10 Reasons Why I’m Falling In Love With Pope Francis

Pope Francis was recently named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, a choice that I think was spot on. When Pope Benedict vacated the papacy, I don’t think any of us expected what has come to a realization in Pope Francis: a Pope that looks a heck of a lot more like Jesus than any predecessor in collective memory.

Never in my life did I imagine that I would connect so deeply with a Pope. I grew up (and still live) in an area that is deeply anti-catholic. I still remember sitting in a sixth grade Sunday school class in the basement of my church, and hearing the teacher say: “The Catholic church is controlled by Satan himself.” Even now, anti-catholic sentiments run high, with some protestant Christians in my context rejecting the historic creeds of the church, simply because of the line: “the one holy catholic apostolic Church”. (The fact that it doesn’t mean what they think it means is no matter— anything that even hints of Roman Catholic is often rejected without regard to the merits in many protestant contexts).

In high school I went on a few different mission trips over seas, and one of my clearest memories was leadership telling us of the possibility of preaching in a Roman Catholic church– but to pray, because Satan would want to keep us out of his church.

Obviously, I came out of that culture– and today, I love my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters and am appreciative for their contributions to the Christian faith. In addition to being a wonderful leader for Roman Catholics, Pope Francis is also quickly becoming a beloved figure among Jesus followers in other traditions. For me, it is for these ten reasons:

10. He understands that social justice is at the heart of the Christian Gospel, and conservatives hate him for it.

As Jesus says in Matthew 23:23, justice and mercy are the “more important” parts of the law– and Pope Francis gets this. From the first moments of his papacy, Pope Francis has been a Pope of the poor– a heart for the poor that revealed itself immediately, even in the selection of the name Francis. Being an example of the radical message of Jesus, Francis is obviously now on the outs with hard-line conservatives. Rush Limbaugh has even been on the attack, and is now claiming that Time selected the Pope as the Person of the Year, simply to get back at him:

“The media is beside itself,” he said. “They don’t know what to do– they’re conflicted…. The media’s jealousy, envy, hatred for me has driven them into the arms of the Pope!”

Well, any enemy of Rush Limbaugh is a friend of mine.

9. He calls “unfettered capitalism” a “new tyranny“.

And, it is. There’s nothing godly about the results of economic systems which oppress the poor, and the Pope gets that. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer doesn’t line up with the way of Jesus– in his first sermon, he said that he had come to bring “good news to the poor”, but unfettered capitalism is clearly very, very bad news for the poor. In line with Jesus’ teachings, the Pope has criticized the disparity of wealth in the modern world. If you have six minutes to spare, this video will rock your worldview on just how unjust income distribution in our country really is:

8. He sneaks out at night to serve the homeless.

As reported by the Huffington Post:

“Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.”

Remember that Jesus guy? He was homeless too. The fact that the Pope sneaks out at night to minister to the homeless shows that the Pope isn’t just the head of the Church, but that he’s actually a Jesus follower– something that’s quite different from being a Christian.

7. He has embraced biblical modesty in a way unlike his predecessors.

Pope Francis typically dresses modestly in white instead of over-the-top religious garb, and prefers a Ford Focus instead of the traditional Mercedes of other popes. Whereas Pope Benedict dressed a bit more like Santa, Pope Francis is usually found dressing as plain as can be. This is what modesty is all about, and it’s a great example.

6. He says that we shouldn’t judge our LGBT brothers and sisters.

As Pope Francis said not long ago:

“Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?…You can’t marginalize these people.”

To which I say, exactly. Who am I to judge someone who is seeking God? It’s my role as a Jesus follower to facilitate that connection to God, not to hinder it. My hope is that as Jesus followers we will become people who remove barriers that people have to connecting to God instead of erecting new ones.

5. He embraces those who otherwise, probably aren’t embraced.

Jesus was the guy who touched the untouchables— and so is Pope Francis. A picture is worth 1000 words on this point.

4. He spent Holy Thursday last year washing the feet of juvenile offenders at a detention facility.

My wife and I have long had a heart for kids in juvenile detention. In previous careers both she and I worked with this population and have been long time financial backers of Straight Ahead Ministries here in New England which is a ministry to kids in lock-up. What’s even cooler, is that he washed the feet of women as well– something no Pope had ever done before. This is a good lesson even for those of us who are passionate about justice– we often remember the poor and hungry, but forget that one of the people groups Jesus commanded us to care for were prisoners (see Matthew 25). We must not forget this population, and Pope Francis reminds us of this by way of example.

