Maybe it’s long years of representing a district where, more times than not, I’m the only white person and the only college-educated person at the table.
I dunno exactly what it is.
But I am hooked on Pope Francis. Red shoes, black shoes, no shoes, it doesn’t matter a bit to me. He’s my pope. I love that he’s from this hemisphere. I love that he’s Argentinian. I love that he was so sick as a young person that he lost a lung and probably learned about suffering at an early age. I love, love, love that he talks about the poor, the disenfranchised, the least of these.
I take inspiration from his strong pro life stance. I find courage in the way, as cardinal, he defended traditional marriage. I even like the fact that the President of Argentina had the temerity to publicly chastise Cardinal Bergoglio for standing for Church teaching. It makes me hope that he “gets” it, that perhaps he has some idea of what life is like down here in the pits with the rest of us.
I don’t think that God has given us a hot house plant pope who doesn’t have the first clue what the rest of us are about. This immigrant son of a railway worker probably “gets” it and “gets” us, including the us that is so afraid of him and what he’s saying.
It’s taken me days to come up with a theory for why some people are so disturbed about what I see as the niggely little things this man has changed. I think — and I want to emphasize that this is just me, saying what I kinda think today — I think that they don’t “get” it.
The world is a butcher shop.
Let me say that again.
The world is a butcher shop.
The world is cruel, unjust and indifferent.
More and more, people live in their little silos of existence and actively do their best to shelter themselves from experiencing what life is like for anyone else. Here in this country, we have “super zip codes” of wealth and privilege where like-thinking, self-congratulating scions of the new upper class congregate and become more ingrown and arrogant with each passing day. These are the people who have been to the “right” schools and trained to think in the “right” way.
Meanwhile, the world is a hope-killig butcher shop.
Without hope, people die inside. And when the world is a butcher shop, hope is a fragile plant starved for the sunlight.
This man, this good man, who is our new pope seems to understand this. He seems to know that hopelessness breeds every kind of evil and destruction and that hopelessness is the gift we’ve bestowed on untold millions of people all around the globe.
No wonder he makes some people uncomfortable. The Gospel message is like that. It discomfits the haves, the self-congratulatory, the smug every single time.
Commenters on this blog have reminded me that the red of the red shoes signifies the blood of the martyrs, the willingness on the part of the pope who wears them to be a martyr. Fine. I have no quarrel with that. If Pope Francis takes to wearing red shoes in the next few weeks, it’s ok by me.
But we don’t need shoes to signify the blood of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground of Nigeria right now as we speak. The blood of the martyrs flowed through the tubes attached to the vacuums in the abortion clinics while I was typing this sentence. The blood of the martyrs stains the pavement in India and the prison floors in Pakistan.
We don’t — or we shouldn’t — need shoes to remind us of that.
Without hope, people don’t die, their souls do. We live in a hope-stealing, soul-sucking world that devastates millions of its inhabitants from the inside out.
But the message of Christ is hope. It is impossible for anyone who truly understands the great dignity they hold as a child of God, who knows the free gift of eternal life, to be bereft of hope. Our hope is universal and eternal.
That is the beginning of real change. That is the message that leavens societies from the bottom up rather than the top down.
Perhaps what disturbs some people about Pope Francis is that, when you’re safe, fed and fat, living in your plush silo of privilege, the Gospel message isn’t a comfort. It’s a challenge. Maybe people who have been taught to think in narrow, self-congratulatory ways are both frightened and angered by challenges of this sort.
The Gospel of Christ offers everything there is to anyone who will say yes. But it asks everything you have in return. The world is a butcher shop because so many of us have failed to follow through on that Gospel challenge with Gospel living that transcends our self-made silos and projects us into the uncomfortable world of being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers.
Pope Francis is scary because there’s the fear, not of black shoes, but the Gospel message and the call to conversion that lie behind the black shoes.