By the time children step foot in school again this fall, it will have been two years since Pope Francis cautioned that the Church had become “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Indeed, it is not. Jesus never mentioned any of them. Not once.
He did, however, talk about the poor, and about the evils of the rich, and how the rich will not enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23). He told his followers to turn the other cheek, to love and to forgive.
Pope Francis went on to say that, “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
Two years later, here we are with the Republican Party and Religious Right focused as much on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, as ever before. We are forced to continually re-fight the same battles as children starve, as people go homeless, and as corporations brutalize not only workers, but the environment.
Ted Cruz’s campaign site (www.tedcruz.org) features a “Life, Marriage, and Family” page, proclaiming,
Without life, there is no liberty. And ensuring every child is born into a home with a loving family provides the best chance for that child to achieve anything. That is why Ted Cruz has been on the front lines defending life and standing up for marriage when it has come under assault from activist judges.
There is nothing about ensuring those children are fed. In fact, nowhere on his campaign site will you find anything about Jesus’ condemnation of the rich and exaltation of the poor. Just a bunch of stuff Jesus didn’t find particularly important.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, another presidential hopeful, just signed 20-week abortion band into law, which bans abortions after 20 weeks except for when the mother’s life is in danger. There are no exceptions for “severe fetal anomalies or for victims of rape and incest.”
Jesus never talked about these things. Not once. Jesus never called for strange men to probe women’s vaginas. Scott Walker and his Republican legislature could have come up with a law protecting the poor from the rich. Jesus talked about that. The Pope talks about that.
But Wisconsin Republicans would rather focus on their pet bigotries than on following Jesus.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says on “Secure our Values” page of his 2016 campaign site (www.lindseygraham.com) that he wants to “ensure that America remains a shining city on a hill.” This means, apparently, that “America was built upon the fundamental notions that life and liberty are sacred and inalienable rights.”
Unless you are a woman, of course. Or gay. Or want to be safe from people exercising their Second Amendment rights at your expense. And really, it’s kind of funny when you consider the fact that living in a Red State is harmful to your health. Maybe there ought to be signs at the border, like on packs of cigarettes.
Graham insists that,
There is no part of society more vulnerable and in need of our protection than the unborn. The inalienable right to life of every innocent human being is an essential element of a civil society.
Nothing about the children after they are born of course. After that, children don’t need protection, apparently. And no mention of the poor, or their inability to take care of their children. Nothing about the rich people who oppress them.
You know, stuff Jesus talked about.
There are now sixteen Republican candidates. You will find pretty much the same pablum* (that’s an intellectual term for, as vocabulary.com helpfully puts it, “a big load of hooey”) coming out of all their mouths. Even Donald Trump, who is not particularly religious, supports a 20-week abortion ban, apparently, because everybody else does.
Not one single one of them is talking about anything Jesus talked about. None of them is talking about forgiveness, or loving their enemies, or turning the other cheek, or caring for the poor or condemning the rich.
In other words, the party of shoving Jesus down all our throats doesn’t really care much at all about Jesus, let alone sanctifying life, but rather about sanctifying their own bigotries with the veil of religion. Jesus may not have liked Gentiles much (he called them “dogs” and “swine”) but he liked women. He liked children. He liked the poor.
And despised the rich, who were going to be last under his father’s new regime (Matthew 20:16).
With the Republican Party being the party of the rich, it’s no wonder that message gets lost. There is less excuse for the rest.
Pope Francis says, because it is true (Luke 14:33: “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions”), however uncomfortable the thought makes you, that you must give up all your wealth to follow him, not just give to charity and take your tax deductions.
In Pope Francis’ words:
Christian poverty is that I give to the poor what is mine, not just what is left over, but even that which I need for myself, because I know that he enriches me.
This is not communism, says the Pope. It’s Jesus.
And he is right.
This doesn’t get talked about. It’s awkward, after all. How many Christians are willing to give up everything? And how will they follow him? Jesus isn’t wandering around the Midwest as he wandered around Galilee. He’s dead. Been dead for 2,000 years.
But that’s what he said. He didn’t say “stop abortion,” or “stop gays from getting married,” or “don’t use contraception,” if you want to follow me. He never said any of that.
It is not that the Pope wants to ignore those three things, though nobody is likely to forget his explosive and controversial, “Who am I to judge?” remark. He is not a Free Thinker. Some have even questioned how much of a moderate he really is, despite the right’s cries of “Marxist!”
Regardless of where he really stands, the Pope has said that abortion, gay marriage, and contraception have to be seen in a larger context:
I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.
Wouldn’t that be something? To talk about something else…