Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finding the Face of God in Church and World Today

The Vatican's boy Silvio appears about to go up in flames in Italy--though he has taken to Facebook (!) in a campaign to bolster his popularity.  You can, if you wish, click to "like" him there.

I myself "like" that phrase in the Truthdig "Ear to the Ground" article to which I've just linked: Silvio is "propped up by so much money and power as to be able to buy into his own hype."  Isn't that always the case with these power-mongering types?  They and their rich and influential friends buy power for them.  And then they end up actually believing that the emptiness inside the ermine robes and cappae magnae is real.  When, as the Andersen fable reminds us, even children can see the emptiness parading inside the rich clothes.

As I say all of this, I cannot shake the images in my head from this weekend, when I wrote about the bash that Bernie Law--another powermonger with a great deal of emptiness inside propped up by hyper-rich friends--threw himself as Tom Gumbleton was revealing that the same Vatican that has "punished" Law with a plum job and a gilded apartment took away his own ministry in an inner-city black parish because Gumbleton dared to side with abuse survivors and not with the clerical club in testimony about extending the statute of limitations.  I can't shake the starkness of those two images juxtaposed: Law with his mariachi bands and mounds of prosciutto and twirling cardinals, Gumbleton at a microphone in Milwaukee surrounded by survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

And I can't help concluding, as I meditate about those two images, that Jamie Manson is absolutely correct: if God is anywhere in the church right now, God is on the margins.  With those shoved far from the circles of power.

I'm not sure God ever dons a cappa magna.  I'm pretty sure God doesn't make playthings of the lives of vulnerable people, the way Silvio and Bernie have both done in their illustrious careers.  I'm pretty sure God doesn't turn vulnerable others into objects in power games designed to point to God's resplendent power and glory by demonstrating the worthlessness of others.

And I'm very much inclined to think that Jim McCrea is brilliantly right when he suggests in an email to friends today that the famous Dorothea Lange photo of Florence Thompson, a migrant mother (and possible Dust Bowl emigrant to California) trying to keep her family alive during the Depression reveals to us the face of God.  At least, I myself find it far easier to see God's face in that provocative photo than in any snapshot I've ever seen of the princes of my church in their finery, or of Silvio the buffoon prancing and preening before a t.v. camera.

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