The Pope Takes a Poke at Paganism
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 09:14:19 PM EST
A sympathetic reading of the recent remark by Pope Francis would be that he was trying to say the right thing about the nature of Christianity when he stumbled. A less sympathetic reading would suggest that Francis and the Church generally has a very long way to go in showing respect for non-Catholics.

Whatever one thinks of Pope Francis, the cult of celebrity is obscuring at least as much as it is revealing about the state of the church and even the direction of this papacy. This is something to which everyone who values religious pluralism and separation of church and state needs to keep both an open ear and an open mind.

The occasion for this post is how astounded I was when I read how Francis, in an apparent effort to denounce religious supremacism, engaged in religious bigotry and supremacism himself.

Vatican Radio reported:  

"Pope Francis concluded his Audience by pointing out two considerations we can take away from these considerations on the Nativity of Jesus: The first is that God reveals Himself not as one who remains on high and dominates the universe, but as one who humbles Himself. This shows us that in order to be like Him, we must not put ourselves above others, but must humble ourselves and serve others. He had strong words for Christians who refuse to humble themselves: "It is an ugly thing," he said, "when you see a Christian who doesn't want to humble himself, who doesn't want to serve, a Christian who struts about everywhere: it's ugly, eh? That is not a Christian: that's a pagan!" [emphasis added]

The New Advent Catholic encyclopedia defines paganism:

Paganism, in the broadest sense includes all religions other than the true one revealed by God, and, in a narrower sense, all except Christianity, Judaism, and Mohammedanism. The term is also used as the equivalent of Polytheism.

A large fraction of the people of the world are pagan by the above definition.  Indeed, there are many pagan religions -- and to be fair, on a good day, even Francis might acknowledge that these religions include many include fine people.  Nevertheless, denouncing as pagans, Christians who behave badly, is an insult to millions of people who are for example, Buddhist, Confucianist, Hindu, or who adhere to Native American religions; not to mention the many people who identify specifically as pagans.  

As glad that many of us are that Francis, among others, are addressing inequality of late, inequality is not merely an economic issue.  Ideological religious supremacy is at war with religious equality under the law and in our culture.  When we say that we value religious pluralism what we mean is that we respect people of all religious traditions and none, and show that via equality in the eyes of the law.  There are Christian Right leaders who aggressively seek to revise history to make fantastic claims about history in an effort to establish their particular religious and political views as having the endorsement of the framers of the Constitution.  The latest outrageous but illuminating example came from Brian Fischer of the American Family Association who claimed that when the framers said "religion" they meant Christianity only. This is baloney, and the historical record shows that the framers were not speaking in code, and that the development of the idea of how to manage religious pluralism and equality under the law was decades in the making and included and embraced Islam.

Religious supremacism is one of the usual consequences of the politicization of conservative religious orthodoxy as we have seen in the United States. Indeed, that is one reasonable way of looking at the war of aggression being waged by the Religious Right, (aka the culture war).

Earlier this year I noted in an essay in The Public Eye magazine, for example, the mutual abhorrence between the Southern Baptists and the Vatican.

While conservative Roman Catholics have long been a vital part of the broad religious/political coalition known as the Christian Right, finding ways to broaden and deepen the coalition of right-wing evangelical Protestants and Catholics has been a difficult and controversial undertaking. A case in point is the famous appearance by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on CNN's Larry King Live in 2000. "As an evangelical," Mohler said, "I believe the Roman Church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel. I believe the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office." Mohler's views are unexceptional in much of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism. (More recently, Mohler insisted that the mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is "not a church," because, in 2013, it elected as a bishop a respected, gay professor of theology.)

The abhorrence has been mutual. In 2000, the Vatican issued a proclamation titled Dominus Iesus, which declared that other Christian churches "are not `churches' in the proper sense." The Vatican declared this a "definitive and irrevocable" doctrine of the Church.

