The pope, the left and personal beliefs

Pilgrims cheer, yell and take pictures of Pope Francis as he travels the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Sunday. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Pilgrims cheer, yell and take pictures of Pope Francis as he travels the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Sunday. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

If you only hear Pope Francis when he agrees with you, you’re doing it wrong.

Far be it from me, as a protestant, to try to parse or explain the intricacies or even broad brush strokes of Catholic doctrine. But it is generally true that Christianity is a counter-cultural religion, one that from the beginning has been at odds with prevailing cultural and political norms.

So it follows that if you are not challenged in some way by the word, whether it comes from the pages of Scripture or the mouths of prophets, you probably aren’t really listening. This has confounded believers since Jesus’ time and rulers even before then. Lord knows I struggle with it all the time.

Still, there was a particular dissonance in the commentary about this pope’s first trip to the United States.

It wasn’t just because one cohort went on about Francis’ words about climate change and “unbridled capitalism,” while another pointed back to church teachings on abortion and marriage. Rather, it was the clanging, crashing sounds within a progressivist movement that is suddenly fine with letting religious-based morality inform public policy, at least sometimes.

Some in those ranks tried to spin their (ahem) conversion as a matter of conservative hypocrisy: So it’s OK for the church to demand government intervention on abortion, but not climate change, huh?

As far as I’m aware, though, there are no conservatives calling for an American theocracy. Those positions on the right that remain heavily influenced by theology are best seen as the ones to which the religious right has retreated after a decades-long culture war the left has largely won.

It has won, and now engages in skirmishes chiefly at the times and places of its choosing, in no small way by denying that one’s religious beliefs should inform one’s policy preferences. Thus do many pronouncements begin with “I personally” — as in, I personally wouldn’t have an abortion, but I wouldn’t make it illegal for another person to have one.

This would be less than remarkable if it were simply the typical — on both sides — lack of consistency we see in politics. But there’s something else missing in this instance.

Having discarded religious belief as a guide, progressivists replaced it with … nothing. They’d like to tell you it’s liberty, but they’re also the leading proponents of the nanny state. They’d like to tell you it’s equality, but most often the result of their policies is simply favoritism for different interest groups.

You might call it faith in government, but not in the Constitution, the favorite parts of which on the left are found in between the lines while explicit protections — the Second and Tenth amendments, to name a couple — are deemed dispensable. Increasingly, the contemporary left can’t even be described as “liberal.”

If you find yourself surprised by how and why certain issues crop up, let me suggest this absence of core guiding principles is one reason. It’s telling that one of the few examples progressivists have to offer is a holdover from Christianity (albeit a misinterpreted one): “Judge not …”

And now they have the pope, when convenient. I doubt his agreement with them on certain issues will cause them any introspection about others, but I’d like to think it could. Miracles do still happen.

Reader Comments 0

43 comments
LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

I'm constantly amused by the religiophobic left telling Real Americans what God wants, or what Jesus would do, or how we should legislate the Pope's moral teachings!

Hypocrites.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 Democrats' Efforts To Reinsert 'God' And 'Jerusalem' Into Platform Met With Loud Opposition (VIDEO)


That isn't booing God


That is saying you don't want God to be a part of your political platform. Or to take sides in any of that. Seems a VERY reasonable position to me


If you don't know the difference between those two things I feel sorry for you. I really do. 

NorthAtlanta
NorthAtlanta

@Hedley_Lammar

Oh, no worries.  We can all look at the video and see what they were booing.  It's not hard for most of us to figure out, including people like Paul Begala.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Hedley_Lammar

That is saying you don't want God to be a part of your political platform.

And yet, Democrats have been extolling the virtues of Pope Francis' message as it relates to public policy.

Those two can't be separated either. It's on video and in text.

Have you used the Pope's message to further your political agenda of late, HL? I do believe I've witnessed you doing just that.

No problem here!

