The Pope is a Marxist. When I heard that, I couldn’t believe my ears and when I actually read it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Arguably the most Christian, religious person in the world is an atheist? The most turn-the-other-cheek, don’t-hurt-a-fly guy in the human race advocates violent overthrow of government(s) and perpetual class warfare? Well, that’s just shocking as all get-out. Kill all the bourgeoisie and capitalists and monarchists and clerics and religionists if they don’t give in or go away? The Pope?
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Rush Limbaugh said it, and likely at least 15 million people really believe it. That’s the 15 million who listen to Rush and maybe another 20 or 30 million who are related to or influenced by the 15 million and who therefore probably believe it too.
Tell me Winnie-the-Pooh is a Peeping Tom and Br’er Bear is a pedophile, and we’ll at least have an interesting discussion. Tell me the Pope is a Marxist, and we’ll just look at each other. Well, I’ll just look at you and be dumbfounded. I guess you’ll look at me with a knowing smile and nod your head.
“Yep. Rush says so, and I’m pretty sure Rush knows what he’s talking about. A damn Marxist. Who woulda thought?”
And I thought the Birthers were kooky. The native Kenyan anti-colonialist, socialist tag is just weird. Obama as the proponent of a new Islamic Caliphate is bizarre and creepy. The Pope as Marxist? Certifiable. That means crazy. And I’m not even Catholic. Not even close, but if I were I’d be looking over my shoulder for one of those 15 million who might think I’m a fellow traveler like Francis and decide to eliminate a commie revolutionary bent on stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. And dollars to doughnuts, that individual would not be one of the rich from whom I’d allegedly be stealing and redistributing.
Rush didn’t have to say the Pope is a Marxist. He knows better. The Pope has been reorienting his church back to some of its basic tenets. Looking out for the poor, being concerned with the “least of us.” Christians have been exhorted for 20 centuries to share their goods, wealth and talents in a way that ensures the “least of us” don’t fall all the way through the cracks. Some branches even set a rate for giving. Tithing 10 percent of one’s assets is as common as singing “Jesus loves me” in many churches, and I’ve never heard anyone complain that it’s a coerced redistribution of wealth. It’s a lot of what religion is all about. Some of the proceeds are intended to support the church and its officials while some is spread around the needy in the congregation. What’s left over traditionally is to help provide for those in the community who can’t provide for themselves.
Visiting great cathedrals of the world, filled with gold and silver and precious jewels and fabulous works of art, will clarify that Christian church leaders sometimes kept vastly more than they redistributed. The Pope seems to be calling out that history as predatory, inhumane and ultimately unsustainable. Marx would have agreed — and then some. So would most of the religious reformers throughout history, none of whom I’ve ever heard called Marxists. Of course most of them pre-dated Marx by many centuries.
So, what was Rush looking to accomplish by calling the Pope a Marxist? I don’t know. I have a theory or two for sure.
Anything that smacks of challenging the status quo or the perceived way things are supposed to be, that is the status quo, is frightening to some people, presumably the people hearing the sermons from the pulpit of Rush. And if hundreds of millions of Catholics around the world follow their leader’s direction, they’ll start clamoring for change. They might start demanding a greater voice in their own lives and circumstances, and that might make it a little too hot on those in charge. And then what? Change. And if a million American Catholics began demanding that not only their church but their society take a hard look at how things are, they might start clamoring for change too.
And change could involve challenging the power and influence of the “1 percent” for whom Rush might be called the mouthpiece. In simple terms, it would be bad for business, all kinds of business, especially those businesses that control lobbyists who influence laws and policies that mostly benefit themselves — not unlike many of those grand cathedrals of old.
On the other hand, it might just be that Rush gets a kick out of setting the odd skunk loose at a cocktail party just to watch the fun. From that perspective, it actually is kind of fun.
Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.