Friday, September 18, 2015

The pope is coming. The pope is coming.

There is always some media event or the other here in America.  I can easily imagine t-shirts and baseball caps sold to memorialize the trip.  Money will be made--of course, not by me!  BTW, let me tell you a little bit about me, ok?  Me is a pronoun used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition!  A horrible groaner, eh?  Hahaha!

Everybody loves Pope Francis, Public Radio reported when I was driving back from campus.  Yep, the commute to campus has begun.  Anyway, enough about me; back to the pope:
Roman Catholics — who make up about 20 percent of the US population — are jazzed about Francis coming, which is hardly surprising. After all, the pope is their representative of Jesus Christ on earth.
But plenty of people from other faith traditions are singing the praises of Francis. And that goes for non-believers too.
“Some of Pope Francis’s actions are really praiseworthy,” says Greg Epstein, who works as the humanist chaplain at Harvard University. Epstein is an atheist.
As I listened to it, I forgot about the pope.  It was like, "hold it right there; the university has a humanist chaplain and he is an atheist?"  Damn, no wonder Harvard is Harvard, and then there is Western Oregon University ;)

So, the atheist chaplain loves the pope?
 But Epstein says he refuses to lionize a world leader with beliefs that are so out of step with a large chunk of the American public.
“Pope Francis is still out there advocating for a view of human sexuality that is really damaging to a lot of people. He’s giving temporary, partial absolution to some women who’ve had abortions this year. It’s a good step, but it’s not a solution,” Espstein says.
Esptein hopes people will be open to what Pope Francis has to say on his trip to the US, but also that they listen with a critical ear.
I am not sure that we have enough people who listen to anybody with a critical ear.  Most people seemed to have stopped listening.  And among those that do listen not many do that "critical thinking."

But, apparently there is a good chance that Francis might make political leaders here a tad uncomfortable:
America’s political leaders should expect some discomforting talk when the pope addresses Congress. He will likely praise the founding ideals of the United States — but point out the ways in which its leaders fall short. He’ll be equally blunt when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on issues ranging from climate change to poverty to war and refugees.
If that will be his agenda, then it seems like the Democrats will applaud him all the time, while the Republicans might begin to wonder if the pope really is a Latin American Marxist communist!  The NY Times has even setup  an opinion debate on "How Radical is Pope Francis?"
The Republican leaders of the House and Senate may squirm a bit, though, when he addresses a joint session of Congress. After decades of a conservative papal vision, the pope’s call to fight inequality and climate change has inspired many progressives, but infuriated conservatives. Is he focusing on issues at the center of Catholic teaching, or has he abandoned core Catholic beliefs to promote a liberal agenda? 
The Economist has a different kind of observation:
In the course of his travels the pontiff, who has shown real eloquence in condemning the excesses of the capitalist north, can still expect some hard questions about his attitude to excesses of another kind. Will he denounce left-wing authoritarianism as much as he has denounced the right-wing variety?
Francis won't let himself be dragged into that kind of a mess.  He seems to be charmingly diplomatic, especially after his predecessor's rottweiler image.  A diplomat is tactful.
Francis is a grandmaster of messaging. Religion writer Michael O’Loughlin has named him, “The Tweetable Pope.” 
Of course, a Tweetable Pope:
Bishops are getting crash courses on tweeting and live streaming, and organizers are pushing the official papal hashtags: #PopeInUS and, for Spanish speakers, #PapaEnUSA.
It seems to me that our political theatre will get that much more exciting to watch.  I tell ya, never a dull media moment in these United States of America! ;)


Ramesh said...

Picking up on the issue of listening that you refer to in your post. Increasingly, listening is becoming selective and through the heavy filter of pre conceived bias. There is often the two extremes - the speaker is either speaking the gospel truth and ought to be deified, or everything the speaker is saying is utter nonsense and unadulterated gibberish.

Even Sarah Palin can occasionally utter a word or two of sense, and even Kim Jong Un (to the North Koreans) can say a word or two of rubbish. And yet, we either completely agree or completely disagree. I would suggest that we ought to strain and find a sensible thought from somebody we disagree with in general and equally find an idea to disagree with from a person we normally admire.

I shall try my best to find a word of substance in Paul Krugman, but I will need a year of penance and practice before I can do likewise with Noam Chomsky :)

Sriram Khé said...

Chomsky has plenty, plenty of deep insights. If only he would deliver them in ways that will pass through your filters too. I have never understood why he has to take the tone that he often does. So much so that even I--a huge sympathizer of his ideas--get turned off ... For you, my friend, it will be more than a year of penance before you will be last through his talk and Q/A ;)

It is not only that we listeners do the listening in biased ways, increasingly those delivering their pronouncements are intentionally shrill and biased. They make it very clear right at the very outset that their aim is not to engage in debate and discussions in order to arrive at a better understanding. Unfortunate.

Anne in Salem said...

"But Epstein says he refuses to lionize a world leader with beliefs that are so out of step with a large chunk of the American public."

I guess Epstein missed the religion class that explained that Catholicism isn't a democracy. It is authoritarian. Allowable rule changes (many are not up for debate) come from Rome, not from the people. The pope's role is keeper of the faith, not acquiescer to the masses. Besides, a large chunk of the American public voted twice for Obama. Why would anyone want a pope who agrees with that lot? :)

Sriram Khé said...

The problem is that there is the pope who is the religious leader, and then there is the same pope who also has a political role. Not merely now, but ever since the Vatican became a kingdom with its huge palace, the cardinals as the princes-in-waiting, the alliances with other monarchs ... In the contemporary global politics, the pope playing the in-between and bringing Cuba and the US to the negotiating table is not any religious pope's actions but a political pope's. The pope weighs in on issues that are very much a part of the secular world's concerns--like with homosexuality, abortion, climate change, ... If the pope were only a religious leader, then, yes, there isn't much for outsiders like Epstein or me to criticize.

Sriram Khé said...

Reason's first take on the Pope's remark:
"The Pope’s White House Speech Was Explicitly Political"

Again, my point is that the pope is not making a religious visit, but is making a political visit. Which means, of course, people are going to comment about his politics.