Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why Limbaugh's Attacks on Pope Francis are an Assault on Christian Faith

by Nomad

Pope Francis Rush LimbaughWhen radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh castigated the Pope for being "Marxist," the hate radio DJ didn't mention that Pope Francis' statement on economic inequality was actually based on long-established Christian doctrine.

Those principles go back to the origins of religion. In criticizing the head of the Catholic faith, Limbaugh was attacking the very foundation of the Christian faith.

The other day, Rush Limbaugh passed his own judgement on Pope Francis' papal statement, entitled 'Evangelli Gaudium" (The Joy of Gospel). Limbaugh told his radio audience that the pope's words were straight-out Marxist. Shocking!
This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope... And to hear the pope regurgitating this stuff, I was profoundly disappointed. The idolatry of money, urging "politicians to 'attack the structural causes of inequality' and strive to provide work, health care and education to all citizens."
Limbaugh suggested that the Pope's remarks must have been written for him by a liberal. He also blasted the Pope's analysis on the so-called "trickle-down" economics.
So reading what the pope's written about this is really befuddling because he's totally wrong -- I mean, dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.
Here's another excerpt. "Pope Francis said that trickle-down policy..." We hear about trickle-down policies? "Pope Francis said that trickle-down policies have not proven to work."Oh, but they have.... Trickle-down is human nature! Trickle-down is exactly what happens when you engage in economic activity.... Trickle-down is the magic, and yet here's Pope Francis saying that "trickle-down policies have not been proven to work and they reflect a 'naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.'"
Promoting the magic of trickle-down economics, (even when the dismal effects are destroying the lives of millions of Americans) is not a very convincing counter argument. Trickle-down economics has surely had enough time to prove its validity and all it has shown is that the wealthy can protect their riches better than the rest of us.
Calling it human nature is hardly an excuse when most religions seek to reform nature of humans. Of course, uplifting the human spirit from the animal level isn't really something Limbaugh knows much about. Obviously.

Harvard Economist or university graduate ... or authority on Christian doctrine.. conservative talk show DJ Limbaugh has decided if it worked for him and all his friends, it's worked for the whole country. Never mind the people who got in the way.

Actually, some of the people who got in the way worked beside Limbaugh.  Clear Channel, Limbaugh's boss, laid off 1,850 workers -9% of its work force- in 2011.
Another trickle down success?

Limbaugh questioned not only the Pope's spiritual authority but also his understanding of economics. 
"It's sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth.
That is, I think, a rather daring thing for a non-Catholic two-semester college dropout. But of course, not having any qualifications to preach about politics, economic, religion, race relations, civil rights or women's rights, has never stopped Limbaugh in the past.

Not Attacking a Man, but a Faith
The other problem with Limbaugh's attack on Pope Francis is quite simple. While Limbaugh might think he is attacking the opinions of one man (who in this case, just happens to be the leader of the oldest and largest Christian Church), Limbaugh is only proving his ignorance. In fact, in his speech to his followers, Pope Francis is only highlighting the well-established and well-reasoned position of the Catholic Church for over a century. Not only that, the Pope's statements are amply supported by both books of the Bible.

The Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God's deep concern for both. Too many to list here but I shall select two from each of the books. The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 15, verse 7 says:
If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.
The Book of Proverbs also has this message for the power-holders:
Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
That seems pretty clear cut to me. The New Testament contains even more calls for empathy for the needy. For example, the Book of Matthew commands:
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Jesus himself gave this painful advice to a rich man who wanted to go to heaven:
The young man said to Him, "All these commands I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
The Book of Luke also tells Christians:
"Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."
Saints and Popes of the Past
This last command is especially important when it comes to Pope Francis. Why? Well, the Pope, whose birth name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio,  took his papal name from the St. Francis of Assisi.

Born in Italy about 1181 Saint Francis started out life as the son of a wealthy textile merchant but after a vision, decided to renounce his worldly life.  Despite having led a rather carefree life of privilege and pleasure, Francis gave away all of his material possession (as commanded by Jesus in the passage above). He  exchanged his fine clothes for the tattered ones of the beggars, and joined the poor in begging at St. Peter's Basilica. As a result of his apotheosis, Francis believed that the only path to salvation was the total surrender of all worldly goodshonors, and privileges. (Click here for the full fascinating story of Saint Francis)

In more modern times, other popes have taken similar views -not against capitalism- only capitalism unfettered and unchallenged by moral values. For example, Pope Leo XIII issued a famous papal declaration in 1891 called Rerum Novarum (Of New Things). 

It was, and still is, a revolutionary statement against the excesses of Capitalism while also condemning the doctrine of Socialism. Everybody has a right to private property, Leo states, but, since all good things- including private wealth- come as blessings of God, the wealthy have an obligation to the poor, as well. 

It was, Pope Leo said, a new and cold age for the common man. Workers were alone and defenseless against the "inhumanity of employers" and "the unbridled greed of competitors." A devouring system of finance- a form of usury-, he writes, had increased the evil. The industrial age had created a system in which "a very few rich and exceedingly rich men have laid a yoke almost of slavery on the unnumbered masses."
We see clearly, and all are agreed that the poor must be speedily and fittingly cared for, since the great majority of them live undeservedly in miserable and wretched conditions.
Under the Christian ideology, according to Pope Leo, both sides had duties to uphold. The angry poor and enslaved working man must refrain from violence and accept the right to own property. The wealthy owner should not view his employees as slaves, but he should respect "every man his dignity." He must not misuse men "as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers - that is truly shameful and inhuman." 

Pope Leo writes:
[I]n general, the rich and employers must remember that no laws, either human or divine, permit them for their own profit to oppress the needy and the wretched or to seek gain from another's want.
As far as the duties of government, Leo had ideas that would have had Limbaugh howling.
Among the numerous and weighty duties of rulers who would serve their people well, this is first and foremost..that they protect equitably each and every class of citizens....
In protecting the rights of private individuals, however, special consideration must be given to the weak and the poor. For the nation, as it were, of the rich, is guarded by its own defenses and is in less need of governmental protection, whereas the suffering multitude, without the means to protect itself, relies especially on the protection of the State.
Could it be any more clear than that? Governments must look after the poor because the wealthy have the means to protect themselves. For Limbaugh this Catholic doctrine from the last century would be a capitalist heresy. 

The papal statement also quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas, immensely influential philosopher and theologian:
How must one's possessions be used? - the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: "Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.
To a man like Limbaugh, Aquinas would, I imagine, also be Communist but in fact, the works of Aquinas are held to be the model teaching guide for those studying for the priesthood.
In another section of Leo's address to followers, he notes the long tradition of devotion to the poor.
The Church, moreover, intervenes directly in behalf of the poor, by setting on foot and maintaining many associations which she knows to be efficient for the relief of poverty.
The document is quite long and a bit dry. Nevertheless, it deserves to be read, especially by people who listen to Limbaugh religiously

Comparing the Two
In one corner we have Pope Francis with the 2000-year-old tradition of Christianity, and the writings of revered Church fathers as his reference. A man who has called upon his followers to reject the idolatry of money. 
"A mere glance at the Scriptures" says Pope Francis, "is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor."

In the papal statement that Limbaugh abhorred, Pope Francis was also quite definitive when it came to what was lacking, saying: 
We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”. This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use.
How could anybody argue with this list? 
Much to Limbaugh's dismay, the Pope also condemns a system based only on materialism and consumption:
The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings;...In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
In the other corner, there's Limbaugh, whose sense of Christian charity has been demonstrated time and time again. For example, when he advised hungry poor children that they could find their meals in the community dumpsters. Or when he revealed to his listeners that the real reason for poverty is, according to Limbaugh, "some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves. "

No wonder Limbaugh seemed personally offended by the words of the Pope. He is the best promoter of the system that Francis warns his follower to reject.

In the end, it is up to each individual and their consciences to make up their own minds about the truth, but it is hard to be a faithful listener of a man like Rush Limbaugh and pretend to be a member of the Christian faith.
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