Fishing, the Pope, and…Rush Limbaugh?

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke–though someone funnier than I am should perhaps consider writing one that starts with the mental image of Pope Francis and Rush Limbaugh in a fishing boat. However, I will spare you the groaning that any such effort on my part would produce and instead skip to the point.

Rather, I want to address my previous two posts in relation to something Rush Limbaugh said today.

My last post, “Fishing,” was actually a paraphrase of I Peter chapter 1. I did that without sharing the reference because I was “fishing.” There are statements about fear and righteousness that do not fit well with the current evangelical and post evangelical theologies. We do not frequent I Peter; it lacks the favored status of so many feel good promise of the day scripture passages, and so I wondered how some might react to it if they didn’t at first realize where it came from.

I Peter is just one of many such passages of scripture that challenge the self-realization model of Christianity prevalent among so many evangelicals  and post evangelicals. It would seem that Pope Francis in his recent exhortation, being the pastor that he is, has noted a similar tendency of neglecting certain teachings of the faith among Catholics as well.

What in the world could this possibly have to do with Rush Limbaugh?

Well, Rush rightly noted, as I did in my discussion in a recent post, that Pope Francis is no political liberal in matters of “moral teachings.” Yet he seems, like so many conservative Christians, to limit his view of morality to a certain realm of sexually and socially aberrant behavior. Take for instance this statement:

“I mean, there’s nothing liberal about pro-life, nothing liberal with anti-gay marriage.  If you look at morality, the morality of the Bible, the morality the Old and New Testaments, there’s nothing leftist about it.”  (Transcript here.)

I would agree, there is nothing leftist about the Bible. In fact I argue that plainly here. However, there is nothing leftist or Marxist about what Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium either; it is Christian morality.

Rush, like so many conservative Christians, fails to grasp that our financial behavior is just as much a moral issue as our sexual behavior–which brings me back to my “fishing.” How many of us take seriously passages like these:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!  Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.    – (James 5:1-6)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him  (I John 3:14-19)

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  (Matthew 19:23-24)

Are our conservative failures to recognize the moral imperatives in these passages any better than the mainline liberal and post evangelical tendency to compromise in matters  of sexual morality?

Don’t statements such as Rush’s “The closest the leftist can come to claiming Christianity is socialism is to misinterpret and misapply the words and deeds of Jesus, ” very nearly as problematic as the liberal argument that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality?


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