1. XO

    Reading only the intro paragraph, I have to say that if confronted with the actual teachings of JC, most self-described “Christians” would reject them without a second thought.

    Twice in my life I have witnessed “fundamentalist” Christians shocked at the revelation that Jesus was a Jew (strangely, one was from Russia, the other from Texas).

    The Pope has only scratched the surface.

    The Messiah was a dirty, bleeding heart, socialist, long-haired, liberal, pacifist, non-conformist, Arab.

    God help us.

      1. Suetonius

        …And of course the entire editing of what became the New Testament to suit the political needs of the Roman Emperors together with the construction of an heirarchy aping the Empire’s administration.

        1. diptherio

          John Shelby Spong is a retired Episcopalian Bishop who is bringing these issues to the forefront of Christian thought and advocating for a new brand of Christianity that gets away from Paul’s teachings and back to Jesus’, along with the wholesale rejection of the “Jesus died for your sins” meme. He’s a great lecturer and I imagine his books are just as good.

        2. Synopticist

          That’s bollocks. Another “history as conspiracy theory” meme. The NT was written and got it’s final edit long before the Roman hierarchy got involved.

    1. F. Beard

      You seem ignorant of the Bible as well. But no wonder:

      And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. John 9:39-41 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      Hint to all: Quit trying to pigeon-hole Jesus; He’s not being judged; WE are.

  2. from Mexico

    Marx wasn’t concerned with poor people and did not advocate for them as best he knew how?

    That’s a new one on me.

    The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. certainly never made such fact-free, uninfomed statments:

    “But in spite of the shortcomings of his analysis, Marx had raised some basic questions. I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, and my reading of Marx made me ever more conscious of this gulf…. [I]n so far as he pointed to weaknesses of traditional capitalism, contributed to the growth of a definite self-consciousness in the masses, and challenged the social conscience of the Christian churches, I responded with a definite ‘yes.’ “

    –MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”

    We used to call people like Paul Ryan wolves in sheeps’ clothing. Unfortunately, Marxism, just like Christianity, has had its share of false prophets — like Ryan — too. They take the original goals of Jesús Christ and Marx and turn them on their head, corrupting the ideologies into the very antithesis of what their originators intended.

    1. Banger

      Marx is at the center of the true Judeo-Christian ethic. He developed his ideas within a civilization informed by those two things along with the Humanist tradition of the classical era. There is no contradiction between Marx and Christianity as I see it. Marx astutely saw religion as a way to put people to sleep rather than wake them up. Those of us who come from the spiritual side of Christianity reject the narcotic effect of religion and believe that Jesus wanted us to wake up and smell the coffee not believe in pie in the sky by and by–a notion utterly foreign to the central teachings of the Gospels.

      1. Expat

        The powers that be have always acted as though they suspected that Marx was the Messiah. Your comment suggests many parallels between Rome and the West with regard to Christians and communists.

      2. diptherio

        Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common…There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need
        ~Acts 4:32-35

        And that’s only one of two places in the book of Acts where the classical definition of communism (from each according to ability, to each according to need) is specifically spelled out in describing the first Christian community. I’ve had lots of fun pointing out this specific section to street-corner bible-thumpers. It’s obviously not a verse that gets a lot of emphasis in their bible-study classes, as one can tell by the confusion it often creates in these folks.

  3. DakotabornKansan

    Pope Francis is the first pope to publicly use the word “gay.” He has admonished church leaders for their “obsession” with same-sex marriage. He has reached out to lesbian and gay Catholics in unprecedented ways.

    He is setting the tone and establishing processes by which true change can rise up from below with the Catholic Church.

    “Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference. Sure, we all know Catholics who fudge on the religion’s rules about morality. There’s a lot of disagreement, about the role of women, about contraception, and more. But none of that should lead us to underestimate any pope’s capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT people, and not only in the U.S. but globally.


