Why All the Fuss?


A protestant friend shared with me yesterday that she was riveted by this conclave. She said, “I’m not Catholic. Why do you think I care?”

I think the answer is that, regardless of religious denomination, we are corporately suffering in the early 21st Century from a leaderless world. And it is scary to us because, as Our Lord noted so many times, men are like sheep in their instincts. We run around searching for guidance and someone to shelter us. Doestoevsky’s forever ominous “Grand Inquisitor” gets its power from the very true claim of the evil Archbishop that there is no drive stronger in human nature than the one that would have us turn over our responsibility for our own lives. The desire for shepherding, in the best sense, proceeds from a similar place in us as the perverse desire to abdicate our free will.

This has obvious echoes in the arena of storytelling today, in which the people telling stories to the world seem to have completely lost all sense of the meaning and nature of the hero. Most would probably eschew the notion of hero at all, as if it were now a genre-thing appropriate to comic book movies, and even there we have the new Superman who is a deadbeat dad, and the new Batman, who triumphs by letting the people believe a lie about him. Hollywood couldn’t do To Kill a Mockingbird today without having Atticus Finch be sleeping with his secretary and smoking weed on the side for stress relief. Believing in heroes requires a cessation of cynicism. It requires that self-sacrifice be thought of as a virtue and not as a rather risky personal gamble. How can you sell a “Christ-figure” archetype to a community that no longer believes in Christ?

The consensus of my undergrads recently was that there is no one whom they could all point to as a role model, or even just somebody we could all corporately agree to admire. When I was their age, we were healthily “shamed” into civility by the heroic example of folks like Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and JPII. There is no one right now on the world leadership stage who is not tainted with hypocrisy, self-interest, or falsehood.

So, I think that’s what is at the root of the fascination here. This conclave is a glimmer of hope for a shepherd-less world.

  • Cynthia Kron

    Awesome post, Barbara.

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  • David Porter

    “How can you sell a “Christ-figure” archetype to a community that no longer believes in Christ?”

    That is exactly what I hold in mind when asking the Spirit’s help with writing!
    To me, the Pharisees needed selling, as their perspective didn’t easily buy Jesus’ leadership or his stories. What are Moderns, if not Scientific Law variants of Pharisees?
    To overcome audience interference, Jesus used different techniques with the self-satisfied than he did with those already sensitized. Actually, a rabbi gave his perspective on a clash in Matthew, that the Pharisees were not resistant to Beauty or leadership, just very interactive! Are aging, ailing Boomers in America or Europe any different as a brutish audience?
    The Enclave is capable of producing a distinct shift. At what point in modern history will the Spirit move sharply toward the goal– stated before granting the unwise request for King Saul– that this world have communal lights on a hill and prophets to guide, not mis-leaders? I pray my screenplays will be crafted as an entertaining glimpse of the Beauty you describe, as a guide and return to the stated goal. Interactive brutes don’t put me off. Episodes involving Nicodemus, John of Arimathea, Saul of Tarsus, even Gamaliel in Acts are scriptural hints enough that Jesus’ stories were/are bearing fruit, and not “returning void” with pharisaic processing.
    I still haven’t worked out how I can do similar, when writing stuff in the vein of “March of the Penguins.” >sigh<

  • David Porter

    D’oh. That should be “Conclave.”
    Eh, the Vatican City enclave should be the communal light on the hill?

  • http://BillBoylstonBlog.com Bill Boylston

    I do think that we have leaders today. As a protestant, some I would mention would be David Jeremiah of Turning Point Ministries; Fred Luter, President of the Southern Baptist Conventi0n(The SBC’s first black President); Tony Evans, Charles Stanley; Richard Land; and others

  • TruckinMack

    My world is sick with heroes. I could start with my priest, Jim Eisele. I would include me and my wife. My local chapter of the Knights of Columbus is full of heroic, hard working dads who are making a difference. Ditto, the various sports I have coached have untold moms and dads doing their best to help their kids and their neighborhood children. I know of dozens of high school boys and girls who, working through Campus Life, are trying to make the world better. I know several Eagle scouts who shame me with their effort and diligence. I know many, many US soldiers who are dedicating their lives to help protect our world. In my world, you cannot swing a dead cat without clobbering a Superman or Superwoman.

    I am in complete agreement, however, that the national and international stage is bereft of heroes. (I do have hopes for Sarah Palin. She is wonderfully committed to her faith, her family and her country. I fear, regardless of her success in these areas, in the end she will be looked at as just another over eager politician. Still, I have hopes.)


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