Classof98
Classof98

So they were not booing God, they were merely expressing their desire that God have nothing to do with their party. And they expressed that sentiment by booing.

Gotcha. Thanks for clearing that up for us, Hedley.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Not being a Catholic, it's difficult for me to comprehend the tremendous adulation Pope Francis receives. He seems to be an humble and gentle soul, but he stills serves as an intermediary, or middle-man as it were. The veil, afterall, was torn, offering direct access to both Jews and Gentiles.

As I understand it, secret confession, was not always a part of the Catholic church. Why the middle-man (priest)?

Not to berate Catholicism, their ministry throughout the world is a testament to their goodwill.

When practicing my faith as it relates to the needy, I prefer the direct approach. Government is not the be all and end all when it comes to the helpless among us.

M H Smith
M H Smith

@FIGMO2 

AMEN! 


The spiritually dead have no eyes to see or understand, as Jesus Christ told Nicodemus, you must be born again. Until those who read what you and Kyle have written with spiritual eyes, they are like Nicodemus they have not experienced the spiritual birth to quicken them and their spiritually blind eyes to see and understand the scriptures and the spiritual meaning of them.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.  

Juanx
Juanx

Gee, so much negativity on the Pope's visit. The Pope clearly stated that that we can agree to disagree in a very respectful manner on any subject. The conclusion to this agreement should be beneficial to the majority while finding a conclusive inclusive result for the minority. My heart soared seeing millions coming together for a common cause of love, respect, and hope for a better life for all. Another observation, these millions were comprised of thousands of languages and races as one people for a common cause, to see and hear the Pope. It was beautiful.

Classof98
Classof98

Another bible verse leftists have appropriated is "Let ye without sin cast the first stone."

They always, always, ALWAYS neglect to include what Jesus subsequently told the adulterous woman, "Go and sin no more".

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Classof98 Do you think if she had sinned again ( Which she surely did ) 


Jesus would have said.....Ok throw the stones.

GMFA
GMFA

I find him to be refreshing, although I am not in agreement with him on all subject matter. Now, take a Christian like Ted Cruz who lets words fly out of his mouth about killing the leader of Iran and etc., and I will take the Pope every time.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle: “If you only hear Pope Francis when he agrees with you, you’re doing it wrong.

If you “only hear” that, you are indeed doing it wrong. But if you listened to the Pope, and made your own judgment regarding the various issues he spoke about, you were doing it exactly right.

Claver
Claver

"If you only hear Pope Francis when he agrees with you, you’re doing it wrong."  True.  But, for me it is still refreshing to hear this Pope emphasize portions of Catholic doctrine that the last couple Popes did not. 

quickworkbreak
quickworkbreak

You are mistaken that the core belief is a Christian holdover (wording which suggests "Progressivists" may not be Christian) is based on the "judge not..." verbiage.  Instead, I'd suggest that the Pope delivered a strong message on his trip that exalted the Golden Rule, the identical message of which exists through many religions, and is used as a moral core belief even for Atheists, because it's just common sense.

M H Smith
M H Smith

Good article Kyle, your points are certainly being borne out by the "testaments" on your blog.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it
;

trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will
;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 

AMEN

Caius
Caius

Practicing Christians are "in the world" but not "of the world". And this is what drives elements of both the Left and the Right nuts. They can not, or maybe will not, comprehend the complete Christian "package".  So you find Christians being blasted from the Left on choice and gay rights, and from the Right on climate and economics.


GaBlue
GaBlue

"Having discarded religious belief as a guide, progressivists replaced it with … nothing. They’d like to tell you it’s liberty, but they’re also the leading proponents of the nanny state. They’d like to tell you it’s equality, but most often the result of their policies is simply favoritism for different interest groups."

__________________________

Those statements seem, to me, dangerously close to violating Exodus 20:16. 
But it's an opinion column, so I guess that makes it okay.

NorthAtlanta
NorthAtlanta

Great column, Kyle.


