Fridays with Francis, January 16, 2015: “Ideological colonization” is The Enemy of Peace


Melissa Maleski

Canonization announcements. Statements on fundamentalism, terrorism, religious freedom, the environment, contraception, marriage, the economy, and diplomacy. Trips to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. And that is just a portion of what the Holy Father was up to this week. There is a theme interwoven in all this, embodied by two related statements. These two statements are not found in any of this week’s news, but they summarize nicely the point Pope Francis is trying to make. The first one is: Peace and self-sacrifice are inseparable. The second: Ideological colonization is the enemy of peace. 

The phrase ideological colonization just emerged today, and it’s an immediate favorite of mine. Short and unassuming, once completely unpacked this phrase has the potential to knock you on your butt. Colonization, as a word, implies displacement. One thing comes in, another must be removed to make space. Forests fall so that buildings may rise. Settlers arrive and natives scatter. Rarely does colonization leave the displaced unscathed, if a continued existence is permitted. Applied to ideas, colonization is the overtaking of one idea by another. Pope Francis’ calling out of Fundamentalist terrorism introduces us to the concept of ideological colonization through its most recognizable strain. It’s fairly obvious that forcing your world-view on others via slavery, beheadings, and bombings won’t foster peace.

Where most people started to get squeamish was when Pope Francis called out the softer strain of ideological colonization. It is much harder to articulate, and spreads itself across multiple subjects, but in general is characterized but a fundamentalist zeal for relativism. There is no other belief than the rightness of all beliefs, I’d say it goes. Many of the topics Pope Francis spoke on this week are tainted by this soft strain of ideological colonization. His remedy lies in the repeated call for peace.

This is not your average call for everyone to get along and play nice. Speaking to princes and paupers alike, Pope Francis made it clear that real peace can only come when you run to people, not over them. And fostering real peace requires a sacrifice of self. It requires you to consider the dignity, the needs, and the rights of others before yourself. Economic systems are only as ethical as the most marginalized person they help. Freedom of speech is not really free when it offends the dignity of the subject of speech (dignity should not be confused with pride here). In the nicest way possible, Pope Francis is telling us that if what we say, do, and believe is primarily for the benefit for our selves, we are not working for peace.

The move to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra and Blessed Joseph Vaz reinforces Pope Francis’ particular message of peace. Both men were missionaries who left the comforts of their lives to tend to the spiritual and material needs of others. Their blatant example of this peace is the direct counter to fundamentalist terrorism, and our inspiration to find opportunities in our daily lives to bring real peace to the world.

Until next week, I challenge you to do two things: bring real peace into your life at least once a day, and leave a comment here with your perfect catchphrase for the Holy Father’s special message of peace. Because special message of peace is just long and boring. I need you guys to help me do better.



About this feature:  The spiritual leader of a over a billion people, “the People’s Pope”  has captured the attention and imagination of millions others with no formal relationship to the Roman Catholic Church through thought, word, and deed. Writer Melissa Maleski brings an insightful Catholic convert’s perspective to the general themes (culture, politics, spirituality, art, and more) Rad Infinitum covers, and will no doubt add greatly to our experience of Francis’ leadership and unfolding legacy.



Fridays With Francis, January 9, 2015: New Rad Infinitum Writer Melissa Maleski, the Magi, and Mothers

advocacy, culture, justice, spirituality

Editor’s note:  Please join me in welcoming writer Melissa Maleski to her new weekly feature on rad infinitum. We’re very happy to have her rounding up the weekly activities of Pope Francis.  The spiritual leader of a over a billion people, “the People’s Pope”  has captured the attention and imagination of millions others with no formal relationship to the Roman Catholic Church (myself included) through thought, word, and deed.  Melissa brings an insightful Catholic perspective to my own Protestant fandom, and will no doubt add greatly to our experience of Francis’ leadership and unfolding legacy.  – CC

Melissa Maleski

Pop your personal bubble before you suffocate in it. That’s pretty much what the Holy Father is telling us in the New Year. In stark contrast to the Magi, who traveled far outside of their comfort zone, Pope Francis called out those who have hard hearts and fall into a narcissistic cycle of fear, pride, and vanity. This cycle, says the Holy Father, gives the illusion of self-sufficiency, but really locks a person inside himself. The Magi, by opening themselves to something far beyond their knowing, find God and themselves.

Like the Magi, Pope Francis holds up mothers as wonderful examples of people traveling outside of themselves and being better for it. The Holy Father does not mince words about how he views a mother’s value:

“To be a mother is a great treasure. Mothers, in their unconditional and sacrificial love for their children, are the antidote to individualism; they are the greatest enemies against war,” the pontiff told pilgrims during his Jan. 7 general audience address.

Before anyone brings the snark about the Church valuing women only as far as they are actively breeding small nations, read what Pope Francis follows up with: “In this sense motherhood is more than childbearing; it is a life choice entailing sacrifice, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society,” he said.

