Monday, September 28, 2015

Fascination with Pope

Some real quick thoughts this morning. On Saturday night, I found myself saying, "For a moment in time, America seems really enamored with the Pope. Why?"

[BTW, Keith Drury re-posted this document some of us at IWU created a few years back on the Catholic Catechism. It points out the places where, say, Wesleyans would differ from Catholics. You can also see that most of the document has no comments. We should also keep in mind that the RCC today also differs quite a bit after Vatican 2 in the 1960s than before. See, for example, this joint statement on justification by faith by both Catholics and Lutherans.]

So why is America enamored with the Pope? My first two points are trivial. But the second two may hold out some thoughts for us as the church in America.

1. Star power
We are enamored with any superstar. I'd probably go to the White House if any President invited me, even if I strongly disagreed with him or her.

2. Catholic pride
There are a lot of nominal Catholics out there who don't agree with the Pope, but they grew up Catholic. This would include a significant number of people in the media.

3. The Pope's humility and confidence
The Pope is clear in what he believes, but he isn't pushy. It's at this point that I began to wonder. There is a place for pushy prophets. But I wonder if the point where America is ripe for revival right now is churches with a confident yet non-pushy humility. It seems clear to me that much of America is enamored with this man who is so confident and yet so loving and so humble.

I wonder if this is a point for revival. The revival point in America right now might not be with the pushy prophets, who could actually be pushing people in the direction of hell right now. Is it possible that some souls will be lost who might otherwise have been saved because of what are perceived to be angry, pushy people?

4. The Pope's message is attractive.
Call it liberal, but the message of love toward all, forgiveness toward sinners, helping the poor, showing mercy to the immigrant, stewarding the environment seems to be an attractive message to a lot of non-Christian Americans. And of course while there are some Christians who decry these as Devilish, there are also a lot of Christians who would say these are actually the core of the Bible.

I wonder if it is thus from some "liberal" direction of this sort that the next great American revival will come. Revival never comes from where we expect it. We want it to come from where it came before.

Bottom line: Saturday night I found myself wondering if the Pope's popularity revealed that there was actually still a spiritual longing in America. I found myself wondering if America is actually ripe for a revival, but one that will come from the "wrong" place.

We'll see.


Patrick Bowers said...

Ken, I am totally with you on points 1-3, but your third point begs the question…revival of what or to what? People revert back to a place of order they know when they feel disconnected and stuck in ambiguity. Technology and fear has made us more and more disconnected. So what does the Church have to offer that would create a revival? Revivals throughout U.S. history seem to be centered around emotions and charismatic people, I not sure that is what we need. If a demon is cast out and nothing takes its place than is a revival better than that first demon?
Point 4: One of the most powerful figures in the world who is not confined or influence by any nation state publicly shows a different way to serve as a leader. And he serves in a way which both beguiles those on the right and the left…why wouldn’t that make him popular? After Pope John Paul II (the post-communism/pro-consumer Pope), and Pope Benedict XVI (the scholar Pope), why wouldn’t a more humble Pope be in order? I think Pope Francis is trying to get the Catholic Church to embody Matthew 25:31-46 more and using Pope Benedict XVI encyclical The Seven Social Sins as a filter.
I don’t know if what Pope Francis is proposing is either conservative or liberal? If anything you have a Pope who has lived amoung the poor and has taken a vowel of poverty and he is not letting the position of Pope change him to be something different. In faithfully living out those vowels what he does is consistent in what he sees the way the Catholic Church should be.

Nijay K. Gupta said...

I would also add that Pope Francis is Argentinian, an "outsider" voice.