Pope Francis Condemns Those Who Use Religion to Promote Violence

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In light of the actions of Catholic bishops in this country to not only exert control of the Religious Right but to subvert Americans’ religious freedoms, the Pope’s words in Albania on Sunday are all the more remarkable.

Speaking to a crowd in the former communist state, Pope Francis condemned extremists who are “perverting” religion in order to justify violence. The Pope’s words in Albania come as the Religious Right’s increasingly violent rhetoric demonizes gays, Muslims, and ethnic minorities, as well as the poor, women, and children in this country.

Albania, which hopes to join the European union, is majority-Muslim, with only about 10 percent Catholics and even fewer Orothodox Christians (According to the CIA World Factbook: “Muslim 56.7%, Roman Catholic 10%, Orthodox 6.8%, atheist 2.5%, Bektashi (a Sufi order) 2.1%, other 5.7%, unspecified 16.2%”). Albanians of all religions endured communist repression for decades during the Cold War. Pope Francis praised their “inspiring example” of religious tolerance.

“This is especially the case in these times in which authentic religious spirit is being perverted by extremist groups, and where religious differences are being distorted and instrumentalized,” Pope Francis told Albanians.

“Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armour’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!”

“The armor of God.” Doesn’t that sound familiar?” Groups and individuals claiming to be, or acting as though they are, the armor of God, are a dime an dozen in this country. Francis’ own Catholic bishops are among the worse offenders.

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Inspiring as his words often are, in defense of economic and religious equality, we can’t help but wish the Pope would spend more time condemning the actions of his own priesthood as they subvert the religious tolerance here that he praised so effusively in tiny Albania.

Some will interpret the Pope’s words to be condemnation of Islamic extremists even though he didn’t mention Islamic extremists:

But some will get it right, and see it as more than that:

Pope Francis, echoing somebody our Religious Right never talks about, a guy named Jesus, told Albanians, “Do not forget your wounds, but don’t avenge them,” he said. “Go forward, flying on the hopes of a great future.”

Contrast the Pope’s words with those of Pink Swastika author Scott Lively, and others, who have used religion to promote the persecution and even death of gays in Uganda. Scott Lively thinks his crimes are excused by the Bible. Scott Lively, who has promoted the idea of a military coup here at home while he kills gays overseas, says he is the one being persecuted or his religion as he promotes genocide in the name of his god.

Or with the words of “Coach” Dave Daubenmire, the guy who said last year he’s tired of being sodomized by the left

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, and who Right Wing Watch reports, “tells his audience that they need to own a gun because social unrest is coming, but he doesn’t ‘want to get into the debate whether or not you’re going to have to shoot a law enforcement officer.'”

Or take people like Tony Perkins and Brian Fischer, who, rather than promoting harmony and religious freedom, want to take First Amendment protections away from religions they don’t approve of, including the world’s second largest religion, Islam. While the Pope is preaching religious tolerance, Tony Perkins is claiming conservative “Christians” like him have more rights than moderate or liberal Christians.

Tony Perkins is actually using hatred and fear of ISIL to promote hatred and fear of atheists, because atheists – and here is his “reasoning” – for some reason, support a radical Islamic group that would, at first opportunity, exterminate every atheist on earth.

Say what?

This isn’t religion. This isn’t even clear-thinking. This is hatred in the name of religion, pure and simple, exactly as Pope Francis describes it.

Exactly what the Pope condemns.

Rick Joyner says he visited heaven recently and, reports Right Wing Watch, “learned that there is no Ebola virus in Heaven and that Christians are capable of taking authority over the disease here on earth. In fact, there are certain people who are given ‘total authority over Ebola,’ allowing them to cure people infected with the disease simply by being in their presence.

“Somebody with Ebola, they come into the room, the Ebola is gone,” Joyner said. “That person is healed. It cannot live, cannot exist in their presence.”

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I would like to take the opportunity here this morning to invite Rick Joyner, Scott Lively, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, and all the Catholic bishops opposing religious freedom and the First Amendment, to journey to Africa on behalf of humankind, and to use their collective holy presence to eradicate Ebola, which, the CDC reports, could infect up to 500,000 people by the end of January.

The best that can happen is that Ebola is eliminated and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, are saved. The worst that can happen is that we eliminate religious persecution in America in one fell swoop.

I call that a win/win.

Ebola photo: Reuters/Tommy Trenchard via RT.com

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