This is a screen shot from PBS’s NewsHour for Thursday, June 18th. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to throw rotten tomatoes at the screen. Really, Jeb, this is your response to Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, which involves a plea for us to understand that there is an ethical dimension to the problem of global warming? You dismiss it as something that you don’t want to hear in church. Why? Because it deals with economic policy and politics. Because it doesn’t involve your concerns about faith.
I suppose Jesus’s comments on the the poor and charity would also fit the bill as off limits here, because, after all, they can be interpreted as involving economics.
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Jeb Bush is too smart and well-educated not to know this famous biblical text, as well as how important churches have been in confronting America’s ethical failings, including slavery and segregation, which certainly had political and economic dimensions. There is no reason that the Pope and the Church should not discuss our responsibilities to creatures great and small, which is an ethical matter. How we choose to address them involves politics and economics. However, for a Pope (and the Church) to discuss a moral imperative without any suggestion of what we can do about the matter would be, dare I say it, irresponsible. (This, of course, is not to say that we must agree with any particular moral claim made by a religion or denomination or a suggested course of action.)
The bottom line here is that Bush can’t really believe what he is saying. He is pandering to two constituencies: tea-party types and big energy money. Yes, he needs the votes of one and the money of the other. But what a sad way of currying favor. A bad sign in terms of his character.