Tag: Pope Francis

Sorry, Rush, this Pope ain’t no politician

By Alan Bean

“The Pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience last Wednesday, “and this is pure political.”  

Although Pope Francis wasn’t speaking “ex cathedra” in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (and therefore made no claims to infallibility) he does get to define Catholic teaching.  He is the Vicar of Christ, after all.  At least if you call yourself a Catholic.

A bit later, Limbaugh claimed that “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.”

There is some truth to this claim.  Pope Francis has been influenced to a modest extent by liberation theology, an effort by Third World theologians to explore God’s “preferential option for the poor” from a Marxist perspective.  It is orthodox Catholic teaching to claim that God has a heart for the poor.  It should be orthodox Protestant teaching too, and, beyond the confines of American culture Christianity, it is.

But Pope Francis hasn’t been critical of capitalism, as such; his beef is with “unfettered capitalism”.

Limbaugh, correctly, points out that unfettered capitalism doesn’t exist anywhere.  Markets are always subject to some government regulation, the question is, how much.  But the rapid worldwide increase in wealth inequity is a direct result of steadily declining government control of global markets.  Moreover, the “trickle down” school of economics the Pope is critiquing largely endorses unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism. Markets may not be completely unregulated, but Limbaugh and his ilk seem to imply that they should be.

A 2011 poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute found that 44% of Americans believe Christian values are at odds with capitalism while only 36 percent believe that Christianity and capitalism can be harmonized.  In fact, only 56% of Tea Party enthusiasts think capitalism and Christianity are completely simpatico.  According to this survey, 61% of Americans don’t believe businesses would behave ethically without government oversight.

Capitalism & Christian Values

Not surprisingly, the study found that minority Christians believe the Church should address social and economic issues; white Christians want to hear sermons about social issues, but they don’t want their preachers talking about economics.

Limbaugh’s claim that the Pope’s critique of trickle down economics is “pure political” (sic) isn’t surprising.  The white Christians who don’t want to hear issues of economic justice addressed from the pulpit frequently make the same claim.  “I don’t come to church to hear political sermons,” they say.

They really mean that they don’t want to be reminded about Jesus’s statements regarding about the love of money and the fires of hell.

But how “political” are pastors being when they talk money from the pulpit.  When politicians talk about money they are trying to tell voters what they want to hear without losing support from deep pocket donors.  Politicians from poor, minority districts occasionally talk straight about money; but elected officials with wealthy constituencies (Democrat or Republican) deflect attention whenever possible from  the addiction to unrighteous mammon that has become an inescapable part of the political game.

A Brookings Institute economics values survey from this summer shows that 44% of American white evangelicals describe themselves as economic conservatives.  I suspect most of these people hold trickle down economics in high regard.  Among white Catholics and Mainline Protestants, only 34% embrace the economic conservative label.  But among Latinos, only 7% describe themselves as economic conservatives and only 3% of African Americans are comfortable with the label.  

When American Christians complain about “political” sermons, they are really objecting to prophetic biblical preaching that hasn’t been passed through a political filter.  We don’t hear this kind of talk from politicians or from political pundits.  If preachers don’t give us the biblical perspective we will have to find it for ourselves.  If we take our definition of normality from the political sphere, we can’t read the Bible with comprehension.

White American Christians insist on political sermons.  The kind that reinforce what we already believe.  The kind of that appeal to the handful of deep pocket contributors who keep the church finances in the black.  That’s political preaching, and we can’t get enough.  

Pope Francis gave us prophetic biblical preaching stepped in the ethics of Jesus.  Compare his frank rebuke with the pablum we have come to expect from politicians and the difference is stunning.   Pope Francis is an astute political philosopher but, thanks be to God, he ain’t no politician.

Pope Francis preaches good news to the poor

By Alan Bean

Fox Business host, Stuart Varney, is mad at Pope Francis.

“I go to church to save my soul.  It’s got nothing to do with my vote. Pope Francis has linked the two. He has offered direct criticism of a specific political system. He has characterized negatively that system. I think he wants to influence my politics.”

He’s right, the Pope does want to influence his politics.  And, although the new Pope hasn’t criticized a particular brand of politics, he is demonizing the economic system near and dear to Varney’s heart.

The Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) doesn’t attack capitalism as an economic system.  The target is the brand of trickle down economics that is often associated, in the United States, with the Chicago School of economics.  Capitalism always comes with some measure of governmental regulation; it’s a matter of how much and of what kind.

The argument driving Evangelii Gaudium begins with a bold statement:

We need to distinguish clearly what might be a fruit of the kingdom from what runs counter to God’s plan.  This involves not only recognizing and discerning spirits, but also—and this is decisive—choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil.


As Jesus Loved

Brent Beasley preached this sermon on Maundy Thursday at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth

John 13:1-17, 31-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

. . . Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There is actually nothing original or brand new in these words of Jesus that we are to love one another. The commandment to love one another goes back much, much further than Jesus himself. It is one of the themes that is cited again and again all through the Old Testament. And Jesus had certainly repeated those words again and again as he walked the ways of the earth during the days of his flesh.

So, what, then, is the special nuance that made this final mandate at the last supper so special and so memorable, as it is, right down to this very moment?

John Claypool, in preaching on this text, said that he believed what made Jesus’ words unique and special was that qualifying phrase that Jesus added: as I have loved you. Not just Love one another but As I have loved you, love one another. (more…)