Punk’d by Christendom

Two posts tonight. This one a follow up on Friday’s post about Syrian refugees.

I noticed in the local paper that a letter to the editor called Pope Francis to task for being “naive”, first for his guidance to European parishes to accept refugees (in light of the trend among Muslim immigrants to European countries to, you know, remain Muslim), which he said would undermine Christian values. Second, the writer said Francis was naive to champion socialism over capitalism. 

It’s statements like these that make me wish, just a little bit, that Constantine hadn’t converted to Christianity in the 4th Century, because wrapping the trappings of power around the Gospel has well-nigh strangled it at many points.

First, worth noting, while Francis (like many of his predecessors) has been unstinting in his critique of capitalism, for its consumerism, its lack of appreciation for the common good and the environment, and its anti-life bias for profits over people, I don’t know of an instance in which he has claimed socialism is a better system. That’s an assumption made by dualists – those who can only hold two supposed opposites as options. In the history of Catholic social thought, there are long traditions of critique for the excesses of both. More than that, there is the fundamental critique that both systems are guilty of – they see humans as primarily economic actors.whether you subscribe to the socialist notion that we are first and foremost workers and producers, or the capitalist idea that we are primarily consumers and owners, both systems sell humanity short by minimizing the primacy of our spiritual, social and communal nature. And as we create systems from either philosophy that reduce who we are to the economics of our existence, we ignore and neglect that which makes us fully human and can make us fully children of God. True love has no price tag, nor can it be managed by the State.

Is Francis naive about the refugee crisis? Should he be focused on protecting “Christian values” in Europe over welcoming those in dire need? I’m not sure how you can read the Gospels, but even more Paul’s letters, and even more than that John’s letters, without realizing that hospitality is the first Christian virtue. (To which I would add, if you read the Hebrew Bible, it’s pretty clear that we Christians inherited that from our Jewish forefathers.)

At the point at which you start arguing that “defending Christian values” required denying a key part of its Christianity’s core message, well, you might want to re-read the whole “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me” part of the Gospels again. Because what you’re defending may be valuable, and it may be connected with Christendom, but it flies in the face of what Jesus taught his followers.

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