September 22, 2015

The Pope’s Buffet of Beliefs

Editor's note: News commentaries are intended to express the richness and variety of informed and responsible Adventist opinion on current issues. They do not necessarily convey the viewpoint of the Adventist Review editorial team or the General Conference.

, associate speaker, Voice of Prophecy

It is a quiet Sunday morning, and thanks to the wonder of the Internet I am sitting at my desk working on projects for this week and simultaneously watching a live church service in Havana, Cuba.

I watch the video images of thousands of people pressing close to priests in white robes, embossed with beautiful red crosses, administering communion. Revolution Square appears to be full to overflowing — and for very good reason. Pope Francis is seated on the platform and officiating the mass. It is an historic occasion.

We watch, eagerly wondering what it will be like when Pope Francis visits us in the United States this week. The historic visit will mean traffic jams in Philadelphia and Washington DC — children are getting a “snow day” on Sept. 25, I hear, in an attempt to minimize traffic in the U.S. capital. When Pope Francis speaks to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 25, the world will watch this historic event.

The media have been anticipating this event for months, and CBS News has described The Francis Effect. The author of the report notes how Pope Francis was almost immediately popular and that his approval ratings have now attainted rock-star status. Pope Francis seems to be changing the public perception of the church he leads, and recent statements on the environment and forgiveness for women who’ve had abortions seem to make the church more appealing to the younger generation. At least on the surface.

In the CBS News article, the author spoke with a young woman named Maggie Place who shared her thoughts on the current, changing state of her church.

“I think there are a lot of things that are from an older generation that just don’t make sense to me,” said Maggie Place. “And some of the things that are a bit antiquated or, honestly, unfair, I choose to ignore, if you will.”

At the age of 29, Place is the personification of many young U.S. Catholics — conflicted.

“I would fall into that category of a ‘Cafeteria Catholic,’'” she said.

A “Cafeteria Catholic.”

Pope Francis may have achieved the popularity of a rock star. But for Maggie — and I imagine many others like her — he has not totally won her over to his way of thinking. He has simply added to her cafeteria selection. Maggie now has more options from which to choose — a buffet of beliefs.

How different this approach to faith is from what the Bible describes. There is no description of a cafeteria of beliefs in the Scriptures. Instead, Jesus asks us to trust Him. He asks us to believe in Him. He asks us to follow Him.

“O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways” (Proverbs 23:26).

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:1).

As the world watches the United States this week, it will be an interesting time. I will watch — curious by unaffected. I do not need a buffet of options. I only need the Word.

Jean Boonstra is the associate speaker of the Voice of Prophecy, on whose website this news commentary appeared, and the author of several books, including eight in the Adventist Girl series.