Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pope, He's Dope

I was raised a Christian, attending church on most Sundays from the time I can remember until I went to college. Like a lot of people, I drifted away from things overtly religious while in college. My wife and I started sporadically attending a progressive Methodist church in our town after our oldest daughter was born, but the explicit religious overtones of the 2004 election, and its culture war themes soured me on the idea of organized religion.

When my father died in 2010, I found substantial solace in a church community, for which I'll always be grateful. For a year or so thereafter, our family were relatively regular attendees. But even as I genuinely liked the individual people in our church, I found myself increasingly struck by the hypocrisy I saw in the broader Christian world. I saw self-proclaimed Christians actively working to spread intolerance towards gays and Muslims here and abroad, and pursue policies that enriched the powerful at the expense of the poor. I watched Catholic leaders continue to cover up the most heinous crimes against children, protecting the institution of the church instead of displaying basic humanity. I grew angry once again as politicians co-opted God in the pursuit of personal and party gain. (There's a great book on the latter topic called God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, by Jim Wallis, a Protestant pastor and leader of a non-partisan Christian activist movement.)

And so I withdrew again to the comfort of my couch and my own personal beliefs, which can really be boiled down to the Golden Rule - do unto others, and all that. Or, as I explain it to my kids, 'don't be a jerk'. I fail at this constantly, because I'm pretty awesome, but I try to approach the world with humility. I believe in Gheorgheness, in the value of being silly, in trying really hard not to take myself seriously, and truly, in trying (failing, often) to view the world through others' eyes.

Pope Selfie
With all that as background, among the very last things I expected was to find myself captivated by the words of a Catholic Pope. More than that, excited. In July, Pope Francis said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will," he said, "who am I to judge?" Gobsmacked is too weak a word to describe the reaction of most observers of the papacy.

In September, he gave a lengthy interview to America magazine, a Catholic review. At the outset, when asked by the interviewer, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?", the Pope replied, "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner."

Later, in a discussion about the church's position on abortion and gay marriage, he said,

“I see clearly … that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up."

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

He moved from the vast, ornate apartment of his predecessor to a simple flat in a building shared by other priests. He shunned Benedict's Liberacean vestments for plain garments. He drives a beat-up Renault around the Vatican, on his own. He's washed the feet of prisoners, women, and Muslims. He wore a clown's nose to help a couple celebrate their marriage.

And most importantly of all, he's spoken repeatedly of the things he finds important, and they're not bureaucracy and politics and power. With respect to the latter, he says, "Politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion." Even more direct in his criticism of the power-seekers in the Vatican later, he said, "Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissus, flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."

No, Pope Francis' message is personal, not political. Love, joy, and mercy above all. Says the Pontiff, "When a person or a society suffers devaluation and disintegration, certainly in the bottom of their hearts they lack peace and joy, and sadness nests. Disunity and contempt are children of sorrow. Sadness is a truth that belongs to the spirit of this world, and the remedy is joy.”

I'm the furthest thing from a theologian, and I'm completely unqualified to assess the broader doctrinal impact of Pope Francis on the Catholic church. I don't know Vatican II from Porky's 2. But I know that a world where we treat each other like people, where our better angels govern our actions, where pursuit of joy trumps pursuit of power is a far more appealing place than the alternatives. And when the leaders of one of the world's great religions speaks and acts in the manner of Francis, the ripples reach us all. Life's complicated as shit, for all of us. We're all fucked up in our way, and we're all seeking. When a man who speaks to billions of people is focused on joy, and love, and simple humanity, that's a powerful force for good.

So count me as a fan of Pope Francis, and his humility and grace. I'm still probably not headed to church anytime soon, but if a little Francis-style church gets into our headspace, that ain't a bad thing.

You could almost make the argument that he's a little bit Gheorghey.  The first Gheorghian pope? We could all get down with that.

60 comments:

zman said...

Well said.

My only proposed edit is to open with "I grew up as a Christian but to Jah I give thanks."

TR said...

I am tired. Good night last night, but we may have had expectations that were too high. For those that watched, the "Blockbuster" sketch caused massive sleep deprivation for the sketch players involved. So it was just a bunch of really tired guys and gals.

And R Kelly looks crazy old in person, like he has Greg Odenitis. Didn't see him pee on anyone or anything.

zman said...

I can't imagine what happens when TR and R Kelly get together. A perfect storm of pervery.

zman said...

I bet R Kelly is commenting on a Zydrunas Ilgauskas blog about how he met TR.

Mark said...

Nice work, Rob.

Clarence said...

Well articulated, Robbie.

Shlara said...

Rob, are you moonlighting as an editor for the UK's Sunday Times--they ran this today: ‘Francis effect’ pulls crowds back to church

If so, you should be feeding more of the goofy GTB features into the paper.

Also, I'm a big fan of Francis. He's upsetting the traditionalists like my parents, but let's face it--people like that won't leave the church. And, he's bringing others back who were frustrated with the hypocrisy and dogma. He's a cool dude AND a smart strategist.

zman said...

The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude.

Mark said...

I want to comment on a Zydrunas Ilgauskas blog.

