Blinding White Smoke

13 03 2013

As I sit with people around the world waiting for name of the new Pope, I am stunned and amazed at the power of ‘white smoke.’

Author, Yale University professor, and scholar of Christian History, Jaroslav Pelikan once wrote that “tradition is the living faith of the dead, and traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”  My experience in ministry over the past 26 years confirms this.  For while I see great value in the study and discerning process of the saints who have gone before us, and while my own reformed tradition is one that affirms the creeds and confessions of our mothers and fathers in the faith, I have to confess to wondering if some of our deference to the early church is misplaced.

There is no doubt that members of the church triumphant have left us a legacy full of important lessons about faithfulness, obedience and commitment, about community, justice and morality.  The Spirit of God worked as powerfully in their lives as the Spirit of God is working in our lives, and we dare not ever question or deny that.

Never the less, some of the ways they sought to be about the task of actually ‘being’ church, and especially the ways they sought to govern the church, have left me questioning the value of their example – especially as I watch the events currently taking place in the Vatican!

No don’t get me wrong – there have been many old men in my life who have taught me a great deal about God, and who have had a profound impact on my walk with Jesus.  I greatly treasure ancient music and liturgy, words uttered for generations, that link me to my past and give testimony to a heritage that I never want to forget.  The words to “Ave Maria” still touch me deeply, and the mere smell of candles can transport me back to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church were the roots of my faith were first nurtured.  And then there’s the awe inspiring reverence that comes with pomp and circumstance, moving me to contemplate the majesty and holiness of the transcendent side of God’s character.  And I don’t have any problems with red hats or even red shoes – I once had a pair of red tennis shoes myself.

But these days, the events occurring in the Vatican seem like nothing more than a smoke-screen for a church hierarchy that has lost touch with the Spirit’s work in average people, and the perpetuation of a tradition that . . . well, just seems down right dead!  At first glance, it doesn’t look that way – that’s for sure!  People have been flocking to St. Peter’s Square by the thousands, hoping to witness the infamous white smoke; and news stations around the world are glued to a chimney that will supposedly reveal God’s will for the world’s one true church!

But it’s 2013!  And  . . . well, what can I say?  People today are just hungry – for ceremony, and for pageantry.  People today are always up for a party . . . but for the things of God . . . well, not so much!

And that’s why I just can’t buy into it all!  In spite of all the good that has been done in the name of God by the Roman Catholic Church – and indeed there is much! – it’s wealth and power and control should frighten us.  The teachings still perpetuated under the banner of ‘Biblical Faithfulness’ and ‘Papal Infallibility’ continue to denigrate the role of women in the Church, negate the role of science in issues related to faith and morality, and preserve views on sexuality that are homophobic and abusive.

Considering the needs of the world today, this has been a mere distraction.  But soon, hopefully anyway, the Church can get back to those things that SHOULD be of concern to people of every faith.  Perhaps this new era for the Roman Church can become a new era for all of us, an era where traditionalism is put to death, and faithfulness . . . real faithfulnes, is born again.



One response

13 03 2013
Drew Mulhare

I still plan on burying a statue of St. Joseph in my back yard when I put my house up for sale.

Best Always,


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