I just watched Pope Francis' arrival in Washington on television. It seemed like a thoroughly joyous occasion.
Pope Francis is very easy to like. He seems like a truly humble and down-to-earth man, one who carries his dogma lightly and who truly tries to embody the teachings of Jesus in his actions toward others. He has put a much kinder and gentler face on Catholicism, even as much of the antiquated belief system of the Church - no women priests and little involvement of women in the running of the church; celibacy for priests, making it impossible for them ever to fully understand the day-to-day lives and concerns of most of their parishioners; antipathy to modern contraception methods and no tolerance for abortions, to name only a few issues - remains unchanged. Nevertheless, Francis has made his Church a more open and accepting place, and displaying that attitude has made him one of the most admired people in the world.
So, now, here he is in our country where we are currently witnessing the Republican candidates for the presidency of what they would have be a theocracy slugging it out with their inchoate blustering about "religious liberty" and their professed belief in archaic verses from the Old Testament regarding the treatment of women and of homosexuals; and, furthermore, their belief that these verses should take precedence over the laws and the Constitution of this country. As usual, these self-described Christians are cherrypicking the religious teachings they prefer and ignoring all that crazy stuff about loving your neighbor, housing the homeless, taking care of the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. Jesus didn't really mean that!
Pope Francis, however, tells us that Jesus did mean that stuff, and that is why many Republicans, including some who are Catholic, hate this Pope. He makes them look like the small-minded, selfish, greedy, unforgiving zealots that they are. One has to wonder if, when the Pope speaks to a joint session of the Congress on Thursday, one of our elite elected representatives might not stand up, interrupting his speech, and yelling "You lie!" Frankly, I wouldn't put it past them.
All of which brings me to a post that Paul Krugman wrote on his blog today. The post was entitled "Religions Are What People Make Them." Truer words were probably never written.
Human beings make of their religions what they want them to be. Their religions are created in their images. A hateful, intolerant person will have a hateful, intolerant religion. An open-minded, loving person will have an open-minded, loving religion.
Krugman references the golden age of Islam and its medieval flourishing of learning in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy, as well as other fields of knowledge. That religion has, in many places, devolved into something quite different these days, fed by an economic decline and an inward turn toward fundamentalism. Much the same could be said about Christianity.
As Krugman writes, "It's ignorant and ahistorical to claim unique virtue or unique sin for any one set of beliefs." All religions were created by human beings and are a reflection of those who created and who practice them. And in that sense, all religions are equal.