Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sweeping Up Gratitude

First course of a simple, home cooked Thanksgiving meal at Brent and Heidi's house
We felt blessed having oldest son Brad from Pittsburgh join us for a Thanksgiving gathering yesterday with second son Brent, his wife Heidi and our three local grandchildren ages four, seven and nine. Our conversations were free of political or other debates and we avoided football and other media entertainment altogether. Just being together was entertainment enough.

After a leisurely and delicious meal together I made the mistake of telling the youngest grandson about a silly, made-up game that was popular at our house when our sons--his dad and his uncle--were about four and six, one we called "Sweep up the Person!".

To play, I would pretend to be a powerful, giant vacuum cleaner, and they were to find and touch the right "switch" to turn it (me) on, that being some body part like my nose, forehead, ear, elbow, knee, etc. When the right "button" was pushed, I would pursue the button pusher with a mighty roar and draw him fiercely close to me in a big squeeze (Daughter Joanna, who came almost eight years later and who with her husband and three children now lives eight hours away, got in on this much later).

Our four-year-old grandson found this game endlessly fascinating and fun, and almost wore his grandfather out with repeated requests for "Sweep up the Person!" The element of suspense, coupled with the fun of the chase and the joy of being wrapped up in a big grandfather hug combined to keep us occupied for quite some time.

Proves that the funnest things in life really are mostly free, gifts for which we can only say "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you".

God is good. And every expression of gratitude is a prayer.

Photo by Brad.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A New Light for Hanukkah

A menorah
The December 2003 Readers Digest carried a true Hanukkah story by Joe Fitzgerald called “A New Light.”

It was about the Markovitz’s, a Jewish family who lived in a Pennsylvania suburb where one Christmas season they were awakened at around five in the morning by the sound of glass shattering. They ran downstairs to find the window broken where they had their illuminated menorah, a Jewish candelabra, which was now damaged and lying on the floor.

Theirs was one of the few homes in their neighborhood that didn’t display traditional Christmas decorations, and some person or group apparently felt a need to express their intolerance by destroying this symbol of their faith.

Hanukkah marks the event when, as tradition has it, Jews returned to their temple in Jerusalem after their exile and found it desecrated, and then went about to reconsecrate it as a place of worship. To do so they needed, among other things, to keep a lamp lit day and night in the temple. Unfortunately, they had enough consecrated oil for only one night, but decided to light the lamp anyway, and according to the Hanukkah tradition, it kept burning for eight nights, a miracle the Markowitz’s celebrated each year.

Some of the many neighbors who were outraged at the crime committed against them got their heads together to decide how to show their support.

The next evening when the Markowitz's turned on to their street they saw an extraordinary sight, something like a modern Hanukkah miracle. Nearly every home in the neighborhood had an illuminated menorah in their window, as if to say, “If you want to bring harm to one of us, you will have to attack to us all.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sometimes When it Rains it Pours...... Blessings

November 1 shocker: Discovered that our roof was leaking.

November 11 accident: I got in the path of another car as I pulled out of Hamlet Drive on to Rt. 42 going to work. Had looked both ways, but should have looked north a second time to note that someone had just pulled out of Bill's Muffler's down the street and was heading in my direction. Only my pride got hurt and both I and driver of the other vehicle were able to proceed without needing our vehicles towed. Our 2001 Hyundai Accent was on its last legs anyway.

November 15 colonoscopy: I won't go into details here, but after the usual grueling prep, the actual procedure was without incident. Once I was injected with some kind of powerful drug through my IV, I was out cold, and it was as if it was all over in an instant. The good news is that there were no polyps, and I experienced little pain or discomfort afterwards. Am told I'm good to go for another ten years.

November 17 engine failure: As Alma Jean drove our Accent home from Keezeltown Sunday evening after dark, its 12-year-old engine totally froze up, and she had to have help from some caring passersby to get the car off the highway. Thank God for Good Samaritans.

November 19 towing away of our old car: After giving us a decade of dependable service, I actually felt some sadness seeing the vehicle we owned since it was a year old towed away to its final resting place.

