Pope Francis is my kind of Christian. By that, I do not mean “Catholic.”
There is a quote by Gandhi, possibly a fake one, which goes something like this: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so very unlike your Christ.” I get that. It’s been years since I’ve been to church, but recently I’ve come to love Jesus. The things he said are wonderful. Regardless of how you feel about his divinity, Christ’s words are worth reading:
I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Judge not, that you be not judged.
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me
Those are beautiful sentiments, ideals we should all strive towards. Unfortunately, some of the most prominent (by which I mean loudest) “Christian” voices in recent years have exited the mouths of people who are decidedly not Christ-like. I don’t need to name names, but it will suffice to say that I am befuddled as to how a supposed Christian can spew hatred, or oppose measures designed to help the poor.
That’s why I appreciate Pope Francis. In the short time since he became Pope, he has been a very public advertisement for the Christianity he—and I—believe in. From the start, he stated his desire for a church “that is poor and is for the poor.” There was the famous picture of him with the disfigured man. He’s spoken out against an economy that sees millions suffer while a fortunate few grow ever richer. And, as if to prove that he practices what he, pardon the pun, preaches, it’s thought that he sneaks out at night to talk with the homeless. In short, Pope Francis is acting like a follower of Christ.
I understand that with all celebrities, there is a gap between their outer, public persona, and their actual beliefs. Some will say that I should be more skeptical of someone who runs a scandal-ridden organization in desperate need for good publicity. But regardless of his motives, Pope Francis’ actions are important in that they shine a spotlight on problems we tend to shy away from. In the reflected glow of that Papal spotlight are the professed Christians who have ignored or exacerbated those issues. One of the most influential people on earth is using his position to denounce inequality and the policies that have led to it, and in my mind that has to be a good thing.
Perhaps it’s not my place, as a Protestant and a distant one at that, to approve or disapprove of the Pope. And perhaps if more Christians followed in Francis’ footsteps, followed in Christ’s footsteps, I wouldn’t be such a distant one.