Pope Francis is just a man, and he doesn't like to be put up on a pedestal. He says he's "a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone else. A normal person." He's not Superman.
It's a little hard sometimes to honor his request. We have not seen the likes of this man in our lifetime. He has to be a nearly perfect example of what it means to follow Jesus.
We are by no means comparing ourselves to him but the things he says are the same things we've been saying for 5 years! Jeepers! Talk about confirmation.
Somewhere along the line, about 35 years ago, American Christianity began to lose its identity. Over the course of those 35 years it has become much worse, something not even recognizable. It's something different now. It's Something very different.
There haven't been very many folks to look up to as leaders lately. Most of the leaders speak of ideological rhetoric now, not the Gospel. It's been a long 35 years for some of us Christians. We've been in the desert.
That's why Pope Francis has been a tall, cool glass of water for us and our hearts jump for joy as we watch him clarify what following Jesus is, and what it is not.
It's really, really hard for some of us not to make him bigger than life. For so long we have looked for a leader who followed Jesus, and condemned the perverted ideology which took its place.
Let's take a closer look at this man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone else.
He has no problems with evolution, declaring that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real, and remarking that God is not “a magician with a magic wand.” He says both evolution and the Big Bang are not incompatible with the existence of God. In fact, he says, they “require it.”
He speaks against unnecessary spending by the Church and during his Christmas address he scolded the senior clergy, chastising the power-hungry, “diseased” culture of the Vatican. He accused the priests, bishops and cardinals of suffering from “existential schizophrenia” and “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” adding that many are guilty of “rivalry and vainglory”.
He ordered “the Bishop of Bling,” Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, a German bishop in Limburg, out of his extravagant diocesan residence and accepted his resignation after he had just spent 100’s of thousands of dollars refitting it with things like a $20,0000 bathtub.
He has opted to be driven around in a second-hand Renault rather than the sleek black limousines, and decided to live in a modest Vatican guesthouse rather than the Vatican’s grand apostolic apartments. He accuses some of church's leaders of being “narcissists.”
He does kind things for the afflicted like taking a boy with Down's Syndrome for a ride in the Popemobile. He embraces and kisses people with hideous diseases that make then look grotesque and disfigured, like a man named Vinicio Riva.
He denounces the judgment of homosexuals, saying "Who am I to judge them if they're seeking the Lord in good faith?"
He held a major ceremony at the chapel of a youth prison. While there he washed and kissed the feet of 12 young offenders. He also broke tradition by washing the feet of women and Muslims.
He urges the protection of the environment saying, “When I look at so many forests, all cut, that have become land, that can longer give life. I see this is our sin, exploiting the Earth. This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation.”
He personally called and consoled a victim of rape telling her, “You are not alone,” adding to have faith that justice will be done.
Like his predecessor, Pope Francis believes in universal health care, and he does not believe health care is solely the job of churches, charities and individuals. "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, and the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare." he states.
The Pope knows that Christ's commands are universal. They apply not only to individuals, but to governments and businesses as well.
There seems to be a real shortage of the kinds of politicians Pope Francis is begging for. Sen. Bernie Sanders is one of the few we know of. Tragically, there are plenty of politicians who stand for the opposite point of view, like the freshman Senator from Iowa Joni Ernst, who categorically states "The reason Republicans oppose Obamacare is because the job of caring for the poor is simply not the purview of government. The poor," she said, "should rely on churches and charitable organizations for help."
Politicians like Ernst, a self-proclaimed "Christian," want the United States to be a "Christian Nation" when it comes to the Federal Government policing your bedroom, what you do with your penis or vagina, who you love and want to marry, your private reproductive decisions, and your uterus. Their "Christian Nation" carries out vengeance against Muslims via endless wars that no one ever wins. But when it comes to the actions that Jesus instructed his followers to carry out, like taking care of the least of these, "that's simply not the purview of government."
It's quite apparent that they haven't the foggiest idea what being a Christian really means since it entails following the instructions of the center of the faith, a guy named Jesus. And as the Pope explains, his instructions aren't "just for individuals," they are for individuals, governments, businesses, churches, charities ... everyone, and every single human endeavor. Jesus doesn't care how we get it done he just wants us to get it done, using every resource possible. Every single resource.
Conservatives like to throw out one of their favorite mantras, "Jesus said the poor will always be among us." They have neglected to educate themselves beyond the silly mantras they use to justify their ideology. Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 15:11, which states: "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land."
Francis sneaks out of the Vatican with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski dressed as an ordinary priest to feed the homeless.