    “Pope Francis today uttered some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people…In doing so, he has set a great example for Catholics everywhere…Catholic leaders who continue to belittle gays and lesbians can no longer claim that their inflammatory remarks represent the sentiments of the pope. Bishops who oppose the expansion of basic civil rights — such as an end to discrimination in the work place — can no longer claim that the pope approves of their discriminatory agenda. Pope Francis did not articulate a change in the church’s teaching today, but he spoke compassionately, and in doing so, he has encouraged an already lively conversation that may one day make it possible for the church to fully embrace gay and lesbian Catholics.” – Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations [Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry] working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families


    When asked about LGBT people and Pope Francis, Sister Jeannine Gramick, leading advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights as a co-founder of New Ways Ministry, said:

    “I’ve been working in ministry on behalf of LGBT people within the Catholic Church and outside the Catholic Church since the 1970s. I never would have imagined that same-sex marriage would be on the agenda of our country, or of the world, or even of our Church.

    “It is heartwarming that Francis is returning to the Gospel and saying do not be obsessed with issues like same-sex marriage or abortion or contraception. He’s telling the Congregation for Bishops that when you look for bishops, appoint bishops who smell like the sheep. In other words, he wants men, priests now, who are in the trenches with the people, who are pastoral and not people who are obsessed with cultural issues.”


    “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” – Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

  4. Jackrabbit

    Neo-feudalism + revived church. Perfect together.

    Turn the other cheek. Your reward is in the next life.

    1. Banger

      Reward in the next life is not central to the teachings of Jesus–it is to wake up and be present in this one–the Kingdom of Heaven is right here not somewhere far off. The “conservative” concentration on “going to Heaven” when you die and, in the meantime, you shut the f*ck up and follow orders is, frankly, heresy. Christianity is, at heart, a spiritual religion and contains the same ingredients and language we see in Yoga, Sufism, Buddhism if we suspend judgment and listen. Christianity contains the teachings to develop and expand your consciousness and, above all, open your heart.

        1. Banger

          Huh? So then, slavery is central to Christianity? Ok–but what you say has nothing to do with what I said and isn’t helpful. So what philosophy based on what moral teaching opposed slavery?

          1. skippy

            I’ll dig up the meta material I gave to beardo some months past, later tomorrow as time permits but, for the moment – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

            Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

            In the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

            The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

            Nowhere in the New Testament will you find a condemnation of slavery, nor an updating of the Mosaic slave code. Instead you have stuff like Ephesians 6 where slaves are told to be “obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling”; and Philemon, where Paul sends back a runaway slave to his Christian owner. Jesus does not raise a word against the practice.

            How can this be? If slavery is a human evil, how can the Master and his servants have had nothing to say against it?

            Therein lies the answer. For Jesus and Paul, the master-servant (= slave) relationship was both a fact of life (not dissimilar to employer-employee, father-son) and a sign of all our client relationships with God. Jesus uses this relationship in the parable of the faithful steward (Luke 12:43-48):

            Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing [acting faithfully]. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

            But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

            The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

            And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

            But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

            Here the Christian becomes the vilicus, or houshold steward (still a slave; think of Joseph in Potiphar’s house); Christ is the absent paterfamilias who will return to reward or punish him according to his faithfulness.

            For Jesus and Paul then, because we all live in a client relationship (God-Man; or better, Christ-Christian), extending that relationship to human interactions is not morally problematic. As such, slavery requires no condemnation for we are all slaves. All that remains is for slaves to “fear” their masters; and for masters (who are not the real masters, only the stewards), to not beat their slaves and otherwise act like delinquents.

            Exodus 22:2-3 If a thief has nothing, then the thief shall be sold (as a slave) for his theft.

            Leviticus 19:20 And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.

            Leviticus 22:11 If the priest buys any soul with his money….

            Leviticus 25:39 And if a brother who lives by you be poor, and be sold to you…

            Leviticus 25:44-46 Your male and female slaves, which you shall have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; from them you shall buy male and female slaves. Moreover, from the children of the strangers that sojourn among you, you shall buy, and from their families that are with you, which they gave birth to in your land. They shall be your possession. You shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your slaves forever.

            Skippy… its everywhere….

            1. F. Beard

              Skippy… its everywhere….

              Sure. Any casual, shallow or just first time reading of Scripture can find plenty to stumble over FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE. Otoh, many (most, nearly all other?) cultures had no problem with slavery to begin with. And it was Christians who eventually got slavery abolished.

              So quit complaining over your stubbed toes; I suffered them too but kept marching because of the undeniably GOOD things the Bible teaches and promises and, frankly, because of the undeniably bad things that are promised to the wicked if they don’t repent.

