Pope Francis is making his first U.S. visit, starting today. The pope has been a controversial figure politically, because he has been making statements that fly in the face of what have become conservative Christian talking points. Pope Francis urges action on climate change, generosity toward immigrants, refugees and the poor and has been pointedly critical of capitalism's role in some of the world's social and environmental problems.
But many have called out conservative Christians as hypocrites that follow a doctrine crafted to fit their own self-interests, instead of following the teachings of their religion's namesake. Here are five ways conservative Christians fail at following what's actually in the Gospel.
1. The money changers. Pope Francis recently made conservatives have a collective meltdown when in an encyclical about the need to counter the deleterious effects of climate change, he called out-of-control capitalism the "dung of the devil."
In response, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld called the pontiff a "Marxist" and "the most dangerous person on the planet." Conservatives often link capitalism and Christianity as if the two go hand-in-hand. It's so extreme that the combination has bred "prosperity preachers," many of whom are charlatans that tell their congregations that they deserve private jets because being rich is a sign of special favor from God.
But the Gospel raised questions about that, considering Jesus stormily gave people practicing the "free market" on temple grounds the boot. In Matthew 21:12,13, he goes on a veritable rampage when he sees people buying and selling.
Per the New International Version (NIV), "He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'"
2. Taxes. Conservatives have made cutting taxes a cause celebre, often at the expense of budgets. Self-proclaimed Christians like George W. Bush famously slashed taxes during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas, cut taxes so deep that the state nearly had to furlough workers because of revenue shortfall.
When asked about paying taxes, Jesus was very clear: Do it. Pope Francis weighed in recently, calling into question the long practice of allowing churches to operate tax-free. If they don't help people, he said, then they need to pay taxes like any other organization.
In Matthew 20 and 21, when asked what to do because taxes are too high, Jesus responded with a question: Whose face is on money? "They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."
3. Caring for the public interest. The tax cuts proposed by conservatives often impact the poor the most. In 2013, self-proclaimed Catholic Paul Ryan was slammed by nuns who said his budget plan, which included tax cuts for the rich and slashing Medicare and Medicaid. According to Time Magazine, Pope Francis said that poor are being "sacrificed at the altar of money." In fact, conservatives are always lamenting social service programs as "government handouts."
It seems that Jesus was all about handouts. In Matthew 18-21, Jesus took a small amount of food reserved for himself and his disciples and fed a crowd of 5,000 who had followed him, free of charge of course.
4. Preachers and politicians. It seems something Jesus said describes today's conservative Christians uncannily well. From Matthew 23:
"They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers."
While Jesus never said anything about LGBT people, clearly many on the right are comfortable scapegoating the community as sinners while engaging in abusive behavior.
The anti-gay, conservative Christian Duggar family has accused trans people of being child molesters, but their own son and former executive director of the Family Research Council, Josh Duggar, admitted to molesting underage girls and cheating on his wife. The Catholic Church -- which has condemned LGBT people for centuries -- has had an epidemic of its own priests molesting children, then taking pains to cover up the crimes and shield priests from prosecution.
5. On immigration. Conservatives love to call undocumented immigrants "illegals" and talk about family values while tearing families apart to deport people. It's hard to get around the Golden Rule though, when it comes to the issue. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus laid out what is known as the Golden Rule: "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them."
While conservatives have been busying themselves fear mongering that refugees fleeing war in Syria are actually terrorists, Pope Francis has called on the world to open their doors to them and help them. The pope's call on people to follow the "Golden Rule" when it comes to immigrants has prompted white supremacists to lash out, calling him "anti-white" and even threatening assassination.