Two hundred years ago, the Pope decided to expel the Jews from Rome. The Jews protested. The Pope made a deal: He would debate a Jew; if the Jew won, they could stay. The Jews picked an old sweeper as their debater. Moshe had one condition: It had to be a silent debate. The Pope agreed.
At the debate, Moshe and the Pope sat silent for a minute. Then, the Pope stuck out three fingers. Moshe raised one finger. The Pope waved his fingers around his head. Moshe pointed to the ground. The Pope pulled out a Communion wafer and wine. Moshe pulled out an apple. Stunned, the Pope surrendered: “This man is too good. The Jews can stay.”
“What happened?” the cardinals asked the Pope.
The Pope said:
I held up three fingers for the Trinity. He held up one finger for one God in both our religions. I waved my finger around me to show him God was all around us. He pointed to the ground to show me God was here with us. I pulled out the wafer and wine representing Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. He pulled out an apple reminding me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?
“What happened?” the Jews asked Moshe. “First,” said Moshe, “he told me that the Jews had three days to get out. I told him not one of us was leaving. Then he told me this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I said we were staying right here.”
“And then?” asked a woman. “I don’t know,” said Moshe. “He took out his lunch and I took out mine.”
Two hundred years later, the Pope is debating a Jewish scholar. Pope Francis waves his fingers around his head. We need a supranational authority to meet the great evils of our age. The Jewish scholar points to the ground. God gave us nations with borders. Nationalism is a virtue, Professor Yoram Hazony tells Pope Francis.
Pope Francis’ globalist project has the support of the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and every serving bishop in the Church of England and the House of Lords. The high priests of progressivism in the Western Church are extolling the gospel of globalism and damning to Hell nationalism and populism as the elemental evils of our age.
If we define nationalism as a polity of independent nations and a political order based on the nation-state seeking self-determination and self-rule, what could be so un-Christian about it?
Isn’t nationalism biblical? God promises to make Abraham a “great nation” (Gen 12:1) so that “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him” (Gen 18:18). God also promises to make of Ishmael a “great nation” (Gen 17:20).
Conversely, if globalism intends to usher in a new pax mundi by uniting humanity under one imperium, how biblical is this political doctrine?
Doesn’t the Hebrew Bible debunk the hubris of hegemonistic globalism in the archetypal story of Babel just before the story of God’s blessing to Abraham? Isn’t the nationalism offered to Abraham and all nations of the earth a counter-narrative to the globalism of Babel?
Among Christian ayatollahs, Francis has so far delivered the most pronounced calls for globalism.
In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home, Francis insists on “the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods.”
Francis seeks solutions “from a global perspective” because “interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan [italics original],” especially when facing a fictional climate change apocalypse.
Francis occasionally tips his miter towards state sovereignty. But the fortissimo of his globalist leitmotif drowns out any minor theme of nationalism. At best, the nation is a penultimate and problematic political phenomenon in the Wagnerian triumph of a globalist order.
The nation is a nostalgic relic of the past, and because transnational corporations are “weakening of the power of nation-states” economically, Francis wants to create stronger international institutions “empowered to impose sanctions.”
Francis’ most aggressive bid for globalism came in May when addressing the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences conference on “Nation, State, Nation-State.” Speakers preached the globalist gospel as a remedy against the twin evils of market forces and climate change. (“Markets can only function within a legal framework that is not in itself subjected to market forces”).
Francis was categorical: instead of the state being at the service of individual and family, states were more often “enslaved to the interests of a dominant group, mostly for reasons of economic profit” and so “the nation-state is no longer able to procure the common good of its populations alone. The common good has become global and nations must associate for their own benefit.”
Francis called for a “new supranational authority to implement the common good.”
At the conference, Cdl. Walter Kasper fired the kill shot: Nationalism is bad because nationalism produced two world wars. The Pope’s ideological kapellmeister, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, advocated a one-world government in 2013, calling for organizing “global democracy” around an Earth Constitution, a Global Council and a Planetary Court.
A fortnight later, conservative Catholics held a counter-conference on “Global One World Order Vs Christendom.” Cardinal Raymond Burke spoke of “filial piety and national patriotism as essential virtues of the citizens of heaven at work on earth,” rebuking “those who propose and work for a single global government” and “for the elimination of individual national governments, so that all of humanity would be under the control of a single political authority.”
The opposition of the current ecclesiastical elite to the nation-state stands in violent contrast to the nationalism of Christian leaders only a few decades ago.
The war between globalism and nationalism being waged at the heart of Western Christendom is a war between progressivism and conservatism. It is embodied in a tale of two pontiffs — Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II.
