Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Anthropocentrism in Action

Back again, briefly, from my other responsibilites. I've got more to say about anthropocentrism, but re-reading my last post, it seemed to me a trifle abstract at points. What do I mean when I say "bowing down", and what does "focusing on our own works" look like?

Fortunately, I have an example near to hand. Last April, on the date of the funeral of the late Pope John Paul the Great, I was listening to an interview on a local radio station. The guest was a well-known American political commentator who had just returned from Rome, and the host was asking him about his visit there. I was intrigued that the man had gone over to Rome but was back in the States before the funeral took place, but as I listened to his comments, it became clear why he had returned when he did.

The first thing the commentator did was go on and on about the number of people who were in Rome. He directly attributed this to JPG's fame - that he had been "probably the most famous man in the world." He went on at length on this theme of fame, and made several speculations about whether the next pope could hope to attain that level of fame. When asked about the funeral, the commentator spoke of all the powerful and influential people who were in Rome for the ceremony, and how impressed he was by all these Big Names who had assembled for the event.

As this character nattered on, it began to dawn on me: this guy was missing the whole point. Not only was he not seeing what JPG's life had been about, he wasn't seeing that other people had seen it. That was what accounted for the throngs filing by in honor and the gathering of the leaders of state. He could not understand a life of sacrifice and devotion to God, and could not even see the aura of holiness which had clung to this man. This well-known political commentator had focused so long and so intently on the world and works of men that he was unable to see the impact of a Greater World upon this one - even when the evidence was staring him in the face. John Paul the Great's bright witness had been a reflection of heaven itself, and it drew people from around the globe to catch one last glimpse - but since this worldling couldn't understand that, he had to interpret it in terms he understood, i.e. fame. The gentle power of his humility and obedience had been used to topple one of the most powerful idolatrous empires in history, and the great of the world had come to pay respect to legacy - but no, those world leaders must only be here to rub elbows and do some behind the scenes moving and shaking.

That interview sticks out in my mind as a textbook example of anthropocentrism. This brilliant and successful political operative was so "stuck on" the works of men that he could not see what was obvious to a simple babushka - that through John Paul, heaven had touched earth.

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