November 19-20 roof project: Had a great crew of men replace the shingles and some of the plywood sheeting on the north side of our house. Got some lifetime shingles this time, and the results look great.

Sometimes when it rains it pours, but at least our roof isn't likely to leak. Besides, our troubles seem so few and our blessings so many in light of all of the recent devastation in the Philippines and in the Midwest.

"The distance from bad to good is not very far."
- Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov

Photos by William Ross, Gemeinschaft Home graduate and a great roofer, builder, painter and general repair person.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Walmart Can Pay Employees Fair Wages Without Raising Prices

I'm not critical of the fact that a Walmart in Cleveland is again promoting a Thanksgiving food drive for some of its needy associates, an idea initiated by some caring co-workers. Sharing is always a good thing, wherever and whenever it happens.

But the scandal of this is that the world's largest retailer and most profitable corporation is netting some $15 billion a year while its associates, some of them getting less than 40 hours a week, are earning at or just above minimum wage. Walmart remains a family owned business, with the Walton family controlling over 50% of its stock and raking in most of these profits.

According to Scott Keyes on the website, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, admits that most of its one million associates average less than $25,000 per year (the federal poverty line is $23,550 for a family of four). Keyes also notes that when the Washington DC city council recently passed a living wage bill requiring a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if the Mayor didn’t veto the bill. He did.

Meanwhile, I'll just keep vetoing Walmart.

 And here's a petition to all of the retail giants who can't even wait for Black Friday to start raking in Christmas profits: Give your workers a break on Thanksgiving Day, or we will boycott you during this entire holiday Season. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Don't Call Me "Reverend" And Don't Label Me "Clergy"

I've been a licensed or ordained minister since 1965, but I've never been comfortable being referred to as "Reverend" or a member of the "clergy".

In the first place, there's simply no Biblical precedent for either of those labels being applied to certain believers who are to be elevated above the rest. There are of course respected congregational offices like pastor, overseer, elder, bishop, deacon, evangelist, and teacher, to name only a few, but these are functional descriptions of how people serve, not titles separating professional "clergy" from "laity".

The Greek form of the word "laity" in the New Testament is "laos", which simply means "people", or "the people of God".  There is no suggestion in scripture that when someone is appointed to some church office that he or she is no longer a part of the laos. This is in contrast to some denominations where the ordained clergy cannot even be considered members of the congregations they serve, but have their membership in the district council or presbytery to which they belong.

One of the published studies that made a big impression on me years ago was "The Christian Calling" by Virgil Vogt, then a member of Reba Place, a Mennonite intentional community. He makes a clear case that all believers are "called", and all have fundamentally the same "calling", that of continuing the ministry Jesus began here on earth through his Body, the church. Our differing gifts merely shape how and in what setting we carry out that one calling, not the nature of the calling itself, for which we are ordained in our baptism.

This has been a defining and liberating concept for me: Our gifts differ, and our assignments are varied, but our status is the same, and our calling is one--to love, honor and serve God together in communities of faith we call the church.

Church historian Charles Jacobs, in The Story of the Church, writes:  "In the beginning most of the work of the congregation was done by people who had no official position.  It was voluntary service, freely rendered.  By the middle of the third century, it was done by the professional clergy.  Between clergymen and laity there was a sharp distinction.  The clergy, too, were divided into higher and lower grades. In the higher grades were bishops, presbyters and deacons; in the lower grade sub-deacons, lectors, exorcists, acolytes and janitors.  All of them were inducted into office by some form of ordination, and the idea of local organization had gone so far that in some churches even the grave diggers were ordained.  Thus the work of the Church was passing out of the hands of the many into those of the few, and these few were coming to be regarded as belonging to a higher class."

So please just call me Harvey, a pastor, counselor and a forever member of the laos, the people.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beautiful Far Beyond Average

Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In a study conducted by researcher Judith Lanlois and a colleague at the University of Texas at Austin some time ago, she found that when it comes to faces, the more "average" someone’s features, the more attractive they are judged to be. The bad news is that few of us are exactly average in the way her study suggests.

