Did you hear the one about the Pope who published an encyclical and got called a Marxist? I’m confident that the Pope really doesn’t give a blessed host what Rush Limbaugh thinks, but it’s been interesting to hear people line up on both sides of this story.
As is his role in the world, Pope Frances challenges us to think purely, that is, without cynicism. It’s easy to be cynical. Cynics would disagree, but for many of us it’s the first “go to” because not being cynical makes us vulnerable. Pope Francis’ EVANGELII GAUDIUM speaks thoughtfully about economic inequity around the world, which is apparently so frightening that wing nut commentators feel the need to trash the Pope. Or, more accurately, guys like Limbaugh need to protect their turf and it’s not a philosophical turf, it’s the turf paved with coin for saying whatever makes him coin. Here’s only some of what Pope Francis said:
53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Okay, so it is pretty Marxist. But maybe we’re due for a kind of hybridized capitalism, or maybe Pope Francis is advocating for just an attitude change, not a systematic overthrow. Here’s the thing about attitude changes: sometimes a small change can make a big difference. And sometimes one person can change an entire world.
At this writing, I have just learned of the death of Nelson Mandela, a perfect example of one person changing a world. Though his struggle for change lasted decades, he was one person who made a decision to speak out for change.
I admit I was mostly ignorant of the history and conditions in South Africa for most of my life. When I was in college, one of my professors came scurrying into class late one day and announced that Anthol Fugard had been taken into custody in South Africa and that an international coalition of artists and activists were working to have him released. We spend the entire class writing letters to the U.S., South African and worldwide governments asking for the release of Fugard. We were part of the outcry that allowed him to be released and travel so that his anti-apartheid plays could be performed around the world.*
We were each one small voice but together we were a huge outcry. Pope Frances is a huge voice, so imagine what will happen if many of us join him.
*I just read (with great pride I might add) that Fugard is now Adjunct Professor at my alma mater, University of California, San Diego and I wonder whether he isn’t here because of my college professor.