Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gospel and More Gospel: When the Gospel of Jesus (and Pope Francis) Meets the American Gospel . . .

Pope Francis says,

We have created a "throw away" culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the "leftovers". 
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. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us (Evangelii Gaudium, #53-54).

And here's some commentary about how the American gospel (as contrasted with the gospel Francis proclaims, which echoes the Christian gospels) plays out in the values of our nation's top leaders, per budget proposals, etc.:

To be fair, there is one group conservatives can be very, very compassionate toward: the wealthy and their corporations. While demanding cuts in food stamps, healthcare, unemployment benefits, etc., they are always, always insistent on cutting taxes for the fortunate few.

Almost three Americans are jobless for every job that's available -- a ratio worse than it was at the bottom of the last downturn. . . . The second reason this deal is bad is it contributes to the nation's savage inequality. The deal doesn't close a single tax loophole for wealthy, and it doesn't restore food stamps to the poor.

We have gone from a war on poverty in this country to a war on the poor, in which poor people are routinely demonized and scapegoated and attacked, and conservatives have led the charge.

The tax break for capital gains and dividends income — which overwhelmingly benefits the top 1 percent of taxpayers — cost the Treasury a whopping $83 billion in 2013. That’s more than the entire food stamp program, which both chambers of Congress appear poised to cut next year.

While annual CEO compensation increased by 726.7 percent between 1978 and 2011, average worker compensation only went up 5.7 percent during the same time.

Despite Murray's prodding, the House and Senate budget chairs did not close a single tax loophole. But they did come up with a scheme to take money away from public employees and people serving in the military – effectively reducing what millions of Americans will have to spend on Main Street.

In one of his many poignant quotes recently, he asks: "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

As it seems to me, there's the gospel of Jesus, which Pope Francis seems to proclaim. Then there's the American gospel, which the nation with a soul of the church wants to proclaim to the world.

And the two don't cohere or connect in any meaningful way at all--especially when that latter gospel is proclaimed by some of the followers of Jesus in the U.S. who profess to be more orthodox, more Christian, than anyone else in the world. 

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