Why Has Pope Francis Upset Conservatives?

Photo courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com

Bernie Sanders Invited to the Vatican

MUNCIE, Indiana NEWS – Pope Francis has invited Bernie Sanders to the Vatican. The Pope is not actually meeting with Bernie, but he’s asked the democratic presidential candidate to meet with his own version of a “think tank” on economic policy. The Pope has been very critical of capitalism and what our economic system is doing to people within the United States, but across the globe. As a result, we think it is worth taking a look at one of our previous articles about Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation – it’s still relevant.

As opposed to letting others within the Vatican spell out a general direction for this papacy, Pope Francis wrote his own Apostolic Exhortation – translation,  it’s relevant. The Pope states a specific directive and identifies certain aspects of our cultural which show we are off base from our purpose. Expect this Pope to continue making headlines throughout his leadership of the largest spiritual organization in the world.

Most Americans claim the Christian faith – Pew reports state the total percentage of Christians is 78.4%. While the majority of Christians in the United States are protestants, the Pope has always been considered the universal voice of Christianity for the world.

Pope Francis is unorthodox and has shaken things up. His kissing the feet of Syrian refugees made Governor Mike Pence, and other republican governors, look really bad for rejecting Syrian refugees. He’s provided lots of fodder for conservative media – from Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano blasted the pope for “attacking free-market capitalism.”  Then, in an op-ed for FoxNews.com, editor Adam Shaw takes things one step further by calling Pope Francis the “Catholic Church’s Obama,” and not in a positive way. And the Sultan of Hate also piled on the Pope, when Rush Limbaugh accused him of preaching “pure Marxism.”

These are harsh words for the messenger of God, so it would seem that Pope Francis has joined a long list of people and groups who have been alienated by the new GOP, including women, minorities, liberals, gays, poor people, teachers, unions, government, senior citizens, the POTUS, the social safety net, and all media conglomerates outside Fox News.

So why is the new GOP choking on Pope Francis’ message?

Let’s look at his opening words of the exhortation, where the Pope writes,

“Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”

What does he mean by “evangelization”?

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Evangelizing means bringing the good news of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.”

The Pope is asking Christians to minister the word of God to others by living the Gospel. This isn’t a casual call for those in his flock who minister the word of God. No, there is a sense of urgency in this Pope’s message as he sees many areas of the world displaying clear signs we’re off track – badly.

Pope Francis doesn’t make us read through all 288 points of his exhortation, and he doesn’t make us look for subtle clues. No, he tells us exactly what he sees as the problem in his second point:

The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

We’d call this a spiritual smack-down!

But notice, he didn’t call out any specific groups – he is talking about all of us – as a collective, we seek pleasure from the material world – money and material possession. We suffer because joy comes from seeking out a strong spiritual life – an abundance in our spiritual lives.

There’s really nothing earth shattering about his proclamations at this point. He then quotes Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.

Why is this statement so important?

Pope Francis tells us exactly why:

Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”

He wants our spiritual lights to shine. When that happens, this “encounter” will transform us to become “more than human” – our spiritual self. We are not on this earth to acquire material pleasures. Our goal is to seek an encounter with God’s love; the result will liberate us from self-absorption so we can become more than human. Once we connect with this wellspring of eternal love, our purpose is to share it with others.

A few people who read these words will understand exactly what Pope Francis is saying to the world. Others will miss the point entirely. This is why Pope Francis goes beyond these words to explain what the implications are for not leading a purpose driven life by illustrating what these situations look like among the collective. He points out clear indications where we have strayed, and we’ll address some of these points in part II of this series – he has some bold statements for capitalism and the free markets.

However, Pope Francis did not single out any group with his message so it should not aggravate any human being whether your beliefs would classify you as “conservative”, “liberal”, “progressive” or even a member of the tea party. He doesn’t call upon “republicans” or “democrats” to take up this mission.

These are the words of an enlightened spiritual man communicated to every man, woman and child on this earth – believer or non-believer – despite whether you’re part of the 78% who claim to be Christian, because even Gandhi shared these words, and so does the Dalai Lama.

This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama

Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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