And let's not forget that the party who are using the Pope's words to bolster their liberal ideology also booed God at their convention.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"So it’s OK for the church to demand government intervention on abortion, but not climate change, huh?"


The church can demand anything it wants. It is a matter of church policy versus each item that should be viewed. 

Liberals are telling conservatives to do this. Look at yourselves and what matters. 

Climate Change? That should not be political, but evidently it is. Nanny state?  Pollution affects everyone, not just the polluter. The EPA exists for a reason. Companies would pollute to their hearts content if there were no regulations.  Even if there ARE regulations, companies work hard to avoid them. (See: VW for the most recent example.) 


Abortion? That should not be political, but evidently it is. Nanny state? Not if anyone can help it! Abortion affects only the mother who has to make the decision.  But some conservatives want to make government intrude on personal decisions like this. 


Taking care of the poor, sick? If churches had all the answers, then all of the poor should be taken care of already. Evidently, churches cannot handle it. As part of a country "of the people, by the people, for the people" we work together to help the poor. The government, working at the behest of the people, should be taking care of the poor, sick, and disadvantaged. We are the richest country in the world. There should be absolutely no reason we leave anyone behind.  That should not take a religious leader to remind political leaders, but evidently it causes discomfort in some circles when they are taken to task for this. 


RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Good column Kyle.  The left; the word is authoritarian, as you point out liberal was some time ago.  The left has finally found a religious figure they like, as long as they are free to discard half his message.


I hope this is the last of the Popealoosa. I think way too much attention was paid to this politically charged nabob of negativity.  I was glad to see that carbon spewing American Airlines jumbo jet take off.  You notice when GOP Presidential candidates point out all that is wrong with America, Obama is incensed about their negativity.  When the Pope emphasizes the negative things Obama also finds negative, he smiles and rejoices. Too much air conditioning in the world?  Too much profit motive?  Those are the two or the greatest forces of economic growth and prosperity ever known to man.  Those two have lifted more people out of poverty than just about any other force in the world.  He seemed to concentrate his messages on the environment, immigration, and income inequality, like these are new problems or something.  All three are political problems and should be pretty much outside his purview, IMO.  He wants the world to take in more refugees, but doesn't want them in Vatican City.  How many is he willing to allow to pass through his 15 foot walls and let stay in a tent city?


How any Christian could come to the biggest media and cultural stage in the world and not mention the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, and to give one line to the out of control abortion industry makes me question either his judgement or his courage.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@RafeHollister "How any Christian could come to the biggest media and cultural stage in the world and not mention the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East,"


Or even the slaughter of Muslims in the middle East. 


Boy, that myopia on the Christian right is quite evident. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@LogicalDude @RafeHollister The logic you espouse is wrong for one reason.  Yes, Muslims are dying which is wrong, but every Muslim group in the region is represented by some military element, which in theory is fighting to protect them.  


The Christians have no one fighting for them, they are forsaken by Christians throughout the world and who is speaking up.  The Pope should be the obvious one, if no one else is..

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister @LogicalDude The Christians have no one fighting for them


Only the US Military and many others.


Even if that isn't the case do you not think Muslims see the US Military as a Christian force. Much in the way you see innocent Muslims being killed is ok because they are represented by some paramilitary element.


It's the exact same thing. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

And now they have the pope, when convenient.

^^^ priceless, but true, Kyle!

And just last year (June 25, 2014), The Pope addressed a general audience with this nugget of truth:

We are able to live this journey not only because of others, but together with others. In the Church there is no “do it yourself”, there are no “free agents”. How many times did Pope Benedict “describe the Church as an ecclesial ‘we’”! At times one hears someone say: “I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, but I don’t care about the Church...”. How many times have we heard this? And this is not good. There are those who believe they can maintain a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and the mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations. These are, as the great Paul VI said, absurd dichotomies. It is true that walking together is challenging, and at times can be tiring: it can happen that some brother or some sister creates difficulties, or shocks us.... But the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to a few human beings, to us all, to a few witnesses; and it is in our brothers and in our sisters, with their gifts and limitations, that he comes to meet us and make himself known. And this is what it means to belong to the Church. Remember this well: to be Christian means belonging to the Church. The first name is “Christian”, the last name is “belonging to the Church”.

