Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Pact. Maybe.

Just because the Pope driving stick makes me so happy.

Of course I wish he'd gotten to the part about truth being a relationship, but still, this is some good stuff:

In a column you wrote for the Huffington Post in February, after Benedict resigned, you proposed an ideal pope—one who emphasizes universality and good works—figuring a guy like that would never get the job. But then he sort of did, right?
I continue to be pleased with what Francis is talking about and his openness—despite papal authorities’ attempts to retract his statements [laughs]. He’s offering very universal ideas—not closing the door and saying you have to be a Catholic in order for good things to happen. This is the kind of world leader that we need in a position of power that the pope has if we want hope for a more universal community.
... But people assume atheists are rooting for the Church to fail. Is there a way for atheism and organized religion to be strengthened simultaneously or is a zero-sum game? Oh, I definitely see it as an opportunity for both sides to grow in a positive direction. I think atheists are a little na├»ve if they think that the best solution is to convert everybody to atheisms. That’s not going to happen any time soon. This is the world we live in. But we have to find ways to nurture the more progressive, more open-minded people willing to reason and re-evaluate positions in churches. We should encourage that to happen. Churches do revise their opinions from time to time. Instead of criticizing them for not being true to their faith—which we don’t agree with anyway—we should encourage them.

Of course atheists are naive if they think they are going to convert everybody to atheism.  But it's a forgivable naivete, long as I'm in a charitable mood and all (The Pope drives stick!).  I figured as a pastor my task was at least to try to get my congregation to be even a bit more Christian than they wanted to be.  I found out I was quite wrong in that, at least according to my congregations; so it's probably just as well I'm no longer in ministry.  Even nurturing "the more progressive, more open-minded people willing to reason and re-evaluate positions in churches" ain't, of course, exactly what Mr. Speckhardt imagines it to be (there are so many shades and schools and branches of positions and minds and people in so many different churches, to even speak so generally of just the Roman Catholic church is an overreach), but I get the drift, and it's not necessarily a bad one.

Probably better to say there are matters upon which even atheists and religious can agree to disagree (see, especially, nuns on buses or death row, and monks in monasteries writing books or just leading lives; I have a high regard for such people, and they tend not to be either evangelistic or overly concerned with non-believers because identity isn't a thing just formed by others).  Mr. Speckhardt is concerned that the Pope said "that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart," but I see that from the Pope's point of view, too, and wonder how else a committed Christian could put it.

Still, it's not a red line, is it?

And if we can at least have a dialogue, it can't be all bad, can it?  Even if the Pope doesn't really speak for me, I can at least appreciate what he's doing, and how people are responding.

And especially how he's showing, rather than just telling, that truth is a relationship.  As Ezra Pound said to Walt Whitman:  "Let there be a commerce between us."

It's a beginning.


  1. RMJ, first an apology for placing this request here, I keep missing commenting when your posts on violence and guns are the latest post. A month or so ago in a post on gun violence you included a quote on the Christian path to peace contrasting with how it usually happens. One is path via violence, the patht to Peace taught be Christ is through non-violence. I have been unable to locate the quote and I am hoping you can give at least the link to your earlier post or even the text from where it came. The gist of the quote has been rolling around in my mind, and having the original would be helpful. The reason it keeps coming back is that it links to the quote "An armed society is a polite society". This has always deeply bothered me and the post helped identify why it does. The "polite society" is achieved by violence (violence and the threat of violence are similar enough), and it is a never ending threat of violence to achieve that appearance of peace. This is not the peace of Christianity. For me, the peace of Christ arises from non-violence and a change of heart. It is an internal transformation. The peace of the gun is external and nothing ever changes, the threat remains always. North Korea looks peaceful, but it is a peace from violence and the threat of violence.

    This resonates because I see the path of my faith as a transformation. I don't beleive because of the external threat of not going to heaven but because I have been called. Our pastor put well this past Sunday which I will badly paraphrase. Don't come because you think that will get you to heaven. Grace is a gift from God, you can neither do anything to earn it nor ask for it. We have been however been called to be active, to do justice, to be Christians in our lives. You do this because you have been called (internal), not because you are threatened (external).

    Peace be with you. (Yes, that kind)

  2. I dunno. Sounds like me, but I'm having trouble finding it, too.

    I'll keep looking, though.

  3. I had forgotten that Google has a search function for a site, so doing that located the quote:

    The Roman Empire was based on the common principle of peace through victory, or, more fully, on a faith in the sequence of piety, war, victory, and peace.

    Paul was a Jewish visionary following in Jesus' footsteps, and they both claimed that the Kingdom of God was already present and operative in this world. He opposed the mantras of Roman normalcy with a vision of peace through justice, or, more fully, with a faith in the sequence of covenant, nonviolence, justice, and peace. In Search of Paul: How Jesus's Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom, by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), p. xi.

    Here is the link to the entire post:

  4. It's a good book, too. I highly recommend it (and I don't recommend books often).