Saturday, September 14, 2013

Matthew Fox, Letters to Pope Francis: The Name Francis and Stories about Fathers

Another excerpt from Matthew Fox's book Letters to Pope Francis: in the opening chapter of his book, Fox explores the promise he sees in the new pope's choice of the name Francis. Part of that promise is the way in which Francis of Assisi was willing to bend rigid gender lines, to honor (and incorporate into his own discipleship) the feminine and repudiate the aggressive masculine insofar as it is determined to dominate others:

Still another gift from Francis to our times is his amazing consciousness of gender balance. His poetry and his actions reveal a man who recognizes the necessary balance of masculine and feminine, yang and yin, in all beings and in all relationships if we are to be a sustainable species (p. 12).

Matthew Fox draws a powerful lesson from the story of Francis's life, from the way in which Francis set out on his path of discipleship by deliberately repudiating the control of his father, who had forbidden him to walk the path of discipleship, since Francis was slotted for the life of a successful businessman in his father's footsteps:

We all know what a pioneer Francis was, how he broke with his father and with both the old feudalism and the new capitalism of his day, the latter of which his father actually spearheaded as a very successful businessman. And so we ask: Will you too [Pope Francis] break with the fathers of Wall Street and titans of power who espouse the oligarchy of wealth and power to dominate others by means of economic and political injustice the world over? Those who are hiding thirty-two trillion dollars in secret off-shore accounts to guarantee they and their corporations pay no income taxes to support the common good?* Will you stand up for what and for whom Francis did when he stood up to wealth for wealth's sake in his day? We hope and pray that you will stand with "the Least" (Matthew 25) as Francis did and inspires you to do (pp. 10-11).

I find this analysis powerful. It recognizes links to which many of us pay far too little attention between the taken-for-granted right of powerful men to rule and economic systems of exploitation and injustice that are threatening the very balance on which the entire planet depends in order to continue in existence. It calls for a revolution in our thinking about these matters that includes revolutions in our assumptions about gender (and sexual orientation) to complement the revolutions demanded in our thinking about economic and ecological issues, if the socioeconomic justice for all is our goal and if we want to reverse the process of exploitation now threatening the ecology of the entire globe.

*Citing David Leigh, "Leaks Reveal Secrets of the Rich who Hide Cash Offshore," The Guardian, April 3, 2013.

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