A Pope’s Influence on Society

What influence does a pope have?

What kind of agent of change is a pope? Especially in today’s world, where popes have turned their back on political power, coming full circle back to the very earliest days of the Church so as to become spiritual and not political leaders?

How much influence did or does Thomas Paine have? Karl Marx? Paul Krugman? Abbie Hoffman? Your next door neighbor?  Does anyone have?

Well, put it this way. Stalin once contemptuously asked, “How many divisions does the pope have?”

It was his way of saying that the then pope had no power to stop him.

Long after Stalin was gone, he got an answer from John Paul II. JPII demonstrated that there is a higher power than brute force.

All John-Paul II did was go to then-communist Poland in 1979 and say mass. Well, okay, he held 32 masses in nine days, criss-crossing the nation. Millions showed up. His theme wasn’t insurrection. Rather his theme was that of human dignity and a spiritual revolution.  Certainly, he preached nonviolence.

And the rest is history. I’m sure you remember those years- those wild years in Poland.

As Timothy Garton Ash wrote, “Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism.”

Gorbachev did not disagree, saying of his once nemesis, “It would have been impossible without the Pope.”

It does not do well to underestimate the impact of a spiritual leader. Especially one that is the head of a religion of more than 1.2 billion, of whom 483 million are Latin Americans, many of whom live in penury.

I’m reminded as well of a story someone told me once. This gentleman, a kind man, an atheist liberal, once walked into a house. In the house were Christians, supposedly, who were of politically  conservative sympathies. They wished to lay a trap for this man.

They asked him, “If you saw someone hurt on the side of the road, would you help him?”

The person answered, “Yes. Yes, of course.”

The so-called Christians responded with scorn. They were of a mind to “let him die” as was so loudly proclaimed at a recent Republican presidential nomination debate. A room full of so-called Christians!

Something was missing from that situation of that liberal being trapped by so-called Christians. At least, that’s what I felt when I heard the story.

The gentleman entering the house was unconsciously following a Christian teaching- the teaching that was exemplified in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

And the people who tested him, while asked if they were Christians, would affirm their religion, while rejecting that religion’s very teaching. That is, they proclaimed their Christianity in theory while hating it in fact.

What was missing was a man like Francis. Francis is assuming the role of saying to these hypocrites and people like them, “Shame on you! You hypocrites! You have much to learn, and you have much to learn of your own religion from an atheist.”

I sense that a man named John the Baptist once assumed that role of afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted.

We need such men.

This post was unashamedly influenced by https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/pope/communism/

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About zghortaman
Attempting to navigate the modern day with every tool available

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