Pope Francis on Child Labor, Fear of God, Love of Money, and Arms Dealing

Pope Francis is first of all a priest. The world is his parish and every single one of us is in the crosshairs of his admonitions to follow Jesus without reservations.

Following Jesus all the way, without holding anything back, is a revolutionary act. People who do it, even the most placid and low-key of them, become revolutionaries themselves. They are God’s change agents in a fallen world.

Those who try to follow Jesus part way, who stop when it gets difficult or conflicts with other things they hold dear, are pretty much useless to God. He cannot change the world with partially converted Christians. We are called to follow Him. There are no qualifiers to that command. It is absolute and all-encompassing.

When Pope Francis exhorts us to do just exactly that, he invariably becomes the target of half-converted Christians who have been using a selective view of the Gospels to condemn others and deify themselves. Everybody gets a kick out of it when the Holy Father calls out somebody else about sins we find appalling. But when he does it to us, well, that’s, as we say in these parts, meddling.

There has grown up here in America a false theology based on the idea that only a couple of sins — abortion and homosexuality — are truly sinful and anything and everything that has to do with money is outside the concerns of morality. In other words, if you oppose abortion, then you can rob all the banks you want.

This has grown to the point that there is a whole movement of fallen Christians out there who will lecture and hector anyone who has concern about the poor and helpless. They justify themselves and attack others with what are blatantly selective and anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture.

They use this obviously false and self-serving bogus theology to justify helping the rich get richer by transferring the wealth of our nation to them. They take prosperity that belongs to everyone and give it to a few and then proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness before God.

I’ve lived with this blasphemy for years on my job as a legislator. I’ve listened as the distorted, self-serving, anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture are flung in people’s faces. It is evil right down to the ground.

The idea that opposing abortion and gay marriage politically is the sum total of the Gospels is a sick, sad, anti-Christ interpretation of Scripture invented by political activists for their own purposes. It is, in itself, deeply sinful.

When Pope Francis tells us that we are bound to follow the whole Gospel of Christ, he is telling us the same thing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said with his famous comments about cheap grace.

Of course Pope Francis is being attacked for speaking out for the poor. Of course he is being reviled for teaching the whole Gospel.

That’s what happens to people who stand for Christ and Him crucified. It. Happens. Every. Time.

I’ve chosen this particular video because it contains excerpts from three of Pope Francis’ recent audiences in which he addressed what is the moral plague that is destroying the witness of a good many Christians today. He talks about child labor, the love of money, arms dealing and fear of God.

In my opinion, these things are just a few of the manifestations of one thing: A false Gospel that says that economics cannot be judged by moral beliefs. If that isn’t a lack of fear of God in action, I don’t know what is.

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  • Ray Glennon

    Rebecca,

    You powerfully present important points.

    And I think the situation is exacerbated in our current highly partisan political environment with the “group think” (unfortunately) goes with it. The study released by the Pew Research Center yesterday on Polarization http://pewrsr.ch/TNl6mr documents how the middle (where you might find a commitment to the “common good” is being hollowed out and the more extreme wings of each party are driving the debate.

    And last week Deacon Greg provided this link (http://ncronline.org/news/politics/archbishop-warns-balkanization-us-church) to a story about the divisiveness in the U.S Catholic church that opens this way: ” A prominent U.S. archbishop has warned that the divisive nature of the nation’s politics — particularly the separation of people into disparate ideological camps — may be seeping into the American Catholic church, leading to a “balkanization” of the faithful. Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin also warned against a trend in the U.S. church to “oversimplify what are really complicated questions in the hope of discovering who to blame… At the present moment, this behavior helps to contribute to the balkanization of American Catholics into so-called right wing and left wing, or progressive and traditionalist, factions, who point fingers at each other,” Tobin said Friday, speaking at a theological convention.

    What is the way forward for Catholics and other Christians that want to follow Jesus. We need to align ourselves WITH EACH OTHER AND THE LORD rather than with a single political party. We need to reclaim the CENTER – the central reality that we are called to Love God and Love Our Neighbors as ourselves. Based on the Pew study, this is clearly counter-cultural. And isn’t that what Pope Francis is trying to tell us?

    • hamiltonr

      Thoughtful and informative as always Ray. Thank you.

  • hamiltonr

    Beautiful Gordis. Thank you.

