15 June 2015

Will Republicans keep invoking God if the Pope keeps pissing on their philosophy?

American politicians are particularly prone to invoking their Christian faith as a guide to their political beliefs. Although members of both major parties freely trot out scripture at the drop of a writ, conservative Republicans are especially inclined to pepper their appeals with references to their faith, God and Jesus.

But now they have encountered a rather embarrassing development. Christ, it seems, is turning on them. The most influential Christian on Earth, leader of the largest religious institution in the world (and in the United States) is implying, rather insistently, that Republican philosophy may not be on the side of God. At least not when it comes to the major problems facing human society. The Pope has powerfully condemned humankind's assault on the Earth's resources and the maldistribution of those resources. This leaves Republican policy, founded on capitalism and the untrammeled free market, in shreds. These are exactly the institutions the Pope has found wanting, or worse.

He has referred to capitalism as a new form of idolatry and declared, "Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting." About capitalism and the environment he has said, “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.” Like Christ in the temple with the money-changers, he is outraged.

Certainly he still agrees with conservatives on sexual issues such as abortion, gay marriage and contraception—misogyny sticks to the Church like glue—but he has at least moderated Vatican views on these issues. He supports a stronger role for women in the Church, although not as priests, and about gays he has said, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

He has manifested no such reluctance to judge our assault on the environment and our neglect of the poor. I disagree with the man and his religion on a number of important matters but when he expresses outrage about anthropogenic climate change and the inequality of modern society ... well, I'm ready to embrace him like a brother. These are the most critical issues of our age and a right-minded champion with 1.2 billion adherents is a most welcome ally.


  1. The Earth “is protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her, because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her. We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorised to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”

    - from a leaked draft of the encyclical to be released Thursday.

  2. I eagerly await this much-publicized encyclical.