While visiting the Sant’Egidio Community earlier this month, Francis called for a “globalization of solidarity.” Contrastingly, his Polish predecessor called for a “nationalization of solidarity.” When Poland was under martial law, Pope John Paul II uttered the banned word “solidarity” six times in his Sunday Angelus address.
In 1983, John Paul preached to two million Poles at Jasna Góra calling for Poland to be a sovereign nation. In his homily, he used the word “nation” or “national” 20 times.
Karol Wojtyła boldly theologized nationalism using the phrase “evangelization of freedom.” He defined this as “the dimension of the freedom of the nation” and the “dignity of a sovereign state.”
“The sovereignty of the state is deeply linked to its ability to promote freedom of the nation,” he said, adding:
The Nation is truly free when it can be configured as a community determined by the unity of culture, language, and history. The State is solidly sovereign when it governs society and also serves the common good of society and allows the Nation to realize itself in its own subjectivity, in its own identity.
John Paul unblushingly theologized “the fundamental truth about the freedom of the Nation: the Nation perishes if its spirit is deformed, the Nation grows when this spirit is purified more and more, and no external force is able to destroy it.”
Historian James Felak asserts that Pope John Paul’s speeches empowered Polish nationalism. According to Felak, Wojtyła asserted that people are partly defined by the role they play in their national community; that people’s thoughts and choices are deeply allied to the traditions of their country and that an intrinsic nationalistic sentiment is a right and obligation for every citizen.
Edward Barrett writes:
He never calls for single- or multi-nation states to cede a portion of their sovereignty to a global political organization — somewhat surprisingly, given his perennial concerns for nonviolent conflict resolution and international development. Instead, he envisions the United Nations mainly as a place of dialogue in the service of both conflict resolution and a deeper sense of international solidarity based on trust, respect, and “mutual support.”
The verdict of a number of historians is that John Paul’s emphasis on nationalism aided in the renewal of civil society in Poland and the emergence of Solidarity.
Conservatism is inextricably tied to nationalism. This is the fundamental thesis of our conference. The contrast between the two popes could not be greater in evaluating their stance towards conservatism.
Unlike Pope Francis, John Paul was a theological and social conservative—on sexuality, family and free markets. In his encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991), he wrote: “On the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.”
A conservative pope was a nationalist. A progressive pope is a globalist. A critique of Pope Francis would expose his progressivism and globalism as riddled with internal inconsistencies — e.g. his globalism claims to be based on a nebulous ethic of the common good, but fails to explain (against the evidence of history) how a centralized superstate can fulfill this common good better than sovereign nations.
Most importantly, Pope Francis and Christian globalists simply cannot justify their globalist ideology using biblical theology. It is not only the Hebrew Bible which offers humanity the eschatological hope of “all nations” going up to Zion to receive Torah but also the New Testament book of Revelation which describes a great multitude “from every nation, tribe and people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Like a fool or a prophet, I predict that the Western Church will fail in its mission if it follows Pope Francis in preaching the gospel of globalism. Why?
First, in doing so it departs from the nationalistic trajectory of Scripture. Second, it offers no alternative biblical theology of globalism. Third, it alienates populists like Mattheo Salvini in Italy who are promoting nationalism using Christian symbols like the Rosary or the Bible, but who lack the spiritual and theological scaffolding that will ultimately ensure that the nation is re-built on a Judaeo-Christian foundation.
Fourth, its hierarchs risk being seen as collaborators with elites who are orchestrating the globalist project. They provoke the contempt of those pejoratively described as “basket of deplorables” and Brexit-loving “little Englanders.”
Today’s Church is choosing to be on the wrong side of history. In 1979, on his first apostolic visit to Poland, Pope John Paul II stood in Victory Square, Warsaw, and climaxed his homily with a prayer from Psalm 104. The Pope indulged in a delightful wordplay on the Hebrew word adamah — it can mean land (soil, earth) or a territory with borders (nation).
The Pope prayed:
And I cry — I who am a son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II — I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost: Let your Spirit descend! Let your Spirit descend! And renew the face of the earth. The face of this land!
Thousands of young Poles responded by raising thousands of wooden crosses. They chanted: “We want God! We want God!” Ten years later, communism in Poland was overthrown. This was the beginning of the end of communism in the rest of the Eastern bloc. Catholic Poland was the only nation within the Soviet empire that had survived the atheistic-communist assault on religion.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” In our postmodern world, the fool also says in his heart, “There is no nation.”
This talk was given at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C.
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The Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes, B.A., B.D., M.Th., Ph.D. (Cantab) is a journalist, academic and editor of Rebel Priest.
EDITORS NOTE: This Church Militant column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.