Pope Francis Uses the Words of Jesus to Destroy Conservative Economic Beliefs

pope-francis-jesusI think it’s becoming very clear that Republicans really aren’t going to like this pope.  Not only has he made efforts to soften the church’s stance on homosexuality and abortion (basically saying the church needs to stop focusing so much on these issues and instead focus on more important things), he’s essentially crushed the Republican economic ideology of trickle-down economics whenever he’s spoken out on economic issues – most commonly regarding income inequality.

But his most recent comments about income inequality are probably his most direct yet.

Pope Francis called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits,” saying the Bible requires a society that bases its economic system to help the “poorest and those most excluded.”

“In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens,” Francis said.

The pope referenced Luke 19: 1-10, the story of Zacchaeus.  Essentially it’s a story about a corrupt and greedy individual who instantly changes his ways upon meeting Jesus Christ, promising “Half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Now, if Jesus were a trickle-down economics subscriber, wouldn’t he have told him not to do that?  That by giving people his wealth (trickling it down one might say) he’s creating dependency?

Nope, instead Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

I already know what’s coming from the right, “Pope Francis is a socialist/Marxist/communist!”  That is, if conservatives can focus on something besides Benghazi.

But I don’t think Pope Francis is calling for a straight redistribution of wealth.  What I believe he’s referencing are these economic policies found all over the world that overwhelmingly favor the rich with the promise that the more the rich have, the better off it is for everyone else because that wealth will “trickle down.”

He hammered trickle-down economics a few months back, saying, “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

I believe it’s the economic policies Pope Francis is bashing that are based on top-down economics where the rich push for more tax breaks for themselves, while programs that help the poor continue to get gutted, promising that their growth in wealth will overflow and spread to everyone else – except it never does.  It’s not a cup that fills then flows over, it’s a cup that simply continues to expand the more we put in it.

The fact is, income inequality is a major issue facing not only the United States, but the world.  Right now, according to a study done by Oxfam, 85 of the richest people on the planet have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the entire population of the planet.  Or just around 3.5 billion people.

Most people don’t envy the rich.  We don’t even want to vilify them.  We have problems when being rich isn’t good enough for them – they want to be super rich.  When their growth in wealth comes at our expense.  When thousands of people lose their jobs so that the CEO of the company can increase their already massive yearly bonus by another 10%.

I’m just glad to see Pope Francis taking such a strong stance against income inequality.  And I loved how he used a story about Jesus’ encounter with greed, and how that person expunged greed from their life in the face of Jesus, to show the values for which he lived his life.

I’m just curious how conservatives will handle this.  Will they dare bash the most powerful Christian on the planet as not understanding Christianity?  Will they call him a socialist and dismiss everything he has to say?  Probably a bit of both.

But there’s one thing I can say without a doubt, it’s going to be very interesting.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • americanwoman343

    Most of those who subscribe to “Christian Right” ideas in the southern US were suspicious of Roman Catholicism before this pope came along. They will ignore him.

  • Theresa Oldmixon Quezada

    Non-Catholic Christians can, and will, reject whatever the Pope says if it does not confirm what they already believe. They have no reason to be loyal to him or question themselves based on anything the pope says. I am curious to see how the likes of Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum, who both personally profess to be practicing Roman Catholics, respond to Pope Francis’s thoughts on income inequality. Technically, they don’t have to agree with the Pope unless he is speaking ex-Cathedra, which he clearly is not. So they could still blow him off. Most Catholics, however, tend to defer to the Pope’s teachings in all, or most matters. It will be interesting at least.

    • Fernando

      ‘conversion’ will be their way out, so that they can then appeal to the evangelical base that hate the papacy

  • Sandy Greer

    I think the problem is the Haves – in general – don’t care enough about God to apply it to our everyday lives.

    We don’t believe we are our brother’s keepers; don’t accept it takes a village.

    And I don’t mean just the rich, either. But every single one of us.

  • shelley

    Too bad the pope is choosing to not lend his support to nuns that are trying to change the church’s stance on women’s reproductive rights, and the right to choose.

  • strayaway

    Zaccheaus was a tax collector who, it is inferred, took advantage of his relationship with the government to get rich off taxpayers. He chose to make amends by giving back some of his personal wealth so attained.

    Reagan’s trickle down economics doesn’t work but has survived 13 years of Democratic presidents and some sessions of Congress having a Democratic House, Senate, and Presidency. The logical conclusion is that trickle down economics is that the Democratic Party, for all its rhetoric, is now the co-owner of trickle down economics. That’s a different topic but, yeah, get rid of it.

    I don’t see anything in today’s progressive Bible reading suggesting that Ceasar should reform the IRS or the Roman Senate economic policies because they were so corrupt. Instead, Jesus, affirmed an individual who had changed his ways and was trying to make up for what he had done as a government agent.

  • pieindaface

    Too bad the pope hasn’t read Atlas Shrugged or referenced other parts of the Bible. Oh I dont know, 1st Timothy 6, or Jesus’ many parables about money. The Bible has more verses on money than any other subject and if you talk about the first 2% you have to reference back to the other 98%. Yes Jesus said give back to the poor, however he never condemned being rich. He condemned becoming rich through selfish gain like Zaccheaus, who took more taxes than the people were supposed to pay and used his power as a Roman citizen to essentially extort the people for money. I doubt he went into that.

    • Pat

      “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter heaven”?

      • Terry E. Christian

        In my opinion (believe of it what you will), Jesus’ comments about rich people, camels, and eyes of needles meant that the more wealthy one gets, the exponentially more moral obligation one accumulates to contribute to the welfare of those not as fortunate. The richer you get, the more God expects you to use your resources to help others.

  • Matt Morgan

    Personally I think Greed should be in the same category as drug addiction, and Alcoholism. Greed is the biggest reason trickle down economics doesn’t work. Meg Whitman laid off 1,500 employees as CEO of Ebay, and got a $14 million bonus. Whitman then became CEO of HP in 2011, then in 2012 they started the process of laying off 34,000 employees, her total compensation during these layoffs, 2012 $15.4 million, 2013 $17.6 million, she will probably make more when the layoff are finished in 2014. Other then laying off all these people, what has she done to deserve these huge bonuses, and other compensation? HP’s stock price is back to where it was before she was hired, she didn’t make the company worth more, just back to where it was prior to her being hired. I’m not saying HP didn’t need to cut some jobs, but 34,000 is a lot of jobs over 2 years, and you would think they would of tried to do stuff to create better sales, and revenue so they didn’t have to lay off so many people.

  • Fernando

    We, are NOT a Theocracy! Helping the poor,the disadvantaged, promoting financial equality, education, promoting a healthy globe etc, are not religious issues, but, every religion in the world should adhere to. Our Democracy is a secular one, and the CONSTITUTION, not the Bible, Koran, or the Pentateuch, is our guide

    • milesd

      While you are right about the theocracy justice is a larger form and this is a matter of justice not just religion. No one should go hungry or be laid-off/outsourced so a billionaire can then afford a 3rd helipad on their own personal cruise-ship. I’ve seen the excess while working in the Hamptons. Greed is out of control.

      It just made me sick to know that one of the fastest ways to get that rich in this society is to destroy companies/steal pensions via corporate raiding or by wiping out the global economy via securitization and deritives.

  • regressive teaparty trash

    evidently— according to white trash tea party regressive “Christians”………….
    jesus is a commie muslim born in Kenya

    and this new “pope” is ostensibly his spawn!!