Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Four Words I Thought I’d Never Write: Pope Benedict Steps Down

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This morning, after I saw the headlines that Pope Benedict XVI plans to step down as of February 28, 2013, I knew I had to write this blog.

Now, why is this such a headline-making event?  It’s simple: Most Popes die in office.

In fact, Pope Benedict is the first Pope since 1415 to voluntarily step down, according to Sky News.  And the reason is simple: he is a frail man now at age 85, and he says a younger and stronger man is needed.

According to the article from Reuters (found via Yahoo.com):

In a statement, the pope said in order to govern “…both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

Pope Benedict had the unenviable job of following John Paul II as Pope, and for the most part did a good job.  While not perfect (he angered many Muslims with some ill-advised comments), he visited Auschwitz, prayed with Jews and Muslims, and was active in trying to root out pedophile priests (and those who covered for them) in the Catholic Church, paying close attention to Ireland and the United States in particular.

Whenever a major religious leader steps down or passes on, it’s a solemn occasion.  But it’s less solemn when someone actually realizes his time has passed and steps down rather than dies in office.

Good for Pope Benedict for realizing that he’s older now and not up to the task of the heavy workload of a modern-day Pope.

My hope for him is that he’ll enjoy the remainder of his life as a retired Pope, odd as that sounds, and that he’ll continue to work to remove pedophiles from the priesthood even in retirement as best he’s able.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 11, 2013 at 8:58 am

God’s Poll Numbers Slipping — Really!

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Folks, now I’ve heard and seen it all.  Even God has poll numbers.

According to this Web site, God’s approval numbers stand at 52%, with 9% disapproving.  (I’m not sure where all the other people are on this issue.  Perhaps the pollsters talked with a lot of atheists?)

Note I’ve seen other polls, rarely, such as the Gallup Poll, with numbers on God.  They’re usually much higher than this.  I would venture a guess that the reason for that is because of our overtly pessimistic American culture and political situation more so than anything else — we’re unhappy about our politics, we’re unhappy about our financial situation (personal and governmental), and we’re unhappy about the overall prospects for anything better because it sure doesn’t look like anything’s really improving out there.

Anyway, the reason we have new poll numbers for God is that the PPP polling firm wanted to use them in order to contrast those numbers against the poll numbers for Congress.  And while God’s poll numbers were lower than you might expect for a Deity, they were considerably higher than any member of Congress.

From the article:

Questions about God were asked as part of a larger survey assessing American opinions of congressional leaders in the midst of the ongoing debt ceiling debate in Washington.

God’s approval rating exceeded that of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, with each party receiving only a 33 percent approval rating.

God also polled significantly higher than the scandal-ridden media baron Rupert Murdoch: only 12 percent of those polled viewed him favorably, compared to 49 percent who viewed him unfavorably.

“Though not the most popular figure PPP has polled, if God exists, voters are prepared to give it (sic) good marks,” PPP said in a July 21 press release.

I would sincerely hope so!

Add a corollary of sorts from this article, which discusses a church in Washington, DC, that’s praying for a “just and compassionate budget.”  From the article, which has a video attached:

‘There’s nothing in the Bible about whether there should be revenues in the budget package of 2011,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a nonpartisan Christian movement working to end hunger in the U.S. and abroad. “But there’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t tax rich people. There’s a lot in the Bible that says you ought to protect poor people.”

Later in the article, the interfaith leaders who’ve been helping to hold this daily vigil said:

Besides praying, the group of interfaith leaders are urging their followers to contact members of Congress. Earlier this month, they sent a letter to President Obama, writing that “people who are served by government program – those who are poor, sick, and hungry, older adults, children, and people with disabilities – should not bear the brunt of the budget-cutting burden.”

Can I get an “Amen” from the peanut gallery?  (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 27, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Meditations on Easter

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Today is Easter Sunday for most of the Western World, and I thought as it is both a secular holiday and a very holy day (where the word “holiday” came from), I’d talk about what Easter has come to mean for me.

To me, Easter means, above all else, forgiveness.  Now, this may seem odd, as Easter is the day which commemorates Jesus Christ rising from the dead after being entombed three days before; you might wonder how I’m getting forgiveness from this, rather than persistence (which also applies), or hope (which certainly applies), or even faith itself (which definitely applies).

