The fact that we’re seeing headlines about Republicans rejecting Francis’ encyclical because of this or that, or of “mainstream science” responding in this way or that way, or Rush Limbaugh calling him a communist are themselves proof about why we will never understand the thought, the motives, the actions, the speech of Pope Francis.
Pope Francis is not a republican, democrat, independent, member of mainstream this or out-of-touch that; he’s not Marxist, communist, socialist, or capitalist. He’s Christian. You don’t have to be a Christian, but if you want to understand where the Pope is coming from on anything, you have to learn to think and see the world like a Christian.
What does that mean? Basically, in terms of the encyclical, it means that the world, indeed the entire universe has a single creator. God is not a bad high school father who creates and runs away. God is a provident creator, profoundly in touch with his creation because he himself is found within his creation. Creation reveals God to us; not just the created persons who are created in his image and likeness but everything, even rocks and trees and the ozone layer and flies and rabbits and cows. Everything.
What’s more….God gave man dominion over all of his creation.
God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. Genesis 1:28-30
The implication of this is startling and indeed troubling to a world that has lost touch with its Creator. Instead of praising the Lord for his goodness and for giving us this beautiful planet that is, by virtue of its origins, sacred, we as a society cry out “I AM SACRED!” We have come to believe the lie that humans are the center, humans are the means, and humans are the end. We believe that we’re it, we’re the best there ever was and ever will be. This is why, I think, instead of really trying to find solutions (for any other reason besides political/economic gain), we are more content with pointing fingers at one another. It’s become a race to prove whose idea is not just sacred (because I came up with it after all, duh so of course it’s sacred) but THE MOST SACRED.
But the pope, yelling by means of an encyclical into our frenzied chaos, is saying “HELLO OVER THERE! We already know who is the most Sacred! We already know where all of this came from! And thanks to modern science, we’re beginning to understand what is happening to His creation and why.”
The Pope knows that if climate change is true, and he asserts that it is, big companies like Fossil Fuel providers and the people who support them could lose billions of dollars in business and maybe have to close. I’m not sure the Holy Father is really very concerned about that. To be fair, I’d guess he’s concerned about the economic well fare of the leaders and employees of those companies (remember, people with whom we disagree are still people, too).
So as long as we continue to point fingers and yell at each other, nothing is going to get any better. We see this as merely a political issue; it’s not a political issue…it’s a politicized issue. The pope is not coming at this from the vantage point of political gain but from his role (one among all of us, btw) given to him in Genesis 1:28. He’s a steward of the earth. I’m a steward of the earth. You’re a steward of the earth. Hilary Clinton is a steward of the earth. Rush Limbaugh is a steward of the earth. And since it’s the Vicar of Christ’s place to write encyclicals and teach the faithful a thing or two, he’s trying to do just that. But when I’m the most sacred thing in my life, or my business is the most sacred thing in my life, or when anything besides What is Truly Sacred is the most sacred thing in my life, is it any surprise that we don’t understand when someone tries to tell us about Him? St. Francis of Assisi cared for the environment not because he was a hippy, but because he knew personally and gave a damn about the Creator, the most Sacred.
All of this politicizing gets us nowhere. People wheeling and dealing on this issue are not stewards of the earth, but mere stewards (I’m so politically correct, watch this:) and stewardesses on GoinNoPlace Airlines: Proudly Serving the Golden Calves.