General Audience with Pope Francis. (Photo: Catholic Church of England and Wales / Flickr)
Back in the 1980, the Reagan campaign and the Republican Party made a deal with the men who led the Christian Right movement in America.
Republican officials sat down with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, and made a deal.
That deal was about mutual support: The Republican Party would support the Christian Right, its teachings and its messages and, if they got control of the government, would transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to “Christian” efforts ranging from Christian schools to outreach centers operating under the guise of sex education programs, soup kitchens, and shelters. In exchange, the Christian Right would support the economic and political goals of the Republican Party.
Ever since that deal was done, the Republican Party has positioned itself as the “Christian Party,” and the “Party of God.”
And then things got really odd.
Ronald Reagan, the messiah of the Republican Party, almost never went to church, and launched a war, called “Reaganomics,” on poor and working people, while vastly enriching the already-rich.
And George W. Bush, who’s presidency ushered in a second wave of Republican religiosity in America, and who once said
that he had made the decision “to commit my heart to Jesus Christ,” went on to kill hundreds of thousands in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This was the same George W. Bush who also told Palestinian leaders in 2003 that, “I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did."
This is not Christian behavior by pretty much any metric.
In Matthew 25, Jesus was very specific about what it means to be a Christian:
“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.”
By the criteria of Matthew 25, the Republican Party is not a party Jesus would recognize.
Earlier this month, Republicans voted to cut billions in spending from the SNAP food stamps program over 10 years, and nearly 3 million Americans would have lost food assistance in the next year as result.
Meanwhile, Republicans have repeatedly filibustered or blocked legislation to help homeless veterans; have tried to cut programs like Section 8 housing, which provide affordable housing to low-income residents; and have cut funding to homeless shelters nationwide.
Just last year, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Congressman Paul Ryan’s Republican austerity budget would have taken away housing assistance for nearly 1 million American households.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the Republican-driven sequester has pushed as many as 140,000 American households into homelessness.
And, while Republicans refuse to address the epidemic of homelessness in America, they also refuse to address the issue of healthcare in this country.
Obamacare was passed so that more Americans could have access to lifesaving healthcare at affordable costs but Republicans have tried 39 times to repeal it without offering any alternatives at all.
They’re also working to slash funding to social safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which keep millions of low-income and elderly Americans alive.
The Republican Party says that it’s pro-life, but waging endless wars, refusing to back background checks to keep violent people from buying guns, and taking away healthcare from millions of Americans shows that they lie.
And then there’s the absurd claim Republicans make about being against abortion. In reality, Republican-backed policies are increasing the number of abortions in America.
Republicans love to push abstinence-only sex education, but the only measurable thing that an abstinence-only education does is increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
The Republican Party also claims that it’s pro-family, but again, throwing Americans onto the street, slashing unemployment benefits, and devastating programs like SNAP and Medicaid all prove otherwise.
In Matthew 6:24 of the New Testament, Jesus says that, “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and money.”
It’s pretty clear that Republicans are doing very little to serve God, and a whole lot to serve money.
If Republicans want to go down the Christian road, instead of listening to hustlers like Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, they could start by listening to Pope Francis.
Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church , the largest sect of Christianity, has repeatedly denounced the very ideas that today’s Republican Party promotes.
In May, this “Pope of the Poor” lashed out against predatory capitalism, saying that, “Unbridled capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost, of giving in order to receive, of exploitation without looking at the person.”
In July, he said that the global community must, “fight against wild capitalism and confront social injustice.”
Pope Francis is even concerned about the environment, something Republicans brag about trashing and exploiting.
During his trip to Brazil this past week, Pope Francis called for, “"respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it be indiscriminately exploited but rather made into a garden.”
He also preaches tolerance, something the very intolerant Republican Party should learn.
Just this morning, the Pope told reporters that, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
So if Republicans really want to keep calling themselves Christians, at the very least they should start listening to the Pope, and change their policies to reflect the basic tenants of Christianity and its founder.