Stop Hating Everything the Pope Likes

“Did you go to church today?” I asked, making conversation with my friend. “No, I wasn’t feeling great.” came the reply, “but I watched a service online. X was in town this weekend and passed out tracts at the climate change march, which is a good thing ...”. I nodded, focusing on my friend’s wellness, “I hope you feel better.” But my friend was more interested in talking about the preacher. “He preached today about how this whole climate change thing is going to lead to the Sunday Law!” I let out a sigh and rolled my eyes. As “proof”, my friend noted that another well known Adventist preacher had echoed similar sentiments. But the real clincher was that the Pope had apparently made a public stance in favor of helping the environment.This Spring, he even met with a teenage girl who (apparently) is also part of the last-day deception (does Greta Thunberg know she’s in league with the Antichrist?)! Well, then – that settles it! If the Pope is for it, it must be a step towards the Last Day persecution of the Remnant!

Born from our historical traditions, Adventists have cultivated somewhat of a disturbing obsession with Roman Catholicism. The odd thing is, it’s not just a disdain – it’s a love/hate relationship. I have discussed in previous articles how, despite our protests to the contrary, the Adventist church really does love many traditions adopted from the RCC. And we’re so committed to Catholic customs that there’s often a major kerfuffle with any attempt to deviate from our Catholic roots. Try to renovate a sanctuary to have no pulpit or pews, suggest changing our hierarchical channeling of tithes, or attempt to deviate from Catholic ordination practices. It’ll cause a firestorm (in the case of ordination, even that is an understatement). We are very wedded to RCC conventions … until we aren’t.

While the Reformation resulted in protestation against Catholic doctrine, we have kept many of their centuries-old practices. Nevertheless, anything the Catholic Church has adopted in the 20th or 21st century is automatically eyed with suspicion by many Adventists. If the Pope breathes, it must be the beginning of the end. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio took his position as Pope, he was lauded the world over for his reputation of being compassionate to the poor and relatable to his followers. He washed the feet of homeless people and emulated a more humble, accessible stance than several of his predecessors. Ah that Pope and his wicked, tricksy, false ways! How dare he show compassion! See – people are admiring him for his kindness. It’s all part of a master plan to get the world “wondering after the beast”! Basically the traditional Adventist stance is that if the Papacy is for it, we are obligated to be against it. I used to joke that if the Pope breathes, some Adventists would come out with a sermon against oxygen! Who knew how true to life that statement was! Some preachers’ reactions to the Pope’s statements on the environment have been astounding. If the Pope says he’s pro-clean water and breathable air, we have to oppose those things; certainly there’s an ulterior motive we should steer clear of. His expression of concern about climate change and the environment is a sure sign we should not care about those things.

This is problematic on multiple levels. First, we need to stop being so obsessive and reactionary. Continually working ourselves into an End Time frenzy over every minute incident is not only ridiculous, it’s disingenuous to the Word. These haphazard and sloppy interpretations of prophecy don’t stand up to the scrutiny of proper exegesis. While it might make for great click bait, it’s not biblically sound. This is why, in the first paragraph, I didn’t include the names of the preachers my friend mentioned. If I have learned anything from recent secular trends in media, and even politics, it’s that calling out the names of individuals who engage in questionable behavior only gives them increased exposure. The more you point out the absurdity of what they are saying or doing, the more notoriety they gain. I’m tired of popular preachers saying nonsensical and inflammatory things, and then subsequently having those nonsensical and inflammatory things increase their popularity. It’s irresponsible to their duty as ministers to act as if perpetually inciting panic is synonymous with preaching the Gospel. On the contrary, it is the very antithesis of what we’re called to do.

The counter-productivity of such tactics is most evident when we note the disillusionment we create as a result of constant wolf crying. People, both within the church and those to whom we ought to witness, have grown skeptical of our legitimacy. There are those who might liken such attitudes to the people who didn’t listen to Noah. The difference is, Noah didn’t try to convince people that every puff of wind was a harbinger of the impending flood. How many times have we been complicit in spreading paranoia through conspiracy theories that simply didn’t pan out? The issuance of social security numbers, the election of a Catholic US president, the widespread use of credit cards (and many, many, many more things we today consider mundane) were each preached as the sign of the end when they first came on the scene. And although we take care to heed Christ’s words not to predict a particular day and hour, we still haven’t learned the overarching lesson of the Great Disappointment. We need to stop trying to predict the end. Full stop. If we’re preaching a Christ-centered Gospel, we will encourage people to be like the wise virgins in Matthew 25 and simply be Spirit filled and ready. There is no need to try to read tea leaves to decipher the nearness or precursors to a Time of Trouble.

