Saturday, December 14, 2013

WAPO on Francis


I opined on Facebook that articles like this make me despair of Christianity. And I said I would explain why.

The flow of Tenety's article is this: "People think Francis is cool for some good reasons. But I am here to tell you that Francis is cool because FRANCIS IS A CHRISTIAN and that is what is important. (Even though the Roman Catholic church does some yucky things, there are still lots of cool things that go on.) So don't go around thinking that Francis is cool because he agrees with you; he's not as cool as you think because HE IS A CHRISTIAN and that is what is important."

The flow of the article flows uphill, away from the present and away from real life.

I ask the question: what is the relationship between Francis' coolness, Christianity and me? What is the point? Francis is providing a clear voice for change. The challenge to me is do I lend my voice and hands to that effort? Am I inspired by Francis? I should hope so.
But that is not enough for Elizabeth Tenety.

She wants to remind us that the Pope is really working at the "Spiritual" level which is so far above our grubby political and social aspirations. In fact, for Elizabeth Tenety, Francis' engagement with the social and political realities of the global world is just evangelical salesmanship.

If Francis is a radical, it is like this: By speaking the language of the common person in the year 2013, in his awareness of the inspirational power of grand, symbolic gestures, through his call for everyday Catholics to embrace the simple, radical mandates of their baptism, Francis is awakening a world that was becoming dead to Christianity. If he’s breaking new ground, it’s because he’s discovered an effective way to call people to Christ.

I despair of Christians when they act like "calling people to Christ" is the point of the whole exercise.

After all, what is this "Christ"? The "Christ" is a shorthand for an extensive set of loyalties, doctrines, institutions and practices. At its most basic level, it is interpretation of history: an interpretation of the life and work of a man who lived 2000 years ago.

According to Tenety, when I look at what Francis says and does, I am to take it as evidence that the vast system of Christianity is good thing. So, the present and real validate the abstract and the historical.

I hope that the Christian tradition is what is pushing Francis into his engagement with the injustices of the global economy. My hope is also that the example of Francis is pushing you into your engagement with the injustices of the global economy.

Let the present and the real inspire more of the present and real.

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