Not long ago, Jesus contacts the white house indicating his desire to see Trump become a great president, and offers to meet with Trump to discuss some of his policy ideas. Jesus has a reputation of being a wise adviser to heads of state, and so Trump agrees. Not long after, Jesus and President Trump are at a table, reading over the Executive Order ‘On Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist entry into the United States’ that Trump is about to sign.
Jesus: Just to be clear, Donald, you believe this to be a morally good act?
Trump: Absolutely, I’m protecting innocent citizens from terrorist attacks.
Jesus: So the moral tenet you are upholding here is the right for peaceful people to live without fear of violence?
Trump: Of course.
Jesus: Would you say, as president, you also have a moral responsibility to inform citizens of the evidence of such threats, that justifies the circumvention of normal democratic process in the form of an executive order to protect citizens from imminent danger?
Trump: It is certainly no secret that the threat of foreign terrorism exists, and we merely have to look at the news to see evidence of it. Or perhaps ask the American citizens of Boston, or San Bernardino, or Orlando themselves of the threat to peaceful existence.
Jesus: Worth asking indeed. But before doing so, would you agree that, as the chief executive of the nation, the most prudent acts are ones that address the most serious threat to the greatest number of citizens?
Trump: I suppose so – and I’ll tell you that Americans without a doubt regard foreign terrorists as a pretty serious threat to our country.
Jesus: Perhaps, but is it true?
Trump: What do you mean? Just look at the news, of course it’s true.
Jesus: If we were to identify an even more serious threat to the safety of the American people, would the president have a responsibility to act against it?
Trump: I would have a responsibility to do so, but right now I don’t see a more important threat than foreign terrorists.
Jesus: Perhaps neither you, nor many citizens, perceive a greater threat. However, permit me to ask, if your perception were to change, and recognize that in fact a greater threat to the safety of your people exists, would you agree that you have a responsibility to inform the citizens of this even greater threat and act upon it?
Trump: Yes, I suppose if I was to learn there was an even greater threat to their safety, I would be responsible to act upon it. But that wouldn’t preclude me from acting on the threat of foreign terrorists.
Jesus: We can certainly return to that point. In the meantime, we have agreed that if greater threats to the safety of American citizens do exist, the president has the responsibility to recognize them and act upon them for the well-being of his people, yes?
Jesus: Good, with that established, I would like to assist you in your aim of being an effective president by presenting an even more serious threat to the safety of American citizens than foreign terrorism. We have agreed that you, as president, have a responsibility to recognize threats to your people, so I presume this will not be a burden for you to hear my presentation, am I correct?
Trump: If it’s valid, I haven’t heard what the threat is yet.
Jesus: Well then, let me proceed to tell you right away. First of all, I need to admit that I am only presenting those threats that pertain in any reasonable way to the strategy contained in this executive order, namely banning entry of certain groups until they are properly confirmed as not being a threat to the safety of any American citizens. In light of that, it is of no use suggesting you consider how to address the statistically greatest threat to Americans, which is heart disease. We would need to ban hearts from entry into the US, which would be practically impossible I’m sure you’d agree. Or perhaps, on second thought, we ban all employees of food companies, health and education departments, and all regulatory boards who were responsible for working on strategies to avoid this epidemic until the country finds out ‘who’s really behind this’. But I digress, forgive me.
The threat that most reasonably applies to this strategy of banning groups entry into the country would be domestic gun violence. Now I can presume Donald this is a threat which you are not at all pleased to address, as controversial as it is. Nevertheless, once you see the facts, and all sources documented for your reference, I am confident you will see a compelling reason to act swiftly and surely for the safety of your people.
Mass shootings: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents. A mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.
Source: Mass Shooting Tracker
School shootings: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012. Those figures include occasions when a gun was fired but no-one was hurt.
Source: Everytown for Gun SafetyResearch
All shootings: Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.
Source: Gun Violence Archive
How the US compares: The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 – the most recent year for comparable statistics – was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1.
Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.
The home front: So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.
Total number of guns: No official figure exists but there are thought to be about 300 million in the US, held by about a third of the population. That is nearly enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country.
Gun violence and terrorism: The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.
In the same period, an average of 517 people were killed annually in terror-related incidents. Removing 2001, when 9/11 occurred, from the calculation produces an annual average of just 31.
To put domestic gun violence into perspective, Donald, just .5% percent of gun violence in the US is related to terrorism. Furthermore, as terrible and dramatic as the events are, terrorist acts by Islamic extremists account for only 2.6% of mass terror shootings in the US. Now, Donald, just to be clear, that is 2.6% of .5% of all gun violence in the US. This means that Islamic terrorism accounts for .0001% of all gun violence in the nation.
Here now is where I must present the hard truth of who really threatens America. We have established the indisputable fact that gun violence threatens American citizens by epidemic proportions. And the group that carries out these heinous acts more frequently than any other group, Donald, are white male American citizens, a difficult fact to acknowledge without a doubt.
Nevertheless, I promised that I would assist you in your endeavors to effectively make America safe again. Now that I have provided you evidence of the group who truly presents the greatest threat to the safety of your people, namely white male Americans, would you recognize that this executive order refusing entry of foreigners from seven Muslim countries is not really effective in achieving your purpose?
Trump: No, I still think foreign terrorists are a threat and we need to do something about it.
Jesus: But you recognize they are not, in fact, the most serious threat to the safety of the greatest number of citizens.
Trump: Well, statistically speaking, I guess not – but they’re still a threat.
Jesus: Do you intend to implement an executive order to ban those who are, statistically and factually, the greatest threat to the American people, namely white male American citizens?
Trump: Of course not, that’s ridiculous!
Jesus: Then, Donald, your intention behind this executive order is not really for the safety of your people, would you agree?
Trump: How can you say that?
Jesus: Well, first of all this executive order does not include all countries where terrorist activity against the US has occurred, namely Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which does raise suspicion about the efficacy of this executive order. Secondly, if your intention was really about making America safe again, you would be prepared to write an executive order that would more effectively achieve that end, having now the facts of domestic violence in the US before you. So really, the executive order refusing entry of foreigners from these seven countries is intended to do nothing else than serve as a panacea for the mass perception of terrorist threat, isn’t it Donald?
Trump: I live in the real world, you have to deal with people’s perceptions. If Americans think the greatest threat to their way of life is foreign terrorists, then as far as they’re concerned that’s reality. I deal with reality.
Jesus: Donald, based on your own words, which I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on, for I would rather you not presume I am merely sharing my own opinion of yourself at this point, it is evident that you act on people’s perception of reality, based on their own assumptions and prejudices, but not reality itself. Now, in your defense, and I speak quite sincerely, the whole notion of reality TV is something of a misnomer and thus I can understand your confusion of the term. Regardless, it appears perception is shaping your policy more than reality. Would you agree there is truth to this?
Trump: Truth? You tell me, what is truth??
Jesus: Donald, how ironic you ask me that. Two thousand years ago a state leader asked me precisely the same question…
More than any other title, Jesus was referred to as ‘rabbi’, which in Hebrew means teacher. And across social lines, Jesus was regarded as a master teacher. Like the Greek philosophers of his time, he had mastered the art of Socratic dialogue. Throughout the gospels, we witness Jesus responding to questions and challenges from his critics with questions of his own, which invariably left his opponents defenseless in their argument. Indeed, as a teacher, Socrates found it far more effective to question the core presuppositions of his students than to simply debate from his own point of view. Socrates once wrote, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” Likewise Jesus challenged his students to always seek the truth in what we believe, for it is the truth that will ultimately ‘set us free’ from our blindness to the prejudice and hate that divides us. (John 8.32)