Friday, March 29, 2013
The more things change the more they stay the same. Every decade or two a new face peeks out at the world from Vatican Square. Were it not for longrange television images we would not know it was a different face. The figure stands in an open balcony window and gives his blessing; he is dressed in white; he is surrounded by men robed in red and black. His predecessor stood in the same place a few days earlier. Can anyone really see a difference?
Ah, you say, there isn't supposed to be a difference, that's the whole point. It's all about continuity; a smooth transition. One Pope is gone and another takes his place so the people see no change – there isn't supposed to be any.
The camera pans the multitude in the square and the faces beam, people pray, cheer, smile with joy. With each new Pope it is the same. The people change but the smiling faces and the cheering do not. Nothing changes.
Each time a new Pope arrives the people say: “He will be different. He will lead the church into the modern era. He will be the Pope to lead us and guide us into this new world where the Earth is no longer the center of the Universe. He will explain how all religious belief founded on Earth can be relevant as we expand our reach to other stars and other beings.” The open question is: Will he guide us through this change or will he explain how nothing changes?
The demise of Christianity has oft been predicted yet it lives on. It lives on because it adapted to changes – though belatedly – as they presented themselves. Changes and challenges that seem to occur every six to eight hundred years: early Christianity from Judaism, Islam from early Christianity, Protestantism from Medieval Christianity. Change is surely due but who can predict it? Where are the minds and voices to guide mankind through the change? Or will the change to come be so evident that it will make religion as we know it irrelevant, so that everything changes?
When a woman or a person of another race or ethnic background becomes a member of a governing body, the dynamic of that chamber begins to change. Human beings seem to fear change yet their survival is assured only by adaptive change. Species change is slow, gradual but continual while most institutional change tends to be sudden and abrupt. Tension over a long period of time – like stress in a fault line – tends to result in violent shifts. Gradually easing the tension will mitigate the violence. Small steps to effect change are the best recipe for smooth, lasting change. Resisting change at all costs will only assure destructive change in the future.
The future survival of religion in general and Christianity specifically will not rely on strict adherence to what is believed to be God's plan for mankind but by seeking and implementing the changes necessary to understand that, whatever God's plan may be, it can only be known by Him and he is not bound by the rules of men. God itself is the great change agent.
Attempts to exclude a voice or a place at the table for a potential contributor to the change debate is foolish at best and disastrous in the extreme.
Survival requires change.
Change is good.
Good change is better.
The best change is achieved by inclusiveness and the worst by exclusiveness.
Tim Holland, a resident of Summerville is a retired international banker and corporate financial consultant.