Dear friends, let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, for the grace never to fall into the temptation of thinking we can make it without the others, that we can get along without the Church, that we can save ourselves on our own, of being Christians from the laboratory. On the contrary, you cannot love God without loving your brothers, you cannot love God outside of the Church; you cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church, and we cannot be good Christians if we are not together with those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, as one single people, one single body, and this is the Church. Thank you.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140625_udienza-generale.html

Liberal "faith" was born from the laboratory?

schnirt

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@FIGMO2 "There are those who believe they can maintain a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and the mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations."


Well, when some reverends, preachers, and some whole denominations seem to go against Christ's teachings, it's hard to stay in the pew each week. 


Gays in church? God welcomes them, but many churches do not.  The Pope saw that as wrong that so many of his churches put forth anti-gay rhetoric so much that part of the flock up and left.   He is working to correct that message so the flock continues to stay in the pews instead of leaving. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@LogicalDude

Perfection is what Christians strive for but will never achieve. At least we're on a path.

Hard to stay in the pew each week? Perhaps that's because you're too judgmental of the less than perfect, thinking that you may be.

Gays attend my church. I know of no church who checks for gay credentials at the door.

All are welcome. We do, however, expect humility before God. 

"The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient." --- St. Augustine


Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 It is no wonder that many conservatives are so uneasy, ambiguous or even outright hostile to the Pope’s message and the overwhelmingly enthusiastic acceptance of his message by the masses of people.


That hostility comes from the fact that what this Pope says is actually Christianity. Not the perverted Christianity most Protestants here seem to follow.


Jay put it well the other day. Its funny how the same folks who would force their Religion on you ( Gay Marriage, Abortion etc ) all of a sudden have a huge problem with this Pope who isn't forcing anything on anybody.


He talks of not punishing immigrant minorities...or the evils of runaway unregulated Capitalism. And that drives the xenophobic, pull yourself up by the bootstraps ( you have to have a pair of boots first ) Conservative Republican types nuts. 

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Saying nothing just to say something today ?

straker
straker

That "core guiding principles" can only come from religion is one of the favorite delusions of the true believers.


You do not have to be religious to know the difference between right and wrong and the benefits of living in a lawful society.


As for the Pope's beliefs on climate change, I'd say he got them from the same source as the rest of us, namely, the overwhelming consensus of our world's leading climatologists. 

Dusty2
Dusty2

Conservatives enjoyed the Pope just as much as anybody.  They saw and heard a fine man with Christian ideals and they enjoyed his outreach to all. Most Americans realize that we have many different opinions on many subjects but we are able to discuss them without hate.


For those who  feel otherwise, that is their personal problem, not one of the majority.  The magnanimous voice of the Pope was one to study and enjoy and that is what most Americans did.  We are thankful that such a strong, kind voice can still be heard in this world.   

M H Smith
M H Smith

Kyle you are having too much fun, you really need to tone it down some. Remember your audience here is mostly akin to Nicodemus. So I'll let it go with saying the others of a much smaller portion of your readership whose spirit bears witness to your citations, live the Peter life, in contradiction to the Christ, who was closure to the heart of Jesus than the rest of his 11 disciples.    


Then again Kyle, how can a man be born again? 

How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

ByteMe
ByteMe

Conservatives seem to love interpreting this caricature of liberals they've invented for themselves as a strawman to knock down when they can't think of anything else to talk about.

Why not talk about how YOU agree or disagree with the Pope, Kyle?  Make it personal to you.  Those are better columns.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

" I doubt his agreement with them on certain issues will cause them any introspection about others,"


Sure it can. But when calling out the left for hypocrisy (by telling the right to listen to the Pope on a few issues???), you are letting the right slide right by on its hypocrisy. 

