Much of the press coverage of the Pope’s death has centered
on two areas:  his hatred of communism and his ultra conservative
Catholicism. Most reporters hail the former but seem mystified by the latter,
seeing it as the Pope’s main weaknesses and wondering just how much greater a
great leader he would have been if he had been as "progressive" in
his theology as he was in his politics.

However, as I said on last
Saturday’s radio show
, the Pope’s greatness, very much including his
politics, was driven by his theology. He would not have been a world changer
except for his conservative religious views.

As Pat
Buchanan eloquently writes today
, what these journalists need to understand
is that it was the Pope’s approach to God that made him great in all the other
areas of his life:

What set John Paul II apart from
the other leaders of his time was his goodness, his holiness, his sanctity, his
moral courage in defending the truths of the church and his uncompromising
refusal to alter moral truth to accommodate the spirit of an immoral age. His
charisma, like that of Mother Teresa, came of the fact that he was a Man of
God, not a man of this world. He became popular by testifying to the unpopular
truths of Jesus Christ.

What those most disappointed with John Paul’s failure to
conform church teaching to trendy views on contraception, abortion, stem cell
research and homosexuality fail to understand is that it was because the pope
defied the spirit of the age that he was great. He believed in moral absolutes
in a world of moral relativism. He was a beacon of light in a darkening age, a
beacon of truth in a moral wilderness. 

He died in the 40th year following the close of Vatican
II, the church council called by a predecessor, John XXIII. And by the time
John Paul II died, all the fashionable and trendy clerics of that time, from
Hans Kung to the "Are-You-Running-With-Me-Jesus?" clergy were gone
and forgotten

"How many divisions does the
Pope have?" Stalin cynically asked. But it was this Polish pope with no
army who would inspire Solidarity to stand up to Stalin’s empire and help bring
it down peacefully in 1989.

"We’re more popular than Jesus now!"
John Lennon exclaimed back then. Where are the Beatles now? "Is God
Dead?" Time famously asked in the 1960s. Now people ask, "Is
AOLTimeWarner dead?" 

(Buchanan goes on to give a great analysis of the
problems with the American church – check out the full column.)

UPDATE: Jack Kemp has an excellent piece about the Pope’s role in the fall of communism. He explains: "…the pope placed individual
freedom squarely within the core of Christian theology."

Don Johnson Evangelistic Ministries