Lanlois used a computer to construct faces that were a blend of several dozen people in a way that created an average of such features as nose length, chin prominence, and the size and shape of the forehead and mouth. The more faces that went into the composite, the more the result represented the average population of male or female college students from which they were drawn.

When other students then judged the attractiveness of the composites and then of the individual faces, without being told which was which, they invariably found the composites to be more attractive than the real individual faces that went into them. An interesting find.

I once gave some high school students in a religion class the assignment of bringing me a picture of a face they thought might do for the face of Jesus if he were to appear as a human being today. I got quite an interesting assortment, ranging from pictures of handsome movie stars to those of average American males of various races.

The picture that really got my attention, however, was the wrinkled and aging face of Mother Teresa, taken from the cover of Time magazine. What better image to represent what a modern Jesus might look like?

Beautiful way beyond average.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Focus Less on Control, More on Influence

Most of us have come to realize that trying to totally control others is futile, even with our children. But by maintaining a positive relationship with people, regardless of age, our influence can be ongoing and powerful.

Not all of our efforts to influence work equally well, however.

For instance, an often used but least effective strategy is to complain and criticize. Somehow we've gotten the notion that to motivate people to do better we must first make them feel worse.

"Why can't you ever hang up your clothes? This place looks like a pig pen.""
"Even your little sister/brother can do a better job of cleaning up than you do."
"Shame on you! That's the sorriest piece of work I've ever seen."

Not only are such attacks exaggerations and untruths, they just don't work well, and often have a reverse effect.

A second and more effective way to influence is to make polite requests, to turn our criticisms and complaints into respectful wishes. If we maintain good relationships with people, they are much more likely to change through our simply expressing our needs and wishes.

"Please hang up your clothes or put them in the hamper. It makes the room look so much better."
"I'd really like you to put all the dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher when you're finished with them."
"I wish you would give this another try. Here's one way I think it could be improved."

Of course, in the case of children, and sometimes even adults, reasonable, agreed upon consequences may need to be in place if reasonable requests aren't honored, but to clearly state one's wishes or expectations is always worth trying first, rather than resorting to demands or threats.

A third and sometimes even better way of exerting influence is to affirm positive steps, even baby steps, in a desired direction, as in the use of frequent "I like it when..." statements.

"I really love it when you hang up your clothes or put the dirty ones in the hamper. It makes things a lot easier for me, and makes your room look really good."
"I always like it when you put your dirty dishes in the sink or the dishwasher. Makes me like you better, too!"
"I so appreciate it when you put your best efforts in the projects your doing. That way I can see you're really trying to do your best."

There are two ways of getting a chick out of an egg, someone has said, one way is to try to apply pressure on the shell, and the other is to provide the right kind of steady warmth over time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Prisoner Responds To Op-Ed Piece On Parole

Powhatan Correctional Center

I recently received permission to post the following letter from an inmate in the Powhatan Correctional Center in response to an October 19 op ed piece I wrote for Harrisonburg's Daily News-Record, "Parole System Needs Change":

Dear Mr. Yoder:

I have been incarcerated for the past 32 years of my life as a first time offender serving a multiple life-plus sentence I received when I was 20 years old. I am now 52, and my overall record has been that of a model prisoner who has worked earnestly to gain the privilege of parole. I started going up for parole in 1998 and have been denied each time, primarily for the stated reason of the serious nature of the crimes/offenses for which I was incarcerated.

In your recent article there were several statements made by the Virginia Parole Board Chairman concerning the discretionary parole process and consideration for release being currently conducted by a "computer".
If a " computer" is making the human assessment in my case... then I should have been released on parole by now. I would like to know why such factors (as my good behavior) are not taken into consideration for discretionary parole, a privilege I have been sufficiently punished for and earnestly earned with a completely rehabilitated mind and desire to be a productive citizen upon release.

