If Right-Wing Christians Accuse the Pope of Being a Communist, Would They Accuse Jesus of the Same?
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
By now many of you already know about comments that Pope Francis made this past week during his tour of South America about his views on capitalism, calling extreme cases of inequality and obscene profits at the expense of millions, “the dung of the devil”. Religious conservatives from North America, Western Europe and Australia, all of which are the economic centers of capitalism, and particularly the United States, have derided the pope’s comment unanimously, calling him a Communist or a “commie”. It looks to me like the top 1% of the global economic pecking order just gave themselves away by doing so. By bombarding the pope with all kinds of insults and sarcastic comments, they have shown their true colors. They are idolaters, and the god they worship is money. Jesus himself said it best: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6: 24 NIV)
They’ve decided that the Pope is a “Marxist,” pointing out that Francis speaks often about “the structural causes of poverty,” the “idolatry of money” and the “new tyranny of unfettered capitalism”. Obviously, say the Pontiff’s pious critics, that’s commie talk. The clincher for them was when Francis wrote an exhortation in which he asked in outrage: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” See, cried the carpers, that’s proof that Francis is the Red Pope! But wait – I’m not a Catholic, but that was a very good question he asked, one ripe with the moral wrath that Jesus himself frequently showed toward the callous rich and their “love of money.” Indeed, the Pope’s words ring with the deep ethics you find in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and in his admonitions to serve the poor. Would they call Jesus a commie, too? Probably.
The apostle James set the record straight for all Christians when he wrote, “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even as he goes about his business.” (James 1, verses 9, 10 and 11 NIV) This, to say the least, is a far cry from capitalism and all the trappings of bounteous wealth. Let’s not forget the comments Jesus made about this when He said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but they who humble themselves will be exalted”; and again it is written, “The last shall be first, and the first last.”
The early church embraced these values without reservation, as it is written, “They devoted themselves to the teaching and to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those that were being saved.” (Acts 2, verses 42-47 NIV) OK, let’s ask ourselves a simple question – does the passage of Scripture above resemble capitalism? The obvious answer is, not in the slightest. We live in an age of instant everything, including every form of merchandise one can think of. We can even go onto social media and make instant friends if we want. In a way, we have lost some of the face-to-face contact that was commonplace less than a generation ago. But that’s only what I’m seeing on the surface. As I look down into the depth and substance of the above Bible quote as opposed to capitalism, I’m seeing everything and everyone in common with each other. This has been tried before in American history with the hippie communes of the 1960’s and ’70’s. Although there are a few still in existence today, most of them are gone now. I think the main reason is that they had everything in common like Acts chapter 2, but they left Jesus out of the equation for their success.
Let me give you all one more example of this, which can be found in 2nd Corinthians chapter 8, verses 13-15, and I quote: “Our desire is not that others may be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little’.” Of course, the right-wingers will vehemently declare, “That’s socialism! That’s a threat to the American way of life!” You’ve heard all that before, but consider that that’s the same as saying that Christianity is a ‘clear and present danger’ to capitalism and democracy. Based on this fact, that’s like calling Jesus a threat to America and to capitalism. But isn’t that exactly what the global elitists are saying? All for us and nothing for you, does that not reflect their attitude?
Never mind, say the 1%-ers! Their rightist viewpoint is that diabolical liberals – such as Marxists or Democratic Socialists like presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – are out to ban capitalism entirely. Just think – if that were to occur, greed would no longer be in style. And that’s always a good thing. The apostle James wrote passionately about this in his letter to the churches: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the Last Days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” James 5: 1-6 NIV) Does this sound a lot like capitalism to you? Doesn’t this read like a description of the future American prison-industrial complex? Has anyone reading this ever performed work for which they did not get paid? Or have you ever completed work for which you were eventually paid, but not until weeks or even months later? I have experienced all of the above, and I seriously doubt that I am alone in having such experiences with employers. Welcome to capitalism 21st century style, where ‘we the people’ have been reduced to economic slavery. Wages are stagnant and unrealistically low. Low pay is not OK. Those who went on strike for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage were a lot closer to being scriptural than they realized. By the same token, many of the globalist elites who keep wages artificially low and trample on our Constitutional rights are far closer to being demonic than they care to acknowledge.