Sunday, September 27, 2015

Snope Francis

This "quote" from Pope Francis has been going around, and there are lessons in it for everyone, regardless of religious or political bent.

It's taken off, in part, because it's much in the same vein as other bold statements Pope Francis has made. Also, its a beautiful sentiment that speaks to millions of people who struggle to reconcile a belief in God with a distrust of modern religious institutions (and who know people who defy any supposed direct correlation between piety and goodness).

But truth is truth, and the truth is that Pope Francis did not utter this quote. So this shouldn't be shared any more than any other false meme. Doing so lends credence to the criticism that people don't scrutinize that which reinforces their beliefs. There's already too much of that on Internet and in life.

Others have shared it either to excoriate the pope, or to express intense relief that he didn't actually say this. That I understand less. If a relationship with God is meant to be personal, as I've long heard across the Christian spectrum, why is it bad to question the role of money and church attendance in faith? Even passages from the Bible (particularly the Book of Matthew) do so. It's worth examination, if nothing else.

And there's no challenging the notion that believers and nonbelievers don't neatly overlap with good and bad people. I've never heard anyone say, "All people of my faith are good and all people not of it are bad." Ever. Even the most fanatically devout person isn't going to apologize for the worst elements among them, or not acknowledge that someone they know who is of another belief might be all right. On a personal level, these notions are always nuanced. It's only as a volley in an abstract debate when people so heatedly circle the wagons. 

I suppose I can understand why some don't want this sentiment to be true, regardless of who said it (or not). It challenges the idea that there's a set formula to follow. For many, that formula serves them well. The flip side is that it allows harsh judgment and dismissal of anyone not taking that path. Which, sadly, also serves many well.

For the rest of us, this acknowledgment that we are a diverse world — and that none of us know for sure what's behind it — is something we wish the pope (or any other world leader) would say.

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