3. He speaks up for immigrants.

Immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, are perhaps one of the most marginalized people groups in our country. Even among conservative Christians, anti-immigrant sentiments are not only accepted but almost encouraged. It is apparently easy to forget that scripture is actually quite clear on how the people of God are called to treat immigrants. Anyone who claims to love God, but marginalizes immigrants, is a liar. The Pope’s example reminds us that we must speak up for this group of people.

“Do not mistreat or oppress an immigrant, for you were immigrants…” Ex. 22:21

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 19:33-34

2. He gets what Jesus meant when he said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

During Jesus’ ministry, children tried to come to him but the disciples attempted to shoo them away– something Jesus pushed back against. This is exactly what the Pope did in a now famous scene– perhaps my favorite moment of his papacy, because this is what Jesus looked like:

1. He lives in an guest house instead of a palace.

Seriously– the guy could live in a palace but decides to stay in a guest house instead. Not only that, but he pays for his room himself. I can’t think of anything that would be more Jesus-like. As we approach Christmas next week, we are reminded that Jesus gave up his heavenly throne to pitch his tent here– becoming “God with us”. The Pope’s example in this area serves as a living illustration of the night when Christ stripped himself of all the splendor that was entitled to him, and simply became like us.

Yes, I am falling in love with Pope Francis. I never imagined that I would find myself connecting with a Pope, and even cheering him on, but this is where I have found myself. While I obviously don’t agree with everything he believes (if I did, I’d be Roman Catholic, which I am not) I have certainly developed an affection for the man and the type of papacy he is establishing. And, I know that so many of the rest of you feel this way too– Pope Francis has become crazy popular with Christians across the board, except for the hard-core conservative flavor.

So the question becomes: what are the reasons that you are unexpectedly finding yourself connecting with Pope Francis? What else should have made this list? Did it surprise you to find yourself cheering on a pope? Let’s continue the discussion down below!

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  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    I have some friends who would deny that they are “fundies”… but, despite all these 10 things you mentioned, would STILL reject Francis simply because he is the pope. Anything that smacks of Catholicism and papacy must IMMEDIATELY be suspect. Don’t listen to the guy, he’s the pope… and popes are evil.

    But me? There’s still some distance between me and Catholicism on areas of church organization, hierarchy, ecclesiology, etc., that prevent me from becoming Catholic… but yeah… I’m with you, Ben… I’m having a VERY hard time NOT liking this guy…

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I agree– there’s a lot that keeps me from becoming Roman Catholic, but I really, really like this guy.

  • gimpi1

    100% agree with you on Pope Francis. Ben. I am very impressed with his humility and his consistency. I’m not Catholic, and have some problems with some of their actions and policies, (what else is new, I have problems with almost every group) but this pope genuinely appears to be one of the good guys.

    An aside:

    “Even now, anti-catholic sentiments run high, with some protestant Christians in my context rejecting the historic creeds of the church, simply because of the line: “the one holy catholic apostolic Church”. (The fact that it doesn’t mean what they think it means is no matter— anything that even hints of Roman Catholic is often rejected without regard to the merits in many protestant contexts).”

    Really? there are Christian organizations that don’t know the difference in definition between big-C Catholic and little-c catholic? I am surprised.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    The Lutherans. America’s sleeping Evangelical giant. They refuse to use the term ‘catholic’ for the precise reasons Mr. Corey listed.

    They’re also the ones who teach that the papacy is the literal anti-Christ, for what it’s worth.

  • Linda Olson

    Irish Atheist, I don’t know what Lutherans you are talking about. I am the daughter of Lutheran Missionaries (not religious myself). I have never heard a Lutheran say those things you claim they do about the Pope (or Catholic Church). In fact, in my experience, it’s been evangelical fundamentalists who have done that. The LCA would never say or suggest such a thing. Lutherans and Catholics have worked hand in hand around the world. And by the way, their liturgy does include “Catholic”. Where are you getting your information? If you’re talking about the Missouri Synod, that’s only one ‘brand’ and it’s not the dominant one.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    I’ve had personal exposure to the WELS, ELS, LCMS, and ELCA, although I know the latter is all over the board depending on the congregation.