Navigating a religiously plural society is a tricky thing. As a country is is one of our defining features -- and we are pretty good at it, even as the Pope is clearly not. Still it is not easy to stay true to our own views, whether religious or non-religious, while respecting the rights of others to hold deeply contrary views. It requires some knowledge, some dedication and a relevant skill set. And we reinvent that knowledge, dedication and skill set in every generation.

Because that is so, it may be there are some things that the leader of an ancient religion on the other side of the world can learn from the ever uppity Americans, many of whom do know a thing or two about how to adhere to both religious freedom and separation of church and state.  

 




Display:
I'm curious as to what language the Pope was speaking when he made these remarks, and whether "pagan" was his term, or a translation by the Vatican radio. Both Italian and Spanish would use "pagano" to mean a polytheist, and "ateo" (or in Spanish, "infiel") as a more generalized pejorative, similar to the English "heathen." It would still denote a considerable tone-deafness on the part of the Pope, but it could be more of a vernacular term of contrast in behavior than a theological statement about the nature of non-Christian religions.

by MLouise on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 11:35:53 PM EST

Pope Francis makes positive comments about atheists but negative ones about other theistic or naturalistic religions?

by Villabolo on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 02:33:19 PM EST
with his predecessors. Over at Daily Kos, some are claiming its an issue of translation into English. But as attractive as that explanation might be for Francis fans, I don't buy it.  If Francis does not want to be misunderstood, he has the power to make it right.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 07:17:37 PM EST
Parent


still, we must be careful not to attempt to make every word a person speaks stand alone. Fredrick, we share a background where "verbal" inspiration extended to every word, and where exegetical preaching often focused on one specific word in a text. Some of it was great preaching - some of it was far more a task of reading into the text something already in the mind of the preacher, not necessarily in the mind of the speaker/writer. I am hopeful that we will not fall into the trap of focusing so much on a specific word that we miss the context. I know there are many ill-spoken words in my old sermons. My philosophy was to avoid the micro-scope approach and to use the telescopic approach. Details are important but we dare not miss the big picture. I remain hopeful in listening to Pope Francis - I worry that within the powers that be within the Catholic Church there will be opposition enough, without the larger community bringing opposition of their own. Still a good read, and wonderful that people are listening and reacting to who he is, and what he is saying.

by chaplain on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 10:18:01 AM EST
and although your point is well taken, the context supports my point completely.

We all hope for and wish the best from leaders of all kinds. They can make such a difference for so many if they succeed.  But it is my sense so far that there is much less actual reform associated with the celebrity of Francis than meets the eye, and that his diction is not the exception that can be explained away by the context in which it appears -- rather it epitomizes his thought in ways that are consistent with his predecessors.

I think the healthiest approach to reading Francis, or anyone, is not to second guess his meaning.  He and his advisers are very aware that they have people's attention and that what they say and how they say it, matters.  I think he meant what he said and said what he meant. He can always let us know if he issues a stray word and pull it back. It would be a humble and important acknowledgement that would add to his credibility and be meaningful for us all.

That said, I hope I am wrong, and I intend to keep an open mind to evidence that may demonstrate that that is the case.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 04:48:31 PM EST
Parent

I look forward to seeing just what actions are taken by the papal admin. in following up on his recent remarks. If he does nothing about the vehement disregard of his words by the Catholic right and their libertarian bedfellows, then I would conclude that his words were mere window dressing, similar to Gov. Jindal's words to conservatives about not being the "Stupid party" which were followed by more of the same ideological smears and anti-poor/working class actions like his execrable tax bill, thankfully successfully opposed by his own party's membership in the state legislature.

by trog69 on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 10:49:10 PM EST
Parent




WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (71 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (14 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (16 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (8 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (19 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (9 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (10 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (9 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (5 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (4 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (9 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (14 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (8 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (22 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (29 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (12 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (12 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (53 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (11 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (10 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (6 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (9 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (15 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (11 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (10 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (6 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (12 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.