Facebook has been uninhabitable these past few weeks, what with the war on Christmas thing combined with the Duck Dynasty flap. Both are ridiculous in my estimation, but perhaps this is because I cannot grow a beard.
Mixed into these posts, I found one from a FB friend describing the huge shifts in doctrine undertaken by Pope Francis signaled in a speech he made at the end of Vatican III. Now, I don’t follow the Roman Catholic church closely, but I would’ve paid attention to a Vatican III. My friend was duped by a faux article that in very serious tones marked official changes in church doctrine, including a denial of eternal punishment and an acceptance of all religions as true.
What is remarkable about this is that this article could be believable to some. Had this article been describing changes made by John Paul or Benedict, the article would’ve been recognized immediately as a spoof. But this pope, this guy who wants you to call him Francis (shout out to Noland and other CS fans), has been so different that we could believe massive shifts in church doctrine actually could be occurring. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine have said something to the effect, “I like this new pope.”
Yet, here’s the thing. No official teachings of the church have actually changed. None. Not abortion. Not gay marriage. Not stem-cell research. Not celibate clergy. Not even the church’s stance toward the poor, which some see to be Francis’ biggest shift in the practice of the Papacy.
So,what to make of this? First, there have been substantive new directions charted by Francis. For instance, he sees the eucharist as a table of healing. It is not to be withheld from sinners as a sign of excommunication. Rather, it is a place where sinners find the healing nourishment of Christ. And the images of Francis which have come to us: eschewing the red papal slippers (which is just so right at so many levels); disciplining the German bishop who extravagantly appointed his home; embracing the poor the disfigured, and muslims; responding to a query about homosexual priests with “who am I to judge?” (Well, you’re the pope). These acts, when taken together, constitute real and substantive changes even when the official doctrines of the church have not changed.
I’m of the mind that Francis is the real deal and that these are not merely publicity stunts to make the Catholic Church more human. But, regardless of Francis’ intention, this is what has happened. The image of the church has become more human. More merciful. Less intolerant. More humble. More engaged with the suffering of the world. And my hunch is that deep change is more likely to be ignited this way than through new papal teachings.
And this is where the Duck Dynasty folks (or at least, Phil) have some things to learn from Francis. It’s possible to believe what you believe and still live humanely toward others. (To be fair, the Duck Dynasty guys are not the leaders of a world-wide religion. Wait, on second thought…). It’s possible to have convictions and to say, “who am I to judge?” It’s possible to believe certain things are sin and still see the food of Christ as offering healing for us all. It’s possible to live the truth as love.
I don’t like the fact that Pope Francis is 77, though he does look good.
“And this is where the Duck Dynasty folks have some things to learn from Francis. It’s possible to believe what you believe and still live humanely toward others. (To be fair, the Duck Dynasty guys are not the leaders of a world-wide religion. Wait, on second thought…). It’s possible to have convictions and to say, “who am I to judge?” It’s possible to believe certain things are sin and still see the food of Christ as offering healing for us all. It’s possible to live the truth as love.”
mark, i’m confused. do you agree with what phil said and was reported by GQ, or do you think he coulda said it in a nicer way? i believe phil when he said that he loves all humanity. i believe what he says about sin. i believe in the old saying of “love the sinner. hate the sin.”
Kenny, I don’t know Phil, but I would suggest that its dubious whether “love the sinner, hate the sin” is either psychologically possible or distinguishable to those whose sin you hate.
i hear ya, mark. just one more question, and mind you i do not have a college education, so some big words may boggle me and i may have to google them, but do you think his answers would have been better received if they were put in kinder, softer words?
I think “who am I to judge” would have worked pretty well. I think his response is troubling at several levels and I’m not sure how to save it.
Thank you for this post Mark. Especially for “It’s possible to believe certain things are sin and still see the food of Christ as offering healing for us all.” Amen and thank you.
An earlier draft painted all the Duck Dynasty guys with the same brush. That was my mistake. I’m sure they have different views on things. I apologize for too broad a statement. I think most readers knew I was referring to Phil’s comments.
To a large extent it depends on what one means by ‘judge’. The English has two (well, at least two :)) senses – one as in to pass sentence, to condemn, and the other to evaluate, to to come to a conclusion based on observation – but not with a condemnatory component. So, if by ‘Who am I to judge?’, you mean ‘Who am I to condemn?’, then that is Biblical teaching – God is the one who will make that level of judgment. However, if by ‘Who am I to judge?’, you mean, ‘Who am I to evaluate in light of ?’, then that’s something reasonable. If a teaching holds up some behaviour as wrong, then one’s actions can be ‘evaluated’ in light of that teaching, without ‘condemning’ the individual. Love will see a wrong action, but still love the person – in the Christian sense, as we try to be like God, who, while we were still sinners, sent His Son to save us from those sins.
Maybe I missed it, but I did not read or hear Phil Robertson say that he was judging. All he did was quote Paul in 1 Corinthians. I believe Phil was letting The Word judge.
Love it! Thanks
well said, bro. well said.
“It’s possible to believe what you believe and still live humanely toward others. It’s possible to have convictions and to say, “who am I to judge?” It’s possible to believe certain things are sin and still see the food of Christ as offering healing for us all.”
I like what you say here, Mark. Living this way is much easier on the mind, the heart, and the soul. I think it’s called “peaceful living.” I do believe it is the Christmas story–the-peace-on-earth-and-goodwill-to-all-humanity part
When I was growing up in the Church of Christ, judging was serious stuff and widely practiced! The problem of judging without love is that it leaves no room for teaching. (or learning) Thankfully, my friends in the COC now reach out in love and not judgement, and the results are often life and eternal change. Teaching with love is the example that God gave us to follow.
It’s such a relief to be able to admit that we are all sinners who continue to sin every day, but that we are on a continual mission of self improvement. I think that is what God expects of us, and is why we continue to forgive and give thanks for being forgiven.