              “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 NASB

              1. diptherio

                Beard, if your religion is based around fear of hell or desire for heaven, then you have no religion at all. You have superstition and self-regard.

                Why must we love our enemy and pray for our oppressors? Why must we remember the poor and visit the infirm and the imprisoned? Is it so that we may be rewarded in Heaven? Is it because we fear the fires of Hell? If so, then we are like children, who must be prodded and threatened to do the right thing. When one reaches the adult stage of spirituality, fear of punishment and hope for reward are no longer necessary to motivate one’s actions. One acts regardless of the consequences for oneself, because one is not acting out of selfishness ; and the overcoming of selfishness is the goal of spirituality and religion. Only this type of selflessness can lead to true courage and true strength.

                As a Sufi once prayed, “Oh Lord, if I serve you out of desire for Heaven, deny me Heaven; if I serve you out of fear of Hell, send me to Hell.” That is true spirituality. If we say instead, “I do this so that I might be later rewarded,” then we treat God as a shopkeeper, and ourselves as mere customers. Our good deeds then are but tokens with which we purchase more for ourselves. This is not religion: this is superstition.

                1. F. Beard

                  My religion is of the Bible and it teaches me I should fear God and damnation because I’m a sinner as indeed all mankind is with the exception of Jesus.

                  I fear your religion is one of pride and self-righteousness.

                  1. skippy

                    The Bible and archaeology
                    Main articles: The Bible and history and Biblical archaeology

                    According to one of the world’s leading biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever,

                    “Archaeology certainly doesn’t prove literal readings of the Bible…It calls them into question, and that’s what bothers some people. Most people really think that archaeology is out there to prove the Bible. No archaeologist thinks so.”[34] From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. William Albright, the great father of our discipline, often spoke of the “archeological revolution.” Well, the revolution has come but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that’s very disturbing to some people.[35]

                    Dever also wrote:

                    Archaeology as it is practiced today must be able to challenge, as well as confirm, the Bible stories. Some things described there really did happen, but others did not. The biblical narratives about Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Solomon probably reflect some historical memories of people and places, but the ‘larger than life’ portraits of the Bible are unrealistic and contradicted by the archaeological evidence….[36] I am not reading the Bible as Scripture… I am in fact not even a theist. My view all along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed ‘stories,’ often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they contain some valid historical information…[37]

                    Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze’ev Herzog wrote in the Haaretz newspaper:

                    This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.[38][39]

                    Professor Finkelstein, who is known as “the father of biblical archaeology”, told the Jerusalem Post that Jewish archaeologists have found no historical or archaeological evidence to back the biblical narrative on the Exodus, the Jews’ wandering in Sinai or Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. On the alleged Temple of Solomon, Finkelstein said that there is no archaeological evidence to prove it really existed.[40] Professor Yoni Mizrahi, an independent archaeologist who has worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency, agreed with Israel Finkelstein.[40]

                    Regarding the Exodus of Israelites from Egypt, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said:

                    “Really, it’s a myth,”… “This is my career as an archaeologist. I should tell them the truth. If the people are upset, that is not my problem.”[41]


                    Skippy… a wiki page is more concise..

                    1. F. Beard

                      I’m not disturbed; I yawn.

                      One thing I’ve learned in life is to have a low pass filter wrt archaeology and science in general; since if one waits long enough initial findings are often reversed.

                      Female consort to the God of the Bible? Chapter and verse, please, from the Bible.

