Recently, two of our regular contributors, Paul Fahey and Pedro Gabriel, were invited by one of our readers to take part in live YouTube podcast conversations. Julian Waldner is a WPI reader from Western Canada. Although he’s not Catholic himself, as a person of faith—and as someone who has witnessed many similar divisions in his own faith community—he has told me that he appreciates our approach and that of Pope Francis. Julian is a member of the Hutterite faith, which is part of the Anabaptist tradition (similar to the Amish and Mennonites).
Back in September, Julian wrote a blog post in which he gave his response to many of the reactionary and culture war-driven ideologies within Christianity, drawn from his own background and from his faith and theological learning. I recommend you read it all. While there are certainly theological differences between Hutterites and Catholics, by our baptism, we have more in common than we have differences. We all profess Jesus Christ and want to shine his light to the world. And interestingly, I see shades of Fratelli Tutti (remember a “politics of love”?) in the following excerpt from Julian’s post:
The primary political task of the Church, is to be the Church. The same theologian who I stole my heading from also said: “The Church doesn’t have a politics, it is a politics.” In other words, the first and most essential way the church acts politically, is not by trying to advance certain legislative agendas, but by living an alternative politics. The quote above says in a strange way what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works an give glory to your father in heaven.”
Julian also has another blog post on “Hutterites and the Pandemic,” in which he draws parallels between the divisions in his faith community and those within the Catholic Church.
This first video is Paul and Julian having an open-ended discussion about Pope Francis:
Several days later, Pedro was invited to take part in an “international” conversation about the Catholic faith. Once again, Julian moderated from Canada. Pedro joined him from Portugal, while Julian’s friends Carlos and Andreas took part from the Philippines and Germany, respectively. Once again, it was a respectful and friendly exchange, and it also included some deep faith-sharing, and raised some important questions. (I was also flattered that Carlos and Andreas listened to and remembered my “gas tank Christian” analogy from my podcast with Sam Rocha.)
It is important that we have conversations and build friendships with people from different religious backgrounds, as well as within our own faith. This is the key to the fraternity Pope Francis hopes for, and this is where the Holy Spirit begins to work. It’s also amazing to take a step back and realize what a marvel it is that a person in Canada, another in Portugal, another in the Philippines, and another in Germany can all have a conversation in real time, almost as easily as we can at a dinner table. Today we have the potential to “journey together” with people anywhere in the world, in whatever circumstances. When we lament the difficulties presented by our present age, let’s not lose sight of the opportunities.
These two exchanges reminded me of these words of Pope Francis to a delegation of Finnish Lutherans in 2017:
As heralds of humanity, as recipients of the goodness of God incarnate, we are journeying together in the community of all the baptized. Christians are those who can give thanks for their baptism. This gratitude links and expands our hearts, and opens them to our neighbour, who is not an adversary but our beloved brother, our beloved sister. The community of all the baptized is not a mere “standing beside one another”, and certainly not a “standing against one other”, but wants to become an ever fuller “standing together”.
Spiritual ecumenism and ecumenical dialogue serve to deepen this “standing together”. May this “standing together” continue to grow, prosper and bear fruit.
Thank you to Julian, Paul, Pedro, Carlos, and Andreas for taking part in these conversations. And once again, check out Julian’s blog!
Image: Adobe Stock