Pope Francis may be helping usher in postcapitalism

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Sep 25, 2015 No Comments ›› Dan Bodine
US President Barack Obama (L) greets Pope Francis upon his arrival into the United States Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. (Photo credit MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama (L) greets Pope Francis upon his arrival into the United States Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.    (Photo credit MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)


By Dan Bodine



Reading some advanced stories concerning Pope Francis’ visit to the United States this week stirred some thoughts on this new Postcapitalism age supposedly we’ve entered. Is the head of the world’s largest Christian church helping to usher it? Will the house speaker’s sudden resignation Thursday morning hasten it?

Indeed, with the Pope’s stepped-up criticism of what many critics long have called radical capitalism, it’s becoming difficult to separate guns & butter hype from hyperbole over capitalism’s faded roses. You know, rising poverty and environmental destruction on one hand and rising fat cats on the other! And the Church in the middle, tipping its hat to hardened conservatives to keep its funding stream healthy!

What’s going on? Toward the end of 2014, U.S. Catholic hierarchy was so right-wing conservative you’d thought it held a tea party charter membership. Now with a new Pope and probably what’ll be the most contentious presidential election in recent history, Church soft-pedaling is hard to hide. Someone order a muffler?

“…Pope Francis is no left-wing revolutionary,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, quoted in January’s “The Pope Francis Revolution” in, “but he has let it be known that he doesn’t like a mean church. The leadership is no longer giving them cover.”

What? Op-ed’s and photo-op’s from these guys will be less next year? Or are the strayed faithful fearing a real bouncer this time — as in reform movement for the ages? One that leaves heavenly skid marks?

Personally, I’m betting skid marks.

House Speaker John Boehner, GOP congressman, is an Ohio Catholic. His crying during the Pope’s address to Congress Thursday and his sudden resignation from office this morning shows he’s uncomfortable, too.

If this isn’t Showtime’s The Gathering Moral Storm vs. Holy Ghosts Last Stand going at each other in 3-D color, then come Jan. 1, 2017, you can find me on a park bench in downtown El Paso crying in my post-election beer! The barbarians will have crashed the gate!

Devastating economic effects of right-wing fundamentalism joined in holy matrimony with church-sanctioned business models are in our crossfire! Has heavy boots on the downtrodden worn by corporate one percenters become the new Western ethos? It’s that overt?

Front and center all you clerical, lip-service rascals then! Big Chief Thunderbuster wants to know, How do you define Christian? And will you please hold up both of your hands, palms facing me, when you answer? Huh? Just in case a wealthy donor has tried to influence you with some gift, OK?!!

Sean McElwee, for instance, noted a hard, religious-sanctioned march to riches in his “Five Things Christian Fundamentalists Just Don’t Get” piece Aug. 6, 2013, on Huff Post Religion. The far-right has attempted to re-write the Good Book!

“The Catholic Church actually has a long history of decrying the exploitation of the poor…” he wrote. “But fundamentalists insist that poverty be explained in terms of a personal moral failure. They therefore hold that success should be described in terms of morality; this is the so-called Protestant ethic…But it is also, as Nietzsche noted, the ‘ethic of the hangman.’ The poor are considered culpable so that they can be punished — like today’s cuts to food stamps or the public shaming of those on welfare.”

Ad nauseam talks on entering heaven’s gates become unproductive eventually. But as the New Right in 1980 showed, it can sure create a lot of wealth for some in the meantime.

This recent conservative period didn’t start as the Reagan Revolution, no. His campaign was hijacked by business extremists seeing Sunbelt opportunism, I’ve long argued.

Playing the God card, they would eventually swing America’s political pendulum so far to the right even the Republican Party’s old center wouldn’t want to touch it now! As the Pope argues, ethics and morals for wealth today weren’t curried by our God!

In that 1980 campaign evangelical recruits became shepherds, leading voting sheep in. Greed — disguised as social minimalism’s divine duty — was planted in their heads.

It goes back years earlier when a group of corporate business leaders, this early New Right, were drooling over wealth they could make with corporate re-locations — e.g.,Sunbelt expansionism — were it not for high energy costs.

Then the ’73 OPEC oil embargo threatened. The revolution in Iran, the takeover of all the Shah’s oil wells and later the embassy hostages further risked capitalist venture.

Thus they played a variant of fundamentalism’s old religious race card, to nail the ’80 presidency race for Republicans.

