A Pope’s Influence on Society

What influence does a pope have?

What kind of agent of change is a pope? Especially in today’s world, where popes have turned their back on political power, coming full circle back to the very earliest days of the Church so as to become spiritual and not political leaders?

How much influence did or does Thomas Paine have? Karl Marx? Paul Krugman? Abbie Hoffman? Your next door neighbor?  Does anyone have?

Well, put it this way. Stalin once contemptuously asked, “How many divisions does the pope have?”

It was his way of saying that the then pope had no power to stop him.

Long after Stalin was gone, he got an answer from John Paul II. JPII demonstrated that there is a higher power than brute force.

All John-Paul II did was go to then-communist Poland in 1979 and say mass. Well, okay, he held 32 masses in nine days, criss-crossing the nation. Millions showed up. His theme wasn’t insurrection. Rather his theme was that of human dignity and a spiritual revolution.  Certainly, he preached nonviolence.

And the rest is history. I’m sure you remember those years- those wild years in Poland.

As Timothy Garton Ash wrote, “Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism.”

Gorbachev did not disagree, saying of his once nemesis, “It would have been impossible without the Pope.”

It does not do well to underestimate the impact of a spiritual leader. Especially one that is the head of a religion of more than 1.2 billion, of whom 483 million are Latin Americans, many of whom live in penury.

I’m reminded as well of a story someone told me once. This gentleman, a kind man, an atheist liberal, once walked into a house. In the house were Christians, supposedly, who were of politically  conservative sympathies. They wished to lay a trap for this man.

They asked him, “If you saw someone hurt on the side of the road, would you help him?”

The person answered, “Yes. Yes, of course.”

The so-called Christians responded with scorn. They were of a mind to “let him die” as was so loudly proclaimed at a recent Republican presidential nomination debate. A room full of so-called Christians!

Something was missing from that situation of that liberal being trapped by so-called Christians. At least, that’s what I felt when I heard the story.

The gentleman entering the house was unconsciously following a Christian teaching- the teaching that was exemplified in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

And the people who tested him, while asked if they were Christians, would affirm their religion, while rejecting that religion’s very teaching. That is, they proclaimed their Christianity in theory while hating it in fact.

What was missing was a man like Francis. Francis is assuming the role of saying to these hypocrites and people like them, “Shame on you! You hypocrites! You have much to learn, and you have much to learn of your own religion from an atheist.”

I sense that a man named John the Baptist once assumed that role of afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted.

We need such men.

This post was unashamedly influenced by https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/pope/communism/

Drivel Presented as Logic

The article in question:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/iranian-freedom-cancelled/

I thought it of interest to post a response of sorts to an article (link posted above) that is popping up on the web. It’s an excellent example of flawed premises used to bolster a previously held belief. That is, the author has a clear belief she’s emotionally attached to and so rationalizes an argument to support it.

That’s called bad logic.

Take a read of the article, and then let’s explore her flawed premises.

Her premises:

1) The Iranian regime is dying.

Hmmm. Seems we heard that one quite a few times over the last thirty years, for sure! Estimating the longevity of any regime is a practice in futility. Remember when we thought the Soviet Union would last another century and its fall came largely as a surprise? How often have we heard over the years that North Korea or Cuba were ripe for change? Those two regimes have been “dying”, well, for longer than you or I are alive!

I well remember in 1982 high level experts predicting the of the totalitarian Saudi regime (our ostensible allies) by 1985. We’re still waiting for that one. Point is, there’s no real way of measuring whether a regime is “dying” or not. And Iran isn’t exactly a totalitarian regime. Its people do vote, for example, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia. Women can drive there. Unlike Saudi Arabia.

Dying? Could be. Might not be. The crystal ball is too cloudy to tell.

Conclusion: Her premise is at best weak and very likely flawed. She *wishes* for the regime to be “dying” and so she labels it so.

2) That sanctions are instrumental in bringing freedom to that poor country.

Seems we’ve tried that strategy with Cuba for over 50 years. Hmm. I’d like her to present one, just one, nation where sanctions have brought freedom to any nation.

