It has taken my entire life, but I have finally come to understand that we cannot judge people by only their words or actions. People can do all the "right" things but for all the "wrong" reasons. In order to fully understand where people are coming from, we need to know what is motivating them. And our Lord says there should actually be only one overriding motive in our lives: love. Specifically, Love of God and love of neighbor. Any other motivation - power, prestige, money, security, etc. - is of the devil. As St. Paul tells us, unless we love, nothing we do has any real meaning (I Corinthians 13).
This is why Our Lord warned us that people can think they doing God a service when they kill others. And sometimes we can "kill" others without even physically harming them.
That is basically the theme of an article in La Civiltà Cattolica entitled, "EVANGELICAL FUNDAMENTALISM AND CATHOLIC INTEGRALISM: A SURPRISING ECUMENISM" written by Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa. This point of this article is the danger arising from an ideological movement of some Catholics and evangelical Protestants joining together to fight our evil culture, specifically against such evils as abortion and same sex marriage. This movement sees politics as the savior of the world: if we can just get the right people into public office and then get the right people on the Supreme Court, then our society can be saved from the evil, godless Left.
But, you say, isn't that a good thing? Shouldn't we be standing up against abortion, same sex marriage, etc? Absolutely we need to stand against these things, but we must ask the all important question: what is motivating these Catholics and Protestants? Unless their motivation is love - first of God and then of neighbor - they must be rejected.
It is hard to see a lot of love in this movement. They see everyone who doesn't agree with them as their enemy who must be crushed and conquered. As the La Civilta Cattolica article states:
However, the most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations. The word “ecumenism” transforms into a paradox, into an “ecumenism of hate.” Intolerance is a celestial mark of purism. Reductionism is the exegetical methodology. Ultra-literalism is its hermeneutical key.Is this the way of Jesus Christ, who told us we must love our enemies? Did he ever lead movements to fight against the evil in his society? Did he ever encourage his followers to become involved in the politics of their day? You won't find this anywhere in his teachings. Jesus Christ wasn't trying to change the world. He never got involved in political movements. Instead, He reached out to individuals and offered them love and forgiveness so that individual hearts - not society as a whole - could be changed.
The Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists have it backwards - they think we need to save the culture from "evil people." In effect, the fundamentalists care more about the culture than the people. Jesus Christ didn't care about the culture at all. He wasn't interested in either saving or destroying the culture. He was interested only in saving the people.
This is also the goal of Pope Francis, as stated in the article:
Clearly there is an enormous difference between these concepts and the ecumenism employed by Pope Francis with various Christian bodies and other religious confessions. His is an ecumenism that moves under the urge of inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges. This presence of opposing ecumenisms – and their contrasting perceptions of the faith and visions of the world where religions have irreconcilable roles – is perhaps the least known and most dramatic aspect of the spread of Integralist fundamentalism. Here we can understand why the pontiff is so committed to working against “walls” and any kind of “war of religion.”But the Religious Right is not interested in changing individual hearts as much as they are in remaking society. They consider themselves at war with society, and they view politics as their savior, in contrast to Jesus Christ and Pope Francis:
The religious element should never be confused with the political one. Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other. An evident aspect of Pope Francis’ geopolitics rests in not giving theological room to the power to impose oneself or to find an internal or external enemy to fight. There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends. Francis empties from within the narrative of sectarian millenarianism and dominionism that is preparing the apocalypse and the “final clash.” Underlining mercy as a fundamental attribute of God expresses this radically Christian need.I have written before about the danger of an "us versus them" mentality. When we start considering ourselves as the "good guys" and everyone else as the "bad guys", we are playing right into the hands of the Adversary, Satan. Our job as Christian is not to demonize people, but as stated above, we are here for "the service of all men and women." Our Lord went to the cross begging his Father to forgive those who were crucifying him. In contrast, the Religious Right wants to crush all those who oppose them.
Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere.
Interestingly, the authors of the article bring up Michael Voris' group, Church Militant, as an example of the fundamentalist right:
There is a shocking rhetoric used, for example, by the writers of Church Militant, a successful US-based digital platform that is openly in favor of a political ultraconservatism and uses Christian symbols to impose itself. This abuse is called “authentic Christianity.” And to show its own preferences, it has created a close analogy between Donald Trump and Emperor Constantine, and between Hillary Clinton and Diocletian. The American elections in this perspective were seen as a “spiritual war.”
This warlike and militant approach seems most attractive and evocative to a certain public, especially given that the victory of Constantine – it was presumed impossible for him to beat Maxentius and the Roman establishment – had to be attributed to a divine intervention: in hoc signo vinces.
