I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…
I love the Pope.
I love the possibilities of what a Pope might mean for the world.
John XXIII, John Kennedy’s Pope, the Pope of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope of “We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.” Pope John died the same year Kennedy died, the same year Camelot died.
John Paul II, the Singing Pope, the Pope of reconciliation with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. But like the man I interviewed said, when the Pope came to Boston in 1979, and The Singing Pope’s CDs were jumping off the shelves, “Look, I love the Pope. But I gotta tell you: he ain’t no Frankie Sinatra.”
And now Francis, the one and only, the Pope of nightclub bouncers, Jesuits, and Jesuit nightclub bouncers, first Pope from south of the border, first Pope who isn’t also a European in nearly thirteen hundred years.
Not the first Pope to take a serious misstep on behalf of religion.
Pope Francis says that while it was an aberration to kill a dozen folks at the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, those folks really oughtn’t to have insulted the faith of their murderers. Even if the first person killed was a maintenance man who couldn’t have drawn an image of Muhammad to save his life, which of course didn’t save his life anyway.
But to certain of the faithful, how do you not insult their faith, if you are of a different faith? My mother was a Texas baptist for forty-one years before a deathbed Catholic conversion. The good people of her former church told my brother, who was eleven at the time, he’d better hurry on up and get baptized, because his mother was burning in hell for what she did.
I always liked what the Dalai Lama says about the certainty of faith, which is that there is no certainty. He’s been studying and practicing his religion all his life (or most of his countless lives, from his point of view), yet when asked about the certainty of his knowledge will reply, “I don’t know.”
It’s a lot harder to kill an unbeliever when you don’t know for sure yourself.
It’s easy to criticize the Pope for essentially implying that the people who worked at Charlie Hebdo had it coming. Of course it’s madness to justify the murder of someone who makes fun of your religion. It’s the madness of knowing. Knowing that you possess the one true faith.
If you know, know that the unbeliever, like my Texas mama and (maybe) everyone at Charlie Hebdo, is going to burn in hell for eternity, it makes virtually no difference if you kill every one of them. The average lifespan on this earth is sixty-eight years. What are sixty-eight years, or one hundred sixty-eight years, to eternity? I would imagine just a few days of burning in hell will make you forget everything that came before.
There is a cure to this madness. The cure is caring more for every creature struggling to know, than caring for the knowledge itself. It’s the struggle that’s worthy of our love, not the end of struggle. Nobody loves a know-it-all.
France has declared war on radical Islam, as though the seventeen deaths there suddenly awakened a nation fairly immune to the two thousand nine hundred ninety-six deaths thirteen years before, when the United States declared its own war. I would rather both nations had declared peace, and by that I don’t mean love or forgive the terrorists. Of course they should be brought to justice. But which justice?
These declarations of war, against people who reside within every nation on earth, obscures the view that this is not a military issue, but rather a criminal justice issue, important to people of all faiths and none.
People of faith, and people of no faith, can hate each other, be slaves to everlasting war. Or we can declare instead, I don’t know, and be free.
Je suis Charlie, je suis Juif, je suis catholique, je suis Baptiste, je suis bouddhiste, je suis musulman.
Je suis tout le monde.