  • AnneG

    Caring for the poor and vulnerable is always important and our responsibility because of our love for Jesus. Helping people live their lives in freedom and peace where they can do honest work and build their lives is the responsibility of the State and responsible Christians should support those aims in their governments in every possible way. But, the government is not the solution to every problem and never will be. That is what bothers me about some of the political philosophies around. There are those who think the only goal is to make as much money as they can and, on the other hand, those who believe that most people are way too stupid to take care of themselves and seek to control everything. Neither way works nor is Godly. There has to be a middle ground. That being said, I can’t figure out why the Holy Father added in arms dealers. Huh?
    Btw, I think he speaks about economics from a particularly South American, especially Argentine perspective. That system is much more like the systems in most of the world than ours.
    My experience has tended more towards folks saying what is important is our care for the poor because we can’t do much about gay “marriage” and abortion is only one thing. Really.

    • hamiltonr

      I hear it both ways all the time Anne. Your comment is right on that they are both wrong.

  • fredx2

    This is the first time that you have written something that I just did not understand. Where are these Christians who think you have to oppose abortion and gay marriage, but think that robbing banks is fine? I have never heard anyone say abortion and gay marriage are the only two sins that matter.

    No one is speaking out against the Pope “because he speaks up for the poor” as you say. There is a cadre that speaks up when they believe he has ignored the fact that free markets are the best way out of poverty, and simple government redistribution of wealth has proven to be the least effective way. They are afraid that the Pope’s statements will be read to endorse that simple government redistribution of wealth. I don’t think the Pope’s statements come anywhere near that – he very rarely says the state should be the mechanism by which all of this happens.

    • hamiltonr

      I run into them all the time in politics. Maybe you’ve been lucky Fred. :-)

    • AnneG

      Fredx2, my best friend’s brother was a charismatic evangelical. He was also a drug addict, alcoholic and convicted felon. He preached that Jesus had to forgive him everything, already had and he didn’t need to reform his life. Missed that thing about firm resolve for amendment of life. He had lots of friends who even said they asked forgiveness for stuff they were going to do. So, yes, some evangelicals think this. He just died, btw, Lord, Have Mercy.
      Lots of traditional Catholics are very critical and frightened by Pope Francis. I do think he needs to read some economics, though. Most of what he says applies to lots of places just not to us.

      • hamiltonr

        Anne, I’m not a theologian, but I this kind of behavior toward God is sinful in itself and in addition to other sins. I think it’s called presumption.

        “He preached that Jesus had to forgive him everything, already had and he didn’t need to reform his life. Missed that thing about firm resolve for amendment of life. He had lots of friends who even said they asked forgiveness for stuff they were going to do.”

    • hamiltonr

      Fred, I’ve been thinking about this and I want to ask you a question. I’m not trying to debate you or even discuss this with you. I really want to know. Is that what you think this about? Do you think it’s about capitalism? Do you think these legislators I’m talking about are promoting capitalism?

  • Guest

    True. Many who live in the comfortable and peaceful side of the world cannot seem to understand the terrible suffering of millions of people around the world due to wars, poverty, gross injustice, indifference of the rich, etc. They criticize and call Pope Francis a socialist, a communist for siding with the poor, and bringing to everybody’s awareness the plights of the many disadvantaged and the oppressed.

    Even before I read about Pope Francis condemnation of arm dealers who make and sell weapons, there are some social justice advocates who have written about this subject too in the past. They have also affirmed that the economy of the U.S. would only stay afloat if there are ongoing wars in parts of the world because “wars” means good business and great profits for these uncaring greedy souls. If widespread destructions and deaths happen in other countries, they don’t care! They would continue to make and sell weapons. Western Capitalism at its worst – profits at any cost! Senator McCain recent rhetoric is again seemingly inciting military intervention in the Middle East – to cause conflict/wars in those countries. A good proof of the above, even for politicians in their old age, no moral lesson learned.

    • Gordis85

      Well said.

      I think what Pope Francis said when talking about arms dealers and those who purchase such had to be said. It is frustrating to think our government could be involved in such dealings. I have heard that tired old argument about “how war is good for the economy.” What’s the point of it all? Blood money?

      All these recent events are very tragic and so sad. The thought of so many killed in Mosul, as was being reported, with the bodies of men, women, and children left to rot in the streets. The thought of the security guards having abandoned the people to their fate, no protection and at the mercy of these thugs who are said to kill with abandon and the silence from many in the West.
      Is our brother who is poor and “not like us” not worthy of protection? Of hope? Of peace?

      The sad irony is that as is being reported in some parts, weapons were left behind when these supposed security forces abandoned their posts. Weapons, which some are reporting are American made. Weapons, that fed our economy and put food on the table while others, innocent civilians, in other parts of the world, are killed with those same weapons. I would like to see if those statements are true but it seems the same folks who report such stuff never seem to have the facts.