Conclusion: Her premise is deeply flawed. She *wishes* that economic sanctions lead to freedom, and so she states that it is so.

3) Premise: That Iran can be convinced or forced to abandon its nuclear program like, say Libya.

I remember reading way back in the shah’s days – in 1978- that it was estimated that Iran would have a nuclear weapons expertise within 30 years. Yes, I really did read stuff like that in eighth grade.

Iran (population 76 million) is not Libya (population 6 million) It’s a very big country with a robust and ancient tradition of scholarship. Whether or not it actually manufactures nuclear weapons, it will gain the national knowledge to build them much sooner rather than later. It really does have that level of educational knowledge. Much like Japan, Australia and Taiwan have the knowledge to build such weapons if they choose. And they choose not to.

Additionally, the nuclear program is *hugely* popular in Iran. In this situation, Iran is much closer to the Pakistani nuclear model than Libya. Nuclear capability in both nations are deemed a matter of national pride. Remember when Pakistan exploded its first nuclear bomb? Pakistanis went into the streets to celebrate. The Iranians see such a capability as a sign of attaining a “great power” status, especially when its two neighbors to the east (Pakistan and India) have the bomb.

The common talk on the Iranian “street” is that it is high time for there to be a “Shiite bomb” as, in their view, there is already a “Sunni bomb” (Pakistan) and a “Hindu bomb” (Indian), never mind the “Christian bombs” of the USA, the UK, France, etc. Yes, they really do think that way.

At the popular level, if the Iranian government point blank abandoned its nuclear program, the regime *would* lose internal legitimacy.

The key in all of this is to find a path where Iran can view itself as a “great power” in the vein of powers that do not manufacture nuclear bombs. Attempting to get Iran to “forget” such knowledge is dreaming. Doing so is like getting Japan to “forget” its knowledge in nuclear technology. Can’t happen.

Conclusion: Her premise that Iran can contract nuclear amnesia is flawed. She *wishes* that there was a way to keep the nuclear genie out of the hands of the Iranian regime and so she states it is possible, regardless if it *is* possible.

4) That negotiations have “blown away” UN Security Council resolutions (I’ll leave her allusion to the resolutions “asking” alone, as tempting as it is to answer that one!).

That is, on its face, extremely flawed. The negotiations do nothing -nothing!- to undermine the UN Security Council resolutions. Rather, they are confidence-gaining measures.

Conclusion: She misunderstands the very nature of the negotiations. Her premise is flawed, and indeed, her prejudice shows through clearly with such Fox News-like accusations.

5) Premise: The world could prevent North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons.

How, I pray, short of a major war does she propose for that to happen? Every peaceful solution -especially sanctions- has been applied to North Korea. The very strategy that she wishes to be applied to Iran was tried and is tried on North Korea…and NK has the bomb!

You see the circular argument here- yes? She wishes for Iran to be treated like North Korea to prevent Iran from building a…bomb. But that strategy didn’t work in North Korea!

Conclusion: Her premise is flawed: There’s no way to tell if the world, short of war, could have stopped the North Koreans from building a bomb.

She also has some interesting accusations:

1) The president is pursuing an agenda of “appeasement”.

Note as well her emotive accusation: “Appeasement” with all its connotations of World War II.

Initial negotiations which amount to a level of confidence building measures do not, at all, amount to “appeasement”. The authors use of the term is inappropriate at best, designed to manipulate a visceral response. It weakens, not strengthens, her argument, such as it is.

2) Barack Obama is “a US leader who not only let the Syrian genocide happen”.

Here we go again with words that attempt to manipulate the audience (“genocide”).

The reality is that Barack Obama was challenged in his powers to order even a bombing raid on Syria in response to Syrian use of poison gas on its own citizens.

The reality is, further, that the US populace has little interest in yet another Middle Eastern war with little prospect of a successful exit strategy.

It’s one thing to accuse President Obama of “letting” the “Syrian genocide happen”. It’s another thing completely to actually present a reasonable and realistic course of action that President Obama could pursue to stop such matters.

It’s qualifies as a wild accusation.

In short, the article is drivel, loaded with very poor premises and wild accusations.