Yesterday I wrote this sentence in regards to the USCCB: "Pope Francis' notions about a poor church for the poor just isn't going to compete with the reality in the West of the rich church for the few." After I posted my take on the USCCB, that line kept bugging me. I fell asleep last night still thinking about how there was probably another post in that thought. This morning I have been blessed to find an assortment of articles dealing with the same theme. I have to thank Bill Lyndsey for links to a couple of them. It's often amusing to me how often Bill and I will get on the same wavelength about a particular issue and be writing about said issue, sometimes not just on the same day, but at the exact same time. Maybe we were twins in another lifetime or something.
Bill linked to an excellent piece in Alternet by Amanda Marcotte, who has this to say about the link between Christianity piety, and the message of Pope Francis regarding the priority of the poor:
Pope Francis may be entirely sincere when he says he wants Catholic clergy to deemphasize the right-wing political pandering in favor of highlighting values that are more in line with liberalism, such as compassion and generosity to the poor, but the odds are slim of this message making inroads with church leaders in the United States. The church needs conservatives who need to believe they’re good and holy people despite their selfish beliefs. Without them, who will show up and tithe? Liberals? Most of them are sleeping in on Sundays, secure that their commitment to social justice makes them good people regardless of how visibly pious they are." (It's very true that liberals give time and money to charities and causes not necessarily affiliated with religion.)
The link between external forms of piety fueling beliefs that rationalize selfishness is strong. Polling shows over and over again that the most politically and economically conservative voters in the US are also those who claim the most Church attendance and engage in the most forms of external piety. Anyone who has spent much time on conservative Catholic websites, especially those which feature Marian piety, know that this piety covers a host of interesting views about poor people, gays, immigrants and other marginalized groups in the Church and society. They unabashedly state that giving up on the only moral issues that count--gay marriage, contraception, and abortion, is to turn everything over to socialism and destroy the country and affirm the work of the devil. There is very little space given what so ever at all to the idea that poverty, unjust war, racism, or economic greed are moral issues. The only moral issues are other people's sex lives. The USCCB has underscored this thinking over and over again. The USCCB seems to have decided their mission is to make the few, the proud, and the economically secure, feel good about what are essentially core beliefs of the Evangelical prosperity Gospel.
Bill Maher made this same point in a piece he did last Friday. Maher uses the same kind of direct communication that Pope Francis does, albeit a little more spicey than Francis. Here's Maher's take on this issue about Christianity becoming a sort sanitized cover for refusing to see beyond one's own driveway:
And finally, New Rule: It's OK if you don't want to feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or house the homeless. Just don't say you're doing it for their own good. Don't say you'd like to help people, but your hands are tied because if you did, it would cause a culture of dependency, or go against the Bible, or worst of all, rob them of their freedom... to be sick and hungry.
Just admit you're selfish, and based on how little your beliefs mirror the actual teachings of Jesus, you might as well claim to worship Despicable Me .
Now I bring this up, because last week new food stamp cuts went into effect, and Congressman Steve Fincher, a Republican from Dogpatch, justified the cuts by quoting the Bible — "The one who does not work shall not eat."......
Of course, Congressman Fincher failed to note that those who cannot find work also do not eat. Oh well, those folks must not have enough faith in God's single handed ability to provide jobs. Maybe if they took what money they do have and donated it for the latest diocesan capital campaign, God would create a job for them. But it's funny how external piety works so much better for those who already have jobs.
Maher's main rant was about the latest trend in which 'Christians' use their restaurant tab to evangelize their heathen wait staff. That's where the photo and quote at the top of this piece came from. I personally could relate to this whole tipping phenomenon. Back when I was working for golf courses in Salt Lake we used to cater a lot of tournaments. The tips from the corporate tournaments went a long way to paying our rent, but the LDS tournaments, especially the tournaments for women, were seriously unbelievable. We might split $10.00 in tips from a full field of 172 golfers--and most of them weren't using clubs from Walmart. It was disheartening to say the least, but it taught my daughter a lesson about valuing service folks. This is one reason I have hope that the next generation of leaders will have a better grip on what it means to actually live the Christian ideals. Those ideals would not be saying a rosary during Eucharistic Adoration and then marching against the contraception mandate in Obamacare and ranting about socialism and big guv'mint.
One last observation. The Justice and Peace Council of the Vatican is holding a two day conference on clergy who minister to parliaments or politicians. Cardinal Turkson gave an outline of the two day conference to participants. He had this to say as one of his main points concerning the poor church for the poor:
"The preferential option for the poor includes the unborn and social insecurity, migrants and the elderly, the unemployed and the environment. One characteristic of Christians involved in politics is or should be an ability to promote an all-encompassing and coherent principle of humanity."
Perhaps the USCCB can take note that Cardinal Turkson did not mention gay marriage or contraception, but did mention social insecurity, migrants, the unemployed and the environment.