Pope Francis made big headlines on Monday when he said of gay and lesbian people, “Who am I to judge?” He made that remark during a press conference on a flight returning from his recent trip to Brazil for World Youth Day. The trip was made with hopes of redirecting our focus toward the poor and social justice, and away from materialism. Pope Francis is spreading his message–and the world is receiving it loud and clear.
Due to his style of leadership and methodology, he has been deemed by Time International magazine as “The People’s Pope.” Pope Francis has taken over President Obama’s spot as the most influential world leader–on Twitter, at least. And instead of choosing to live in the regal papal apartment, he chose a simpler Vatican residence. After accidentally leaving his luggage at the historical hotel, Domus Internatioanlis Paulus VI, he returned not only to pick up his items, but to personally pay the bill for his stay. Also, during his stay in Brazil, he did something no other Pope has done: he washed the feet of children in a local prison.
To discuss the new pope and the religious left, host Melissa Harris-Perry welcomed a panel that included Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary; Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest; Dr. Alton Pollard, Dean of Howard University School of Divinity; and Rev. Paul Raushenbush, senior religion editor for the Huffington Post.
“One of the things that really excites me about this Pope is that before he came along justice, poverty and equal rights had pretty much dissipated from the Catholic tradition where the papacy was concerned,” Dr. Pollard said. “As long as we continue to see this kind of an emphasis from this Pope and we continue to make sure that he stays on that platform I think this is an exciting time.”
Even more exciting to some is the noticeable shift that has come about in religion and politics. For many years religion in American politics has been controlled by the religious right which includes mainly white, socially conservatives. However, due to a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, research has shown that there has been a significant rise in the religious left, mainly comprised of those classified as Millennials–age 18-33–and some hopeful members of the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.
Recently, progressive religious leaders have been leading the ongoing Moral Monday protests in North Carolina, continuing their efforts to push for immigration reform, a curb to gun violence and better wages for fast food workers.
Rev. Raushenbush discussed the progression of the religious left and the social gospel movement, explaining how for years religious leaders have looked at the gospel and mirrored its treatment of its people in hopes of creating a better lifestyle for all. By looking at predecessors and their goals of uplifting the people, Rev. Raushenbush said “that’s how we got the social gospel movement and that’s how we got a lot of the enactments like food stamps, like social security, a lot of that came out of the church’s push saying we need a society that represents our moral values.”
See the discussion in full above and below.