In a recent email, a close (and very Catholic) friend of mine wondered whether American conservative Protestants and Evangelicals were "holding their heads and screaming" that President Bush attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
You know, honestly...I don't think too many of them are. At least none with any sense, although I realize that excludes probably hundreds of thousands.
My sense of most of the ultra-conservative Evangelicals is that they are not actually all that familiar with Scripture; hence the Christians in Colorado who referenced Leviticus when sentencing a man to death recently. Hello, Matthew chapter 5, people -- if you're a self-identified Christian, you might want to start with the Gospel first, sheesh. I don't think they are all that aware of and/or interested in real issues of doctrine, such as the presence of Christ in the sacraments, etc., etc., because their entire lives and minds seem consumed with a preoccupation with the sins of the flesh. On these matters which are so important to so many evangelicals, they found an ally in the Pope. I bet many of them are unaware that he called our Iraq war "immoral"; and if they are, I bet there's moral relativism going on. War = bad, gay marriage = much, much, much worse.
Though we are divided by differences in doctrine both great and small, and though criticism can quite fairly be lodged at John Paul II for his inability to do anything of substance with regard to the abuse crisis in America (and presumably elsewhere, where the cultural taboo is too strong to even address the subject) and for many of his unenlightened positions on sex and sexuality, I think everyone recognized that one thing he had was sincerity.
John Paul II was not a preening, self-important bag of hot air that held the Bible in one hand and used it to swat at people with whom he disagreed or groups of people he didn't like. He was humble and gentle, eloquent and considerate. Even when you disagree -- profoundly! -- it's hard not to find respect for someone with that kind of integrity.
And ultimately, isn't that what Christianity is really about? I'm not talking about the pope, I'm talking about our reaction to him. Christ would have us say, "Yeah, I really disagreed with him on this, this and this" but still have us celebrate his very meaningful life and in whatever appropriate way, mourn and celebrate his passing. (I loved it when I read that the crowd gathered in the square applauded loudly when it was announced that he had died; that's an Italian tradition. I want people to clap when I die.)
Requiescat in pace.
UPDATE: I think this would confirm my hypothesis.