Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Papal Politics

I remember being advised to avoid discussing politics and religion when in mixed company. I didn't really heed that advice as a young adult and would often speak freely about my point of view; even though I wasn't really engaged with the church and had no interest in politics beyond what was portrayed on Saturday Night Live. Today I find myself actively engaged with the church and politics. Religion and politics are interesting and rewarding but, ironically, I now find them more difficult to talk about than I did as a young adult. The more I study and learn, the less I feel I really know!

Maybe for the first time I understand the advice given to me about avoiding these discussions. The advice wasn't implying these topics should be avoided completely; it is saying these topics need to be treated with the proper reverence and respect. I'm not supposed to know everything and I'm not supposed to use these discussions to say I'm right and someone else is wrong. Religion and politics are intended to bring us together, not drive us apart. On his first trip to the US, Pope Francis delivered this message when he addressed Congress and the United Nations.

A group of us gathered in the boardroom of Grace Baptist Church and discussed the Pope's visit. We talked about the lack of the gospel in the media coverage and the criticism the Pope received as some felt he missed an opportunity to evangelize. Evangelism means different things to different people and that's okay! But did he really miss an opportunity?
Pope Francis stood in front a divided congress, which is representing a divided country, and asked we come together for the common good. He asked we avoid the temptation to categorize others as it only serves to divide and polarize us. He asked we relate to one another. Why wouldn't Pope Francis take this opportunity to preach the gospel? It certainly seems like he got the same advice I did and avoided discussing religion and politics. I don't know the reasons why, but I do know over 90% of Congress identifies as Christian. Maybe the Pope realized the message this group needed was not the one they expected. Maybe he wanted to show the power of the gospel is more than Jesus' birth, death and resurrection.

Imagine if every member of Congress returned to their constituents and gave them the message they needed rather than the one they expected. A message that wasn't delivering talking points for the party designed to build up one side while tearing down the other; but rather a message of unity. Imagine the power of an elected official focusing on serving ALL of their constituents and not just those who will assure they get re-elected. Imagine those constituents returning to their homes and discussing the ideas of unity and inclusion with their families rather than showing hostility toward those of a differing view. Imagine if we all treated others as we would want to be treated. I think I read about that in a book by some guy named Matthew.

I ask again did he really miss an opportunity to preach the gospel? Or did we miss an opportunity by not really listening to what he said? I suppose time will tell what message was received. Maybe while we're waiting, you'd like to stop by Grace Baptist Church in Blue Bell at 9:30 AM next Sunday to sit in on our next chat. All are welcome!

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