And in case his words don’t quite sink in, the Holy Father’s decision to elect cardinals from the fringes of the world puts practice to his preaching. Cardinal-making stalwarts, like the United States, did not see any gains in the new election. Many of the new cardinals come from countries that never had a cardinal before, bursting the College bubble for the first time in a long while.

On a lighter note, the Holy Father raffled off personal possessions to raise money for the poor and rubbed elbows with Lara Croft.


How Timely the Lectionary: The Week’s Readings, Pope Francis, and Economic Justice

culture, economics, justice, spirituality

Christopher Cocca

Here are Sunday’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (as compiled and contextualized by Vanderbilt University).

Here are some reflections made in preparation for an adult education hour based  on these texts.   Here’s the resource packet I put together for class.

Here’s what the Pope said yesterday.

The Pope is leading on Luke 16:9 like no other Christian in recent memory.  But he’s also leading on the context of Sunday’s readings:  we don’t get the full NT import of God over mammon, of using wealth to lift up the poor (to entertain angels unaware, or to do onto Jesus that good we do onto each other), or of holding that in tension with supplications for those in power without the grounding prophetic message of the OT readings.

Look at Amos 4 and Psalm 113.  Look at Jeremiah 8 and Psalm 79.  Then and only then can we tackle and understand the NT readings in their proper context and with their proper tone, Jesus’ tone, echoing the diction of God’s prophetic witness in the ancient history of Israel.

This has everything to do with Pope Francis’ witness to modern economic injustice.

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

The Pope said he does not want to be seen as a

cordial manager of the Church who comes here and says to you ‘have courage'”.

I don’t want this. I want this courage to come from inside me and push me to do everything I can as a pastor and a man.

Hold these statements alongside the call in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for leaders and those in high places.  Observe this Pope, this man in the highest of places, speak like Jesus about every Christian’s call to the poor.

I’ve never been Catholic, not even for a day, but I’d be crazy and dishonest to say I don’t see and hear clearly the vocation of Jesus in Francis’ public ministry.  So, yes to ecumenism, but more importantly and radically, yes to the Gospel of Jesus.  Yes to good news for the poor.  Yes to this way of being Christian, yes to following God in the way of Jesus.

Sinful Pope Should Address a Joint Session of Congress

culture, justice, politics, spirituality

I know, I know.  He’s the leader of a global religion and an antiquarian nation-state.   The Catholic Church is rife with problems, scandals, and inconsistencies.  The man is, as he says, a sinner.  (Maybe it’s the Mdiv/MFA in me, but when he says things like, “I am a sinner.  It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner,”  I’m interested).

All of that said, the focus of his papacy is squarely on God’s preferential option for the poor and on works of mercy, justice, compassion, and love as being at the heart of the Gospel and, dare I say, at the heart of Jesus.  He speaks of the Gospel’s beauty and fragrance with the love of a sinner radically encountered by the love and grace of God as revealed in Jesus.  There is something about the prophetic nature of grace going on here.  Taking nothing away from past transgressions, Francis is doing something right, and I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it in global Christianity — Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise — ever.  It’s one thing for Bono to talk like this (and I’m glad he does), but quite another for someone called the Pope.

At the same time, the United States House of Representatives yesterday completed the single greatest violence against the nation’s poor in recent memory.   $40 billion cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Why?  Because, Republican leaders say, it’s widely abused and wasteful.  Unfortunately for them, study after non-partisan study has shown an abuse rate of 1% or less across the board, a stunning efficiency.  With unemployment north of 7.5 percent, with 1 in 7 Americans living in poverty, with 1 in 6 of us not knowing where our next meal is coming from (1 in 4 children), these cuts are not merely tone deaf, vindictive, and ignorant.  They are also sinful.  That’s no mere political term or literary genre.  That’s the cold, hard truth across religious or irreligious systems of belief.  God help us.

Pope Francis, Jesus, Redemption, Facebook, SNAP


How about those meta tags?

Last night I shared this piece to Facebook.  It shares some of Pope Francis remarks from yesterday about redemption through Christ being for all.   I summarized them by saying “do good, leave the rest to Jesus,” and then affirming this sort of hyper-public discourse.  (It’s the pope, after all…very few leaders have their words so quickly entered into the tapestry of public ideation.)

By 7:30 this morning, there were quite a few comments and good conversation.  There was a robust consideration of the degree to which this pope can be lauded for human rights advocacy given his views on homosexuality and gender.  There were also questions about being saved by faith and not through works, reminders about the historic difference between Catholic and Protestant doctrine and so on.  People also talked about the good we can do through this give and take.

I thought for a while and responded with the thread below:





These certainly aren’t all my thoughts on the matter. I’m joyful for a Christ who is bigger than I can imagine, never smaller.