- olive branches and morning sun-
I just finished watching Pope Francis address the Congress of the United States. I found it to be extraordinarily moving and significant – not only because of what the Pope said but because the voice of a “pope” was heard within the walls of the very heart of the political institution of this land.
There are many people who feel that, because we live in a land of the “separation of church and state,” religious voices have no place in our political life; and on one level I can certainly understand the hesitancy about introducing religion into politics.
Throughout history and in our own contemporary times there are countless example of “religious voices” that have been strident, judgmental, divisive and destructive.
In the name of religion wars have been waged, and people have been tortured and killed. Religion has been used to cast away the powerless, elevating the strong and reducing the weak, denigrating human dignity. In the name of religion entire societies have been subdued in order to convert them to the true faith.
So I get why some people are very hesitant about introducing a “religious voice” into the politics of a land which, on the surface, values liberty and justice for all
And yet, while religion has often been (and continues to be) co-opted by fundamentalists and extremists, the essential core of all authentic world religions is one of compassion, mercy and reconciliation.
The core foundation of Judaism is “love of God,” and “love of neighbor,” the basic teaching of Jesus is the dignity of every human person, at a fundamental level the Quran directs all people to treat one another with compassion, Buddhism and Hinduism are grounded in a spirit of compassion for all beings.
Compassion lies at the heart of all religions and so any authentic religious voice is always a voce of compassion.
Renowned authority on world religions, Karen Armstrong, put it this way:
At their very core all world religions are grounded in compassion.
The chief religious task of our day is to build a global community where all
people can live together in mutual respect
and where the powerful treat the weak as they wish to be treated themselves.
This morning when I heard Pope Francis address congress, I heard the “prophetic voice” of religion being raised in those halls of politics. It was a voice crying out in the wilderness, a voice calling for compassion, for mutual respect, a voice calling the powerful to treat the weaker according to the “golden rule:” treat others as you, yourselves, would like to be treated.
While some people may feel that the religious voice should be silenced in the public forum, I think perhaps we need to hear the voice of that core religious message more vociferously than ever in our own day.
In an age when we hear our politicians advocate the building of walls to keep out undesirable foreigners and in a time when the rich get rich while the poor get pushed further and further down the rungs of opportunity in this country, we need to hear that prophetic voice the like the one sounded today on Capitol Hill - a voice speaking out for those who have no voice, a voice of compassion in a land that is more and more becoming barren and void of human kindness.
Karen Armstrong also said:
At their fundamental core all religions are designed to teach us
how to live joyfully, serenely and kindly in the midst of suffering.
This morning I heard a prophetic voice of authentic religion echoing in the halls of American politics. It reminded all Americans who we really are in this land of liberty and justice for all- it spoke to our better angels.