Mark Pishay: “The Pope and Marx on Trump”

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In her article for the Huffington Post, Carol Kuruvilla discusses the response given by Pope Francis after news of President Donald Trump’s order preventing the migration of refugees and immigrants from several countries in the Middle East. Since he took his papal title on March 13, 2013, the Catholic pontiff has showed Christ-like love for the poor, needy minorities and continuously encourages his congregation to welcome those who are marginalized into their communities and homes. As a result, Pope Francis could not keep silent after the President issued an executive order which severely impedes the masses of émigrés from entering the United States. In a video released on February 2, His Holiness urged Trump to welcome the “‘great sections of the population [that] are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out. Don’t abandon them’”. Pope Francis mentions how society is often only worried about the economy and financial prosperity, hence giving more attention to the high-class individuals and pushing aside the vulnerable, lower-class ones. It is one’s responsibility, as a Christian (which Trump declares himself to be), he says, to condemn the trespasses committed by society and support the underprivileged, whom society ignores. Pope Francis practices what he preaches, as seen in last April when he brought back home with him (in Rome) twelve Muslim refugees from Syria, who accompanied him on his prestigious papal plane. The article concludes with some beautiful, wise words from the patriarch, likely directed towards Trump, “‘It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help… If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite’”.

This article reflects two key concepts central to the teachings of Karl Marx. First, the idea of class struggle, which is clearly seen in Kuruvilla’s piece as well as in Marx’s model for historical change. Marx believed that history is simply one of class struggle, in which various groups compete with one another for necessary, however, limited, resources and the group that emerges victorious becomes the dominant class, possessing control over the abundance of resources. This is exactly the situation with Trump’s executive order; he recognizes that America contains limited resources and if there is a continuous, unlimited flow of immigrants into the country, these resources will one day run out. As a result, Trump has sought to dramatically decrease the number of immigrants seeking refuge in the land of opportunity. The second pivotal principle which Marx argues, yet is proved false in Kuruvilla’s column, is that of false consciousness. False consciousness, in the minds of those in the subordinate class, is ultimately, “their mental representations of the social relations around them [which] conceal or obscure the realities of subordination, exploitation, and domination” (Lecture). Marx argues that the dominant class naturalizes social inequality using false consciousness and that religion is the primary generator of false consciousness. Religion, according to Marx, numbs the pain in the minds of subordinate workers by promising them a better afterlife, in which they will find comfort and rest from the unequal ways of life in which they live. As a result, Marx boldly claims, “Religion is the opiate of the masses” (Lecture). However, as read in the article above, Pope Francis utterly shreds Marx’s argument that religion is an agent of oppression, economically. Pope Francis, contrary to what Marx declared, uses religion as a destroyer of unequal social structures. Religion, according to His Holiness, is not a tool to promote false consciousness, but rather to condemn it. He does not simply quiet the people with the promise of a better hereafter, but he aids them and strives to banish any and all prejudicial societies. Therefore, Karl Marx was correct in saying that there is an ongoing class struggle, stemming from a competition for limited resources, but is proved wrong when he says religion is used to generate false consciousness, as seen in Trump’s executive order and Pope Francis’s acts of righteous charity, respectively.




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