Not since Princess Di's death have I witnessed such mass media fervor. The Pope is here and suddenly people are bawling in the streets and "feeling" really religious. You can now buy Pope novelty mugs and other kitschy house wares from street vendors in D.C. and N.Y. - can't wait to get my Pope dish towel!
When researching for this blog, I found out a lot about the Pope from an MSNBC.com article, including the following things we agree on:
What the Pope doesn't like about the USA:
1. He abhors relativism, considers it the greatest evil of our time. "Pick-and-Choose" Catholicism (note from B.A.A.: or picking and choosing in any religion, not just Catholicism) has roots in a philosophy of values shifting based on historical context.
2. Rampant consumer capitalism and wealth "worship" right alongside millions of fellow Americans in poverty.
What the Pope wants from Americans:
1. To go to church.
2. To embrace all of the teaching on faith and morals, because it's one consistent package.
3. To take more direct responsibility for improving the lives of the very poor in the Third World.
My concern is not the Pope. He's adorable and commendable and I'm so glad he's here reminding folks of some important tenets of Christianity. As the head of 1 billion Catholics worldwide, he deserves respect, no doubt. I admire him so much for devoting his entire life to God - how many people can really say they've done that?
It's the reactions that confound me. He's not Jesus and he's not Elvis, so why all the screaming and fainting and crying and scalping tickets to see him at a baseball stadium? If I did that every time I saw my pastor back home, I would be committed to an insane asylum (though he'd get a kick out of it).
My confusion lies with reactions like this:
"Patty Trail, 54, pastoral associate at a church in Virginia Beach, Va., drove overnight to bring two priests to the Mass. She didn't have a ticket but said she was happy to at least be in the vicinity of the pope. "Just to be out here, just to be in the presence," she said. "D.C. feels different." (B.A.A. note: isn't God with us all the time? Isn't his presence more worthwhile? When's the last time you read an article on God's presence in the streets of D.C.?)
As the head of the Catholic Church approached in the Popemobile, Suzanne Mote of Redford Township started to tremble. "My legs were shaking," Mote said by phone after seeing the pope drive by along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. "It was just stunning to have him there. It was just a chance of a lifetime to see him." (B.A.A. note: I bet it really is cool to see him, but is it a spiritual event that results in leg shaking or is it something we might equivocate with seeing another historic figure, like Queen Elizabeth or Mother Theresa?)
"One young woman, awaiting his arrival at the basilica where he addressed the bishops, began weeping at first sight of the pope's motorcade, which was projected on a large screen. He was 10 minutes away." (B.A.A. note: I wonder if this woman has ever wept over the death of Christ. It is most certainly not my place to judge if she has or hasn't, but I don’t comprehend the idea that people are weeping over a man - a good man, but still a human like you and me.)
Religious revival is great if it’s genuine. But will seeing the Pope or having him bless something make a lasting difference in a person's life? Will it cause any of the people who are trembling and weeping to go home and live right or immediately help the poor in the Third World? My hunch is that the majority of folks will focus on the Pope and his presence, as opposed to the very simple concepts he's teaching.
If people had any intention of living the way the Pope wanted, they would have done it long before they saw him cruising around in his bulletproof golf cart.
My point with this blog is simply to question the hysteria. If it's because the Pope is a cool guy that we respect very much, then fine. But if it's because we're deifying or projecting a supernatural quality on him - then that is undeniably wrong and not in any way Biblical. The Pope is not God and is not to be worshipped.
Would people behave this way if it was Jesus cruising around? Remember what happened the first time He came? He was murdered! And now the Pope gets a tricked out Popemobile and a ferosh Versace hat. Yes, it's a different time, but I suspect Jesus would not be heralded as a grand hero were he to walk among us today, and that is heartbreaking considering He's the foundation of the Pope's life and the entire Christian religion.