My crime is the constant that will never change unless the convictions are overturned. But the computer, using the COMPS Re-Entry Risk Assessment Report used by the DOC and the Virginia Parole Board in assessing two primary areas of public safety concerns indicated that I was neither a general nor a violent recidivism risk to the community. Therefore by this computer assessment I was a good candidate for release on discretionary parole. Again I was denied for the same constant reasons and there was no thorough consideration of my case.

Virginia law states that "No person shall be released on parole by the Board until a thorough investigation has been made into the prisoner's history, physical and mental condition and character and of his conduct, employment and attitude while in prison. The Board shall determine that his release on parole will not be incompatible with the interests of society or of the prisoner." Virginia Code 1950, Section 53.1-155

Thank you for your time and attention to this reading, and I would greatly appreciate your assistance in asking Mr. William Muse, Chair of the Virginia Parole Board,* to personally look at my file objectively and without partiality.


Jonathan D. White #1161021
3600 Woods Way,
State Farm, VA 23160

*William W. Muse, Chair
Virginia Parole Board
6900 Atmore Drive,
Richmond, VA 23225

P.S. In the letter in which Jonathan gives me permission to post this, he writes:
I am not the man the computer defines me to be based on the offenses of which I was convicted years ago. Nothing in my life today holds to yesterday or the sins of the past. I desire only to have an opportunity to be reunited with my family and live out the remainder of my life as a law abiding citizen of the Commonwealth doing all I can to live free."

Click here for more posts on prison related issues.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Speak Softly, And Carry A Small Stick (e.g., a "talking stick")

A book on the subject
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."
- James 1:19 (ISV)
In relationships where people are having difficulty really hearing each other, I often recommend the use of a "talking stick".

The idea came from reading about a Native Americans practice that was often used in tribal or other meetings. The leader of the gathering, usually the Chief, held the talking stick and introduced the purpose of the discussion. Participants then took turns, with only the person holding the stick being allowed to speak. That person passed the stick to the next speaker, and so on. Everyone but the one holding the stick was to remain silent and listen respectfully.

Numerous couples to whom I've recommended this practice have found it a helpful way to encourage more reflective listening and to prevent constant interruptions and arguing, the latter being a case of having two or more speakers and no listener.

I've also had parents tell me this has worked well for their family meetings or for one on one conversations with their kids. In one case, a parent reported that their adolescent son, who was typically sullen and unresponsive whenever they tried discussing something with him, began to really open up when he had the family talking stick in hand, something that added to his confidence that he would have a respectful hearing.

Here's a link to some more information:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

VA DOC Can No Longer Afford Hand Soap

3 hours of labor for a small bar of this 
Finances must be getting tight in Virginia's Department of Corrections. Here's a notice that was recently posted for inmates at one of the Commonwealth's state prisons:



DATE:  OCTOBER 1, 2013

Effective November 1, 2013, BKKC will no longer issue Lisa Soap to all offenders. Lisa Soap will ONLY be issued to indigent offenders as part of the indigent package. All other offenders must purchase soap from the Commissary.

Meanwhile, the cost of a bar of commissary soap ranges from 78¢ for a small bar of Irish Spring to $1.61 for the Coast brand at this particular facility, but the minimum hourly wage for prison labor is only 27¢ (45¢ an hour for skilled jobs). And thirty earning hours a week is the maximum allowed.

Most of those who do have jobs, an estimated 15%, according to my source, are paid at the lowest 27¢ rate for a maximum earning of $8.10, with 5% of that deducted for any outstanding court fines and/or child support payments. Most inmates must also pay for their own toothpaste, deodorant or any other self-care or snack items, or for things like a plastic spoon (5¢) or a plastic coffee cup (74¢).

Persons who are fortunate enough to have friends or family to provide spending money for them have 5% of that deducted for any fines or court costs and 10% for a forced savings of up to $1000 to be available upon release.

The majority of the guys, I'm told, are too embarrassed to have anyone know they have to rely on a monthly indigent package (two bars of soap, a small toothbrush, a razor, 4 oz. shampoo and cheap roll on deodorant) so they pass on it--or beg, borrow or steal.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Text of Closing Words of Kennedy's Last Speech

A handbill circulating in Dallas just prior to Kennedy's assassination

November marks the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, an event I clearly remember. I recently ran across the following excerpt of timely closing remarks he had prepared for an evening State Democratic Committee meeting in Austin on the day he was assassinated:

"... this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the fainthearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.

