It has been remarkable to watch a cabal of greedy, racist, and hate-filled maniacs hijack the Christian religion over the past thirty years and infiltrate the halls of government in opposition to the dictates of their Jesus in the Christian bible. Although the fundamentalist religious right does not represent the majority of so-called good Christians, with valuable assistance from Republican man-god Ronald Reagan and the GOP they have redefined the faith into the opposite of what Jesus Christ preached. Now, at long last, there is a Catholic Pope who not only appears to be a “true follower of Christ,” he is openly challenging Christians-in-name-only to adhere to their lord and savior’s teachings. For a secular humanist, it is stunning that this new Pope is calling out the near-heretical actions of many people who claim to be followers of Christ.
Since he has been Pontiff, Pope Francis has made some very provocative statements that certainly gave the impression that this new and improved Catholic leader is a true follower of Christ; the definition of a Christian. Not an American neo-Christian, or evangelical Old Testament devotee; a real follower of Christ’s teachings both in word and deed. Of course, some of the Pope’s Christ-like messages immediately incited Republicans to question Francis’ religious leadership and dedication to Christianity because he does not supporting unrestrained capitalism and called for drastic action on global climate change; both sentiments that go against everything Koch Republicans stand for.
The Pope’s demand for action on climate change and insistence that, despite what evangelical Republicans claim, it is every Christian’s mandate to help the poor have won him praise and admiration from millions who are not Catholics and many who are not even religious because he is a humanitarian. Now, however, Pope Francis has finally sent a very clear message that will not be well received among America’s neo-Christian movement, but it should warm the heart of Americans opposed to supporting churches to the tune of $82.5 billion every year according to data from 2012.
Apparently, when the Pope discovered that “some religious orders,” or churches in American parlance, are using their tax-exempt status as a way to exploit their property for economic gain, it drove the Pontiff to say what many Americans have screamed for years; it is time for churches to start paying taxes. The Pope, as a true “follower of Christ,” is put off that there are churches refusing to accept refugees into the buildings they own because like greedy conservatives and American evangelicals, they only use the church to make money. For the record, and to demonstrate that in this instance the Pope is walking his talk, the Pope is taking in two refugee families who will remain “as long as the Lord wants.” Likely, Republican heads’ exploded at hearing the Pope welcomes immigrants with shelter and sustenance for as long as they need assistance and without remuneration.
The idea of any Christian, much less the Pope, calling for churches to pay taxes is an astonishing statement from a religious leader of any faith. One can only imagine the mind-numbing rage it will incite in America for first, saying anything negative about religion, and second even insinuating that churches cannot be for-profit organizations. The Pope even gave an example that barely scratches the surface of the level of greed rampant in many churches and among many, many members of the clergy; particularly American clergy.
During an interview when the subject of finding shelter for refugees and immigrants came up, Pope Francis said
“Some religious orders say, ‘No! Now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests and make money.’ Well, if that is what you do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a business, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbor. Otherwise it is not fair business.”
According to some religious observers, the philosophy behind Pope Francis’ demand “could very well undermine what mega churches and televangelists do in America;” one can only hope that is the case.
The Pope has shone a light on an issue that, curiously, many Americans are completely unaware of; instead of practicing their religion, these evangelical charlatans run religious businesses, make obscene profits, and do not pay any taxes or contribute anything whatsoever to society. As the Pope explained what is apparently a new Catholic doctrine, “if the church isn’t engaged in the business of the Church, then it’s time for them to pay their fair share of taxes!”
There is a movement in America that believes very strongly that it is time for churches to pay their fair share of taxes even if they are in the religious “business.” Why? Because churches, like every business and individual American, use the same services that everyone else has to support. Of course the religious community disagrees and claim their “service to the community” exempts them from paying taxes and warrants taxpayer welfare. Yet police officers, janitors, trash collectors, school teachers, healthcare providers, and fire fighters all provide a valuable and much-needed services to the community and still pay their fair share of income, sales, and property taxes; many of them even pay church taxes in a scam known as “tithing.”
It will be worth watching to see if the Pope brings up the tax exempt, politically active church issue when he addresses Congress next week; particularly with Republican presidential hopefuls raging conservative hatred toward immigrants. In fact, the Pope reminded people that he himself is a “son of immigrants” that likely drove his very “blunt warning to any religious order that spurned his call to open their doors to refugees and immigrants.” One hopes the Pontiff brings that same blunt warning to Republicans and their hate-filled base when he visits next week because there is little difference between the vile sentiments among European and American nativists more interested in annihilating immigrants than helping them.
Some Americans may recall that last year, despite a George W. Bush enacted law to take in and protect Hispanic refugees, Republicans went berserk, called for armed militias to hunt down and kill child refugees, or send the United States military to wage war on Hispanics who dare approach the Southern border. Even now, while Republican presidential candidates are vying for who is the most anti-Hispanic and calling for enslaving immigrants and using weaponized drones to kill them, their greatest support is from their evangelical, so-called followers of Christ, base. One thing is certain, there are very few, if any, American churches opening their doors to immigrants and maybe their stance will change if they faced the prospect of having to pay taxes, because they certainly are profitable enterprises.
One does not have to be religious, a Catholic, or any kind of Christian, to appreciate Pope Francis’ and his attempt to steer wayward and pretend Christians toward being more Christ-like humanitarians and not greedy judgmental hate-filled Republican evangelicals. There is a reason Republicans hate the Pope and although their two primary complaints are his regard for the poor and the environment, he has exposed their blatant ‘Christian’ hypocrisy with every statement he makes.
Now that he has called for churches to either “practice religion” or start paying their fair share of taxes, it is likely Republicans truly hate Pope Francis for threatening their bases’ source of wealth and political power. He has also revealed what it means to be a follower of Christ and it is surely something that evangelicals or Republicans have no intent of taking lying down.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.