Friday, May 31, 2013

Not so fast, you atheists...

OK, so last week in a homily (all of which he gives without notes) Pope Francis (who I really like, much to my surprise and amazement) said that even Atheists who do good works are redeemed by Christ and will meet the Christians "there". Whether 'there' meant heaven or not left the door open for the Vatican to 'clarify' what the pontiff meant.

All people are 'redeemed' the theologians in Rome (who are going to have a lot of work on their hands if Francis continues down the road I hope he will) but to be 'saved' and, like go to  heaven (whatever that means) you have to accept your redemption and accept Jesus as your Savior.

Which reminds me of a wonderful joke:

Q. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a theologian?

A. You can negotiate with a terrorist....

The Vatican's 'clarification' about the Pope's misstatement about the salvation of atheists made two groups very happy. Conservative, dogmatic Christians and atheists!

The last thing, I imagine, an atheist wants to hear is that the God they don't believe in is going to save them despite their unbelief. Imagine how frustrating that would be: here you are, not even believing in a God, much less a God who is going to 'save' you, and the Pope, the most visible Christian in the world, tells you the God you don't believe in is going to 'save' you whether you want to be 'saved' or not. What a quandary!

Now you have to not believe in a God that, according to the Pope, believes in you! Wasn't that a line from "Hair"? Or am I misremembering (to quote George W. Bush)?

When I was a student at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, the largest Episcopal seminary and the one with the most money, Dr. Richard Reid was interrupted in the midst of a lecture on the theology of the New Testament by a very conservative student who asked, "Dean Reid, what you're saying sounds a lot like 'universalism' to me."

Dick paused for nearly a minute. Then he answered, "I would describe my theology as 'Hopeful Universalism'."

The student got up and left the room in disgust.

I guess I've never gotten the whole thing about Christianity that says if you're not a Christian, you can't be saved. Some of the most Christ-like people I've known  have been Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and non-believers. I have no problem at all imagining sharing the Realm of God with them. Lots of Christians, it seems to me, aren't satisfied that God will save them, they need God to 'not save' all the others.

Was it Mark Twain that said, "it is not enough that I should succeed, my friends must fail...."?

To be flip, that doesn't sound very 'Christian' does it?

Religious people of all ilks, over the endless centuries, have killed each other for not believing as they did. And when that failed, they turned on their own and burned the heretics.

I'm not an atheist. But I am a heretic. Bishop Jim Curry even gave me a lapel button that says "HERETIC".  I wear it with pride.

I just think religious folk should 'get over themselves' and accept the goodness in those unlike them as the goodness of God.

But then, that's just me talkin'.....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.