A Christian message that should shape political debate

Pope Francis kissed a baby in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.
Pope Francis kissed a baby in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. AP

During his almost two years in office, Pope Francis has stayed on message, telling church leaders to back off "small-minded rules" that drive people away.

This week, the pope made news again, restating the church's position that evolution and Big Bang theory don't pose any threat to the creation story in Genesis.

The prelate has opened wide the windows of the Roman Catholic Church, admonishing church leaders and ordinary Catholics to essentially quit expending so much energy judging other people and concentrate instead on things he believes the Gospels clearly tell believers to do: helping the poor, healing the sick and comforting the imprisoned.

In a way, Francis has upended the accepted political message on faith-based governing.

So many of the self-styled Christian candidates today have settled into an anti-gay, pro-gun, lock-'em-up-tough-on-crime, kill-Obamacare screed that offers up an unfettered free market as the solution to almost everything. Tough luck for those who can't cut it.

Francis sees it a different way. He says we're disregarding the Gospel message by locking up way too many people, depriving them of dignity and liberty. He believes that an "empire of money" is denying people basic rights like a living wage, housing and pensions. These rights, he says, apply to all workers, including street vendors, garment-makers, miners and people who sift through garbage looking for things to recycle.

Often these issues are framed in economic terms: jails take up too much of public budgets, underpaid workers rely on public assistance and don't have anything to spend to perk up retail sales, housing insecurity makes it hard to work, etc.

Those are valid arguments; but Francis' insistence on putting them in human terms adds a welcome perspective to the public discussion. And it provides an alternative view of what a Christian perspective can be in terms of our political discussion.