There I was, rolling down the King’s Highway, top down on the Pillow-mobile, pancake houses to my left, Atlantic Ocean to my right. Then Mr. IROC-Z pulls up alongside me at a red light, St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in the background. The red driver-side door of the aged Camaro doesn’t exactly match the rest of the vehicle’s metallic blue exterior. Yet that hardly prevents the Carrot Top lookalike driver from cranking the bass on his stereo and revving his engine.
“Aha, blessed fellow traveler! Looking for a little acoustic duel, art thou? Whatcha got? Pitbull? Pshah! Just so happens that I’ve been cruising to the soundtrack of “The Mission” all week, thanks to the inspiration of my progressive peep, Pope Francis.
The light turns green. The Chevy screeches off into the maw of putt-putt golf courses, beach shops with great white shark statues blasting through the roofs, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, and all the other polymer icons that our broken capitalistic system has to offer along the main thoroughfare of the Redneck Riviera—otherwise known as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. About the only thing I’m missing here is a Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood.
Whoosh! There they are in the rearview mirror.
Back to St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church. Damn, I feel bad for the priest in charge of that place. An apostolic exhortative tidal wave slammed into his parish this week from across the Pond. How can such a parish respond to the call for “a new chapter of evangelization” whilst surrounded on all sides by RV parks that announce their fundamentalist stalwartness with 20-foot Bible verses next to the neon blinking “Vacancy” sign? How can that Catholic community heed the warnings against “the thirst for possessions” in the city that put kitsch on the map?
I type these words, of course, with a bowl of Apple Jacks in my lap and with a view of the ocean from my “original indoor waterpark” hotel room.
Trust me, evangelistic research is no walk in the park.
Pastor Pillow here!
Well, he’s gone and done it. Not only has Pope Francis ditched the fancy hat and the filigree throne, plus nixed the papal bulletproof wheels, but now he’s actually followed up all that “touching of the poor” with a first public exhortation that rivals J.K. Rowling for literary water cooler gossip material. (By the way, I’m pretty sure “first public exhortation” is a genre only permitted to popes.)
All in all, it’s enough to felt a flannelgraph.
Talking heads on both sides of the U.S. political spectrum have been quick to pounce on the Real Slim Franky’s Evangelii Gaudium. MSNBC considered replacing Lawrence O’Donnell with a wax figure of the Argentinian Jesuit, whilst the Mt. Rushmore Radical Right saw the latest bestseller from Vatican Press as an opportunity to prod its ignorant base into instigating a new Thirty Years’ War. Looks like the Weather Channel is even getting in on the game; apparently all its anchors will don Swiss Guard uniforms for the foreseeable future.
What kind of amuses me about all of this is that most talking heads don’t seem to have read Evangelii Gaudium other than the few pull quotes that were extracted by interns forced to read the 50,000-word manuscript in the middle of the night.
So, seeing as this is Thanksgiving Week, I think I’ve earned a respite from curling up for the weekend with a bunch of hateful Radical Right media clips. Let us instead head down a somewhat more optimistic path. After all, my pope has called my Catholic derriere to increased joy. (If you truly insist on being depressed, may I suggest you read last Sunday’s Weekly Round-Up grrr-fest on Evangelical child abuse manuals?)
And, really, once one has bested a vintage Camaro with the music of Ennio Morricone, there’s no heading down a dark news path.
Finally, how much more football can you possibly endure this weekend? First there was the standard Turkey Day pigskin bonanza. Then rivalry weekend in college football, with an Iron Bowl for the ages. Surely you can devote part of your Sunday afternoon to reading the most important Christian document issued since Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans—or, if you’re a graduate of Wheaton College, the latest article about C.S. Lewis’ favorite shepherd’s pie recipe in Christianity Today. After all, you’re not going to the 5:30 p.m. service—we both know you lied and used church as an excuse to get out of driving Aunt Helga back home on the other side of the state.
Anyway, as the holy man with St. Pete’s keys says: “Be mysteriously fruitful!”
5. A Papal Exhortation, via The Big Guy Himself: “Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis, to the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World”
We might not have female Roman Catholic priests anytime soon, but it is encouraging to note that someone at the Vatican owns a copy of Adobe Acrobat. Visit the above link and download a PDF copy of Evangelii Gaudium.
The 223-page document might initially intimidate readers, but you’ll be relieved to learn that the manuscript has been published in something approximating 40-point font. Sadly, there are no Scratch ’n Sniff images. (Who wants to know what a prayer to the Virgin Mother smells like, anyway.) Seriously, though, the tract reads amazingly quickly.
I’m pretty much going to let Pope Francis speak for himself here. He wrote Evangelii Gaudium, in part, so that you could know him more fully than a three-minute news segment can do justice.
