Saturday, March 18, 2017

Leaders of the Free World

Yesterday, I watched the first pictures of Angela Merkel and Donald Trump.  Angela Merkel has fascinated me for many years now--she's one of the first world leaders who is a woman, and she has a doctorate in physical chemistry--and the element which may fascinate me most is that she's the daughter of a Lutheran minister who came of age in communist East Germany.

I've spent some time trying to discover what strand of Lutheranism shaped her.  It seems that the East German government was somewhat permissive when it came to letting her father be a pastor--not what I was taught about communists when I was young.  But she also took part in communist youth activities which were almost compulsory, if one wanted opportunities.

What a difference from Donald Trump's youth and young adulthood.  And as older adults, their paths have not been similar.  My admiration for Merkel comes from many of her actions, but my love of Merkel comes from how she has handled the question of refugees.  I love her sense of hospitality and care for the stranger.  But underlying all of that is something else.  I get the sense that these refugees will be taken in and transformed into Germans, with jobs, who will give back to society for the next wave of people who will need them. 

It's much the way that Lutheran groups in the U.S. have helped refugees become citizens with a strong helping hand in the beginning, but an overall design at creating self-sufficient members of a new land.

It's clear from his budget that Donald Trump does not have the same values undergirding him as Angela Merkel does. It's a budget that worships military power while gutting every single program that helps people who are dispossessed from the larger society.  It is impossible to imagine Angela Merkel proposing such a budget.

I suspect that Angela Merkel's Lutheran beliefs are somewhat different than mine; I'm fairly sure we would disagree on what constitutes a marriage, for example.  But there are core beliefs that we find across almost all variations of Lutheranism (and much of Christianity for that matter), and that I don't see in this current administration:  care for the powerless, care for the dispossessed, care for those in the lower parts of society. 

We can disagree about how that care is distributed, but I always look at where we spend the money.  Budgets speak volumes about our values. 

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