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Are evangelicals really that friendly with the Pope?

Are evangelicals really that friendly with the Pope?

Ken Briggs, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, says that evangelicals love to claim common ground with Pope Francis on certain moral issues but ignore his teaching in significant ways.

Rick Warren , Tony Perkins, Jim Robison and the others identified as Francis’ amigos are an unblended lot. They act on their individual agendas (evangelicalism being perhaps the truest form of free enterprise extant) and not only compete for audience but frequently stir mutual friction. They publicly stand four square against shared moral evils, however, and that alone makes for friendships of convenience with official Catholicism. Warren has become the media go-to preacher for his image as the “new evangelical” who shows sympathy with broader social causes like environmentalism, but so far that advocacy has barely shown itself.

The fact is that for all their passion for upholding a cluster of personal, sexual morals, evangelicals ignore or reject almost every element of Francis’ agenda. Economic and political justice are not on the evangelical radar screen in any way that reflects Francis’ positions. Climate change is a non-starter topic in nearly all their churches. Human rights, except for Christian rights, have no priority. To most evangelicals, wealth never reaches unethical levels, nor does nationalism or the income gap. Francis presumably favors stepped-up state aid to rescue poor people; it is a plea rarely if ever heard in evangelical circles where the focus is on individual salvation and anything like the corporate vision of Catholic Social Teaching is non-existent.

On the other hand, the pope’s appeals resonate powerfully among mainline Protestant churches and have for decades. Racial and economic justice, nuclear disarmament, attacking poverty and curbing corporate hegemony have been among the most prominent initiatives among Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, United Methodist, the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, among others, since they awoke anew to social crises during the 1960s and 1970s. They have actually pursued ecumenical unity, another Vatican II highlight, with years of study and conferencing with the Vatican.

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