"So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation's future is at stake.

"Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause -- united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future -- and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance."

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wages Remain Flat, Food Stamps Are Cut, While Corporate Profits Soar

"They trample on the heads of the poor 
as upon the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed."
Amos 2:7 (NIV)

According to a 10/24/13 piece in the Chicago Tribune, McDonald's President Jeff Stratton, while giving a speech recently, was interrupted by one of his many low wage employees, Nancy Salgado, who shouted, "Do you think this is fair that I have to be making $8.25 [an hour] when I've worked for McDonald's for 10 years?"

Stratton's only response was, "I've been there 40 years."

Salgado, with other protesters, was arrested. Stratton continued addressing the Union League Club's First Friday luncheon at an upscale Chicago restaurant.

McDonald's can clearly afford to pay a living wage, since it made an impressive $5.46 billion in profits for its shareholders last year, but instead has come up with a list of tips to give its employees on how they can make it on their poverty level incomes, including advice about getting a second job and applying for food stamps. Not surprisingly, the fast food industry is in the forefront of lobbying efforts to resist raising the minimum wage, which means their employees, with the aid of food stamps and other assistance to low income families, are subsidizing the rich.

Meanwhile, food stamps are being cut while subsidies to wealthy corporate farmers remain intact. This includes benefits to over a dozen wealthy Washington lawmakers, 13 Republicans and two Democrats, who are raking in millions from a program about which they themselves are writing legislation, clearly a conflict of interest. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R., Tenn.), for example,  collected $3.48 million between 1995 and 2012. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I'm Still Loving Jesus (10/24/11 post)

    Jesus hung with hookers, hung with hustlers, not with cops
    and he made wine from water, so the party wouldn’t stop,
    and Jesus, he loved everyone, just like his Mom and Dad
    ‘cause Jesus knew the difference between broken and plain bad...

    Jesus on the hillside had a message for the crowd
    he said, “blessed are the brokenhearted, but woe unto the proud,”
    and when they all got hungry, he took a couple loaves of bread
    and he passed himself around till everybody had been fed...

    Jesus in the temple yard trashed every loan shark’s booth,
    but Jesus said to Judas, “let those little children through,
    ‘cause Jesus hung with losers and with posers and with narcs,
    and he got what was coming to him somewhere in the dark…

                    - from Brad Yoder’s WWJD? 1998 all rights reserved 

In case anyone wonders why I remain passionate about following Jesus, here are just a few of my reasons:

1. Jesus never hated people or committed acts of violence against them. Rather, he taught his followers to practice prayer and good deeds toward enemies, not harm or kill them.

2. Jesus demonstrated a life of simplicity and generosity. He never advocated amassing wealth or becoming financially well to do. He not only stressed compassion for the poor, but chose to become one of them.

3. Jesus consistently preached and practiced care for the marginalized and disenfranchised. Even in a strictly patriarchal society he had women as close followers, and regularly enjoyed meals with people regarded as outcasts and misfits. He makes a hated and heretical Samaritan the hero in one of his best known parables, a story he uses as part of his answer to the question, “How does one gain eternal life?”

4. Jesus avoided dogmatic sermonizing and theologizing in favor of telling simple stories and teaching easy-to-understand (but hard to practice) truths like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “Do not hoard/store up treasures on earth,” and “Let your ‘yes’ be a simple ‘yes,’ and your ‘no,’ a ‘no.’

5. Jesus rejected expressions of worship that require elaborate temples, complex liturgies, and professional clergy. Private prayer is encouraged, and “two or three” are sufficient when it comes to communal prayer and worship.

