Pope Francis is shaking things up. The move to appoint him looks like a step in the right direction for the Catholic church. The work he has done thus far to bring a new humility to the church has gained plenty of media attention. Conservatives have espoused a range of views on the new pontiff and the Catholic church in general. Some despise the church for its handling of child abuse scandals and some consider it to be a partner in the greater Christian mission. Some Catholic traditionalists have taken issue over Pope Francis’ radical efforts, but this pope is definitely setting his own agenda.
In late March, Pope Francis sent a letter to Argentine bishops warning that any person who supported abortion should not be allowed to take holy communion. He stressed that this especially included politicians:
“[People] cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.”
This message came after Vice President Joe Biden and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi both received communion at the mass celebrating the Pope’s inauguration. During this event, the Pope stressed the need for public officials to protect life and the weakest among us. Biden and Pelosi felt no reservations about taking communion despite their pro-abortion stances. It will be a great contribution if Pope Francis decides to extend this message to the entire church. Surely it would make headlines if Joe Biden was refused communion in his own parish, and it would be hilarious to boot.
The conservative movement has been hindered by the weakness of many American churches. While plenty do amazing service work, many more are not reformers in their own communities, and there are more still who actually regurgitate the progressive message. In too many California communities, churches hang pride flags and express support for gay marriage. These churches have chosen to use their pulpits to move away from a Bible centered theology and move towards the self-centered religion of liberalism.
Like the annoying kid in junior high who just wants to fit in, American churches are going the way of their European cousins, becoming emasculated. The progressive agenda has continually been on the attack and now, in order to make friends amongst the enemy, evangelical churches are caving to progressive will. Where liberals insisted churches stay out of politics previously, these churches and leaders are now paraded in front of the nation for compromising on their values.
Former megachurch pastor, Rob Bell, changed the conversation to “marriage, love and fidelity” in order to voice his support for gay marriage. His argument: “I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to adjust … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
Where the church could be leading in the conservative movement, they are either falling behind or aiding the other camp and leaving their members to fend for themselves on maintaining true Christian values. Evangelical churches are even supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants with Catholics supporting it in large numbers as well.
The fact that Pope Francis is willing to set up a challenge to pro-abortion politicians is major (which is why you haven’t heard about it on any major news network). If more churches were preaching true Christian values instead of what progressives want to hear, they would offer a major bulwark against the liberal agenda.
Whether or not you are concerned about the church or Catholicism, it is a major source of untapped energy for the conservative movement. The simple fact of the matter is, the destruction of family and culture is a result of churches being too friendly with or caving to the liberal agenda. Having been involved in Los Angeles Christian ministry for many years, I saw plenty of it–church pastors bringing Muslims in to talk to Christians about the “religion of peace”, using tired arguments to support a pro-abortion agenda, and attacking the Defense of Marriage Act as unjust.
It will be very interesting to see what Pope Francis can accomplish and if he is willing to challenge all Christians to look back to their traditional principles for answers to questions on family and culture rather than the progressive agenda. One thing is for certain, he is definitely the pontiff to watch.