“But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.”
With these carefully crafted words in an address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis identified the central flaw in our political climate: the need to be right which demonizes all dissident opinions as wrong, evil, hateful.
Today’s politics deny compromise, creativity, civility, freedom of thought, and even friendship. Once a mind clamps down on one side of an argument, all intelligent conversation stops. “I’m right, therefore you are wrong” is not the beginning of a dialogue.
I have lost one long-time friend and mentor who has gone this way. His whole world is now painted black and white. There are no greys in his life. His feet are firmly planted in cement to the extent that he now uses his wit and withered wisdom to flay those who disagree with him. So surprised was I to find this man, whom I credit with teaching me how to reason, now a strident champion for faulty cause and effect. Over the course of the past year, this nearly broke my heart, and then I just stopped talking to him.
He is a Catholic, so I can only hope he listened to his Pope, and saw himself as he was when I treasured his teaching. I wept for this loss in my life.
I am not a Catholic, and I wept as the Pope, in describing how the world should be cared for and used, vividly illustrated the destructive thinking we see all around us by contrast.
Pope Francis issued a humble call to action with such simple truths, I found it hard to think about some of today’s political aspirants in the same room with him. I hope they too heard him…and listened.