    But I probably should not have made a sweeping statement, considering there are 36 separate Lutheran synods.

  • Steve

    Regarding your 10th reason, I think Pope Francis would disagree with what you said. Social Justice isn’t the heart of the Gospel. In his interview in America Magazine, Pope Francis identified what he thinks is the heart of the Gospel:

    “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.”

  • Jack

    Ben, I love your Blog and have read just about everyone you’ve
    published. And I loved this one, because, like you, I think there is so
    much to be encouraged about with regards to Pope Francis.

    At the same time, there are sometimes some comments you make that really strike me as out of place with your overall message and I couldn’t find a good way to send you a personal email. I would have preferred that, because this is nit-picky.

    “Well, any enemy of Rush Limbaugh is a friend of mine.” Isn’t very Christ-like. While Mr. Limbaugh is wrong about many things this is not a loving attitude. Taken to an extreme, the devil is the enemy of every human, and I’m sure you wouldn’t count him as a friend.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Thanks, Jack. (FYI, there is a “contact” link at the top of every page). I’m sure there are comments once in a while that go off my target, I do have off days and sometimes just make mistakes. I’m always open to improving.

    Thanks, and glad you found the blog!

  • Jill Roper

    I love your latest post. I watched live the night that the Pope was picked. That night he set on the road less taken. I have been rooting for him ever since. I love the work he is doing. I am not Catholic but have great respect for him. One thing bothered me though about the post. In number 10 you said that conservatives hate him concerning social justice. I find labels distasteful. Sometimes you fall into name calling using labels. That is so hard to do. I am the perfect example of a label that doesn’t fit. I dress plain (which I love about the new pope) and cover. Because of that most people think something about me that isn’t true. But not you Ben, you welcomed me in so please be careful about labels. Not all “conservatives” or liberals or capitalist or socialist believe one way. Otherwise the post was fabulous. I am rooting for the new Pope to keep shaking things up! Nicely done.
    Your covered sister,
    Jill

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I receive the loving rebuke from my covered sister :) I’ll be careful about name calling (which I do try to be careful of). I hate labels too, but sometimes they’re unavoidable because it’s how we name and identify things. But, I totally agree in principle– avoid where not necessary.

  • http://gratituesday.blogspot.com/ Jill Roper

    Love your heart Ben. Blessings, your covered sister

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’ll admit to having my share of misgivings about the guy, specifically because of the Church’s role in Argentina’s Dirty War where clergy played a prominent support role for the soldiers who were killing, torturing, and disappearing people. Still, he seems to be more the type of guy who walks the Church’s walk instead of just talking its Latin.

    I’d like to see him do more and have the church stop trying to backpedal on what he says.

    It’s probably going to be a long time before they pick another Pope like him, too.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    I’m not thrilled, to be honest. He’s a lot closer to what I think of when I think of “a good Christian,” and I like him overall, but he hasn’t actually changed any of the RCC’s most depraved and oppressive policies regarding women’s access to reproductive technology or gay people’s right to love–or either group’s ability to serve in an open leadership position, unless there was a very recent press release I don’t know about, and there’s still that whole child-rape thing going on. We’re talking about the marginalization of some rather large groups here, and yes, that’s a big deal for me. If he’s not addressing those injustices, then the rest of it just isn’t going to follow very well.

    The window dressing is nice, but there are some endemic flaws and problems he needs to address that he just isn’t interested in tackling. But yeah, in terms of Popes, he’s probably about the best one the RCC’s had in a good long while. I agree with the Gecko – I don’t see the RCC electing anybody even remotely like him to lead them for a good long time. I suspect he’s making them shiver in their cute red booties and probably sparking more than a few late-night worried war-room meetings with fellas in bright red hats. And that’s a nice thought. (PS: I grew up super-duper ultra-Catholic and have priests and nuns all through my family–even considered taking the veil myself as a teenager.) I really hope he does fix those glaring problems I mentioned. I really do. If anybody ever could turn that Titanic, he can.

  • s.

