In honor of the great 20th Century Jewish theologian Martin Buber, who died on this date in 1965, I want to back up a couple of weeks and pay attention to the remarkable words Pope Francis spoke in Israel at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial authority.
Indeed, in this piece George Weigel compares and contrasts those words with equally moving words spoken by Pope John Paul II at Yad Vashem in 2000.
JP II urges us to silence as we face the horrific reality of the Holocaust. By contrast, Francis dares to put words in God's own mouth in response to the same catastrophe. Both are good and necessary responses. Both call us out of ourselves. Both move us toward insight and healing.
You can go read the words of Francis in the link I've given you above, but read here are what I think is the most stunning of them, words that Francis has God speak in harmony with the creation stories in Genesis:
"Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths? Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good (cf. Gen 2:7). No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart… Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god."
Weigel moves from such words to an incarnated devil as the force behind human corruption. I think a better response is silence, as proposed by John Paul II -- silence because the harsh truth is that in many ways the answer to the question "Who corrupted you?" is that we did it to ourselves. We need not blame others, even Satan. We have proven ourselves capable of monstrous evil and stunning good all by ourselves.
If the papacy did not exist to produce such important words that make us think and bleed, bleed and think, we would have to invent it.
(Buber, by the way, is best known for his proposal of an "I-Thou" relationship between humans and the divine. It has enormous implications because it proposes that we don't experience God primarily through propositional statements but through a dynamic relationship between living human beings and a living god. That, it turns out, is [also] the theological center of Christianity.)
(The photo of Yad Vashem here today is one I took in 2012.)
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THE THEOLOGY OF FOSSIL FUELS
Union Theological Seminary in New York plans to pull all its endowment investments from companies that deal in fossil fuels as a way of helping with climate change. My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is thinking of doing the same thing and will talk about it at our national meeting that starts Saturday in Detroit. Is divestment a good idea? I have my doubts about its effectiveness, especially if it's the first arrow out of the quiver.
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P.S.: For those of you who were used to finding this blog at The Kansas City Star's Faith website, a change in that system knocked the blog off inadvertently for a time, but as of yesterday it's back there.