Church Militant asks if Trump’s victory can be attributed to the prayers of Americans. The response suggested is affirmative. The indirect missioning for President Trump is clear: he has to follow through on the consequences. This is a very direct message that then wants to condition the presidency by framing it as a divine election. In hoc signo vinces. Indeed.Attacking the society, as Michael Voris and his ilk do, will never change hearts. Setting other people up as enemies and condemning them actually turns people against God. Is this really any different than Islamic Fundamentalism, which sees the world as its enemy? Is this the work of the Holy Spirit or the devil?
The authors of the article give us the Christian approach:
Today, more than ever, power needs to be removed from its faded confessional dress, from its armor, its rusty breastplate. The fundamentalist theopolitical plan is to set up a kingdom of the divinity here and now. And that divinity is obviously the projection of the power that has been built. This vision generates the ideology of conquest.
The theopolitical plan that is truly Christian would be eschatological, that is it applies to the future and orients current history toward the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace. This vision generates a process of integration that unfolds with a diplomacy that crowns no one as a “man of Providence.”
And this is why the diplomacy of the Holy See wants to establish direct and fluid relations with the superpowers, without entering into pre-constituted networks of alliances and influence. In this sphere, the pope does not want to say who is right or who is wrong for he knows that at the root of conflicts there is always a fight for power. So, there is no need to imagine a taking of sides for moral reasons, much worse for spiritual ones.
Jesus Christ said he did not come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). That should also be the philosophy and goal of his followers. It is most certainly the motivation of Pope Francis. As stated above, Pope Francis "does not want to say who is right or who is wrong for he knows that at the root of conflicts there is always a fight for power." When we start pointing fingers, we create conflict, and from conflict comes only death and destruction, either physical or spiritual or both.
Continuing from the article:
Francis radically rejects the idea of activating a Kingdom of God on earth as was at the basis of the Holy Roman Empire and similar political and institutional forms, including at the level of a “party.” Understood this way, the “elected people” would enter a complicated political and religious web that would make them forget they are at the service of the world, placing them in opposition to those who are different, those who do not belong, that is the “enemy.”Why would a true follower of Christ ever fight these words? We must ask ourselves, are we really interested in bringing the world to Christ, do we really love them, or do we just want to "win", to push our own agenda and come out on top?
So, then the Christian roots of a people are never to be understood in an ethnic way. The notions of roots and identity do not have the same content for a Catholic as for a neo-Pagan. Triumphalist, arrogant and vindictive ethnicism is actually the opposite of Christianity. The pope on May 9 in an interview with the French daily La Croix, said: “Yes Europe has Christian roots. Christianity has the duty of watering them, but in a spirit of service as in the washing of feet. The duty of Christianity for Europe is that of service.” And again: “The contribution of Christianity to a culture is that of Christ washing the feet, or the service and the gift of life. There is no room for colonialism.”
I have often written about the danger of living in fear, that fear is a tool of the devil, HERE and HERE, as an example. As the authors of the article tell us, fear is a motivating factor for those on the Religious Right:
Which feeling underlies the persuasive temptation for a spurious alliance between politics and religious fundamentalism? It is fear of the breakup of a constructed order and the fear of chaos. Indeed, it functions that way thanks to the chaos perceived. The political strategy for success becomes that of raising the tones of the conflictual, exaggerating disorder, agitating the souls of the people by painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism.
Religion at this point becomes a guarantor of order and a political part would incarnate its needs. The appeal to the apocalypse justifies the power desired by a god or colluded in with a god. And fundamentalism thereby shows itself not to be the product of a religious experience but a poor and abusive perversion of it.Read any traditional Catholic blog, and you will see that every article invokes fear - fear that everything we love and hold dear is about to be taken away, and if we don't stand up to the evil forces surrounding us, we will be destroyed. We must destroy those who want to destroy us. Is this the work of the Holy Spirit, or is it the work of the devil?
The ending paragraph of this article once again contrasts the difference in motivation and goals between Pope Francis and the Far Religious Right:
This is why Francis is carrying forward a systematic counter-narration with respect to the narrative of fear. There is a need to fight against the manipulation of this season of anxiety and insecurity. Again, Francis is courageous here and gives no theological-political legitimacy to terrorists, avoiding any reduction of Islam to Islamic terrorism. Nor does he give it to those who postulate and want a “holy war” or to build barrier-fences crowned with barbed wire. The only crown that counts for the Christian is the one with thorns that Christ wore on high.I just can't imagine that any true follower of Jesus Christ would have any quarrel with this article in any way. But the Catholic blogosphere condemned this article in every way possible. I will explore some of these attacks in my next post.