The facade of the house north of us above the retaining wall has something of a sweet if silly face. We captured it two winters ago on our Christmas card, featured in our first blog post December 12, 2003.
Extremists from various creeds hide their demented actions behind the facade of faith," writes Pierpaolo Barbieri in The Harvard Salient re Benedetto's first encyclical, "the instrument by which the pontiff instructs the Church's flock, as an expansion and explanation of a simple, fundamental concept advanced by the early Church and largely forgotten today":
Pope Benedict sublimely answers the challenges of the modern world by reminding the world of Christianity's prime, revolutionary dogma: love . . .
Socially, plummeting birth rates challenge the backbone of our polities, especially those in Europe, as well as the survival of our values in generations to come. At the same time, secular fanatics, in the world and on campus, irrevocably see religion as a form of stagnant literalism, a mere modern synonym of "alchemy." And economically, unruly welfare systems provide disincentives for work in certain societies.
Speaking of facades, check out the WSJ's "Why Cars Got Angry: Seeing Demonic Grins, Glaring Eyes? Auto Makers Add Edge to Car 'Faces . . . Car makers have long talked about the 'face' of a car -- headlights for eyes, grille for a mouth and the bumper as jaws -- and auto designers say the difference between a hit and a flop may come down to a vehicle's visage. Car makers used to strive for an inviting face, but lately they're pushing an edgier look: Car faces that look meaner, angrier and, at times, even downright evil." We happened to come upon a Mercedes C Class sedan in the Stop & Shop parking lot today that appeared to be bucking the tide. Pretty little silver model. We walked around to the front to check out its face: A total sweetheart, friendly and engaging. It takes all kinds.
"Reaching the end of the first half of the encyclical, Benedict states that the Church is not against secular philosophy; citing the Jewish Torah, he justifies the existence of a philosophy of man springing from God's care for humanity," continues the Salient's Barbieri:
The spirit of a Kantian humanism seems to breathe in the Pope's lines. But once again, the meaning transcends abstract ideals: using the image of Jesus Christ, be it as a Messiah or a mere symbol, the encyclical addresses our personal duties for fellow human beings. "After Jesus," he writes, "the concept of neighbor is universalized."
This introduces yet another moment to clarify the Church's dogma: contrary to popular assumptions, the Pope is strictly against the overlapping of state and church. Opposing the extremists from a myriad of religions, Benedict stresses, just like Dante in his time, that temporal and spiritual power must remain separate in order to properly protect duties and prevent perversions. We could even add that this secures rights and responsibilities on both sides of the equation: "Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God." [Haven't we always said? --ed] Reaching the end, we are reminded that, just like building a working society, the effort has to spring from ourselves, and not just our states.
We're no angels, but we love this pope, big time.