      I am looking forward to reading Rebecca’s thoughts on all of this as I am sure she will know what information she can share with the rest of us.

      Virgen de Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, please pray and intercede for us, your children. Ask Jesus, our Lord, your precious Son, to give us hearts of flesh so that we may in turn look over our less fortunate brothers and sisters the world over with charity, with prayer, with faith, and with a great hope that the Eternal Father of us all, will soon deliver them from all harm.
      May He look with great mercy upon those who have lost their lives and reward them a place of eternal joy with Him in heaven.
      We thank you for your maternal protection always.

      Amen!

      • Ironic77

        It is sad and very much proves that the powers of evil are very much on the offensive.

    • Andy

      Thank you – the military-industrial complex, the late oil companies, the list is pretty endless need to have conflict to sell their products – the military-industrial complex is easy to see, oil so they can jack up the prices. We in the in seem to have moved to the worship of mammon and away from God.

  • FW Ken

    When we talk about concern for the poor, it’s easy to confuse means with ends. I suspect most faithful Catholics have compassion for those less fortunate, and research has shown political conservatives give more to charity. On the other hand, political liberals tend to support political, bureaucratic solutions.

    My favorite example is universal healthcare, which as a Catholic I support. In my opinion, Obamacare is a miserable failure at achieving that goal. You may think differently, but you can’t accuse me of lacking concern for the poor because I disagree with a specific means.

    One point: Catholics haven’t chosen abortion or normalization of same-sex behavior as our issues. They have been forced on us. We can discuss whether, or how much, we should allow others to control the conversation, but those are the two hot topics, whether we like it or nor.

  • hamiltonr

    george2007 I’m going to allow this as a teaching device, otherwise I would delete it.

    You say nothing — and I mean nothing — to support your position that I am mistaken. Try explaining why you disagree and get off criticizing me. I know that the internet has trained people to do this, which is why I keep allowing these comments and then going back over it.

    As for me “accusing” a considerable swath of Americans, who are these people I’ve accused? I did not call out anyone. I’m going to deal with this issue a lot as time goes by simply because somebody has to. But I doubt I ever start attacking any person or persons specifically. That’s not my way.

    I’m going to let the comments on this run pretty much without my input. I want to see what shakes out. But I hope that people reach for something a bit higher than the low-hanging fruit of “oh yeah? sez you!” reaction.

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    Excellent piece, Rep. Hamilton! Of course, it leaves you open to accusations of Marxism, especially from the likes of Bill O’Reilly (if he can throw that accusation at the Holy Father, we’re all fair game!).

    Might I suggest to your blog followers who wish to read (or listen to) a book that very effectively presents the dichotomy in justice meted out to the rich and poor in America, that they read The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibii.

    I don’t care how fearful one may be of “socialism;” there’s no way that Jesus would be impressed with the way the North American economies are being managed (or mis-managed) for the benefit of the wealthy and in direct opposition to the interests of… well, anyone who isn’t rich.

  • Jim

    I had realized that there was a lot of concern on abortion and same sex marriage. That’s understandable since you can be reviled or be forced out of your job if you speak out against either of them. I had thought that support for the poor was, at least in theory, a point of consensus, although opinions on the means of helping the poor vary and are often in opposition, and people often neglect their duties toward the poor, even if they don’t oppose the idea. This is the first I have heard of a movement to make opposition to abortion and same sex marriage the only duties of a Christian, which is of course wrong. By a movement, do you mean a group of people organized for the promotion of an idea or agenda? How large is this organization in the U.S.? Do they use the same techniques as pro-choice and gay rights activists? Is there somewhere else I can get more information on their activities and initiatives?

  • hamiltonr

    I’ll be writing posts about this in the future. I won’t name names, but I will give you all the information you need. I’m not saying these things from a vacuum, you know.

    • george2007

      Great, looking forward to it, thanks.

  • hamiltonr

    That sort of thing happens with a lot of my posts Ironic. People who hate the Church and hate Christ latch onto any discussion of how we can and should do better and try to use it as a weapon. My “solution,” such as it is, is to just keep pounding away at what I’m trying to say. I delete if they get too crazy, abusive or simply overwhelming — at least here on this blog.

    As for media outlets that attack the Church over and over, I think we’ve got to let them roll and forget about them. We can silence ourselves or fall into the habit of painting a smiley face on things that need to be discussed. That would do great damage to our prophetic witness as Christians.

    Christians have been lied about since the beginning. It’s not new. The truth will prevail in the long run.


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