Climate Change should not be political. It's science. It's a matter of taking care of the Earth. "Pollute less" is the message, but the right only seems to hear "nanny state! nanny state!!!"  

Perhaps their message would mean more if they weren't so pro-pollution sounding. 


The line about "Christianity is counter culture" flies in the face of those who say "this is a Christian Country."  Please remind them that this country has no established religion.  Sure, the left may not be perceived to have "a core" when those with religion claim religion is their "core."  

But that's a personal issue.  Trying to politicize religion is what the founding fathers warned against. You can have your religion and your beliefs, but please do not legislate those beliefs. That's what leads to Sharia Law. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

It is no wonder that many conservatives are so uneasy, ambiguous or even outright hostile to the Pope’s message and the overwhelmingly enthusiastic acceptance of his message by the masses of people. They cannot very well pretend that this excitement of so many is due to the Pope’s standard doctrinaire position against abortion, or the obligatory support of traditional marriage.What creates the enthusiasm is clearly the Pope’s three-prong emphasis on the care for the disadvantaged, against wars, and for action on climate change. This goes against the grain of the conservatives’ disdain for “moochers” and “nanny state,” the tendency to solve conflicts by military force, and their ignorant calling of the climate change “a hoax” or something we do not have to or cannot do anything about. It does not help them also any to hear the Pope’s support for the Iran nuclear deal and re-establishment of the US ties with Cuba.

Even with the traditional Catholic positions on abortion and marriage, the Pope’s dealing with those issues gives the conservatives little solace. The call for sanctity of human life at all stages of development leaves open the question of when human life – with respect to the sanctity of it - starts to develop. On the other hand, there is no doubt about human life being well developed in case of people on the death row – and the Pope quite unequivocally makes his opposition to the death penalty clear. As for the same sex marriage, the Pope again sticks to the traditional church view, but his speaking forcefully about marriage and its importance tacitly supports, even if perhaps unintentionally, the institution of same sex marriage as well.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@MarkVV  , Well said.  Its about contradictions more than anything else.  I didn't think the left was "claiming" the Pope more than saying that you are the self anointed party of Christianity and you are way out of line with actual Christian beliefs


Republicans are against abortion but also against funding social programs to help those children and for the death penalty. Republicans are heavily religious but the fiscal policies they propose tend to hurt the poor.  Also, the positions on immigration would seem to go against Christian values.  The only real position Republicans party seems to have is being against abortion.


Also, the moral compass of all of America is Christianity.  Don't pretend like Christians only exist in the Republican party.  Republicans are 80% Christian while Democrats are 71% Christian.  Democrats are largely Christians too, so its not all that hypocritical even if they do "claim" the Pope.

Gandolph
Gandolph

@MarkVV Seems to me that you just proved the point of the article.

Gandolph
Gandolph

@MarkVV @Gandolph Seems self explanatory to me.  Both sides look only at the Pope's words that support their own personal beliefs, just as you did and nearly everyone responding to this article, including me.  The Pope is a person just like us and he has his own worldview, just like us.  People have long picked and chosen quotes from the Bible (often out of context and misquoted) that are in concert with their views.  For example:  Ecclesiastes 10:2:  The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.  This was written by the wisest man to have ever lived (Solomon).  So, does it have political implications?  Hardly.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Gandolph @MarkVV Apparently, you misunderstood either Kyle’s column, or my comment. Kyle, at the start and at the very end warns the individual people – his audience –against cherry-picking what they agree with in Pope’s words (the rest of his article is an almost incomprehensible mishmash of political and religious drivel). In my comment I dealt with a different issue, the large masses of people showing their agreement with the main parts of the Pope’s message, and thus making, in a way, a political statement of people in a democracy about the issues they are mainly concerned about and in a direction that is an anathema to the conservatives. Does that have political implications? Surely.