Monday, June 03, 2013

A Tale of Two Demons: Pope Francis vs. Bp. Jefferts Schori

June 3, 2013         
Timothy George

Bultmann we know, but who is Katharine Jefferts Schori? And yet we should not single out Bishop Katharine unduly. The downplaying of the miraculous, the supernatural, and a fortiori the demonic has long been a staple in mainline Protestant culture and takes its toll among some progressive Catholics and evangelicals as well. Perhaps this is why Pope Francis devoted the second chapter of his book, Heaven and Earth, to “The Devil” and warned against the ultra-modernist idea “that everything can be traced to a purely human plan.”

There is a wider angle to this tale of two demons. It is worth noting that Pope Francis came from the global South to the heart of Europe to confront demons, whereas Bishop Schori traveled from North America to Venezuela to cast the demons from the text—without the benefit of an exorcism. There is some irony in this: a prominent representative of the rarified, Enlightenment-based religion of the North peddling a domesticated version of the Gospel in the global South. As we know, the Christianity thriving there is increasingly Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Pope Franciscan-Catholic. Like the robust faith of the New Testament, this kind of affective Christianity embraces the charismatic, the visionary, and the apocalyptic. These are all held in deep suspicion by those who still find spiritual warmth in the dying embers of rationalist religion. As Kenya’s Musimbi Kanyoro wrote, “Those cultures which are far removed from biblical culture risk reading the Bible as fiction.”

JeffertsSchori.JPGWhy do so many southern Christians take with utter seriousness spiritual things that seem to most of us as outmoded leftovers from a redundant worldview? Is it that we have allowed our hearts to become hardened to the spiritual realities all around us?...The pontificate of Pope Francis makes this task an urgent necessity for all who love the Church and wish to see her united in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life.
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