Friday, September 27, 2013

"Frank"ness is next to Godliness

I don’t normally write my opinions about organized religion in general or Roman Catholicism in particular.  I was born catholic, raised catholic, and educated in catholic schools.  I am an active member of a catholic church and belong to the music ministry.  That is not to say that practicing catholicism is simple or easy.  It’s not.  There are rules, you see.

For the past 15 years or so, I have had an extremely hard time keeping the faith, as it were.  While growing older and perhaps even a bit wiser, I find there is little in this world that falls into the black or white category.  Most things are gray by nature.  We are taught to have opinions, black or white, yes or no, all or nothing, good or bad, but I have to assume that God gave each of us a brain for a reason, and that He expects us to use it to the best of our ability to discern what is black, what is white, and what is gray.

We sometimes become so focused on a single issue where we take a black or white view, that it distorts our ability to see anything else in the big picture.  Life is not about one issue.  Life is about the greater good.  When Jesus walked the earth as a common man, he raged against the money lenders while he ministered to sinners, fed the hungry, helped the poor, and healed the sick.  He told us to do the same.  It seems the lesson he taught has been forgotten.

I watch in disbelief as those with agendas use our zeal about a particular issue (such as abortion or homosexuality) to sway otherwise intelligent human beings into basing their politics and their votes on that single hotbed issue.  Make no mistake, an enormous number of Christians, whether they are catholic or protestant, have been swayed to vote for questionable candidates based on abortion or gay marriage.  But you don’t just get a politician who does nothing but back your point of view.  You get someone who stands up and says “Vote for me because abortion is a sin, and homosexuality is a sin,” then turns right around and votes to stop those in need from getting healthcare, to stop children and the elderly from receiving much needed food assistance, cutting funding to schools that educate our kids, and putting money in the coffers of the rich. 

The catholic church is more than a little outspoken about the issues of abortion and gay marriage, and that is fine with me…be as outspoken as you like.  It’s a free country.  But trying to guilt people into voting only for pro-life, anti-gay marriage candidates is not fine.  The Roman Catholic church, with all its highly educated priests, and bishops, and cardinals wants to cut the dead tree in the middle of the billion-acre forest, and they’ll fell every last tree in the forest to get to it.  We are stuck on our own rhetoric, hoisted on our own petard.  I was very close to thinking that there was no hope for my church.

Then along came Pope Frank.  He does not don the ceremonial garb of the papacy.  He refuses to live in the papal quarters and lives in a regular apartment.  He left the Vatican and went to a regular church to pray the day after his election.  He bought himself a little car to drive around, just like an average guy.  He preaches the gospel of Jesus, not the rhetoric of the church. He has called out the church hierarchy for dwelling on issues like abortion and gay marriage while ignoring even more pressing issues that need attention.  I like this Pope.  And I am not being disrespectful in calling him Pope Frank.  I am honoring his actions as a common man, trying to live and act as Jesus would.  Perhaps he can change the direction of the church to more closely fit what Jesus intended.  Pope Frank, I hope you have a long run.