Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Who Can? The VatiCAN!

The Pope has landed in Washington, DC. What can we expect? An anathema directed at Mr. Trump might be too much to wish for, but one can pray.  Visits by dignitaries are as common in DC as rallies and ruckuses. Most accomplish very little. They generate a press story or two, our local constabulary adroitly keeps the crowds corralled and the traffic moving, and we quickly return to the daily grind.

Will Pope Francis break the mold?

Religion in America today looks nothing like the sweeping, hope-filled crusades of Dr. Martin Luther King’s day.  The dulcet tones of “We Shall Overcome” are distant echoes. Today, far too much of our religious dialog is in the realm of the ideological right; a bile-laden landscape with sweaty condemnations reminiscent of Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.”  There is a religious left; you find them huddled in a few hundred Unitarian congregations clustered on the coasts, dutifully singing multi-lingual hymns. But the Unitarians have little political power and less social influence, aside from providing political cover for atheist politicians: the Unis will neither confirm nor deny whether or not an individual is on their membership rolls.

But Pope Francis is different. Maybe, just maybe, this visit will be different, too. We have a Pope who knows how to Pope. He is single-handedly shifting the Catholic church’s focus from “abortion,  abortion, abortion, I did not sleep with that male child, abortion” to “love the poor”, and “don’t plunder the planet, for Pete’s sake, it’s the only one we’ve got.” Pope Francis is breathing new life into old time religion, where the meek inherit the Earth and the adherents lead with love.

Maybe Pope Francis will soften the bile on the religious right, re-energize a giant, but soporific, American Catholic church and bring the left back in from the Godless cold. The left, of late, reviles all religion, apparently forgetting that Martin Luther King's first name was technically "Reverend." The left shed crocodile tears over Ben Carson’s Islam-bashing all the while assuming, carte blanche, that any Republican professing a belief in God would govern as a medieval theocrat. The left’s oft repeated mantra “Your religion ends where my rights begin” is no less intolerant of religion than “A Muslim should not be President.”

Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air, and may help bring America to a religious place more sane, and more indicative of what our Founder’s intended. Separation of Church and State was not penned as an atheist’s manifesto

Francis’s remarks over the coming days will likely unsettle both the left (abortion is a sin) and the right (climate change is a moral imperative). That’s a good thing. The moral absolutism in both camps is as obnoxious as it is bankrupt.  But we still have a long way to go. The Catholic hierarchy remains stuffed with arch-conservative Bishops. Francis’s visit will not tone down the nativist crap emanating from the Trump camp, nor the anti-Islamic rhetoric spewing from Carson’s pie hole. Pastors who lived by the bile will likely die by it, but maybe their power will be attenuated. Maybe, just maybe, Pope Francis’s injection of love and compassion will take root here and there. One can hope, and, dare I utter it, pray.


  1. Ok so you are going to have to explain this to me in that "as if you are telling a 5 year old" way. When you say "The left’s oft repeated mantra “Your religion ends where my rights begin” is no less intolerant of religion than “A Muslim should not be President.”"

    Um what? How is my not wanting your religion to dictate my rights (to my body, to have my marriage recognized by the state, to my ability to run for office or even my access to employment) the same as saying that a Muslim should not be President? That seems a real false equivalence to me, but I know you, and know you had something else in mind. I have no problem with people adhering to their religion as long as it doesn't mean official government policy has to follow it. How is that the same as saying there should be a religious test for a public office?

  2. Hey Heather:

    At root, I think what Ben Carson is saying is this: Muslims believe in Sharia law, so the teachings of the Quran would become law if a Muslim became President. Or, at the very least, a Muslim President would push concepts of Sharia if elected. Carson's views are cartoonish, and yeah, abundantly racist. Not every Muslim wants Sharia law and etc.

    But I try to look at what he means. From that nexus, what I hear him saying is "your Islam ends where my Christianity begins." Or, "your Islam ends where my rights begin." Ironically, folks on the left more or less agree with the latter statement, I think.

    I'm a lefty. I believe in restricting the rights of conservatives. I want to limit their gun ownership, tell them they can't build a coal plant,mandate that they vaccinate their kids (that's a right to the body of your child and I advocate over-riding that parental right if they don't believe in vaccinations), mandate they purchase auto and health insurance, and mandate how much they have to pay their entry level employees. I want their child to come to me at school and I want to give that child contraceptives if they want them and I don't want to notify the parent if they are 16 or over. That's telling them how to raise their kids. I want to tell them to wear helmets, drive 55 (or 65) and I want to limit what they can drive and tax the gas they use to drive it.

    Religion is a moral compass. Whether you believe in God or religion or not, you have a moral compass. Minus sociopaths, we all have moral compasses. Democracy at it's messiest is everyone trying to legislate their moral compass, often disregarding other's views because we think we are right. What I see the left doing is EXEMPTING their moral compass because for some folks on the left it isn't de facto based upon religion. So, I can restrict your rights because I'm not using religion, per se, as the justification. I see that as a false distinction.

    Libertarians claim they are better than this: everyone can have their own compass. It's crap...because a society with no laws just sets up a system where the powerful trample the powerless, and no one has much recourse.