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Paradox in the Pope

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At the beginning was the sublime spirit of Jesus Christ. And then arrived The Church. It profited by marketing his name. And even more by burying his spirit. That subjugated spirit has off and on emerged, to be suppressed fast by malign forces. In Francis of Assisi the spirit was strong enough rising, to make the establishment quiver – as it once did faced by Christ. Church and Pope of the day moved again to crush the threat of emergent spirit, the moment good Francis stopped breathing. Today we witness the incredible – a Francis Pope, the first. The force crushed and the forces crushing combined in the one. What on earth is happening?

I, ‘non-Christian’ outsider, am not informed enough to fathom these shifts precisely or to figure out how much my understanding is skewed. The spirit I’ve admired in Christ is that of standing up to oppressive power – fearlessly confronting the practices and forces that gratuitously sow suffering. This spirit is, I believe, present in each of us. So also is its opposite, which is the quality picked up and reinforced selectively in wider society. It takes a Christ or a Francis to convert our personal good into a felt social movement. I am so glad this new Pope chose to bring Saint Francis back to life.

Organized instruments that suppress or warp our individual compassion and ethics include churches, political parties, trade unions, advertising agencies and money. The most evil of these are churches and various other religious establishments. For they warp the good in the name of the benevolent and deliver it surreptitiously to the vicious. Sleight of hand is heavily employed. Even the originally disliked Francis of Assisi was later permitted sainthood, when safe. 

My concern is that the quiet, decent spirit of humanity has no chance against the loud, persistent and intolerant instruments of social manipulation and control. The smaller the human unit, greater the expression of the decent, compassionate and ethical. The larger its level of organization and power, smaller the chance of the decent emerging. As power grows the sublime wilts. Absolute power forsakes the righteous, however piteously it may cry out. Assisi’s Francis did not forsake Christ.

Jesus Christ was impelled to speak truth to power, right up to his final moment. Imagine how high the human spirit could have soared had Christ’s final anguished accusation been allowed to reverberate relentlessly. But its power was so effectively drained by the relief retrospectively delivered through resurrection. The empire has its ways.  

Last modified on Sunday, 18 January 2015 01:22

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