Analysis Supporting the Recent Papal Visit to Marilynne Robinsons’ Essay


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The problem inside the Christian world paralleled those with other religion sects. Marilynne Robinson’s essay entitled “Onward, Liberal Christian” gave a simple explanation to the visit of two of the most influential people in the world, the Pope and the Dalai Lama, to the US.  Respect between different sects can help bring about the unification that the world needs.

Analysis Supporting the Recent Papal Visit to Marilynne Robinsons’ Essay

Respect and understanding are two great factors that can set a bridge between different and opposing groups of people.  Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama, two of the most influential people in the world, shared and carried the same belief when they visit the United States last week.  Even though they share different practices and beliefs, not to mention they’re serving completely different Persona, they still bear parallel views and objectives in making the world a better place to live in.  Maybe, they both realize the importance of the unification of the world’s people.  Up where they stand, they could see the world in a different way.  They were given the privilege to see clearly a divided nation, a community apart, and a torn relationship between countrymen.  But still up there in their current position, where they could feel the blessing of the Holy One they willingly serve, they couldn’t help but see a vision – it is the world as a whole, and it can only be achieved, according to them, if each and every member of the community will respect the beliefs of one another.  And they were given the chance to do something about it. They see and realize, and they will make their vision real.  But surely they are not alone in this quest.  Thousands, or maybe millions, of souls share the same belief. One of them is Marilynne Robinson, an American novelist who wrote an essay, entitled “Onward, Liberal Christians”, that scrutinized the underlying and ever growing problem inside the Christian community – too much tolerance that led to duty negligence. The objective of her essay connects to the objectives of the visits of the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Whether we’re Christian, Buddhist or anyone with a different faith, we can only achieve unity if we respect each cause, and seriously do our part in the community.

What does this really mean and what is the relationship of Robinson’s essay to the Dalai Lama and Papal visit?  Does Robinson’s essay have something to do with respecting faiths?

Let us first examine Robinson’s objective in writing her essay.  In my opinion, Marilynne Robinson’s essay shouts a wake up call. Her essay scrutinized the underlying and ever growing problem inside the Christian community – too much tolerance that resulted to duty negligence. In her essay, she mainly addressed her accusations to the Liberal Christians, more specifically, the Mainline churches.  She defended her claim by setting the difference between the evangelicals and the liberals, and this difference can be examined through their earnest devotion to Christianity.  Evangelicals, for her, are way more serious compared to the Liberals.  She said that Liberals are dilettante, not serious enough to stand for their cause.  They call themselves Christians but they do not take action in promoting Christianity.  Isn’t the way she criticized the liberals a little biased? For me, the answer is no. She was only stating her observations and the product of her research.  When Robinson made this essay, I guess, she was only calling the liberal’s attention to do something about the situation.  She was concerned on the lack of enthusiasm her fellow Christians were giving when serving God.  She respects them and their former reputation.  Where did all those Liberals that Robert Frost described have gone to? She respects them, or else she wouldn’t advice them to move forward: Onward, Liberal Christians! She wouldn’t give them a challenge that will surely uplift their fighting spirit.  And then she continued saying that all are equal.  Personal holiness is not important; it is us reaching out our hands to those who need it that counts. It is not about one’s need for salvation.  It is not entirely about a person’s goodness or righteousness. Rather it is more on the belief of the existence of the Holy One and not on your own holiness.  Robinson summed her essay:

“This is John Calvin, describing in two sentences a mystical/ethical engagement with the world that fuses truth and love and opens experience on a light so bright it expunges every mean distinction. There is no doctrine here, no setting of conditions, no drawing of lines. On the contrary, what he describes is a posture of grace, generosity, and liberality.”

This summary talks about an unbiased force that acts on all of humanity.  This force traverses even the so-called racial discrimination. It does not set rules and boundaries.  It signifies unity, and it also promotes respect for we cannot achieve unity without respecting our differences.  This same force acts upon the two powerful person I addressed earlier.

Before taking his flight to the US, Pope Benedict XVI was asked by a reporter about the goals of his visit.  The Pope said that his trip has two basic goals: to visit the churches in America, and to visit the United Nations. The first goal’s motive is to reflect on the past and the future, and how to deal with the challenges of our day’s problems.  The second goal’s motive is to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  But when he got there, it was clear that he had not only accomplished these goals but also put some closure in the priestly sex scandal that shook the foundations of the Catholic Church.  He expressed his shame about it, but it was obvious that he had not come to condemn those who had sinned; he came for those who needed hope – the victims.  Then he prayed with them. After that, he encouraged unity among Christ’s followers.  He said that even though the Christian world is divided into subgroups, they still share the same goal: to glorify and exalt God Jesus Christ.  Same goes to the community as a whole including the non-Christians.  We share a universal moral code:  living in harmony through faith and hope.  He encouraged ecumenism.  This encouragement further explains Robinson’s summary.   There is no setting of limitations in regards to whom you should help.

The 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to Ann Arbor Michigan was a success. Buddhist around America gathered to support their leader.  One of his topics is to cherish one another, whether they have different beliefs or not.  He also encouraged his followers to embrace their old traditions because they have their own benefits.  He also emphasized that US and other wealthy countries must focus on their inner contentment.  His teaching mainly talked about how to live a simple life.  He didn’t mention any bad comments regarding other religious organizations.  This exhibits respect.

Clearly, these three people left a challenge to the US community.  Ranging from liberal to ecumenism, holiness to selflessness, divisions to unification, and disrespect to reverence, they all shed light not only to those who need it, but those who ignores it.  Also, respecting all faiths can help bring about unity in the American people.


Pribbenow, P. (2006). Notes from Readers. Notes from the Reflective Practitioner, 7, 5.    Retrieved April 23, 2008, from

Robinson, R. (2006). Onward Christian Liberals. Planting God Communities. Retrieved April 23, 2008, from

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