Nursing A Goose Egg: Why Trump’s S***hole Comments Caused a Stir
Written by Rhett Burns on January 24, 2018
It has been two weeks since President Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti and some African nations as “s***hole countries” in a meeting with congressional officials discussing immigration policy. In the wake of these comments, his detractors offered their collective outrage online for a few days, calling President Trump racist and xenophobic. Many Christians joined fury. They posted photos on social media of their adopted child’s country of origin or the location of their latest short-term mission trip, admonishing the president that there are no s***hole countries. But now the news cycle has shifted. In the intervening time, the government has shut down and reopened, and new allegations have surfaced that Trump paid $130,000 in hush money to cover up an illicit romp with a porn star several years ago. The high priests of secularism are offering their sacrifices of anger on new altars. Who has time to talk about s***hole countries now?
But I think we should go back and review the tape. Why did this episode cause such a stir? Why did so many people pitch a hissy fit over Trump’s words? It can’t simply be his profanity, for he is the latest in a long line of profane presidents. People got worked up because Trump hit a cultural idol between the eyes. The goddess Egalitarianism is nursing a goose egg, and, in a huff of fussiness, she retorts, “Racist!” It is both her battle cry and her weapon. She is insulted at the rather obvious notion that some countries are more dysfunctional than others, and that some cultures are superior to others. Therefore, she must wage war against anyone who dares to say what their eyes see. This is because she is actually at war with God. Superior cultures are not built by superior people—there are no superior people. Superior cultures are built on grace, the sheer grace of God to all of us inferior people. Stable, prosperous, just nations are nations where the Gospel has borne fruit and people have collectively submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. Egalitarianism hates God because she is not God. She envies God; therefore, she must fight to destroy what God has built. Envy always flattens. Envy always destroys.
In this case, the charge of racism does not hold. There is nothing intrinsically racist about calling a place a s***hole, just ask the good people of southern Ohio and West Virginia. Affluent people have called their hometowns s***holes for years. It may be rude, elitist, and crass—it is definitely not speech befitting an upright man—but it is not racist. What does s***hole even mean? It is slang for a dirty, shabby, unpleasant place. When applied to countries, I would argue that it also carries the primary connotation of dysfunction. If anything in this little episode approached racism, it was the response of the progressive left and the soft right, who jumped at yet another opportunity to brand President Trump as racist. When someone describes a place as dirty and dysfunctional, and your first response is to attribute that dysfunction to their race, then, congratulations! You are the racist. Simply acknowledging dysfunction is not bigoted.
All of us, if we’re honest, do recognize dysfunction and difference in the world. We all know nasty places exist, places we would rather not live. Isn’t this fact one of the reasons we send money to such places, both in the form of private charity and government foreign aid? Isn’t that the reason so many faithful Christian families have adopted children from poor nations? Isn’t the turmoil in their own lands why we want to allow some of them to immigrate to our country? You can’t have it both ways. You cannot say that there are no s***holes in the world and that we must allow multitudes of immigrants in because their countries are such s***holes. It’s one or the other. We could do without the profanity, of course.
Why are some places dysfunctional? Sin. Sin is the root of dysfunction, and wreaks havoc on nations. In any given area of dysfunction there is some combination of its own people sinning and others sinning against them. This reality means at least two things. First, the Gospel is the only remedy for sin, therefore it is the only hope for places of deep dysfunction. While opening up immigration for some people from some of the world’s most distraught countries remains an option for an expression of a nation’s charity, Christians should prioritize missions, evangelism, and church planting so that the Gospel can take root and transform that society. Only a select few will ever be able to immigrate to a more prosperous and stable nation. But when the Gospel takes root in a society, everyone in that society benefits.
Second, we must repent of some of our most grievous national sins: those that involve the unwarranted intervention and meddling in the affairs of other nations. That is, we must deal with where we have been the ones sinning against these poorer nations. We live in an odd time, when if a president says mean things about a country, then he is literally Hitler. If you, in turn, mildly suggest that this accusation misappropriated both words—literally and Hitler—then you are branded a Nazi enabler. But if, at the direction of a president, our government bombs nations without proper authority, cripples their economies, and meddles in their elections, then no one but Rand Paul says peep. No one Tweets their righteous anger over Obama’s proxy war in Yemen and its ensuing disaster. Haiti, one of the countries Trump mentioned, has suffered for two hundred years at the hands of the French and the American governments. Any outcry about that? No, if you want to be a respectable American, quote Leviticus about loving the sojourner and import all the cheap labor you want to make up for all the kids we aborted. (Just don’t quote Leviticus about sodomy or you’ll be cast into that fundamentalist underworld where Tim Keller will know you never more.) If a politician says nice things, he can do all the actual damage he wants. It’s the opposite of the old “sticks and stones” adage. Bombs and drones may kill my bones, just don’t let your words insult me.
If you want to argue about the merits of any given immigration policy, that’s great. But to get in a tizzy about Trump’s vulgar language, calling him a racist, is a distraction from the real issue. It is to engage in grievance politics, virtue-signaling, and look-at-me-I-am-not-like-that-sinner-ing of the most annoying kind. Let’s disagree with the president’s apparent assumption that only immigrants from prosperous nations will benefit our society, but let’s leave the Victorian fainting couches at home.