Many people were shocked when they learned that there are people in the United States calling for the assassination of Pope Francis as a response to the pontiff’s call for European Catholics to shelter asylum seekers from Syria. Someone wrote, “White people need to be protected from the genocidal anti-white Pope and the genocidal anti-white religion he pushes.” Another wrote: “The pope deserves to be executed for crimes against the White race.”
But should Christians be shocked?
Over and over Jesus taught his disciples “that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed” (Mark 8:31). I believe Jesus was essentially saying:
When you preach the word of God that cuts like a sword; when you love all people and try to teach others to love all people; when you preach a grace that is extravagant and a love that is unconditional; when you talk about the need to make room at the table for all people, even for folks called “illegal” or “aliens”; when you stand up for the rights of the poor and the marginalized; when you proclaim liberty to the oppressed and say that their lives matter; when you defend, forgive and friend sinners caught in the very act of sinning; when you tell lovers of money to sell their possessions and give the money to the poor; when you command a culture of war to be peacemakers; when you command the powerful to turn the other cheek; when you call religious leaders hypocrites and point out their hypocrisy; when you criticize their faith without works, their theology without practice, and their tithing without justice; when you refuse to tolerate intolerance; when you humble yourself and do these things that I do,” says Jesus, “then the self-righteous powers-that-be will rise up, and they will hate. They will hoist their colors, and they will grab their guns. They will come against you with all that they have, and they will come against you in name of God. They will do anything and everything that is in their power to stop you, even if it means killing you.
Therefore, the hate that is in our world for Pope Francis should not surprise us. But it should raise a few questions. Among them are: “Why am I not hated for my faith?” “Why have I never been threatened for my faith?” “Why do I feel so safe and secure in my faith?”