Monday, February 22, 2016

The Lightning Rod

In His day, Jesus was a lightning rod for the people.  Today, we have Pope Francis.  And today we have the Internet, so when lightning strikes it spreads like wild fire.  The problem with lightning spreading like wildfire is that it breaks containment and covers the earth in excrement.

When Jesus entered into Jerusalem heralded as the Messiah, the people were elated.  At least that was so, until the gossip and rumor mill kicked in to full swing.  Political correctness reigned even then, though not with such a high sounding name.  Jesus died as the victim of gossip.  The people were too lazy to see through the lies that were perpetrated against Him and that fomented the mini rebellion that led to His crucifixion.

Not much has changed, except today we have the Internet, so lies and gossip spread at Internet speed around the world.  And as each lie compounds its predecessor, it becomes a spiritual tsunami.

Is there help for our addiction to needing to be right and being contentious to prove our rightness?

To answer that I turned to two philosophers of the 20th century, one fictitious, and one who would never believe himself to have been philosophical, just pragmatic.

The fictitious philosopher is Pollyanna Whittier from the book and more from the subsequent Disney film "Pollyanna".  When Pollyanna was living with her aunt, she encountered the pastor by the river one day.  The pastor was a fire and brimstone preacher and was practicing a sermon by the river that particular day.  In the exchange between them Pollyanna noted: "If you look for the bad in people you're sure to find it, so look for the good in them instead."

The real philosopher I refer to above is my long deceased father Alvin Brandon.  My Dad was a very good man, who flew Spitfires in WWII, courtesy of the RCAF, and returned home physically damaged with their courtesy as well.  He was a humble man, and though well schooled for his time, was largely educated by the school of hard knocks, and was humble enough to learn the lessons taught in that school.

When I was about 16 years old, I knew everything.  Of this I have been subsequently disavowed. But, then I was all that and a bag of chips, or so I thought.  I was on the verge of that time period that many teens enter into where they discover that their parents know nothing, or at least barely enough to know how and when to breathe.  The piece of advice I am about to share from him was the tipping point that led me to several years of certainty in my own brilliance, which ultimately was knocked out of me both literally and figuratively.  But those are other stories, some of which I have shared already.

I was having a particularly difficult time with my mother over some MAJOR thing or another for a 16 year old that was really a mere triviality in the scheme of life in our family.  My father taught me a lesson that I rejected out of hand, and wish I could have gotten.  It was so fundamental to successful relationships that I would love to go back to that moment, receive it again, and thank him for it.

I was in our den complaining to my dad about my mom over this catastrophe, and he interrupted my self righteous indignation.  He then said: "Your mother may be wrong, but she is your mother, and therefor she is right."

I could not grasp the nuance of what he said.  I was too angry to do anything but parse the words to fit what I wanted them to fit.  My dad was not only right, he was correct in his assessment of the situation, and the remedy for it.  That his son behaved like an idiot was not his responsibility.

And this is how it is with the lightning rod that is Our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

One writer intent on justifying his own piling on of Pope Francis reminded readers that St. Paul had upbraided St. Peter over matters in the early Church where he witnessed that St. Peter was in the wrong.  He was anointed to do so.  He also had first hand knowledge of the particular situation, which is referenced in Galatians Chapter 2.

When Pope Francis spoke on his plane ride back to Rome from Mexico recently,  he responded to a spate of questions, and at least one particular question that has begotten so much controversy for some.  The particular one was about a theoretical wall across the Mexican border, and a statement alleged to be from Presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Our Holy Father spoke in Spanish.  It has been translated to English, which is a degree of separation from the original to begin with.  The context of preceding and following questions is not present, and if it were they too were translated from the original language. Yet another degree of separation.

But, much of the brouhaha over the original statement occurred because those intent on being right left out the key words "if" and "only".  This is less a degree of separation than it is a total misconstruction of the words and probable intent of Our Holy Father, to serve their own purposes.

So, I return to Pollyanna, and my father.

Our Holy Father is our parent in the Church of Jesus Christ.  As such, he like my own parents is anointed to be in the position that he is in.  The meaning in my father's statement restated as "Your Holy Father may be wrong, but he is your Holy Father and therefor he is right,"  is that Our Holy Father warrants our respect for his position, and our love.  Unless you have lived in his shoes or been around him you have no real idea of what is behind whatever he says, or does.

So, then you should take Pollyanna's advice and look for the good in Pope Francis.  Whatever you look for you will find.  The problem is that what you will likely find is support for your own presumptions, not for the truth.

We might be wise to take the words of Blaise Pascal to heart that I have on the left side of this blog as a reminder.  He said:“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God's providence to lead him aright."

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