You'd have thought the president of the NRA had called for the tarring and feathering of mourning dove hunters! All it took for Pope Francis to bring down on himself the Wrath of Rush Limbaugh last week was to disrespect -- or appear to be disrespecting -- capitalistic economics, in the context of calling for a new Christian evangelism.
"The worship of the ancient golden calf," said the pope, "has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose." Further: "The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase." There was, to make matters worse, some severe language regarding "trickle-down economics" and that good old Darwinian notion called "survival of the fittest."
Raw, bloody meat, all of this -- the cause of widespread fuming and fumigation. "This is just pure Marxism ... actually unbelievable," said Mr. Limbaugh, who spoke for many of my brother and sister conservatives. Liberals, by contrast, jumped for joy and satisfaction. This made things worse yet from the conservative perspective. What would be next -- a papal bear hug for Obamacare?
Lost amid conventional media blather concerning the 47,560-word apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of Evangelism") was any real sense of what Francis was up to: summoning the church to put off torpor and present Christ to a world in need of him. "I invite all Christians everywhere," the pope said, "to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus ... I dream of a missionary option, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything ... " And more of the same -- much more.
Amid tumult over the healthcare.gov website and animated speculation over who can beat Hillary, Francis addressed mankind's spiritual calling. He shoved political matters to the side. More properly, he spoke of the world's conundrums in the context of God's love for the world. What kind of talk was this? Many wished to know.
It was religious talk. That was the problem. The pope's holistic view of the human condition broke across boundaries and surged down side roads, as well as broad boulevards familiar from the 6 o'clock news. He wanted to save souls! What an idea -- one that meant submitting the whole human enterprise to divine oversight: in the name, yes, of freedom. "God's mercy has willed that we should be free." Really? How would that be? To talk of freedom is to talk of politics and economics -- isn't it?