Lastly, even if you remain unconvinced to release your vice grip on an insatiable hatred of the Pope, there’s no need to take it out on the planet. You may think the Pope is the Antichrist, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a legitimately reasonable point about something. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day. God made all of Creation and charged humanity to be caretakers of it. We are to be faithful stewards. And while we are quick to focus on our need to practice good stewardship of man-made paper currency and coins, we are often less deliberate in practicing stewardship towards our most precious treasures: the earth’s natural resources provided straight from the Hand of the Creator. For a denomination that emphasizes the sanctity of Creation week and commemorates it every seven days (so much so that it’s in our name), we spend shockingly little time trying to intentionally honor it by tangibly caring for it. I’m not indicting Adventists wholesale. Some may do their part. But the church as a whole can do more to encourage environmental responsibility.

And the transient nature of the Earth is no excuse. Just think of our immense dedication to the health message. Our rationale is that God gave us our bodies and we need to be proper stewards of them. This is despite the fact that we believe our physical selves are corruptible vessels: they will not last into eternity. Yet we still care for them. We preach the importance of returning to an Edenic diet even though it’s an impossibility to achieve in totally due to sin. Be that as it may, we try anyhow. Yet we shrug at our impotence to restore the earth because we cite the futility of these efforts – again, due to sin. We can’t have it both ways. No, this earth is not our permanent home. But does that mean we get to trash it?

Some may contend that we shouldn’t get involved in global actions to improve the environment because it’s a distraction or because it’s political. But the water we drink and air we breathe is not partisan. Nor is it sectarian. Everyone should be concerned. And yes, holding corporations and governments accountable for polluting is important and shouldn’t be seen as politically divisive. It’s no more “political” than it would be to alert a hotel manager of a dilapidated room you’re staying in. You have a reasonable expectation that those in leadership will responsibly maintain the facility. It doesn’t mean you have to become a hotelier yourself, but you have the right to hold them accountable for the upkeep of the place you’re occupying. Also, while staying there, you don’t destroy the property or act destructively. It is irrelevant that it isn’t your permanent home, you treat the place decently. If we are respectful to manmade property enough to treat it sensibly when we stay there for a few days, how much more committed should we be to treating God’s property with respect when we expect to stay for decades and leave it to future generations?

Seventh-day Adventists should have been at the forefront of calling for proper environmental stewardship all along. But just because we haven’t been doesn’t mean we ought to disparage the efforts of others who are calling for action. Even if one of them is the Pope.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is a clinical psychologist and ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:

https://spectrummagazine.org/author/courtney-ray

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9911
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excellent, only you did not explain how the Compliance Committees differed from the Council of Trent. Or how the 28 are used like a creed.

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Excellent writing and reasoning. After all, the Pope issued a lengthy directive on the environment years ago, something that we would do well to study carefully. Thank you for your good sense.

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Courtney, I think you are correct. Even a stopped clock is correct 2x’s a day.
Perhaps it would also be good for the pope not to be criticizing “Conservative Evangelical Christians?”
Perhaps the only time it is called for is with open discussion of issues and discussion?
This was reported by multiple sources and I am merely choosing one.
Regards,
Pat

Pat, please don’t post links to alt right and white supremacy websites like Breitbart. I have flagged your comment.

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Phil,
What is new being flagged and barred. It was in multiple sources. Your concern respectfully should be did it actually take place. Ya think? It did. Only yes sources need apply!

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How about the NYTimes phil?

PS. This article was what the pope recently endorsed again and Breitbart was merely the vehicle of reporting the actual event!

La Civiltà Cattolica journal released the transcript of a meeting between Pope Francis and a group of 24 Jesuits on September 5, 2019, during his recent trip to Mozambique in which the pope suggested that certain Evangelical Protestants in the United States “cannot really be defined as Christian.”
From the horses mouth! Good enough? Flag this?

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Rome watching, if you’re not into it, you got to be in league with him right?

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Thanks for the great article! I agree we should care for the earth the best we can. We’ve got to live here til the end-- our end or the earth’s. :purple_heart:

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It’s curious that this opinion piece immediately outlines the dangers of giving in to the paranoia of the date-setting, end of days preaching, while at the same time lecturing the church on the benefits of paying attention to the climate change call to action and advocacy by the papacy and society at large. The irony of this is that the very impetus of climate change advocacy and activism is based on the very message of paranoia and apocalyptic scenarios, especially in the most recent climate protests. Greta Thunberg, now made the most recent high-profile voice on the matter, herself using the language of mass hysteria, fear and paranoia pointing to mass-extinction if we don’t act, which is not new in the climate change movement. Using apocalyptic language and the cry of emotion and sentiment and the so-called reality of not having any future and her dreams and the dreams of others being stolen by those in power, seems to me a rather paranoia ridden tactic to manipulate the masses to rise up and do something.

There is no greater power with which one can manipulate than fear. So while I agree that we should be good stewards of the good gifts God has given us, I find it a bit hypocritical to immediately criticize the so-called doomsday preachers, the unnamed, faceless boogy men, sarcasm intended, and then call us to listen to, without actually saying it, the doomsday sayers of climate change while framing it in some contrived canvas of Christian duty. Please. Let’s be intellectually honest.

“Be afraid.” These words were spoken by Thunberg and others who have already given us, whether on tea leaves of science or activism, a numbered timeline to our sure demise. This is supposed to be the message of hope that moves me to act? Lol. Ok.

