One of my favorite work quotes came from a leader who was adjudicating between warring factions in the office and said to the alleged victim, “You think those other guys wake up every morning thinking about how to make your lives miserable. The fact is, they don’t think about you at all!”
I mention this because, as is true with political junkies, church-watchers may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of people live their lives blissfully unaware of the dramas we fixate on. For Catholics, the first month of 2023 has been a flurry of previously unthinkable attacks on a reigning pope. Between the time of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s death and funeral, his right-hand man released a tell-all book outlining his concerns about his successor, Pope Francis. Then a high-ranking cardinal, Australian George Pell, died suddenly, and it’s revealed that he authored an anonymous article calling Francis’ papacy a disaster, that he told other cardinals to prepare for a conclave because Francis was soon to die, that he authored another attack that ran posthumously in the British publication The Spectator. Then another high-ranking cardinal, this time a German, trashed Francis’ brainchild, the synod on synodality, along with everything else Francis touched. I’ve never seen a Marvel movie, but I get the feeling that this is the kind of rapid-fire tag-team attack that one of those Infinity Multiverse War Movies would contain. And it’s not abating any time soon. Pope Francis leaves tomorrow to visit two nations in the midst of civil wars, and honestly, it might seem like a break in the tension.
The people at Axios like to encourage optimism by reminding us that the vast majority of Americans don’t tweet. By that they mean, the daily hair-pulling drag outs that political junkies tie themselves to are almost entirely ignored by Americans, who are devoting most of their mental energy to remembering who is picking up the kid in carline, figuring out what’s for dinner, and trying to make a little more and spend a little less so they can breathe a little easier.
The same is true for Christians, Catholic as well as all the other Christians whose churches are caught up in drama (cough, cough, Methodists, Southern Baptists, cough). While those who mainline EWTN News and blogs (for Catholics) or whatever other inner circle of outrage the fixated swirl in may be distraught by the battles that threaten to tear their institutions apart, most believers are blissfully unaware. They are devoting most of their spiritual energy to trying to be a little kinder, trying to raise their kids so they can find their way to faith, trying to get a little more Jesus in their lives and hoping it will help them breathe a little easier.
I’m not saying the battles aren’t important. I’m just saying they may not be all there is. They are certainly not the definitive part of who we are supposed to be.
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