Sunday, October 4, 2009

Remembering Francis of Assisi: Love Puts Flesh on God's Face

As Sunday arrives, I'd like to recommend two thought-provoking online articles from this week and a blog posting--reflections that feed the soul--to readers.

The first is John Cory's "Marching Backwards: The Spectacle of Fear," at Truthout. The heart of his statement:

The spectacle of fear is not new. Whether financed by Wall Street or organized by FOX News, fear is the product being sold for the sole purpose of maintaining power and control by those who themselves fear the power of the people. And that includes today's mendacious media that see themselves as the "stars" in this political circus while collecting thirty pieces of silver for entertaining the public and betraying the people.

Fear is the root of hate and bigotry and racism. It drives the mob to build internment camps and free speech zones and segregated facilities. It sets fire to books and thoughts and people who would challenge the darkness. It seeks to paralyze the vision seeker and the dreamer. Fear is the flame that ignites war and genocide and collateral damage. But most of all - fear is the tool of demagogues and tyrants who offer themselves up as our red white and blue champions with the promise of salvation for one easy payment of obedient servitude. Fear is never free.

The GOP is nothing more than the recycled fearmongering of a hundred years ago. A party that would march us backward with banners flying and Hosannas shouted while people die from fear of health care reform or corporate regulation or the fresh oxygen of science and climate change.

. . .

Everything old is new again.

The GOP clutches fear in its tiny fists because it is all it has. It is the touchstone. It is not even original. Darkness never is.

So, Democrats, tell me again - what exactly are you afraid of?

The second article I want to recommend is Ilia Delio's "Confessions of a Modern Nun" at America. Her powerful conclusion:

Ilia Delio is a Franciscan, a follower of Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is today in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Her reflections dovetail with a rich meditation yesterday at Fran Rossi Szpylczyn's wonderful There Will Be Bread blog.

Fran summarizes the significance of Francis's life as follows:

But as we focus on Francis and Brother Dog and Sister Cat, we forget that Francis also walked into Islamic territory to meet a sultan, at a time of great enmity between Muslims and Christians. Francis dared to make his enemy a friend.

And that may be the greatest lesson of all we can learn from Francis, Fran proposes. If that lesson meant much to those of us who call ourselves Christians in the U.S., or if the lesson offered by Ilia Delio and St. John of the Cross--in the evening of life we will be judged by love--meant anything at all to American Christians, we would not be driven by the ravenous need for a foe evident throughout our history, articulated so well in John Cory's article.

We talk a lot about Christianity. But that talk seems hardly at all informed by the gospels that are the cornerstone of the Christian faith, or the tradition that the fear mongers and enemy makers seem hellbent on claiming as their exclusive birthright. With Francis and John of the Cross and Jesus, or Dorothy Day or Jean Donovan or Teresa of Avila as chief exemplars of that tradition, it's impossible to justify the version of Christianity that the American Christian right wants to promote as "traditional" and "orthodox" today. The talk of blood-drenched swords and holy war that dominates the discourse of the American religious right today is an absolute perversion of everything Christianity means, at its heart.