

But there is little hope for democracy if the hearts of men and women in democratic societies cannot be touched by a call to something greater than themselves. Political structures, state institutions, collective ideals are not enough. We Parliamentarians can legislate for the rule of law. . . . [Democracy requires] the life of faith. . . . as much to the temporal as to the spiritual welfare of the nation.2

In his book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Vishal Mangalwadi shows how worldviews matter, and how it was the Christian worldview created the idea of cultural exceptionalism. He begins his chapter on morality by describing a 1982 conversation he had with a Sikh gentleman who was returning to England after visiting his parents in a Punjab village in northwest India.

He explained to Mangalwadi that doing business in England was easy and profitable. The man could not speak English very well, and yet he was a successful businessman. Mangalwadi wondered, “How could someone who spoke such poor English succeed as a businessman in England?” So I asked, “Tell me, sir, why is business so easy in England?” Without pausing, he answered, “Because everyone trusts you there.”

Later in the same chapter, Mangalwadi tells the story of the time that he and his Dutch host went to a dairy farm to get some milk. There was no one to greet them or take their money. He and his host opened the tap, filled the jug, put the money in a jar, and took their change. Here was Mangalwadi’s reaction:

I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Man,” I said, “if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money!” [His host] laughed. But in that instant, I understood what the Sikh businessman had been trying to tell me.”

Mangalwadi goes on by telling how he shared “this story in a conference in Indonesia. An Egyptian participant laughed the most. As all eyes turned to him, he explained, ‘We Egyptians are cleverer than these Indians. If no one was watching, we would take the milk, the money, and the cows.’ The gentleman was too charitable toward us Indians.”3

The following paragraph from Business Week caught my eye:

Researchers who have examined the challenge of spreading Internet access throughout the world usually focus on one of three general solutions. There’s satellite access, which tends to be slow, expensive, and doesn’t function well in high-density urban areas. There’s ground-based wireless broadband, the most conventional solution, but in some parts of the world the towers where you would mount broadband transmitters would be quickly scavenged and sold as scrap metal.

It’s a problem of moral self-government that affects their culture and its lack of progress. Mangalwadi pulls all this together with an astute observation:

How did ordinary Holland become so different from our people in India and Egypt? The answer is simple. The Bible taught the people of Holland that even though no human being may be watching us in that dairy farm, God, our ultimate judge, is watching to see if we obey his commands neither to covet nor steal. According to the Bible, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” [Heb. 4:13].4

Have Christians been perfect? They haven’t been. There have been some great sins committed in the name of God and a denial or a misreading of His moral law as a result of it being read through a secular prism like Aristotelianism. But it’s because there is a God with a revealed moral law that can be used to determine if our actions are immoral and need repentance. There is no “ultimate judge” in Beinart’s worldview to whom he can appeal.

Christianity made the West possible and prosperous for those born in the West and to those who embraced Western values. There are numerous books that make the case: Rodney Stark’s How the West Won, Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Alvin J. Schmidt’s Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, Robert Royal’s The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, Clifford Hill’s The Wilberforce Connection, J. Wesley Bready’s England: Before and After Wesley, Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi’s William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of Culture, and Paul A. Cleveland’s Understanding the Modern Culture Wars: The Essentials of Western Civilization.

How many of you remember when Stanford dropped its Western Civilization course “just months after the Reverend Jesse Jackson came on campus and led members of the Black Student Union in chants of ‘Hey-hey, ho-ho, Western Civ has got to go.’ More recently, faculty at the University of Texas condemned ‘Western civilization’ courses as inherently right wing, and Yale even returned a $20 million contribution rather than reinstate the course.”5

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Civilizations abhor a vacuum. While Western Civilization is not perfect, it’s what made the United States the beacon to the world. The leftists want to throw out the baby with the bath water. “Follow the left to its logical conclusion. You must embrace your own destruction or you are racist and crazy. You have been the majority. You must be brought down. The West is evil. White people are evil. The only remedy is to get rid of them. Abort them. Flood their countries with immigrants. Replace their religions, their history, and their culture.”6 In the end, we may end up with an Islamic Caliphate as a replacement. Good luck with that.

  1. Quoted in John Baillie, What is Christian Civilization? (London:  Oxford University Press, 1945), 5. []
  2. Quoted in Michael Alison and David L. Edwards, eds., Christianity and Conservatism (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1990), 337­–338. Cited by Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 161-162. []
  3. Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World, 249-251. []
  4. Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World, 254. []
  5. Rodney Stark, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2014), 1. []
  6. Tom Canaday, from Facebook []
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