They enlisted Rev. Jerry Falwell into forming a Moral Majority cadre to convince millions of voters the nation’s degradation wasn’t caused by failure of capitalism, but instead by President Carter and liberal Democrats. The fallen angel itself was the U.S.’s sorry state.

God had personally shown them the sign. By sharing it with evangelicals they formed the new Holy Alliance for Reform — e.g., they married religion to politics.

Far-right conservatism was set. Strutting your rich stuff became the key to Heaven’s Gate. If the poor didn’t have it, each one individually was at fault. The God of Sunbelt Opportunism was sharing equally! These laggards simply didn’t answer the call and take advantage of it!

Now enters Pope Francis. The old gray goose of capitalism expansion is dead, he’s saying. It’s wrecking the environment! The enormous carbon footprint it’s leaving, in fact, clearly is an act of “unchained capitalism” — which, too, is wrenching us with Climate Change.

Rising sea levels will wash all those expensive, flashy gifts from far-right Republicans out to sea will be an implicit message he’ll leave with church leaders. Get away from right-wing conservatism and return to your roots — the work of Christ for the downtrodden, for fellow humans! That’s the only key to Heaven’s Gate you need!

Boehner’s tears on TV speak for themselves. There’ll be many more gut-wrenching changes. Cozy business alliances in church-state relationship, vis-a-vis how the poor have been irreverently further marginalized in the last few decades, is just one. Above all, the good news of the Pope’s message is, We’re better than that!

Religion in America

The New Right’s co-opted heist wasn’t that new. Fundamentalism is rich in our veins. I grew up in small fundamentalist Baptist churches in Cleburne, Tx, i.e. — in Johnson County’s lift of the Biblebelt’s buckle just south of Fort Worth.

Schisms weren’t unusual, turning on everything from Sister So-‘n-So nursing her baby in church service (“pulling that big thang out in front of all those men”) to the preacher’s daughter being seen late at night with a shoe salesman.

Many come out of this stuff with their heart stuck in community, yes, but with emotions tattered, too. Life has a reason for civil order!

Remember a conversation later in the Navy, for instance, with my Jewish roommate at the U.S. base in Iceland that got too deeply into religion. It started out after his synagogue had sent him a “care-package” of wine and cheese. (Huh! What kind of church is that!? I initially retorted.)

After a couple hours of solving world problems, we finally got onto fundamental religion and the state. Now this was going to be peach cobbler for someone reared a Texas hardshell baptist like me, I thought. Indeed, I was steeped in correct answers.

But Eugene Kleinfelter not only had a degree in philosophy, but also claimed to be from an enlightened community in San Francisco — who knew well the makeup of even the Catholic church! Being thus enlightened, I’ve since felt, gave him an advantage over me. Wadn’t fair!

“Bodine, if you’re talking fundamentalism, about the only difference between Baptist and Catholic strains is the car the Catholic drives has a brake on it! It’s called the Pope! And once in a while you’ll find one who really knows how to use it, too!”

Church feathers are flying now. In “…Revolution” above, i.e., Catholic League President Bill Donohue (a Fox News darling); Cardinal Raymond Burke; and Austin Ruse, head of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), all have had wings clipped.

This coming-back-together inclusiveness — what I see as the old community conservative reclaiming a perch from  financial conservative upstarts — to me, is seen most notably in planning and design changes in some larger cities, too.

New Urbanism is upon us! (see Front Porch Republic‘s “Notes from the Congress…”; or even El Paso’s new bicycle plan, as elpasonaturally shares it; or the city’s smart growth plan.)

Clearly the biggest turf battle will be enshrining individual liberty in a way communities will be “…authentically self-governing,” as the Porch writer notes. And it will be challenging, yes. But, hey, what are humans without new seas to conquer, huh?

Concerning post-capitalism itself (Can we call it a softer capitalism instead?), there’s a Brit author stirring up a lot of words. The Guardian, i. e., in “The end of capitalism has begun,” describes not a completely new ball game but certainly one where extra bases have been added!

University of Colorado Professor Raphael Sassower is among others who writes extensively on it, too. Digital Exposure: Postmodernism, Postcapitalism will give you the table of contents, and an access link where to find his book.

Indeed, the Great Con may be over. If the Reagan Revolution continues to unravel,  Anthropocene is the name of a new geological time period one group of leading geologists want to name the new epoch we’ve entered.

In case you think postcapitalism isn’t quite stirring enough.



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