Utilizing Christian theology as a force for positive, progressive change
Seemingly, from the moment he assumed his role as pontiff, Pope Francis has embraced a philosophy of change. In many ways, his actions show a desire to clear the cobwebs of foolishness from the rafters of modern Catholicism.
There are two areas, in particular, that Francis has chosen to pursue with vigor. The first category, to which the Holy Father has devoted the vast majority of his public speaking time, pertains to the state of the modern world in relation to the structure of capitalism.
He has made it repeatedly clear that Catholics are to recognize the plight of the poor. At first glance, this statement may not rouse suspicion, seeing as it is common knowledge that the New Testament has much to say about money and the poor. What is also apparent, however, is that establishment Christians have, over the decades, sought to mesh their Christian hierarchy of truth with the structure of modern capitalism.
Certainly, abundant evidence indicates that modern western economies are not perfect. What is more, when conservatives in power are confronted with the continuing inequalities present in the world today, the argument is often not allowed to encroach on the sanctity of industrial capitalism, lest charges of socialism and communism be leveled.
In truth, there is little in Judaeo-Christian theology endorsing the gluttonous business oligarchy that rules the modern world. Although there are certainly numerous verses worthy of quotation, a few verses stand out as singularly important in arguing the opposite viewpoint.
Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”
Luke 16:20 “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matthew 19:24 “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 21:12 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
Similarly, the views of Pope Francis are well represented in this statement:
“A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.” (Address to the Food and Agricultural Organization, 6/20/13)
The second area of focus, which Francis recently addressed, is that of the relationship between Christian theology and the continuing search for scientific knowledge. In the last few decades, this has become a much more contentious issue. From Francis’s point of view, however, there is apparently little need for conflict at all.
Back in May, Francis addressed growing concerns about global climate change stating that, “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.”
More recently, the Pope broke even further with tradition, discussing the role that the theory of evolution and even the big bang theory can play in Christian theology. When commenting on the big bang Francis stated that it is, “considered to be the origin of the world” and that it “does not contradict the creative intervention of God.”
With respect to evolution, something which may elicit a gag reflex from some of the more conservative Christians out there, Francis stated that, “God is not […] a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” continuing that, “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
The facts are clear. Pope Francis seems to be spearheading efforts at revolutionary change within the Catholic Church that could serve many purposes for modern progressives. If the abundantly-present Catholic theology can be utilized to further the cause of human uplifting and scientific advancement it may be infinitely easier to sway even the most stalwart of American evangelicals.