24 September 2015

Francis' hooks

But first ....  Arriving home today from my visits to Friends House Moscow and the Baptist seminary nearby, I eagerly went to my desk to check the news. What did Pope Francis tell the U.S. Congress? Have European leaders made progress in addressing the refugee crisis?

Instead, on the BBC Web site, devastating news from Saudi Arabia: "'Dead bodies stretch as far as my eyes can see,' said Bashir Sa'ad Abdullahi, the BBC's Abuja editor, who is in Mina."

I'm filled with grief for those people of all ages, who met their end while engaging in an act of devotion to their faith. I hope we can pause to honor that devotion, and those men, women, children, whose time with us came to an end in the midst of that act.

My prayers are also for those who have stewardship of these holy sites and who must now answer for the adequacy of the Hajj arrangements, and for those who are ministering to the grieving families. Finally, I can't help hoping that this awful disaster can interrupt the hate-mongering and enemy-imaging that we sometimes call Islamophobia. Look! -- these too are fragile human beings loved by the same God who loves you and me.

Update: Saudi king orders safety review.

What did Francis tell Congress?

You can find transcripts and competent summaries in many places, so just let me give one reflection based on a hope that I expressed in these words at the time he was elected Pope:

It's a mysterious and (hopefully) fertile anomaly that the titular head of a Christian confession automatically becomes a world leader, entitled to visibility and influence in an otherwise severely secular and often ruthlessly pragmatic circle. By design, Providence, or both, John Paul II became a hugely important figure on the global stage in his own time. He created and exploited disequilibrium in Eastern Europe on a mass scale. What I hope for Francis is that he will create and exploit disequilibrium in a more specific realm: the "world leaders" themselves, in how they envision leadership, the image of leader, the "God-bearing" quality inherent in spiritually grounded leadership. By helping them, consciously or unconsciously, "confront the gap between their espoused values and lived values," he might help accomplish a shift that is just as important as adoption of this or that policy. ("Simon and Francis.")

So far, Francis has not disappointed me. Today he used his unusual moment of visibility to address his audience as a teacher. He spoke directly to the important people gathered in the House chamber and told them (1) what their jobs really are, and (2) what the stakes are. He did it winsomely, with a measured amount of flattery for his host country, but without platitudes.

People who define themselves as important can often shrug off the wisdom of a teacher. My hope is that, by providing such an eloquent and substantial lesson before the whole world, full of deft rhetorical hooks, Francis has equipped us to keep reminding our elected servants that "the yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us." And again: "We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place." And not least, a simple but powerful reminder: "We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome."

James Carroll describes his own experience of "when popes confront the political world."

Stephen Colbert and Paul Ricoeur?

Changing the face of American Jesus.

3.5 million words later, this Quaker taxation economist is finally getting listened to (and sometimes credited). (Thanks to quakerquaker.org for the link.)

The problem of the resurrection of the wicked.

A rare thing: a newly published recording of Vladimir Vysotsky from 1979.

All Cedric Burnside knows:

Cedric Burnside "All I Know", acoustic performance from Koffler Pictures on Vimeo.

1 comment:

Bill Samuel said...

This is one of my favorite quotes from Pope Francis, from his address yesterday to the bishops:

"The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent."

Consistent Life (which I serve as President) with dozens of supporting religious and secular groups is running a full-page ad featuring this quote in Sunday's and Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer.