When I was a talk radio producer I had a hierarchy of “callers”, people who would call into a talk show trying to get on the air to voice their opinion. My hierarchy was as follows in reverse order:
3) You had a very intelligent point, succinctly made and you could go toe to toe with the host intelligently and passionately.
2) You were angry and you would make the host go ballistic. Or you made me laugh and I thought the host would either laugh or get mad at you.
And #1) You were just lame enough to be funny. Not in a sad or pathetic way, but in a way that was just lame enough that we could get one good laugh out of you.
It also convinced me that there are a lot of loonies in the general public–and I mean that in the best way possible.
So today I read a beautiful article by Fr. James Martin, S.J. on the Pope’s recent embrace and kiss of a disfigured man with a horrible skin condition. His main point is succinct:
Even more broadly, for believers, the Pope’s kiss reminds us of God. This is the way God loves us. God loves us in all our pain, in all our struggles, in all our humanity.
Few of us suffer from such a terrible disease as does the man in the photo; not many of us are physically disfigured. But many of us feel internally disfigured – unworthy of unconditional love. Yet God wants nothing more than to embrace us as tightly as the Pope’s embrace.
But then I read the comments below and just felt like the democracy of internet is creating way too many “minor league radio callers” with the folks who write into the com boxes. One person even suggested that Fr. Jim kill himself–which if it happened in my day was enough to get you banned for life. Another suggested that God doesn’t exist and that Fr. Jim’s article was akin to buffoonery. Of course, they made the same old arguments that we’re all sick and tired of hearing. Nothing new. Not even anything creative.
They are not getting close to being just lame enough to be funny.
A colleague of mine recently invited me to plan some events and to invite some “friendly atheists” to the conversation. I asked him what I should do about “unfriendly atheists”? His response was great. He said that we have to stay in conversation with people who are willing to have an intelligent conversation and dismiss those who simply cannot maintain a conversation or who simply don’t want to be part of one.
So tonight I will begin my prayers by asking God to bless those who are unable to have a conversation and who more importantly, find it necessary to be mean. I pray that we can find ways to talk with one another. And I pray that we don’t get discouraged in this work, this vital work that can indeed bring about peace in the world.
And I pray that everyone can see that ugliness comes in many forms. There are many in the world who would call the man who the Pope embraced “ugly”. But the truth is that I find attitudes to be far uglier than any physical attribute.
And here is the Pope who, like God, is unafraid of touching the ugly parts of who we are.
What about us? Who are we all too eager to dismiss? Who do we cast off and cast out? Who are we so uncharitable to, to the point of denigrating?
We are called to touch these people with our own willingness to stay in conversation with those we can talk to despite the difficulty in doing so. And that can get ugly. It can get painful and vengeful and just simply put, sinful.
May God inspire us to stay in conversation with each other and in doing so may we be healed and renewed.