Monday, November 3, 2014
Is Pope Francis a Communist?
It is worth noting that our Christian faith is founded by a man who possessed nothing. Jesus embraced radical poverty. He, being the Son of God, could have been born into great power and wealth. When He comes into the world, it is the Father's will that Jesus be born into the lower classes. He died owning no earthy possessions other than the clothing he wore, which was gambled for as he was being executed on the cross. Even his tomb belonged to another. Why? Why does the Son of God come this way? What is the larger point? His life points to the Kingdom of God/Heaven. He comes to establish it. In John 18:36, when in front of Pilate, he declares His Kingdom is not of this world. He is not attached to the things of this world. he encourages His disciples and apostles to do the same (Matthew 5:3, 6:19-21, 6:24, 28-32, 10:9-10 for examples). Is he saying wealth is inherently evil? No. He is saying that we should concern ourselves with higher goals. In Timothy 6:10 reminds us that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. We look at these passages and see that the consumption and ownership of worldly goods can not become an ends in themselves. For the powerful, regardless of their political bent, this preoccupation with worldly wealth and power can become all consuming. History shows that this wreaks havoc on humanity.
Unrestrained capitalists can have very thin skins. The envious, a driving force in both unrestrained capitalism and communism, also are thin skinned. Unrestrained capitalists like to hide behind the tiresome words 'whatever the market will bear.' This is to act as if the market were its own philosophy of morality. Let's be honest, though, the market will bear slave labor, child labor, low wages, outrageous compensation packages for elites while laying off employees, bonuses for work that should have the person fired, and cronyism. This same list is alive and well among socialists and communists as well. This is problematic and sinful. When we love things and use people, we wander from from our human dignity and abandon any pretense of a relationship with God. When the pope points this out, and he does frequently, this does not make him a communist, it makes a follower of Christ. That pointing out these aspects of the Gospel makes people uncomfortable is more a reflection on them than him.
We, as followers of Christ are not engage in the class warfare that is at the heart of either extreme of the spectrum. For most of you reading this, even if in American society you may not be among the wealthy. but odds are you are part of the upper 1% of wealth in this world. Luke 12:28 reminds is to whom much is given, much is expected. The accrual of wealth for its own sake is problematic and even condemned in Scriptures. In Luke 20:28 ff the rich man is condemned for using his excess wealth to enrich himself instead of helping those in need,a violation of Deuteronomy 24:19. Inasmuch as we do not engage in class warfare neither do we hoard. Of this the Church has been clear for her entire history (not always lived up to, but certainly never taught to hoard) and has placed an onus on those of means to look after the needs of the poor. That Pope Francis says any of this is neither novel nor revolutionary. It certainly does not make him a communist! If anything, it makes the life of detachment from wealth that he has chosen throughout his life a living witness to the life of Christ Himself. Is this way every single person should do it? No. Nor is the pope saying it should be. As the successor to the Chair of Peter, he is saying nothing more that what the Church has taught for 2000 years.
So why all the hubbub? Politics. We live in a society polarized on a plethora of levels. The atmosphere is toxic. Witness the unrelenting amounts of speculation and outright nonsense surrounding the synod. There is no topic anymore that does not rally people around a cause to which they will destroy others who disagree with them. Anyone with a sense of history and a modicum of faith knew the synod would not change one iota of Church teachings; because we might want to be more gentle, kinder, or loving does not necessitate a caving in on moral issues. What bigger prize than the leader of the largest institution on earth?! The pope is on my side!!! No, he isn't and nor should he be! He is the spiritual leaders of 1.1 billion people of every possible bent and description. It is isn't his job to favor one over the other. I look at the predecessors he had...they didn't either (as much as some want to say Pope Benedict did...read all of his writings sometime). The pope is not the grand prize in the battles of ideologies.
Many call him communist because he questions the practice of some forms of capitalism. Any form or any socioeconomic theory is not without its abuses and malformations. If being unrelenting in my capitalism means I hoard for myself and take a Darwinistic approach to others, I cannot be authentic about being a Christian! Doubt that? I would invite the reader to go to Matthew 25:31-46 and take a good long look at how we will be judged. Perhaps the pope saying what he does about wealth distribution and economies has absolutely nothing to do with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and lot more to do with the King of Glory. Because I might belong to a certain economic theory means neither treating that theory as gospel nor of being unwilling to admit its flaws. To point out said flaws does not make one a enemy as much as it does a purveyor of truth.