Maybe — just maybe — Pope Francis’s visit to the United States will cause American Catholics and, for that matter, American Protestants (and maybe also Americans Jews, Muslims, and atheists) to reexamine some of their long-held views — views that are contrary to principles enunciated by Jesus Christ.
No, I’m not referring to abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or celibacy for priests.
What I’m referring to is what Jesus referred to as God’s second-greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” which He said was just like the first, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
By his actions, Pope Francis reminds us that when he reaches out to help the poor, the poor are not limited to citizens of Vatican City or even to citizens of Argentina, where he was a citizen before becoming Pope. His view of the poor is universal — that is, it applies to the poor all over the world, regardless of nationality.
We also witnessed this phenomenon in the case of the Catholic nun Mother Theresa. Although she became a citizen of India, her work for the poor extended beyond the political boundaries of India, for example, to the hungry in Ethiopia, victims of radiation in Russia, and earthquake victims in Armenia. According to Wikipedia, Mother Theresa “operated 517 missions in more than 100 countries” and her “Missionaries of Charity grew from twelve to thousands serving the ‘poorest of the poor’ in 450 centres around the world.”
The mindset of many American Christians is completely different. Their position is that a Christian’s moral duty to the poor extends only to the poor who are citizens of their respective country and not to the poor of other countries. They are convinced that when Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” he meant “your fellow citizen” rather than “your fellow man.
Why do I make this claim? Because you see it manifested in the ardent support among many American Christians to immigration controls and their fierce opposition to the idea of open borders.
Consider: Open borders simply means the right of people to cross borders without governmental interference in the quest to save, sustain, or improve their lives.
Open borders doesn’t mean that anyone is legally obligated to care for the immigrant. It doesn’t mean that you have to take an immigrant into your home. It doesn’t mean that you have to clothe the immigrant or give him food. It doesn’t mean that you have to hire him in your business. It doesn’t mean that you have to associate with him.
Open borders simply means the right of people to cross borders in the exercise of such God-given rights as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for example by seeking jobs from willing employers, seeking housing from willing landlords or homeowners, and seeking goods and services from willing businesses.
Obviously, many of the people who wish to do this are poor. In fact, I’d venture to say that immigrants are among the poorest people in the world.
Just look at the millions of refugees who are fleeing the war-torn, violence-ridden nations in the Middle East. It would be difficult to find poorer people than that. The same holds true for Latin American immigrants who illegally enter the United States.
Yet, what do Americans say about all this? They say: “Close the borders! Don’t let those people into our country. They are just coming here to take our welfare from us.”
And what is this much-vaunted “welfare” that Americans are so concerned about? The “welfare” consists of governmental programs by which the government forcibly takes money from some people in order to give it to other people. Americans say that the fact that they have grafted a welfare-state apparatus onto their original governmental system shows that they are a good, caring, compassionate people who love the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.
Yet, this so-called concern for the poor extends only to the American poor — that is, the poor who are citizens and who can vote. Again, whenever a libertarian suggests that the poor of other nations should be free to save, sustain, and improve their lives by coming to the United States, the American statist responds, “Oh, no you don’t. We’ve got our welfare and it’s only for us, not for them. As long as we have our beloved welfare-state system, those foreign poor people will be required to stay out, including those who just want to work for a living.”
Of course, there is obviously another option, one that prohibits foreigners from going on the welfare dole (or even just abolish the welfare system for everyone). But that option is never considered by many Americans. They just don’t want to take any chances that some foreign poor person is going to come and participate in their plunder-and-dole welfare-state system.
Meanwhile, Americans go to church every Sunday, where many of them openly pray for “an end to terrorism” and where they also openly pray for the troops who are “protecting our freedom.”
It is a classic case of people living what is called the “life of the lie.”
After all, what is the root cause of the chaos and violence that are causing millions of refugees to flee for their lives from the Middle East and Afghanistan? The answer: The U.S. government is, with its organized program of invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, assassinations, foreign aid, support of dictatorships, and regime-change operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Rather than praying that the troops stop wreaking all this death, destruction, and suffering on their fellow man, many American Christians double down by thanking the troops for their “service” and praying for their success.
After all, the statists never cease to remind themselves, the troops are just defending “our freedom.”
Really? In actuality, that’s just a nonsensical rationalization and conscious self-deception.
Ask yourself: Who in the Middle East is threatening to take away the freedom of the American people? The answer: No one. Not one single person in the Middle East is threatening to come to the United States and take away our freedom.
After all, to take away our freedom, wouldn’t a person or group of people have to conquer the entire United States, accept the surrender of U.S. officials, and then take over the U.S. government?
Who is threatening to do that? The answer: No one.
The truth, as discomforting as it might be, is that all the death and destruction that the troops have wreaked in the Middle East for the past 20 years have had nothing — absolutely nothing — to do with “protecting our freedom.”
All that violence that the troops have wreaked in the Middle East has been about hegemony and governance, not the freedom of the American people. It’s always been about “remaking” the Middle East into our image through military force, by removing “unacceptable” regimes from power and installing pro-U.S. regimes, no matter how much death and destruction would be needed to accomplish that goal. In fact, as we have seen, any number of dead and injured and any amount of destruction brought by the troops has always been considered “worth it.”
Pray tell: How is all that death and destruction reconcilable with “Love thy neighbor as thyself”?
When Americans pray on Sunday for an end to terrorism, what they are really praying for is that people stop resisting what the U.S. military and the CIA have done and continue to do to their countries. In actuality, insofar as the United States is concerned, that’s what a terrorist is — a foreigner who opposes, with violence, U.S. foreign interventionism into his country. If only people would stop resisting the goodness of our troops, the statist mindset goes, everything would be hunky dory.
To summarize, many American Christians continue to support a U.S. war machine that has brought chaos, crisis, death, injury, mayhem, and destruction to the people of the Middle East and Afghanistan. Every Sunday, and oftentimes during the week as well, under the false pretense that the troops are “defending our freedom,” they thank them for wreaking all this death and destruction. And then, they tell the millions of refugees who are running for their lives, “Don’t even think of coming here and getting on our welfare dole system.”
Maybe, just maybe, Pope Francis’s visit will cause American Christians (and others) to reexamine their misinterpretation of God’s second-greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” and, in the process, reexamine both the welfare-state apparatus and the warfare-state apparatus they have grafted onto our original federal governmental system.