You don’t normally see the names Pope Francis and Robin Williams in the same sentence, but here goes.
Early in his career, the brilliant comedian and actor Robin Williams scored big with a performance called Reality—What a Concept. This wonderful play on words came to mind when I heard a few lines from one of Pope Francis’ talks during his visit to the Philippines earlier this year. They gained little attention, but are critical to understanding how he wants to enliven the church and the world. “Reality,” he told a large group of young people, “is superior to ideas.”
Mainline denominations have only begun to recognize the alarmingly low numbers of clergy under the age of 35. In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, I am one of only 207 clergy in that age bracket—about 4 percent of total clergy.
In 1984, Marvel Comics created a new nemesis for Spider-Man. The character would be a symbiote, inspired by what parasitologists call the weaker of two organisms inhabiting the same space. The weaker organism can draw life from the stronger, and in the most dramatic cases it siphons off its host’s nutrients before the host realizes what’s happening.
My Minnesota hometown is the sort of place where neighbors look in on each other and leave the doors unlocked. As in Lake Woebegon, the children are all above average. In September one of those children brought a .22-caliber Colt semiautomatic to school and shot and killed two of his classmates.
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.