Monday, February 22, 2016

What happened to Jesus?

So everyone was abuzz last week about Pope Francis and Donald Trump.  True, people have parsed the Pope's statement just about every way you can parse a statement.  Whether or not he was saying 'Donald is not a Christian' is up for grabs.  And to be honest, it depends on how charitably you are willing to interrupt the Pope's statements.

For the sake of charity, I'll give you that he didn't specifically say Donald Trump is not a Christian.  He did, however, say that anyone who builds walls instead of bridges is not a Christian. And that is worth pondering, since it's so vague and so shallow (sorry, it's a shallow statement more at home on Positive Attitude Posters than a theological treatise) it doesn't really mean anything.  Is the Pope, by saying Isis can be dealt with through violence, not building a bridge?  Does that even count?  What does he mean?  Does he mean anything?  Or is it like so much in modern Catholic unspeak, that the words are vague enough that Catholics - and anyone else - can run with them in whatever direction they want?  I don't know.

Nevertheless, as the firestorm spread and everyone either jumped on Pope Francis or defended him, I noticed something.  Much of the criticism of the Pope was centered around the fact that this is the first time he really came out and, focusing on the context of a single individual, linked our eternal destiny to what that individual advocated.  Like this article notices.  The criticism is that he has met with political leaders and world leaders who have pushed gay marriage, abortion, assisted suicide, the assault on religious liberty, and even the torture and murder of their own people, and silence.  If he had anything negative to say, it was behind closed doors.  There were no public pronouncements that you can't advocate for abortion rights and be a Christian.  Or you can't support gay marriage and be a Christian.  Or you can't enact policies that attack Christ's Church and be a Christian.  Or you can't torture and murder your own citizens and be a Christian.  Again, if theses things were said, we didn't hear about them.  Or at least I didn't hear about them.

But he picks this.  This one subject to throw down the fence between the sheep and goats.  So people fired back that there are other issues he should have picked, like those above.  But what I wondered in all this is just where is Jesus?  I mean, heaven and hell seems to be based on a variety of social and political policies or agendas, not on a relationship with Jesus.  I know that in Catholic and Orthodox circles, the phrase 'relationship with my personal lord and savior' is not used, but only because of the connotations of the phrase.  It's not like they don't believe it.  They actually do believe you must have a relationship with Christ.  They actually do say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. 

So where was He in these conversations?  I mean, Pope Francis has even said that atheists and non-Christians all are heaven bound if they follow their consciences or the path to God in their traditions.  Jesus, in an actual relationship, seems to have no bearing at all.  Especially when the first time the idea of an individual not going to heaven is floated it has nothing to do with a relationship to Jesus at all, but simply a political policy issue. 

I know that the Church allows for salvation outside of the Church and outside full knowledge of the Gospel.  I get that Jesus is the judge through which we can have salvation; the advocate for humanity.  I get that God so loved the world.  I understand that our pilgrimage is more than just claiming relationship to Christ via the Sinner's Prayer. 

But in all the kerfuffle from last week, by the Pope's defenders, detractors, and apparently the Pope himself, the issue of what one thinks about Jesus or not, or whether one believes in or rejects the Gospel of Christ or not, never came up in the discussions.  It's also worth noting that when  the Pope said this, there was great cheering and dancing in the streets by Catholics who once condemned traditional Catholics for wanting the Pope to call out different people over various sins.  There was not, as far as I saw, a single call to pray for Trump's soul among them.   If we have come to the point where Jesus is no longer more than a figurehead to which we can appeal for ideological validation, I guess I can see why.


  1. This one subject to throw down the fence between the sheep and goats.

    OUCH! Daaaaumn! Maximum irony, pun, AND a burn all in one. I have to salute you on that one good sir. Full round of applause and +10 internets!

  2. "But he picks this. This one subject to throw down the fence between the sheep and goats. So people fired back that there are other issues he should have picked, like those above. "

    How do you get 'he picks this' did he mind control the reporter into asking that specific question? I mean wasn't the topic picked for him by the reporter.

