Calling for action to address climate change and to end poverty, Pope Francis spoke before the U.S Congress on Thursday, sounding nothing like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum or any of the other Republican politicians who try to portray themselves as God’s anointed GOP messengers.
From a Republican point of view, the pope’s speech must have seemed peppered with liberal talking points. Not only did the pontiff sound the alarm on climate change and poverty, but he also took aim at religious fundamentalism of all types, and he called for a more compassionate policy towards immigration. The pope’s message seemed to be almost the antithesis of contemporary Republican politics.
Pope Francis continued his criticism of global capitalism, and he called for an end to war profiteering through the international arms trade. He also explicitly called for ending the death penalty.
There was scant little in the pope’s speech for conservatives to latch onto, although the pontiff did make references to the family being under attack, implying that permitting same-sex marriages was partially responsible. In that area, the Catholic leader should perhaps heed his own admonitions against religious fundamentalism.
However, aside from his brief mention of concern over the changing structure of families, the pope spent most of his time promoting an agenda that is at odds with American conservatism. His speech hopefully made Catholic conservative leaders in Congress, like House speaker John Boehner and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan uncomfortable.
American conservatives have done their best to try to monopolize the Christian faith, and to marginalize the Christian left, by depicting liberals as a monolithic Godless movement that is hostile to Christianity. Religious conservatives are so intent on proclaiming that they alone represent Christianity, that they have gone to extraordinary lengths to paint Barack Obama as Muslim, even though he is a Christian affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC).
The pope’s address before Congress will of course do nothing to dissuade Barack Obama’s detractors from arguing that Obama is not a Christian, but it should remind America that the words “Christian left” are not a contradiction in terms. Pope Francis’ speech sounded quite a bit more like self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders than it did like self-righteous modern day pharisee Mike Huckabee.