Sunday, May 26, 2013

If Grace Is True

I really like this new pope.  He is kind and compassionate and truly cares for the poor.  He lives a simple life, has devoted himself to doing good for the world. 

I do not know everything about him, but most of what I have heard is very cool.  So this week, I read that he said that even atheists could get be redeemed.  Whoa!   The head of the Catholic Church saying that non-Catholics could be redeemed would have a been a big one for me.  But… atheists?  It’s true.  And he used the Bible to back up his point – the gospel of Mark.  This from the Huffington Post…

“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”

I almost couldn’t believe it.  The pope said that Catholics aren’t the sole possessors of the truth.  That was a very different statement than the ones I heard growing up. 

Here is more from Reuters international news agency…

Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis said on Wednesday in his latest urging that people of all religions - or no religion - work together.

[Pope Francis] made his comments in the homily of his morning Mass in his residence, a daily event where he speaks without prepared comments.

He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus.

"Even them, everyone," the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. "We all have the duty to do good," he said.

"Just do good and we'll find a meeting point," the pope said in a hypothetical conversation in which someone told a priest: "But I don't believe. I'm an atheist."

Francis's reaching out to atheists and people who belong to no religion is a marked contrast to the attitude of former Pope Benedict, who sometimes left non-Catholics feeling that he saw them as second-class believers.

One thing that has disappointed me about Christianity, and all religions I suppose, is the feeling that if you aren’t one of us, you won’t have a happy ending.  We’re talking eternity here.  To me that is uglier than racism.  You don’t believe what I believe so you will go to Hell?  Forever?  And Ever?  I never could buy into that. 

A few years ago I had a conversation with a youth pastor I used to know, a guy I love, who I made many hours of music with.   He and his small young family were moving to Costa Rica to save people.  Knowing how strongly he held to his belief that if you weren’t a Christian that you couldn’t be saved, I said, “But I thought the people of Costa Rica were mainly Catholics.”

“That’s just it,” he said.  “Catholics aren’t saved.”  So he was going to Costa Rica, as a Christian missionary, to save the Catholics.  REALLY?

I have gone to Christian rock concerts in which there is sort of a break in the music and the band does some preachifying about missions and saving people who don’t believe.  In a Third Day concert, the lead singer spoke with anguish about all of the children who have never heard of Jesus who will never go to Heaven.  REALLY?  He knows this?  People who have never heard of Jesus don’t have a happy ending?  For ETERNITY?

So this new pope suggests that good works will do it for you.  Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point. There are 1billion, 2 hundred million Catholics in the world.  The pope’s ideas count for a lot. 

These statements will do so much to bring our world together.  Even if you are a non-believer, you’ve got to be thrilled that the leader of the Catholic Church is taking God out of a narrow-minded, over-simplified, if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-agin-us way of thinking.  If you are a believer in grace then this is a thrilling moment.


Suzanne Odell said...

soooo much to discuss here! I haven't blogged in I am feeling the call of the keyboard again....I too have been very heartened by what I have seen and heard from this new Pope to date. His latest comments though have me wrestling once again with these issues. I do not believe Christianity can be a "works based" faith. That is an I am thinking very deeply about what he really did say and what he meant, not what is being interpreted by what he said. I think that there are many ways to see God in his creation - it is about where you see Truth. Christ is one way, I believe the most complete way as Christ is I believe the authentic representation of God available to us, but not the only way God reveals Himself. Otherwise, what a limited small God He would be. I guess I better log on to my blog and get started!

Nic E said...

I quite like our Archbishop of Canterbury, come to think of it. I'm not a religious person, but I like him all the same. ;)