He auctioned off his prized Harley Davidson motorcycle to benefit the homeless.
He acknowledged that atheists can be good people and he invited them to work with him saying, "I invite non-believers who desire peace. Join us with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.” He said nothing judgmental about them, just "Let's work together for the common good of all of mankind."
He condemns the global financial system and is particularly hard on trickle-down economics, also known as Reaganomics or supply-side economics. He decries an “idolatry of money” in secular culture and warned that it would lead to “a new tyranny.”
He wrote in his Papal statement, “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
He fights child abuse, overhauling Vatican law to specify sexual violence against children as a crime. Five months later, he established a commission to advise him on how to protect children from pedophile priests and on how to counsel victims. He has made public apologies on behalf of the church and begged for forgiveness for its horrible crimes against children throughout the ages. He has vowed to completely overhaul the system that allowed it to happen in the first place.
He condemns the violence of the Syrian civil war and of all wars. “When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself. Conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow – I think of the children, look upon these - look upon your brother's sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered. War is always a defeat for humanity."
Ex Vice President Dick Cheney, mastermind of everything George W. Bush did doesn't see it that way, and neither do most Republicans. Cheney pops up every chance he gets to criticize President Obama and "his serious lack of leadership in foreign policy (i.e., not starting enough new wars)." He and his daughter formed a 501c4 not long ago and made an embarrassing commercial insulting the President. "Forget Food Stamps and Highways!. Spend More on the Military!" said the former CEO of Halliburton, one of the biggest players in the Global Military Industrial Complex, and whose headquarters are now in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. If the White House ever falls into Republican hands again, you better believe Cheney and his minions will have their hands on policy, no matter who the President is. In fact, they'll welcome his advice and use his network
Republicans are always saying that President Obama lacks leadership in foreign relations. Why? Because he didn't stay in Iraq or Afghanistan (the longest US war ever) and he hasn't invaded Iraq again. He hasn't invaded Russia or Iran either! What republicans fail to realize is that there is no winning in that part of the world. It just becomes a war that never ends and that's exactly what they'll start if they ever have the power again, an endless war in the middle east. We don't say these things to be partisan. These are just the facts based on what republicans have said themselves.
The Pope often speaks out against the Church’s "obsession" with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception saying, “the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, and become more merciful or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice "like a house of cards". The Church has "locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules" and should not be so prone to condemn.
“In ideologies there is not Jesus: his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought. Ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, these ideological Christians have. It is an illness.”
The Pope called on Christians and Muslims to cooperate and to serve mankind with the “light of God's truth,” and warned that extremists in nations such as Iraq were exploiting religious differences for political and violent agendas. He didn't insult the Muslim faith. He respected it and called for cooperation. That's the way he rolls. He's a humble Christlike man, with everyone, including children who showed him how a "selfie" is done.
He invited four homeless people to his 77th birthday party, which he celebrated with Vatican staff and their families.
He once refused to send away a child who had run up on stage to hug him.
Seems like he might have read Luke 14: 12-14 “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”
Just like Jesus often did, Pope Francis often breaks with "tradition." like the time he confessed his sins in public. He was leading a penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica when it came time to hear confessions. Instead of heading into an empty confessional to hear the confessions of fellow priests, Francis walked across the aisle and knelt before a priest.
Who does that? The humble Christlike leader of the Catholic Church, that's who.
Pope Francis is a reformer. That much is obvious. Sometimes those who elected him aren't quite as enthusiastic about all this reform business. He's messing around with the comfortable lives some of them have built for themselves. He even calling some of them names! Oh the horror! Who would stoop to calling names!? That's just not Christian like! Well, Apparently Pope Francis missed that memo because he's called some of the Catholic leadership narcissists who have missed the point entirety.
Francis, has said he wants a more merciful and less rigid Church. One that looks more like Jesus. He's trying to set the Church on a new path, toward an evangelizing style that is less focused on doctrine and more willing to invite people in, no matter what their status. Some people don't like that idea.
During a recent closed session conservative bishops reversed parts of an official Church document that would have had an historic upbeat tone regarding gays, cohabitation, re-marriage, and same-sex couples among other themes. They said it would “create confusion among the faithful and threatened to undermine the traditional family.”
The Pope responded by saying, “God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”
Some people say Francis hasn't done enough. Why hasn't he changed church doctrine to allow women in the priesthood, priests to marry, gay priests, LGBT marriage equality, and a new pronouncement that there is no hell.
Wait. What? He hasn't done enough? Who were they expecting? Superman?
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.