"Pope Francis has surprised the world because he embraces the Christian calling to destabilize and to challenge. As the first leader of the Catholic Church from the Southern Hemisphere, he is especially mindful of the ways in which unregulated capitalism has failed the poor and left them “waiting.” – E.J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post, Dec. 1, 2013.
On Nov. 30, during the regular Saturday morning “Rainbow/Push” broadcast from Chicago's South Side (“Dr. King's Workshop”), Rev. Jesse Jackson described Pope Francis as a “revolutionary Gospel preacher.”
Jackson took note of the still relatively new Pope's “from-the-bottom-up” positions on a whole array of “social justice” issues. Indeed, Francis has upset many of his more “conservative” or “orthodox” “parishioners” throughout the world.
Francis, who became pope March 13, has, for example, said the Catholic church must take a “live and let live” approach to gay marriage and, in fact, to the church’s centuries old angst and anxiety over homosexuality. That's revolutionary.
Francis has decried the ever-growing income and wealth gap between the world's “elites” and the rest of us – the overwhelming majority of us, the 99 percent of us. That's revolutionary.
This pope has also admonished his parishioners against their overweening concern against not just “birth control,” but abortion itself. That’s revolutionary.
But more than anything else that this religious and moral revolutionary has done or said and which just plain sticks in the craw of his particularly wealthy and well-to-do congregants is his recent condemnation of neo-liberal, trickle-down, gangster and/or crony capitalism.
The church's most important, indeed prime responsibility, according to the pope, is to administer to “the least of these” – the poor, the sick, the disabled, the captive. Jackson allowed that as the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from the Americas, this pope is a follower of the “Jesus of Nazareth,” not the "Jesus of Constantine.”
Jesus of Nazareth, you see, devoted his short, revolutionary life to the vast masses of people who could not – for whatever reason – fend for themselves. Jesus himself, was born “homeless.”
True enough, in his own way, Emperor Constantine was also a revolutionary. He forced the Roman Empire to accept Christianity as a real – strike that – the one and only real religion.
But as Jackson intimates, Constantine functioned from the top down, and thus kept the political, social, and economic hierarchies in place. The few controlled the many, rather than the other way around.
It should be clear by now, after a full five centuries of experience, that capitalism cannot be domesticated, tamed, or made to operate on behalf of and for the benefit of the whole people of any given society – let alone the entire world.
Capitalism, as manifested in “the West” has long ago supplanted the Christian faith as the moral and guiding “religion” for all human relations.
That is to say that capitalism has become, in fact, a religion in and of itself.
Who can argue with Pope Francis that capitalism is grounded in self-interest and greed?
Who dares to disagree that the now universal infusion of globalization, trickle-down economics, Reaganomics, and Thatcherism over the last 30-plus years has rendered the great masses of the earth's peoples devastated in every imaginable way — economically, politically, socially and culturally? While at the same time, those who “own” and monopolize the tools, i.e., “means of production,” and the world’s natural resources (including exploitation of human labor), live like the aristocrats of pre-revolutionary France and Europe?
So regardless of what you may think about Rev. Jesse Jackson, he is right on this one. Pope Francis is a "revolutionary Gospel preacher." He is the consummate follower of the “Jesus of Nazareth” rather than the “Jesus of Constantine. ” Not only Catholics, but we all should be thankful to have been “blessed” – finally – with an international, moral and spiritual thinker and leader of Francis’ stature – a man who will force needed change by his very presence.