There is something to be said about a proactive pontiff (which I’d written briefly about after the Super Bowl) in this secular day and floundering religious age. As noted recently in a new poll conducted by Gallup, the church in general has “been losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture.” Controversy, most specifically pedophiliac priests (terms which should never collide in the same sentence) and a devotion to the technological achievements of man, have left many people feeling as though the church is an antiquated institution that can provide little in the way of spiritual nourishment. That’s what yoga, ‘’The View’’ and social media are for in the present day.
So, having a representative of the church that puts himself front and center to declare his beliefs should be a move in the right direction. If only it were so. The naive, or dare I say ignorant, approach to economics and global environmental with a dash of social affairs will only inflame the issues that are driven by that same secular faith in man and his ability to destroy and then fix the planet. In this case, the pope will be used by the folks who declare the infallible righteousness of a separation of church and state and that the science is settled (when it suits them) yet keep his views out of the doctrinaire classrooms of public education.
In a previous blog I’d written, “to help the environment, encourage charity and clean living are noble and righteous acts in which the pope is almost obligated to engage. But to express naivety towards free market economics, denigrating a system that has created more wealth for the world and the church than any other, is dangerous sophistry.” And now he has doubled down on those efforts, using platitudinous morality to denigrate the nations (or really nation as it seems that his words are directed at the United States. Maybe I’m just sensitive. Probably not.) who have lifted this world from the darkness of the night with a lightbulb, the dangers of disease with penicillin (and I know Fleming was Scottish) and the chaos and destruction that was a Second World War.
Pope Francis writes in his ‘’Laudato Si’’ (Praise Be) that “this vision of ‘might is right’ has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all.” He then adds, “completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus.”
The problem with this vision is that it directly clashes with millennia upon millennia of power struggles reflective of human nature. We are not Jesus Christ and we never will be. He is a model for the way that human beings can and should live. An ideal that the world does not fully embrace and ironically, in the United States, shirks when his name is invoked in the public sector. Except when it furthers the agenda of an already rabid environmentalism, unconstrained by economic, or any other, form of reality.
To decry the economic giants of the world for a fault they do not deserve is sadly, and conveniently for the ideology, dangerous folly. For this perspective offers only a prediction based on the same human nature that it does not recognize in its prescription: do what we say or things will get worse. They will then point to every instance of poverty, war, flood, drought and ‘’Deadwood’’ cancellation, as a sign that man is killing the planet and that he hates his neighbor. But when crafting a view of what the world should be, man has always fallen well short of the ideal ‘’model’’ of behavior.
There are parts of the world where might IS right, where force is the rule of law and it is solely the defensive, and at times offensive, capabilities of these United States that keep those dark forces from truly destroying the planet. Not with cars and air conditioners but with the machete, chemical weapons and fires at the stake. This dream of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace is only possible if one side capitulates to the demands of the other, resulting in the inevitable subjugation of one society over another. The Pope’s view is just that, an ideal, but not applicable as a panacea for the world in which we live. People have always acted in ways that enhance one side at the expense of another. It is the way it is, has been and forever will be. After all, Christ needed to be crucified by the world to save the world from itself. And this was pre-Prius. But never has there been a more benevolent power than the United States to promote the ideals of Christ throughout the world. We do fall short. But this is the best hope that there has ever been. To criticize that as not good enough, and to blame this humanistic achievement that has saved lives as the cause of discontent, is an arrogant message unworthy of any church.
And then there’s climate change.
The science isn’t settled, humans are not destroying the planet and the automobile is not degrading the societies of the third world. Humans undoubtedly contribute to the environmental integrity of the planet, as does the magnificent power of the sun and yes, cleaner living is good and yes renewable resources would be spectacular replacements for fossil fuels. But they are not a reality.
“The simple reality is that energy is the essential building block of the modern world,” said Thomas Pyle of the Institute of Energy Research. “Application of affordable energy makes everything we do — food production, manufacturing, health care, transportation, heating and air conditioning — better.”
The world needs energy and right now its up to oil, coal and natural gas. Solar and wind are not economically viable just yet and to promote the idea as though they are is demagoguery at its finest. Moreover, it is not the evil oil companies keeping this technology from us. If any private entity could develop such power in an affordable way, those same energy companies would invest in the technology in order to send this power to the world, and yes, make money. Then they would become the evil solar companies.
“Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur,” Francis writes.
Unrestrained delusions of grandeur are permitted in the United States and they can live side-by-side with the values and great goals that such delusions have created for the world. How many more people can dream all the more wildly because they have an iPhone or access to the internet and a highway. These consequences of a (relatively) free market have flooded the world with jobs and broadened the horizons from Kenya to California. Slowing down and looking at reality in a different way is not an action requiring any other action on behalf of any civilization. It is a bromide creating a false dilemma wherein we are to be made to feel guilty for the sins of the world. And if not the Stone Age, then just how far back should we go? 1900 or 1600?
The fact is that people have been losing faith in church, its leaders and its teachings for reasons beknownst to individuals alone. But speculate we can. When the church defends or hides from its own indiscretions, when success and achievement are accused of creating an “immense pile of filth” and when rabid environmentalism is allowed to taint the traditional message of love, people will tune out.
Jesus Christ was the embodiment of God on Earth and taught that love of one another was THE way of life. This is the model for us to live: corporations, politicians, clergy and laymen alike. This message is not served by the delusions of a politicized science that is so vague in its explanations as to explain everything that ever was and will be for all time… except of course what the weather will be like tomorrow.