Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pope Francis "All Are Redeemed"

A few years ago I got into a spat on Twitter with someone who might describe himself as a "new" Atheist. Richard Dawkins, et all. There are a variety of perspectives within the new Atheism, but the common thing I find is that they are not apologetic for their unbelief. Some are more aggressive and fundamentalist in their lack of believe (like Dawkins was) and some are more respectful and gracious.

When the spat occurred, I suggested we take the conversation offline and meet up for coffee. He agreed and a friendship started.

At our first get together - one of the things he wanted to emphasize is that you don't have to be "religious" to be a good person. He was preaching to the choir.

In my life, and I'm sure in yours, we see people whose belief system is different than ours do good. I see it all the time.

* I have seen people of other faiths (Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish to name a few) show great compassion.
* I have seen people of no faith (or anti-faith) demonstrate the image of God in them really profoundly. Just because someone doesn't believe in God doesn't mean He isn't there.
* I have even seen people whose ideology or philosophy is offensive (racists, sexists, and other -ists) do wonderful things for others.

Pope Francis recently preached a sermon that's got everyone talking.

He makes the point I just made and says that Jesus redeems everyone. Not just Catholics. Not just Christians. Even Atheists.

The Huffington Post article (linked above) misses this point. As does most of the commentary I've read. Pope Francis doesn't say everyone is going to heaven. He is saying that Jesus redeemed everyone. That everyone has potential for good. And that is where we should meet.

The great irony is that many Protestant Christians are freaking out of the supposed "universalism". The interesting thing to me is he seems to be articulating very powerfully the basic Protestant emphasis on the grace and action of God as the key element in redemption rather than the doing good.

One of the powerful emphases of the Protestant Reformation is just that point. Good works do not earn or contribute to redemption, they are an outgrowth of people already redeemed.

Francis wins again.

I think we'd all be better off recognizing that redemption in one another, celebrating it and embracing it.