‘The enemy of my enemies’–Trump and the American church

But if the church supports Trump, it will be linked in the eyes of the world to every scandal he creates.

The church should not support a reprehensible person only because he is “the enemy of our enemies.” That’s been tried before, to disastrous effect.

In the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War, the Catholic church in Spain was increasingly under attack by the secular government of the Republic and various leftist political groups, specifically the communist, socialist, and anarchist movements. The church fought back but still saw its influence diminishing. When war broke out in 1936, General Franco was the leader of the Nationalist forces fighting to overthrow the Spanish Republic, and he was waging war against the very groups that were attacking the church.

Many in the church, from Pope Pius XI to local church leaders, saw in Franco a savior and a righteous avenger, fighting the groups that had persecuted the church. [1] Pius XI in particular, because of “Vatican policy and with an innate fear of Soviet Marxism…sided with Franco’s cause during the Spanish Civil War,” although he seems to have regretted it later. [2]

A damaging legacy

The Spanish Civil War lasted only 3 years, but it cast a long shadow over the country. Franco ruled for almost 40 years and was a cruel and repressive dictator. Mass graves of the thousands and thousands of people he had executed are still being discovered. [3]

The people have mostly forgotten the enemies that Franco fought, but they have not forgotten that the church supported him.

Because the Catholic church supported Franco, “the enemy of their enemies,” the church is still associated with his horrific legacy. I lived in Spain for several years after college and when I told people I was a Christian, or mentioned the church, Franco’s name almost always came up. The people have mostly forgotten the enemies that Franco fought, but they have not forgotten that the church supported him.

Let us learn from their mistakes. Donald Trump is no Generalísimo Francisco Franco, of course, and the damage he can do as president is probably limited by a divided congress and our political system. But if his life and campaign are any indication, he will always be followed by scandal and dishonor. If we as the American church support him, we will be forever associated with his legacy. We will look foolish and immoral for having supported him, but even worse we will attach Christ’s name to a man who is not at all like Christ.

[1] Franco and the Catholic Church

[2] Pius XI and Franco (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Pius_XI.aspx)

[3] Spaniard, 90, finally finds her father, killed by Franco’s forces 77 years ago