Whatever truce existed between President Trump and Pope Francis after their brief meeting in May has been exploded by the publication of an outspoken article by two close friends of the world’s Catholic spiritual leader.
The article in La Civilta Cattolica (read it here in English) – which is approved by the Pope although it is not an official publication of the Vatican – cites Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon as a proponent of American Christian fundamentalism, which separates everyone into good or evil depending on their beliefs, and envisions an end of the world cataclysm.
This comes only days after Trump met in the Oval Office with a group of Evangelical Christians who put their hands on him to bring him closer to them and to ensure he will think like they do.
— Johnnie Moore ن (@JohnnieM) July 12, 2017
This means adherents are convinced of the need for the government to follow the Bible with an iron clad belief that is no different than what inspires Islamic fundamentalism.
“At heart,” says the article, “the narrative of terror shapes the worldviews of jihadist and the new crusader’s and is imbibed from wells that are not too far apart. We must not forget that the geopolitics spread by ISIS are based on the same cult of an apocalypse that needs to be brought about as soon as possible.”
Pope Francis, explains the article, does not believe that one nation or even one religion is empowered by God to dominate the entire population nad ultimately the world.
His emphasis is on “the need to build bridges, not walls,” says the article, “and his adamant refusal to conflate Islam and Islamic terrorism.”
The Pope, adds the authors, “is attempting to counter this narrative of ‘fear.’”
The Catholic publication Crux, which also has close ties to the Vatican, has said that when Trump only a week after his meeting with Pope Francis said the U.S. would pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change, it was taken in the Vatican as an insult and denial of the problems faced by people all over the globe in favor of making more money now.
This article, adds Crux, is the “latest chapter in the tempestuous relationship between Francis and Trump.”
In an article published by Crux today, Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who is head of the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences, says if Trump takes the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, “it would be a disaster for everyone” and a “slap in the face” for the Vatican.
While the long article in La Civilta Cattolica only makes reference to Bannon, and barely mentions Trump by name, it is seen as a clear message that “fake religious arguments are being used to demonize segments of the population – particularly when it comes to migrants and Muslims – and to promote the U.S. as a nation that is blessed by God, without ever taking into account the ‘bond between capital and profits and arms sales.’”
Those who believe that they are entitled to power, material wealth and spiritual superiority use their theological justification – including biblical texts taken out of context – to justify their belief in a war between good and evil, with their side representing good.
This is used to justify a position on everything from immigration to economic fairness to climate change.
The article argues that a dangerous form of “evangelical fundamentalism” has taken root in the U.S. that has joined evangelical Christians and some conservative Catholics in what is being called a twisted reading of scripture and the Old Testament to promote conflict and war.
Christian fundamentalism and Old Testament appeals to the apocalypse, says the article, are not the product of “a religious experience but a poor and abusive perversion of it.”
“This is why Francis is carrying forward a systematic counter-narration with respect to the narrative of fear,” writes Crux. “There is a need to fight against the manipulation of this season of anxiety and fear.”
The article, according to The Guardian, “also criticizes conservative American Catholics who have aligned themselves with fundamentalist Protestants on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, saying that what really united the groups was a ‘nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.’”
“Today,” says the article, “President Trump steers the fight against a wider, generic collective entity of the ‘bad’ or even the ‘very bad.’ Sometimes the tones used by his supporters in some campaigns take on meanings that we could define as ‘epic.’”
This is an effort, argues the article, to take Christian-Evangelical fundamentalist principle that has been radicalized to bring a strong religious moral view to democratic processes.
“The panorama of threats to their understanding of the American way of life have included modernist spirits, the black civil rights movement, the hippy movement, communism, feminist movements and so on. And now in our day, there are migrants and Muslims.”
They are using the Bible, adds the article, to use a perverted meaning of the Old Testament about conquering and defense of the promised land as a guide rather than a realistic view of what is happening guided by the love of Jesus in the Gospels.
“Within this narrative,” say the authors, “whatever pushes toward conflict is not off limits.”
In other words, in this worldview that they are good and everyone who doesn’t agree with them is evil, they are ready to fight, kill, subvert, and destroy anyone or any nation or religion that doesn’t agree with them, and feel completely justified.
They are against ecologists who want to use science to deal with climate change because they believe they have dominion over everything, which makes them superior and smarter than all those who preach protecting the environment even when it hurts the profits of the rich and powerful.
In this kind of theological vision, dramatic climate change, natural disasters, global ecological crisis are not a reason to reconsider their beliefs, but are seen as signs that confirm their understanding that there is an apocalypse coming – foreseen in the Book of Revelation – that will bring them to a new heaven and a new earth.
So they are rushing, pushing, and demanding that we all move toward this apocalypse from which they will rise in control of a new, better world, while the rest of mankind is left to suffer the consequences of not being one of them.
Whether the Pope is right or not – and there is a lot of reason to believe he is seeing something happening in the Trump world that is reason for alarm – it is frightening to see how others think not about getting along, but rather how to overpower the “evil” (everyone but them) and feel justified and moral even as they kill innocents – directly or through a lack of action on climate change, or by a form of racism and anti-intellectualism – to get their way.
It is a chilling thought but what the Pope is saying seems to fit with what is happening, and the consequences as envisioned are frighteningly chilling.