There is something sacred in the act of lighting a flame. This time of year brings many such rituals -- the Yule log, the Christmas candle and the Chanukah menorah, among others. Each, in its own way, reminds us that our lives need never be engulfed by darkness so long as we remember to kindle a light.
Pope Francis is able to attract the masses as they thirst for hope and hunger for love. As we struggle with the dangers of climate change, social inequality, racial division, and xenophobia, the Pope does not turn a blind eye to these issues, he challenges us to face them and to make changes and act to work for justice.
This week, the nation was transfixed by the radical humility of Pope Francis. In the midst of an ugly campaign season already marked by xenophobia, scapegoating, and cruelty, this very different Pope brought a very different message. While addressing a joint session of Congress, and again at the United Nations, he urged leaders to see the humanity of those affected by their actions, or lack of action. They should view refugees "as persons... trying to respond as best we can to their situation." He cited the Golden Rule, but expanded it for his Congressional audience, urging the politicians to "seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves." At the UN he called for "an examination of conscience," and asked that "real human beings take precedence over partisan interests." It was a master class in true leadership, and the awesome power of humility. Let's hope the Pope's spirit lingers long after he leaves.
It was touching to see politicians including House Speaker John Boehner shed tears listening to the Pope's sermon. But it's unlikely the Pontiff's stirring words will be taken to heart by the Speaker and his fellow narrow-minded conservatives, who for years have hid under the cloak of God in perpetrating a self-serving, elitist and decidedly unchristian-like extremist political agenda.
It's not so much that religion makes people do evil, it's that it provides a convenient excuse for nearly anything, and that lowers the bar for committing bad behavior we might otherwise avoid. It's time for non-theist and faithful progressives to unite and stop giving the conservative religion a free pass for prejudice.