Friday, November 29, 2013

Limbaugh Calls Pope Francis' Efforts to Address Inequality 'Marxist'

Sign in front of a Catholic Church in Hamilton, NJ recently
When I logged onto this morning and read that GOP ideological figurehead Rush Limbaugh's latest sanctimonious pronunciation on Wednesday was to label Pope Francis a 'Marxist' because of his efforts to shift the focus of the Catholic Church to issues related to global inequality, it got me thinking.

Limbaugh loves to portray himself as some sort of uber-American super patriot who loves his country more than life itself and is constantly accusing President Obama of trampling on the Constitution.  

For such a die-hard Constitutional purist, Limbaugh seems to struggle with the fact that the words of the Declaration of Independence read in part: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that amongst these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Like others within the higher ranks of the Republican party, Limbaugh slavishly adheres to the morally-distorted Ayn Rand-ian philosophy that he and everyone else who looks, thinks and votes like him are just a little more equal than everyone else. But now the Pope is a Marxist? I guess Limbaugh is never one to let self-contradiction stand in the way of his ideology.
Regardless, mixing political ideology with religious beliefs under any circumstance can lead one into rather tricky territory. When the Framers of the Constitution insisted on a separation of church and state as part of the basic governmental frame work for this nation, they did it for a pretty good reason.

Forgive the quality of the photo pictured above, but I snapped it with my iPhone while waiting at a red light on the way into work recently; whether put there by a priest or someone else associated with the church I think the words on the sign, "Give God what is right, not what is left" speak to what I'm saying.

The sign sits outside a large Catholic church just off Route 33 near the Five Points intersection in Hamilton, New Jersey. The church serves a fairly conservative and comfortable middle class suburban populace that tends to skew mostly white and older; many of whom left the city of Trenton years ago as quality of life (and the tax base) in the NJ State Capitol declined in the wake the departure of industries like glass and steel manufacturing which provided good-paying jobs to people of all backgrounds for decades.

For example, The Roebling Steel Mill in Trenton produced the steel cables for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco as well as the George Washington Bridge in New York; the massive devices that traversed back and forth spinning spools of steel wire together for the suspension cables of the Brooklyn Bridge were built in Trenton as well. The famous engineer Washington Roebling credited with the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge attended school in Trenton and died there in 1926.

The cockpits for the P-51 Mustang fighter plane (which helped turn the tide of World War II for the Allies) were also manufactured in Trenton. But like many of the manufacturing centers in the Northeastern United States, the slow decline in the 1950's that followed a drop in wartime production and the demand for raw materials left cities like Trenton decimated when thousands of jobs were lost.

Many of those people (off all backgrounds and races) left the cities for better jobs and safer communities with better schools - and the tax bases that could support those kinds of things. Those are the reasons many of the people in Hamilton, some of whom are the offspring of people who left cities like Trenton, New York and Philadelphia, left the cities. As someone who leases apartments for a living, I can tell you that sometimes people leave with regrets; and unpleasant memories of the circumstances that made them leave.

To me there's a sense of bitterness and resentment in the words of that sign pictured above. In my opinion a sign like that has no business in front of a church. To me religion should be something that unites, not divides.

When Pope Francis takes on the monumental task of trying to modernize the Vatican and bring the direction of the Catholic Church in line with the larger concerns facing the majority of average people across the globe, to me he's trying to be a unifying presence.

When a man like Limbaugh, filled with anger as he so often is, haphazardly labels the Pope's efforts as Marxism, or a church puts up a sign that suggests God is aligned with a particular political ideology - they are missing the message. And worse, actively promoting division in a world that cries out for a more unified vision of humanity.

For some, such truths are not so self-evident.     

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