Franciscan Spirit Blog

Owning Our Cultural Biases

Pope Francis walks with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, left, and Omar Abboud, a Muslim leader from Argentina, as he leaves after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in this May 26, 2014, file photo. In his official proclamation of the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called for "fervent dialogue" between Christians, Muslims and Jews. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

We’re living in a time when the far right and the far left in almost every institution are using the eccentricities and evils of the other end to justify their own extremes. There seems to be an emergence of reactionary and protectionist thinking all over the world, which then serves as justification for people’s overreacting on the political left. This ping-pong game has been so common in both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, even within Christianity—which should know better by now—that Christianity, for many, has come to mean anti-intellectual, fanatically narrow-minded people.

Christianity, for some, is neither faith nor reason—just reactive tribalism hiding behind the skirts of Mother Church. How sad it would be if the Great Tradition ever settled for so little.

I move in some circles where the word Christian, unfortunately, is a negative adjective. To them, “He’s a Christian” means he knows nothing about history, nothing about politics, and is probably incapable of civil conversation about anything. Five Bible quotes are the available answers to everything. How did we ever get to this low point after developing such a tradition of wisdom? How did we ever regress to such arrogance after the humble folly of the cross?

When there is no ability to build bridges to the other, or to even understand otherness, we know we are outside the pale of authentic Christianity. Surely Jesus came for more than self-congratulative societies who forever circle the wagons around their own saved identity and their own self-serving god!

Such trivializations of God’s greatness deserve to be ignored and avoided, even when the churches themselves get involved in such partisanship. Don’t waste time fighting it directly or you will become its casualty. Our motto is simple and clear: The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively, “in God, through God, with God.” In time, the fruits will be apparent. In the short run, you will hold the unresolved tension of the cross. In the long run, you will usher in something entirely new and healing.

This was the almost intuitive spiritual genius of Saint Francis. He wasted no time attacking the rich churches and pretentious clergymen, or even greedy tradesmen like his dad; he just went to the side and did life differently. He is remembered forever; they are lost to history.

Richard Rohr collection | Franciscan Media

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