American candidates and officeholders, most especially but not exclusively those on the right, eagerly invoke God at every given opportunity. They decry imagined wars against religion in general and Christianity in particular. They bemoan the fact that faith doesn’t play a greater role in the nation’s public life. Why doesn’t God have a central presence in everything we do as a nation, they ask. And then along comes the Pope, spiritual leader of the largest religious group in the world, suggesting that we humans are doing harm to the environment. How dare he take a “political” stand, and of all things, on science? Why doesn’t he keep in his appropriately cloistered place?
It’s my understanding that integral to religious teaching, certainly Judeo-Christian teaching, is that we are not proprietors of the earth, but its stewards. Destroying the earth or endangering it in any way is to sully God’s — the creator’s, — work. Whether or not you or I may believe in the idea of creation or necessarily in the existence of God, there is no doubt that the Pope who does speaks within a long tradition of faith. And it’s the most basic faith. The problem is that he has put the entire climate change, God invoking, deniers on the spot. He has exposed them of emperors with no clothes, as the falsest of prophets.
It’s interesting that the Rich Santorum’s and Mike Huckabee’s of this world want us to break down the wall between church and state while expressing dismay that the pope should dare poke his religious head into what amounts to a life-and-death public issue. Could there be any greater concern of religion than that? Could there be any more important or appropriate “teacher” on the subject than one of the world’s foremost, if not the foremost, religious leaders?
Cutting back, for example, on budgets for education or standing in the way universal healthcare are terrible, even cruel, things to do. But denying global warming boarders on the criminal. It puts at risk the entire planet and billions of human beings. Budgets can be restored and healthcare can be expanded, but climate change is subject to points of no return. The clock is ticking. We’re living in the twenty-first century “for God’s sake” and dismissing Darwin as a just another “theory” or denying what the best scientific evidence has concluded is a reality simply boggles the mind.
Obviously the Pope, who teaches the messages of the past, lives in the present and looks to the future — everyone’s future. He speaks truth to power knowing that it’s just the kind of truth that the prophets spoke in ancient days. I’m not a Catholic and not a theist, but I do welcome and appreciate the message of this noble man. At this moment, and on this critical subject, he offers the very best of what religion has to offer. Regardless of who we are and what we believe, he deserves all of our deepest respect.