Friday, September 20, 2013

Sea Change

a new day

This morning, as I watched a new day dawning,  I wondered if people are ever aware of significant historical change when they are living in the midst of it -as it happens. I wondered, for example, about that crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago who were listening to a speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. Did they realize the significance of those words, "I have a Dream" echoing and rippling out into the ages?

I think that the impact of most major "history-changing" events are like a tsunami - an earthquake that happens in the deep sea, but the impact of it isn't felt until later - when the roaring waves rush up to the surface and pound onto the shores. 

This morning as I watched a new day dawn, I wondered if maybe a "tsunami" happened yesterday,  and most people aren't yet quite aware of the significant impact it will have?

Yesterday, Pope Francis made some incredibly significant statements. He said the church is far too "obsessed" with issues like abortion, contraception, homosexuality and gay marriage. He articulated a vision of an "inclusive" church- a big wide tent under which everyone can gather (not just Catholics, not just Christians, not just believers). He criticized the church for putting dogma before love and for prioritizing moral doctrine over serving the poor and marginalized. 

I think maybe an earthquake happened deep in the sea of the culture yesterday, and we haven't yet quite understood or yet felt its impact or historic significance. Dare I say it, I think that maybe there has been a "sea change."

There are over a billion Catholics in the world. On top of that, billions of other people pay attention when the pope speaks. While some conservative Catholics are saying that the pope has not changed any of the teaching of the church, I think they are dead wrong. I think that what the pope said yesterday is a significant change in what the church teaches and what the church stands for -a major change, a sea change.

The words of Pope Francis yesterday fly in the face of strident moralists who stand in pulpits and denounce gay and lesbian people, condemning them to damnation.  I think the words of Pope Francis yesterday fly in the face of those who claim that the elimination of same-sex marriage must be the primary objective of the religious institution. 

I think the pope's words yesterday throw down the gauntlet to all religious institutions throughout the world - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim- everyone, everywhere. "Do not put dogma before love.   Do not obsess on morality and fail to make caring for the poor and the marginalized as your main focus." If you ask me, these are "sea-changing"words.

Interestingly enough, yesterday as the interview with the pope was hitting the news and lighting up the social media,  U.S. House Republicans passed a bill that would drastically cut federal food stamps. If passed, this bill would exclude 4 million Americans from receiving the kind of aid that is needed to have enough food to eat. Imagine it, 15% of our fellow citizens live in poverty, and many people in a land of "liberty and justice for all" go to bed hungry every night. 

Could it be that those words of Pope Francis might even ripple into the halls of congress - care for the poor, reach out to the marginalized, let everyone have a place of dignity at the table of life? It may be wishful thinking, but one can always hope.

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  1. Your writing made me think that when we focus on the negative all we do is add more weight, more substance to it. We talk about problems such as the Church's focus on controversial issues and end up consolidating them. I believe that a new dialogue, a new paradigm, needs to be created. Your reading of the Pope's statement also made me hopeful. I am reminded of Einstein's words: that a problem cannot be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it. Best wishes to you, S