Z- other than the shitty theater, how was Gravity?

zman said...

It was ok. Definitely needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

zman said...

The symbolism was very 11th grade English.

Mark said...

Is Joe Haden the most underrated player in the NFL? I think so. Certainly in the discussion.

Mark said...

Z- I hope you've been busy turning TR's kids against the Jets today.

zman said...

The Jets turned his kids against the Jets. I think the older son is a Cowboys fan who affirmatively said "I don't like the Jets."

Clarence said...

My kids are going to turn against the Redskins because of my reactions to most every play.

zman said...

I think Fred Jackson just lee his knee out.

zman said...

Lee = blew

Mark said...

Cowboys fans? TR is a terrible parent.

zman said...

Brian Moorman took fake punt lessons from Garo Yepremian. Tuuuuurrible.

zman said...

Wow. Kiko.

zman said...

Kiko Alonso is so good and the Bills's mojo is so bad. I feel sorry for him, he's doomed to suffer something miserable.

zman said...

Fred lives!

zman said...

EJ! Marquise!

TR said...

My 6 y/o wanted to be Tom Brady for Halloween. I begrudgingly obliged. We ordered the outfit from NFL.com and I had to iron on the numbers. I almost ironed on 69 on the back as a silent victory, but wife was not a fan of that.

Jets are a disaster.

zman said...

And the QB controversy begins!

Mark said...

Jason Babin ripped a bunch of Andre Ellington's dreadlocks out and then held them up for all to see.

zman said...

I'm surprised that doesn't happen more often.

zman said...

Apparently zson is rooting for the Jets. I am not amused.

rob said...

gheorghies, thinking about getting a chromebook for the family for xmas. time to replace the imac, and the $1200+ price difference is compelling. i love the mac, but we really don't use it for much more than web surfing, music playing, and occasional doc drafting. anyone have/used a chromebook? anyone have an opinion?

Mark said...

You need to see the TD Seattle scored right before the half. Perfect placement by Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin high pointed it with two defenders around him. All setup by Percy Harvin's 58 yard kickoff return.

Mark said...

Seattle will be scary if they can get Harvin fully involved.

zman said...

How did Samsung fix LeBron's hairline?

Danimal said...

Nice job Rob....

Am either watching a dvr'd SNL skit with a comedienne playing Nancy Pelosi on Meet The Press or I am watching the Real Meet The Press with the real Nancy Pelosi.

Danimal said...

No...it's the real thing.

zman said...

Jim Harbaugh just yelled "Bullcrap!". I expected stronger language.

zman said...

The refereeing in this SF/NO game is very spotty.

Danimal said...

He just made up with it with a slow motion fuuuuuuuck....thanks Fox camera men.

Danimal said...

For it

rob said...

speaking of the seahawks, has there ever been a quieter 10-1 start?

Clarence said...

In 1983 the Blair Middle School JV Debate Team started 10-1 with almost no fanfare. So yeah, there has.

Lumpy said...

rob- in regards to the chromebook i give it a thumbs up. quick boot up, can separate access with different gmail logins. quick boot up time. lemme know if you want more feedback.

Lumpy said...

did i mention quick boot up?

Lumpy said...

as far as music goes- if you upload to google play- chromebook will access. probably could hit up your amazon cloud account w/ an app? but i havent tried?

Lumpy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

The pope! He is a-coming!!! I got my nice white suit!!

Geoff said...

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/its-decorative-gourd-season-motherfuckers

Shlara said...

I stayed up until 1am last night to watch "He Got Game" on HBO. Forgot how good that movie is. I heart Ray Allen.

Mark said...

I was watching too, Shlara. Probably been ten years since I watched any of it. Still holds up pretty well after 15 years.

I loved (and still do) young Rosario Dawson.

Shlara said...

Twitter tells me that today would be Len Bias's 50th birthday. This makes me feel old.

Greg said...

Roll Tribe:
http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9987390/sean-mcdermott-carolina-d-turning-heads

Mark said...

George Zimmerman arrested on domestic violence charges...again.

zman said...

I am a firm believer in cheap computers and although I love Apple's products I don't see the point of sinking tons of money into an Apple computer unless you're a graphic designer or a video game programmer. But if you get a Chromebook, make sure it has enough USB ports so that when you travel you can plug in your various peripheral devices at the same time.

rob said...

that was one of my questions - how well does the chromebook work with peripherals? i guess if it's got usb ports or bluetooth, should work well enough.

also, c'mon kevin ware. we all want to root for you. don't fuck it up.

rob said...

jerry's boy joe rossi scored for italy today. thatsa spicy meataballa.

zman said...

Can you plug a monitor into a Chromebook and do an extended desktop display on the monitor and the laptop at the same time?

Lumpy said...

Mine has a USB port and a Hdmi jack for external monitor

Dave said...

thanks for the pope update. he sounds a miter bit better than the last guy.

rob said...

that's what we do, dave. folks come here for theology and dipshittery. often in the same post.

rob said...

posts about the pope make everyone stop posting new stuff. noted.

zman said...

When was the last time the Patriots got points at home with Tom Brady healthy?