Note On A Pope
The pope coming to America is exciting news for a lot of people and some of them are catholic. Listening to CNN and NPR an hour doesn’t go by without some reporter giving the latest information in exacting detail about what the pope is doing or wearing or saying or going. One of the reporters of CNN went so far as to point out that the pontiff’s red shoes actually matched the red carpet rolled out for him. One of the reporters asked a little girl, she looked as if she was about nine or ten, what she thought of the pope’s visit. The little girl was excited and beaming with enthusiasm. She looked into the camera, spoke into the offered microphone, and said that it’s like having Jesus on Earth. Now I know that the little girl was simply stating what she’s been taught by her parents or was allowed to be taught by her parents. But the fact that CNN promoted her statement struck one of my nerves.
It should be no surprise that I’m not catholic. Personally, I think the pomp and circumstance being pulled out for the pope’s benefit blows everything else out of the water without exception. A baseball stadium has to be converted into a massive outdoors church in order to accommodate the large number of people who want to pay homage and still there were not near enough seats available. The pope was expected to ride to the stadium in his customized, bulletproof Mercedes Benz pope mobile. I don’t know how much this truly custom ride cost but I do know that just walking down to the local Mercedes Benz store and buying a run of the mill Gelaendenwagen would run into a six digit purchase. The pope wears finery and is adorned with enough gold to make a serious dent in Fort Knox’s reserve if it had to be replaced. This man who is elected by his peers to wear the title of pope is respected and revered despite whatever may have happened in his past or the past of the church. And this is Jesus on Earth.
Jesus was a humble man who worked as a carpenter. He wasn’t embraced by the church. He didn’t wear the finest gold and didn’t ride on the finest transportation available. Despite everything we have been taught about Jesus we continue to see him as this larger than life figure that we all would recognize and worship. If Jesus were to arrive in Washington, DC this very minute he would not be welcomed as a holy man in National stadium. Jesus would not be appearing on a stage exchanging kisses with the pope. Jesus would be shunned as a homeless man looking for some kind of handout. No one would be sending their customized Gelaendenwagen to pick him up at the airport or however he would have shown up in town. He would have had to walk to wherever. He would have been a vagabond. He would have been the type of person that America would tell to pull himself up by his bootstrap.
If Jesus were to arrive in Washington, DC or any other city, more than likely he would be doing whatever he could to help people in the homeless shelter or the other vagrants in the streets. I seriously doubt if he would be welcomed to appear with the king of the church or the President of a superpower nation that allows so much disparity to exist among the denizens. Jesus would be about teaching and not about ceremony. Jesus is the type of person that the majority of people would report to the authorities because of his unsavory appearance. We the people are more likely to dismiss the teachings of Jesus in favor of some prosperity doctrine from Joel Olsteen or Creflo Dollar or TD Jakes. If Jesus was homeless or penniless it was because he made the choice not to live his life according to god’s will. God wants everyone to live like the pharaoh with a multitude of slaves. The only problem is that if everyone is a pharaoh, who will be our slaves. Maybe god didn’t think his plan through thoroughly.
This is not to say that the pope doesn’t have his job to do. Everybody has their role to play in the grand scheme of things. But it should be totally obvious that the pope’s role is not to be the twenty first century version of Jesus. The pope is one of the most extreme opposites of Jesus the Christ. While Jesus broke bread with people the pope is not allowed to dine in public. The pope lives his life in the finest of finery while Jesus lived simply. The pope lives in one of the most elaborate estates on the face of the Earth while Jesus was regularly offered a place to stay. Jesus did a lot of walking or, if he was lucky, rode on the back of an ass while the pope gets a custom Gelaendenwagen with the richest Corinthian leather. And one of the most important differences of all, while the church sanctions the pope’s life, the church in Jesus’ day sanctioned his death. No disrespect intended, but honestly, I don’t see the similarity between the two at all.