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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January 1, 2014: 2013 in Review: The Pope

[Before we leave 2013 behind, a series on some AmericanStudies connections to a few big stories I didn’t cover in this space. Add your thoughts, on these stories and any others from the year that was!]

On three Christian Socialists with whose lives and works the striking new pontiff resonates.
One of the most unexpected stories of 2013 was the series of increasingly interesting and radical statements made by Francis, the newly elected Pope. While his strikingly tolerant (at least by the standards of the Vatican) attitudes towards homosexuality and atheism began the trend, it was his more in-depth arguments for economic reform and equality that made the most prominent and ongoing impacts on international conversations. I’m no theologian, but I did read and analyze the Bible cover to cover for a college course, and it seems to me that Francis’s economic arguments are far closer to Christ’s own attitudes than anything we’ve heard from a religious leader in a long, long time. And they also put him in conversation with a few unique and important American religious figures about whom I’ve blogged previously:
1)      Francis Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance and a Christian Socialist whose radical views on racial and economic equality consistently pitted him against the more conservative churches to which he belonged;

2)      Dorothy Day, the writer, activist, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, whose socialism and anarchism were deeply tied to her religious beliefs;

3)      And Martin Luther King, Jr., who similarly linked his arguments for racial and economic equality to his profound knowledge of and engagement with Scripture, Christianity, and faith.
Can’t say I ever expected to put a Pope in the same category as those three complex and great Americans. But so far, Francis deserves to be there.
Next 2013 event tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other 2013 events you’d remember?

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