It seems that I’m not the only one who was taken aback by Pope Francis’ meeting with Kim Davis. Despite hewing to a traditional view of homosexuality, the Pope has projected a loving, open, welcoming attitude. Kim Davis has not. I recently shared with a friend that one of the things I like best about Pope Francis is that for the first time in what seems like a very long time, the public face of Christianity is not angry or resentful but smiling. For this reason, it seemed to me that in his meeting with Davis, Francis had made a gaffe, a public relations stumble. But over at Vox.com, Todd VanDerWerff has a different take in an article titled “Of Course Pope Francis Met with Kim Davis. Jesus Would Have.” At a few points, I would hold that VanDerWerff is a tad less than orthodox, but the main thrust of his article is right on target. Here’s an excerpt that gets to the meat of his argument:
“Christianity, at its core, is about the idea of Jesus being willing to meet with anybody in his society and about the idea of anybody being worthy of love, both from us and from God. Jesus broke bread with anybody who would have him. He took disciples from all walks of life. He was pals with a former prostitute.”
To hold, as the United Methodist Church does, “that God’s grace is available to all—that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus,” is to seek to embrace those at the margins of society, the outcasts. That embrace should include the outcasts we like and the ones we don’t. In opening our arms to everyone, we will sometimes run the risk that our willingness to embrace one person will come across as hostility toward another, but that is a risk God calls us to take.
Meanwhile, at Slate.com, Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart, a gay, married woman, shares my first reaction to the meeting in an article titled: “Why Pope Francis’ Meeting With Kim Davis Is Such a Disaster.” I’ve come around to VanDerWerff’s way of thinking, but Urquhart also has a point I would like to share. In speaking of the way the culture wars often distract us from other issues she stated:
“These minor matters have been capturing national attention month after month, year after year, for as long as I’ve been politically sentient. In that time I’ve seen the climate degrade, inequality increase, prison populations bloat, the labor market change permanently for the worse, and unwinnable wars be embarked upon (and lost). If the pope was against same-sex civil marriage but was also willing to address those other issues, I was 100-percent on board.”
I was never “100-percent on board” with Francis*, but I still find much to like and admire in the man. I have to admit that despite my disapproval, his meeting with Kim Davis was indeed something that Jesus would have done. Francis eats with the homeless instead of the powerful out of what would appear to be not mere duty, but actual preference. As such, he is a credit to our shared faith and a Christian with whom I can continue to make common cause despite our differences. I hope that those with whom I disagree can say the same about me.
Update: The Washington Post reports on “an unusual formal statement” from the Vatican that supports this position: “The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” (Link from the Washington Post, which limits how many articles you can read for free per month: wapo.st/1jCuoPb)
*A relevant example of my differences with the Pope: addressing climate change means reining in the exploding human population and reining in the exploding human population means encouraging people to use birth control. As a Catholic, the Pope opposes that, but as a United Methodist, I’m all for it.