The subtitle of the January 17, 2014, Politico article concerning Pope Francis was eye-catching: “This guy could teach President Obama a thing or two.”
The article’s author, Candida Moss—a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame—wasn’t writing about biblical, moral, or ethical matters. No, she was writing about political matters and reversing President Obama’s low poll numbers.
Moss’ thesis is that because President Obama and Pope Francis have so much in common, perhaps “that guy”—the President—can learn “a thing or two” (it’s actually four things) from “this guy”—the Pope.
Regarding those similarities:
- Both elections were historic firsts: Obama was the first Black elected U.S. President and Francis is the first Pope from Latin America and first Jesuit.
- Both preside over deeply-divided constituencies and institutions: Scandal and bureaucratic incompetence plague both the U.S. government and Roman Curia.
- Charting an unlikely path to power, both were initially media darlings who were heralded as ushering in a hopeful new era. President Obama has slipped in the polls but Pope Francis remains astoundingly high in the polls.
Given these similarities, Moss wonders why Pope Francis’ approval rating is 200%+ more than President Obama’s?
Moss answers her question, offering four lessons Pope Francis might have to teach President Obama:
- While utterly without guile, Pope Francis avoids the trappings of office which bolsters his credibility on political issues. The lesson? President Obama should avoid the trappings of the imperial presidency. After all, Moss notes, “power unexercised is power preserved.”
- Pope Francis sets aside notes and speaks off the cuff, giving his words an additional layer of sincerity. The lesson? President Obama should get out from behind the teleprompter and toss the script aside.
- Pope Francis has a knack for politics as well as people. His “eagerness to engage people proves not just that he’s a man of the people, but that he’s willing to do this despite the risk to his personal safety.” The lesson? President Obama should emulate the humility and accessibility of Pope Francis.
- Pope Francis embodies a few big ideas and persuades people to rally around them. The lesson? “What American president couldn’t benefit from a reminder of that?”
Moss summarizes these four lessons stating “Herein lies the genius of Pope Francis’s papacy: He has persuaded the world he isn’t a politician and, in doing so, has become arguably the most politically influential man in the world.”
If Moss’ assessment is accurate, Pope Francis has mastered the politician’s arts. Were President Obama to become more like Pope Francis, his polling numbers would skyrocket.
There’s a problem The Motley Monk has with Professor Moss’ assessment.
Pope Francis would have to become the politician he is not. And President Obama would have to become the spiritual leader he is not. After all, leopards don’t change their spots.
To read Candida Moss’ article in Politico, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link: