Posts Tagged “religion”

Pope Francis is doing three things I’ve never seen in religion before (in my lifetime):   1) Being extremely relevant to our daily lives, 2) Potentially offending powerful people , and 3) Leading.  I’m going to focus on his comments on Capitalism because that is my area of interest.

1) Being extremely relevant to our daily lives..

The Pope isn’t just generally commenting on how “love of mammon” is bad.  He is getting specific…arguing against “trickle-down” economics as an “opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, and expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”  He has said, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.”  BOOM.

Also, note his reference to “confirmed by facts”.  This is also new for modern religion…the appeal to reason as opposed to faith.

In my life, religion/church is often a limited set of fairly sterile stories that you have to stretch to apply to day-to-day life.  Jesus may turn water into wine, but I don’t.  Judas may have been a betrayer; I am generally too boring to do anything like that.  I’m not saying there is no connection between Bible stories and our lives; I am saying though that you have to draw the connections.  They are not spelled out, and so are indirectly relevant most of the time.

The Pope is starting to spell some things out…lest the rich start to think Jesus would approve of their CDOs and bank bailouts.

2) Potentially offending powerful people..

The Church relies on powerful people to give it money.  The general messages of love, compassion, and morality are compatible with that.

But you start condemning the lifestyles of your patrons?  That is dicey game. No one likes to be reminded they are a hypocrite.

Also, one of our political parties is much more highly aligned with religion and usually favors the rich.  The rich don’t like to be told they are not completely awesome.

I think though the Bible is quite plain here: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Matthew 19:24.

Uh…I don’t know how literal this is supposed to be or the definition of “rich” (since even the poor in the US are rich by global standards, and anyone reading this on the Internet would be rich by most any standards…that means me and you)….however, these are Jesus’s words…not some obscure verse from the Old Testament.

The treatment of the poor is very, very central to the Bible and Jesus’s teaching.  If the Pope starts calling out the rich, saying that their lifestyle is immoral, that it is sinful to make that much more than others, etc….that can change the world.

3) Leading..

Catholicism is huge; over a billion people align themselves with the Catholic Church.  The Pope is one of the single largest voices in the world.  When people say the U.S. President is the  most powerful man in the world, I have to agree in practice.  However, if the Pope chooses to lead, I would argue he has more influence.  The Pope usually isn’t considered in that light because the church rarely leads; it sticks to well worn, non-polemic topics.  Maybe we are seeing a change?

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