Friday, February 19, 2016

Bridges and Walls: the Architecture/Infrastructure of Faith

It's been interesting to hear the pope's recent comments on whether Christians are more likely to build bridges or walls, to see how the media reports his comments, and to hear the responses.

What did the Pope say?  Here's how NPR reported it on their website:

"'A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,' the pope said, according to the Catholic News Agency."

As an English major, I understand what he's trying to say.  Jesus came to create community, except for a few of those passages where he seems cranky and not interested in that mission.  And the whole concept of being in the world but not of the world suggests wall building, in our minds at least, of a sort.

I also know that in some communities that wall building needs to happen for healing to occur.  People who have been abused by loved ones need to build strong walls so as not to be hurt again.  Churches need to be walled spaces that screen carefully to keep out those who prey on the weak.  I could go on and on with these examples, but I suspect that the pope was not talking about these kinds of walls. 

I don't usually go to literal meanings, but perhaps the pope was talking about literal walls to keep out the poor and destitute, building walls to make sure that we keep our wealth for ourselves.  That literal meaning I could support.

The pope was not talking about our personal walls--no, he was making a political statement, about the world's poor and the world's wealthy.  And clearly, he was making a judgment about the politicians who want to build these walls.

The pope occupies an interesting place:  he's both a prophet, in the traditional sense, speaking truth to the powerful.  But he's also one of the powerful.  His words move across the world in a way that the words of a modern Micah or Nehemiah or John the Baptist would not.

Many of us in the first world also occupy that place.  We may feel that we are not part of the rich and the powerful, but in terms of the planetary economy, even the poorest first world inhabitant has more resources than much of the non-first world.

What we do with those resources is a different matter.  And here, again, the words of the pope resonate.  Are we building walls or building bridges?

What can we do to help construct good bridges?

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