My personal favorite quote is, I would argue, one of the keys to understanding the document:
“I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to.”
From my many trips to the island nation of Haiti, the remarkable joy I have witnessed of those in abject poverty has remarkably informed my personal philosophy of economics. I believe Pope Francis is telling us through his public exhortation that a society with “possession” and “property” at its core is spiritually vacuous and lifeless.
Then again, he’s really just reminding us. Jesus told us this fact first.
Listen, I get it. The majority of readers are not going to read the entire Evangelii Gaudium unless it contains a secret Dan Brown decoder ring. Yet perhaps I can entice a few readers into perusing select passages on the topics contained therein:
The Catholic Herald has provided some nice EG Cliff Notes. Even if you read just this article, that’s still probably more of the Evangelii Gaudium than the majority of media talking heads have read.
Here are the subjects covered in the above link: On evangelisation… / On parishes… / On secularisation… / On the family… / On abortion… / On women priests… / On science and religion… / On the poor… / On peace… / On the economy… / On ecumenical dialogue… / On Islam…
Sorry, sports fans, no section entitled “Why Notre Dame Had No Business Joining the ACC.”
3. The Real Poop on the Pope, according to Catholic World Report: “A Helpful Summary of the Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Evangelii Gaudium’”
Sorry, Pastor Pillow. I just don’t have the time, or interest, to read Evangelii Gaudium. But I am rather suspicious of all these political pundits treating the document as if it were some sort of lecture presented at the London School of Economics. Can you help me here?
Indeed. Read the above article by fellow Jesuit Carl Olson, editor of Catholic World Report.
Pope Francis isn’t running for U.S. Senate. He isn’t shortlisted as the next Fed Chairman. He is, by his own admission, first and foremost an evangelist. Jesus proclaimed a message of salvation for humanity, and Pope Francis has been charged with keeping the game of Operator going for a 21st consecutive century.
The problem is, Christ’s original message “to proclaim the Gospel and provide for the poor and needy” somehow had mutated into “Take those alms for the poor and buy new drapes from a chic Paris salon.”
I have a feeling about a century from now people will be referring to this new pope as Francis the Fixer.
2. Evangelical Media’s Take on Franky Argentine’s Chart-Topping Exhortation, over at Christianity Today: “Five Things Evangelicals Will Cheer in Pope Francis’ Plan to Change the Catholic Church”
I couldn’t altogether ignore what the Evangelical Media has to say about all this, could I?
Wow, Christianity Today seems to have nailed it on the head. And The Christian Post, which has supplied more than its fair share of Weekly Round-Up fodder, provides a fair summary, as well.
Meanwhile, over at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting News: the sound of silence is deafening. In fact, as near as I can tell, the last time CBN’s website even mentioned the Vatican was in an earlier November article about frescoes in catacombs.
1. 22 Million Insane Americans Shit on the Meaning of Thanksgiving: “Thanksgiving Openings are the New Normal”
According to CNN Money, more than 22 million people shopped at Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day. Sarah Hale, who spent decades of her life fighting to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, turned in her simple grave in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery upon learning of the news. She was joined by Abraham Lincoln.
Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart, had this to say about Black Thursday: “Anytime you get more than 22 million people together, you get some behavior people aren’t proud of.”
Um, yeah, like shopping in Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day. Like perpetuating the vacuous, materialistic society that we live in.
I only wish that Pope Francis had gone one step further in his Evangelii Gaudium and declared consumerism overlords like Mr. Simon as antichrists.
Give him time, give him time.
Well, folks, that’s a wrap!
And just why do we present the Christian Right Weekly Round-Up each week?
According to Forbes, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) alone brings in nearly $300 million per year in revenue. CBN isn’t alone in the 9-figure Radical Right Revenue Game. According to the website Ministry Watch, CBN is dwarfed in comparison to the nearly $900 million raked in annually by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
But TBN and CBN are mere bright stars in a galactic empire of hundreds of Christian news and media organizations. If you have a few minutes to spare, review the membership lists of the National Religious Broadcasters and the Evangelical Press Association.
Each and every one of these Christian media organizations have one thing in common: they report news to members of the Christian Right across the Fruited Plain. And the Christian Right account for nearly one-third of America’s voters.
Not only that, but here’s a list of what’s on the line in November 2014:
—All 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives
—33 seats in the U.S. Senate
—46 State Legislatures
—And 38 State and Territorial Governorships.
Sorry to preach politics from the pulpit, but if that doesn’t scare the shit out of you enough to submit an early 2014 ballot, I don’t know what will.
See you next week.
And a final message for people everywhere, don’t forget: the November 2014 election is this many days away.
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