With Pope Benedict announcing that he’s stepping down at the end of the month, a great deal of speculation has gone into whether we’ll have a Pope from the non-white parts of the world: Latin America, Africa, or Asia.
These debates are important, and clearly they are tied to the future of the Catholic church, as this chart documents.
However, here is a Pope that everyone can agree on: Yoda.
Seriously, hear me out.
The focus of the discussion so far has been on the ethnicity of the next Pope, and the potential to expand the reach of the Church in new and exciting directions.
What about changing the nature of the office of the Pope itself?
How about a change to Yoda, to move from an embodiment of authority to one that emphasizes spiritual transmission? Not one who embodies religious authority, but rather one whose mission is to instruct, to awaken, to help his followers become who and what they are destined to be.
What if the focus was not on a Pope to embody the religious teachings of any one religious tradition, but rather on the interconnectedness of all existence?
What if we had a Yoda Pope to help us see beyond a notion of a personal God (creating God in our own image) to seeing the sacred as the very connection of the whole Universe. This Pope Yoda would say:
For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.
Life creates it, makes it grow.
Its energy surrounds us and binds us.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.
Even between the land and the ship.
This is the kind of Unity of Being insight that many traditions from Islam (tawhid, Wahdat al-wujud) to Hindu traditions (particularly in Advaita Vedanta) to some parts of the Christian tradition emphasize. [There was a gnostic gospel which recorded Christ as having said: “Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”]
What if we had a Pope to teach us that the suffering in the world is connected to the suffering we create inside our own selves? Yoda says:
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
What if we had a Pope to help us see the folly of war?
Yoda: Wars not make one great.
What if we had a Pope to teach us that the greatest wisdom is already inside us, if we remove what blocks out from living that? Yoda says:
You must unlearn what you have learned.
What if we had a Pope to teach us that children already live the simplicity, the magic, the supple mind, and the innocence to guide us all?
Yoda: Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.
Yoda goes well as a Christian icon.
What Yoda represents is eternal spirit of wisdom, the ever-living prophetic tradition called al-khidr/Khezr in Islam (which is why Yoda is green). Yoda represents not the Authority, but the teacher, the awakener, the catalyst.
Yoda is a cook that helps us become harmonious with the totality of creation.
That could be a Pope that this world could use at this time.
He would even help with fostering the cause of Christian-Muslim unity.
Yoda goes well with Islam. Here he is, performing the Muslim prayers. (Of course the Islamophobes would probably accuse him of being another closet Muslim based on these images. And come to think of it, he does wear kind of Eastern-ish robes. hmmmm.)
The occasion to choose the next Pope is also a valuable opportunity to reflect not only on the person, but on the very nature of the office. Yoda offers us great guidance here.
And if we could make a trip to Dagobah, we could find Yoda and plead with him to be a Pope. If we do not persuade Yoda, the “we” that would return would be a transformed Yoda, more worthy to be a Pope.
Obviously I am joking.
And yet I am serious.
We would be fortunate to have a Pope that embodies some Yoda-qualities, Yoda wisdom.