A Protestant Christian Response to Pope Francis's Addresss of the U.S. Congress
I encourage everyone to read the full manuscript of Pope Francis's message to the U.S. Congress prior to reading my response. So much of what he has said has been politicized without the context of his references to four people recognized in the United States as role models of the Christian faith. I encourage you to learn more about the people he mentioned as well.
The Pope’s words encouraging us to avoid fundamentalism’s “simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil” reminds me of how Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman at the well, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and how he spent enough time with people who were alcoholics that some called him a drunkard just for hanging out with them. Jesus was without sin, yet he knew that those overwhelmed with it were people who needed God’s compassionate grace and needed his healing touch.
When he mentions the “stranger in our midst” I am reminded that Jesus’ ancestors were immigrants too. In fact Ruth was a Moabite and in the Biblical history of Israel opportunities were provided for foreigners to become part of the Hebrew nation. In fact Christians today are grafted into the family of God as foreigners, unfamiliar with the Hebrew nation, but chosen because of their faith in Jesus and resulting boldness to approach the throne of the King. The Pope continued, “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunity, let us provide opportunities,” which is a nice reminder of Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 25 that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me [Jesus].”
The Pope also encouraged us “to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty.” His words echo the encouragement of the apostles James, Peter, and John in Jerusalem to Paul recorded in Galatians 2:10, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”
The Pope also asked us to “avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.” When God created this planet and put us humans on it the first two jobs he gave us were to be fruitful and to care for His creation. The earth belongs to God not us. We need to be good caretakers.
This Pope also recognized that “fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” His audience may or may not be aware that the image of marriage between a man and a woman is a significant allegory used in the Bible to explain the relationship between Jesus (the groom) and his bride (the church). When Jesus was asked about divorce, in Matthew 19 we read a response that goes back to the story of creation and how “the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’”
As a person who was raised as a Protestant Christian and continues to express her faith in this branch of Christianity, I do not fully understand the adoration that is given to the believer who has been called to the role of Pope. But, I do admire that the Catholics respect a single unified voice that is based upon research, prayer, and understanding of the Scriptures. I am impressed with the message this Pope shared with our nation and I think that by labeling it “political” many are missing out on the underlying message of Jesus that undergirds much of it.