The Desert Floor
-wide open spaces and level ground-
I would venture to say that many (perhaps most) people today don't pay a whole lot of attention to statements made by religious leaders. Every once in a while the news reports something the pope or bishop or a rabbi may have said, and it all seems pretty tame and usually rather innocuous - "let's all pray for world peace."
Actually I think that most people expect religion to be rather innocuous and they don't want religious leaders to "stir up the pot."
Yesterday I read what Pope Francis said in his recent "papal exhortation," and I was literally stunned by his statements. I read what he had to say with a great sense of delight - finally a religious leader (or any leader) who is bold enough to take off the gloves and say what needs to be said to a bloated ego-centered culture.
The pope's bold pronouncements yesterday were anything but sugar-coated and not at all innocuous. They were, in fact, quite subversive and even revolutionary - hardly comforting and not able to be easily dismissed especially if you are an American or live in a capitalist society.
Pope Francis denounced the "tyranny"of capitalism, decrying the "dictatorship" of a capitalistic society in which the rich and prosperous ignore and oppress the poor and the weak. He denounced the "idolatry" of money that perpetuates inequality and "devours" what is fragile, including human beings and the environment.
He said that we have many commandments telling us what not to do, "Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not murder, etc," and he suggested a new "thou shalt not" commandment:
Thou shalt not have an economy of exclusion and inequality
One of my favorite phrases from yesterday's revolutionary manifesto:
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person
dies of exposure,
but it is news when the stock market
loses two points?
When I read what Francis had to say to the world yesterday, I thought to myself, "Now these are fighting words;" and I was instantly reminded of Jesus causing a ruckus in the temple - passionately overturning the table of the money changers and lashing out against a culture that includes a handful of the rich and famous and throws everyone else away (Jesus caused so much trouble that they eventually executed him).
Religion in our own day has become so tame that I almost forget that all the great religious heroes of history have been counter-cultural, subversive revolutionaries.
I think of the fiery prophets of Israel. I think about the rebel Jesus. I think about people like Martin Luther King Jr. - all of them standing in bold, unequivocal opposition to the kings and princes and empires of their own day. They were voices for the voiceless, lifting up the poor and weak to sit among princes and kings, all on level-ground, everyone given an equal place of dignity at the table of life.
Many people today ignore religion, while others want to keep their religion nice and tame, sugar-coated and comforting, confined to an hour on a Sunday morning. Yesterday we all learned something about what religious belief is really supposed to be:
subversive and revolutionary
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