                    2. skippy

                      Did Yahweh,a the Israelite God, have a consort? Like many other scholars, I believe that a substantial number of Israelites thought so. Unlike most others scholars, however, I believe that many of these same Israelites considered the sun a symbol or icon of Israel’s God, Yahweh. Yet early Israel was far more developed than we might guess from this; the same evidence that points to Yahweh as having a consort (or wife) and being symbolized by the sun, also points to an understanding of Yahweh as an abstract, non-anthropomorphic deity. In short, many early Israelites combined various notions about Yahweh that we would call “orthodox” and “pagan.” Unravelling these various strands proves to be a fascinating exercise.
                      Our principal evidence, in addition to the Bible, will be two archaeological finds familiar to long-time BAR readers—the pithoi (storage jars) from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the Sinai with their pictures and inscriptions;b and the famous four-tiered cult stand from Taanach that graced the cover of the BAR 17:05.
                      The Kuntillet ‘Ajrud pithoi were especially shocking when discovered because they seemed to suggest quite explicitly that Yahweh did have a consort. The site of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud was apparently a caravanserai where travelers could bed down for the night and, at the same time, pray for a safe journey. Based on the pottery and on the shape and stance of the letters in the inscriptions, the pithoi date to the eighth century B.C.E. In addition to their badly faded inscriptions, these pithoi also contain faint drawings of some scenes and figures, to which we will later return. For now, however, we will look at the inscriptions. Each pithos has an inscription that refers to Yahweh and to his Asherah (or, as I prefer, asherah).1 Pithos A, in the most commonly accepted interpretation, speaks of “Yahweh of Shomron (Samaria) and his asherah (or Asherah).” The inscription on Pithos B states, “I bless you by Yahweh of Temanc and by his asherah (or Asherah).”

                      For some scholars, whether these inscriptions refer to a consort of Yahweh depends on whether Asherah is spelled with a capital A or a small a. One scholar who favors the small-a (i.e. cult symbol) option for the inscriptions goes so far as to suggest that even references in the Bible to a goddess called (the) Asherah are mistaken or commonly misinterpreted and that there too we should see only a tree-like cult symbol called “the asherah.” In this view, there was no consort of Yahweh, just a cult symbol that only incidentally bore the name of the long-forgotten goddess Asherah.2 Examination of the Taanach cult stand will show, however, that the asherah as a cult symbol occurs right alongside a portrait of the goddess herself and that the goddess had thus not been separated from the cult symbol that bore her name. Thus, it makes little difference whether the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud inscriptions refer to the goddess herself or to her symbol. In other words, assuming continuity between the asherah at Taanach and Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, the inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud imply Yahweh’s association with a consort even if the inscriptions refer only to her cult symbol named “asherah” with a lowercase a.
                      Some readers may have noticed by now my aversion to referring to the goddess symbolized by “the asherah” with the proper name Asherah. This is because a recent reevaluation persuasively argues that Asherah, like Baal, although often treated and translated as a proper name, is probably a common noun or title.3 That is why Asherah (and Baal) are often preceded by the definite article, “the” (h in Hebrew). Baal is thus more properly rendered “the lord” (or the like) and “Asherah” is better read as referring to a kind of goddess or class of goddess specified simply as “the asherah.”
                      If this is correct, the name of Yahweh’s consort may not have been preserved in the Bible (or in the inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud). Therefore, I prefer not to use the name Asherah with a capital A (although it then becomes difficult to know exactly what to call Yahweh’s consort). The situation is further complicated by the fact that “the asherah” sometimes refers to a cult object rather than to a member of “the asherah” goddess class, as already noted.
                      Another inscription similar to those from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud and from the same period was found in a tomb at Khirbet el-Kom, eight miles west of Hebron. In this inscription, carved into a wall of the tomb, someone is blessed “by Yahweh” and “by his asherah.” Rather than the numerous drawings on the pithoi from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, only one image—of a hand—accompanies the Khirbet el-Kom inscription.


                    3. F. Beard

                      It doesn’t matter what the ancient Hebrews thought or did because the Torah often accuses them of disobedience or apostasy. My spiritual guide is the Bible, not the ancient Hebrews.

                      The Creator has NOT left Himself without a witness in this world. That witness is Scripture. Ignore or disbelieve it at your peril.

                    4. skippy

                      Your guide is an extenuation of older mythology’s and comported into a political document, for the immediate needs of the empire, of the day. This document has been utilized – co-opted politically – by successive empires for the inherent use of validating elitism.


                      Skippy… must be nice to say “so it was written” to validate an opinion as “universal truth”.

            2. diptherio

              Skip, please be aware that many (perhaps most) contemporary Christians do not take the Bible literally, understand that it was written at a different time with different standards of morality, and are actually four-square against slavery (hard to believe, I know…)

              It’s easy to poke fun and point out absurdities, but that isn’t going to make people stop being religious/spiritual. It is going to stop you from being able to communicate with a large number of people, however.

