Last weekend, I learned that Pope Francis’ approval rating in the United States has gone way done. I guess like all his predecessors, he will be a one term pope. The big fall in his numbers comes from conservatives. Last year, 72% of them liked the pope. But now that number is just 45%. Compare this to Donald Trump who has a 49% approval rating among conservatives. But that makes sense: Trump demonstrates the values that conservatives Christians hold dear: bigotry, selfishness, hubris, vindictiveness — all the things that Jesus preached about during his Sermon on the Mount. (“Blessed are the rich, for they are not losers…”)
I have ranted quite a lot around hear about liberals and their reactions to the pope. It isn’t really their constant whining about how disappointed they are that the pope hasn’t come out and said, “I’m not really religious, but I’m spiritual.” The problem is not understanding what the pope and the Catholic Church are. All Pope Francis has done is shift the focus of what he talks about. There is no doubt that he — like his predecessors — is against contraception, homosexual relations, and divorce. And equally, there is no doubt that his predecessors — like Pope Francis — were in favor of helping the poor, managing the environment, and showing mercy even to murderers.
Now the conservatives can get a little of my ire. The fact that they claimed to widely approve of Pope Francis last year but don’t so much this year just goes to show that their opinions are meaningless. At least the liberals have an honest complaint: Pope Francis is indeed not revolutionizing the Catholic Church in the way they want. (He is however doing so as a practical matter in terms of making it less corrupt and dealing with the decades — or centuries — of child rape.) The conservatives are unhappy because they think that Francis is revolutionizing the Church in a liberal way. And that just isn’t true.
It is amazing that conservatives could be so clueless about what Christianity has stood for all these years. It has always been a mixed bag of liberal and conservative ideas. And it doesn’t matter at all that most of the conservative Christians are protestants. The theology is still the same. But modern American Christianity really has lost its way. It would be more correct to call it a political party than a religion. I saw a little video of Mike Huckabee explaining how he didn’t believe the government should feed the poor, because that’s not what God wants. He apparently wants the church to do that. But somehow God does want the government to stop women from having abortions. He should just admit: he has political and cultural opinions which he wedges into his religion — not the other way around.
The main thing is that I want everyone to leave the pope alone. I was raised Catholic. But I managed to get through the whole thing knowing shockingly little. And I literally never believed — it just isn’t in me. But I’m familiar enough with the Catholic Church to know roughly what goes on inside. I know what real debates inside the Church look like. And there just aren’t major disagreements. So if liberals want to be disappointed, I think they are silly, but their disappointment is real. Conservatives, on the other hand, have nothing to be disappointed with. They’ve just fooled themselves into think that the Church was something that it never was. And they should really rethink just what their own religious beliefs mean to them.