Evangelicals and JPII Together

“The death of Pope John Paul II is a loss for humanity. He was the leader of the largest Christian church in the world and a moral leader.

“John Paul II stood against the immorality of communism and ensured that the Church would remain a bulwark of moral truth. He stood for the sanctity of life in a time where the culture of death has made steady advance in western civilization. His leadership, his voice, his compassion will be missed in the life of his Church and the wider world.”

That was Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian member of Congress, reacting to the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

And he was far from alone.

Franklin Graham. Pat Robertson. Richard Land.

They all expressed their gratitude for the life and service of Karol Wojtyla.

When John Paul II died, so many of us had our eyes glued to Rome, our knees bent in adoration for the great gift we had in this man and his very public witness in living and dying.

But that day he died, and in the hours and days after, I came to appreciate intensely that some Evangelical Protestants seemed to love him as a brother in Christ as much as so many Catholics.

John Paul II wasn’t just a Catholic hero.

And others didn’t simple appreciate him despite his Catholicism. He didn’t simply “transcend his religion” as some (others) put it at the time.

Apparently Jack Chick anti-papal tracts have little power in the face of loving, courageous, compelling leadership!

And a little evangelical Catholicism.

As my friend and colleague, Ramesh Ponnuru, author of The Party of Death, commented at the time: it was “evidence of how the political struggle over abortion has reconfigured American religion, making possible first joint political action and then joint theological reflection that would have been unimaginable before.”

He is right, of course. The Gospel of Life had so very much to do with it. Especially as it seemed to emanate from his very being.

And in a whole new profound way in his final days. That Last Encyclical as George Weigel puts it.

But, watching the way even evangelicals have been attracted to unpacking (along with the rest of us) the Theology of the Body and so many of the treasures JPII left us, in the years since, I can’t help but it’s even more than that, albeit intimately related to the evil he homed in on.

John Paul II was ever-realistic. Whether we’re talking about Love and Responsibility and the Theology of the Body or the Soviet Union, he dealt in this world, he dealt with the evil of this world. He was evil’s target. And he faced it down. And he was amazingly saved from it. And forgave.

You can’t fake courage like John Paul II had. He had divine help but he knew where he was living. And he knew his call.

And you can’t help but be inspired by it. Because it both comes from and points to something far greater than you or I or any earthly power.

As we pray for Christian unity. As we pray for young people who are so often without role models of loving marriages. As we appear thirsting for leadership. We know that God gives us what we need. Because he gave us John Paul II, who we celebrate this week.

What we really thirst for. That water provides. John Paul II, humanity – thanks be to God, it’s an inspiration, it’s a hope! – and all, is a holy, fatherly, poster boy (if I may).

Not despite his Catholicism but because of it.

That’s why we love him. That’s why Catholics are far from alone.

That is why we keep unpacking what he left us, in his writing, in his witness. In the history. That is why we celebrate.

Evangelicals and Catholics, together.

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4 thoughts on “Evangelicals and JPII Together

  1. Peter TW says:

    There is a gap between religion and the people on two fronts. One, an exercise in the name of God is a bridge too high folks cannot reach, and two; programmes about God is focus on the promotion of the state, its rulers among culture and tradition. If I can state that God became man to save the sinners and serve the people and yet some of the brethrens are unapproachable for their status that Jesus died in vain. The meaning serves a purpose but the purpose is redirected to the ruling class or some political or cultural tradition that we are lost in the delivery.

    I’m sure people can be reached in simple yet meaningful objectives. This usually emerges when the aspects of culture and politics and their subjective aspects are peeled from the self that God can reclaim him/her in His image. But of course it’s rather naive to expect people to be without culture and politics, not to be confused with our own nepotistic leanings.

    And this is where a few great ‘artists’ can reach the eyes and ears of the people by a simple delivery. Pope John Paul II knew this and he bridged the divide with the sovereignty of God. By planting God in the heart of man, Pope John Paul not only brought man closer to God, who resides over the dominion of culture, of politics, and all the material aspects that form our self. The transformation of the heart is purifying our habits and customs by activating that God principle in our emotions. Love! ‘Love is the only basis of human relationships’. It is upon this rock that springs the manifestations of human culture, its politics, its traditions, and human relations.

    And Pope John Paul II has quantified God in the objective purpose of what we do to witness the outcome in the quality of our daily living. God, Love, Life, and we are a living witness to the glory of God. It is where the beauty of creation takes on new meanings as we think, feel, do, in love.

    God bless Pope John Paul II.

  2. Sushila Pereira says:

    Pope John Paul II is an inspiration to the world in his life and in his death. He can never die as long as there is love for him in our hearts. I know he has touched millions of people in the entire world be they priest and religious to the prostitute. All have experienced his love to some degree. We are so blessed to have had such a person representing the love of Jesus and teaching us how to love without prejudice to any human being. We are richer for knowing him. Let us spread that love that he taught us.

  3. Don Dr. Patrick Foley says:

    As a Catholic historian who was honored to be asked to write the essay summarizing the Catholic history of Texas sent to His Holiness for his study in preparation for his visit to Texas on September 13, 1987, I was spiritually overwhelmed when my wife, Linda, and I were present at his San Antonio Holy Mass. He truly is a saint. May God bless all of us.

    Peace in Christ,

    Don Dr. Patrick Foley

  4. mlajoie2 says:

    This seems the perfect time and place to share an ‘evangelical’ moment directly and personally touched by John Paul II. In 1994, at the urging of my wife, I decided to send my song dedicated to John Paul II directly to him. It turns out the former mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn, was Ambassador at that time and my mother-in-law had worked for the city. Well, after reaching Flynn’s secretary and sending her the song, she assured me she would get Mr. Flynn to present it to His Holiness, and, indeed, it happened. We received a letter with an Apostolic Blessing in return. That song, called “Peter the Rock” has just been released this year on my group’s album, “Refresh” (Living Waters). Here is a link to play it: http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/4634250 . It is also available on video at RevebNation. Let us all rejoice in the great gift to the world that this man represents!

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