April 6, 2013

Pope Socialist, I am NOT cool with that.

Socialist Cristina Fernández Kirchner with the then future Pope.
FULL DISCLOSURE:  In the spirit of full disclosure, let me start by saying that I was baptized Catholic, but my father was (is) a rabid atheist.  As the story is told to me, my paternal grandmother had me baptized without my father's knowledge.   I grew up in a home where religion was absent.  My maternal grandmother was profoundly religious, and I spent a lot of time with her as a child.  Consequently, most of my exposure to Christianity was through her.  She was a member of the United Church, a Protestant denomination.  It may explain my consternation with the idea that anyone of a Christian or Jewish faith does not have a significant tolerance for anyone else in any of those particular subsets that is different from their own - or indeed any other religion that does not foster hatred or tolerance of religious liberty, or the choice to be an atheist or agnostic. I myself identify as a Christian, not a Catholic, or Lutheran or United Church parishioner. I try to live a Christian life but am far from perfect.   I bring all of this up because there may be people who believe I am, because of my religious self-identification (or lack thereof), I am not qualified to disagree with the Pope, or more accurately, that in this case my opinion does not matter.

That is their prerogative.  I respectfully disagree.   I was a great admirer of Pope John Paul, and just because I disagree with a Pope does not mean I disagree with all of Catholicism.


Alright, this post may p*** off a number of my readers because I am about to disagree with the Pope.  The Pope it seems, is a socialist.  He has a fetish for social justice.
The former Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's "resume" is open to interpretation. The first Jesuit pope, he is known to share his religious order's passion for education and social justice, particularly as it concerns the welfare of the poor and oppressed. In a speech last year, he accused fellow church officials of hypocrisy "for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes," according to the Associated Press.


It seems like this guy sees the Pope as a useful idiot.

Coming from South America, where socialism is the predominant notion when it comes to political philosophy, it is not surprising that he would seek to marry his religious beliefs (which I am sure are heartfelt) with his political beliefs (which I'm sure are equally heartfelt).  Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Evo Morales, Che Guevara are some high profile examples of South American politics.  In nations where poverty is rampant and the gap between the wealthy and the poor is so vast, socialism is an easy sell.  Priests of the church are not immune to the political speeches of men.

Indeed the Pope can turn to the Bible to find scripture that can reinforce the notion of social justice.  But here's the problem I have with that approach.  It is not the responsibility of government to impart social justice from a Christian perspective.  To require the government to impart social justice is an abrogation of one's own duty as a Christian.  It is in a sense a way of saying I cannot do it myself so I will get the government to force me, and others to pay for social justice.  It is both sloth and greed that lead to this mindset.

Secondly, while working through the church to do such things creates a similar quandary,  a church is still a voluntary membership organization.  You are not required to attend church and even upon attending you are not compelled to donate, the way you are with an income tax.  You still have freedom of choice, an inalienable right given by God.  

Thirdly, as a Christian, it is more responsible to be involved directly with the social injustices you see.  I'm sure that will be seen as more important and more charitable by God.  I could be wrong, but paying an extra dollar in tax is less altruistic than helping a person on your street who needs a hand.  Raising funds for 

Fourthly, the question of whether the church should be involved in affairs of state at all is debatable. It is one thing to say help the poor, it is another to say the government's austerity measures are bad.    I also find it quite ironic that liberals in the U.S. who will hammer the table for the separation of church and state from the perspective of government would feel quite happy to accept the views  of the church and feel that it is okay for them to espouse a progressive cause like social justice. I guess the separation of church and state only works one way for them. At least, while it's convenient with Pope socialist.

It is important to remember that South America has never had equality of opportunity, and this is not the fault of capitalism.  Everything from conquest to corruption and cronyism  have played much larger parts.  Certainly Puerto Rico has had some success with fledgling capitalism, and Mexico has put itself on a path to prosperity - assuming it's criminal issues can be resolved.  Capitalism is not the enemy of the poor and it certainly is not the enemy of the church. Ignorance is the enemy of both. Is there any place where the gap between the very wealthy and very poor is as bad as China?  The poor in the United States have televisions and air conditioners.  The poor in communist Cuba are more numerous than pre-Castro.  Oops.

Setting aside all of the geopolitical stuff, there are religious reasons to consider that perhaps the Pope is wrong on this one.  They are expressed pretty well in numerous places on the website Christian Capitalism, here's an excerpt from one such post:
Simply, God ordains governments for the suppression of evil.  In Genesis 9:5-6, the initial post-diluvian government was to be established upon capital punishment in order to suppress evil.  This was the extent of the affirmative directive from God.  It must be stressed ever so strongly, that the Bible never commands or mandates anything further for human government than to suppress evil.  Thus it is wrong to assert that God ordains active redistribution of wealth in a government. 
Jesus commanded us in Luke 10:37 to take our personal abilities, talents and possessions and use them in showing mercy to other individuals.  Jesus demonstrated this by taking His own abilities and talents (which were considerable since He was God on earth) and used them to show mercy to other individuals. 
Jesus never projected this command to any government. To take this command and extrapolate it to government is simply not in the text.  Let me repeat, the Bible makes no mandate whatsoever for a government to take the position of redistributors of wealth. 
“But does not Romans 13:7 order us to pay taxes?” one may ask.  Yes!  But these taxes are for the government’s duty to restrain evil.  No mandate for taxes for entitlement programs was ever given. 
Neither did Jesus compel or force His followers to give their wealth away.  Giving was to be voluntary and done cheerfully from the heart.  Those who gave with bad motives would lose their heavenly reward or, at worst, be struck down (Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-9). 
But did not the early Church of Jerusalem in Acts 4:32-36 sell all their goods and “distributed to each as anyone had need”?  Yes, they did do this.  But we must note again that their participation in this community was voluntary (Acts 5:4).
 Now, it's not a slam dunk that the Pope is a socialist, but there is plenty of evidence that he leans that way.  While that may be good for the Catholic church in South America or other socialist and communist countries, it isn't de facto good for Christianity and certainly not for the global financial situation.
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