              You seem to think that Christians, by definition, take everything in the bible literally (raised by fundamentalists, out of curiosity?) and so think that attacking the text is synonymous with attacking the religion. However, no Christian today (at least none worth noticing) is encouraging slavery, which makes your whole, well-researched commentary completely irrelevant.

              Scientists used to claim that whites were naturally superior to non-white peoples, but that doesn’t mean that science is useless and stupid and should be written off. Trying to hold modern Christianity to account for the bible’s comments on slavery is akin to holding a modern scientist accountable for the pronouncements of yesteryear’s (racist) physical anthropologists. It doesn’t prove anything and just seems rather silly…

              1. F. Beard

                If Christians have erred (and they have) it’s mostly because they HAVEN’T taken Scripture literally.

                Example: Christians try to explain away the Lord regretting or changing His mind because it does not agree with their false notion of an infinite God but Scripture nowhere says that God is infinite.

                1. diptherio

                  Virgin birth; death penalty for homosexuality and talking back to your parents; slavery is fine so long as the slaves come from another country…etc.

                  This stuff is no longer taken literally by (for instance) the United Methodist Church, which I think is a fairly representative mainline protestant denomination…and that’s a good thing.

                  1. F. Beard

                    The death penalty was for public sodomy since two or more witnesses were required to punish anyone.

                    And sodomy is only mentioned a couple of times in the Old Testament whereas social injustice is mentioned many times.

                    1. diptherio

                      Still seems way out of line to me, public or not. And that only addresses the sodomy issue, anyway. What about not suffering a willful child to live?

                      I’m on the side of J. S. Spong when it comes to this stuff. You’re obviously not. Fine with me, but don’t expect me to not question you. As Soren said, “…the most one man can do for another is to unsettle him.” You might not get unsettled, but maybe someone reading will.

                    2. F. Beard

                      Some people will throw rocks at dogs copulating in public; is there to be no standard of public decency or should children not be allowed outdoors?

                      As for the stoning of a willful child, that has never occurred in the history of the Hebrews, I’ve read.

            3. F. Beard

              Not that I defend the RCC (most likely candidate for the Whore of Babylon) or any other Christian sect. I defend the Bible though it actually defends itself superbly if one will continue to read it carefully.

            4. Banger

              It would never have occurred to people back then to not have slaves just as we can’t imagine a world without cars. To condemn a religion for having started in an age we cannot conceive of is a little silly. Christianity, like, anything else developed and changed–it was from Chritsianity that the idea of individual human dignity arose in stops and starts that enabled us to get away from slavery. The central aspect of Christianity, or any other spiritual tradition, has nothing to do with today’s political correctness but with spiritual insights into the nature of God and existence–not a particular person’s material condition.

              1. skippy

                Utter rubbish Banger – the subjugation of weaker ethnic groups is ongoing and with blessing.

                “Imperialism has been the most powerful force in world history over the last four or five centuries, carving up whole continents while oppressing indigenous peoples and obliterating entire civilizations. Yet, it is seldom accorded any serious attention by our academics, media commentators, and political leaders. When not ignored outright, the subject of imperialism has been sanitized, so that empires become “commonwealths,” and colonies become “territories” or “dominions” Imperialist military interventions become matters of “national defense,” “national security,” and maintaining “stability” in one or another region”

                –Professor Michael Parenti, in Chapter One of his book “Against Empire”.

                “We belong to the superior race and civilization… The basic justification of conquest over native peoples is the conviction of our superiority – not just economic and military but also moral…That quality underlies our right to direct the rest of humanity”…

                –Jules Harmand, French Colonialist, 1910

                “Global democracy means ensuring that the world is run for our benefit”

                –George Orwell, 1932 (Prior to his Anti-tyranny conversion)


    2. diptherio

      Although it obviously rubs you the wrong way, religion is here to stay. If you accept that, as inevitable if not ideal, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t be happy see a more populist pontiff. Religion is a tool, and as Ani Difranco puts it, “every tool is a weapon if you hold it right”…but that doesn’t diminish the tool’s ability to function as a tool in the right hands.

