Posted by: smstrouse | September 26, 2015

The Pope Francis Phenomenon

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Why is everyone going gaga over Pope Francis?!

I can’t help thinking of the irony of it all as we in the Lutheran church will soon be gearing up for Reformation Sunday at the end of October.  Of course, we don’t get all anti-Catholic anymore, hurling invectives against the papacy. Still,  I can just hear old  Martin Luther ranting, “I have within me the great pope, Self.”

Luther-KopfhoererWhat would he think of this new version of the Vicar of Christ?

He’d probably be tuning in with everyone else to hear what Francis has to say next.

Even those who don’t agree with some of Francis’ views (e.g. gay marriage, the role of women, the canonization of Junipero Serra), are loving his humility, his compassion for the poor, his bold positions (and challenges to us) on climate change, immigration, the death penalty and creating peace.

And my favorite intrafaith and interfaith exchange (again, I could quibble with some of the language, but not the bottom line):

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!”

‘Father, the atheists?’

“Even the atheists. Everyone! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’

“But do good: We will meet one another there.”

Yikes, I can just hear the Lutherans screaming “works righteousness! works righteousness!” But could we not see it instead as a call to transcend dogma, doctrine and belief systems and meet in a place of common humanity? That’s how I’m reading it and I think it’s a pretty darn good message for today’s ‘spiritual independent’ or ‘none’ or member of the ‘church alumni society.’

11947618_10153646651944917_2958262449028598973_nJust the fact that a Christian leader is attracting this kind of attention (not because of a sex scandal or a ridiculous end of the world prophecy or a dumb anti-science pronouncement), but honest-to-Jesus Christian values is reason to celebrate.

Of course, not everyone is loving what the pope has been saying. But this is a blog from a “proud member of the religious left”! And I am very glad to see people who are not Catholic, not even believers of any kind embracing a representative of Christianity. We’ve needed some good press!

Yes, the Holy Father still has some evolving to do. But so does the Dalai Lama (check out his statements on sexuality). We seem to still be able to honor the DL for his wisdom and compassion, while challenging him in other areas. I hope we can do the same with the HF.

As one who identifies as Christian, I am thrilled that Pope Francis is showing the world what a follower of Jesus looks – and acts – like. My hope is that the world will see that there are many more, albeit unknown and unrecognized, just like him.

 

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