If journalists were going to create a list of topics dear to the heart of the media superstar Pope Francis, one of the items near the top would be his emphasis on the whole church -- from the laity in the pews to the bishops in the hierarchy -- being seen as the Body of Christ.
The video at the top of this post is a perfect example and the headline on a Catholic.org report summed up the talk this way: "Pope Francis Proclaims the Church is the Living Body of Christ and Calls for Christian Unity."
In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two separate connotations: it may refer to Jesus' statement about the Eucharist at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in Luke 22:19-20, or the explicit usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians to refer to the Christian Church.
This is language can, to those outside mainstream Christianity, sound slightly strange -- especially when used by politicos in the public square. Take Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, an outspoken -- to say the least -- son of an evangelical preacher whose current White House campaign is heavily dependent on the work of activists in pulpits and pews.
Cruz may be a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, but whenever he opens his mouth there is a good chance that some kind of pew-friendly Christian language is going to pop into the public square (kind of like President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s). Often, elite scribes and commentators just don't get it.
Consider the following reference in that New York Times piece that ran under the headline, "Ted Cruz’s Diligent Courting of Evangelicals Pays Off in Iowa."
Mr. Cruz has pursued a national strategy of uniting evangelicals and other conservatives behind him, arguing that with the backing of energized conservatives alone he can win not only the nomination, but also the general election.
When he took the stage ... at a theater in Winterset, he said the key to Republicans’ taking the White House was simple, and would not require a compromise with moderates. “We have to awaken and energize the body of Christ,” he said, referring to faith-driven voters.
Actually, under the rules of the Associated Press Stylebook, that would be the "Body of Christ," with a large "B," but nevermind.
Suffice it to say that in this quote, Cruz is NOT talking about "faith-driven voters." He is talking about church people, in general -- as in the Body of Christ language used in that Pope Francis video.
Now, is it wise for Cruz to claim that the key to his candidacy is the support of the church, broadly defined? Obviously, that image will have more clout in South Carolina or Central Florida, as opposed to most of California or Oregon. Also, it will freak out more than a few journalists in the Acela Zone.
This brings us to this stunningly tone-deaf reading of the Cruz remark. Watch the CNN clip linked to this tweet and be amazed.
That Kathleen Parker quote:
"Ted Cruz said something that I found rather astonishing. He said, you know, it's time for the body of Christ to rise up and support him. I don't know anyone who takes their religion seriously who would think that Jesus should rise from the grave and resurrect himself for Ted Cruz. I know so many people who are offended by that comment."
Say what? Last time I checked, I think most mainstream Christians (a) understand the Body of Christ language and (b) sincerely believe that Jesus has already risen from the grave. Right?
But like I said earlier, it is certainly provocative -- if not arrogant -- for Cruz to link his candidacy so explicitly to the Church, with a capital C. But does anyone think that the senator, as the online evangelical maven Ed Stetzer put it on Facebook, would "call for Jesus to come back from the dead to serve his campaign"?
Thus Stetzer added: "And this, my friends, explains why we need more religion awareness in the media ... "
And all the people said: "Amen!"
Oh wait. Perhaps I should be careful and explain that "and all the people said" is a turn of phrase frequently used in pulpits -- especially in the black church tradition -- in which the preacher calls for the faithful in the congregation to say "Amen!" in support of a key element of the sermon. I hope this explanation helps. I know that religious language can be rather complex.