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Francis and Obama Both Pack Punches: Blasphemy, Cable TV Pundits, Climate Change, and ... Gay Marriage

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Delivering punches to the right and the left
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Pope Francis (en route to the Philippines):

"If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."

Obama (State Of The Union):

As Americans, we respect human dignity... It's why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It's why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims"--"the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.

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Pope Francis (Catholic News Service):

Pope Francis went on to say that the "family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."


I've seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.

In The Ring

Both President Obama and Pope Francis threw punches at various times on a variety of subjects, the only difference of opinion being in that of gay marriage: Pope Francis called it a harmful "ideological colonization" while Obama referred to it as a civil right.

Other punches were delivered to blasphemy (Francis), to cable news pundits (Obama) and to climate change deniers (both Francis and Obama), but it was on the issue of gay marriage that the two differed visably. And while both have been a visible thorn in the Right's ideology (esp. the Christian Right), Francis ameliorated his poor standing with the statement about the family being threatened by efforts of redefinition of marriage. On his part, Obama widened the wound to marriage equality foes who are still not willing to believe that 70% of America is ready for gay marriage.

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The who-am-I-to-judge pope definitely delivered a punch to gay marriage. The Christian Right will be making handstands and hay with the statement for months to come, especially before the Supreme Court hears four cases from states banning such. They have been hoping for such a statement ever since their meeting with the pope last November. Trust amicus briefs from Catholic sources to mention it.

Obama also countered anti-gay activists by saying, in effect, that 36 states following the rulings of the federal courts couldn't be wrong. The petulant 14, (the worst being Florida, Texas and Mississippi) are in the minority and, civil rights-wise, we've seen that scenario before.

Maybe It's Just Another Matter Of Evolution

Like Barack Obama's views on same-sex marriage, will Francis' views evolve? Possibly, but the extent to which he will enforce those views on the Catholic Church (and hence, most of Christendom) is the key. And that might take a longer time than the evolution of his thoughts on the subject. In other words, America might find itself with another problem in the culture wars: being pitted against the rest of the world's religious beliefs. It is, already, of course, but the gap may widen and become impassable - that is, if people like Tony Perkins and Scott Lively have anything to say about it.

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Rev. Dan Vojir is has been writing/blogging on religion and politics for the better part of ten years. A former radio talk show host (Strictly Books €" Talk America Radio Network) and book publisher, Dan has connected with some of the most (more...)

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