Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Catholics, Muslims and Other Heretics

photo by Jeffrey Bruno Aleteia / flickr
Growing up in Columbus, Georgia about two miles down the street was the Baptist Tabernacle. The Pastor was Parson Jack Johnson. You could count on Parson Jack to be against almost everything. Eisenhower was a Communist and so were several members of his cabinet. The Reds we're everywhere. Of course the nig-ras...not the word he used--had no "bid-ness" even thinking of going to our schools or riding on the front of the bus or, perish the thought, raping our women. We had to keep them in their place. But a great deal of the Parson's ire was focused on Rome and the Papist heresies. The Priests had their girlfriends. There were unmarked graves behind their convents and monasteries where they buried their illegitimate babies. But the most frightening thing he told the whole town was that the Catholics kept guns in the basement of every church and one day they rise and take over our country unless we were vigilant.

So even though I did not go to the Parson's church--and even then he was considered a maverick--his message of hate seeped into our community. Not only were we told we couldn't date Catholics but marriage was out of the question. Why the Priest would say all your children would have to be baptized--we called it sprinkled--and they would be brainwashed by the Catholic Church and be forever lost. And we knew where that would lead.

Along the way I met some Catholics. Why the Editor of our High School paper was Catholic. Shirley didn't have horns, she didn't seem so different from us--in fact she was a smart girl and a delight to be around. Maybe she was responsible for making me begin to wonder about my Catholic prejudice. But she was the first of many along the way.

And so as Pope Francis moves through his first visit to America--the crowds that greet him everywhere are astounding. Parson Jack--if he were living--would pitch a fit. Well, he wouldn't be the only one. Senators and Congressmen and some citizens are scared of what the Pope just might say to our country. Before he got here he visited Cuba--of all places--and even met with the Castros! The Cuban people lined the streets with joy and wonder as Pope Francis passed by.   He complimented President Obama and the United States for opening the door to Cuba which had been closed for at least fifty years.

The Pope has already shaken up his church and many of his managers are shaking their heads. He seems to be unmanageable. Name almost any issue that affects people: Global warming, birth control, divorce, gay folk and his great heart aching for all those refugees. He is going to prick the conscience of those of us sitting comfortably in our dens listening to his moral challenges. Why he has said that if every parish would take in one refugee family we could begin to deal with this crisis. He is giving hope to Catholics that have been disenfranchised from their church for ages. This Pope is also giving hope to people around the world. He is saying the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to follow its Lord and his strong commands. Strange gospel, indeed.

I'd be surprised if he did not say something about Muslims. ISIS is scary indeed. Sharia law would
photo by See Tefl / flickr
take us back to the Middle ages.  But most Muslims are not terrorists. There is so much about their faith that I do not understand--but to paint all Muslims as our enemies would be wrong indeed. Mr.Trump,  Mr. Carson have both used the Muslim card. Well, we aren't sure where this black President was really born and we don't need a Muslim in the White House--wink, wink. I don't want to bash Republicans particularly--but why are so many of the other candidates silent on this issue. After 9/11 President Bush reminded us that we should not paint all Muslims with the same dark brush. It was one of his finest moments in a very hard time.

Is it really in the spirit of America--not to speak of the church--to make these folk who work in our towns, walk down our streets and buy groceries with us--feel safe, Why they have done no more to deserve our ire than the neighbors next door. The Christian faith is supposed to say welcome--not just as an evangelistic tool--but common decency.

There are a whole lot of outsiders around us. Some are Hispanic, some are poor, some never had the chance that we have had. Sometimes the Christian faith is a hard business. "I was a stranger and you took me in..." cannot be revised or amended. It is part of a Constitution a whole lot older than the US document. And God bless Pope Francis and the United States of America. God bless the whole wide world.

    --Roger Lovette /

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