“Why haven’t you written something on your blog about Pope Francis and Donald Trump? As the Catholic blogger for the Times Union, don’t you have a responsibility to write about these things?” The question arrived in the form of an email from an acquaintance and took me by surprise.
As it happens, I am not the only Catholic blogger on the Religion/Beliefs corner of the TU blog platform. My friend, former grad school classmate Walter Ayers is present in that space as well. And I do not bear any responsibility to do anything. It goes like this – the paper asked if I would blog on their platform four years ago and I agreed. If I stop blogging, the newspaper police burst through my door and drag me before my “blog boss” Michael Huber, who is the Interactive Audience Manager for the paper. In fact, I have so few obligations, I keep this platform up, my “home” space, and the newspaper blog is a mirror.
That reply to my acquaintance generated another question. “Don’t you care about what is happening?” Oh I do, trust me – I do care. Matters of walls and bridges matter to me very much, the pope matters, the election matters, but I did not want to write about something that has been over-examined and well-explained already.
So why this post today? I guess I will add a few of my own thoughts based on the email exchange – as well as go into a related topic. The Trump-Pope thing became an overblown media maelstrom. The net result it appears is this. The “Trumpeters” love their idol even more. “Yeah! He will make America great again! He will show that stupid pope, who is an antichrist anyway!” My quote marks indicate some general commentary, not really quoting anyone – well except that woman from New Hampshire.
Also, many of those who dislike Trump dislike him even more now. “How dare he take on Pope Francis? He has no moral foundation! He isn’t a Christian!” Really? We honestly don’t know who is or isn’t a Christian, do we? I would venture to say that the man has not exhibited many characteristics of a person of faith, but I’m not going there. (As a side note, an interesting take on Trump, Christianity, and the religious right can be heard on this episode of This American Life, which I highly recommend.)
OK, so those who are for are more for, those who are against are more against. Where does that leave us? The kerfuffle between Francis and Trump brings forth these reflections from me:
- Why do we give our power away? Our power comes from Christ and Christ alone, so why do we care so much about either man? Don’t get me wrong, I love Pope Francis and I love how he has invigorated the faith, but he is just that – a man. I am grateful that while he sits in the Chair of Peter we are focusing on mercy and the poor. However, one day another pope will sit in that chair, and we may or may not “like” him – then what? Where is Christ in that?
- The evil one, the tempter, that divider, devil one… where does that one figure into our equation? I’ll tell you that I think that is a bigger problem. Every time we are distracted in these ways, angered in these ways, take our focus off of Christ in these ways, that one has a small victory. Now I always believe that Jesus will prevail, but we are given opportunities and if we misuse our righteous anger, if we overly focus on those who seem to be against God, I think we play right into that one’s hands. Can this Pope/Trump situation be any clearer in that regard?
- What about our own sins? That’s right – our own sins. Sometimes we reject the word sin, toss it aside like some old-fashioned unworkable item from our past. That embarrassing thing our parents, grandparents, church and others foisted upon us to make us feel inadequate and ashamed! I get that, oh do I ever get that! Yet, when we discard “sin” as something to be ignored, don’t we risk a great deal?
- Some examples – when I examine my own conscience; most of my “sins” are tiny little chinks in the surface, minor indiscretions that are often habitual that I do not even notice them. Over time they build up, small lies become part of a false life, justifiable anger ferments into a bitter wine of resentment and hate that becomes so acidic that it burns from within and without. Even if it is not that bad a cataract forms over the eye of our hearts, we think we can see, but we really can’t This is the place where my own sins live and the place that must be healed. It ain’t all sex, drugs, and rock and roll sin that plagues us. In fact, the every day variety, not to mention institutional or structural sin is far worse. (Blogs posts for another day!)
Those are just a few things to consider. I’m much more concerned about the state of our world in regard to what we can bring to the world as the Body of Christ, than I am about the idiotic campaign wars of words. If we still want to focus all our energy for or against Trump, or any political candidate, we might want to reconsider what the pope did say on the plane that day:
“Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ So at least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe, I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”
So maybe that is where we redirect our hearts. No matter who we support or dislike, the real question may be this: are we builders of walls or bridges? And if we build bridges, who do we welcome across them? Those are more important things in these times.
What do you think?