Thursday, February 10, 2005


Peggy Noonan and the Pope

Peggy Noonan has a great piece in the WSJ today on the Pope and his personal suffering. I can just hear all my staunchly protestant friends yelling at me about the "herisies" of the Roman church, about how blasphemous, or near blasphemous, is her comparison of the Pope's physical suffering to those of Jesus.

Quite frankly, I don't care. I have said before that I was in the Soviet Union in 1991. I want to share two experiences. The first was in a home. I was visiting Chernobyl. (I'm a scientist, remember? I was there as a part of an environmental technology exchange program) Inside the "exclusion zone" are several villages. Of course, most people in them were evacuated, but some were too old or too stubborn. We visited them. Needless to say, they get few visitors. In one old woman's house, I noted, in a corner an icon. It was ancient, as was the house. That icon has been there long before Vladimir Ilyich started his grand revolution, and I'm willing to bet it's still there today.

The other story occurred in Kiev. I was visiting the Monastery of the Caves, the oldest Christian establishment in the region. I was taking a picture of one of the beautiful sacred paintings on a wall. An old woman came running down the street, which was quite a sight because she was barely able to walk, yelling at me. She called me "the devil" (well, the Ukrainian word for it) because I was attempting to capture God.

Icons and paintings, both object of extreme religious veneration for these women. Many enlightened American protestants would likely condemn the idolatry of their faith. But I spoke with these women -- I felt the conviction of their hearts and their longing for God. I sensed the Holy Spirit in them just as I do in many of my brethren here in the US, and around the world for that matter.

I am convinced, as one can only be by the Holy Spirit, that the prayers of the women, even if they were to icons, were as responsible for ending the scourge of the Soviet Union as was the policies of Reagan and Thatcher.

Pope John Paul II is a part of the legacy as well. And despite whatever doctrinal differences I may have with him, he is a Christian leader, and he has been a very effective one. I am grateful for the Pope. I am grateful for Peggy Noonan, and for her faith. I may disagree with her doctrinally, but I WILL NOT decry her faith, nor deny her salvation.

God is so much bigger than we can even begin to understand.


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