      And let us not forget Soviet Russia. The greatest, and perhaps only, Atheist empire that our world has seen. Some of the greatest atrocities in human history were carried out under a regime that overtly rejected religion, so obviously religion isn’t needed to create an oppressive society. Personally, I think Stalin could have done with just a touch more o’ the Jesus, if you know what I mean…

      One not need be religious to be close-minded, atheists are pretty good at it too.

          1. Jackrabbit

            Well, the comment that you replied to was fairly short. I’m not sure how you could fail to get the import.

            I’m sure that you are aware that many see growing inequality as the culmination of policies to consolidate power. This has been termed ‘neo-feudalism’. During the middle ages, the church was a bulwark for feudalism: supporting the divine right of Kings and exhorting peasants/surfs to accept their lot and live for the afterlife.

            While the Pope’s criticisms are welcome by many, it is still _way_ too soon to understand where he wants to take the church. Will a ‘revived’ church fight against neo-feudalism or is the church fighting FOR a role in the neo-feudal society that is developing. If the Pope simply asks for a little more for the poor, and does not advocate for real political change then the answer is the later.

      1. American Slave

        People bring up Soviet Russia but dont understand what a shit hole Russia was before, most people today would not want to deal with the Okhrana and there mid-evil torture chambers they had where people walking by on the street could hear people screaming from the prisons.

        Old Russia was also a very backward and undeveloped country with minimal industrial development and no welfare so most people were living a miserable life and had no chance to get ahead from being a serf.

        And then we have the mostly Christian Allied powers who firebombed cities and dropped nuclear bombs on 2 cities and burned down villages with flamethrowers in Korea and Vietnam vs the Soviet Union who did no such thing in Afghanistan and didnt do a shock and awe either so they did less evil things than other non-atheist society’s.

        But I see the old propaganda lies still comes through.

  5. Banger

    Kindness and cruelty! Everything can be explained by those two words. I see people struggling with this, I see churches struggling with this, I see people online making comments that degenerate into mental and psychological domination and, yes, cruelty.

    In terms of this Pope, should he live, we see a revolutionary leader. Though Francis is merely preaching what is clearly in the Gospels and most of the Bible he appears as a radical–he is Jesus confronted by the Grand Inquisitor (in Doesteovski’s great story) except the roles are kind of reversed now.

    Cruelty is really the feeling of separation and kindness is really compassion or the feeling of connectiveness and religion is that which binds us together not splits us apart as is so often the case. As I try to say here as much as I can, the fault of excesses of the rich is not just a moral issue for the rich–it is a moral issue for all who believe that markets and money are the final arbiters of value and, indeed, morality regardless of income-level. The rich simply try to live out the fantasies of the middle-class and poor–after all wasn’t much of the gangsta-rap ethic about money, and status–I’m sure Jamie Dimon approved of that ethic and probably listens to that crap (great beatz bad lyrics).

    The idea that we ought to take care of the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the people who suffer from mental disorders, those in prisons is profoundly Christian and, strangely, this notion has largely been absent from Christianity particularly in the U.S. We all need to challenge political “conservatives” who rail against the lazy poor on the grounds of the religion they espouse. If a right-winger claims to be Christian he or she must always be challenged on moral and religious grounds–describe them as they are Scrooges who are often further away from God than any junkie in the street but do so with love and compassion–many on the right are stuck in a narrow view of life probably fed by profound fear and lack of Faith. Faith (for those of us who are Christian) demands that we give without judgement to those in need with the Faith that these people will be helped more by our intention than our dollars or food. In the end, what makes us happy is the sense of being included of being connected of being nurtured and that will make each of us and them more creative and productive–though productivity in the sense we think of it in this society is not the ultimate goal of life either.

    1. Jackrabbit

      In terms of this Pope . . . we see a revolutionary leader.

      Wake me up when the Pope throws the money-changers out of the temple of democracy.
      Until then, its all sanctimonious BS.

      1. The. Heretic

        Good comment. This Pope has made some good gestures; but the hard work is to remove the cruel, the corrupt and the money changers, and to move against the churches client state enablers… Till then, this is just ‘Hope and Change’.

        Lets see….

      2. Banger

        The Pope is a spiritual leader and does not run any democracies and has no authority in the U.S. to remove bankers from power–that’s something that the people need to do but don’t want to do. And I might say that the term “sanctimonious BS” is deeply insulting and uncalled for.

