"Each of us has a vision of good and evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good."
That line, spoken by Pope Francis to Italian interviewer Eugenio Scalfari, may be the mantra for the postmodern age.
Put it on the walls of upscale gyms everywhere. Festoon it on the windows of all Starbucks stores across the world. Cause it to rise on the scents of elegant spas where warm rocks and touch therapy help people get in touch with their bodies. Let it be heralded from the Abercrombie-Fitch catalog. Strike the words in minimalist font and post them thoughtfully in every cranny of Silicon Valley. Mandate that all Hollywood scriptwriters memorize and repeat the mantra upon arising. Declare that all public school lunchrooms display the words painted in indelible color for students to read as they dine on healthful Michelle-munch. Sound the theme in every commencement address henceforth. May the Force infuse the thought into a resurrected Yoda and enlighten us all.
Actually, we don't need a resurrected Yoda. Pope Francis is doing well himself advancing the postmodern theme. Not only must each person "choose to follow the good and fight the evil as he conceives them," Pope Francis told Scalfari, but if everyone follows their own conscience it is "enough to make the world a better place."
So let the smoke arising above the Sistine Chapel signal, and the crowds flocking into St. Peter's Square shout, "We have a postmodern Pope!"
Ironically, the seemingly unyielding Catholic Church has produced an eclectic Pope. His eclecticism is the syncretism (blending of philosophies, religions, and worldviews) of subjectivism and progressivism which add up to postmodernism.
Postmodernism is the prevailing worldview in much of Western culture. It rejects the mechanical structures of modernism, and their cold, insensitive technologies. Postmoderns, however, live in a contradiction: they are in love with their (modernist) techno-gadgets of (postmodernist) social connectivity. This means that companies like Apple thrive at the odd nexus of modernist machinery and postmodern applications. Regarding faith, postmodernism seeks to replace doctrinally based belief with cosmic spirituality where one pretty much creates his or her own belief system.
If Apple loves to walk the high-wire between modernist technology and postmodern application, so, apparently, does Pope Francis. But the winds up there are swirling and intense. It's hard to stay balanced between the unyielding, centuries-old dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, and the postmodern ethos of contemporary western society.
Just how precarious that balancing act is becomes apparent through a closer examination of people who have lived their lives based on the Pope's postmodern mantra.
Kermit Gosnell comes to mind. Gosnell's conscience told him that performing abortions almost non-stop was helping poor and disadvantaged women. His abortuaries became slaughter-houses. But if the Pope is right about us all following our visions of good and evil, and moving toward what we each think is the "Good", then how can we justify shoving conscience-faithful Gosnell into a jail cell?
And then there is Peter Singer, the Princeton professor and bio-ethicist. "Good" for Singer is utility. Evil is that which diminishes the happiness of the majority by taking from it and not being useful on its behalf. In Singer's worldview "Sanctity of human life" is replaced with "Quality of human life," as Anglican Peter May points out. "Quality" doesn't refer to the positive aspects of the individual's life experience, but "quality" in the sense of a good tire on your car. Human life is not sacred, because there is no "Image of God," there being no "god" in Singer's thought. Therefore weak, crippled, non-"quality" humans (including the elderly) can be "replaced" like that tire with worn tread.
And how could we not exclude Hitler? The toothbrush-mustachioed Nazi had a "vision of good and evil" too, and pursued his "Good" with passion. The Aryan race would fulfill Darwinian vision. Hitler would be the heroic agent who would contribute to humanity by accelerating mankind's rise to Darwinian heights, in which everyone would look like Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering. To get there the "inferior" forms of humanity – ranging from Jews to mentally and physically challenged people to homosexuals to Gypsies and others – had to be eliminated. Aryan-seeming (to Nazi specifications) males had to crossbreed with Aryan-seeming females.
If Pope Francis' postmodern mantra were taken seriously in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church might have been counseled to get over their "obsession" regarding sanctify of life issues, and accept the fact that Hitler, Mengele, Eichmann, and all the rest were merely following their "vision of good and evil."
Almost all of history's monsters have sought a moral base for their atrocities. Subjectivist postmodernism provides them a philosophical, even spiritual, foundation on which to justify their actions. Shame on the Pope for sanctioning such a warped way of seeing the world.
As a person who appreciates much in the Catholic Church, as I noted in Part 1 of this series, I am disappointed.
Early on, folk were describing Francis as the "evangelical Pope." Indeed, his calls for the Gospel of Christ's salvation to be the first priority of all homilies (sermons) and Francis' urgings for incarnational engagement were music to evangelical ears. Maybe, as we pondered in Part 2, we could even see a slight convergence between Catholicism and Evangelicalism. But then the Pope's postmodern mantra made the music a cacophonic jumble of sour notes.
No person embracing biblical revelation could sing the Pope's postmodern mantra – and that includes many Catholics.
Or go out on that precarious high-wire with him.