Jesus,Pope Francis and a Protestant Walk into a Bar

October 5, 2015

No it’s not a joke. It’s a book. Actually it is also a joke, but this post is about the book. Catholics and Protestants have historically tended not to consider each other part of the “true” church.Progress has been made but there is still too much suspicion on both sides. The popularity of Pope Francis with both Catholics and Protestants is what authors Paul Rock and Bill Tammeus use to explore what Protestants and Catholics might have in common in their book  Jesus, Pope Francis and a Protestant Walk into a Bar.

Rock and Tammeus write in the Introduction, “If the call of the twentieth century to Americans was to get racial harmony right (obviously still a work in progress), the call of this century is to get religious harmony right.” (Kindle location 64). This book is a small but accessible step toward ecumenical, intra faith dialogue.

Although the book focuses on Catholic and Protestant discussion, the authors give a good introduction to interfaith dialogue and offer some good resources that readers can use to learn more.

In the introduction they give a useful description of interfaith and ecumenical dialogue, ” It is important to understand that the purpose of authentic ecumenical and interfaith dialogue is not to convert others who are participating in the discussion. Rather, the purpose is simply to know and to be known. This requires humility as well as a willingness to ask nonhostile questions and to listen intently.” (Kindle location 80)

The book is based on a 2014 sermon series from Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City Missouri. For each chapter there is a scripture passage and then the sermon. The sermons explore the link between the scripture passage and an aspect of the Pope’s actions or statements. Each chapter ends with some questions for further discussion and reflection. This makes the book helpful for book groups and other study groups. Each chapter can stand alone and so one could pick out one or more of the seven chapters if a group wasn’t able to discuss the entire book. Because it is based on sermons, the book is very accessible. One doesn’t need to be a theologian, a scholar or an expert in ecumenical dialogue. All you need to bring to the book is a willingness to read and consider.

For readers who may not have spent much time thinking about Protestant- Catholic dialogue, let alone interfaith dialogue this book is a good introduction and example of finding common ground while maintaining theological particularities. For readers who have experience in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue this book is still helpful as it asks open ended questions that persons of all backgrounds and experiences can reflect upon.

If you are looking for a book to spark thought and discussion about Catholic and Protestant ideas, I recommend this book.



  • You should know that when I lived in Kansas City, I was a member of Second Pres and Bill Tammeus and I attended the same adult education class. Also I received my copy of this book free from Net Galley in exchange for a review. However if I hadn’t liked the book, I would have just posted my comments on Net Galley and not on my blog. (Unless the book had been really awful and the public needed to be warned away)

The Pope, Jesus, and Congress

September 27, 2015

Pope Francis’ speech to Congress is being criticized by some for not mentioning Jesus. However, as some are fond of pointing out, going to church doesn’t make one a Christian and I would add, mentioning Jesus at every opportunity also does not make one a Christian.

The Pope’s address was the most deeply Christian speech I have heard in a long time and an excellent example of the way faith convictions ought to be expressed in a pluralistic society. There is a time and a place for distinctly Christian language. It is vitally important for Christians to talk about Jesus and what being his follower means in 21st century America.

At the same time, because we do not live in a theocracy, people of faith need to be able to use language that is understandable and acceptable to all when we are engaged in public discourse.

Walter Brueggemann has some helpful insights in his book, Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living. As part of his discussion of 2 Kings 18:1-27 (cf.Isa 36:11-12) Brueggemann notes there are two important conversations that happen. On that takes place on the city wall of Jerusalem between Assyria and Judah as public negotiation and the other takes place behind the wall which uses a different language and has a different agenda .

Judah talks as a community behind the wall in the language of their faith. They prayerfully discern what God would have them do. When Judah’s leaders go onto the wall which is public negotiating space, they use the language of the realm, the language of diplomacy. Make no mistake about it the conversation on the wall is shaped by and depends on the conversation behind the wall. This, in essence is what the Pope did.

That the Pope is a deeply committed Christian is not (at least for most of us) questioned. And it is clear that his comments to Congress are based on that Christian commitment. The language he used was accessible to all. His message could not be dismissed by saying Christianity has no place in public discourse. Rather, out of his faith, the Pope utilized language that people of all faiths and of no faith could hear and consider.

Jesus may not have been mentioned by name but Jesus was present in the Pope’s remarks from start to finish. Pope Francis gave us an excellent example of how, guided by one’s faith, to speak clearly and truthfully in the public arena.




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