Wednesday, February 5, 2014
I don't go to church. I don't have a religion.
Though my mother was Jewish, my father, who was born into a rabbinical family, was proudly, rebelliously an agnostic.
He explained what that meant to me when I first asked about God. We were living in an all white, Christian suburb of Chicago where no Jewish families resided. I was an outcast in grade school. One day, the girls attacked me on the playground, yelling "You're a Christ killer -- you Jews killed Christ." Afterwards, on Sundays, I went knocking on the doors of various churches hoping to enroll in a Sunday School. I was rejected by Lutheran, Protestant, and the Christian Science Church, probably because when they asked about my parent's religion, I declared, "I am an agnostic."
So the Pope is not my father, leader, teacher, or guide. I think of the Catholic Church as a huge corporation with vast power to rule and affect opinions. I was impressed by Blessed Pope John Paul, but never felt connected to him and didn't like Pope Joseph Aloisius Ratzsinger -- he seemed like a not very holy politician.
Nevertheless, I pay attention to what the Catholic Church is emphasizing, but the celibate priest sandals, and the anti gay stuff offend me, and what they say about abortion and contraception collides head-on with my logic -- it's as if the Catholics are saying the world is flat, when we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the world is round.
But Pope Francis -- everything he says and does affirms these words that he has said: "I'm one of you, nothing more than you -- a person -- a friend that wants to cheer you, help you in any way that I can."
Nancy Gibbs, Managing Editor of Time Magazine who named Francis as Person of the Year, wrote about him beautifully: "He released his first exhortation, an attack on 'the idolatry of money,' just as Americans were contemplating the day set aside for gratitude and whether to spend it at the mall."
"He lives not in the papal palace surrounded by courtiers, but in a spare hostel surrounded by priests. He prays all the time, even while waiting for the dentist. He has retired the papal Mercedes in favor of a scuffed-up Ford Focus. No red shoes, no gilded cross, just an iron one is around his neck...
"When he rejects the pomp and the privilege, releases information on Vatican finances for the first time, reprimands a profligate German Archbishop, cold-calls strangers in distress, offers to baptize the baby of a divorced woman whose married lover wanted her to abort it, he is doing more than modeling mercy and transparency. He is embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals."
Pope Francis himself has said, "Don’t just preach; listen, Don’t scold; heal." And referring to a battlefield, says, "The church is a field hospital. Our first duty is to tend to the wounded. You don’t ask a bleeding man about his cholesterol level."
I like this man. He seems like a manly man who is addressing agnostic me, including me when he makes suggestions. I like his smile, his tone of voice. He's doesn't seem like a King or a CEO who's front and center in one of the world's richest most powerful corporations. I feel as if I visited him, I wouldn't be out of place -- he's truly a father, teacher, friend, and guide -- I can listen to him and still be me.
I picked this video because actions speak louder than words.