Pope Francis and the Christian Renewal He Seeks
The Jewish community and the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives are rejoicing at the new vision that Pope Francis has articulated for the Catholic Church. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Francis is a meaningful ally in the struggle for a world of economic justice, generosity, and love. His attempts to transform the Catholic Church might yield a return to the path championed by Vatican II and Pope John XXIII.
Francis’s teachings resemble in many respects the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was famous for his commitment to ordinary people of the laity, to animals, and to nonviolence.
In Evangelii Gaudium, the apostolic exhortation he released in November 2013, Pope Francis explicitly denounces “the tyranny of capitalism.” His prophetic statement goes far beyond the critiques articulated in the last fifty years by most other liberal religious leaders and intellectuals because he names the system that must be transcended, as so many liberals and progressives have not been willing to do.
There are hundreds of thousands of local do-good projects attempting to combat specific injustices or assaults on the environment that are rooted in the capitalist system. Typically, the leaders of these projects focus on isolated issues, thinking that they will be more effective and less marginalized if they avoid talking about capitalism or providing a vision of an alternative. As a result, most of the people who get involved in these projects do not see the systemic nature of the problem they are addressing or see that they need to be in active alliance with those who are engaged in similar struggles around slightly different issues. As a result, few join a movement or party that brings all of the issues together. Even if progressive activists win a single struggle (for example, the struggle against fracking or the campaign for a higher minimum wage), the capitalist system has in the meantime made ten times as many new outrageous advances that have to be fought. In the face of these challenges, people give up, not realizing that they have so many potential allies.
It’s only when we articulate a shared worldview that unites all the different struggles that we can transform all of our potential allies into actual partners in the struggle to heal and transform our world (tikkun olam). That is precisely what Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are doing with our proposed new bottom line, our call for a world of love and generosity, our magazine, and the program we have developed to train would-be spiritual progressive activists to help others see that a world of peace, justice, environmental sanity, love, and generosity is possible (check out this training program at spiritualprogressives.org/training).