6. Jesus demonstrates that God loves everyone, and that his “Father,” far from condemning the world, is heaven-bent on saving it.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

                                                                                          - Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Another Kind of "Border Security"

Here I wish for fewer walls and a warmer welcome, but...
To the extent that we see other people as our problem, that's the problem.
- paraphrase of Steven Covey

We hear a lot these days about the need for better border control in order to keep fellow human beings south of us from entering the U.S. from Mexico. That could become the topic of another post, but here I'd like to reflect on a different kind of "border security".

As noted in an earlier piece, each of us represents a kind of personal "kingdom" over which we need to exercise sovereign control. With God's help we can, and must, maintain internal "law and order" and a reign of peace and well being in the realm within our our own skin and our own skull, the latter being the throne room of the "kingdom of oneself".

All too often, we allow other people's misbehaviors to invade our inner space and rob us of our inner peace. I'm not advocating shutting others out of our lives, but each of us needs to define our boundaries and guard against others occupying emotional space in our heads without their having "gone through customs".

To illustrate, if I were employed at some mental health facility like Western State Hospital and were in a unit where a lot of residents said all kinds of irrational and hurtful things to me, I would need to have some way to avoid having their statements or actions get under my skin, while welcoming connections and relationships with each resident in whatever ways can be healthy and helpful. But I couldn't afford to take everything personally in a way that would only make things worse for me and render me less able to be of help to them.

Moral of the story: Instead of blaming other people for making us feel terrible and ruining our day, let's focus on maintaining more adequate border security. Then focus on maintaining good diplomatic relationships with our neighboring "kingdoms" while respecting their boundaries.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Was Rembrandt a Mennonite?

Mennonite minister Cornelius Anslo and wife
My brother-in-law J. Lloyd Wert and wife Beverly recently returned from a tour of Anabaptist sites in the Netherlands and Switzerland led by Myron and Esther Augsburger. One of many fascinating topics covered was the extent of Rembrandt’s association with Mennonites in Holland.

This piqued my own interest in the subject and led me to a paper by Dr. Kenneth Edmonds presented at a meeting of the Baptist World Alliance in Ede, Netherlands, in July 29, 2009.

Edmonds cites the Italian art critic Filippo Baldinucci in 1686 as stating explicitly that “The artist professed in those days the religion of the Menists (Mennonites).” Edmonds, however, doesn’t believe that Rembrandt ever officially joined the group but says recent research proves that Rembrandt had close ties with Amsterdam’s Waterlander Mennonite Community,  particularly through Hendrick Uylenburgh, a Mennonite art dealer who ran an artists’ studio in which Rembrandt worked from 1631 to 1635. 

Rembrandt actually lived in the Uylenburgh house for a time and  met his future wife Saskia there, according to Edmonds, who goes on to say that this led to his getting commissions to do portraits of many of the increasingly well-to-do Mennonites in the community. Rembrandt also purchased a home in 1639 that was next door to Uylenburgh’s.

There is good evidence from many sources that Rembrandt felt a strong kinship with Saskia’s faith but apparently never became an active church goer or a church member himself, as evidenced by his taking as his mistress the nanny who took care of his sons after his wife’s death. In 1649 he replaced his first mistress with a younger woman, not a Mennonite either, and whom he also did not marry, partly because according to the terms of the will doing so would have meant losing his life interest in the inheritance left to him by his wife.

What is clear from Edmond’s research is that over time Rembrandt developed a special interest in Biblical subjects as well as in themes of special importance to Anabaptists, like the Lord's Supper, the rite of feet washing and believers baptism.

Here's the link to Edmonds' well researched paper:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Some Wise Words From Pope Francis

Pope Francis I
I've never been a fan of the idea of a papacy, but I find a lot to like about Pope Francis I. Here is a statement in his October 17 homily that I especially resonate with in this election season:

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign, rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge...

Jesus told us: “You burden the shoulders of people [with] many things; only one is necessary.” (Ideology), therefore, is the spiritual and mental thought process of one who wants to keep the key in his pocket and the door closed... Ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances the people... it is a serious illness... but it is not new, eh? Already the Apostle John, in his first Letter, spoke of this. Christians who lose the faith and prefer the ideologies. His attitude is: Be rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness.... But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”