Support for Pope Francis from a Separated Brother.

Support for Pope Francis from a Separated Brother. May 22, 2024

An Egyptian Coptic Christian once asked me, “Do Methodists follow the Pope in Italy?” My reply, “If anything we may honor him as Bishop of Rome, but to call him our spiritual leader then no.” I did not expect the gentleman to understand. Still, he loved visiting our church.

The Heresy of the Pope

Francis, in his service as a Bishop of Rome, has been a great ambassador for Jesus Christ in this world. But after his interview with 60 Minutes last Sunday, this first pope from the Americas is called a heretic and criticized by many on the Religious Right. Why? Francis affirms the essential goodness of humanity. Many of us already gape at religious right-wingers who attack all forms of inclusiveness, love, and openness in the faith. This time the questions were raised as if the pope was saying most of us did not need a savior and preaching “humanism.”

Heresy is a word we associate with doctrine. The root word means “division” in the Greek of the New Testament. Now being someone accused of being divisive, I know the accusation is not proof.

Proof of Divisiveness

I argue that Francis’ enemies are the actual heretics. Anyone misrepresenting someone for their own personal satisfaction creates division. Claiming a person has departed Christian teaching is a serious charge. Often though “what everyone knows,” is substituted for Christian teaching. Let me give an example.

“You know when God created the earth, He said everything is good. But he did not say it about Man.” I was told this by a fundamentalist believer a long time ago. I looked it up and used the King James Bible. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31) If the person has been correct, then God made human beings essentially bad before the Fall. Such a statement, likely from his preacher, creates a division between the Creation and Humanity. This sort of thinking and teaching persists.

The Pope Is Correct About Essential Goodness

Genesis 1 established the essential goodness about Creation, humans included. While many Christians focus on the Fall as original sin and the corruption of human nature, others do not have such a focus. We know bad people do bad things. And we know most bad people do not think they are evil. Consider this though, if human nature is essentially evil can it ever be redeemable? Also, we should ask, if we are “saved” or “forgiven,” does not the essential evil nature persist? What I mean is, “Are we humans essentially evil once we have been given salvation?” What about after we die?

Divisions Are Bad But Appear Necessary

I do not like the division of the Church in the West. At the same time, I am grateful for it. There will always be some people who seek to control everyone else. That kind of dominionism may be the true original sin. Jesus prayed for unity according to St. John. But this plea mentions the one who already left the Apostles to betray him.

Essential goodness means we have a hope for freedom. Human liberation is a part of the salvation for which Jesus died.

Francis is getting older. The power mongering of his American bishops is as active as ever. We shall see, trust, and hope.



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