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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Pope bridges gap between secular and religious perspectives to engage in social issues

Living in a generation that has begun drawing away from religion, it feels strange to say that Pope Francis may be a driving political force, able to impact the world.

Last Thursday, the pope spoke in front of Congress about climate change, immigration, the death penalty and the arms trade.
It would seem that a religious leader formally being invited to speak in front of such a powerful political body would be accepted graciously in a country that puts God into everything, even our currency. Incidentally, the pope was not welcomed by conservatives.

Republican Congressman from Prescott, Ariz., Paul Gosar published an article on about how, if the pope decided to waste his time talking about things such as climate change, he wasn’t going to go. According to Gosar, the pope should stick to speaking about religious issues while on the clock for the Vatican.

Now, one right-wing politician boycotting the pope shouldn’t sound an alarm, but the world and the Internet are full of a wide variety of opinionated people, so the pope’s presence holds more influence and is a topic of discussion for more than just the one, lone congressman.
In a poll done by the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of the 114th Congress have been tallied as Catholic. According to the National Journal, since 2005, the pope in general has been mentioned in the congressional record a total of 2,055 times, with Pope Francis reaching 123 times in 2015 alone.

Pope Francis is not just some religious figurehead that sits in the Holy See with only scattered followers across the globe. No, the pope—and Christianity itself—has a tight grasp on the outcome of politics. He has real power.

A whopping total of 1.9 percent of those running America are unaffiliated or refused to affiliate with religion, that leaves 98.1 percent of the 535 members of Congress religiously affiliated, according to the Pew Research Center.

So when one congressman from one city of the 50 states decides that Pope Francis is misusing his political power, it’s easy to extrapolate that other legislators agree.

Congress votes on nearly every aspect of life for over 300 million Americans and their decisions also have the power to influence our trading partners and the global economy.

For Pope Francis to use his influence to talk about economic, environmental and civil rights instead of the “persecuted” Christians and “violent Islamic nation” that Gosar prefers is a fantastic step toward a brighter future.
It is high time a strong political and religious figure told the world how it is, that we have bigger social and environmental issues to contend with.

Whether you’re a religious person or not, to hear a leader for once connect religion and the growing problems in the world is more than just a good deed, it’s a bridge between the traditionally religious and advancing secular societies that could drastically alter the course of society in coming decades.

So instead of whining and treating the pope with disrespect because he’s an influential religious figure that doesn’t want to rant about Catholicism all day, perhaps people like Gosar should embrace the opportunity Pope Francis is bringing to the table. The opportunity to come together, identify real problems and work to resolve them.

Follow Ashleigh Horowitz on Twitter.

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