  6. McMike

    The Catholic Church, like the GOP, has realized they have a marketing problem (realized at the same time and for the same reason) – they had turned the administration and marketing over to mean-spirited, myopic, emotionally-damaged wackos – and as a result, membership was waning, and eventually their ability to implement policies was faltering and they were in danger of crawling up their own bung-holes of fear and loathing.

    In the case of the church, there was the added dimension of decades of institutional pathology; covering up and failing to act on the widespread systematic sexual abuse of its own children.

    I sincerely hope this tack towards kindness and compassion on the part of the church – the actual things we associate with Christ – is genuine and lasting.

    And in both cases, church and GOP, I hope they represent the indicators of a rolling back, a tipping point, in an end of the era of destruction right-wing pathology – the long violent temper tantrum of the right – that has gripped the nation and the world.

    1. Ping

      I agree that appointing Pope Francis was a shrewd move in response to a collapsing institution and image damage control/makeover for a hierarchy more associated with gross corruption than spiritual values.

      I hope he is sincere and can turn the battleship around but it will be a massive job cleaning up the money laundering Vatican Bank and directing resources according to professed beliefs, decoupling ‘the word of God’ with evangelical neo liberalism, revisionist history of Jesus and narrowly focused manipulative ideologies.

      But after Obama’s pretty speeches contradicted his directives behind closed doors, it’s hard to get enthusiastic until ‘the rubber meets the road’. Francis is off to a nice start though.

      1. Jackrabbit

        . . . it will be a massive job cleaning up the money laundering Vatican Bank . . . Francis is off to a nice start though.

        To ‘clean up’ the Vatican Bank he has called upon ‘experts’ from large banks and they called in regulatory ‘fixer’ extraordinaire Promontory Financial. This is the same consulting outfit that was chosen to coverup mortgage abuses by Band of America which Yves detailed with the help of some whistle-blowers.

      2. McMike

        Of course, there’s nothing new about a corrupt, dysfunctional, and largely un-Christian Vatican. The place has a positively Shakespearean history.

        I think that the best we can hope for is that he’s a Gorbaechev figure. Himself imperfect and incomplete. But opening the door for reforms and reformers. That’s an important role though. An important Emperer is Naked moment of sorts.

        Nevertheless, we know how the USSR saga turned out. The banks and crooks are still in a position to disrupt, divert, and co-opt everything they desire.

  7. Michelle LaRowe

    This was a lovely interview. Thank you for posting it. This Methodist is becoming a huge fan of the new Pope (actions speak so much louder than words). It’s astonishing that just as the world is being taken over by a corrupt world order based on money and power, here comes someone in a position like the Pope has who could really upset that apple cart.

  8. DakotabornKansan

    Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.”

    Are some of us living in a cloud of Mephisto fog; under the spell of the savior need?

    Andrew O’Hehir @ Salon.com writes, “It’s difficult to imagine that [Pope Francis] can or will do anything to arrest the church’s long slide into cultural irrelevance and neo-medieval isolation…”


    “It’s easy — maybe too easy — for people with progressive political views to dismiss the Roman Catholic Church as a vile anachronism, a nightmarish patriarchy of aging pedophiles, woman-haters, homophobes and/or closet cases that can offer nothing of value to the contemporary world. When it comes to the church hierarchy, and especially the Roman Curia, the corrupt and labyrinthine Vatican bureaucracy that makes the Soviet-era Kremlin look like a model of transparency, that point of view seems more than justified.

    But the church is not just the hierarchy, and as the spectacle of the last several days has demonstrated, there are millions or billions of people around the world — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — who wish the newly elected Pope Francis well and yearn to see in him the possibility of hope and renewal for this ancient, powerful and heavily tarnished institution that claims direct succession from the apostles of Jesus. As the first Latin American pope and the first Jesuit pope, Francis represents a break with tradition in several ways. Both the name he has chosen and his personal modesty and humility are meant to recall St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most adored figures in the Christian tradition, and no doubt also St. Francis de Sales, a 17th-century mystic, author and ascetic known for his devotion to the poor.”