  3. He didn't have to comment. Or at least, he certainly didn't have to comment that way. The Reporter brought it up, just like they have for topics such as abortion and homosexuality. Where the answer has been mercy and love and let's not judge. But this time, he picked 'sheep here, goats there.' That's the point.

  4. How do you get 'he picks this' did he mind control the reporter into asking that specific question? I mean wasn't the topic picked for him by the reporter.

    Well, because LATER in the same interview he said,

    "The Pope doesn’t get mixed up in Italian politics. At the first meeting I had with the (Italian) bishops in May 2013, one of the three things I said was: with the Italian government you’re on your own. Because the pope is for everybody and he can’t insert himself in the specific internal politics of a country. This is not the role of the pope, right?"

    So Dave is spot on, otherwise why couldn't the pope repeat the above, "he can't insert himself in the specific internal politics of a country"?

  5. Francis, often points out that Church has been very clear about its' stands on sins of the flesh. Heck, when the Obama administration came up with its' HHS mandate even folks like Chris Mathews knew it was wrong. Even if after getting the lamest of compromises he went running back to O to get the thrill up is leg back, he knew it was wrong. When talking about love and mercy Francis is still by implication talking about sin, since the righteous don't need mery. Yet how many people, even faithful Catholics have a good understanding of the Church's teaching on immigration. Mr Griffey given your background as a former Minister of God's word I bet you know your bible, in terms of quoting chapter and verse, a good deal better than I. I can't imagine it would take you to long to list off say 10 references from scripture on sins of the flesh. How long would it take you to list off the same number of references warning Israel about the mistreatment of foreigners? I have spent a lot of time in confession, confessing sexual sins but I was over 48 the first time I confessed breaking the 1st commandment. Yet there have been a lot of times that I was late for mass because worship of the N. O. Saints wasn't finished yet. You see it never occurred to me that just because I wasn't worshiping a statue of Zeus or Baal that I could still break the 1st commandment. If I hadn't had a priest talk about it on the radio I might still be clueless. So maybe he went all sheep and goats, on immigration, because we need to hear about it.

  6. Andrew,

    I love that testimony. That was awesome. Not that you said it for that, but I love the thought of going in and confessing things like the First Commandment. How often do we gloss over that?

    But my concern is what Pope Francis says, and what people are hearing, seem to be two different things. As a pastor, I understood people will hear what they hear. But if I repeatedly came to know that what I was saying was being interpreted wrongly, I would change. I would try something else.

    In the American Catholic Church at least, if not much of the Western Church, being soft on the sins of the waistline isn't an issue. Most Catholics (see multiple studies and surveys) don't follow the Church away. So when Pope Francis comes out and acts the way he does, so many seem to hear "Excellent! We can do whatever!" Oddly, the more liberal secularists are the ones seeing he may not mean that - and are getting frustrated with him as a result.

    But there seems to be, if your take is accurate, a 'teaching for the advanced student' approach. Sort of getting a book that says "How to fix an automatic transmission in four easy steps." Then when you look, the first step is "Step 1: Remove the Engine." There seems to be many assumptions on where people are and where their knowledge or hearts and minds are that isn't meshing.

    Which is why his choice of gun manufacturers or building walls as the goat dispenser, versus Follow the Commandments or Sin not", seems to cast things in a more 'post-Christian' framework, where the hereafter and our day to day lives, or even our religious beliefs, matters not, but adhering to certain policy distinctions or political proposals is what makes the difference. That’s my concern.

  7. Thank you, you're very gracious. I don't think this so much an advanced course as he expects us to act like adults and not 10 year olds hoping to catch our dad in a verbal slip-up, so we can claim he created a loophole to go through. This may be part of his Jesuit training, but I am not sure. He seems to say, what is always been true is still true and go from there. He says so explicitly in Evangelii Gaudium 54 where he writes "I take for granted the different analyses which other documents of the universal magisterium have offered, as well as those proposed by the regional and national conferences of bishops." So often what he talks about are just points of emphasis he is trying to get of to think about. This is the way, I interpret him and it has saved me no end heartache.


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