The mid-term elections have passed. As I am writing this well before when they occurred, you not gonna get much comments about the results… (also, after I wrote this… the dust-up regarding the mid-session relatio post disceptationem / the “speech after the debate” from the Extraordinary -man, they got that right – Synod on the Family occurred) but, have we not all tired of the process which has engendered legislative gridlock placing a stranglehold and anybody’s and everybody’s ability to lead or govern?
It seems that far too many operate out of a sensibility of being a “cultural warrior,” one who has chosen to (righteously) uphold certain values publicly and proudly. While the term became defined and commonly accepted after a Bill O’Reilly book entitled “Culture Warrior;” we should not allow that to suggest that only one side of the political room might lay claim to it. Both the left and right have political and/or ecclesial combatants.
When commemorating the centennial of the start of World War I in at mass in Redipuglia, Pope Francis proclaimed “War is madness… War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying.” Following World War II, there was an historic rebuilding of Germany by the Allies referred to as the Marshall Plan. I’d like to suggest that Pope Francis has opted not to engage the culture as a warrior but as a reconstructionist and we are witnessing the makings of the Francis Plan.
Many have suggested that Pope Francis is working towards re-focusing the Church less on culture wars – contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and the like – and more on poverty and inequality. Yet, I wonder if what is really occurring is that Francis is presenting another lesson about marching with both feet for a social justice which removes root causes and improves structures along with charitable works which meets basic needs and assists individuals.
The Other Front
Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network in Washington, D.C., claims that that too much energy remains directed away from social justice, leaving structures that cause poverty to go unchallenged. “The Catholic Church is certainly one of the leading organizations in terms of providing services for the poor,” he said. “Where I think it’s lacking is on the other side of the coin, addressing the problem of poverty through change, not just providing food. I think we have to do both, and the church has fallen behind.”
Pope Francis is leading the charge of cultural reconstructionism. And not a moment too soon as here the problem for the cultural wars, especially for us as Catholic youth ministers… Youth are the collateral victims of the culture wars. Young people get that there is two sides to a coin and lean more towards what seems just rather than what is right. If something is broke, either fix it or discard it… and the church is spending plenty of time coming off as fractured. There are many issues out there but it seems as if the church only wants foot soldiers rather than diplomats or negotiators; that the church is going for the short and immediate (and hard fought) win rather than achieving a long-lasting peace.
A Cultural Reconstrictionist
Back to Pope Francis’ Redipuglia homily, he reminded us that war “ruins the most beautiful work of his hands: human beings. War ruins everything, even the bonds between brothers.” I chose the word Reconstructionist recognizing that it is a tricky word. The Civil War had its carpetbaggers and World War II had the Marshall Plan for rebuilding the Axis combatants. I’m not advocating declaring for a victor assuming responsibility for reclamation of the defeated. I’m using the word with the image of declaring cessation of the hostilities and committing together towards building the peaceable Reign of God.
A Cultural Reconstructionist is building and reconciling bands between those of the Family of God. A Cultural Reconstructionist addresses issues not only by challenging or confronting buy also serving those impacted on the front lines of the issues. The “weapon” of a Cultural Reconstructionist is love. Jon Tyson reminds us of this essential element of our arsenal.
The early church leaders didn’t have the things we now consider essential for our faith. They didn’t have official church buildings, vision statements or core values. They had no social media, radio broadcasts or celebrity pastors. They didn’t even have the completed New Testament. Christ-followers were often deeply misunderstood, persecuted and some gave their lives for their faith. Yet they loved and they served and they prayed and they blessed—and slowly, over hundreds of years, they brought the empire to its knees. They did it through love.”
Fellow cultural reconstructionists, declare peace! Live mercy! ¡Viva la Revolución!