Simply put: Jesus was crucified on the cross, which was a common punishment of that day and time.  Jesus was a very spiritual, holy man who believed in love, and truth, and light and faith — among many, many other good things — yet if he hadn’t forgiven the Romans who placed him on that cross, nor if he hadn’t forgiven Judas Iscariot (one of his Twelve Apostles) for placing him in a horrible position in the first place, nor if he hadn’t forgiven Peter (another of his apostles) for betraying him to the Romans . . . well, if Jesus hadn’t forgiven any of them, why would he have risen from the dead in the first place, much less done anything else after that?

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that condemning an innocent man to death merely because you’re afraid of him (the Romans), or you need money more than you need his friendship (apparently Judas’s problem), or you’re unable to resist the pressure (though this is human and completely forgivable, while the other two actions are hard for modern readers to understand whatsoever) has got to be the worst thing you can possibly do to him.  It is a grave sin in the worst of senses — you’ve ended a very good man’s life, a holy man’s life, someone who had done many wonderful things (including miraculous healings, feeding a huge multitude from very little, and much more) — for little or no reason, all because too many people were afraid of Jesus because Jesus refused to stop spreading his Word.

Yet Jesus forgave these people who sinned against him, some grievously (the Romans, those within his own Temple, Judas Iscariot) and those who sinned because they could not help themselves (Peter).  And in the process, he brought hope, and light, and joy, and the belief that the spirit is eternal — or at least that it can be — and that all who wish it may learn about his Father (the Deity, otherwise known as God) and become better, wiser, kinder people who will partake of eternal life.

Now, the various denominations of Christianity differ on what, exactly, eternal life may be.  Some think it is literally a restoration of our human faculties, but for eternity and without pain, aging, health problems or death.  While some others believe that it means our souls are eternal — that our bodies ultimately don’t matter, but our souls do, which is why we must behave the best way we can, knowing all the while that we will sin and we will err, but that we must learn to forgive — not just our enemies, but ourselves.

Christians believe Jesus was the only son of God, while other faiths differ — some believe Jesus was a prophet, a holy man, or merely a good man who meant well.  Yet somehow, the happiness of Easter tends to wind through every life, no matter how far away your belief system or spirituality is from the Christian belief system, because the message of forgiveness, along with the twin meanings of hope out of absolute despair (Jesus’s death was widely mourned) and the belief that anyone can be redeemed.  Even a Roman who put Jesus on the cross to be crucified; even Judas Iscariot, who sold out his good friend Jesus; even Peter, who was weak during his hour of testing and had to learn to forgive himself for it after Jesus rose from the dead.

I believe in forgiveness, and most importantly, I believe in the eternal nature of the soul.  As such, Easter may be the most important holiday we still have because it celebrates the worth of an important man, a very good man who did many, many wonderful things in his lifetime — a man the world can’t stop talking about.  A man the Christians revere as Divine, yes — but Divinity alone isn’t why we remember Jesus, is it?

The last thing Easter means to me is that to believe in miracles still means something.  All of Jesus’s family, friends, most of his colleagues, his followers, they all prayed for a miracle.  Every single last one of them prayed — and they got their miracle when Jesus rose from the dead and came among them once more to spread the word and to remind them to “love one another” as he had loved them.

I believe in redemption, yes, but even more, I believe in the power of miracles.  We need more of them in our lives, to remind us of how special life can be — at this time of misery in the United States, with extremely high unemployment numbers and stories about people getting killed for the few dollars in their pockets, it seems to me that whether the story of Jesus was true or not, we need his story like never before.

But I, for one, really hope the story of Jesus, all he did, and all he was, is true.  Because it’s wonderful to think of a Deity who’d love us so much that despite all of our failings, our shortcomings, our problems and our pain — much less our wailings to him of woe (something the Christian God is said to welcome) — that he’d send his son to help us, guide us, and then to redeem us.

——–

Note that Horus among the Egyptian Gods has a very similar life-path and story to that of Jesus Christ.  And there probably are other Gods and Goddesses throughout recorded history who share some of the same characteristics; as a Unitarian-Universalist who’s studied a great deal of comparative religion, I believe that the message — that the soul is eternal, and that we can have joy if we want it, no matter how flawed we are and no matter how many mistakes we make in the process — is the same, but that the messengers used may not have been.  (Or maybe that’s just how our human minds can perceive it.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2011 at 2:03 am