The fact is that without preachers or scientists, the son of God Himself warned of the future. He didn’t censor any of it. It is not only given to us through the gospels, but as a last written Revelation/testament of what was yet to come and how the story ends. Much of what He tells us paints a picture of the earth and environmental events of cataclysmic proportions, causing mass destruction and producing a mass hysteria where “men’s hearts will fail them for fear.” But after all of the disclosure made by the creator of life itself is made what message does He leave for His disciples and for us. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” This earth will pass away and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. The salvation of souls, not the earth, is our calling. Christ has already told us the culmination of the end of all things- “A new heaven and a new earth.” A recreation, a completely new and redeemed earth for those who have “kept the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.”

No, we don’t have to be afraid of either the pope or Greta Thunberg, climate change, or doomsday preachers. If our faith is in Christ and of Christ then we have nothing to fear because after all, everything we need to know, yeah even the hard and gloomy picture of the end of time, is not in our hands, but in God’s hands.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭21:25-26, 28‬ ‭

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Courtney Ray>>God made all of Creation and charged humanity to be caretakers of it. We are to be faithful stewards.<<
Hi Barry & Courtney,
I noted the Popes early involvement with the environmental discussion in my paper on Christian ethics written at RTS seminary. The 20+ footnotes/sources have been removed. Pope John Paul was resisted by Ratzinger/Benedict on the issue held at Assisi. I felt/feel it was a good review of the voices in the discussion.
Regards,
Pat

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This weekend is celebration of St Francis of Assisi by many in Christendom.
Blessing of the Animals by many pastors.
In Macon at St Francis Episcopal Police K-9 dogs are always blessed. It is
interesting to see ALL the police cars in the parking area and their handlers
in uniform.
If the animal is such that it is not easily blessed, most will bless a picture, or
an item used by the pet.
We usually have a horse brought by for blessing.

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Thank-you for this…the Adventist proclivity to denigrate all things Catholic sometimes goes too far.

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Sometimes goes to far Kim? You are so nice! It always seems to go to far. How can you maintain both guilt and fear if we don’t allow things to get to far. Those poor Catholic brothers and sisters are probably unaware SDA’s hold them in such fear and loathing.

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I was allowing for some leeway…lol. Nonetheless, the only ones that really suffer from the “Catholic Paranoia” are the SDAs which most Catholics aren’t even aware of anyway. Perspective.

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SDA is a Spectrum (as per this site), with some in our church have Catholic spouses. I have a Catholic friend, an author and a very active and exemplary Christian. And I actually support his promotional efforts, especially since much of these revolve around proper perspective on fatherhood and family.

We have long conversation, and I explained him the broader SDA dogma about Catholic church, which makes him chuckle. But the Catholic Church has the same problems as SDA, which are rreying membership and loss of cultural relevance.

Of course they have their own echatological timeline with the next Pope being the last one. So, we’ll see.

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Radical left…radical right.

SDA’s who are Christian don’t hate Catholic people, not even the Pope.

You liberals create a “false dilemma” so you can attack the SDA message of world events.

The Catholic system of spirituality is bogus and not biblical.
So now you want to attack Martin Luther who finally concluded the Pope was antichrist and the devil’s apostle.

Actually, he attack the the system of religion that was not biblical, and finally forced the church to admit this fact.

And now some of you want to defend the Pope?

NO, we don’t think everything the RCC stands for is wrong.
But we know they will use any scenario available to create the idea the Pope is the “good guy” because he advocates the necessity to care for the earth.

Guess what? You can use the good, to advance the bad.
Get the picture?

The Jews defended the law and murdered Christ.

Any truth can be warped to serve evil. This is how it started in heaven and will continue on earth. So the liberals attack the law in the name of grace, and the conservatives attack grace in the name of the law.

So what else is new in the world of sin.
“There is nothing new under the sun.” Solomon.

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There is no doubt that SDAs favorite whipping post is the Catholics but SDA’s can work themself’s into a complete dither over everything from the cross symbol on pews to contorting themself’s into a pretzel attempting to make every Popes name to workout to match 666.

I once heard how VW always compares it’s cars to Mercedes not Mercedes comparing itself to VW’s. I do believe the Mormons get picked at in more of a silly fashion than Catholics but it’s hard to compete against the 666’ers. Let’s face the iceberg that is those darn Catholics who even as I write are cutting the bamboo shoots in preparation for sticking them under our fingernails during tortuous moments in between the planning sessions for the national Sunday law.

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Usually we as SDAs FAIL to see the individual humanity in the mass
of crowds around us.
We do this with Sunday keepers – Protestants and Catholics.
Other religious groups.
Non religious groups.
It prevents us from just presenting Jesus, and God’s love without all the
SDA other baggage. It also PREVENTS us from seeing the specialness
in each individual person, as a person who is one of God’s children whether
they recognize it or not.
ALSO, many of these non-SDAs are already basking in love that God has
for them and thank Him every day.
Most of the time we fail to see and appreciate this.

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