    Matthew Fox, Episcopal priest and theologian, formerly a member of the Dominican Order within the Roman Catholic Church, forced out of his order and out of the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI, “Pope Francis: A Breath of Fresh Air?”:

    “I recently wrote a book on Pope Francis, or better a book to him, entitled Letters to Pope Francis. The book was released in Italian on Thanksgiving Day. In it I challenge him to live up to his purposefully chosen namesake and warned that people would hold his feet to the fire because no other pope had ever taken up that name, icon that it is, and that most people do know what St Francis of Assisi stood for: Ecology and non-chauvinistic relationships to the plant and animal worlds; a preferential option for the poor; and (this may be slightly less acknowledged) an admirable and almost startling balance of gender justice and consciousness. In his celebrated poem, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” he moves back and forth, back and forth, between masculine and feminine names for the sacred…

    Theologically, Pope Francis is speaking the radical language of Vatican II abandoned by his two predecessors: that the church is NOT the hierarchy but “the people” whose “sensus fidelium” actually matters…

    I end my letters to the pope suggesting that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together, hitting most continents to speak to the “Revolution in Values” that our times call for. This is not because change comes primarily from the top down, but because a few at the top (whom the media will be almost required to report about) can, by speaking out together, put wind in the sails of those millions and indeed billions who pray for and/or work for a saner world. Together they could speak to the obvious and real moral issues of our day…”


    People who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness. Cynics always say no. Cynicism leads nowhere.

    “Pope Francis is not perfect—none of us is—but he is an ally to all those seeking a world of justice and therefore peace.”

    As Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?”

    1. Jackrabbit

      Cynicism is not a lack of hope but an abundance of skepticism.

      You would do better by denouncing the people and institutions that have betrayed the hope that they fostered (like Obama) than those that have become cynical.

      Along those lines “first latin american pope” is misleading. Both of his parents are Italian. He is a second-generation immigrant who probably spoke italian at home.

      So far the new Pope’s message is really not that radical. He poor should be provided for; they should have jobs and a living wage. Wow. Obama is saying much the same thing.

      Will the Pope (ever?) really challenge the status-quo or is he just another ‘community organizer’ (crony ‘fixer’) like Obama? Only time will tell, buy even the cynics are hoping for the later.

    2. McMike

      Having had serious relationships and friendships with Catholics, I have come to see the complexity of the issue. Their refusal to follow most of the church’s rules was eclipsed only by their fierce loyalty to the church itself.

      However, having recently embraced a similarly complicated and compromised institution that I had thought I would not touch with a ten foot pole (Cub Scouts), I have another perspective on the issue.

      1. diptherio

        Speaking as a conflicted Eagle Scout, I feel for your situation. Scouting was great for me, but I would have preferred a less bigoted, non-Christian group to be involved in. Still, I’m glad I did it, even though I felt like a complete hypocrite, at times, pledging allegiance to “God and Country.” Hopefully, the Scouts’ culture won’t be too long in following along with the rest of society and casting off their current homophobia.

        1. McMike

          Alas, their right-wing tilt (God, flag, and guns) and homophobia was coupled with the same sort of child sex-abuse paradigm that the Catholic Church suffered with – cover-up, shuttling abusers around, and trying to handle it secretly and internally.

          In that context, their homophobia is actually sort of understandable. The scouts were a safe haven and magnet for abusers – in this case mainly homosexual pedophiles. So the official posture was a case-study in repressed guilt and projection – they had no idea what to do with this problem, so they reacted by putting on a very loud and aggressive public front.

          Classic right wing, the worse their own family deteriorates, they louder they proclaim their family values.

          Nevertheless, most of the stated values, activities, and projects are mainly worthy and hard to find elsewhere.

  9. Swedish Lex

    The Vatican was the first truly global Multinational, pushing a unique product that was skilfully adapted to local markets/tastes. Makes me sad that so many uninformed consumers are hooked on this kind of product, paying for it with their limited resources so that a the closed club of oldish men dressed in golden robes and funny hats can continue their scam “eternally”.

    Say “it’s religious” and you can simply get away with anything, almost. Will be fun to see if the Mafia actually will terminate this Vatican CEO or not since he is at least attempting to bring the Vatican’s utterly corrupt and money-laundering bank into what is not completely ilegal.

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