According to Pope Francis, "humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history." Decrying "dehumanization" as a "sign of the times," he wrote in a letter last week that the way forward for humanity is "synthesis." Accordingly, one of his emphatic conclusions is that "Muslim terrorism does not exist."
The letter Francis wrote was to a group of Christian activists meeting in Modesto, California. Called the World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM), it is a social justice movement that regards itself as "an intiative of Pope Francis."
WMPM finds its purpose in the Pope's "apostolic exhortation" of Jesus' gospel, or "good news," in his 2013 publication of Evangelii Gaudium. In English, the title is The Joy of the Gospel.
Dubbed "the manifesto of Francis," it is a missive that describes "the heart of the gospel" as an awakening from moral blindness made possible by Jesus' death and resurrection. Accordingly, the evangelistic mission of Christians is "to see God in others and go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others."
Nowhere in the 52,000 word "Joy of the Gospel" does the Pope describe the gospel according to the New Testament; specifically, as "God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them." He has a lot to say about evangelization as "the word of reconciliation," but for Francis that word is about reconciliation of men with men, not men with God.
For historic Christian orthodoxy, this is a matter of putting the cart before the horse; or, perhaps more accurately, replacing the horse with the cart.
The Pope's letter to the WMPM last week picks up on the idea of salvation from moral blindness by asserting that, at its core, the blindness threatening the world today is a prevailing unwillingness to regard all men as neighbors.
The essential sin of humanity, the Pope contends, is dehumanization. According to Francis, humanity's root problem is rebellion of people against people instead of people against God.
Under this theological scheme, the Bible's original sin would be Cain's dehumanizing murder of his brother, not rebellion against God by disobeying his instructions - something Cain's parents did first in the Garden of Eden and, following suit, Cain did too in the manner of sacrifices he offered to God.
How far has Francis wandered from Christian orthodoxy?
Asserting that the world's rising tide of dehumanization is a "sign of the times," Francis says the way forward is synthesis.
The reference is to a philosophical system called Hegelianism. Named for its originator, Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel, it asserts that all reality is "in process." The inexorable goal of this universal process is freedom. The impersonal law of process, Hegel said, is "God."
How then does humanity keep in step with "God's" development toward freedom? Logic is not valid, he argued, because logic assumes universal, unchanging truth. In Hegel's system, truth is dynamic, not static; changeable, not immutable. Thus the only way to keep in step with "God" is by synthesis, an ongoing blend of opposites.
This is the path that Francis advocated in last week's letter.
We should be neither paralyzed by fear nor shackled within the conflict. We have to acknowledge the danger but also the opportunity that every crisis brings in order to advance to a successful synthesis. In the Chinese language, which expresses the ancestral wisdom of that great people, the word “crisis” is comprised of two ideograms: Wēi, which represents “danger”, and Jī, which represents “opportunity”. [emphasis added]
The path of synthesis, according to Francis's letter, means two things: fighting for "social justice" and defending "our Sister Mother Earth."
"Sister Mother Earth," he warns, is threatened by global warming.
Time is running out, he writes. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.
As for "social justice," the root of global eruptions of dehumanization (a.k.a., terrorism) is economic injustice.
The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.
In the context of this diagnosis, along with his assumption that all people are essentially good, Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, asserts...
...no religion is terrorist.
Christian terrorism does not exist;
Jewish terrorism does not exist; and
Muslim terrorism does not exist.
They do not exist.
What, then, does the Pope intend by affirming the "fight" for social justice? The conclusion seems inescapable.
Those who contend there are real differences between these religions, and that terrorism is, in fact, a defining characteristic of Islamic doctrine, are opponents of humanity and the Roman Catholic Church.
As such, Francis "reaffirms," they are enemies who must be fought.
According to the Pope, this is the 21st century mission of Christianity, in such a time as this.