    But he is trying. And that’s all he can do.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    S., he’s the pope. He’s in charge of the entire Roman Catholic Church. It’s like how people keep excusing the Bible’s various atrocities by saying that the Bible’s god simply couldn’t just say “don’t keep slaves” or “don’t define women’s value by the contents of their cooters” because the society was just sooooo out of control by then. The Pope could easily say “We’re doing this now” and what’s the church body going to say about it? I’m not buying that excuse about the Pope any more than I buy it about the Bible’s god.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    As promised, five reasons I’m not a Pope Francis fanboy

    1. I don’t find anything particularly admirable about having a good PR team. Call me cynical, but after Benedict’s reign – where the public image of the Catholic Church plummeted and Catholics everywhere except for the most conservative circles were embarrassed – I find it very suspicious when the next pontiff is the exact opposite. The Catholic Church isn’t made up of oblivious imbeciles. They know where the money flow is, and they know that a good public image is necessary unless they want to go completely bankrupt. The massive surge of affection for Francis is swelling the coffers of the cardinals. This isn’t an accident.

    2. I don’t care how nice he is, I’m not going to show respect for the head of the largest criminal syndicate on earth. Just as I wouldn’t have admiration for a mob boss who funds a children’s hospital.

    3. I’m very aware of the Church’s effective use of Panem et Circensis. Growing up in a dominantly Catholic country, I remember how the Church used the war against the Protestant menace to divert attention from the fact that they were enslaving young women and raping children. How many feel-good stories have you read about Francis on Buzzfeed? And how many about the emerging child-rape allegations in the Minneapolis diocese?

    4. Francis was quite vocal in opposing same sex marriage and employment rights in his native Argentina. His statements amounting to ‘Let’s back off railing on the gays’ have to be taken with a huge chunk of Dead Sea salt. He’s still an opponent of the LGBT community insofar as letting them live their lives in happiness and prosperity. Nothing has changed.

    5. He hasn’t actually done anything. I can’t think of anything more noteworthy than giving money to some poor people and saying that unrestrained capitalism hurts people. I could do that and still have time before lunch. But then, I’m not the Pope. And therefore I fail to see what’s so remarkable about showing a bit of common human empathy when you’re the head of what is supposedly the highest moral authourity on earth.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    Please, please have a blog and share the link. I’ve been seeing your posts around lately and always get a lot out of reading them. Thank you for taking the time. I didn’t know about some of this stuff.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    Hahaha well thank you. I do have a blog. Shameless plug.

    http://www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    Can’t be that shameless if you only gave it in response to a direct request! Actually rather shy and retiring, hmm? ;) Thank you. (PS Very well-written blog too.)

  • Johnathan

    Joining the Catholic church certainly isn’t on my radar but his approach to living his faith is admirable. Whether or not I agree with their theology and practice 100%, he is still the leader of one of the largest religious institutions in the world, which means he has a bit of clout. Setting such a beautiful example of humility and service can only reap good things. I am quite cynical any time there is a room of old men voting which of them should be the most powerful old guy, however, this time I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised in a way that really shook my cynicism. It almost seems, if I may say so, providential.

  • Heather McCuen Dearmon

    spot on! I love the new Pope too, and believe he will slowly but surely change many things in the Catholic church, and continue to make a huge impact in the world. Below, someone criticized you for not being very loving when you wrote “…any enemy of Rush Limbaugh is a friend of mine.” oh, for goodness sake, it’s lines like that that make me love your blog, and I completely GET that you are being sarcastic! You are very REAL and HONEST and use sarcasm to get a point across and it’s freakin’ hilarious –all these attributes are what young Christians are craving, so please don’t stop being you and writing like you do. If you can turn the comment section to “off”, that’d be so awesome. you know what they say about opinions… ;)

  • MeriMakr8298

    I, as a Jew, find him to be a Mensch.

    He’s not, as some would speculate, a demon, or a saint (at least not yet) but he does seem like the perfect reply to Benedict (who seemed to be more interested in his Prada shoes than in Salvation).

    As to weather he’s a little ‘too good’ a reply to Benedict – the Church obviously knew they couldn’t continue on the way they were going or they could lose their incredible wealth. The oddest thing is, many of those Bishops are the ones who are most unhappy with Francis.

    I worry about his long-term longevity with the way he’s stirring up so much anti-wealth sentiment.