Pope Francis – A Jolly Good Hero
At long last, I surrender to the urge to confess that I’m a secret fan of Pope Francis. It’s a bit hard for me to do so, because I’m not a religious person and I’m used to think of popes as detached, stubborn old men – no offense. 😀 Actually, I’m Catholic, but I haven’t seen the inside of a church for ages, except during weddings and sightseeings. When I was young, I used to pray like kids do, asking for protection and presents, I was even an altar boy for some time. But my religion was rather a custom than a matter of faith. As I reached adolescence, God and religion slipped into oblivion.
When I turned eighteen and discovered the harsh side of life, I even took a stand against religion. I read Nietzsche and called religion names, like escapism. I embraced reality, worked hard, partied hard, and loved hard. I agreed that ends justify means and didn’t look back.
So, what makes me look up to Pope Francis after all this time?
As I grew older something began to stir inside my heart. It’s a bit hard to put a label at it. The best term I can come up with is goodwill. I think it started with the birth of my first child – children bring out the best in us. 🙂 First, this sprouting benevolence bothered me. It didn’t help me in meeting life challenges and I felt it made me weak. But my kindness didn’t bother about me either and so a deep conflict grew: my heart insisted to be considerate while my head demanded that I should act as a man and do what I have to do for myself and my family.
This cut is running deep through all of us, as well as through our civilization: the divide between heart and head, ethics and necessity, mercy and severity, faith and skepticism, rationality and belief, even religion and science. In fact, a cold war is raging within our society, with two vast forces on both sides, one armed to the teeth with facts, reason, and cynicism, the other wielding faith, intuition, and scare-tactics. And that brings me back to Pope Francis: he is making a stand between those two intimidating armies, trying to mediate and reunite our divided society. And this is what I honor: a man making a lonely stand.
Dear Francis, it must have been hard for you to step out of your comfort zone, risking cross and even friendly fire. Many people have tried to soften and modernize the Catholic catechism, one of the most rigid and defensive cognitive structures planet earth has ever seen. Not so long ago people lost their lives trying. Who is supporting you? Ten to one, you don’t have many friends in the Vatican, an organization subject to fierce lobbying, rattled by financial and sexual scandals. Your predecessor threw the towel after eight short years.
For some strange reason, your opponents don’t appreciate your efforts either. I suspected that the rational, scientific camp would welcome your gesture, but for them, you’re not scientific enough. Really guys? How about some support? One step in the right direction is better than a million steps in the wrong direction or a million steps not done … wait is there such thing? 😉
I’m not worried whether Francis’ announcements about the Big Bang and evolution are far-reaching enough, because I’m sure these two simple statements will already change planet earth. Consider the situation: Pope Francis isn’t sitting in a small dingy that can make a 360-degree turn within seconds. He’s steering a cruise ship of mega proportions with more than one billion passengers on board. Turning the Catholic Titanic (just kiddin 😀 ) by a few degrees has a huge impact. Other Christian cruise ships may follow the change of direction as well; so, we are talking two billion people at the end of the day.
In particular, scientists complain that Pope Francis sticks to creationism. I don’t agree, because from what I can read, he advocates intelligent design. And I’m happy with that. Personally, I believe that the existence of our DNA proves that nature is designed. Look around: biological organisms are too ingenious! What are the odds that our planet’s biological technology platform came about by series of fortunate chemical events in a hostile environment? The scientific explanation of life – let’s call it randomism – is as implausible as the assumption that God pulled out planet earth and biology out of His hat in seven days-days. Reading between the lines I can also sense some religious fervor the way intellectuals defend their randomism.
I’m serious: I’m hoping for some mathematicians to put their heads together and calculate the probability of intelligent design. I know why scientists don’t like that exercise, I just wonder why the church hasn’t done it yet. It feels a bit awkward though: proving God’s existence. I guess the church isn’t ready to give up faith in favor of certainty. Some people are already stressed out by the notion that Heaven is real, how about God being reality? Maybe, the proof of God is gonna be Francis’ next stand.
I probably won’t return to Sunday sermons, but Pope Francis definitely made it onto my hero list. He tore down a few walls. Now, I have a chance to have interesting discussions with my Catholic brothers and sisters. And that makes me happy and a bit excited. A small step for Francis, but a great step for mankind. I wish I can do my part in re-uniting religion and science and befriending head and heart. Please hang in there, Francis. My heart goes out to you and I wish you all the success you deserve. You won’t perfect Christianity, neither people, but who can do so anyways? Not even Jesus succeeded in that.