I don’t think we should celebrate Pope Francis’ election to the Holy See, but I do think it’s worth noting that, for some of the country’s most influential religious figures, it’s been an extraordinary year.
That’s especially true for the Orthodox Church, which has become a major player in American politics.
In the past, we’ve seen some of that power shifting to secularism and even to the left, and while we’re not there yet, we’re certainly not out of the woods.
“The Pope is not our enemy,” said the Rev. Charles W. Colson, a former White House counsel and the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“He is not the enemy of Christians.”
Colson has long been one of the most outspoken Orthodox voices in the GOP.
He has called for a strong separation between church and state and has called on the GOP to be more conservative than it has been in the past.
He’s been especially outspoken about Trump.
When the GOP’s presidential nominee suggested during the campaign that President Obama’s citizenship status could be tied to his religion, Colson called him out.
“I don’t believe that,” Colson said.
“We don’t know the president’s birth certificate.
If he is not a U.S. citizen, we don’t have to know that.
The pope is not your enemy.”
And while he’s not averse to discussing his faith with the press, Colton, who’s also a columnist for the Times of Israel, is no fan of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“If he were to win, I would say, ‘You’re the worst candidate for the presidency,'” Colson told me.
“You’re not really an American.”
I think the Pope is no enemy, said the pastor of St. James Cathedral, which is where I met him.
“In this age, it has become increasingly difficult to find a moral leader.
People are getting fed up with all the hypocrisy, and it’s not because of the pope.
It’s because of people like Donald Trump.”
I asked Colson if he believed the election of Trump had anything to do with the rise of the Orthodox in the United States.
“The only thing that is in the air is the pope,” he said.
It’s an interesting observation.
Colston is a pastor of a large, diverse church.
He’s a prominent figure in American Orthodoxy, which means he has a prominent voice in a party with the most Orthodox voters in the country.
I asked him if he thinks the election has anything to say about the way people are now voting.
“Of course,” he told me, “the election is not really the question.”
As a religious conservative, Colston doesn’t really buy the argument that Trump is somehow undermining Christianity.
I pressed him on the issue.
Colton told me he was troubled by the way Trump’s rhetoric has become more and more aggressive, and that Trump has “very little experience in politics.”
But Colson believes Trump’s candidacy has been part of a broader shift in the religious right.
He said the new movement is driven by the rise and rise of a kind of evangelical-based populism.
The pope’s election has been a major turning point in American religiosity, Colsons pastor said.
In a way, he said, the election was like the beginning of a new age.
“It’s a big, big thing,” he added.
“There’s a new wave coming in the world.
People have never been in this position before.
It is a new day.”
He added, “The church is in a big space now, and the church is getting very large.
And that’s where we need to be.
We need to find our voices and our message.”
Read more from National Review:The Vatican’s Pope Is Not Our Enemy, but He Is Not the Enemy of Christians