Friday, April 25, 2008

The Pope as a “Hard-Liner”

Getting back to the pope’s visit, do you remember when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope back in April 2005 and become Benedict XVI? Do you remember what was perhaps the most common description of him in the media? From my observations, he was most often referred to as “a hardliner.” Although the media did a terrific job of reporting the death of John Paul II and the election of the new pope, occasionally their bias showed in their use of terminology. For example, it was duly noted in the media that the “reformers” were disappointed that a “hardliner” was elected pope, and not someone who is more “progressive.”

For most people, the term “hardliner” has negative connotations. The image conjured up by the word “hardliner” is of someone who is rigid, unyielding, unsympathetic, and, possibly even that sin of all sins, intolerant. After hearing the pope being described as a “hardliner” at that time and throughout last week as well, I got to thinking: what’s so bad about standing up for what you believe in? What’s wrong with being firm in regards to your beliefs, convictions, principles, morals, and faith in God? Besides, religious beliefs aren’t supposed to change no matter what the religion– otherwise you have more of an evolving philosophy than a religion or belief system.

Moreover, we as Christians believe the Bible to be inspired by God, so why would we want to mess with it? Wouldn’t you rather be part of a religious tradition that honors its sacred texts rather than deconstructs them? Isn’t it better to be a “hardliner” than wishy-washy, unsure of your beliefs, without conviction or principles, or just going whichever way the winds of the culture are blowing that week?

The reason I’m talking about this is because it is not just an issue for Catholics, but it is something that affects all Christians as well. After all, Protestants who stand up for biblical principles as they have traditionally been understood since the early church are often labeled: fundamentalists, bigots, right wing extremists, religious zealots, and worse. So in light of all this, we need to understand a few things about beliefs, so that when we hear or see things in the media or elsewhere, we can stand firm in our own convictions.

More on standing firm in matters of faith and morals in a future post.

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