Dateline: VATICAN-Experts agree that Pope Francis has made a concerted effort to change people's impression of the Catholic Church, by adopting a less ostentatious style of public relations, leading non-Christians and Christians alike to be astonished that a Christian in the modern age would dare to be even superficially Christlike.
Instead of staying in the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, the pope lives in a guesthouse, he wears simpler vestments than his predecessors, he drives in a 30-year old, nonfortified, used Renault instead of the traditional Popemobile, he carries his own luggage, he meets people from his front door rather than from a balcony, he washed the feet of criminal offenders, and he took the name Francis in honour of the saint who devoted himself to humility and the poor.
All of which has perplexed observers of the Church. "Granted, these are only symbolic gestures," said Spanish Catholic Carlos Fandangle, "and no one in their right mind expects this or any other pope to push for big changes in Church doctrine. But who could dream that a Christian nowadays would take even a single baby step towards acting like Jesus! It's just baffling."
According to a Church historian, Joey Frogbottom, "Pope Francis's superficial acts of humility are mystifying to millions of people who are used to seeing Christians utterly betray the obvious spirit of Jesus's message as it's presented in the Gospels. After two thousand years of the churches' betrayals and compromises with secular empires, seeing a Christian today act even a little like Jesus is akin to witnessing an alien from another galaxy landing on Earth and going about its bizarre activities. It's hard to process what we're seeing with Pope Francis's signs of humility, because those signs of Christian life are so rare among Christians."
Hubert Hornswaggler, an American who identifies as an atheist, admits that Pope Francis's behaviour has forced him to take a second look at the Church. "Living in the US," he said, "I'm used to seeing Christians trample Jesus's teachings like they were written on toilet paper. I mean, it's like Christians hear what Jesus said people should do-give up riches and thoughts of vengeance, sex, and family, and dedicate yourself entirely to God as if, you know, you actually believed that this God exists-but they just decide to do the opposite and still call themselves Christian. But now here comes Pope Francis and he makes me think it's possible for a Christian not to be so thoroughly anti-Christian. It's almost a miracle."
However, Ralph Reed, the eternally-young American Christian activist, criticizes the pope for his effrontery. "Only Jesus can be Jesus," he said. "We're afflicted with original sin and we shouldn't pretend we can do any good. When we appear to do good, that's only God acting through us. God deserves all the credit. That's why we should give in to sin and embrace the savage policies of the Republican Party, so that we can finally ruin our world and force God to show Himself and fix everything. Pope Francis is giving us false hope and that's an outrage. The last thing a Christian should do is try to emulate Jesus."
American preacher and reputed prosperity theologian, Joel Osteen, agrees with that criticism. "God wants us to be happy on Earth, not just in Heaven," he said, "but God knows we're imperfect creatures. Happiness now requires that we submit to our flaws rather than pretend to be perfect like Jesus. Real Christians appreciate that the New Testament is irrelevant and that the teachings we should be following look a lot like some of the libertarian ones in the Satanic Bible. Christians should try to be as selfish and deceitful as possible, because that's how flawed creatures like us can best be happy here and now."