CNN's Zakaria Frets U.S. Christians Have 'Heated Debates Over Abortion,' Sex

On Sunday's Fareed Zakaria GPS, host Zakaria opened the show complaining about American Christians having "heated debates over abortion, abstinence, contraception, and gays," as he argued that Christianity is primarily supposed to be about "be[ing] nice to the poor."

The CNN host began his regular "Fareed's Take" segment at the top of the show:

But first, here's my take. I'm not a Christian, but, growing up in India, I was immersed in the religion. I attended Catholic and Anglican schools from ages five to 18, at which we would sing hymns, recite prayers, and study the scriptures. And the words of Pope Francis have reminded me what I, as an outsider, have deeply admired about Christianity. That it's central message is simple and powerful: Be nice to the poor.

He then took aim at where American Christians place their priorities:

When I came to the United States in the 1980s, I was surprised to see what Christian values had come to mean in American culture and politics. Heated debates over abortion, abstinence, contraception, and gays. In 13 years of reading, reciting and studying the Bible, I didn't recall seeing much about these topics. That's because there's very little in there about them.

Zakaria cited author Garry Wills's book, The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis, as he tried to argue against several Catholic Church interpretations of the Bible.

Below is a complete transcript of the "Fareed's Take" segment from the Sunday, September 27, Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN:

But first, here's my take. I'm not a Christian, but, growing up in India, I was immersed in the religion. I attended Catholic and Anglican schools from ages five to 18, at which we would sing hymns, recite prayers, and study the scriptures. And the words of Pope Francis have reminded me what I, as an outsider, have deeply admired about Christianity. That it's central message is simple and powerful: Be nice to the poor.

When I came to the United States in the 1980s, I was surprised to see what Christian values had come to mean in American culture and politics. Heated debates over abortion, abstinence, contraception, and gays. In 13 years of reading, reciting and studying the Bible, I didn't recall seeing much about these topics. That's because there's very little in there about them.

As Garry Wills points out in his perceptive new book, The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis, "Many of the most prominent and contested stands taken by Catholic authorities (most of them dealing with sex) have nothing to do with the Gospel."

The Church's positions on these matters were arrived at through interpretations of, quote, "natural law," unquote, which is not based on anything in the Bible. But, Wills points out, because those grounds looked weak, conservative clergy sought to bolster their views with biblical sanction. So contraception was condemned by Pope Pius XI through a pretty tortuous interpretation of a couple of lines in Genesis which stated that no man "spill his seed on the ground."

The ban on women in the Catholic clergy is a similar stretch. When Anglicans decided to ordain female priests, Pope Paul VI explained that women couldn't be priests because Jesus never ordained a female priest. "True enough," writes Wills, "But neither did he ordain any men. There are no priests (other than the Jewish ones) in the four Gospels. Peter and Paul and their fellows neither call themselves priests nor are called priests by others."

Wills even takes on abortion, opposition to which some Catholics have taken as fundamental to their faith. Quote, "This is odd," writes Wills, "since the matter is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament or New Testament or the early creeds." In fact, as Wills points out, the ban is based on a complex extrapolation from vague language in one biblical verse, Psalm 139:13.

If you understand the main message of Jesus Christ, you don't have to search the scriptures. He says it again and again. "Blessed by ye poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God." Jesus has specific advice on how to handle the poor. Treat them as you would Christ himself. Sell your possessions and give to the poor.

"When you hold a banquet," Jesus explains,"do not invite the wealthy and the powerful because you do so in the hope that they will return the favor and reward you. Instead, invite the dispossessed, and you will be rewarded by God."

We live in a meritocratic age, and we believe that people who are successful are more admirable in some way than the rest of us. But, in the kingdom of Heaven, the Bible warns, "The last shall be first and the first last." In other words, be thankful for your success, but don't think it makes you superior in any deep sense.

Commentators have taken Francis's speeches and sayings and variously attacked him or claimed him as a Marxist, a unionist, and a radical environmentalist. I don't think the Pope is proposing an alternate system of global politics or economics. He's imply reminding each of us that we have a moral obligation to be kind and generous to the poor and disadvantaged, especially if we've been fortunate.

If you have a problem with this message, you have a problem not with Pope Francis really, but with Jesus Christ.

Religion Christianity Sexuality Abortion Homosexuality CNN Fareed Zakaria Pope Francis


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